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 15 of 46)
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* The Punjab Government is full of the subject of extending
education through the masses of the people, and we are being
examined before committees, and long wearisome papers of
inquiries have to be filled up. There is some greater approach
to unanimity than formerly, but Hindus and Mohammedans w ill
have their jealousies and heart-burnings, and the English civilians
care little about the matter as a whole. I have had to decline
the Vice-Chancellorship of the new university here, for I felt it
would really overpower me ; a Mr. Lyall * has been appointed,
a brother of the Lieut -Governor of the North- West Provinces.
Lord Ripon is full of the subject, and would gladly embrace
religious education in the scheme if he could and were not so
pressed from home. In spite of him and Sir Charles Aitchison,
our new Lieut. -Governor, a firm ally of the Gospel of Christ, and
a disciple and old pupil of Tholuck and Hengstenberg, agnostic
influence is very strong, and its negative influences sadly paralyze
action. Still the truth cannot be buried out of sight, and ever
and anon lives and stands up upon its feet.'

On July 13. 1882, be wrote to Mrs. French from
Dngshai : —

* Think of the Pioneer printing verbatim all my written paper
on the educational question, the only one it has taken the trouble
to print ! It has an article in which it declares I have burst the
whole bubble of Government education, unless the counsels given
are taken. Of course I shall get attacked on the other side.
I only hope the honours gained this year, so far beyond any other
year almost, may be laid at the feet of Jesus, and that Christ may
be put in the place of self. My main wish is to gain souls, and as
my main wish is so little gratified, I cannot set much store by
the lesser honours acquired. However, if Government could see
their way to follow out the lines and counsels I have suggested,
it might be a real abiding blessing to the Punjab.'

A few extracts from his evidence before the Commission
will further explain his views: —

* It by no means appears to me a self-evident fact that a smat-
tering of knowledge is valuable to the masses and improves the
character of men, except where, as in European countries, there
has been for a long period a permeating and leavening influence
of intelligence and enlightenment from the reading and thinking
classes down to the lower. . . . The popular cry among enthu-
siastic Englishmen (at home chiefly) for mass education in India

* Late lieut.- Governor of the Punjab.
K 2

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aeems to me mainly to wnae from the miabJceD iioti<m that the
same treatment most (nnd^ wholly difforent and almost eontrary
eircumstancea) he equally njaefdl for two great coontiiea One of
these conirary drenmstanees is that the elementary hooks available
in the one country are of the richest most Taried, uaefdl and
attractiye description, and in the other of the meagrest and most
paltry character, which would be of less consequence if these
opened the door to hi^^ier vemarnlar departments, in which the
mental pabulum supplied was more elevating and improving. It
would appear to me therefore that it is fiur more important at
present to labour for the enrichment of the vernacular literature
by an expansion of the Educational Department, by summoning
from England, as well as employing out here, men of the highest
calibre of mind and stamp of character to devote themselves to
this branch of preliminary effort.

*' Surely such a sweeping measure [as mass education] deserves
most heedful preparation. The food on which we invite them to
feast, summoning them with a blare of trumpets from far and
near, should not be of the most ill-cooked and indigestible mate-
rials, devoid of all solidity and nutriment When a man like
Archbishop Whately devoted his original and transcendent powers
to write books for little children, bringing down fragments,
at least, of the deepest truths to the level of the most popular and
child-like comprehension, and men like Thirlwall and Whewell
delighted (not to speak of Faraday and Huxley) to cause science
to tflJk intelligibly and charmingly to children, we seem to have
high hopes awakened of what may be accomplished by the Govern-
ment taking advantage of the new devotion and enthusiasm of the
leading young aspirants to honours at our universities — their
desire, that is, to kindle among the masses thirst for the noblest
science, the richest culture, for truth, goodness, self-sacrifice.

*' It would not be possible for Government to take its hand off
the higher education ut present, except so far as to avail itself of
the most approved and best appointed voluntary agencies simtd-
taneously ucith its oum. If some of these voluntary agencies were
of a large-minded, generous Oirhstian character^ honouring (as did
St Paul) all that was good and true in the ancient classics of the
coitfdrp, and bringing both one and other (as also does St. Paul) to
the test of that law and judgement which are deepest and firmest
rooted in the breast of man, none would appreciate this more than
the better class of the natives themselves, or support the Govern-
ment in freely and gladly employing them more than they. They
are in the main prepared to act on the principle " By their fruits
ye shall know them." In whatever direction the highest ethical
results follow, I am persuaded the Government is safe in advancing
with no timid and half-hearted course. If the Government is not
ashamed of avowing this, the best of our subjects will not be
slow in appreciating it, and will feel themselves bound to follow

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to the best of their capacity in the same steps and aim at the same
results. Few rivalries could be so honourable or useful as this.
Govemment examiners will be justified (without touching on
religious dogma) in proposing questions or giving instruction in
the highest ethics.

* To allow the various religions of the country to be taught in
Government schools under State sanction would be clearly con-
trary to the terms of the Queen-Empress' original proclamation,
on the faith of which Christian men loyal to their convictions
render service to the State. There is no difficulty in avoiding
this, and the very suspicion of it, which has been widespread,
has distressed and alienated both Christian minds and others of
our non-Christian fellow-subjects.'

With reference to subjects of instruction in primary
schools, the bishop said: —

'Instructive stories in thoroughly expressive and idiomatic
vernacular, with a measure of stirring dramatic interest, drawn
from incidents of daily indigenous life, with morals elicited
obviously and naturally, on the excellent models which Miss
Tucker and Miss Wauton have produced, would have the best
effect. Popular descriptions of natural phenomena of earth, fire,
water, the signs of heaven and the like, would stir the dormant and
sluggish intellect. Portions of the Proverbs of Solomon^, and
tales of the Old Testaments would raise no objection, and be
most wholesome, I believe, and songs such as Hannah's *, espe-
cially if rendered into Hinduwi poetry. I remember revising
a Hinduwi metrical version of the Proverbs of Solomon, which
elicited at least many a Wahl Wah! from native listeners
twenty-five years ago.'

With reference to women's work he thus addressed the
Government : —

' My belief is that an almost entirely new field of most interest-
ing (I may almost say fascinating) labour ia open to English ladies
in watching over and encouraging the education of their Indian
sistera Very few English gentlemen are invited to the houses of
native gentlemen, the zenanas standing in the way. But English
ladies appear always welcome or nearly always, and by their
labour (if they came in goodly numbers) the terrible obstruction
to the intercourse of the two races on a friendly footing (most
beneficial in different ways to both) might be in some large
measure removed.'

' These he wished to have taught in Government schools, not from the
Bible, but from a school-book of ethical extracts.

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The plan for a good manual of ethics long held pos-
session of the bishop's mind, and he had actually begun to
collect his materials. He even thought of retiring from
oflice sooner than he would otherwise have done to give
himself entirely to this. Sir Charles Aitchison, the Arch-
bishop of Canterbury, and others, warmly encouraged him,
but the Government of India would not guarantee the
acceptance of the work in their colleges, and so many
difficulties intervened that it was finally abandoned. Had
leisure been accorded him, there is no doubt that the
bishop's wide knowledge of the native character, extensive
reading, and fine eclectic faculty, would have combined
to make the book a boon to India of enduring value.

In recognition of his many services before he left the

diocese the Punjab University conferred upon him honoris

causd and in dbsentid the rare distinction of the degree of

D.O.L. Of this he said to Mrs. French, December 23,


^I have been writing to Mr. Eattigan, as Yice-Chancellor, to
thank him and the senate for appointing me "Doctor of Oriental
Learning." D.O.L. after my D.D. title will puzzle my friends to
know what it means 1 They will ask you to explain, so now you
will be able to enlighten them. I tell him I hope I shall be
worthier of it after my journey into Syria and pursuing my
Arabic studiea'

The bishop, although so deeply conscious of the need of an
improved Christian vernacular literature, could find no time
amid his pressing avocations to devote to it. Beyond the
publication of charges and occasional sermons the period of
his episcopate is nearly barren from the literary point of
view. Something, however, he wais able to accomplish in
encouraging the efforts of others, and in revising such
a work as Dr. Imad-ud-din's Commentary on St John, and
two important pieces of translation or revision work made
great demands on his attention.

The revision of the Hindustani Prayer-book was under-
taken by the bishop, with a small committee, at the request
of the metropolitan of India, and the S. P. C. K, when
applied to for assistance, spent £2,ocx) upon it. During the

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summer of 1881 the bishop took a large house at Murree,
where, with the help of Dr. Hooper, Mr. Shirreff, Mr. Tara
Chand, and Dr. Imad-ud-din, he resolutely spent six hours
a day upon this work. Dr. Weitbrecht and other scholars,
native and English, lay and clerical, were also consulted on
points of difliculty. It was a memorable time of spiritual
and intellectual converse and retreat for all concerned in it,
and Mrs. Hooper provided admirably for the commissariat,
but in point of business arrangement there was a good deal
left to be desired. The points in dispute were settled by no
formal voting, but by the bishop's own intense determina-
tion, and so in many things he failed to carry his committee
with him, and at least one of them declined to allow his
name to appear unless the adoption of the new revision
remained as optional in every congregation.

'The greatest disappointment of his later years,* says his
successor, Bishop Matthew, 'was the unfavourable reception
given to the Bevised Urdu Prayer-book by the missionaries of
the North- West Provinces and the Punjab. When some time
after his resignation I begged him to revisit his old diocese, he
replied that the treatment his book had met with in the native
church made it impossible for him to do so. Though I am no
expert^ I am afraid there can be httle doubt that in this matter
the public opinion of the Church was right, and the bishop mis-
taken. Certainly it was a matter of the deepest regrftt to many
that they could not regard the book as suited for general use. The
bishop had been assisted by a competent committee, but with his
high ideas of episcopal authority, and very pronounced opinions
as to style, the committee were assessors only, and their judge-
ment again and again oveniiled by the bishop. His predilection
for Arabic religious terms led to the introduction of a great
number of words quite unintelligible to the simple people who
form the staple of our congregations. There were also some
important depai-tures from the English original, the bishop deem-
ing himself at liberty to go behind it to the Latin sources of the
P^yer-book \ At the same time the book was a monument of

* The Arabic Ab and Ibn were introduced for * Father ' and * Son,'
instead of the Hindustani *Bap' and *Beta/ The Latin phrases, 'candi-
datns martyrum exercitus * and * cui servire regnare est,' were literally
rendered; and the collect for the fourth Sunday after Advent was made,
as in the old form, an address to Christ. These and other changes

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scholarly and erudite labour, which will not be thrown away,
but will leave its mark on any version which may secure the
acceptance of the Chureh.'

This verdict of the present bishop is not only confirmed
by members of the original company, both native and
English, but received practical illustration during the year
1894. A fresh revision committee of eight, nominated by
the Bishops of Lucknow and Lahore in equal numbers, has
recently determined by a majority of five to two to take the
bishop's version as the basis of their work, on the ground
that *in translation and idiom it is the more accurate.'
At this meeting there were present Messrs. Hooper, Durrant,
Westcott, Nihal Singh, Lefroy, Weitbrecht, and Tara Chand.
It would have been most strange if, after all the labour he
had spent upon the language, the bishop's one chief effort
should have proved entirely abortive. The promise may be
yet ftilfilled to him in this also — * Cast thy bread upon the
waters, and thou shalt find it after many days.'

In 1885 he was again at work revising, this time the
Old Testament and St Luke's Gospel in Pushtu. He
wrote from Kohat, May 16 : —

* We work seven hours a day. It is delightful to see Messrs.
Mayer's and Jukes' enthusiasm.'

And he added in June of the same year : —

^The Pushtu reminds me of what Luther said of the
German, when he was translating the Old and New Testament,
that it made him sweat blood to try and adapt the crabbed
and barbarous language of the Teutons to the deep spiritual truths
of the Shemitic Scriptures.'

This work was done under the auspices of the British and
Foreign Bible Society, and met with no misadventure.

It remains to say a few words about the bishop as a mis-
sionary statesman — his views upon the native Church, its

like these, however in themselvea to be desired, were entirely beyond
the terms of the committee's commission as revisers.

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future prospects, its internal discipline, the ineans of its
extension. In his synodal address in 1885 he spoke at some
length on the Churches future. He said that, considering the
small salaries that were available for native clergy, and the
consequently small proportion of the very ablest men who
cared to enter holy orders, he looked for some great develope-
ment of the old office of * the prophet,' and believed that
the efforts of the clergy would be largely supplemented by
educated laymen, who would exercise * prophetic gifts* under
the gentle supervision of the bishop.

In answer to an appeal to him to solve the knotty
problem of union with the Presbyterians and Episcopal
Methodists, he said : —

' In judging of such great and serious matters I have little faith
except in that Providence which ^^ shapes our ends, rough-hew
them as we may." It would be very rough-hewing, I appi'ehend,
and much wasteful expenditure of thought and paper to draw up
a scheme or programme making overtures of compromise. . . .
If it took a century for the early Christians to come to a settled,
or at least uniform, understanding as to the expediency of three
orders, so perhaps it may be in India, where it is a national
characteristic (at least as regards modem India) to fret and chafe
under too rigid a yoke of authority, and for whom it has an
indescribable charm to leave the central nucleus of dogmatic
truth so nebulous, that a wide margin is left for endless abstruse
speculation, or, as it should be called, uncramped freedom of

He then proceeded to point out that the true way to
recommend episcopacy was not by a surrender of the
Church's ancient heritage and apostolical succession, but
by improved synodical action, a greater and more real
rapprochement between the bishop and the presbyter, and
due allowance to laymen of their right to speak, in all that
more especially concerned them, in the councils of the

* It does not need to invite either our Presbyterian brethren, or
the Nonconformist bodies broken oflF from us, to come forward and
state on what conditions they would form one Church with us and
accept our episcopacy. Such an attempt to manipulate and con-
struct concordats between the various bodies would, I fear, only

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tend to multiply sores, instead of healing them. Besides, the
Indian Church would be in danger of decatholicizing itself thus.
It is from itself that it has power to divest itself of all that is
imperious, tyrannical, and lordly, and to hold out a sisterly and
motherly hand to those who think more influence should be
allowed to the presbyter, who is also an elder, and that the con-
gregation should hare its claims allowed, and a recognized
organ by which its utterances should be outspoken and have
a hearing.'

He looked to the appointment of native suffragan bishops
as a means of further developement, and as these increased^
he looked for a gradual modification of the newest strata
of Church services as distinct from the *palaeomorphic strata'
or earliest formularies,

* There is very much,' he said, *in our Articles so happily and
wisely expressed, that I should be sorry to see them rejected as
a whole, though I should not object to see them revised and
modified where passing and shortlived phases of English Church
parties gave a tinge of insular specialities to the formularies

He looked ftirther to the rise of some ecclesiastic Joseph
in the future to solve, by the Holy Spirit^s help, the
hundred problems as to the constitution of the native synod,
and its relations to the joint Native and European synod of
each diocese. He trusted the Society committees would
growingly see it to be * their true wisdom and policy to
exercise, if a controlling hand at all, at least a very gently
and almost insensibly controlling hand, on the forming of
the Church as an organic structure, leaving the diocesan
framework, and the " divers orders appointed *' in the Church,
to follow out the Divine methods as indicated in Ephesians
iv. 1 1 -16.'

*As regards the future, I for one do trust,' he said, *that
the verdict pronounced may be one Church for India, one Church,
not two ; a Church in which, on all national questions aflecting
most closely the Indian branch of the Aryan stock, the initiative
may come from themselves. A divided Church (according to
St Paul) was a divided Christ. It is of mere party differences
St. Paul thus speaks ; not of the Church sundering itself from
those that are in heresy on vital points of doctrine.'

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Beside these broad views of the Church's ftiture he had to
deal with many questions of detail concerning baptism and
marriage and Church discipline, and his judgement on these
points may be of use to others.

On the baptism of natives he wrote to the Rev. T. E.
Wade :—

Dasht, near Quettah, Oct ao, 1885.

I have no question at all about the reply to be given to the
questions proposed by the lady missionaries and yourself and
brethren in case of baptism applied for by catechumens, or in
behalf of infants in articulo mortis, when the sick are reduced to
extremities, so near to death as that no one in Holy Orders could
be expected to arrive in time to perform the ceremony. Were
death not actually imminent the Church would certainly dis-
courage lay baptism. In the case of catechumens who had
shrui^k &om open confession through want of courage, sudden
baptism at the last moment under terror of approaching death
should also be discouraged, except some two or three could be
gathered from the circle of heathen or Mohammedan friends, so
that that important feature of baptism ('If thou shalt confess
with thy mouth the Lord Jesus') should not be wantiug to
complete the full significance and essential groundwork of the
ordinance. Even the Soman Catholic Church fully recognizes
the validity of lay baptism at the last moment, when life is near
to be extinct.

In the case of the woman in purdah, I think that notice
should be given to the husband (if living and at hand), not
necessarily to any other person, not even child or parent :
if the husband forcibly pi*event, or peremptorily forbid, the
lady would be authorized to say, *You may hold yourself
for baptized, count yourself for such, the whole essence of the
act as regards confession and openly expressed desire and sur-
render of the soul being perfected, ratified in heaven, we cannot

In a paper on the law of Christ and His Church and the
law of the State in the matter of the re-marriage of a con-
vert deserted or cast off by a heathen wife or husband, after
quoting the opinions of Augustine, Chiysostom, Ambrose,
and Thomas Aquinas, the bishop summed up his conclusions
thus: —

'On the whole, the result of the reasonings and authorities
above quoted, embodying the opinions held in various Churches
and in different ages, is favourable to re-marriage on the part of

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those deserted by heathen partners: though this re-marriage is
clearly regarded as allowable, rather than expedient, as to be
tolerated for compassion's sake to human frailty, rather than
commended. In the case of converts in India this view derives
additional force from the exceptionally strict views prevalent in
this country on the necessity of the married life, and the dis-
honour and suspicion attaching to the unmarried. Whilst,
therefore, I should count them worthy of special honour who are
bold and self-controlled enough to act on the Church's higher and
more perfect rule, and should count it better for them to con-
tinue unmarried, yet I would not hesitate to say that they do
well, or, to say the least, are not to be blamed in any way, who
accept the freedom which the judgement of the Church of Christ
allows them, and which the law of the land sanctions ; and on
the wholesome conditions imposed by the latter, enter again on
the state of marriage.'

Then follows a brief risumi of Indian law on the subject,
from which it appears that a wife or husbemd deserted on
grounds of religion may, after six months of desertion,
apply for a restitution of rights, and within a year of the
application, all the required formalities having been com-
plied with, and the husband or wife petitioned against still
refusing to cohabit, the application for civil dissolution of
marriage may be granted ^

As regards the Hindu custom of child marriages, the
bishop dissuaded the missionaries from taking part in any
agitation for a legislative prohibition. He held that so great
and ancient a national institution should be left, like slavery
in early Christian days, to fall self-condemned by the
growing prevalence of Christian ideas, doctrines, and course
of practice. He thought that exceptional cases of especial
hardship, the unhealthy excrescences, might be met by ex-
ceptional legislation without eradicating the whole system.
Nor was he fully persuaded that our own plan, by which
so large a proportion of women are left unmarried, had
any such great advantage over the domestic customs of
the Hindus, as to entitle us to overturn their system by
imposed authority. * Take which procedure you will (BKndu,

^ This law applies to the Hindus, not to Mohammedans.

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English, French, or German), some hard and exaggerated
cases of wrong must occur in exceptional instances.*

In 1887 the question of polygamy in native Churches was

Online LibraryH. A. (Herbert Alfred) BirksThe life and correspondence of Thomas Valpy French, first bishop of Lahore → online text (page 15 of 46)