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H. A. (Herbert Alfred) Birks.

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

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as if nothing had happened. I fancy it happens so often they are
obliged to be prepared.'

One other incident of later date connected with this
Delhi district deserves a passing mention, especially at
a time when feuds between Mohammedans and Hindus
about cow-killing have proved a serious embarrassment to
Government. The view that Christian missions are a danger
to the State may surely be considered out of date in face
of such a fact as this : —

* There has been a most bitter and deadly feud,' the bishop
wrote to Cyril, Feb. 14, 1887, * between the Hindus and Moham-
medans in the city, and no effort of Government officials has
availed to conciliate them; but Mr. Lefroy's loving, saintly
pleadings have prevailed. They have seemed unable to resist
them ; and on Saturday afternoon he got them to embrace one
another quite fraternally I So on my return to Delhi on Friday
I am to invite them to symbolize tiie reconciliation by meeting
the mission body at Mr. Winter's house, and partaking of light
refreahmenta'



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122 LIFE OF BISHOP FRENCH

In Amritsar and its district the bishop was well known
to the natives from his early Punjab days, and was always
very popular.

On March 15 in i88t he wrote: —

* The visit to Batala was full of thankfulness. . . . One lady,
a Begum, chief lady of the mission, baptized three years since or
so, had never been out of purdah before till the word struck her
on Sunday morning from the text, "Search me, O God," and she
ventured to come up to the table for confirmation on Wednesday,
much muffled up and led by Miss Tucker's kindly hand. The
learned pundit at Uddoki \ baptized a few years ago, but a little
led astray after the Arya Samaj, a deistical system propping itself
on mystical interpretations of the Vedas, has completely come
round, as I do trust, to the simple truth as it is in Jesus, and
is very anxious to study Hebrew at the college ! I stayed a few
hours with him at his own village, and partook of his milk and
chapatis, and a little meat even I He is a man of family and
influence, and authority with Government, thoroughly learned
in Sanskrit, Vedic, and other philosophic lore.'

Later in the year, when his daughter Lydia had come
out to be married to the bishop's private chaplain, the
Rev. J. Moulson, the wedding was arranged to take place
at Amritsar. It was a time of special interest on account
of the metropolitan's visitation. Bishop French himself
took the service, but the Bishop of Calcutta gave away the
bride, as his predecessor. Bishop Wilson, had done to French
nearly forty years before ; ' so history was reproduced in
1881/ Many natives there had never seen an English bride,
and were much pleased with the arrangement for their
happiness. Wedding festivities, however, were not allowed
to interfere with work.

* In the evening,' wrote Bishop French, * all the mission workers,
or nearly all, dined at Mr. Clark's, and after dinner a conference
was held on several points of interest, especially village missions,
which Miss Tucker and Miss Clay are espousing so warmly and
so vigorously. The Bishop of Calcutta enjoys this kind of
gathering immensely, and shows his whole-hearted sympathy
very plainly.

^ On Thursday after lunch we set out for the Amritsar Town



^ The same Kurruck Singh already mentioned.



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AMRITSAR NEIGHBOURHOOD 123

Hall, where was assembled a goodly concourse of the nobility and
gentry and chief officials of the city, whom the bishop and
I invited to meet us, that we might express our sympathy with
them and their fellow-citizens in the recent affliction which has
actually and truly decimated the whole population of Amritsar
within about two months. Some eighty or ninety of the chief
men of the city gathered. The bishop and I addressed them at
some length. I spoke especially of the prophetic teachings of
such plagues and sicknesses, as God's voice, God's trumpet, God's
sword, and the loving merciful intent of all these. They seemed
to appreciate this novel expression of sympathy, which God,
I trust, suggested to my heart as well as to my judgement'

Some of the encouragements and disappointments of
the work in this district appear in the following letter to
Mrs. Knox, May, 1886 :—

' Two nights ago I had the pleasure of addressing a large
audience of native Christians, zenana ladies, and others at Amrit-
sar, on the Uganda mission, which I worked up from old Intelli-
gencers and reports of the last ten years. What a very remarkable
history it is ! Though full of chequered scenes and incidents,
yet what a delightful piece of mission mosaic, and how much
glory has it brought to God ! There was a beautiful spirit about
the meeting. Many circumstances have contributed to make
them, full of courage at Amritsar.

'(i) The large accession of devoted labourers, ladies and others.
(2) The number of accessions to the Church of Christ, both a few
in Amritsar and its surrounding villages, and others in £unnoo,
Dera Ismail, &c. Many of these have brought about much
excitement and agitation in their respective neighbourhoods, but
scarcely in any one case has the furnace of trial induced any
looking back from Christ. (3) The native flock, the women
especially, have been forming a little society among themselves
for direct mission agency, and for sending contributions to other
foreign missions, e. g. the Amiitsar women gathered £S last year
and sent it to Palestine.

'It is a trial to us that the Salvation Army lies in wait to
draw away and alienate from us some of the best and holiest of
our converts. Some of the most faithful and wholly consecrated
among them they have lately inveigled and carried off to England
for what they call their " International Congi-ess." The bragging,
vaunting spirit of the body is becoming so offensive and shocking
to those in whom is anything of the meekness and gentleness of
Christ ; and the sectarian spirit, taking such almost demoniacal
possession of them, one must fear a terrible collapse some day of
the whole system, which would, one fears, bring sad reproach and
disgrace to the Christian name. I reasoned a long time about



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124 LIFE OF BISHOP FRENCH

a month since with a new convert, trained by our most apostolic
missionary, Mr. Bateman. He was quite pestered with telegrams
to join the International Congress. I held him back for a time,
but at length a more pressing and coaxing telegram, persuaded
him to go. How much money they must have spent in mere
telegrams of this kind ! '

With the frontier mission, particularly in the Derajat,
the bishop had a closer ajid still earlier connexion, and
nowhere else did he so much experience the rough and
tumble work of an itinerant.

From Jhang, December 9, 1880, he wrote to Edith: —

* Mr. Gordon's character and self-sacrificing labours have been
many times a text to preach upon during this journey, as I am
able to tell them how all the truest self-sacrifice springs from the
love of Jesus and the example and power of His cross, and that
all who understand this must give up much for Him. The people
listen with much interest to this, but I can't help wishing he had
lived to be the text himself, instead of being a text to preach from
after he was gone ; still we know that the seed-corn which dies
brings forth the fruit, and I think that in England, as well as
here, such a death after such a life will make a great impression,
and wake up and arouse to action many slumberers and loiterers,
please God.

*At Bunnoo I saw something of my very wild friends, the
Wuzeeri Afghans, and preached to them at their Friday market.
They always come down from their rugged, almost pathless, hills
with sheep, goats, and cattle, with wood also, and salt, atid very
little else. About twenty-five or twenty-seven of their nobles or
chieftains came to have a talk with me at a durbar, or miniature
council, and I gave them a dinner afterwards of such viands as
they delight in. There was a round dish on the floor about
a yard in diameter, piled up with eatables (unleavened oatcakes
with some pottage round) rather choice and savouiy, and ten at
a time sat round it, pitching into it with their fingers as hard as
they could till they were satisfied, and then they made way for
another ten. If you could have seen it all, and how almost
savage they looked with their long black hair, and tattered
flowing robes, and bronzed weathei^beaten faces, huge beards,
massive muscular forms, you would have looked and wondered.

' This is my third day of travelling in a little Irish-car sort of
carriage, with two small horses, sixty miles the first day and over
eighty each of the other two. The little horses are changed every
five or six miles, and canter along quite jauntily and spiritedly,
which makes the journey as little fatiguing as possible. It is
curious that in this journey of 230-240 miles we cross four out of



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THE FRONTIER POSTS 125

the five great Punjab rivers which figure on my episcopal arms,
i. e. Indus, Jhelum, Chenab, and Eavi. The Jhelum and Chenab,
however, having met together are crossed as one, and a most im-
posing stream they form with their still deep onward roll, as if in
the calm majesty of conscious power, as beneficent as great. In
the rainy season they cover the country for miles, and must then
be crossed in boats, into which the little cars are lifted, the horses
being unyoked.

* I crossed over one of them to-day. The toll-keeper (a native)
amused me by asking where the other two cars for my children
and servants were. **0h." I said, "my children are far away."
'*But surely," said he, ** a lord sahib could not travel without
three cars." **My lord sahibship," I said, ** consists in being
a fakir," at which he laughed. The changing of horses gives me
a little circle gathered to preach to sometimes. I only wish it
always did. **Our i>rophet does all for us," the Mohammedans
say ; but I am able to tell them he could never say four things of
himself which Christ said: " I am (i) the door of heaven, (2) the
light of the world, (3) the resurrection and the life, (4) the rest-
giver to all earth's burdened ones." '

At the same time he wrote to Mrs. Sheldon: —

* It was a great joy and source of thanks to me to be able to use
my newly acquired Pushtu in the market-place on the Wuzeeri
fair-day, in testifying to them of the Prince of Peace and of the
Gospel of love and truth. I trust my witness may reach them
much more clearly still by a translation of my Hindustani work
on the Psalms of David into Pushtu, underikaken at his own
desire by a moollah, very far-famed, a 'resident of this town
(Bunnoo), which I am partly revising with him for an hour a day
during this sojourn. He is favourable to Christianity, but not
a Christian. He told me to-day he had a dream in which the
prophet David appeared to him, and told liim that he was entrusted
wdth the work of publishing in Pushtu his book of Psalms, and
giving the explanation of them to the people. How rich a reward
for the labour that book cost me if some poor Afghans thus learnt
of David to seek after and to believe in David's Son and Lord ! '

Dera Ismail, Feb, 11, 1883.

Amid all the distractions and sore cares of my daily life . . .
I must give you a few minutes from this frontier station, always
dear to me, because here I first came across the Afghans and
became interested in their welfare, and I love to come back here
and try to pay oflF my old debt to them by saying a few words to
them in their own tongue, as I have tried to do in Candahar,
Quettah, Yusufzai country, Poshawur, Multan. . . .

I have been pleading for the Toak mission this morning, of



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126 LIFE OF BISHOP FRENCH

which my old student, John Williams, is the medical missionary.
I was pleased to collect about £11, a large sum for this small
place. One gentleman who has never been to church before here,
came and put ^'5 in. I said to them in my sermon, '* You will
forgive me for saying that I all but lost my life (of sunstroke) in
preaching for these Wuzeeri x)eople over twenty years ago, and
therefore I can't help but love them, and any help you can give
me on their behalf, I shall heartily thank you for, in my Master's
name, and yours. In the case of a people like the Wuzeeris,
with whom we have had so many feuds, who commit so many
frontier raids, which our frontier army has to punish, it is surely
the very genius of the Gospel to return peace for war, and love for
hatred, and messengers of healing for the emissaries of rapine,
war and bloodshed." The officer who put in ^'5 was one of the
officers engaged in the last war against them, so I hope his heart
was touched. . . .

Feb, 14. To-day I was in the Afghan caravanserai trying my
Pushtu. . . . My old friend and student, John Williams, {>reached,
but one or two Afghans were so bigoted and fanatic that I could
scarcely save the native teachei^s from being beaten, and perhaps
myself too. I was glad when I got them out of the gate. Never
but once before did I find the Afghans so heated and exasperated.
The lesson of to-day (Acts xxviii) shows how the Jews of old time
were much what they are now, if indeed the Afghans are of
Jewish - descent.

French did not personally visit Cashmere as bishop, but
at a time when the question of a Cashmere bishopric to
form a point d'appui for vigorous aggressive work in Central
Asia and Thibet is being mooted, his words about the
Yarkund mission (August 15, i88t) may have a special
interest : —

' What must I say about Wade's plan ? A hot-weather journey

at least of exploration can hardly be amiss, but 's experience is

a little adverse to these very distant and unsupported experiments.
His own character has been nobly and gnindly illustrated, but the
results have been a little disappointing. Certainly the fact of the
ruler being a Christian is a novel and most interesting element in
the Yarkund question. It is a matter for much prayer, and
openings may by degrees occur which may supply new conviction
and assurance of the call being from God. The matter is too
great and serious, and the air of romance too attractive, to allow
of one's passing an opinion hastily. One would like to see
a thoughtful paper with reasons and facts given for abandoning
the beaten track of the missions and pushing into new regions.
If it be God's will He will surely give yet plainer indications



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EDUCATIONAL WORK 127

and beckonings of His hand, and voices saying^ '^This is the
way, walk ye in it." '

Of course the bishop took great interest in education.
At almost every station that he visited he had to take part
in some school inspection or distribution of school prizes,
but his work for higher education is of more importance.
More frequently than ever he gave lectures to educated
natives. The subjects as before were sometimes historical,
sometimes missionary, and sometimes directly and avowedly
on topics of religion and morality. His influence as bishop
gained him better hearing and freer access to the higher
classes, but his insistence on punctilios of etiquette detracted
somewhat from this added power. Thus he wrote from
Hyderabad in February, 1879: —

' I addressed a packed room on the supernatural life, its origin,
growth, and supports. I don't know when I have felt so deeply
interested in any assemblage. The room was gaily decorated
with mottoes, devices, coloured hangings, curtains, and flags, to
welcome me on my flrst visitation. I got into a little trouble
with some of the native gentlemen for having asked them to take
their shoes off in calling on me, which I thought a proper thing
as between man and man, since they do not, like oiu'selves, doff
the hat or turban. Government in court allows both shoes and
turban not to be taken off, but I always maintain that in friendly
visits this should be done, I mean either the one or the other
taken off. I expounded my views to them in the local news-
papers, and the little stir has ceased ; indeed, I hope it has had
the effect of drawing us together rather and making us understand
each other better.'

The bishop had been fiercely attacked in the papers on
the subject, and it is probable the hope he here expresses
was too sanguine. He had on his side logic ; the natives
law on theirs ; and less insistence would have gained him
greater influence, although his known affection and respect
for natives tended to modify the wrong impression formed.
It cannot but seem curious that one so eminently humble
should fail in judgement upon such a point, yet without
laying stress on such details they cannot be entirely omitted
in the presenting of a faithful portrait. Here is another



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128 LIFE OF BISHOP FRENCH

case in which the shoe question appears, and the same mark
of honour was exacted, but this time with good reason for
a sacred building.

He wrote to Mrs. Sheldon from Q-urgaon on October 22,
1880, when scarce recovered from a sharp attack of fever : —

* I have been so far better yesterday and to-day as to have some
long chats with an old pupil of my Agra first class. Hira Lai. L,
whom I have so often wished to see again for religious instruc-
tion, but never have till to-day, now twenty years have elapsed.
He is still a strict Deist, I believe, having even got some light
he says at times from a Mohammedan fakir, who made him
promise once, within forty days, to repeat one particular name
of God forty million times, which he said he accomplished though
it was hard work, and then 4,000 times the next four days as
a lighter burden, after which he says that he saw such a strange,
unearthly, beautiful light as he cannot describe, which made him
beside himself and led him to be indifferent to the world (though
he seems to have tried to improve his worldly prospects pretty
often since). We have gone over the old grounds of Christian
truth again, but I think that his heart was never opened to its
influence, though his mind seems simple and unbiassed ; but as he
was seven years a personal pupil, one cannot help feeling an
interest in him. He has begged me to give a little sermon to
himself and his friends in the Httle church of this station,
sweetly situated in a shrubbery garden, and I have promised
to do so, if they will come and take their shoes off.*

In July, 1886, the bishop lectured at Simla on * Uganda
and Bishop Hannington's martyrdom/ Mozumdar, leader
of the Brahmo Samaj, was one of the audience, and a con-
versation the bishop held with him afterwards led him to
ask him to his house to tea. The bishop thus described
their social intercourse: —

* He opened his mind veiy fully, and seems very hopeful, and
puts Christ very far ahead of all other teachers, only not beyond
the Unitarian position, I fear. I put the main Gospel truths
before him as pointedly as I could. Dean Stanley seems their
great authority. I told them he had been my tutor in early days.
I wsh they would adopt Bishop Wilkinson instead ! '

Besides these independent local lectures the bishop took
a leading part in the new Punjab University. During the
first years of his bishopric he even took a working oar by



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UNIVERSITY EXAMINATIONS 129

throwing himself heartily into the routine toil of an
examiner. His intellectual activity in these matters may
be seen by extracts from his letters. On May 6, 1879, he
wrote to Mrs. Sheldon : —

' For the last fortnight you would have seen my tables strewn
with Hallam, Bacon, Shakespeare, Spenser, Chaucer, Macaulay,
and such like books for the purpose of drawing up examination
papers for our Lahore university. It will be over in a week
more if all is welL These little interludes must come occasionally
in the work of pubhc servants in India. As I have so much
preaching and dealing with educated natives at times, it may be
useful and furnish a fresh stock of helpful ideas, but a cold has
settled in my eyes, and I find them weak for such a multiplicity
of incessant labour. I have a work by Mr. Hooper on the
Eevelations in Hindustani to read large portions of, as the S. P. C. K.
requires the bishop's imprimatur. It is nicely and thoroughly
done.'

A few days later, writing to his brother Valpy, who was
leaving Stratford-on-Avon for Llanmartin, he said : —

^ I seem to know more than I did of Stratford from having to
write examination papers on the English drama, and so to study
I don't know how many histories and varied estimates of Shake-
speare and his contemporaries. Otherwise I might as well have
examined on the ^'Composition and Population of the Moon."
Hallam and Schlegel were my great holdfasts. I have had to
work at Chaucer as I never did before, and I think I see how
true a father of English poetry he was. . . . My favourites will
always be, I think, Spenser, Tennyson, and Wordsworth, after
Shakespeare. Those studies I have interspersed with readings
from Godet, Cardinal Newman's sermons, Lacordaire and his
fellows, so gi'and in the depth and breadth of their biblical
studies.'

In questions of poKcy and principle the advice of Bishop
French was felt to be of special value both by the Govern-
ment and University.

On April 21, 1882, he wrote to Miss Mills at Clifton : —

' Education is now advancing with strides : the Punjab rings
with it, and the Government, under Lord Eipon and our new
Lieut. -Oovemor, Sir Charles Aitchison, is stirring itself with the
utmost vigour and industry to grapple with the question. The
present idea (in which I do not quite sympathize, not at least to
the extreme to which it is carried), is to push forward primary

VOL. n. K



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130 LIFE OF BISHOP FRENCH

education, and promote far and wide village schools, and to with-
draw Government support from high-class schools for the young
men seeking to raise themselves to high employments and
salaries in the service of the State, Yesterday I had imposed
upon me by the university senate here a formidable task, which
I must blame myself for, as I pushed Government rather hardly
perhaps (in a lecture I gave on "Our New University") to
promote the highest moral teaching of the youth in their schools.
I proposed also to the senate that two volumes of the most
striking and forcible passages from various sources should be
issued by them, leading up to God and to His faith and fear and
love, though not teaching Christianity exactly, which our Govern-
ment (rightly or wrongly) is pledged not to do. I want to get
the Delhi brotherhood to compile such a work, to be followed by
a third volume of distinctly Christian ethics for Christian schools.

* It was curious in the senate committee yesterday to see how
the native (non-Christian) members pushed this forward. It
perfectly amazed me, and filled my heart with thankfulness.
A clever man, a Brahmo, hearing me remark that the third
volume, being of purely Christian ethics, would be for Christian
schools alone, replied, ^'Oh, but we shall want to have that
too." "But it all leads up to Christ," I said, ** draws all from
union and fellowship with Him ; you could not adopt that."
"Oh, we are quite prepared to do it," he said — and that in the
presence of Hindus and Sikhs, and (what is more) of Europeans
too, who would thus be witnessed to by non-Christians, speaking
up for Christ as they themselves certainly would not have done,
I fear.

* It has been such joy to me to be a herald of Christ's truth in
so many towns, both Delhi itself and other large places all round
it, and to see how Christianity grows in popular esteem and
honour, and how men fear because of it, though they will not in
any large number of cases embrace it. Doubtless a great struggle
must come before the great fortress of Hinduism falls flat before
the ark of God. It is a time when we want some flrst-rate
chaplains like Martyn and Corrie, for our university senate is
now holding out the hand to God-fearing men who, by their
linguistic and scientific attainment and force of moral and
religious character, can influence native youth. The tone of the
better class of the native mind seems to be, "If we can't have
Hinduism and Sikhism, let us at least have good solid Christian
character in our rulers and teachers, not false and empty Christian
profession without practice." It is a great time of God's own
preparing. Would that England would know the time and
recognize the beckoning finger ! '

Six weeks later, on June 8, he wrote to his brother



Online LibraryH. A. (Herbert Alfred) BirksThe life and correspondence of Thomas Valpy French, first bishop of Lahore → online text (page 14 of 46)