H. A. (Herbert Alfred) Birks.

The life and correspondence of Thomas Valpy French, first bishop of Lahore online

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cathedral up, it would not have b^n so hard to me to bear as this
want of men/

From this time forward things began to brighten; the
first part of the work completed was the chapter-house, and,
as has been already noticed, it was dedicated at the bishop's
third synod in November of this year. Then he was able to
report : —

* When we last met in conclave I expressed what appeared then
a reasonable hope that our next gathering might be so happily timed
as to coincide with the consecration of the cathedral, or mother-
church, of this diocese. Many eflfbrts on the part of many of us
have been unsparingly directed towards achieving this result, but
our unroofed church seems to say ** all in vain. " During my
absence of nearly eighteen months in Persia and England I was able
to combine the needful recruiting of my own health with the duty
of pleading over a larger area than heretofore in behalf of this
fabric. Though the appeal was fairly responded to by members
of the home Church, especially in the cathedral minsters, and
in places where in longer or shorter furloughs at home I have
held pastoral charges — Cheltenham, Burton-on-Trent, and Clifton
conspicuously — still, as in the building of Zerubbabel's temple,
many untoward '^ breaks and cataracts " have obstructed the even
tenor of our church-building, and this synod at least cannot be
immortalized by opening for the first time to expectant worshippers
the doors of the "Church of the Resurrection" — to "praise the
Lord because He is good, and His mercy endureth for ever." How-
ever, the nobler and more far-looking the ends of our works are, the

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less does time enter into their ingredient's and the more reverently
and contentedly can we say — ^^ My times arc in Thy hand" — when
Thou wilt and as Thou wilt. You are aware that some 30,000
rupees are still required to putting the top-stone on the edifice,
or about one- tenth of what has been already expended : a con-
dition of our finances which may well mingle thankfulness with
our disappointment, and stimulate us to be up and doing to
wipe off the reproach of faintness and weariness in our good
work. ...

* In these perplexities of fund-gathering we have often felt calmed
by the thought that of a Church, even more than of a State like
Sparta, Lycurgus' words are true— that it is not its walls, whether of
brick or brass, which fortify and beautify it, but its men. It was
in man or men that our Ascended Lord received and gave gifts
in divers lay agencies, as well as the ranks and orders of the

Of this occasion the present bishop writes : —

* Bishop French set great store by ancient precedents
and customs of the Church. When he held his third synod
the chapter-house of the new cathedral was the only part
roofed in. The bishop, beanng in mind Nicene precedent,
decided to have one sitting of the synod in the chapter-house,
though it was somewhat too small to be convenient, and that, at
this sitting, the Lieutenant-Governor and not himself should
preside, a copy of the Gospels being placed upon a stand in front
of the President. I remember the difficulty experienced in
getting at short notice a suitable copy of the Gospels by themselves.
But the bishop was determined to have this, and nothing less
or more, and he succeeded, as he generally did when he had made
up his mind on any matter great or small.'

The concurrent work of building, and the personal affection
of their bishops, drew a close bond of sympathy between
Lahore and Truro. In February, 1886, the bishop wrote to
Mrs. Gregg : —

* I had by last mail a delightful note from the Bishop of Truro \
He tells me they have been praying earnestly for me and the
Punjab church, that God would raise up some generous givers to
finish our holy and beautiful house. The few large sums lately
received must surely be ascribed to those loving and faithful
prayera We ought now to be able to finish what is really neces-
sary without any more appeals home. It is almost incredible to
me that I should be able to say as much as that.'

Dr. Wilkinson.

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In September lie could write to Mrs. Kjiox : —

* There is a possibility of opening about Christmas ; the interior
effect is very pleasing and graceful. It is a comfort that if these
churches are taken from us they will be at least Greek churches,
and not mosques or temples. One hopes the Greek Church also
has its saints, and that of these may be my successors in the
see, if Russia dominates these provinces. I hope we have a little
more work to do yet.'

A week later he wrote to Mrs. Gregg : —

^ You will be glad to hear that after a long Committee held last
evening in our new chapter-house we came to the conclusion
that the cathedral should be consecrated and opened for service
(please God) on Jan. 25, the Festival of St. Paul's Conversion.

'The Lieutenant-Governor writes to me to day a most kind
and cheering letter, expressing much sorrow at his enforced
absence on the day of consecration. He says — " I congratulate
you from my heart on the completion of the noble edifice,
and pray that it may be blessed by God to accomplish all the
Christian objects that you have in view, and to be for all
time a centre of light and spiritual life to the province
and diocese." Is it not a comfort to have had such a Governor
now for nearlj' five years? He goes to the Council of State
after leaving us, — a rare and exceptional tribute to merit.*

To Cyril.

Lahore, Jan. 2, 1887.

This month is entered on with many sore misgivings and
anxieties as regards the approaching day of opening the cathedral.
On the whole, some anticipated difficulties have been taken out
of the way, and a series of special mission sermons till Easter
is a comfortable thought to me, mostly to be preached by the
Delhi Brotherhood, who are sowing so many seeds of light
and blessing in this diocese, I thank God. All through Lent
they hope to furnish preachers. You will pray that this may
be a season of blessing and of bringing some wanderers home,
and of turning some enemies of the truth into friends. We
propose not only the Consecration Service proper, but also
a service for the Church workers of the diocese, and another for the
Native Church, Possibly also a missionary service for Europeans.
These all as key-notes of the uses to which the cathedral may,
we hope, be devoted and which it may subserve.

God will counsel us by His spirit of counsel, I trust, to
turn the occasion to account There is a good deal of interest
awakened, and some amount even of enthusiasm, which is rare
in Lahore, except for visits of Royalty and a week of balls and

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theatricals! For once people are taken by surprise, and are
startled at thinking in what a quiet stealthy way the cathedral
has grown up to its present dimensions, and taken them by
storm against themselves and all their predictions of discomfiture,
and the finished structure has pleased them so much better
than they ever thought they could be pleased. However, things
will fall back into the status in quo ante soon again, and
the opening day will suggest many objections and anticipations
of failure — our music vnll be poor, and the ornaments {for a
cathedral) rather meagre and disappointing. But for this, ex-
perience prepares an old man like me, and I trust the Lord
Himself will be pleased to say * My eyes and My heart will
be there perpetually' — then in that one blessing, all others
we need and value most will be comprised.

The next letter to Mrs. Gregg, on January 8, will show how
in the veriest details of his arrangements the bishop ruled
his course according to God's Word.

Jan, 8.

The Lieutenant-Governor has given an edict for closing all
the law-courts and Government offices, so that there may be
a general holiday on that day. This is more than I could have
expected, and shows a very kind feeling indeed upon his part.
. . . There was a wish on the part of some to have a sort of
monster lunch in the Montgomery Hall, but I have stood out
for hospitalities of a more private kind at the houses of civilians
and other well-to-do people, and this will be adopted, I think.
At a huge lunch it often happens ' one is hungry, and another
is drunken,' and there is much more expenditure of wine, bad
waiting, and bad cooking. The model I have proposed to the
people is Nehem. viii. 8-18. The Allahabad Cathedral is to
be opened on Monday next (the loth) — pretty well for India, two
cathedrals in one mouth.

In the next letter to his brother at Wells, we see how the
completion of his project led to a retrospect of all God's

mercies to the family.

Lahore, Jan, 15, 1887.
Would that you were all near enough to take part with us
in the solemn services, but I am sure your fervent intercessions
will be with us, that the day may be one of quiet consecration
of many souls for service. ... It seems a mystery to me that
the cathedral is finished at last. I don't feel the least tempted
to any proud boasting — I beheve, because my most anxious
concern of all it has not pleased God to grant me, i. e. a group
of men, mighty in word and deed for pulling down the strong-
holds of sin, and planting and building up the Church of God.

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And what are walls without the words of power and love and
truth re-echoed from them? ... I should like to preserve
a record of the generous contributors in our archives ; but as
I should not like my own name to appear, I must forego this
wish. But their record is on high, and it is a great privilege
to us as a famUy to have been pei-mitted for three generations
to take a part in church-building, as well as in helping to
build up the spiritual temple. And now in dear Cyiil the
fourth generation (as well as in tlie Knoxes and Moulsons)
is honoured by finishing the century of Church work (I trust
and pray> in which God has accepted our poor eflforts for His
glory. May their children, and children's children, be as fresh
links in the chain, and attain to something of the might and
stout steady perseverance of our honoured father! Very much
of the ability I had to found St. John's College here depended
on what he and George Gordon contributed. I was almost
despairing when his gift of i^soo restored the needed courage
and strength of purpose, together with a little nearer revelation
which the Lord Jesus was pleased to give me of Himself, during
the illness at Dharmsala in 1870, than perhaps I had ever
had before. And so my own family and friends at home have
a joint interest of a most precious kind in the erection of this
fabric, which, when complete hereafter, will be a noble one,
though I am not likely to live to hear of its being done, nor
have I any wish to finish it myself, as a church for Quettah is
far more needed.

At length the great day arrived. The extracts from the
bishop's diary will show that all went well.

^Jan, 25. A memorable day, in which God's goodness and
loving-kindness was signally shown us. I do not know how
to feel humbled and thankful enough. Altogether some Rs. 5,500 ^
collected for oflFertory, but this was a small thing as compared
with the hearty warmth and enthusiasm of the people who
crowded together to witness and pour in their offerings. Some
1,100 — others say 1,200 — were gathered*. . . . About 250 com-
municants at least. In the afternoon native Church service
Dr. Imad-ud-din preached, Perkins and Sadik read lessons. . . .
General M. said, ^* I have so enjoyed this day : I shall remember
it all my life long." Many such kind words.'

The bishops sermon on Psalm Ixviii. 9-1 1 (*A Shower
of Freewill Offerings') was printed as a pamphlet. It

' The largest recorded offertory up to that time in an Indian church.
* At the bishop's express desire, one aisle was set apart for soldiei's, one
for the native Church.

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was a warm outpouring of his heart in faith and gratitude.
One passage, on the part the Church should play as a
uniting bond of East and West, must find its place in this

*'* Likewise the sons of the stranger that join themselves to
the Lord to be His servants, to love the name of the Lord,
and to cleave unto Him ; even them will I bring to My holy
mountain, and make them joyful in My House of Prayer :
their burnt-oiferings and their sacrifices shall be accepted on
Mine altar: for Mifie House shall he called a House of Prayer for
all nations." I plead with you with all entreaty ^as called, how-
ever unworthy, to be your chief pastor in Christ) that these
sons of the stranger be not rejected and outcasts here. Long
after my grey hairs are gone down to the grave may it please
God — if ever unbrotherly exclusion should be practised here —
to call to your and your children's remembrance the solemn
appeal and challenge which God makes to you through me
to-day — "The sons of the stranger: even them will I bring."
Let this church be a mother-church indeed, with all the
tenderness and depths of sympathy, the loving place, in the
arms and heart and home, of the true mother ; and not the chill,
distant, jealous regard of the typical step- mother. Let none
begrudge the poor and the stranger the provision God Himself
has made for them. Let no bitterness, or invidious exclusiveness
of race or station, find place in this sanctuaiy, of which the
word has been spoken, ** My House shall be called a House of
Prayer for all people."

* To some of us it will be a cheering and stirring thought that
in a temple such as this — built where it is in these far border
lands of our empire — we cannot help being reminded of those
old prophecies, in which the gospel of the kingdom and the
preaching of Christ the Reconciler and the Consummator are
foreshown as the meeting-ground where the long-severed East
and West shall meet at length All through the later predictions
of Isaiah the isles of the sea are challenged to listen to the
voice of God's messengers; to come forth out of theii* con-
cealment ; and for a season at least to take the place of Israel
after the flesh —to become God's witnesses, and His fellow-
helpers in the extension of His Word of Truth. Thus in several
passages the islands and the lands of the sunrise or the morning
are called to clasp hands, and band themselves together in this
holy enterprise, by which man shall be elevated and enlightened,
and God's long-suppressed truth vindicated and proclaimed !
So in Isaiah xxiv, "Wherefore glorify ye the Lord from the
sunrising ; even the name of the Lord God of Israel from
the islands of the sea': and again in chapter xlii, three times
the isles are summoned of God to have a privileged share in

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this consummation. May not the students of prophecy then be
of good courage, and believe that it is no dream of wayward
or playful fancy at all, but a hope founded on calm sober reason,
that here in this fabric may be a meeting-place, in which the
isles of the West and the lands of the sunrise shall find their
children joining hands more and more in holy rivalry for truth
and love and holiness ; for resisting all that is evil, and promoting
all that is good — that even such a thing might happen as
(St Chrysostom tells us in one of his sermons) happened in one
of the Greek churches in Constantinople? He was about to
preach himself, but a Gothic priest came into the church with
a number of his people, and he, the Greek archbishop, gave
up his pulpit for that day. And so before the polished Greeks was
heai'd the rough and (then) uncultured tongue of our northern
forefathers, and they learnt the lesson in that simple occurrence,
that in Christ there is neither Greek nor Jew, Briton nor Hindu,
Barbarian nor Scythian, bond nor free, but Christ dU and in all.
Wondrous blendings and interminglings of Western islands and
lands of the sunrise— of their tongues and thoughts and peoples —
may these solid walls which encircle us to-day long be spared to
witness ! May the simi and substance of it be " Glory to God
in the highest, and on earth peace, to the men of goodwill "*

Lastly, this victory of purposed good was but regarded
as a call to deepened consecration and more directly
fruitftil and spiritual work. He wrote from Sialkot on
January 29: —

* The Lahore C. and 31. Gazette sent by this mail will explain
pretty fully the events of the 25th, which have filled my heart
with thankfulness and praise. It seems almost too good to be
true that a work of such magnitude and such important bearing,
I trust, on the future of the Church of God in this province,
has at length been completed, and the house been opened for
Divine service, «nd dedicated to the name and worship and
glory of the Triune Jehovah. To Him be all the praise, and
may man be in the dust humbled and silent before Him whose
works are indeed worthy to be praised and had in honour. . . .
It was feared the church would be too dark and the voice
of the speaker inaudible, but, as regards the chief part of the
church at least, both these fears have proved to be ungrounded.
I confess I did not think the critical and cold community of
Lahore capable of so much hearty enthusiasm ; most especially
in what concerned Divine worship and church consecration,
but the crowds that gathei-ed of all ranks, far and near, and
the influx of offerings in quite unprecedented generosity on
that day, proved me to be in the wrong, and my faith far too

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' How oup beloved father would have brightened and his eyes
beamed at hearing that another church had been added to those
which we as a family had been privileged to erect ! . . . Do pray
for me that the many congratulations which I receive every
day may be laid all and each at the feet of Him who must
bear the glory, as He shall build, even He shall build the temple
of the Lord. . . . As I got into church before service a telegram
of warm congratulation from Sir Charles Aitchison and Lady
Aitchison was put into my hands with £20 in a cheque. . . . Over
forty clergy came, so the procession was lengthy and the singing
hearty. The general effect within is certainly striking, though
of course it does not vie with an English cathedral. Out here
it excites surprise, as beating what has hitherto been seen. Now
the great end to be accomplished is all hefore us ; and I feel my
anxieties are begun. The material building I left to other hands,
but in the spiritual I am called to take my part, and to call others
to do theirs. May the Lord perfect that which concerns us, and
strengthen our hands for this good work.'

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' A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong
nation : I the Lord will hasten it in his time/— J«a. Ix. 22.

*For conquering Clive, or Wellesley*s mightier name,
The wide world echoes to the trump of fame ;
Yet have there been, who loftier praise have won,
Undaunted Schwartz or saintly Middleton.

England hath many such ; she little knows

What to their secret championship she owes ;

Their prayers, which night and day to heaven aspire,

Bulwark her empire with a wall of fire.

And ann the happy land that gave them birth

With power to build the throne of Christ on earth.

Shall Britain then ?

Fond questionist be still!
I said she may; I dare not add she will J


The English work made most demand upon the bishop's
time and energy, for English Churchmen, in spite of everj''
missionary effort, outnumbered tenfold all the native Chris-
tians ; but yet the native portion of the church, perhaps,
was even closer to his heart and his affections, his first and
early love. His high sense of episcopal authority might
lead at times to strained relations with the great Societies,
yet, even when the tension was severest, such differences
were but as lovers' quarrels that renew men's love. In
speaking of some such divergence from the committee
of the C. M. S. he said, ' 1 shall be always nearer to them,
I believe, than to any other body of men in doctrinal,

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THE bishop's missionary INTERESTS III

if not in ecclesiastical, matters.' "When- lie resigned his
bishopric he was still willing to serve under them and
plead for them. All through his bishopric he was in
fjEict, if not in name, a missionary still. He found some
' compensation for the diminished time that he could give
to missionary preaching in the increased weight that his
office gave his counsels, and so this chapter will present
him in part in his old r61e of missionary worker, in part as
missionary statesman, viewing the whole field from a higher

The first great service that he did the native church was
in placing in a clear light for all time the right of himself
and his successors to take full part in missionary teaching.
The next was in strongly claiming for the natives their due
right in the cathedral They were considered in its least
detail. No symbol was allowed a place in it that could offend
the Moslem's horror of all images, or foster superstition in
any recent convert from a base idolatry. In proposing
to allocate one aisle for their special benefit at all times,
and in securing them one service (with a native preacher)
on the day of consecration, the bishop was but acting on his
one consistent policy, or rather principle, of welding into
solid Christian unity the diverse classes of his scattered

Dr. Imad-ud-din, the preacher on that day, has sent
some reminiscences, and extracts will suffice to show the
impression the bishop had produced upon a native mind
of more than ordinary culture : —

' Bishop French was an uncommon man. I have not yet seen
another like him. We do now and then meet with learned,
good, godly, and earnestly pious men in the Church. But Bishop
French was possessed of some qualities over and above these;
. . . his spirit was generally found to be basking in the sunshine
of God's countenance, and his eyes habitually manifested beatific
communion with Him.

'When I was a lad of fifteen or sixteen French was a hand-
some young clergyman. He joined the Agra Chui'ch mission at
the beginning of his career, and applied himself to the study of
Hindustani. He was often seen going briskly hither and thither
in the streets and lanes of Agra, sometimes giving copper coins

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to little boys who met him in the way, or telling them of Christ
or of His word. At this time there was but a veiy small native
congregation in Agra, consisting of members who were very
weak and ignorant. They failed to understand what character of
man God had sent to them in Mr. French. They took him to be
a kind English missionary, like the run of European gentlemen of '
the time, for they had not yet acquired the eye with which to
judge him rightly. . . . Our late bishop was really a saint,
a special apostle, for at first God by his instrumentality laid
the foundation of some veiy important works in India, and then
directed his footsteps towards Arabia. This is an earnest of the
introduction of the gospel into that country. There was that in
Bishop French's character which led persons to oppose him.
Some ignorant persons still remember those infirmities of his.
For instance, he was so firm in his opinion that he would never
give way, but even in this determination his real kindness of
heart would show itself. If any outsider interfered with his
aflfairs he would be highly displeased with him, but only for
a moment. Sometimes he would speak severely to a man, but
after an hour or two he would go to him, or call him and cheer
him up. He sometimes sent money privately to needy persons
to help them. Sometimes he sent currency notes by post to men
in need, asking them kindly not to acknowledge the gift or to
speak of it when he met them. He often got employment by
his recommendation for those who were out of work. His
sermons were very affecting, for he spoke as the Spirit of God
gave him utterance. The depth and sublimity of his subject
could only be perceived by those who had capacity to understand
it, yet his preachings generally imparted comfort, joy, and
instruction to every one. I have sometimes seen his preaching
effect instantaneous deliverance of souls which were in bondage.

Online LibraryH. A. (Herbert Alfred) BirksThe life and correspondence of Thomas Valpy French, first bishop of Lahore → online text (page 12 of 46)