Page images
PDF
EPUB

Of the natural history of Egypt, a very brief outline must suffice. The camel is not a native there, but it has been the means of great good to the people, and has been the cause, in Africa, of vast tracts being made habitable. Its patience, its capability of crossing immense sandy deserts, and of enduring thirst and fatigue, have well earned its name—“ the ship of the desert.” The giraffe is sometimes seen on the borders in the south-a gentle, long-necked creature, sometimes growing to the height of eighteen feet, but of no use as a domestic animal. The civet cat was known to the ancient inhabitants, but the ichneumon, which answered very much the purposes of our domestic cat, was held in religious adoration by them. Amongst their animals, this is one of the most celebrated and useful. It destroys the young of many disgusting reptiles, but its favourite food is the eggs of the crocodile. In early times, it was said to be capable of attacking and conquering a full-grown crocodile, and divine honours were awarded to it by a superstitious people. It is still domesticated in Egypt, and keeps to its dwelling-place with an instinct resembling that of the cat. The ichneumon carries its food to an unobserved corner, and growls angrily if disturbed while eating. It dwells much on rivers' banks, and captures and sucks the blood of every creature it can overcome. In colour it is of a greyish brown, and its body is about eighteen inches long, exclusive of the tail, which is of about an equal length. Two species of the sorex, or shrew, are natives of Egypt, but only one of these is now found there, though both have often been found embalmed in the catacombs of Sakhara. The jerboa, of the marmot tribe, an animal which burrows in the ground, is found in the country. The Nile, on this side of the cataracts, could formerly boast of the hippopotamus, but in modern times it has seldom been seen so far north. It is found carved on some of the more ancient sculptures, and in those districts where the crocodile was held an abomination the hippopotamus was held sacred.

No animal in Egypt is more intimately connected with the national superstitions than the crocodile. Its shape and appearance are well known. The coat of a full-grown one will repel a musketball. The female carefully deposits her eggs, from eighty to one hundred, in the sand, where they are hatched by the sun's heat. As soon as they escape from the eggs, the young run into the water. They have then many enemies, the vultures destroying them by millions. The ancient Egyptians, about Thebes and Lake Mæris, held the crocodile in religious veneration. They used to tame these creatures, place gold ornaments in their ears, and even valuable precious stones. Their fore-feet were secured by a chain, the flesh of the sacred victim, with other food, was given them to eat, and, when they died, their bodies were embalmed and placed in consecrated chests. Herodotus tells strange tales about the crocodile. He declares it had been seen in the Nile fifty feet long. Below Cairo it is never seen, and but rarely below Thebes. There is a kind of lizard, known as the monitor of the Nile, which the ancient Egyptians much venerated. This devours the crocodile's eggs; and there is a sort of land monitor, in the deserts, which Herodotus calls the “terrestrial crocodile." The chameleon is an Egyptian animal, and the hyena visits the banks of the Nile, haunts the suburbs, and sometimes the streets of towns, feeding on offal or dead carcases. The dog, the sheep, the ape, the buffalo, and other animals, need not be described, as they are common to other countries.

Amongst birds, the Egyptian swan has nothing very remarkable about it, except that the ancients paid it divine honours. The ostrich is a well-known bird, of which the fabulous writers have said much that was very wonderful and very false. It does not visit the valley of the Nile, but is seen occasionally in the great desert districts on the shores of the Red Sea. It is the swiftest-running animal known. The egg of the ostrich weighs about three pounds, and is mostly hatched in the hot sands. There are several species of the ibis, but the one most celebrated is known as the ibis religiosa. It is over two feet high, and, including the tail, about two feet six inches long. Its head and neck are black, and, for six inches, featherless, and its prevailing colour is dirty or yellowish white, with purplish-black plumes on each side of the tail. There is another ibis, in Egypt, about the size of a female raven. This is of great service in devouring the insects and frogs, which would otherwise, every year, infest the land to a disgusting extent. But the ibis religiosa was most valued by the ancient Egyptians. To kill this bird, or even to insult it, was a crime sure to bring down the vengeance of Heaven on the daring offender. The Egyptian vulture, which exists in thousands, is described as a powerful but filthy and disgusting creature; and yet it is of incalculable service in devouring all kinds of dead carcases, and is said to follow the caravans to Mecca that it may prey on the offal of slaughtered beasts, and feast on the camels which die on the way. There is a bird called the Oriental dotterel, about the size of an English crow, which lives chiefly on rats and mice, and which will live several months without water; and another, about the size of a lark, which is called the Egyptian crow. The Nile duck is common, and may sometimes be seen domesticated ; and the Egyptian seaswallow, which is found on the Nile and in the canals about Cairo, is a very beautiful bird. The pelican is migratory, and visits Egypt about the middle of September. The quail, too, is a bird of passage, and is found in immense numbers in March, when the wheat is ripening. The natives take quails, with nets, in large numbers. If the Israelites ate quails, they would find them a savoury dish, and they still abound in the track of those travellers of the wilderness. In the galleries, excavated caverns, and old buildings, thousands of bats congregate.

Amongst the plants found in Egypt, and known to the ancients, may be mentioned the papyrus, which now grows to the height of about ten feet, though Pliny speaks of it as reaching fifteen feet in his time. The ancient inhabitants made boats of this plant, but it is more celebrated as the plant from which they made paper. The inner portion of the stalk was cut in pieces like ribands, joined together with a kind of gum, and then dried in the sun. Bruce suggests that a gummy matter, which the papyrus yields, was made use of to join the pieces. The persea, a beautiful fruit-tree, was found in ancient Egypt, but has now disappeared; but the “lotus," a species of water-lily, is still found spreading most gracefully its broad round leaves, and beautiful blue and white flowers, over all the canals and

ponds after the inundations. This, more than any other plant, is connected with the religious rites and mythological history of the ancient inhabitants. No plant is so frequently seen in the ancient sculptures and paintings. On the monuments the rose-lily is frequently carved, but this plant has entirely disappeared in Egypt, and is now only found in India. There is a date-tree, the fruit of which is of great service as food to the people, while its leaves serve to make baskets, its bark ropes for rigging, and its timber rafters for houses. Egypt has no hard timber, but its sycamore-tree grows to an immense size, fifty feet in circumference, and though the wood is not hard, it resists decay for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians made their coffins for the mummies out of this wood. In addition to these, there are the plantain-tree, numerous kinds of melons and cucumbers; the gourds, much used as food by the poor people; the colocasium, the safflowers, the acacia, or mimosa of the Nile, from which gum-arabic, or Arabian frankincense, is made; the henna, and the mitre-shaped aloe, a symbolical plant, dedicated in some measure to religion, and believed by the people to drive away from their houses evil spirits and apparitions.*

Miscellaneous Articles, Anecdotes, &c.

CHINA FOR CHRIST. If any one doubted as to the expediency of our small body entering upon so great an enterprise as THE CHINESE MIssion, the signal success which God has given to the work must, we think, now exchange the doubt for adoring gratitude and praise. It may be expensive, but it is an honour to be counted worthy of sustaining it. If good men are willing to give their lives, it is but a small matter for us to contribute of our property. If God crowns the enterprise with his blessing by dispelling the darkness of paganism, and bringing the devotees of idolatry to the enjoyment of salvation, we have a present reward infinitely transcending any sacrifices we have made in this great cause. As if to remove all unbelief on this question, and render the sacrifice a service of love, cheerfulness, and joy, God has from the beginning said, by unmistakable facts, " This work is mine; I approve of it, and I will acknowledge it with any blessing." The facts are before us; the evidence is indisputable. It is not yet seven years since our devoted brethren, Innocent and Hall, set foot in China : it is, indeed, only about five years since they entered upon their present sphere of labour; and what has God enabled them to accomplish within this brief period? They rapidly acquired a knowledge of that difficult language, and scarcely had they begun to preach before God honoured their ministry by the sound conversion of souls. Many missionaries of other Denominations have laboured for ten and fifteen years, and spent almost as many thousands of pounds, without the conversion of a single heathen ; but, to the honour of God's abounding grace be it recorded, our brethren have had from the beginning to rejoice in the fruits of salvation. On referring to our Minutes, I find that some time during the first year in Tien-tsin, there were three Chinese received as candidates for church-fellowship. The next year (1863) there were 15 returned as church-members and 3 probationers, these 18 including, as I suppose, 4 English and 14 Chinese. In 1865 I find 16 members and 5 on trial, and, among these, five had begun to act as exhorters or evangelists. In the last year's returns (1866), I find 21 native or Chinese members, 3 foreign members, and 7 probationers, making a total of 31. Such results in a thoroughly heathen country are really wonderful ; and yet these numbers do not fully represent the extent of the good accomplished, for among these there were three native preachers devoted to the sacred work, four local preachers, four Bible colporteurs, and one Bible woman, being herself a native convert. Thus, out of 21 native converts, 12 of them were become labourers, seeking to bring their benighted countrymen and women to Christ. The material and educational interests of the Mission had, in the meantime, been advanced in the same proportion, for I find in the reports, an English church, wbich had been erected almost free from debt, five preaching rooms had been opened, and a small boarding-school, with one teacher and four boys, had been established as the beginning of a valuable institution. These results cannot but excite gratitude in every heart loyal to Christ. It is evident we have the right men on the spot, and God is honouring their labours with success.

* Since this article was written, news has reached this country from Dr. Livingstone. Disaster has overtaken his attempt to explore the region lying between Lako N'yassi and Lake Taganyiki. Some of his men had returned in a sadly destitute state; all tbe beasts of burden had died, and some of the Indians; and there was some anxiety as to the safety of Dr. Livingstone himself.

On the 13th of last July two additional missionaries, Messrs. Hodge and Thompson, embarked to join their brethren in the same sphere of labour, and we have just heard the gratifying news of their safe arrival. By a most remarkable coincidence, just at the time our two brethren were leaving this country on their gracious errand, God was opening out new spheres of usefulness in the neighbouring province of SHANTUNG, about 100 miles away from Tien-tsin. It appears that occasionally inquirers come from a distance of sixty and a hundred miles to hear our missionaries in Tien-tsin; and during the last summer, some of these inquirers carried back with them both the good news of salvation and copies of the Holy Scriptures; and such a general awakening has taken place in two villages, that about 100 persons have become anxious inquirers for salvation, 45 converts have been baptized, and many others are earnestly seeking the Saviour. Their hearts are opened for the Gospel, and their houses for the accommodation of its messengers; and it has been found necessary to yield to their urgent entreaties by placing two native agents in that new field of labour. “This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes.” However, we need not enlarge on this great work of God, as we suppose the whole Connexion has read with delight the intelligence communicated in the last number of this periodical. With what thrilling joy will the two devoted young men be received by our brethren at this juncture, and with what exultation will the native converts welcome this timely accession to our ministerial staff! May Jehovah continue to our beloved brethren the tokens of his presence, and pour out his Holy Spirit still more abundantly on their labours !

There remaineth yet, however, very much land to be possessed. The few isolated spots where Christian culture has been begun are, but like small patches of verdure in a boundless desert. China proper is divided into eighteen provinces, yet, for the whole of China, there are but about 100 missionaries of all Protestant Denominations, and these are so distributed as to leave immense regions totally unvisited by any messenger of the Gospel. For instance : out of the eighteen provinces in China proper, there are but seven provinces in which any Protestant missionaries are located, leaving eleven provinces without a solitary missionary. Then, again, the missionaries in these seven provinces are resident, only here and there, on the skirts of the seaboard of that vast country. But how do even these occupy the mighty cities and towns within that area ? They so occupy it that, labour how they may, travel as much and preach as oft and as zealously as their mental and physical strength may endure, they must, after all they can do, leave at least one hundred and eighty-five millions beyond their reach. Thus nearly four times the population of France are actually beyond the pale of evangelistic labour. Such is the spiritual destitution of the seven provinces in which the one hundred missionaries reside.

But let us for a moment take a glance at the condition of the other eleven provinces. There is the province of Kansuh, with 16,000,000, and no missionary! There is the province of Sz chuen, with 25,000,000, and no missionary! There is the province of Yun-nan, with 6,000,000, and no missionary! There is the province of Shensi, with 11,000,000, and no missionary! There is the province of Shansi, with 15,500,000, and no missionary! There is the province of Honau, with 25,500,000, and no missionary! There is the province of Gau-hwny, with 39,000,000, and no missionary ! There is the province of Kiang-si, with 25,500,000, and no missionary! There is the province of Hunan, with 20,500,000, and no missionary! There is the province of Kwai-chau, with 6,500,000, and no missionary! There is the province of Kwang-si, with 8,000,000, and no missionary! In all eleven provinces, including 197,500,000, with no missionary! Add to these the 185,000,000, and you have a total of 362,500,000 who may be said to have no missionary! But to these you must further add the millions that belong to China improper, of which we know not exactly the number. What an awful aggregate of spiritual destitution! Here are more souls than one man could count in eleven years, yet all without the knowledge of Christ! And such has been the condition of that great country for many centuries—for more centuries, indeed, than the lifetime of some modern kingdoms. It is awful to think of. It almost makes one's blood run cold to consider the destiny of the souls that have been passing into eternity, as age after age has revolved!

Yet now, thanks to God, the light is breaking. The country is open, and the people, weaned from idolatry, with its gloomy, hopeless,

« PreviousContinue »