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ber, "In countries, says he, where the formality of law hath no place, as in Denmark, all their state is governed only by a written law, there is no advocate or proctor admitted to plead, only the parties themselves plead their own cause, and then a man stands up, and pleads the law, and there is an end; for the very law-book itself is their only judge: happy were all kingdoms, if they could be so; but here curious wits, various conceits, different actions, and variety of examples breed questions in law." Thus far he. And if this kingdom deth resemble Denmark, in so many other customs, why may it not be assimilated to it in this also? especially considering, that the world travels with freedom, and some real compensation is desired by the people, for all their sufferings, losses, and blood.
To clear the channel of the law, is an honourable work for a senate, who should be preservers of the people's rights.
Of the Proceedings of a
GREAT COUNCIL OF JEWS,
Assembled in the Plain of Ageda in Hungary, about thirty leagues distant from Buda, to examine the Scriptures concerning Christ, on the twelfth of October, 1650. By Samuel Brest, there present.
Also, a relation of some other observations in his travels beyond the seas; and particularly in Egypt, Macedonia, Dalmatia, Calabria, Apuleia, Sicily, Assyria, Sclavonia, France, Spain, and Portugal; the Islands of Cyprus, Candia, Patmos, and Delphos; the cities of Carthage, Corinth, Troy, Constantinople, Venice, Naples, Leghorn, Florence, Milan, Rome, Bottonia, Mantua, Genoa, Paris, &c.
[From a Quarto edition, printed at London, for Richard Moon, at the Seven Stars in St. Paul's Church-Yard, near the great North-Door, 1655.]
The contents of this pamphlet are very extraordinary; some of them of the last importance to the Christian commonweal, and all of them matter of great curiosity, and scarce to be met with in any other English historian. As for the author, take his own account of himself as follows:
There was nothing I more desired, than to travel beyond the seas, and to know the various manners of the nations of the world; for which, through God's providence, I had an opportunity offered me, to my great satisfaction, being chirurgeon of an English ship in the Streights, where, for a cure that I did for Orlando de Spina, of Gallipoli, an eminent man in those parts, I was by him preferred to be captain of a ship of Malta, which was set out by the said Orlando, and committed to my command against the Turks in the Arches, in assistance to the Venetians; in the which service I spent about nine months, till the tempestuous season of the year forced me to return into harbour again. And, in this time of employment, I made five fights at sea, and two at land; being chosen, by lot, to invade the Turk's country, with a certain company of soldiers collected out of our fleet, to do some execution upon the borders of the enemy, and to get some provision for our relief; in all which fights, tho' very perilous, God gave me the victory. The whole time I spent beyond the seas, before and after this employment, was almost four years, not staying long in any one place. But first I travelled to all the sea-towns of note for merchandising, to know the trade of the places, and the conveniency of their harbours, that I might be able to do some profitable service in merchant affairs. Also I travelled into several countries, and the most eminent cities and towns therein, viz. Egypt, Macedonia, Dalmatia, Calabria, Apuleia, Sicily, Assyria, Sclavonia, and some parts of Spain and Portugal; to the Islands of Cyprus, Candia, Patmos, and Delphos; to Carthage, Corinth, Troy, and Constantinople; besides many other towns and places; but my longest abode was in Italy, and therein at Venice, Naples, Leghorn, Florence, Milan, Rome, Bottonia, Mautua, Genoa, &c. And at last, looking homeward, I came into France, taking a brief view of many eminent places in that kingdom. And at Paris I found many of my countrymen, of which, though some be persons of great quality, yet, God knoweth, they are in a low condition. And, now, I shall give a brief account of some of iny observations, during the time of my abode beyond the seas.
T Paris, our countrymen live peaceably, and enjoy our religion without disturbance. There is a place allowed them, with neces sary accommodations for the exercise of religion. Dr. Steward did often preach to them; and, for their form of worship, it is the same that was formerly in England, with the Book of Common-Prayer, and the rites therein used; and also they continue the innovations that were practised by many of our clergy; as, bowing at the name of Jesus towards the altar, &c. which, I know, giveth offence to the good French protestants, who, to me, did often condemn those innovations for Romish superstitions; doubtless, they would do our church and our religion more credit there, if they did use less ceremony. As for the Frnch papists, truly they are more civil to them than was expected; fothe opinion of the world, where I have been, is but mean of that
nation. And, I believe, the Italians may be their Cousin-Germans, for both of them are false and faithless enough. And this consideration (God having taken away Orlando, my noble friend, who did always much countenance me) did lessen my affection to continue in that service; for my soldiers were all Italians, except a few Greeks; and I never saw much cause to be confident in their fidelity; but it was chiefly for fear of him, that they were so tractable to me.
As for religion, in most parts where I have been, it is generally the same with the church of Rome; but for the Grecians, for amongst them I was, they are neither pure protestants nor pure papists; I mean, neither only protestants, nor only papists, but their religion is a mixture of both; for, though they hold some fundamentals with us, yet they follow many of the Romish superstitions; and, according to my observation, they follow more the religion of Rome, than the protestant church, and they are much poisoned with heresies.
But of all nations, according to my observation, none are more zealous for the religion of Rome than the Spaniards; who, I think, for this, are more Romanists than the Romans themselves; for, with them, there is an Inquisition, and in Rome I never heard of the same dangerous snare*; there I had as much freedom, as I could desire; and more courtesy than I could expect, without any temptatiou to apostatise from my religion.
As for the occurrences that I met with, they were many, but these four were the most considerable:
First, The strangling of the great Turk, by the Janizarics, at which time there was great fear and trouble in Constantinople; but they inthroned his son, and this brought about a peaceable seitlement; and with him there were cut off divers basha's heads; all whose heads, excepting the great Turk's, lay three days in chargers before the palacegate for the publick view of the people, which, they say, is the custom for the noblemen that are beheaded.
The next thing is, the flowing of the river Nile in Egypt, the manner whereof is this: it beginneth to flow about the fifteenth of June, every year; the people know the time thereof, and expect it accordingly; and this is after their harvest, which is usually ended about the beginning of May. As for rain, there seldom falleth any in Egypt. During the time the river is up, all the country appeareth like islands. Their towns are seated upon hills, and their lower grounds are all covered with waters; and the inhabitants use small boats to pass from place to place about their affairs; and, because they know the yearly flowing of the Nile, they provide for the safety of their cattle till the waters are wasted away again. There are also certain pillars of stong set up, with divers marks upon them, by which they know the degrees of the rising, and the usual heighth that the waters do ascend unto; and, if the waters do ascend above the highest mark, they do expect some strange consequence thereof. But the greatest wonder, is the present cessation of the plague upon the flowing of this river. There died some thousands of the plague, the day before the flowing of the Nile,
• There is an Inquisition at Rome, but not so rigorous.
in Grand Cairo, as they certified me; and, a day or two after, not one person died of the infection. This I observed, that the land is full of unhealthy fogs, mists, and vapours, which cause the disease; and it seems the waters of the Nile do purify it again.
In the kingdom of Grand Cairo, alias, Pharaoh's town, is the city, and it is greater than any elsewhere I did behold; but Memphis is the nearer city; and being there, I went to see the land of Goshen, where the Israelites did inhabit: this is a very pleasant and fruitful land for pasture, such as I have no where seen the like. At this time also, I had an opportunity to see the Red-Sea, and the place where (as they informed me) the Israelites did enter their journey through the same; there also they shewed me the great mountains that inclosed them, when Pharaoh pursued them with his great army; and the hills where the two armies lay in sight of one another; and there I found the true reason why it is called the Red-Sea; not because the water is red naturally, but because the sand is red; and this was clear to me, by plain demonstration; for I put some of the water into a clean vessel, and there I did see it had the same colour of other water; but the sand is reddish, and giveth the same colour to the water.
I shall omit many other things concerning Egypt; only this, it is under the Turk's dominion, and the natives are his miserable slaves. Thirdly, you may expect some news from Rome, where also I was, and did behold their great solemnity, it being then the Anno Sancto, as they there call it, that is, the Year of Jubilee.
There I beheld the Pope in his glory, and how in great state he was carried about the city; the streets were thronged with the people; and, as he passed by, they made them even to ring with acclamations and rejoicings; he was carried by some eminent men, having a rich canopy over him. He made his crosses in the air with his fingers, and threw his blessings amongst them. And truly these delusions were so prevailing with the people, that (poor souls) they seemed to me to rejoice, as if Christ himself had been come to Rome, and brought them down the felicities of heaven.
At one time I beheld, in Naples (perhaps it will seem strange, but it is true) about eight-thousand pilgrims going to Rome, for their absolution; all which the Vice-Roy of Naples maintained three days at his own charge; and, on the fourth day, they did present themselves before him at his palace in pilgrim weeds, viz. with leaden pictures of saints in their hats, and leather collars about their necks, which fell down half way over their arms, and their staves in their hands; and thus they marched away from Naples, in the posture of an army towards Rome, and so farewel Rome: Vidi, satis est vidisse; i. e. I have scen it, and that is enough.
I omit to recite many other occurrences, which by conference I shall willingly communicate to my friends; they being too many to commit to writing: only now
The fourth remarkable thing remaineth to present you withal; and that is,
The proceedings of a great council of Jews assembled in the plain of
Ageda in Hungary, about thirty leagues distant from Buda, to examine the Scriptures concerning Christ, on the twelfth of October, 1650.
It hath been much desired by many honest Christians, that this narrative of the Jews council should be published, which I did intend only to communicate to private friends. The chief argument, by which they have persuaded me to do it, is, because they do conceive it to be a preparative, and hopeful sign of the Jews conversion; and, that it will be glad tidings to the church of Christ; and therefore I have yielded to satisfy their desires therein. And thus it was:
At the place above-named, there assembled about three-hundred rabbies, called together from several parts of the world, to examine the Scriptures concerning Christ; and, it seems, this place was thought more convenient for this council, in regard that part of the country was not much inhabited, because of the continual wars between the Turk and the King of Hungary; where (as I was informed) they had fought two bloody battles; yet both princes, notwithstanding their own differences, did give leave to the Jews to hold their council there. And, for their accommodation there, the Jews did make divers tents for their repose, and had plenty of provisions brought them from other parts of the country, during the time of their sitting there. There was also one large tent, built only for the council to sit in, made almost four-square; the north and the south parts of it being not altogether so large as the east and west parts thereof. It had but one door, and that opened to the east; and, in the middle thereof, stood a little table and a stool for the propounder to sit on, with his face towards the door of the tent. The said propounder was of the tribe of Levi, and was named Zacharias; and within this tent round about were placed divers forms for the consulters to sit on. It was also inclosed with a rail, that stood a distance from it, to prevent entrance to all strangers, and to all such Jews as could not prove themselves to be Jews by record, or could not dispute in the Hebrew tongue, which many had forgotten, who lived in such countries, where they are not allowed their synagogues, as in France, Spain, and those parts of Italy that do belong to the King of Spain, viz. the kingdom of Naples, with the province of Calabria, and Apuleia; the kingdom of Sicily, and Sardinia; in which places, if a Jew be found, and he deny the popish religion, he is in danger to be condemned, and executed for it; and yet profit and benefit allureth them to dwell in those countries, notwithstanding their fears and dangers; and themselves are willing to forget and so neglect to teach their children their native language, rather than they will lose their oppor tunity of profit; and some have burnt the ancient records of their tribe and family, that they might not be discovered by searching, or otherwise. And for this defect, that they could not prove their tribe or family, they were not permitted to come within the rail, but were com manded to remain without, with the strangers that remained there, to see the issue of their proceeding, which were above three thousand persons; and they were for the most part of them Germans, Almains, Dal