"The glory of Lehanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God." 

Isaiah 35:2

SHARON and Carmel are enshrined in sacred poetry. In addition to the holy associations that cluster round them as scenes of Bible history, they bring up before the mind's eye plains spangled with "the rose of Sharon," meadows powdered with "the lily of the valley," uplands waving with "forests," and mountains crowned with "the excellency of Carmel." Nor are one's glowing expectations much disappointed when he traverses Sharon, or climbs the heights of Carmel in early spring. The plain stretches out before him as far as the eye can follow it, in gentle undulations of luxuriant pasture, varied here and there by a clump of old forest trees, or a thicket of canes and shrubs round a fountain, or a grey tell strewn with the ruins of some primeval city. And the mountain chain rises in easy slopes, wooded from base to summit; seamed by many a glen, and broken by many a cliff. 

The curse has fallen lightly upon Sharon and Carmel. Still it is true that the great cities, which once lined the seaboard are gone. The restless waves dash in sheets of foam over the engulfed ruins of its once famous harbors. Dor and Caesarea, Hepha and Athlit, are no more. Towns and villages, which thickly studded in ancient days inland plain and mountain side, are gone too. Cornfields, olive groves, and vineyards are now few and far between; and even the pastures are deserted save by the flocks of a few poor nomads. Notwithstanding the grass, and the flowers, and the beauty of Sharon, it is "like a wilderness."  "Its highways lie waste, the way-faring man ceaseth " (Isaiah 33:9). And notwithstanding Carmel's waving woods and green forest glades, it has "shaken off its fruit," the fruit of human industry. 

The mountain still deserves its ancient name, "the fruitful."  The "excellency (beauty) of Carmel" is yet conspicuous; but even there, in the loveliest glades and richest dells, solitude keeps unbroken Sabbath.

My first view of Sharon was from the sea. From the vessel's deck I looked with as much eagerness as an old Crusader on the white strand, and the sandy downs, and the broad plain, shut in on the east by the blue hills of Samaria. The Cape of Carmel was far behind me, dipping gracefully, but not so "bluff" as is usually represented in pictures, into the Mediterranean. 

Away far ahead a little white rounded hill began to rise slowly from a flat coast. 

"What hill is that?" I asked of the French officer at my side. "That is Joppa." "And those ruins we passed some time ago, which you can yet see yonder glittering in the sun what are they?" 

"The ruins of Caesarea," was the reply. Historic names are wonderfully suggestive.  Especially so when connected with sacred history, and when the eye first rests on the places to which they are attached. Memory then becomes a diorama. It brings before us the great events of other ages. 

So it was with me. In succession I saw the ships of Hiram conducting rafts of cedar and pine along the sea to Joppa for Solomon's Temple. I saw the great merchant vessel of Adramyttium leaving the harbor of Caesarea, while on its deck stood the apostle of the Gentiles, guarded by Roman soldiers, and with fettered hands waving a final adieu to weeping friends. I saw the proud galleys of the Crusaders bearing down upon the shores, crowded with mail-clad knights, Europe's best and bravest warriors, bent on the recovery of the Holy Sepulchre. And then, when the picture vanished, my eye rested on deserted harbors, ruined cities, a dreary desolate shore, silent alike to the bustle of commerce and the din of battle; as if to show that while man is mortal, his glory fleeting, and all his works perishable, God's Word is true and can never fail. Five and twenty centuries ago that Word pronounced the doom of Palestine: "I beheld, and, lo, the fruitful place. (Hebrew Carmel) was a wilderness, and all the cities thereof were broken down at the presence of the Lord, and by his fierce anger. For thus hath the Lord said, The whole land shall be desolate "

 (Jeremiah 4:26).

I landed at Joppa, a bustling town of five thousand inhabitants, beautifully situated on the western slope of a hill, looking down into the blue waters of the Mediterranean. It is still the port of Jerusalem; but it has no harbor, and it is only under favourable circumstances of wind and weather a vessel can ride at the distance of a mile or so from the shore. Guided by a young Jew, I went at once to "the house of Simon the tanner." The house is modern, but it probably occupies the old site, for its Mohammedan owner considers it sacred. It stands "by the sea-side," as St. Luke tells us (Acts 10:6); and from its roof "flat" now as in ancient times I looked out on that same boundless sea on which the apostle must have looked when "he went up upon the house-top to pray." The hour too was the same '' the sixth hour," or noon. There was something deeply impressive in being thus brought as it were into immediate connection with that wondrous vision which the Lord employed as a key to open the Gentile world to Christ's Gospel.

From Simon's house I went through crooked streets to the top of the hill. The way was not pleasant, but the glorious view amply repaid me. On the landside Joppa is girt about with its orchards the finest in Palestine, and, perhaps, unsurpassed in the world. Away beyond them spreads out a boundless plain; on the north Sharon, and on the south Philistia. My eye soon caught and followed the line of the old road, which winds northward along the coast to Caesarea. That was the road by which the apostle Peter went on his divine mission to Cornelius. (Acts 10). Lydda was hid behind a rising ground; but the mountains of Judah was sharply defined against the bright eastern sky, and their colouring was beautiful shaded off from soft grayish blue to deep purple.

To procure horses and a guide was a work of time and trouble, and the afternoon was far advanced ere I rode out of the crowded gate of Joppa. How pleasant was the change from the heat and dust of the narrow streets to the freedom and freshness of the country! It was autumn; and never did autumn's richness appear to greater advantage than in these orchards of Sharon. Orange, lemon, and citron trees were there laden with golden fruit. 

Among them appeared the russet foliage and bright red globes of the pomegranate. Here and there the broad-leafed banana grew in wild luxuriance, shut in by tall hedges and impenetrable thickets of cactus; while ever and anon palm trees shot up far overhead, as if to show the great clusters of dates that hung round their tapering necks, or to entice the soft evening breezes to sport with their feathery foliage. 

I took the road to Lydda, the same road by which Peter was brought to raise Dorcas from the dead, after he had, by his miraculous cure of Eneas, converted "all that dwelt in Lydda and Saron," (the Greek form of Sharon, Acts 9:34). For more than an hour I rode through those shady, fragrant orchards, and then crossed the gray monotonous plain to Lydda. 

Thence I went to the ancient Gimzo (2 Chron. 28:18), now a poor village, and onward to the pass of Bethhoron, up which I wound my way to Gibeon and Jerusalem. The southern end of Sharon, which I thus crossed, measures about fifteen miles; while the length of the plain from Joppa to Carmel is nearly fifty. In addition to Joppa and Lydda, there are ten or twelve villages in this part of the plain, and small portions, of the rich soil are cultivated by the inhabitants; but further north the country is almost deserted. 

 Syria's Holy Places,