H. A. (Herbert Alfred) Birks.

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

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very much discussed. The bishop wrote upon the subject to
the Gruardian, maintaining that, in the case of Mohammedans
at least, the refusal to break free from ties formed in good
conscience, according to their prophet's law, before conver-
sion, should not be held as any fatal barrier to baptism.

'The letter,' the bishop said to Mrs. French, Sept. 30, 1887,
'occupies a column and a half, and is headed in large and
formidable letters, "The Bishop of Lahore on Polygamy." As
there is a good deal of Latin in it quoted, my Clifton friends will
gaze at it in wonder. However, the ai*chdeacon's approval w^ill
satisfy you it is all right.'

Dr. Bright, his old schoolfellow, who had before borne
part in the discussion, replied in an admirable letter,
establishing the point that the patristic quotations did not
refer in any way to cases of polygamy, but to successive
marriages, which in the early Church were held to be a bar
to holy orders, and that the principle culpa enim lavacro
non lex solvitur was applied to preclude the ordination of
one who had been married a first time before baptism, which
some held as admissible. Still, the broad question of first
principles was left very much where it was, and the bishop
wrote to the archdeacon, October 11, 1887 : —

*Dr. Bright's reply is extremely ingenious, yet I still think
the principle holds good in the case of all alliances legallv valid
at the time they were entered into — "The baptism remits the
fault, but confirms the rite of marriage " — though the sacramental
seal of holy orders would lose its due honour and special pre-
rogative *. To say as much as that it seems scarcely worth while
obtruding oneself into the Guardians correspondence sheets,
though I believe I have i-epresented St. Augustine's real meaning,
and the line he lays down correctly.'

Amongst other steps for the good of the native Christians,
the bishop put forth special forms for the admission of

That is, if a polygamist were admitted to be ordained.

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catechumens and reception of lapsed converts. He thus
described to the archdeacon an act of discipline at Batala,
October, 1887 :—

^I had to pronounce a sentence of excommunication publicly
and formally at the Batala morning service yesterday, in the
case of an apostate mooUah. who scornfully and defiantly has
crucified the Son of God afresh. I had the church book brought
up to the Holy Table, and erased his name from the list. For
this purpose I have requested that church lists may be kept.
The excision of the name solemnly symbolizes the real character
of the transaction,'

For the extension of the Church the bishop's great hope
under God was in the sudden appearance of some educated
native leaders of apostolic capabilities.

*As late as May, 1887, he wrote to me,' says Bishop Bicker-
steth, * "I wish I may be spared yet for two or three years to
search about for native apostles in embryo, whom a word
spoken for Christ might stimulate and inspire to go forth full
of power from the Spirit of the Lord to awaken slumbering
consciences, and lodge the arrows of the Eling in the hearts of
His enemies."

^ Taking into consideration the tendency of Eastern people to
follow great leaders in the mass, he held that one truly apostolic
man, if God gave such to the native Church, would be able to do
more for the kingdom of God than a large number of ordinary
mission agents.'

The same feeling appears in the following letter to Mr.
Bateman, called forth by a proposal to introduce the Church
Army to his diocese : —

Lahore, Aug, 22, 1886.

Much of the plan proposed by the Church Army for India
would be after my heart. I have grave questionings, however, as
to whether English working men could do the work effectively.
Experience tends to show that they soon become dissatisfied
here, if not dressed and treated as gentlemen : then come wives
and families, and a burden we are all too poor, and our funds too
exhausted, to meet. Nor do I think that we want local secre-
taries. These orgam'sms within organisms sooner or later come
to grief by clashing and colliding hopelessly. I do not see why
men like Lewis and yourself, both itineratory and willing to be
outand-out fakirs, could not take a real direction (something
after the manner I so audaciously proposed for the societies at
Heading Congress) of natives like T. and N. and others who

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would soon spring up to be like them, or better even. In
Church matters you are loyal and kind enough to consult with
your bishop, who possibly might join the Church Army (entre
nous) himself some day. This is a profound secret, please ! . . .
The Belooch work and Eangra valley work would make a good
centre to start with. I should rather like to keep the Jhelum
and adjacent parts of the Indus in hopes of some day tracing my
dear old friend Gordon's work out there. But that may be only
a very thin and almost colourless air-castle.

You understand me right in feeling that what I craved and
would fain wrestle for is a band, ever so small, of apostles and
prophets. When they come, what are mere numbers and pro-
portions ? one teacher to a million, &c. ? and all those beautiful
missionary mathematics which puzzle the brain, and vex the
heart, and keep the Church's eye off the vital point of missionary
effort— as, alas, they have too often kept mine? But one would
gladly let one's own failures and misdemeanours be the warning
(ibrat) of others. If only they might tread one under and walk
over one's corpse into the citadel, which as yet no forlorn hope
has ever entered, though it seems gathering about Amritsar I

His most important statement on missionary methods was
given at the Reading Congress in 1883. As this is easily
accessible to students of the subject, it is needless to do
more than indicate the line adopted in it

*In ages to come,' he inquired, 'what judgement is the Church
likely to pass upon our missionary agencies ? . . . I have a sorrowful
conviction that the Church of the future will, in some important
respects at least, profit rather from being warned by our mistakes
than helped by the record of our wisdom, courage, abilities, and
patient constancy and perseverance. ... I should say that it is
our attempt to invent fresh models and courses of action, instead
of throwing ourselves with ventures of unfaltering faith into old
missionary pathways, which must largely be credited with our
failures and limited successes in the East. . . . The charge, if
verified, falls not so much on the societies, or missionary orders,
or on the Church whose handmaids they are, as on ourselves
who represent them, and if nobody else is moved to contrition,
I believe we ought to be. I hope we are, and that before this
distinguished body of the clergy and laity of our Church.'

After describing the multifarious duties that sank the
apostolate into a routine of commonplace labours, he ap-
pealed for communities to work in poverty and purity,
and for communities of women also, led, if it might be,

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as in olden days, by some great lady of blood royal ; lie
pleaded for more decentralization ; greater authority to be
allowed to veterans upon the several fields in consultation
with their bishops; while the societies threw all their
strength more into the home work of raising funds and
circulating information.

*I would yet pray you, brethren and fathers in Christ,' he
concluded, ^ to plead for a larger apostolate in the mission-field.
Truer, I trust, we need not ask, but larger we do need of labourers
approving their apostolicity in love, purity, power, poverty, and
devotedness. ... Be it ours on our knees, in our closets, and in
the presence and with the co-operation of our flocks, to weigh
seriously the heavy responsibility attaching to us as a branch of
the Catholic Church of Christ, built on the foundation of apostles
and prophets, having a great deposit handed down to us from the
days of St. Aidan, St. Boniface, St. Anschar, and others, a debt
for whose faithful discharge we are accountable to the Church of
God, and to the Church's great Head and High Priest, the King
and Saviour of men.'

This paper was unwelcome to some of the younger mis-
sionaries in particular, who were not quite prepared for
such a public act of self-humiliation. In writing to remove
misapprehensions of his true meaning by one of these, the
bishop, after sundry explanations, added : —

*I have simply, as God enabled me, and with much prayer,
stated the results of my experience and my convictions. Wherein
my brethren disagree with them (and I am sorely disappointed
to find others, and yourself among them, do to so great an extent\
I must be content to make my appeal to the great Bishop and
Shepherd of souls. In all that I have said I have felt sorely
self-accused, and if none else is guilty, I am sure I am. I can
hope but for a few more yeara to serve in the missionary ministry
in any form, and I cannot be sorry to have spoken my heart out
under a constraint which pressed sore on me, and which the
society at home has taken most kindly. A few years more
will reveal the truth about these matters beyond what will be
admitted and confessed now.

*The loss of your boy must have been sorely afflictive, and
I grieve that my words should have tried you at such a time,
when you must have needed refreshment and comfort. Having
spoken once so plainly, and, as some think, unkindly and hai-shly,
I am silent henceforth. **The Judge standeth before the door."
To-morrow I enter on the seventh year of my episcopate ; may
our last works be far better, and more than the first. '

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The last subject connected with the native Christians on
which the bishop's views need be recorded is one now
rather coming to the front again, * the Church's Boards of
Missions.' Archbishop Benson, in a kind autograph letter,
particularly invited French's presence and counsel on this
matter for the Lambeth Conference of 1888, and in conse-
quence of this appeal he wrote his views somewhat fully,
both to the late General Maclagan (then secretary of the
Canterbury Board), and to his younger friend, Bishop
Bickersteth. His letter to the latter may be given: —

Bussorah, cTan. 26, 1888.

I can conceive the Board (or rather the Church's Council of
Missions, as I would prefer to find it called) becoming the centre
of all our Universities' Missions, Oxford and Cambridge Missions,
&c., and any such as may be founded on the same or like footing,
it being understood that this Council, being composed of some
bishops of our Home Church, with a few such divines as Canons
Liddon, Westcott, and Bright, should be ultimately charged with
issuing the Church's commission to the men sent forth in con-
nexion with the University movements. The same Council
would, in the next place, if it could be so arranged, act as the
representative of the Church in its corporate action in the ultimate
separation and sending forth of the nominees of our gi'eat Church
Societies, so that the dismissal, if still thought necessary, from
the Committee- rooms at Salisbury Square and Delahay Street,
would be followed by a still more solemn and direct setting
apart in the Church's behalf of those called to do the work of
evangelists in its missionary fields. I have reason to believe
that not a few of our young missionaries would hail thankfully
such a forward step in the direction of crowning and confirming,
and as far as possible perfecting, the Societies' operations and
selection of agents by such a final act of formal consecration,
which could hardly fail by God's blessing to contribute largely
to the solemnity and dignity of the commission as derived from
men entrusted by the entire body of the Church to administer this
great office on its behalf.

Further, if, as seems most likely, the necessities of the work
and of the Christian Churches with which the Anglican Church is
called to deal in God's providence, should far outstrip the means
of the great Societies and the various University Missions, would
not the Church's Mission Council be the proper body, and in the
best position, to make known the needs as yet unsupplied, and to
summon to the help of the Lord those individuals or Christian
communities whose abundance bore some proportion to the
dimensions of the work to be done? It is possible that not


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a few who resist the importunate pleadings of the agents of
our Societies, might feel ashamed or reluctant to resist the
united call and authoritative appeal of the Church, their mother.
Probahly such an appeal might call forth a considerable increase
of voluntary, unpaid labours so as to realize as nearly as possible
the Archbishop's desire and pledged assurance that the Board or
Council should not involve any additional and separate money
outlay, or appeals for resources. This would be likely to bring
about a closer interaction and fellowship between the home and
foreign episcopate. To many, however, it would appear little
short of a revolution in our missionary procedure, which has
struck its roots so deeply into our methods of Church work in
the missionary field. Such a movement therefore would require
to be presented to the English public with great discretion and
caution. It need not interfere (so far as I can see) with the
Societies' present mode of action. They would still present
nominees having their views in harmony with the views they
inherit from their founders and successive promoters. It is
probable the line suggested in this letter is one which presents
itself independently to many minds, and breathes the longing of
many hearts already. If it is of the Spirit of order and unity,
and tends both to the peace of the Church and to the better
fulfilment of its high and holy mission, it will be brought about
without a struggle.

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'The letters of the noble dead

Are leaves that never lose their green.'

* He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me ;
and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.
And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after Me, is not worthy
of Me.'— 5. Matthew x. 37, 38.

The account of this Lahore episcopate could not be
deemed complete without some extracts from the bishop's
letters revealing something of his life in his own home and
of the circumstances of his resignation.

His father's death, and the marriage of his eldest daughter
Ellen in 1878 and of his second daughter Lydia in 1881,
have been already mentioned.

The family event that left the deepest impress on his life
was the long suffering from some spinal ailment of his
youngest daughter Edith, which terminated in her death
in 1885. It was this principally that led Mrs. French to
return to England early in 1881, after the bishop's second
synod, and to remain there till his last synod in 1885.
Many letters to many friends of various degrees of rank and
intimacy, expressing sympathy in varied trials, have come
before the eyes of the biographer ; but probably the bishop's
ministry of consolation nowhere appears in such rich tender-
ness and ftdlness as in his correspondence with his much-
loved child. At the time of the first letter quoted she was
only thirteen years of age.

L 2

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To Edith. (A Military Service and Musical Maina.)

Meean Meer, April 28, 1878.
My very dear little Edith,

Your letter gladdened my heart ; it was so full of your
own dear natural self. How I long to look at your smiling face
a^in, and have my Bible carried to a sideboard by a precious
child. When will that be again ? Perhaps in India some day.
... I preached this morning to a large churchful of soldiers,
some in white coats, and the Artillery in dark blue. Some come
with their swords on, and they make such a clang and clatter
when they touch the stony ground. There was a large bird,
a sort of maina, larger than a starling, who came to church this
morning and would not go : it came and perched on the top of
the lectern, and when the choir began to sing and the organ to
play it whistled and chirped with all its might. I am sorry to
say the little choir-boys nearly all laughed. I hope Wilfrid and
you would not have done so ! The chaplain tried to catch it, and
an officer tried to frighten it with his sword scabbard, but it was
all no use. I forgot all about it when I began to preach on Hos. vi.
J, 2, 3, 'Come, and let us return unto the Lord, for He hath
torn, and He will heal,' &c. The poor soldiers have nearly two-
thirds of them been sick with bad fever lately, which they brought
with them from Jhansi, their former station. I told them that this
was the tearing and smiting which came from God to them, and that
He who tore could heal, and I hoped they too would say, * Come,
and let us return unto the Lord. After two days He will revive
us.' I told them I thought it was appropriate for me to preach
to them on that the first time I came among them as bishop.
This made them all look up and behave very attentively. . . .
I found two lines in an Afghan poet lately — * God has made by
His own power one city great, another small, not that every town
J)ecomes Delhi or Lahore.' So you see my little diocese has what
the poet thought the two chief cities in the world I The other
bishops would have something to say to that, I think. Even
Mr. Robert Clark thinks I have been very greedy in getting so
many hill stations in my diocese — Simla, Murree, Dalhousie,
Dharmsala, &c., but what could I do ? I never asked for them,
I am sure. But I think all my dear eight sons and daughters
might be at a separate hill station, and the list not quite ex-
hausted. All this is a very small matter indeed if only our dear
Saviour might have some more churches and congregations for
His own, and come and set up His throne in the Punjab ; then
fine cities and hill stations would dwindle into nothing in our
eyes, I hope.

Your very loving papa,

Thos. V. Lahore.

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To Cyril.

Easter Day, April 13, 1879.

*o Kvfwts (yrfytprm. I must greet you to-day with the old Easter
Day salutation, for I must not doubt that to you, as to me, it has
been a day of joy and refreshment, animating you in your pulpit
and other ministrations with new power, energy, and success,
I trust. It is always a great happiness to me to think of you
as associated with me in the work of a shepherd and ambassador
of souls. May your testimony be prolonged long after mine has
been silenced by encroachment of age, decay, and death, and may
your crown of rejoicing be far more richly and fully bejewelled
than my own.

I was glancing at an interesting, rather free-thinking little
book, unhappily, on the * Conservation of Energy,' as regards the
mechanical forces and working energies of the great powers of
nature, inquiring how far we may look for those forces to go on
working for indefinite ages, and how far we must anticipate their
exhaustion. It struck me it would be interesting to compare these
wiih the great divine supernatural forces which the Bible so
much dwells upon, especially St. Paul, in whose mouth tvi^tia
and dvra/iif so often occur ; so I have worked it up into as simple
a sermon as I could for this Easter evening on Eph. i. 19, 20 —
the effectual force and energetic working in believers of the
Eesurrection power by which Christ our Lord was raised. Of
course I have subordinated the metaphysical and scientific part
of the subject to the spiiitual and practical.

This morning I dwelt (in Hindustani), before a wonderful
congregation of native Christians (some 200, of whom 75 were
confirmed yesterday, and over 160 were present at the Lord's
table this morning), on the destruction of Pharaoh's host in the
Eed Sea as the appropriate type of the open tomb of the Lord
Jesus, round about which are strewn the corpses of the forgiven,
obliterated, and subdued sins of His people, as set forth in
Micah viL so strikingly, not forgetting Rev. xv. You may be
able to work out the thought more carefully some future Easter.

To Mrs. Knox. (On the Bishop's first grandchild.)

Lahore, April 28, 1879.

It seems as if I must write one line of hearty and affectionate
congratulation and thanksgiving, dearest Ellen, before I write any-
thing else to anybody, after receiving your dear husband's tele-
gram, which it was very good and considerate of him indeed to
send. How strange it seems that the good news should reach
us the same day between four and five o'clock. Yourself and the
precious gift bestowed on you will be much on my heart in
prayerful remembrance and sympathy, for I know how full the

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overflow of joy is with which one welcomes the expected first-
born. ... I cannot at all realize as yet that I am a grandfather :
when I do I shall begin to feel how old I am getting. I wish
my beloved father could have been spared that little while to be
a great-grandparent. I must not add more to-day than the prayer
that He will turn His hand on the little one in the sense of
guidance and guardianship as well as blessing.

To Cyril. (On his entering Priest's Orders.)

Lahore, May 21, 1879.

In the midst of visitation joumeyings (I am only in here for half
a day) I find it difficult to collect my thoughts to write to you in
connexion with such a deeply interesting occasion as your admission
to Priest's Orders ; yet I like you to know that these events of
your spiritual history do not pass by unnoticed and unremembered.
. . . Your work seems to grow upon your hands a little faster than
is profitable, as I find it in my own experience, and I felt rebuked
by what I saw in the Guardian mentioned of the new Bishop of
Lichfield \ that he refuses many invitations to preach on the
ground that he miist secure time for devotional exercises — in the
way of * quiet days,' I suppose, and such special secessions from
the crowd and press of extraordinary, added to ordinary, calls.
Alas ! I groan heavily sometimes under the same inevitable
pressure, and my quietest days for reflection and meditation are
those spent in the railway or the wayside inn in the hot weather,
when to travel between ten and three is almost perilous ; but
even then arrears of correspondence sometimes rear their threaten-
ing piles before my face, and will only be reduced in dimensions
by patient steady effort.

To-morrow is Ascension Day, and I have been trying to medi-
tate on its great and glorious themes in their practical as well as
doctrinal and historical bearings, for without the former one is
distressed to see how the two latter are listened to callously and
heedlessly — as very proper indeed, but not in the least ruffling the
calm and evenness of men's worldly life. ... I feel convinced that
I want more depth, holiness, and unction of love in my ministra-
tions, and that till my character itself grows in these, the results
of the ministry will be feeble, and the profiting vrill not appear.
I was struck by a remark of Tauler's this morning — it helped me
a little ; speaking of the Apostles, he says, * The Eternal Father
drew them upwards that He might reign as a Master in them.
Hence it was needful that they should be drawn out of them-
selves, because they could not be free, at one, noble, and loving,
so long as they were held captive to self. Their nature was not

' Dr. Maclagan.

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extinguished, for they were much more truly according to their
nature in their self-surrender, than they had ever been before.'

It is a great temptation to me to try and do one's best always,
for though this seems all right, yet one's best is one's otvn best,
and I want to have the calm self-possession which makes all one's
efforts rest in God, not extinguishing effort, but calming it by con-
secrating it It is a great fear of the world and courting of its
praise to be always toiling and moiling to avoid being thought
idle, and so not being, or too seldom being with Christ in His
mount of wrestling and prayer.

To Mrs. Sheldon. (On his Ghurchmanship.)

Dalhousie, July 18, 1879.

I fear you think me too High Church in my views, but the

Online LibraryH. A. (Herbert Alfred) BirksThe life and correspondence of Thomas Valpy French, first bishop of Lahore → online text (page 16 of 46)