H. A. (Herbert Alfred) Birks.

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

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Online LibraryH. A. (Herbert Alfred) BirksThe life and correspondence of Thomas Valpy French, first bishop of Lahore → online text (page 13 of 46)
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... It is a noticeable fact in his life that he seldom let the day
pass without going to the bazaar in the evening, and talking to
the people something about Christ. He always expected his people
to pay due respect, honour, and submission to their elders, and
to follow those good old ways by which the patriarchs and fathers
of old had obtained their blessings. Therefore the men who
have adopted new ideas on this subject through English education
were not quite pleased with him.

The bishop wrote to me when he was about to leave the Punjab
for good that he would like to spend a quiet week with me, at
a place on the banks of the Beas, where I should meet him
and take my dinner with him at 9 p.m., as he had ordered
a servant to have dinner ready there. We both reached the
place at the time appointed, and took up our abode in an empty
police bungalow. The servant said he had not been able to
prepare any dinner, as he had no cooking apparatus with him.
These would not arrive till the following morning, when he

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could give us some food. After some time we both went to our
beds and lay down. After a while the bishop got up and
came to me and said that he remembered having got in his
robe-case a piece of dry bread, some two months old, remain-
ing from some former sacramental occasion, which we might
soak in water and share together. This we did and went to
sleep. During the week we stayed together there we had con-
versation on various topics, religious and secular. . . . The
moral of uU our conversation was the obligation to bear and
forbear, the bishop reminding me of the words in the book of
Job, "Thou hast instructed many, but now it toucheth thee, and
thou art troubled." We talked a good deal also on life and death
from a Soofeeistic, Mohammedan point of view contained in this
motto, **The death in which there is no life, and the life in
which there is no death."

'. . . I often think of the last week with the bishop on the
banks of the Beas. We spent the day in one common room,
reading or ^Titing. Towards evening we both turned out to
take a walk in the country. Sometimes we sat down together on
the ground, the bishop offering some prayer or talking with me.
One day we went to a village, where the bishop took his seat on
the ground before a corn-dealer's shop, and began to preach the
gospel. A Mohammedan was looking at us from a distance.
He knew the bishop, and having a chair in his house, sent his
boy quickly with it to oifer it to him. He got up, asked him
who he was, and why he had brought that chair ? He answered
that his father had told him to do so. The bishop then asked
him where his house and father were. On his pointing it out to
him at a distance of forty or fifty paces, the bishop turned his
face to it, and prayed to God to bless that boy's father, and to
have mercy on that family, as they had done him honour in his
old age. The next day that man met me and said that he was
very happy, and believed that God would have mercy on him as
the bishop had earnestly prayed for him. . . .

* I have always believed Bishop French to be a special friend of
God on the earth. This idea grew up in me of itself. Once I was
living for a few days Hke a stranger at the station of Khanpur in
the Bahawulpur state. There I had for some days conversations
on Christianity with a few respectable Mohammedans. They
asked me whether I knew anybody among the Christians whom
I might specially call the friend of God, and confidently
recommend him to them. I said I knew not one but several
such persons whom I could recommend them safely as such.
But as they wanted only one, I told them Bishop French was
such a one, fully coming up to our idea of the saints of God,
as spoken of in Eastern books. Others were the servants of
God, accepted of him. Here our conversation with those Mo-
hammedans ended.'


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One incident Dr. Imad-ud-din has modestly refrained
from mentioning— his own investiture as Doctor of Divinity.
The short address the bishop gave on this occasion (Dec.
1884) will show his manner as a pastor in teaching the
natives. At his request the ceremony was held in the
native church at Amritsar, in preference to any room
or hall.

*I feel,' he said, 'that I am charged with a difficult office
to-day in behalf of the Church of England and its patriarchal
head, and I must ask your prayers that the words in which
I introduce the ceremony may not be my own, but dictated by
my Master, and that His presence and that of the Blessed Spirit
may be realized by us on this solemn occasion. During my late
visit to England I had the privilege of pleading in very many
places with the faithful and devout members of the Church of
England in behalf of the Church of India. I found a gi*eat spirit
of prayer abroad, and a great conviction of the gravity and peril
of the present crisis — in what a chaos men's minds out here are
through the multiplicity of faiths, philosophies, and forms of
worship pressed upon their attention, and producing great
perplexity and restlessness of mind. Amongst others whom
I had the pleasure of speaking with was the Archbishop of
Canterbuiy, who takes the deepest interest in India, and expresses
the liveliest sympathy with its missions, especially with those of
Lahore and Amritsar, which first of all, as he told me, drew his
attention in a very marked way to the missions of the Church of
Christ in the East. And I shall never forget the loving and
gracious smile with which he received the request (which I con-
veyed from Mr. Clark and the missionaries of the Punjab) that he
would confer this mark of loving esteem and fatherly recognition
of his life, character, and services on my brother, and your
honoured pastor, the Rev. Imad-ud-din. ... I wish to make it
clear to you that it is not merely as a mark of honour and
distinction that this title is bestowed upon our brother by the
head of the Church of England, in the behalf of that Church, and
as its chief representative pastor, but as a symbol of brotherly
love, sympathy and fatherly blessing, and as a bond and pledge
of fellowship and friendship between the two Churches of
England and India ; or rather to signify that if the British and
Hindu are two in race, in the Church they are one, linked and knit
in an inseparable, indivisible bond of love, friendship, and fellow-
ship ; not that one branch should be in bondage and slavery
to the other, but they should, by the gi'ace of God, **be perfectly
joined together in the same mind and in the same judgement."

*I rejoice with you, and congratulate you exceedingly, and
praise God in your behalf in this fresh knot and tie of love

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between the two Churches, and pledge of godly union and

* Thus too the Church of India becomes attached through long
succession of Christian. bishops and pastors to the early apostolic
catholic Church of Christ by means of its being a derivative
branch from the Church of £ngland) which is itself an integral
branch of that primitive Church. There are the primary branches,
and the secondary or derived branches (sh&kh and iipfishakh), all
having attachment with the one original root. Thus the present
Archbishop of Canterbury is the ninety-second or ninety-third in
succession, counting from St. Augustine, whom St. Gregory
sent to plant missions there. Counting back from St. Augustine
we come at last to St. Peter. There was an older succession still
of the Celtic Church in England, which carried us back to the
Eastern Church and its great apostle St. John. In this way two
successive lines of bishops have met in the Church of England,
and we count this our great and indefeasible inheritance, and
when some suggested that we should part with this, and make
no account of the ancient succession which was our portion, the
Church of England in its most faithful members refused to do so,
but clung to it stoutly and firmly (and to its ancient creeds,
orders, sacraments, and many of its oldest services), and, having
preserved this inheritance, we are in a position by the grace of
God to hand it on to others, and to make them sharers and
partakers of this goodly trust, and we count it a happiness and
privilege to bind you together with ourselves in the joint
possession of this priceless heritage. Of all this the badge and
symbol comes to you to-day in the honour bestowed upon our
friend and brother, and your pastor. The archbishop was
pleased not to confer it without due consideration and pains, but
(knowing it was a great and exceptional boon he was conferring)
he inquired very particularly into the grounds on which it was
sought, and as to the special gifts and qualifications, the labours
and services rendered, and the benefits accruing to the Church of
Christ ; making himself fully acquainted with all these par-
ticulars, he then unhesitatingly and cheerfully complied with the
request. The result is before you to-day. You will not forget
what our lesson to-day read in our hearing has taught us : "If
one member suffer, all the members suffer with it ; if one member
he honoured, all the members are honoured with it" . . . He (Dr. Imad-
ud-din) has spoken of the burden which weighs him down in
carrying so high an honour, but he will feel what Augustine felt
and expressed so strikingly in asking the prayers of the people in
a sermon preached on one of the anniversaries of his consecration :
** If Christ carries not my burden with me, I must succumb (dab
jftta hun); if Christ carries not we, I must die.'* Those words
are well worthy of recollection for your pastors and all your

I 2

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*One thought more, the most important of all, is this. We
have spoken of the archbishops of the Church ; let us turn our
thoughts now to the chief Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, the
Church's great divine Head and Lord, whose name and titles we
have been dwelling upon at this holy season — *' Emmanuel, God
with us."

* Our great comfort and strength is the promise of His presence
and blessing. I pray it may richly rest on you to-day, and ever-
more abide with you through all the changes and the chances of
the new year on which we are about to enter : in all time of
tribulation and wealth, of sorrow and joy, of realized hope and
disappointed hope, when the enemies of the Church of Christ seem
to make head against us, and when the Church gains victories for
the truth. And may His presence in your midst increase the spirit
of true consecration and consistent holy living, so that (if it may
be so) not a word may cross your lips which shall discredit your
profession, nor a thought be harboured in your hearts which is
contrary to His will, nor any action allowed which contradicts
His commandments ; above all, that no divisions or strifes, no
jealousies or heart-burnings, may find place amongst you, but
that that happiness may be yours which comes of peaceableness
and the meekness and gentleness of Christ, and so the Church of
Amritsar and its neighbour Churches, walking in th^ fear of the
Lord and the comfort of the Holy Ghost, may be multiplied.'

A letter to Edith from Lahore (May i, 1882) will give
a pleasant picture of the bishop's private intercourse with
native Christians: —

* I think Mrs. Wade must have been a little surprised to have
three native gentlemen to a tea-dinner last evening— the old
pundit of Uddoki, Kurruck Singh ; Mr. Dina Nath, our junior
professor at the college, a Sikh by race ; and Mr. Yakub Ali, our
native pastor. The poor old pundit didn't know how to use his
knife at all with a leg of fowl, so I took up mine with my
fingers, and begged him not to mind doing it, as I didn't. I had
to ask Mrs. Wade's pardon. I hope she won't make a picture of
the bishop at the head of his table, eating with his fingers. . . .
The pundit entered into a very difficult discussion about atoms
and germs (unnoo and bibhoo), which Mrs. W. thought rather
above her, the more so as it was in Sanskrit or nearly so. He
said some nice things about the living hope of Christians, as com-
pared with the dead hope of Hindu philosophy. 1 wonder
whether you will ever come to see these dear old pundits.'

The last act of the bishop in his diocese was to ordain
this Kurruck Singh as deacon (Dec. 21, 1887).

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'Dear Dr. Imad-ud-din has been here to help me/ he said,
'in examining the native candidate. We seem quite brothers.
He and Kurruck sat some time with me to take leave this
morning (December 22). We had happy converse on many
important subjects touching the future of the Indian Church.
Could the spirit of Henry Martyn have been with us, he would
have rejoiced to hear the bright, hopeful, thoughtful words of
such men.'

The chief centres of missionary action in the diocese
were Delhi and its surrounding district, under the leadership
of Mr. Winter of the S. P. Qt., and the new Cambridge
Brotherhood ; Amritsar, with its missions in outlying town-
ships, Narowal, Batala, Clarkabad, Jandiala, and others— this
was the strongest centre of zenana work ; and lastly, the
long but weak chain of the frontier missions from Quettah
in Beluchistan right onward to Peshawur and the Khyber.
The mission on the Jhelum, which should have formed
a link between the capital and frontier, after the death of
Gordon rather languished ; but when French was at Bhera
in May, 1885, a very respectable man in the bazaar said to
him, before all his brethren, that Gordon had such an
attractive love that he would have drawn all their hearts
after him, and all the people round the district too, if only
he had lived long enougL * I have never heard this said,'
French remarked, ' of any other missionary.'

There were, of course, also outlying missions, but these
three districts were the principal.

Delhi was often visited, and Bishop Bickersteth has thus
described the bishop as a missionary worker; —

'The true unconscious greatness of the man was never so
clearly exhibited as when he was face to face with unbelievers.
Though as an extempore speaker in English he was never par-
ticularly fluent, I have heard him rise to the truest eloquence,
and pour forth an appeal in language of passionate entreaty in the
bazaar of a country town in India. He was also facile prineeps of
the missionaries whom I have been privileged to know in dealing
with individual inquirers. I shall never forget his conversation
with an able Mohammedan who came for an interview one
evening just as we were retiring, very tired, to rest, after a day's
preaching in Biwanee, a town to the west of Delhi. In a moment
he had laid aside every sign of weariness, and for an hour met the

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man's objections to the catholic doctrine of the Holy Trinity (as
opposed to the Sabellian, which he had professed himself willing
to accept) with the utmost sagacity, never yielding a point, yet
with perfect good temper, and without allowing the discussion to
degenerate into a mere logomachy.'

These remarks may be farther illustrated by a few inci-
dents occurring in a visitation tour in 1882. The first
letter to Basil from Delhi (February 26) describes the
general nature of the work, almost reminding one of St
Jerome's description of the Christians of his day in the
Holy Land : —

*The last three days I have been with Mr. Winter in a little
circle of villages some twenty miles hence, preaching and teaching,
catechizing and conversing, as well as confirming and celebrating
the Holy Communion. It seemed to me so like my old Agra
days ; the languages hei*e are of course much the same as I was
used to, not the rougher Gurumukhi and Pushtu of the Upper
Punjab and the frontier. It seemed almost as if an Ephphatha
were spoken. It is wonderful for about ten miles out of Delhi
in some directions to see the scattered pillars and arches, domes
and minarets, shattered ruins of city walls, mosques, sarais, tombs,
garden-houses, massive gateways, palaces, as if the ocean of time
had swept its remorseless waves over it, and death, desolation, and
destruction. There is something awfully sublime and impressive
in gazing all round at relics of a glorious but now vanished past,
and it is interesting, in the midst of all this, to find here and there,
sheltered by these ruins, little Christian flocks of low-caste men,
women, and children picking up scraps of Scripture knowledge,
. singing their bhajans or songs, perhaps over the plough, or in
tending their flocks and herds to crop the scant herbage. . . .
Delhi, as an old imperial city of the Moguls, still lifts its head in
pride, and gives the Government some anxiety by its independent
if not seditious attitude. Yet the troops are a mere handful here,
not above 400 English troops. I don't undei-stand their negli-
gence to profit by past experience, but it is like living over
a volcano to live here almost. ... I am pleased with some of the
collects in Dr. Bright's little book called Ancient Collects, They
are mostly drawn from old Church liturgies, Gallic, Mozarabic,
Syriac, Coptic, and the rest. They are so terse and forcible, so
very appropriate and heart-stirring, as this, for instance : —
'*0 Lord Saviour Christ, who earnest not to strive nor cry,
but to let Thy words fall as the drops that water the earth,
grant to all who contend for the faith once delivered, never to
injure it by clamour and impatience ; but, speaking Thy precious
truth in love, so to present it that it may be loved, and that

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men may see in it Thy goodness and beauty, who livest and

reignest," &c. ; and another, which I commend to as well

as you : —

* ** O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgement, and
light rises up in darkness for the godly, grant us in all our
doubts and uncertainties the grace to ask what Thou wouldest
have us to do, that the Spirit of wisdom may save us from
all false choices, and that in Thy light we may see light, and
in Thy straight path may not stumble, through Jesus Christ
our Lord."

* Now you will say " Enough," so I will close.'

The next letter, continuing an interrupted one to Edith,
thrcw^s further light upon the very incident at Biwanee
already briefly noticed : —

* March 12. Alas ! my letter was broken oflF when I had got
thus far by a succession of inteiTuptiona They were nice in one
way, for they were poor souls coming to ask what they should do
to be saved, and you would have been glad to see their bright
animated faces as the truth dawned upon some of them. One
said, '^ Oh, I see it now as I never saw it before. I have got
perfect certainty now. I am quite sure this is the truth of God."
He said it seemed quite another thing to him, quite different from
what people said it was, who told him never to become a Chris-
tian. Another was only come to dispute and entangle us in our
talk, a learned moollah, full of captious quibbles and subtle
disputations. He said he was sure he loved Christ more than
I did, for he didn't believe such bad things as I did, that He was
crucified, dead, and buried, for he believed, and all Mohamme-
dans believed. He never died at alL I wonder what the world
would have been, and what poor, simple, self-condemned souls
would have done, but for the cross and the great sacrifice. As .
Hartley Coleridge expresses it —

** It is the only fount of bliss
In all this earthly wilderness ;
It is the true Bethesda; solely
Endued with healing might and holy ;
Not once a year, but evermore ;
Not one, but all men to restore."

I have been enjoying a few days very much with young Mr.
Bickersteth. He is very fond of preaching to the heathen '*in
the streets and lanes of the cities," so we get on capitally, being
of one mind and heart in this. . . . We passed many large villages
yesterday between Biwanee and Bohtuk (where we now are),
and coiUd not help noticing the fortress-like houses in many
(almost like little Windsor palaces I), built by rich merchants,

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bunyas, or mahajans, people who lend money to all the zamindars
or landholders, and take care always to keep them in debt on
large interest, whereby the people are sadly impoverished, and the
bunyas are fat and flourishing, and build lordly mansions out of
the flesh and blood of their debtors. "Frankly to forgive them
both" is what they never think of, I fear.'

The day after again he wrote to Mrs. French from
Erohtuk : —

* Twelve were confirmed yesterday, the most interesting two
daughters of the native pastor, and an elderly fakir, a landholder
who had a fai-m about as large as mine at Whitley, but did not
care to keep it as he had no family, and gave it over to his brother,
and keeps a field for himself with an orchard chiefly of " ber " trees,
on the produce of which he lives (about £ lo per annum) ; and
on this he passes as rich. He dug a tank for himself to be bap-
tized in, for he wished to let all his friends and neighbours know
of his resolution to put on Christ. Two or three hundred
assembled about three years ago, and he was publicly baptized by
the pastor Yakub. It was droll, yet delightful, to hear the sturdy
muscular way in which he ratified his baptismal vows yesterday.
The answer was not clear enough, so I asked them to repeat it
again. The old man cried out in a voice which made the little
church ring again, "I do heartily ratify my vows " (Dil se
mazbut karta hun).'

Nine days later he wrote again to Edith from Q-urgaon,
twenty miles from Delhi: —

* Two days ago I was preaching a long time in a very ancient
and well-built city (Paniput), one of the most famous towns in
the world for its battles between Pathans, Moguls, Persians,
Mahrattas, and English. It is full of temples and mosques, only
no church of the true living God made known to us in Jesus
Christ. Long, narrow streets, with lofty brick buildings on each
side, like those of Cairo, with roads well paved and pleasant to
walk on, show that the people take a pride in keeping their
buildings in repair and all clean and tidy. Outside the town
are well-planted gardens and tanks of water, mostly fringed
by little shrines, from which flights of steps descend, some for
men's bathing, some for women's ; no machmes, as in Brighton,
for that purpose. . . . Mr. Allnutt and myself walked to the most
ancient of all the mosques, called the mosque of Kalandar Sahib,
said (on good ground) to have been built about the time of the
Norman Conquest, or rather before ! There is beautiful tracery and
rich carving in marble ; especially the trellis and lattice work of
the windows is lovely. The tomb of the saint is behind curtains,

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so we did not intrude. A number of little ragged children are
fed there, so I gave los. for the hungry, emaciated little urchins,
which seemed much to delight them. Travellers get a meal also
in little huts round a square, to which a ponderous gate gives
entrance. In a little square outside a drum, or nakkara, up
some steps called attention to a fakir seated in an upper storey,
with clay-smeared face and filthy lanky hair, wrapped in a blanket.
" Does he teach you about God and the right way ? " I asked.
" Oh no ! he sits quite silent, never opens his lips, and we give
him food." "Well then," I said, **as your holy man is speech-
less, I will speak to you a little." So a crowd gathered and listened
with fair attention while I preached. I spoke of the new birth,
and told them of the old man of 104 who said he was four years
old, because at 100 he gave his heart to Jesus and learned the
simple truth about Him ; on which they pointed to an old gentle-
man in the congregation, and said, "Ah yes, that old man says
he's only five years old, because he never was happy till he came
five years since to live in this part of the country." "Well then,"
I said, " I hope he will learn about the Lord Jesus and the Holy
Spirit to-day, and be made a new man, and four years hence he
will say he is four years old." So I made him come and sit beside
me on a little raised wooden platform I was sitting on, and the
people looked on pleased and wondering.

* It is rather in a rough country we have been travelling lately.
Twice our gari broke down, once tilted right over and a wheel
came off ; but the coachman mended it up, and we went on again

Online LibraryH. A. (Herbert Alfred) BirksThe life and correspondence of Thomas Valpy French, first bishop of Lahore → online text (page 13 of 46)