H. A. (Herbert Alfred) Birks.

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

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bitterness of the attacks on our Church here are such, and its
discipline and good order have sunk so low, that I feel bound to
carry out and act upon my strong views as to the Prayer-book
being the thorough and only wholesome representative of primi-
tive catholic truth and order. If we abnegate our discipline and
priestly functions (up to the point our prayer-book and reformers
inherited and laid claim to them), what remains but that Rome
should step in and snatch triumphantly the spoil ? However,
say or do what I will, I always go down for a Low Churchman.
People do not care about ritual, but they do resent being preached
to about conversion, and being told that all are not Israel that are
of Israel, and that the friendship of the world is enmity with

God. All that Canon makes evangelicalism to consist of they

will listen to with indiflFerency, and sleep it out — Justification —
Imputation — what care they about such things ? But to be waked
up, when they want to sleep ; to be told they must have oil as
well as the lamp, is intolerable, and to be resisted. The world's
notion of well-doing is faulty and defective : it is well-doing with
the cross borne — and such well-doing as Christ's was, which will
always involve the cross— to which we are called.

To Cyril. (On Newman's Sermons.)

Dharmsala, July 25, 1879.

A case deeply interested me to-day of a very thoughtful lady
who has been a professed unbeliever with her husband, but seems
under very serious concern about her soul, and told me to-day the
light was now dawning upon her. A volume of Newman's Ser-
mons I lent her has helped her greatly, which will surprise you.
The fact is, the extreme solemnity and reverential spirit for sacred
things, and the close analysis of the heart and its workings, with
man^est sympathy for persons under dif&culties, with a consider-
able amount interspersed of direct dogmatic teaching, combined

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under God to render the book appropriate to her case, as I judged
also it would be. Such cases are a marvellous help and encourage-
ment amidst many fears and doubts apt to arise whether one's
work is prospered of God.

To Mbs. Knox.

Nov. 1879.

I am so enjoying Godet on St. John. It is delicious French,
but the matter is of the finest of the wheat and honey of our

To Basil. (On entering at Cambridge.)

Peshawur, Oct. 8, 1880.

This letter will find you, I trust, entered, and already beginning
to feel settled down in your long^anticipated University life, and
well pleased with the circle and society in which your lot is cast,
and which, I hope, will be very profitable to you, and reap much
profit from you, as it always must do from every consistent and
persevering Christian example. I could wish to have been able
to go up with you as I did with dear Cyril, and see you in your
first college room, with its modest furniture and plain substantial
look of comfort. ... I need say little to you about the choice of
friends, for you have tried at school, I believe, to be careful in
your companionships. I went up to Oxford with little seriousness,
I am sorry to say, and was much helped by the friends I was led
to select, or rather was thrown amongst, by Bishop Waldegi-ave,
Mr. Golightly, and others. I was thus saved, not so much from
a wild and dissolute, as from a worldly course of life, although
the latter pretty often comes by a gradual descent to the low level
of the former. It was great grace that kept me, and I pray God
that the same sheltering and shielding grace may uphold you, and
set your feet on the Rock of your Saviour's strength, who is able
to keep you from falling, so that the victory which overcometh
the world may ever be your portion. May your principle in the
selection of friends be that simple and beautiful one of St. John,
* Whom I love in the Truth for the Truth's sake, which dwelleth
in us, and shall be in us for ever.' . . . You will be able to study
Ely Cathedral some day. I often wish I had made church archi-
tecture more my study : it would have helped me much now.
Cambridge has much more material for the study of architecture
(I imagine) than Oxford — in its churches at least. You will not
forget how many men foolishly throw their first year away in
the idea that they can make up lost ground hereafter. The first
year spent in laying a solid foundation makes a man distance
many a competitor at the close of the race. . . . Still, there is
nothing like working to glorify God and to please Christ, and in
remembrance of the great account.

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To Edith.

Autumn, 1880 ^undated).

I must just begin an answer to your letter and try to finish
it for next mail : a half sugar-plum is better than none. I was
telling the soldiers this morning about General Garfield, how he
came back from his canal-boat life to his mother's hut somewhere
in the backwoods, and coming to the hut at night he saw a light
and looked in at a window and saw his mother reading her Bible,
and she looked up from her Bible to heaven, and he heard these
words coming from her lips, * Give Thy strength to Thy servant,
and save the son of Thine handmaid.' Upon which he went in,
and standing by his mother's side vowed himself to God from
that time forward. You have not given me a text lately : I shall
be so glad to have another one that has helped and strengthened
you. I dwelt to-day for the natives on those words, * Why cannot
I follow Thee now?' It seems to me such a heart-searching
question. I stayed the other day at General Palliser's, . . . who
led on the cavalry against the Afghans at the battle of Ahmed
Kheyl. I saw him at nearly all the prayer-meetings at Candahar.
He seemed pleased that I spoke with praise and thankfulness of
Wesley's hymns on seeking after growth in holiness and more
perfectness in the life and love of God. I think he was surprised
that a bishop should praise Wesley. He was formerly a great
tiger hunter. He told me that he had helped to kill about eighty
tigers, but he had given all the skins away. ... I am so glad you
get your two hours of work daily : it must make the day pass so
much more pleasantly. I begin to long so to see you again. Time
seems to go very slowly on. I pray God to give you health and
strength, and, if it be His will, that your lips may speak His praise,
and your life be a speechful image too. I wish you knew good
Miss £lliott of Hastings— always an invalid, yet always in quiet
simple ways glorifying Jesus. I read a sweet little book in prose
by Miss Havergal last week called Royal Gifts and Loyal Services,
or nearly that title. There was one striking little chapter on
David's rejoicing at the willing offering of the people for the
temple. Now no more. Much love to dear A., and a bishop's
blessing to her schoolboys.

In February, 1881, the bishop took Mrs. French to Bom-
bay, and whilst she sailed in one steamer for England, he
left in another for Karachi. On February 8 he wrote to
her from The Calcutta : —

* We expect to arrive in port to-day . . . and I must begin a few
lines were it only to express the many loving thankful thoughts
and regrets with which I think of the happy past, and all the

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thousand helps you have given me the last two and a half years.
It will be long before I shall realize that on returning I shall
return to an empty home. ... It will be some little recompense
to you to feel how tenderly all is appreciated and remembered.
It will be a great comfort to me to hear of your safe arrival, and
happy meeting with the dear children, to whom (in the case of
the sick ones) your presence and mother's sympathy will be
almost more than one hundred medicines. ... It is my delight to
commend you and ours earnestly to Israel's never-slumbering
Shepherd and Keeper.

To Edith.

Lahore, Matxh 15, i88t.

Here I am, dearest child, just one day in the empty and
solitary house, except that I have asked Jesus to stay with me,
and help and comfort me, and I believe He will. I loved your
comforting letter of yesterday very much about Deut. xxxii. It is
a very favourite chapter of mine too — and what do you think ? just
after reading it I had to go and examine Mr. Clark's Alexandra
School of nearly fifty girls of the more well-to-do classes of
Christians, and I read them out pai*t of your letter to me, and
you should have seen how they brightened up and smiled. The
letter seemed to have come just in time. I told them of your con-
firmation, and that I believed you had given your heart then to
the Lord wholly, and had been very happy in Him since and
trying to work for Him. Ten of them were confirmed last
Sunday, so it seemed appropriate to tell them this, and you know
and believe that it is all of grace, only grace, as is said in the text
on which I spoke first last Thursday at the opening of a native
Christian church at Allahabad, ' They shall bring forth the top-
stone with shoutings of grace,' i. e. it is all gr^Qe from first to last ;
and then another, * I will bring them to My holy mountain, and
make them joyful in My house of prayer,' — not only bring them
there, but make them joyful when thera On this also I spoke
at Sukkur on the Indus in consecrating the church there : it stands
on a lime rock overlooking^ the great king river, and shows that
Christ is a greater king than even he 1 On Sunday I confirmed
over forty Christian young men and women. I spoke of learning
from the Cross the spirit of Sacrifice, and the spirit of Service ;
and gaining from the Cross, Pardon, Peace, Power. This
evening, I hope to address a party of Hindu and Mohammedan
youths on ancient aud modern education, wherein they agree
and also differ, especially what Christ and the Gospel have done
for education, that He is the Head-Master of all our schools — one
is your Master, even Christ; and I hope to ask them whether
they have ever asked Him to teach them, to be their Master of
all truth, and that He will teach them ail their life long, and
for ever.

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I have been looking at my old master Dr. Arnold's letters, and
his remarks on education. One letter (82") is very striking about
studying Christ's sufferings when we are sick, and another about
the Unitarians, of whom he says that they seem to think and
speak of Christ as if He were dead instead of living, so they
cannot do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.

If your young friends have very rich friends, any of them,
perhaps you will show them the enclosed circular, which I dis-
tribute everywhere, but almost in vain. You can say I intend
to build a strong large parish church : by-and-by my successor
can add steeples to it, and make it a cathedral. I am longing to
hear of dear mama's and L. and A.'s safe arrival. I have only
heard from Suez.

To Edith.

Easter Day, Rawul Pindi, April 17, 1881.

... I feel so, so sorry that you have done with Mrs. Um-
phelby and her bright circle of old friends, though to be with
your dear mother will more than make rich amends in many
ways. I do so long to come in and have a look at you, and be
comforted in my cares and sorrows in seeing your bright smiles,
in spite of pain and weakness. If it be God's will, may you be
spared to welcome me back again, but God does not seem to give
me leave at present to turn my back on India. ... In dwelling
this evening on * the body is for the Lord,' I am thinking of you,
dearest child, and remembering how God uses often sickness,
pain, and suffering of body, as means of growth and fresh health
and life to the soul, which is very wonderful and all of His grace.
How often invalids seem brimful of love, and peace, and un-
murmuring rest in God's will, and seem to delight in quiet work
and prayer for the Kingdom of Christ, and have much of that
wisdom St. James talks of, first pure, then peaceable. ... It is
a sight to see the churches in Peshawur and Eawul Pindi, the
number of soldiers and officers. In this place there has been
almost every officer at the Holy Communion to-day at the two
morning services. I dwelt on Jesus Christ as * the Beginning, the
first-born from the dead, that in all things He might have pre-
eminence.' . . . My heart rejoiced in delivering this blessed
message. I am sure an archangel might well envy me, if they
could envy in heaven. I showed how all our beginnings of good
and of resisting evil were embraced in Christ as * the Beginning,'
and how all was from the victory of His cross and the power of
His resurrection. ... I know you will pray that Jesus will be the
Omega as well as the Alpha, and will finish in many many hearts
the good thing He has begun. * He toUl perfect, He will perfect,'
said a dying bishop once.

The next two or three extracts concern some of the lesser

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worries of his work, part of the daily burden of the care of
all the Churches.

To Mrs. French. (Small Troubles at Kasauli and elsewhere.)

May Si i88i«

It is hard work for a bishop to try to throw oil on such boil-
ing yeasty waves, but I pray God it may be given me. * Love
is of God,' as I told them yesterday, and I can't give it them.
The points of discussion were some quite frivolous and silly ; but
many molehills make a big mountain, as it seems, or, as St. James
puts it — How great a fuel a little fire kindleth! Then I have
had to soothe the N. people, who are indignant, chaplain and
all, because I wrote in the Record-book, speaking of the Sunday
there, * The day was not satisfactory, I fear, viewed in the light
of eternity,' referring to the few communicants and small collection.
I tell them the censure was chiefly on myself for preaching so
ineffectively, but they can't take this in.

To Mbs. French. (Newspaper Controversialists.)

July 10, 1881, from Murree.

I have sent a letter to the Eecord in reply to Mr. P.'s, but it is
the last of the kind I mean to send. I think my friends generally

seemed to think I should take notice of it. writes to me

a very distressing letter of expostulation about the Sisterhood.
I must send him a few lines. ... It is a comfort to answer attacks
at once, then one forgets them. Poor fellow, he and I both seek
God's glory, I trust ; . . . from their comfortable retreats it is easy
for them to launch their missiles at us in these trying and often
sufFeiing places of the field.

On the same subject he wrote also to Cyril : —

^ It has a little vexed me to be so misrepresented. . . . My great
struggle is to keep Eitualism from raising its head and triumphing,
while I wish to use whatever is good and holy and self-denying in
it. That is in my judgement not cowardice or compromise, but
rather manly wisdom and economizing all available forces for
resisting evil and error.'

To Dr. Valpy French.

J^y i3» i88i-
You have struck an important blow at a social vice and
corruption in attacking the ' toasting system.' It has long been
a distress and source of shame to me, though in India the
dimensions of the evil have shrunk very materially. The
regimental messes have steadily improved. During a mess at

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Ambala three or four weeks since, the colonel said to me that
it was marvellous to him to see the change in messes since he
first entered the service. After dinner the door was locked, and
not an officer could leave till they were under the table, or all
but there

All honour to the men (yourself among the rest^ who have
stood in the breach before God to turn away His wrathful indig-
nation. I have never had such a year for temperance addresses
as this year, though mine of course are vastly inferior to your
elaborate, highly-seasoned, and eloquent addresses.

The Record has been attacking me, or rather has; but

I have sent a simple statement in reply, which I hope will satisfy
moderate men. Violent partisanship I cannot hope to make way
with. I go in very much for the insides rather than the outmdes,
and, so long as the former are not put into the background and
fncalloiced up in the form, I am scarcely conscious oi party gestures
and ritual. I am feeling rather worn just now, having six hours
daily at the Revision Committee of the Hindustani Prayer book.
To-day we have been at the Athanasian Creed, and it has been
severe thought, needing as it did considerable alteration. We
shall have a smaller circle to criticize us than the English com-
mittees have had I Six weeks of pastoral work in several large
cantonments were in some ways a refreshing change. But for the
variety of work I could scarcely hope to be as weU as I am.

To Edith.

Murree, July 20, 1881.

I hope the many exciting visits you receive from various
relatives and friends will not be too much for you. I like that
little text, * Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts,* as if it said.
* Have a little quiet, calm sanctuary and retreat in the depths of
your heart to which you can retire, and be quite calm and peaceful,
alone with God.' Feeling is of much less matter in our religion,
hut in every little duty and relation to he faithful as to Christ, and
to keep self well on the Gross, fast-nailed, bleeding, 7ta//dead at
least (whole dead perhaps he never will be on this side the grave),
going to Him afresh daily for cleansing, teaching, guiding— these
things seem to have much to do with testing the reality, depth,
and growth of our piety. . . .

I am much afraid the club at Lahore is trying to buy Bishop-
.stowe and make it Clubstowe instead ! I don't think that will be
a prettier name, do you ? But they are jealous of the nice lawn
and trees, though they are not in English trim and style ; no
oaks or elms — we have to be satisfied with farrashes and sin*uses,
poor coarse trees, but yet green when it rains, which is not very
often — not even limes and poplars. But as St. Paul does not say
a bishop must have either lawn-sleeves or garden-lawns, I suppose

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I must be content if the house is bought over my head ; however,
I have written to Sir R Egerton to see if the Government
will buy it for the Lahore bishops. The Bomish bishop is
trying to vie with me and get the better of me in schools and
churches, and in some ways gets the better of me, for he has
more money ; but I hope the great Bishop of souls will be on my
side and I on His, and then there will be no fear.

Forgive your father being a little plajrful, for with so many
grave things to think of a littie bit of fun is a relief.

Though brightened by his daughter Lydia's wedding, the
year closed in with much anxiety through the almost fatal
sickness of Archdeacon Matthew, and the more serious turn
of Edith's chronic weakness.

To HIS Niece and God-dauohter. (On her Confirmation.)

Phillour, Punjab, Oct. 14, 1881.

I should like to have had a quieter time, so as to think more
what sort of gifts you would wish me to ask for you of our
Heavenly Father. But in your quiet village-home how little you
can tell yourself what kind of life is before you, and in what form
and shape the world will try to attract you and claim your love.
One thing St. John seems very clear about, that whatever steals
the heart away from the love of the Father, that is the world
to each of us. I had a number of young people here to-day, and
was trying to get them to ask each of their Saviour (as St. Pet«r
once did », * Lord, why cannot I follow Thee now ? ' What is it
keeps me back from being fully, wholly Thine in singleness of
heart, having

*The simple heart without alloy
That only longs to be like Thee*?

This is like David asking God to search him and see if there was
any evil way in him, and to lead him in the way everlasting.
This shows what a true, honest purpose he had — no concealment -
which I trust and believe is what you long for too, my dearest

But there is something so gladdening and refreshing in the
great care God our Father has of this matter, confirming seems
to be His great work and constant thought and desire. You
will easily find texts to show this clearly. A young lady at
Simla seemed struck when I spoke of it much in the address ;
she had chiefly thought of what she had to confirm, not what
God our gracious Father confirms, i.e. both His own promises
He confirms, and also His grace and His goodness in us. All this
is full of joy. ...

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I look for Lydia in about three weeks. I am so pleased she
was able to pay you a little farewell visit It will be so nice for
me even to see her in passing — it will be hard to believe there is
no one else to follow her when she comes in sight— but I must be
of the spirit of the little boy who had a very scanty dinner, but
when asked to say his grace he said, ' I could eat more if I had
more, but I praise God for alL'

To Mrs. French. _ ,

Lahore, Nov, 5.

So many thanks for your courageous letter in connexion with
dear Lydia's departure, which will weigh you down sorely I fear
for many a long day . . . [SheJ arrived this morning at nine.
I was of course waiting with a carriage, and it was a very joyous
meeting, only it seemed to sadden me, as if you ought to have
been there and yet were not, so I could scarcely believe you were
not in the background somewhere concealed, and my heart
seemed everywhere looking for you. This has hindered my
enjoying the day as I hoped to do; yet I have been very
thai^ul, and all the arrangements for her have been as perfect
as could be, as only such a mother could make them. . . .

Your account of Edith is very distressing and disheartening,
and I cannot bear to think I may never look on the sweet little
face again. But it is a privilege ever to have had so dear and
affectionate a child, to whom, I believe, the Saviour has been so
precious. The symptoms are indeed alarming, and it is clear
she must soon get either much worse or much better, though
our view of what is worse and better may be very different from

To Mrs. French. (On the Archdeacon*s illness.)

Simla, Nov, 25, 1881.

You will be stai-tled at getting a letter again from Simla, but
the enclosed note from Mrs. M. will show you how the arch-
deacon has been snatched from the very jaws of death by Him
alone who takes the prey from the mighty. I quite thought this
week's obituary would contain his death, and I can scarcely doubt
for a moment that his life was given back to the prayers of his
friends and people. I came up from Delhi yesterday, after re-
ceiving such bad accounts that I scarcely knew whether I should
be in time to perform his funeral, which was the best I dared
hope. . . . Since I watched by what seemed your death-bed at
Agra, I have scarcely known such deep sorrow as the almost
certainty of the archdeacon's departure caused me, or such deep
joy as the tidings of the passing away of the crisis, or rather the
cancelling of the death warrant. ... I met many garis from
Simla on my way up yesterday, but dared not ask for tidings,
feeling almost sure the worst must have come, yet hoping against

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hope. I turned in on my way to the Molesworths' at the
chemist's, and there had the comfoi*t of learning a change for the
better had set in, and my heart leapt within me for joy. . . .

Of course I was bound to give up hope \ yet when I read the
Psalms, and they began ' I am well pleased that the Lord hath
heard,' and further on came the reassuring words, *I shall not
die, but live and declare,' I dared not aduuUy despair, because
we had fervently prayed, and on Tuesday the words seemed to
come with power to my heart, * Jesus said unto him, I will
come and heal him.' It seemed to me as if to lose poor dear
Mr. Gordon and the archdeacon in two successive years was
almost more than I could support, and the latter teas in mercy
spared and given back.

To Mrs. French.

Lahore, Dec, lo, 1881.

Your letter of the 1 7th has just come in with its sad and dis-
tressing news about dearest Edith. It is hard and sad indeed
to write to her under such circumstances. She seemed to enjoy
life so much, and to be so blithe and gladsome and cheeiy, that
I can't picture her or think of her as taken from us, though she
was such a little weakling so long. I cannot give up hope,
however, while the doctors do not. She has taught us all so
much by the sweet texts she used to end her letters with, and

Online LibraryH. A. (Herbert Alfred) BirksThe life and correspondence of Thomas Valpy French, first bishop of Lahore → online text (page 17 of 46)