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Public Statement Of Asaad Shidiak








Beyroot, March 1826.

Respected Brethren and Friends,--Since many have heard a report, that I
have become insane; and others, that I have become a heretic; I have
wished to write an account of myself in few words, and then let every
reflecting man judge for himself, whether I am mad, or am slandered;
whether following after heresy, or after the truth of the orthodox
faith. Every serious man of understanding will concede, that true
religion is not that of compulsion, nor that which may be bought and
sold; but that which proceeds from attending to the word of God,
believing it, and endeavouring to walk according to it to the glory of
God, and that every one, whose object is solely contention, and who does
not obey the truth, but follows after unrighteousness, is far distant
from the true religion. This is the standard, by which I would be judged
by every one who reads this narrative.

About eight or nine months ago, I was employed, by an American by the
name of J. King, in teaching him the Syriac language. At that time, I
was very fond of engaging with him in disputatious conversations, to
prove him to be in error; but with none but worldly motives, to display
my talents and knowledge, and acquire the praise of men. After this, I
applied myself to reading of the word of God with intense interest. Now
this person wrote a farewell letter to his friends, in which he excuses
himself from uniting himself with the Roman Catholic church. After
reading this letter, I found, in the Holy scriptures, many passages,
which made against the opinions of the writer. These passages I
selected, and from them and other evidences, composed a reply to him.
But when I was copying the first rough draught of the same, and had
arrived to the answer to the last of the objections, which he said
prevented his becoming a member of the Roman Catholic church, viz: that
the Roman Catholic church teaches, that it is wrong for the common
people to possess or read the word of God but that they ought to learn
from the popes and councils, I observed the writer brings a proof
against the doctrine from the prophet Isaiah, viz: "To the law and to
the testimony, if they speak not according to my word, it is because
there is no light in them."

While I was endeavouring to explain this passage also, according to the
views of the Roman Catholic church, with no other object than the praise
of men, and other worldly motives, I chanced to read the 29th chapter
of Isaiah, from the 15th verse to the end. I read, and was afraid. I
meditated upon the chapter a long while, and feared that I was doing
what I did, with a motive far different from the only proper one, viz.
the glory and the pleasure of God. I therefore threw by my paper without
finishing the copy, and applied myself diligently to the reading of the
prophecy of Isaiah. I had wished to find, in the prophets, plain proofs,
by which to establish, beyond contradiction, that Jesus Christ is the
Messiah, so long expected from ancient days; proofs that might be made
use of in answer to Moslems and Jews. While I was thus searching, I
found various passages, that would bear an explanation according to my
views, but did not find them sufficient to enforce conviction on others,
until I finally came to the 52d chapter 14th verse, and onward to the
end of the next chapter.

On finding this testimony, my heart rejoiced, and was exceeding glad,
for it removed many dark doubts from my own mind also. From that time,
my desire to read the New Testament, that I might discover the best
means of acting according to the doctrines of Jesus, was greatly
increased. I endeavoured to divest myself of all selfish bias, and loved
more and more to inquire into religious subjects. I saw, and continue to
see, many of the doctrines of the Roman Catholic church, which I could
not believe, and which I found opposed to the truths of the Gospel; and
I wished much to find some of her best teachers to explain them to me,
that I might see how they proved them from the Holy scriptures. As I was
reading an appendix to a copy of the sacred scriptures, printed at Rome
by the Propaganda, and searching out the passages referred to, for
proving the duty of worshipping saints, and other similar doctrines, I
found that these proofs failed altogether of establishing the points in
question, and that to infer such doctrines from such premises, was even
worthy of ridicule. Among other things, in this appendix, I found the
very horrible Neronian doctrines, that it is our duty to destroy
heretics. Now every one knows, that whoever does not believe that the
pope is infallible, is a heretic in his opinions.

This doctrine is not merely that it is allowable to kill heretics, but
that we are bound to do it. From this I was the more established in my
convictions against the doctrines of the pope, and saw that they were
the doctrines of the ravenous beast, and not of the gentle lamb. After I
had read this, I asked one of the priests in Beyroot respecting this
doctrine, and he assured me, that it was even so as I had read. I then
wished to go to some place, though it might be a distant country, that I
might find some man of the Roman Catholic church sufficiently learned to
prove the doctrine above alluded to.

After this, as I was at Beyroot teaching a few Greek youths the Arabic
grammar, I received a letter from his holiness the Maronite patriarch,
saying, that if I did not cease from all assistance whatever to the
English, and that if I did not leave them within one day, I should,
ipso facto, fall under the heaviest excommunication.

Thinking, as I did, that obeying my superiors, in all things not
sinful, was well and good, I did not delay to leave, and so went to my
friends at Hadet; but still thinking very much on the subject of
religion, so that some people thought me melancholy. I loved exceedingly
to converse on religious subjects, indeed I took no pleasure in any
worldly concerns, and found all worldly possessions vain. After this, I
received a second letter from his holiness the patriarch, in which he
said thus: "After we had written you the first letter, we wrote you a
second; see that you act according to it. And if you fulfil all that was
commanded in it, and come up to us when we come to Kesran, we will
provide you a situation." But I saw that nothing, in which I was
accustomed to take delight, pleased me any longer. I returned again,
after some time, to Beyroot; and after I had been there no long time,
Hoory Nicolas arrived, brother to his holiness the rev. patriarch, with
a request from the latter, to come and see him, which I hastened to do.
Hoory Nicolas then began to converse with me, in the way of reprimand,
for being in connexion with the English. I replied that, as we ought not
to deny the unity of God, because the Musselmans believe it, so we ought
not to hate the gospel because the English love it. He then began to
tell me of the wish of his holiness, the rev. patriarch, that I should
come out to him, and of his great love to me; and said that he (the
patriarch) had heard, that I had received thirty or forty purses of
money from the English; and he assured me of their readiness not to
suffer this to be any hindrance to my coming out from them.

Now if my object were money, as some seemed to think, I had then a fair
opportunity to tell him a falsehood, and say, "I indeed received from
the English that sum, but I have expended so and so, and cannot leave
them unless I restore the whole." In this way I might have contrived to
take what I wished. Yet I did not so answer him, but declared to him the
truth, how much wages I had received, and which was nothing
extraordinary.

He then gave me a paper from his holiness the patriarch, in which he
says, "You will have received from us an answer, requesting that when we
come to Alma, you will come up and see us. We expect your presence, and,
if God please, we will provide you some proper situation, with an income
that shall be sufficient for your sustenance. Delay not your coming,
lest the present happy opportunity should pass by." Knowing, as I did,
that many people supposed my object, in continuing with the English, to
be gain, I did not delay fulfilling the request of his reverence, hoping
to remove this suspicion, and to enjoy an opportunity of speaking the
truth without being hired to do it.

So, about the 7th of January, I left Beyroot, with Hoory Nicolas, and
arrived at Der Alma the same night. His holiness, the patriarch, was not
there. On the next day, when he came, I met him, and saluted him in the
road. In the evening he called me into his chamber, and began to ask me
questions, that he might discover what I was; and I answered him telling
him the whole truth, although this course was opposed to my personal
convenience. At this he seemed surprised, for he must have perceived it
was contrary to what he had been accustomed to see in me. Afterwards,
when I declared to him, that I never had before been a believer,
according to the true living faith, he was probably still more
astonished. He then asked me if I believed as the Romish church
believed. I again told him the truth, that I did not. He asked then what
was my faith, and I answered to the following purport, "True and living
faith must be divine, connected with hope, love and repentance, and that
all these virtues are the gift of God &c.; that I believed the truth as
God had inspired it; and that it would be but a lie, if I should say
that I believed as the Romish church does, while in fact I do not. I
must have proofs."

After some conversation like this, he told me that this doctrine of mine
was heretical, and that as long as I remained in this state of opinion,
he would suffer no one to have intercourse with me in buying and
selling, &c. This prohibition of his brought to my mind the words in the
Revelation, xiii, 17.[G] Then he gave me to understand, that if, after
three days, I did not get back out of this state, I must no more enter
the church. At other times, he wished me to swear by the eucharist and
by the gospel, that my faith was like the faith of the Roman catholic
church. He asked me if I was a Bible man; I replied, "I do not follow
the opinions of the Bible men; but if you think me a Bible man on
account of the opinions I have advanced, very well."

The sum of what I said was, that without evidence I could not believe
what the Romish church believes. From that time, after three days, I did
not enter the church for a space. Some time passed again, and the
patriarch inquired of me my faith. I then explained to him what I
believed respecting the unity and trinity of God, and that the Messiah
was one person with two natures, and that the Holy Spirit proceeds from
the Father and Son. Then arose a disputation about, who is the Vicar
that Christ has appointed to explain his law. I answered in substance as
I afterwards did in writing, that by reason, and learning, and prayer to
God, with purity of motive, we may know, from the holy scriptures, every
thing necessary to our salvation. This was the purport of my reply,
which perhaps was not expressed with sufficient clearness, or perhaps I
was not able to say it in the manner that was appropriate, for such a
tumult and storm were excited in the company that they seemed to me to
be intent on overcoming me by dint of vociferation, rather than by
argument, and to drown my voice, rather than to understand my opinions.

When, after some days, came bishop Abdalla Blabul and Padre Bernardus of
Gzir, the patriarch one day called me to them in his chamber, and asked
me what I wished, whether money or office, or whatever it might be,
promising to gratify me, speaking of his love to me and of his great
interest in my welfare. These professions I know to be sincere, but
they are according to the world, and not according to the Gospel. I
assured him that I wanted nothing of the things he had mentioned; that I
was submissive and obedient to him; and that if he thought of me, that I
had taken money of the English, he was welcome to shut me up in my
chamber as to a prison, and take from me every thing that I possessed;
that I wished from them merely my necessary food and clothing, and that
I would give them this assurance in writing. The bishop and priest then
begged me, in presence of the patriarch, to say that my faith was like
that of the Romish church. I replied, that I feared to tell a falsehood
by saying a thing, while actually, in my reason, I did not believe it.

"But," said they, "the patriarch here will absolve you from the sin of
the falsehood." I turned to the Patriarch and put the question whether
he would so absolve me. He answered, that he would. I said, "What the
law of nature itself condemns, it is out of the power of any man to make
lawful." He then again asked me what I wished to do. I said, I wish to
go and see the Armenian patriarch Gregory, and inquire of him what I
ought to do. He consented, and requested me, when I had done this, to
return to him, to which I agreed. I was accompanied by a priest from the
station of the patriarch to the College of Ain Warka, where I found
Hoory Joseph Shaheen, with whom I conversed a considerable time, and
with great pleasure; for I found that for himself, he did not believe
that the pope was infallible in matters of faith, that is to say, unless
in concert with the congregated church. I then began to confess to him:
but when I saw that he held steadfastly some opinions for no other
reason than that the church so believed, and without bringing any proper
evidence of the fact, viz. from councils or from the fathers, and burst
out upon me with exceeding bitter words, saying, "Know that the church
neither deceives, nor is deceived, and be quiet;" and when I wished him
to instruct me according to the word of God, with the simple object of
glorifying God and fulfilling his will, I saw that he was not disposed
to support any opinion because it was according to the word of God, but
because so thought the church; and I saw him also ready to retain these
opinions, although I should bring the strongest evidences against them
from the holy Scriptures. He told me that it was impossible for him to
teach any thing contrary to the council of Trent. So I found I could not
receive his system, because, though you should shew him that it was
wrong, he would not give it up, lest with it he should be obliged to
give up his office. I therefore told him, you are bound, i. e. shut up
as between walls, by the doctrines of the pope and the council of Trent.

In conversation on the images, he would have proved their propriety from
Baronius' church history. We found this author quoting the sacred
scriptures to prove that our Saviour sent a picture of himself to the
king of Abgar. I declared that it was false, in so far as he stated that
the Gospel made any such statement, and on that account I could not
believe the story. To this he gave me no answer. After this, as we were
reading the book, and found a statement respecting the bishops collected
in Constantinople, to the number of 313; that they decreed the abolition
of the use of images, because it was idolatrous, and that in the
clearest terms,--I asked him the question, "If an assembly composed of
the bishops of the church were infallible, how is it that this council
is said to have committed an error?"

About this time, I heard that a certain individual wished to converse
with me on the subject of religion, which rejoiced me exceedingly, and I
was impatient for an interview. He came on a Sabbath day to Ain Warka,
for the study of the Arabic grammar, according to his custom, and we had
a short conversation together on works unlawful on the Sabbath day, and
other subjects. He then excused himself from further conversation for
want of time; but promised that when we should meet again, he hoped to
have a sufficient opportunity to dwell on these subjects at large. I
continued at Ain Warka the whole week, reading with the rest at prayers
and confessing to Hoory Joseph above mentioned; and on the next Lord's
day, the Armenian priest aforesaid came again, and I fully expected to
have time and opportunity to ascertain his opinions; but I was
disappointed again; for he wished to have the dispute carried on in
writing, and to have an assistant with him, with other conditions.

In these circumstances I failed of my object; but was on the whole more
inclined than before to receive the doctrines of the Romish church;
since the priest had promised to bring his evidence, on all points, from
the word of God, that they (the papists) were walking in light and not
in darkness.

At this time one informed me that his holiness, bishop Jacob, superior
of the convent of Bzumar, wished to see me. And because Hoory Joseph, at
first told me that this state in which I had fallen was a temptation of
Satan, and at one time shewed me that it was usual for people, when they
came to the age of manhood, to be tempted on the subject of their
religion, and at another, assured me, that this was a state of
delirium:--and again, because I had heard formerly that this bishop
Jacob had himself been delirious, and that he was a man of information,
I wished very much to see him; and on the same day I went to Hoory
Joseph and declared to him plainly my opinions, and shewed him that the
beast mentioned in the Revelation was a figure, as the lamb evidently
was, and how dreadful must be the torments of those who worship the
image of the beast. I then disclosed to him my intention of going up to
the convent of Bzumar, where were the patriarch Gregory, bishop Jacob,
and the Armenian priest already mentioned.

I set off the same day, and on my arrival saluted the patriarch, and on
the same night reasoned on the subjects of faith, hope and love. It
appeared that the patriarch's opinion was, that a man may be possessed
of living faith, faith unto salvation, although he should feel nothing
in his heart. I answered him with a quotation from St. Paul, "With the
heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is
made unto salvation." But this did not convince him. He explained the
heart to mean the will. It then appeared to me that he was not a
true believer, and from that time forward I could not believe him, as I
would believe a real Christian, but I wished to hear his worldly
arguments. On the following day, I asked him how it can he said, that
the pope was infallible if there were no proofs of the fact to be
brought. I asked him if this pretension of the pope was that of an
apostle, or a prophet? if an apostle, or a prophet, he could not be
believed without miracles, and that we christians were not to believe
any one, though he were to bring down fire from Heaven.[H] His replies
to me were weak; and after considerable conversation on what is the
church of Christ, on the ignorance that is pardonable, &c. he began to
prove that if the pope is not infallible, then there is no religion,
no gospel, and even no God. But I observed all his proofs so weak,
that I could not be convinced, and I fell into deep perplexity as to
what I should do. For sometimes I greatly endeavoured to submit my
judgment to his rules and opinions, and made these efforts until my very
head would ache. The next day I asked him what was that great city,
ruling over the kings of the earth, mentioned in the Rev. xvii, 18?
After he had brought his book of commentaries, he answered that it was
Rome, which is also called spiritual Babylon, or Babel, and after
wishing me to yield to his opinion or that of the book, he said nothing
more. From this time I was with the patriarch every day for three or
four hours, and his best advice to me was, to pray to St. Antony of
Padua, together with one repetition of the Lord's prayer, and one of
Hail Mary, &c. every day for three days. When I was thus in doubt from
the weakness of their proofs, one of the monks said to me, "If you wish
to know good tobacco, ask the patriarch." I hoped that this priest
would explain to me those doctrines of the Romish church, which I could
not believe; so I went into his chamber and questioned him very
particularly on all points. He expressed his wish that we might discuss
together all the points one by one, but on condition that the patriarch
Joseph should appoint him to do so. He told me he had in his possession
a book refuting the opinions of Luther and Calvin. I begged permission
to read it; but he refused, telling me that the doctrines of the church
all remained unrefuted. He wished me to go down to the patriarch Joseph
on this business. So after a stay of four days from my arrival, I
departed for Ain Warka according to my promise to Hoory Joseph.

Here I found one of my friends of whom I had heard that he had been very
much astonished at my connexion with the Bible men. After I had seen
him, and had conversed with him a little on some points, he would no
longer hear me, fearing among other things lest he should be crazed.
When we touched on the subject of the great city above mentioned, he
told me that he had seen a book of commentaries on the Revelation, which
made the city clearly to be Rome. At this I wondered greatly, since the
meaning was so clear that not even the teachers of the Romish church
herself could deny it. I then finished my confession to Hoory Joseph
Shaheen, and about sunset the same day, went down to the patriarch to
the convent Alma. He requested me again to write a paper stating that my
faith was according to the faith of the Romish church. From this I
excused myself, begging that such a thing might not be required of me,
for the council of Trent had added nothing to the rule of faith, which
was established by that of Nice, which begins, "I believe in one God,"
&c. A short space after, I gave him my advice, with modest arguments,
and mild suggestions, on his duty to cause the gospel to be preached in
the church among the Maronite people; and offered him the opinion that
this should be done by the priests in the vulgar language, every Sabbath
day, for the space of one or two hours; and if this should appear too
burthensome to the people, to take off from them some of the feast days.
After this, I remained silent in my chamber near to his own; and as
there came to me a few of the deacons of the patriarch, and others, I
read to them at their request in the New Testament printed in Rome. But
in a little time after, I entered my room, and found in it none of all
the books that had been there, neither New Testament nor any other, and
I knew that the patriarch had given the order for this purpose, for he
reproved me for reading the gospel to them, but he could accuse me of no
false or erroneous explanations, or that I taught them any thing
heretical.

One day after this, he called me to his presence and began to threaten
me in a most unusual manner. I said, "What do you wish of me, your
reverence? What have I done, and what would you have me do? What is my
sin, except that I conversed with some individuals, shewing them the
errors of the church of Rome?" Then he requested me again, to say, that
I believed as did that church, and said, grasping me firmly by the chin,
"see how I will take you if you do not repent." I begged him to appoint
some one to shew me the truth, by way of discussion, but he would not,
and continued expressing his own sentiment, that we are bound to hold
fast to the church, even to such a length, that if she should even
reject the gospel, we should reject it too.

And here I wish to say a word to every reader that regards and loves the
truth; how does such doctrine appear to you? and how could I believe in
all which the Romish church holds, without knowing all of it? and how
could I say, without a lie, that I believe, when I do not believe?

When I saw the patriarch breaking out with an exceeding loud and unusual
voice, I was afraid that I should be found among "the fearful," (Rev.
xxi. 8.) and rose to depart. When I reached the door, I turned and said
to him, "I will hold fast the religion of Jesus Christ, and I am ready
for the sake of it to shed my blood; and though you should all become
infidels, yet will not I;" and so left the room.

One of my friends told me, that he had suggested to the patriarch the
grand reason why I did not believe in the pope, which was, that among
other doctrines of his, he taught, that he could not commit an error,
and that now, though a pope should see any one of his predecessors had
erred, he could not say this, for fear that he also should appear to
be an unbeliever. This friend also told me, that the patriarch wondered
how I should pretend that I held to the Christian religion, and still
converse in such abusive terms against it; and I also wondered, that
after he saw this, he should not be willing so much as to ask me, in
mildness, and self-possession, and forbearance, for what reasons I was
unwilling to receive the doctrines of the pope, or to say I believed as
he did; but he would not consent that the above mentioned Armenian
priest should hold a discussion with me, and more than this, laid every
person, and even his own brother, under excommunication, if he should
presume to dispute or converse with me on the subject of religion.

Under this prohibition from conversation, and this bereavement of books,
from what quarter could I get the necessary evidence to believe in their
opinion?

Another cause I had of wonder, which was, that not one of all with whom
I conversed, after he saw me to be heretical and declining from the
truth, thought proper to advise me to use the only means of becoming
strong in the faith, viz. prayer to God the Most High, and searching his
Holy Word, which a child may understand. I wondered, too, that they
should ridicule me, and report me abroad as one mad and after all this,
be so fearful to engage in a dispute with the madman, lest he should
vanquish them in argument, or spoil their understandings, or turn them
away from the truth.

After some time came the bishop of Beyroot. I gave him the usual
salutation, and was greatly rejoiced to see him, as I knew the
excellency of his understanding, and his quickness of apprehension, and
hoped that, after some discussion between us, he would explain the
truth, and that he would rest on clear evidence to support his views.
But in this case also, I was disappointed; for one day, when I asked him
a question, and during the whole short conversation which followed,
whenever I began to bring evidence against him, he was angry, and
finally drove me from my chamber in a fury, and that with no other
cause, as he pretended, than that he did not wish to converse with a
heretic.

Some time after this, Hoory Joseph Shaheen came down to the convent of
Alma, and I endeavoured to get him to unite with me in persuading the
patriarch to send out among the people preachers of the gospel, or that
there should be preaching in the churches as before mentioned. But he
would not co-operate with me in this, and I was again disappointed.

Then, when the patriarch and the bishop of Beyroot wished to dispute
with me, I expressed the hope that the discussion might be in meekness,
and without anger. It was concluded that the discussion should be in
writing, that no one afterwards should be able to alter what he had once
said. They then commenced by asking me questions; the first question
was, in amount, this, "Has the Messiah given us a new law?" At first, I
did not grant that he had, strictly speaking, given us a new law, and
quoted the words of John, that "the law was given by Moses, but grace
and truth came by Jesus Christ;" but when I afterwards saw that by "a
new law," they meant merely the gospel, or the New Testament, I
answered in the affirmative. They then asked me if there was not to be
found in this new law some obscurities. I answered, "Yes." They then
asked me, Suppose any difference of sentiment should arise between the
teachers of Christianity, how are we to distinguish the truth from the
error? I answered thus;--"We have no other means of arriving at the
truth, than searching the word of God, with learning, and reason, and
inquiry of learned spiritual teachers, with purity of motive, and with
disinterestedness of inclination. If the obscurities of the word of God
cannot be understood by these means, our ignorance is excusable, and
will not prevent our salvation. If the passages, which still remain
obscure, concern faith, it is sufficient for a man to say, I believe
according as the truth is in itself before God, or I believe in the
thing as God inspired it to the writer. And if the obscurity respects
our practice, after making use of the means above mentioned, if that
branch of our practice be forbidden, or under a doubt, desist from it,
but if it is not forbidden, do it, and Blessed is he that condemneth
not himself in the thing which he alloweth."

After I had given them this answer, they brought no evidence to prove
any error in it, and moreover afterwards never put to me any question to
writing.

Once, as I was walking with the bishop of Beyroot, he began to tell me
how much they all felt for me; and how unwilling they should be to put
me in chains to die a lingering death; and that were it not for the
sympathy and their love towards me, there were people who had conversed
with them, who were ready to take my life. Some further conversation
passed, and I began to introduce the subject of religion, and to ask how
we could believe in the pope that he was infallible. He quoted for proof
the words of our Saviour, Thou art Peter, &c. I asked him if it was
proper to suppose that all things bestowed on Peter, were also given to
the pope? If so, why does not the pope speak with tongues; and why is he
not secure from the evil effects of poison, &c.? He answered, that these
last things were not necessary. "But how do you prove it necessary,"
said I, "that the pope should not err? Is it not sufficient if any one
has doubts, to ask his teacher who is not infallible? if you say yes,
then the opinion of the fallible man will answer. But if you say no,
and that we must go to the pope, what must become of the man who dies
before the answer of the pope can reach him?"

He then resorted to another mode of proof, saying, "Is it not desirable
that the pope should be infallible?" I assured him I wished he might be
so. "Well, is not God able to render him so?" "Yes, He is able to do all
things." He wished to infer his point from these two premises. But I
said, "your reasoning with regard to the pope, may be applied to all
the bishops of the church; for it is desirable that they should all be
infallible, and God is able to make them so." He said, "No, for the
bishops feeling less their need of the pope, would not look to him, or
submit to him as their head, and then there would be divisions and
contentions in the church." But why, said I, did not divisions and
contentions arise among the apostles? Were they not all infallible as
well as Peter? He would not say they were infallible. I told him, that
was an opinion that could not be believed, that the pope was infallible,
and the apostles not; for it was well known to all, that the Holy Spirit
descended upon the apostles in a peculiar manner. I asked him again, how
it could be made to appear that divisions would be produced if all
bishops were infallible, for if they were all of one opinion, as they of
course would be, their union must be the more perfect. We conversed
farther at some length, when he concluded by saying, "You are possessed
of a devil."

The next day, as the patriarch and the bishop of Beyroot were seated
under a tree without the convent, I went out to them, and said, "Your
holiness sent to me to come hither for employment, and I came, and have
remained here a considerable time. What do you wish me to do for you,
for I cannot remain here in idleness?" He said, "What do you wish to
do?" If your holiness pleases, that I teach in the school of Ain Warka,
I will do that. "No, I cannot have you go to Ain Warka, to corrupt the
minds of those who are studying science, and to contradict my opinions."
But I will instruct in grammar. "No, the youths of the college are now
attending to moral science." Well, I only beg you will let me know
what I am to do, and if you have no employment for me, I wish to return
home. The bishop here broke in upon the conversation, saying, I will not
suffer you to go back among my flock to deceive them, and turn them away
to heresy. Will you then debar me, said I, from my home? If so, let me
know where I shall go, what I shall do? The bishop then said to the
patriarch, "Indeed I will not suffer this man to go abroad among my
people, for he is even attempting to make heretics of us also." Yes
replied the patriarch, it will not do after this, to afford him a
residence in any part of the land. The bishop then turned to me, in the
bitterest anger and rage, reviling me and saying, "If you go among my
people again, I will send and take your life, though it be in the bosom
of your own house." I said, "Well, what would you have me to do, and
what will you do with me? If you wish to kill me, or shut me up in
prison, or give me up to the government, or whatever it may be, I wish
to know it." "You must wait here till spring or summer," said the
patriarch, "and then we shall see how you are." I answered him in the
words of that christian who was given by his judge ten days to
deliberate whether he would worship an image: "Consider the time
already past, and do what you please."

I asked the bishop his reasons for wishing to kill me. What evil had I
done? He was filled with high and bitter indignation, saying, "What,
miscreant! Shall we let you go forth to corrupt my flock for me? Is not
what has passed enough?" I rose and said to them, "God at least is with
me," and left them. The patriarch sent after me his nephew, requesting
me, in soothing words to return, and saying that he would do what I
wished.

But when I contemplated the hardness of heart manifested by the bishop,
I could not restrain myself from reproving him, hoping that he would
grow mild. I said, therefore, "Our Lord Jesus Christ said, out of the
abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh, and that Satan, who was in
his heart, wished to kill me, for Satan was a murderer from the
beginning." I told him, moreover, that he was not a true disciple of
Christ. And when I had left them a second time, the patriarch again sent
his nephew to enquire of me what I wished; whether it was money, or what
else, promising that he would answer my enquiries.

I returned and told him, that I had a request to make of one thing
only, and that I hoped he would answer me, not as to a little child,
who would ask a childish thing. He asked me what it was. I said I have
to ask of you the favour to send from your priests two faithful men to
preach the gospel through the country, and I am ready, if necessary, to
sell all that I possess to give to them as part of their wages. He
promised me it should be done. But I had reason to expect that he would
receive such a request as from the mouth of one out of his reason. Now
there was at the convent a man called Hoory Gabriel, who was said to be
insane, and was known to all his acquaintance as a man that never would
say a word on the subject of religion, and he was a scribe of the
patriarch, and from the time of my arrival until that day, had never
asked me a single question about my faith, or opinions, nor had given me
the least word of advice about any of my errors. The same night, as this
priest was passing the evening in company with the patriarch, bishop,
and other individuals, as if they had been conversing on my idiocy in
making the request of to-day, the patriarch sent for me to come and sit
with them. I came. The patriarch then asked this priest and the others
present, if two proper men could be found to go and preach the gospel.
They then answered one to another, such an one, and such an one, would
be the fittest persons, some mentioning one and some another, looking at
me in the mean time laughing, to see what I would say.

I smiled in a pleasant manner at all this, and when one asked me, why I
laughed? I said to the patriarch, "Have you not perfect confidence in
the integrity of the priest Gabriel?" He said, "Yes." I then said, pray
let this priest then examine me for the space of a few days, and if he
does not conclude that I am a heretic, I will for one, take upon
myself this duty of preaching. This remark put an immediate end to the
conversation.

The third day, when the bishop wished to mock me before the patriarch
and a shekh of the country, I answered his questions according to his
own manner; but in a little time he began to revile me, and rebuke me
for blasphemy against the eucharist, against the virgin Mary and the
pictures, and that because I had said before one of his deacons, that
were it not for fear of the patriarch, I would tear all the pictures to
pieces and burn them. I gave him answer to every particular by itself,
and when he found that he could produce against me no accusation, he
increased in wrath. I then said, if this is your pleasure, I will say no
more. I told him that I had said, that pictures were not Gods; that such
was my opinion always; and that I wished to tell all the common people
so, that they might understand it. But to this he would not consent. He
then began to accuse me of saying of the eucharist, "Let them smell the
scent of it, and know that it is but bread and wine still." I told him
that if he would give me leave to speak, or if he wished to hear my
views, I would speak; "but how is it that you bring against me
accusations, and do not suffer me to make my defence?" Here again he was
not willing that I should speak, but the patriarch said to me,
"Speak." I then observed, that St. Ephraim says, "Come, eat the fire
of the bread, and drink the spirit of the wine;" and began to say from
this, that our eating the body of Christ was not natural, but spiritual.
Then again he fell into a rage against me. I said to him, "It is
written, be ye angry and sin not. I told you before, that I would keep
silence and not speak without your consent, and whatever you wish, tell
me that I may act or refrain accordingly." At this the patriarch smiled.
But the bishop fell into a passion still more violent, against the
patriarch as well as myself, and rose and went away. I also left the
room. In the evening, when were collected together the patriarch and
bishop and all the monks, with priest Nicholas, whom they were about to
ordain bishop on the morrow, the patriarch began to ask me questions
respecting my faith. When I saw that their object was neither to benefit
me, nor receive benefit, I gave them answers calculated to continue the
conversation in a trifling strain, saying, "My faith is the faith of
Peter, and the faith of Peter is my faith. I believe all that God has
given by inspiration to the one only holy catholic church." He asked me,
What is the church? I answered, "The church is the whole company of
those who believe in the Messiah and his law, on all the face of the
earth." But where is the place of the church? "The place of the church
is the whole world, it is made up of every nation and people." "What,"
said he "the English among the rest?" "Yes, of the English also."
Afterwards, when he continued to question me, and I saw that he had no
other object than to try me, I assured him, this is my faith, and to
this faith will I hold, whether it is worth any thing in your estimation
or not. I then asked him if he was willing to hold a discussion on the
subject; but he would not permit it in any shape. He afterwards
requested me to tell my faith again without fear and without
concealment. I referred them to the priest that was about to be
ordained, saying, that I had conversed with him on all points
particularly, and that he was able to make answer for me. The priest
then bore testimony on the spot, that I had said before him that I
believed the pope to be infallible, while I never said this to him at
any time. Afterward, when I was in his company privately, I inquired how
he could bear such testimony as he had done. He confessed in the fullest
terms, that he knew it was a falsehood, but that he said what he did,
that they might cease talking with me. The same night I had resolved on
quitting them; so at about midnight I left the convent, committing
myself to the protection of God, who never deserts them who put their
trust in him, and arrived at Beyroot, on the morning of Thursday, March
2, 1826.

Here then I remain at present, not that I may take my views from the
English, or from the Bible men, nor that I may receive my religion from
them. No, by no means; for I hold to the word of God. This is beyond all
danger of error. In this I believe; in this is my faith; and according
to it I desire to regulate my life, and enjoy all my consolations. By
this I wish to show what I believe and not to confer with flesh and
blood, that I may not run now nor hereafter in vain; for I know and am
persuaded, that the true religion is not according to the teaching of
men, but according to the inspiration of God: not according to the
custom of education, but according to the truth, which is made manifest
by the word of God. I therefore say to myself now, as I did in the
convent with the patriarch, where I wrote thus:

"Far from me be all the commandments of men. Nothing is to come into
comparison with the teaching of Jesus by reading the New Testament. If
our hearts are not transformed, there is the greatest danger that we
die in our sins. If any thing in the doctrine of Jesus seems burdensome,
let us pray that he may make it light; and if there is any thing that we
do not understand, let us pray that he would instruct us and reveal the
obscurity to all who truly believe in Jesus. There is nothing more
delightful to the soul than he. O taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed are all that put their trust in him! Cast thy burthen on the
Lord and he will sustain thee. Sweet is the sorrow produced by his word;
for it gives us an aversion to all the consolations of time. Let us
therefore seek refuge in God. Alas for thee, O thou that trustest to the
doctrines of men, especially if they give rest to your conscience, for
that rest is false and deceitful, proceeding from the thoughts of men,
and preventing you from attaining that true rest, of which the Apostles
speak, saying, We do rest from our labours. Take heed lest there be in
any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.
Read the word and it shall teach you all things necessary to your
salvation. If you say you do not understand it, behold the promise of
St. James, If any may lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to
all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him. The
divine word is a most precious treasure, from which all wise men are
enriched. Drink from the fountain itself. Again, I say, vain is the
philosophy of men; for it recommends to us doctrines newly invented, and
prevents our increase in virtue, rather than promotes it. Cast it far
from you."

This is what I wrote some time since, and I would revolve these thoughts
in my mind at all times. The object in all that I have done, or
attempted, or written, in this late occurrence, is, that I may act as a
disciple and servant of Christ. I could not, therefore, receive any
advice, which should direct me to hide my religion under a bushel. I
cannot regulate myself by any rules contrary to those of Christ; for I
believe that all who follow his word in truth, are the good grain, and
that all those who add to his word, are the tares sown by the enemy,
which shall soon be gathered in bundles and cast into the fire
unquenchable. And I beg every member of my sect, i. e. of the Maronite
church, who loves truth, if he sees me in an error to point it out to
me, that I may leave it, and cleave to the truth. But I must request
those who would rectify my views, not to do as did a priest at Beyroot,
who after a considerable discussion, denied the inspiration of the New
Testament. Men like him I do not wish to attempt to point out my errors;
for such men, it is evident, need rather to be preached to, than to
preach; and to be guided, rather than to guide. But if any understanding
man will take the word of God and prove to me from it any doctrine
whatever, I will respect him and honour him with all pleasure. But if a
doctrine cannot be established thus, it is not only opposed to the
doctrines of Christ, but to the views of the early christians, the
fathers of the church; such as St. Ephraim and others. Such doctrines I
cannot confess to be correct, although it should cost me the shedding of
my blood. Be it known, that I am not seeking money, nor office; nor do I
fear any thing from contempt, nor from the cross, nor from the
persecution of men, nor from their insults, nor their evil accusations,
so far as they are false. For I am ready for the sake of Christ to die
daily, to be accounted as a sheep for the slaughter, for he, in that he
suffered being tempted, is able to succour those that are tempted. I
consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be
compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us. I believe that
Jesus is our High Priest for ever and hath an unchangeable priesthood,
wherefore he is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by
him, for he is the one Mediator between God and man, and he ever liveth
to make intercession with the Father for us; and he is the propitiation
for our sins, and to him be glory with the Father and his Holy Spirit of
life for ever and ever--Amen.

I would only add, if there is any one, whoever he may be, that will shew
me to be under a mistake, and that there is no salvation for me unless I
submit to the pope, or at least shew me that it is lawful to do so, I am
ready to give up all my peculiar views and submit in the Lord. But
without evidence that my views are thus mistaken, I cannot give them up,
and yield a blind obedience, until it shall be not only told that I am
mad, but until I shall be so in fact, and all my understanding leaves
me. Not until men shall have burned not only the Bibles printed by the
English, but all the Bibles of the world. But these two things,
understanding and the Bible, I pray God to preserve both to me and to
all the followers of Christ, and that he will preserve and save all you,
my friends, in the Lord.

ASAAD SHIDIAK.





Next: Interview With Several Of His Relatives

Previous: Escapes And Returns To Beyroot



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