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second century, the New Testament being, of course, translated from the Greek, in which it was at first written.

Now THE TITLE DEEDS OF THE MOST ANCIENT CHURCHES, AND OUR BEST LINK WITH THE DAYS OF THE APOSTLES, ARE THE EARLIEST TRANSLATIONS OF THE WORD OF GOD, and one of the very earliest is the SYRIAC, the language in which our Lord and His disciples chiefly spoke, as evidenced by the various Syriac words left untranslated in the Greek Gospels, but which came down to us translated in the English text, Cephas, a stone (John i. 42); Corban, a gift (Mark vii. 11); Ephthatha, “Be opened" (Mark vii. 34); Talitha Cumi,“ Damsel, arise” (Mark v. 41). In the Syriac we have the sacred agonized utterance of our Saviour upon the cross - Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me (Mark xy. 34). We find these words in the old Syriae manuscript Bibles, and they were still understood by the few Nestorian Christians, who could read their now ecclesiastical language, of which the spoken form is called the Syro-Chaldaic. The Syriac and Chaldee are closely kindred dialects, and are both called Aramean. There is no great difference between them except in the characters in which they are written,“the Chaldee chapters of the prophet Daniel become Syriac as read by a German or Polish Jew.” Both CHALDEE and SYRIĄC are also kindred dialects to the HEBREW (a name coming probably from the Patriarchs EBER and Ray in the Arphaxad line from Shem). Aram was the brother of Arphaxad, and the land of Aram included Palestine, Syria, and Mesopotamia. Out of the latter region was Abram called, and the offerer of the first fruits under the law of Moses was instructed to say (Deut. xxvi. 5) “ A Syrian ready to perish was my father, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous.”

Coming up out of Egypt into Palestine or Canaan the language of the children of Abraham, primarily Chaldee or Syriac, became HEBREW. The early characters in which it was written may have been those we now call Phoenician or Samaritan, or, from recent discoveries, the Moabite. But the HEBREW is distinguished from all the other Semitic dialects in being the language in which has been uttered and written“ by the finger of God,” the law of God for a chosen people who were to be its faithful depositaries for 1,500 years, till thereunto was added the equally ivine law of the NEW Testament, not destroying, but fulfilling that of the Old Testament; and this New Testament is not given to the world in Hebrew, but in GREEK, the tongue then spreading over the widest area of civilization, whether European, Asiatic, or African.

Our Lord and His apostles, however, still dwelt in the land of Aram, and their vernacular was SYRIAC. The exiled Israel, the “lost sheep" of the Hebrew House, still spoke Syriac. The Samaritan Pentateuch, the most ancient copy of the Law which yet exists in the land of Samaria, from which they had been exiled, is written in a mixed dialect of Hebrew, Syriac, and Chaldee, and in characters which claim to be those of the most ancient

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Hebrew, unless the Moabite stone recently discovered presents us with those which in the land of Aram were 200 years more ancient. Besides the Hebrew and that Samaritan copy of the Law there is nothing more ancient than the Syriac Scriptures which were destined, in the hands of the Nazarenes, afterwards known as Nestorians, to spread the Gospel in their manuscript measure over the countries of the East. Nestorius, from whom this second name was given them (just as that of Waldo was to the Church of the Swiss valleys—the Waldenses), was a Syrian, and Bishop of Constantinople. He strongly objected to the title of “Mother of God," as applied to the Virgin Mary. It does not appear

that he wished in any measure to take from the divine dignity of Christ, by rebuking this expression ; but he was accused of doing so. The Bishop of Rome combined with others against him; and, by a council held at Ephesus, A.D. 431, he was pronounced accursed, and banished. “Condemned,” it is said, “ without a hearing, he died in one of the oases of the Egyptian desert; and all who held his views were expelled from the Church.” But the Nestorian Christians increased in spite of the imperial laws; and among them may be traced some of the brightest servants of God; for their separation from Rome preserved them from many errors.

From the time of Nestorius, images and pictures of the “ Virgin and child" became common wherever Roman influence spread.

In the sixth and seventh centuries, these Nestorians were remarkable as missionaries of the truth : they continued entirely independent of the systems of Rome or of Constantinople, and had a patriarch of their own at Seleucia. They abounded in Chaldea, Persia, and Assyria, and carried the Gospel into the remotest and most barbarous parts of Asia, and even into China. Their manners were pure ; they never interfered in political revolutions, and remained as witnesses for God, even when Mahomedanism overcame Romanism. In the eighth century they sent missionaries through the immense and savage tracts of ancient Scythia, or modern Russia, and even to Siberia and Nova Zembla.

The Nestorians have never ceased to exist : they tried to spread the knowledge of Christ through all the dark regions of the East in every successive century; and there must always have been not a little genuine godliness among them. In the thirteenth century, they had many churches, in Tartary, India, Persia, and China ; and the pure light of their “ witness” only appeared to be dying out in the fifteenth century, when the bright day of the Reformation was about to dawn upon the world. Mr. Layard, the discoverer of Nineveh, found Nestorians still within sight of the spotless, snowy peak of Ararat, in the valleys of Armenia, of old inhabited by the only independent Christian tribes of Asia, and still the dwelling-places of this remnant of a primitive Church.

There are now very few learned priests left among them; yet at the time of the Arab invasion they were the chief depositaries of the learning of the East. They translated the works of Greek philosophers into their own language, and re-translated them into Arabic. There exist among them the remains of very old churches, which have all small entrances, in order that their tyrants, the Turks, may not lodge horses and beasts of burden within their doors. Mr. Layard sometimes found a book of prayer, or the Scriptures in manuscript, lying on the rude altar; but frequently the greatest part of the leaves would be wanting, and those which remained were torx into shreds, or disfigured by damp and mould; for they were compelled to hide in the mountains the manuscripts of the churches, or to bury them in some obscure place, at the time of the massacre-the dreadful massacre of these poor people—which took place in 1843, when Beder Kan Bey, and his cruel Kurds, invaded the Tiyari districts, and murdered in cold blood nearly 10,000 of their inhabitants, carrying away their women and children as slaves. These captives were afterwards released through the influence of the British Embassy in Turkey. Mr. Layard actually came in contact, near Lizan, with ocular evidences of this terrible slaughter. Skulls, heaps of blanched bones, and even skeletons of all ages, still hung to the dwarf shrubs growing on the precipitous steeps down which they had been hurled. Some of these Nestorians were employed as diggers in the mounds at Nineveh ; and Mr. Layard relates that several of the priests or deacons were among the workmen, who, on the Sabbath, repeated prayers, or led a hymn or chant.

He adds,—“I often watched these poor creatures, as they reverently knelt, their heads uncovered, under the great bulls, celebrating the praises of Him whose temples the worshippers of those frowning idols had destroyed, and whose power they had mocked. It was the triumph of truth over paganism. Never had that triumph been more forcibly illustrated than by those who now bowed down in the crumbling halls of the Assyrian kings.”

Mr. Layard visited, in the district of Jelu, the church which is said to be the oldest in the Nestorian mountains, “the only one that had escaped the ravages of the Kurds, and still contains the ancient furniture and ornaments. The church was so thickly hung with relics of the most singular and motley description, that the ceiling was completely concealed by them. Amongst the objects which first attracted my attention were numerous China bowls, and jars of elegant form and richly coloured, but black with the dust of ages. They were suspended, like the other relics, from the roof. I was assured that they had been there from time out of mind, and had been brought from the distant empire of Cathay, by those early missionaries of the Chaldean Church, who bore the tidings of the Gospel to the shores of the Yellow Sea. If so, some of them might date as far back as the sixth or seventh centuries, when the Nestorian Church flourished in China, and its missions were spread over the whole of Central Asia."

And now we have to offer to our readers a literary treasure. The copy of a photograph, made from the rubbing of a famous Tablet in China, called the Tablet of Seg-nan-foo,* which contains the record of these Nestorian Missions, in an inscription which is a thousand years old. It was buried under the wall of a house for nearly 800 years, and was disinterred in 1625 by some diggers for fresh foundations.


During the last thirty years much fresh light has been thrown by the discussions of the learned on the history and authority of the Tablet above referred to; so that it seems needful to present in popular form the particulars which every one might be glad to know upon the subject.

In the year 1631, an Italian tract was printed at Rome, which announced to the world that a few years previously, in the year 1625, a large marble tablet had been discovered by some Chinese workmen while digging the foundation of a house, outside the walls of the city of Seg-nan-foo, the capital of the province of Shen-si.†

The Tablet was said to record the establishment of the “Illustrious Syrian Religion" in China during the Tang dynasty, i.e. in the seventh and eighth centuries of the Christian era. It resembled those records which the Chinese were accustomed to erect in order to preserve to posterity the memory of remarkable events.

A copy of the tract which contained this information, and likewise a translation of the Tablet, may be found, though without a title-page, in a small collection of pamphlets in the New Catalogue of the Library of the British Museum.

This Italian tract, however, is only a translation from an original in Portuguese, written by Alvarez Semeda, the first foreigner who saw the Stone after its exhumation. He says, in 1628 :-“I have seen and read it, re-read and considered it at leisure, and I cannot express my admiration of its antiquity, and my astonishment at the characters so well engraved that they might have been formed yesterday. There are several Chinese characters, distinct from the main inscription on the thickness of the stone, being the names of various bishops and presbyters of that period. There are also words and sentences in another language around the inscription, and which no one was for some time able to explain, for they are neither Greek nor Hebrew. I have since taken a journey by Cochin, where I consulted Father Fernandez on the subject, and he told me they were SYRIAC characters.” Mr. Huc, in his “ Christianisme en Chine, 1857," says that during his resi

The copy was made by Mr. Paul Preztch of Vienna, by a process of his own, which he calls Zincography. The photograph was of course reduced from a Rubbing of the actual size of the stone brought to England by Mr. A. Wylie.

+ This city is on the borders of one of the affluents of the Yellow River. It was formerly called by the Arabic and Syriac writers of the middle ages Komdan,

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