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“ Time's wheel runs back or stops ; Potter and clay endure."
The brief time allotted me is unsufficient to give more than a hint of the wealth of illumination and strengthening, abounding in the poems of Robert Browning. The few selections possible to embody here, but inadequately represent his rational thought, his infinite hope and his abundant consolations. Let me recapitulate his prominent teachings.
God is Infinite Love.
Man is made imperfect that he may grow. 3. Earth is his nursery, where, by walking, he learns to walk; by failing he learns to succeed.
4. The truth is within us, and is to be educed in God's own time.
5. Men are God's agents in setting free the truth buried in flesh, and this is man's grand privilege.
6. There is ultimate deliverance from all spirit imprisonment.
7. The past has been for good, and the present is for greater good, and the future shall be for increasing good; for good is the final significance of creation.
T is generally believed that civilization, amalgamation of races
and change of language, deliver mankind from the thraldom of material surroundings and natural tendencies; but in the history of the Nation of the Nile we see how climate and geographical configuration have consistently declared themselves in successive generations, and how, when the incidental and extraneous influences that had seemed to change the prototype have been withdrawn, it rose again in all its distinctiveness and individuality. It is inevitable that a people depending on the measured rise and fall of a river, for the means of life, and even for life itself, should, in a good degree, be the slaves of natural law, and so the more easily subjugated to the will of the human despot who may obtain lordship over their fountain of existence. In these few words I find an explanation for the perpetual servitude of the Egyptian.
It is a fashion, both new and old, to do a wrong, and declare it to be a necessity, and, that in the Egypt of to-day, exhorbitant tribute and forced labor must be extorted from the people to preserve the country, is a tyrant's plea for injustice as old as historic humanity. On Egypt's eldest temple walls, pylons, pillars and memorial tablets, it is recorded in sharply cut hieroglyphics and speaking tableaux, that invasion, slaughter and oppression, the acts of divinelyparented kings and rulers, were done to promote the welfare of the people and to please the Gods. Our modern philanthropists, who for the past five years have been grinding the tillers of the soil, and the peaceful owners of flocks and lands, for the one purpose of giving them a good government, are in no wise original in their special philanthropy. In this philanthropic movement the men who provide literal bread for the people, have suffered most from the excessive taxation and compelled service, which the agents of that going-to-be-good government have imposed upon
them ; for not more than one-sixth part of the land is now in the hands of Egyptian farmers, which was owned by them before the armed Christians came to save them, and thousands of natives are now employed at ten cents per day on the lands of which they then were masters. Through the terrible taxation, limited only by production, and the forced military service, limited only by death, the condition of the women and children has become yet more hopelessly degraded. Wherever there has been a reduction of public or charitable appropriations, the needed economy has at once been applied to the women's share ; many schools for girls have been closed to eke out the scrimped allowance for the boys. The Khedive Ismaël established at Cairo a school for the daughters of noble families in a noble building surrounded by handsome grounds. It is now occupied by the English Minister of Public Works.
The evidences and testimony that I had while in Egypt of the deplorable condition of the women in religion, in the family, and under the law, the inadequate means that are being employed to remove the causes of their degradation compel me to present to you for this hour a sombre picture, one not at all in keeping with the marvelous coloring of Egyptian nature and the wonderful picturesqueness of the women, as they take their place in the unique and facinating panorama that unrolls itself before the delighted voyager on the Nile. But I have no choice; I must paint the portrait as I saw it, and it may be, in the discussion that will follow my paper, that other testimony may lighten my dark shading, and promise good result from the benevolent enterprises already organized to upraise our wretched sisterhood.
WOMEN IN RELIGION.
From the earliest recorded time, the Egyptians have had a formal religion, which established a sensual heaven for believers. But while they yet worshipped their sectional Gods, they recognized women as worthy of high and sacred offices. Hieroglyphic inscriptions register that in the early dynasties women were Goddesses, Queens, Priestesses, upholders of the gods, guardians of portions of the temples and sacred places, and that they were respected and revered equally with gods, priests, scribes, architects, and warriors. Women of the families of kings, nobles and chiefs, have honorable mention, and their portraits and cartouches are everywhere, on the temple wall and pillar, on stele and obelisk. It seems moreover, quite certain that ordinary women
joined in the temple service and paid religious tribute. An inscription found but four years ago, on a pillar of a vanished temple, records the taxes paid by women on entering the temple after marriage and child-birth, and so small are the amounts, that Egyptologists think it sure all women had access to the temples and rendered tribute according to their means. The worship of Osiris, Isis, Horus, Amon-ra, Maut, Khonsoo, under many different local names, but always Father, Mother, Son, was performed and perpetuated by men and woman bearing like titles and rendering equally sacred and important service. All this is now changed ; the pendulum of the religious clock swings far away to the other side.
In Egypt there are two religious sects, Copts and Muslims. At Alexandria and Cairo there are congregations of the Greek and Armenian Church, Lutherans, Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and it may be others; these are the churches of the foreigners, and are scarcely found out of the two great cities. The number of Copts is estimated by themselves at 700,000, by others at 300,000. Claiming to be the oldest Christian church, established by the Evangelist Mark himself, whose body was enshrined in Alexandria, until translated by the Venetians, they refused to accept the doctrine of the double nature of Christ, and were condemned as heretics by the Council of Chalcedon. Thus the persecutions they had suffered under Decius and Valerianus, culminating in the destruction of their beautiful cities, and the massacre of thousands by Diocletian, whose cruel edict was even more destructive than his fire and sword, were continued by the Christian Emperors of Constantinople. Under Mahommedan rule they were long encouraged to embrace Islam by degradation and the branding-iron, but during the present century they have for the most part been relieved from civil, if not from social oppression. These ages of persecution, and wicked hatred have left their impress on Coptic character. They are tenacious, timid, cowardly, suspicious, deceitful and sullen, with remarkable individual exceptions.
The officers of the Coptic Church are a patriarch, bishops, priests, and deacons. These offices women may not fill. There are orders of monks, and there have been sisterhoods of celibates. The officers may not marry after entering upon the office, and must have married a maiden. The Coptic language is not now written or spoken, and is understood by very few of those who recite, or attend the service of the church. Coptic women attend church, confess, and receive the sacrament, but they are not expected to pray as often as the men. Their style of dress and their customs are the same as those of Muslim women, and they generally wear black in the street. Baby-girls are baptized eighty days after birth, boys after forty only. The churches are divided; the women's part is the lower, separated from the men's by a high lattice. Women should not be present when the prayers are said for a male invalid of the family over ten years old, or when he receives the sacrament, except by special request.
As among the Muslim women, much piety is unbecoming and quite ridiculous out of the cloister. I have often remarked the little respect Coptic women show for the service of the church. At intervals they repeat short prayers, but during the larger part of the ceremony they chat and laugh with their friends. There is not either order or decorum required of men or women during the service. The women stare through the half-open veil, whisper or talk audibly, crowd the strangers, and conduct themselves much as they do in the shops and bazaars.
Neither are the churches nor the women cleanly. The oldest churches have small openings in the lattice, looking toward the chancel, where lamps may be placed during evening service, and these have left there greasy black signatures for unmolested ages. Not seldom you may see worn out utensils of the church service lying about in the corners. Above Cairo it is often unhealthful to attend church among these untidy and disorderly women and children ; the rancid buffalo butter and the castor oil with which they moisten their hair, are not the agreeable perfume one would choose for the confined air. They never change their clothing or make preparation in any way for the sabbath or the church. The wives and families of wealthy, educated Copts seldom attend church except during fasts and festivals ; they are agreeable in dress and manner.
told that their prayers are mere forms recited, but that the real prayer of the woman is to be wife of a rich man and the mother of sons. They do not understand the creed of their church, and feel no moral responsibility; and, again with their Muslim sisters, do not count any wrong-doing sin, if it be not discovered. They have no education of the conscience, and are reputed to be too often ingenious in intrigue and falsehood,