THE RIVER JORDAN, PALESTINE — The Jordan is to Christians what the Ganges is to Hindoos, a sacred river, hallowed by many religious associations, and visited every year by troops of pilgrims, In a straight line the actual length of the Jordan would be 136 miles, but its many curves greatly increase that distance. It has an ending unlike that of any other noted river on our globe. Most rivers cast themselves at last upon the ocean, which seems a fitting termination for their adventurous careers. But this historic stream of Palestine loses itself at last ingloriously in that briny lake of desolation known as the Dead Sea. Yet it is in the vicinity of that strange body of water that the Jordan is held especially sacred. There is supposed to be the place where the Israelites crossed the river into the Promised Land. There Christ is believed to have been baptized by John the Baptist. As early as the fourth century pilgrims had begun to resort thither in great numbers, as they do today and have done ever since. Members of the Greek Church especially attach great importance to baptism in the Jordan, and immediately after the Easter celebrations in Jerusalem, an immense caravan is formed for the expedition. The priests wade into the water, and for hours baptize the crowds of men, women and children, who have come for this purpose from distant lands. Many pilgrims fill bottles and jars with water from the Jordan to take home with them. Occasionally through imprudence the swift current of the river sweeps away a pilgrim, whose mode of death is nevertheless envied by his comrades. (from John L. Stoddard, Glimpses of the world; a portfolio of photographs of the marvelous works of God and man – 1892)

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