Brief History Of Asaad Esh Shidiak From The Time Of His Being Betrayed Into The Hands Of The Maronite Patriarch In The Spring Of 1826





=Translated from the Arabic of Naami Latoof.=



When the relatives of Asaad brought him to the convent of Alma in the

district of Kesroan, and gave him up to the patriarch, the latter began

by way of flattery to promise him all the worldly advantages he could

bestow; but withal demanding that he should put away all the heretical

notions, and all the corrupt knowledge, which the Bible-men, those

enemies of the pope, had taught him. He replied, "These things which you

hold out to me, are to me of no value. I no longer trouble myself about

them, for they are vain and of short duration. Every christian is bound

to think, and labour, and strive to be accounted worthy to hear that

blessed welcome, 'Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom

prepared for you from the foundation of the world.' As to rejecting from

my mind those things which I have learned from the Bible-men, I have to

say, that, for many years, I had read, occasionally, the holy

scriptures, which are able to make us wise unto salvation, but could not

live according to them; for I was given to the indulgence of all wicked

passions: but since my acquaintance with these men, I see myself,

through the merits of my Saviour, possessed of a new heart, though it is

not yet, I confess, in all respects such as I could wish it to be."



During the few days they remained in the Kesroan, the patriarch shewed

him every attention, and suffered no one to oppose his opinions saying,

"The protestants, by the great sums they have given him, have blinded

his eyes, and inclined him to join them, and diffuse their poisonous

sentiments, so that he cannot, at once, be brought to leave them. Let

him alone for the present, do nothing to oppose or to offend him, until

we shall arrive at Cannobeen, where we may examine into his faith and

state at our leisure, and if we find that he still clings to his heresy,

we then can do with him as circumstances may require." After a short

time they proceeded with him to Cannobeen, and there began to use

arguments to convince him of his errors, and persuade him to confess and

forsake them, and embrace whatever the councils and the church had

enacted;--requiring that he should surrender his conscience to the holy

catholic church, and bless all whom she blessed, and curse all whom she

cursed; and this they did in the most stern and threatening manner. He

replied, "It has been said, by the mouth of the Holy One, Bless and

curse not." They still pressed him to yield his opinions, but he said,

"I can give up nothing, nor can I believe any thing but as it is written

in the holy scriptures; for in these is contained all doctrines

necessary to salvation."--"But," said they, "is every thing then,

worthless, that has been ordained by the councils and the fathers?" He

answered, "The councils may have enacted laws good for themselves, but

we are not bound to follow them."



After urging him, day after day, to no purpose, they finally asked in

despair, "Are you then still of the same sentiment?" "Of the same

sentiment," said he; "I still believe and hold whatever is written in

the holy scriptures, and neither more nor less." "Will every one, then,

who reads the gospel, be saved?" "By no means;--but as it is written,

'he that hath my commands and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me.'"

"It is the duty of every person to possess the gospel, and read it?"

"Yes, it is the duty of every one. 'For,' said Paul, 'if our gospel be

hid, it is hid to them that are lost, in whom the god of this world hath

blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the

glorious gospel should shine unto them.'" They then reviled him, and

spurned him away from their sight, and began to meditate measures of

violence against him. He was separated from all around him, and

compelled to take his meals by himself; and lest he should attempt to

escape, a person was set over him to keep him under a constant watch. He

was made to feel himself in the lowest state of disgrace, all taking the

fullest liberty to reproach and ridicule him.



From this state of debasement he soon began to meditate his escape.

Accordingly, one evening, just as the sun had set, and while his

keeper's eye was off him, he fled. An immediate and diligent search was

made for him, but he could not be found until the second day, when he

was discovered still hiding in a grove near by, for he was totally

ignorant of the way he ought to take. They brought him immediately to

the patriarch. When he arrived, he was met by reproaches and revilings,

and the servants, by order of the patriarch beat him, and put him into

confinement. This was at Diman, a pleasant, airy situation belonging to

Cannobeen, and about an hour's distance from it. Soon after this, he was

taken up to the latter place, when he was left a little more at large,

but was always under the watch of a keeper.



One evening, when all had gone in the chapel for prayers, he lay as if

he had been asleep, and the monk, his keeper, thinking him really so,

went in with the rest, but took with him, as a precaution, Asaad's

silver inkhorn, supposing that if he should wake, and think of escaping,

he would not be willing to leave behind him so valuable an article. When

Asaad saw that all were gone, knowing the length of their prayers, he at

once left the convent, and ran about an hour's distance. People were

despatched in search of him with all diligence, but they returned

without finding him. On account of his ignorance of the way, he remained

secreted near the road till the day broke, when he continued his flight

until he had reached the distance of three hours or more from his

prison, when a couple of men in the service of the patriarch, having

been apprized of his escape by the pursuers during the night, discovered

him, and called out, "Who are you? Are you Asaad?" He replied, "I am

Asaad." They at once took him into custody, and brought him back, but

without any violence or indignity, to the patriarch. A different

treatment, however, awaited him at the convent. He had no sooner reached

it, than they covered him with insult, beating him, and mocking him, and

saying, "fool that you are, why did you answer to your name?" He

replied, "God has laid a curse upon the lying mouth, and therefore I

cannot use it." They said, "If you do not return to your faith, and hold

to all that has been ordained by the church and the fathers, you are

ruined. You will die under your tortures, and go to perdition." He

replied, "Whoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. I

am willing to expose myself to every indignity and suffering for the

sake of Him who loved us, and shed his precious blood for our salvation.

These things I am bound to say and do, and I am bound to exhort you

also, as beloved friends." When he had said this, they all laughed him

to scorn, called him a madman, and were about to beat him for

attempting, as they pretended, to make heretics of them also. When he

saw their anger, he cried out, "Why are you enraged at me, and what are

you about to do to me? I am a dying man like yourselves, and preach unto

you that you should turn from your vanities unto the living God, who

made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that are therein." They

then renewed their cries that he was mad, and thrust him into his prison

room, and locked the door upon him, and strict orders were given that no

one should say any thing to him more or less. In this state he remained

for some days. The patriarch then sent to him to inquire after his

faith, especially respecting his trust in the images of the church,

declaring to him that without faith in these, he could not be saved. He

replied, "Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility

and worshipping of angels." They brought him proofs from the councils,

that images were used by the fathers, and ought to be set up and

worshipped in the churches, in honour of the saints, and to obtain their

intercession. He answered, "I will also bring you proof from the

councils, that the worship of images, and all use of them in the

churches, was forbidden and reprobated by the fathers." Here they

contradicted him. "Be it as it may," said he, "it is impossible for me

to follow the opinions of any man or set of men., and leave the word of

God behind me. This word tells me, that 'forasmuch as we are the

offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto

gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art or man's device.'" The

messengers then quit him, and made their report to the patriarch, who

left him in his prison for a considerable time, in the most abject and

suffering state.



In process of time, certain individuals, possessed of a little humanity,

became interested in his situation, sympathized in his sufferings,

interceded for him, and procured liberty to open the prison door, so

that any one who chose could go in and see him without restraint. Again

he began to meditate an attempt to escape, and on a certain evening, set

off from the convent. But, as before, his ignorance of the proper path

to escape in, prevented the accomplishment of his purpose. He soon saw

the lighted torches streaming off in every direction in search of him,

and to avoid his pursuers, turned aside a short distance, and climbed

into a tree. From this situation he did not dare to come down till the

night was fairly gone, when he shifted the position of his clothes,

turning his cloak inside out, using his turban for a girdle and his

girdle for a turban, and took his way. He had, however, not proceeded

far, when one of the patriarch's men discovered him, and called out,

"Asaad is it you?" He answered, "it is I." The man immediately caught

him, like a greedy wolf, bound him, beat him, and drove him before him,

as a slave, or a brute, to Cannobeen. On their way they were met by many

others who had been sent off in quest of him, who all united with the

captor in his brutal treatment. On his arrival, the patriarch gave

immediate orders for his punishment, and they fell upon him with

reproaches, caning him and smiting him with their hands; and so it was,

that as often as they struck him on one cheek, he turned to them the

other also. "This," said he, "is a joyful day to me. My blessed Lord and

Master has said, 'Bless them that curse you, and if they strike you on

the right cheek turn to them the left also.' This I have been enabled to

do, and I am ready to suffer even more than this for him, who was

beaten, and spit upon, and led as a sheep to the slaughter, on our

account." When they heard this, they fell to beating him anew saying,

"Have we need of your preaching, thou deceiver? Of what avail are such

pretensions in one who is in the broad way to perdition?" He replied,

"he that believeth that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, hath eternal

life." "Ah," said they, "this is what blinds you. Your salvation is by

faith alone in Christ; thus you cast contempt on his mother, and his

saints; you deny the presence of his holy body on earth;"--and they

threw him on the ground, overwhelmed with the multitude of their blows.

For three successive days, he was subjected to the bastinado, by order

of the patriarch, who, after that, summoned him to his presence, and

demanded of him his faith. "I am a Christian, a follower of Jesus of

Nazareth." Those present exhorted him to acknowledge the intercession of

the saints, and to repair to them for help in this hour of trial. But he

refused, saying, "My help is in him who shed his blood for sinners."

"But have the saints," said they, "no intercession, and is it vain to

worship them, and pray to them?" He said, "We are not taught to seek

help or protection from any, but from him who is the Great Shepherd, who

has said with his own blessed mouth, 'Come unto me, all ye that labour

and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.' To any other than God,

we are not commanded to pray or seek for refuge."



They then returned him to his prison as before. Those who sympathized

with him, went and begged him to confess that the canons of the councils

were binding on all Christians, and that the images were very properly

made use of in the churches. He answered, "Professing themselves to be

wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God

into an image made like unto corruptible man." At this they turned away

from him in despair and disgust, and reported to the patriarch that he

was in the most settled state of obstinacy, and was doubtless possessed

of a devil.



Upon this, the patriarch ordered him to be put in chains, and the door

to be barred upon him, as formerly, and his food to be given him in

short allowance. In this condition he remained till he was much reduced,

and began to entreat them to have pity on him and take off the irons

from his feet, and open the door of his prison. Some were moved by his

supplications, interceded for him, unbarred the door, took off his

chains, and left him. He arose, walked out, and sat down with one of

them and conversed. He then begged the patriarch to give him some books

to copy, to rid himself of the tedium of his idleness. But he refused,

nor would he suffer any to hold conversation with him.



After some days, there came into the convent two men, in the character

of beggars, and wished to pass the night, but were turned away. That

same night Asaad made another attempt to escape. As soon as it was

discovered that he was gone, a vigorous search was made to find him, but

all to no purpose. The universal cry now was, that the two men already

mentioned had been sent by the protestants to steal him away for a large

reward. Immediately his holiness, the patriarch, sent letters to the

emeer Abdallah informing him of Asaad's escape, and requesting him to

guard the roads of the Kesroan, and search the neighbourhood, if

possibly Asaad might still be found lurking in that district.

Accordingly search was made, Asaad was discovered among his relatives by

a couple of soldiers, was bound, and taken off to the emeer, who sent

him direct to the patriarch.



On his arrival, he was loaded with chains, cast into a dark, filthy

room, and bastinadoed, every day, for eight days, sometimes fainting

under the operation, until he was near death. He was then left in his

misery, his bed a thin flag mat, his covering his common clothes. The

door of his prison was filled up with stone and mortar, and his food was

six thin cakes of bread a day, and a scanty cup of water. In this

loathsome dungeon, from which there was no access but a small loop hole,

through which they passed his food, he lay for several days; and he

would lift up his voice, and cry, "Love ye the Lord Jesus Christ

according as he hath loved us, and given himself to die for us. Think of

me, O ye that pass by, have pity upon me, and deliver me from these

sufferings."



Now when his groans and cries were thus heard, a certain priest, who had

been a former friend of Asaad, was touched with compassion. His former

friendship revived, his bowels yearned over his suffering brother, and

he besought every one who could speak with the patriarch, that they

would intercede and endeavour to soften his feelings towards his

prisoner. By dint of perseverance, the priest at length succeeded, and

obtained permission to open the prison door of his friend and take off

his irons. The first request he made of the priest on his entering, was,

that he would give him a little food, for he was famishing with hunger.

The priest immediately brought him a little bread and cooked victuals,

which he ate, and said, "The name of the Lord be blessed."



Those present began to exhort him to turn to the mother of God, if,

peradventure, she would have mercy upon him, and bring him back to the

way of salvation. He answered, "If she has the power of intercession,

let her intercede for us with her beloved Son." The priest was very

assiduous in supplying him with every thing necessary for his comfort;

in particular he obtained the return of his clothes, of which he had

been partly stripped; for the snow was upon the ground, and the cold

filled him with pains.



Now when the others saw the care and attention of the priest, they said,

"You have become a convert to his heretical opinions." But he replied,

"God has said, 'Blessed are the merciful;'" and continued firm in his

purpose. His assiduity was such, that whenever he left the convent for

any time, he would give money to the cook to prevail on him to supply

Asaad with proper food, and to attend upon him in whatever he might

need. The enemies of the priest accused him to the patriarch, but they

could not succeed in their object, for the priest is of blameless

morals, and has a good name among all.



The priest now passed much of his time in company with Asaad, and

conversed with him freely. On a certain occasion they began to converse

on the subject of the cross, the priest saying it ought to be

worshipped. Asaad replied, "For what reason? and where is the use of

it?" The priest said, "In memory of the Saviour." Asaad,--"Why do you

kiss the cross, and who has commanded it?" Priest,--"We kiss it in

honour of him who hung upon it." Asaad.--"But why then do you not paint

the ass also, and pay it all obeisance, and all honours, for our

Saviour, when he rode upon the ass, was in all honour, and all paid him

obeisance; but when he was on the cross, he was in sorrow and disgrace."

The priest reproved him gently for returning such an answer, and when he

saw that the priest was displeased, he said, "On account of your love to

me, and the favour you have done me, I wish to prove to you this point,

that all religious reverence and worship and service to any but God, is

vain; for it is said, 'He that heareth my word, and believeth on him

that sent me, hath everlasting life,' and I have to beg of you, that you

will continually search the holy scriptures, and pray as David prayed,

'Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within

me.'" During this time, one of their enemies was standing without the

door, and listened to the whole conversation. This man went immediately,

to the patriarch, and told him all that he had heard, and that the

priest was conversing with Asaad in so gentle a manner, that he was

likely soon to be won over to heresy. His holiness was startled at the

intelligence, and hastening down inquired the truth of the report. Asaad

concealed nothing. The patriarch, however, at first, repressed his own

feelings, and exhorted him in the most winning manner he could assume,

promising that if he would but return to the holy church and fathers and

councils, worship the images, and saints, and the mother of God, he

would again immediately make him his secretary. He replied, "With regard

to the opinions which I hold, I assure you I wish to hold none which are

opposed to the word of God; and as to resorting to the virgin Mary, I

say, as I have before said, that if she has any power of intercession,

let her intercede for us. As to giving up my opinions to the church and

councils, how can I do it, so long as I am possessed of satisfactory

evidence that these councils are opposed to one another? We are in no

need of the councils, but have sufficient light without them to guide us

in the way of salvation. Moreover I can say, that I do surrender my

opinions to the holy catholic church, for I profess the faith of the

church of Christ, and unite my conscience with it."



The patriarch could no longer restrain his feelings, but broke out in

the language of reproach, saying, "You are a worthless fellow,

obstinately bent on maintaining your folly. I give you to understand

that I am clear of your guilt. You will not be taught, but love to shew

your contempt of the cross, and of the worship of the images, whose

worship is only in honour of those to whose memory they are set up, and

who laboured and died in the service of Christ." Asaad replied, "With

regard to worshipping such things as these, it is said, 'Thou shalt

worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve;' and as to

those who laboured and shed their blood for the Saviour, they are above

our honours, for they have gone to inherit unspeakable glory in their

master's presence." The patriarch was more angry than ever, and taking

off his slipper, beat both him and the priest, and drove the latter from

the room, and locked the door.



After six days of additional confinement, the friendly priest again

procured his release from his prison, and obtained the favour of taking

the entire oversight of him. In this condition the persecuted man

remains. May the Most High grant him speedy deliverance.



Feb. 15th, 1827.



* * * * *



The latest accounts from Palestine state that Asaad is still in

confinement, but remains firm to the principles he has embraced. In a

letter from Mr. Goodell, dated April, 1830, we find the following

sentence.--"Asaad Shidiak is still alive, and there is every reason to

believe that he loves and obeys the truth, that he is sanctified by it,

rooted and grounded in it, and ready to suffer for it." We take our

leave of this interesting narrative, commending the suffering subject of

it to God, and the word of his grace, accounting him more blessed if he

perseveres steadfast unto the end, than if his brows were endowed with

an imperial diadem.





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