H. A. (Herbert Alfred) Birks.

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

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there has ever been of late the sweet, chaste refinement of
Christian girlhood so marked and noticeable, one can indeed
think of her as one of the 144,000 virgins, standing by the Lamb
on Mount Sion, with His ^so the new version is) and His Father's
name written on their foreheads, guileless and without fault
l)efore the throne of God. It reminds me so affectingly of the
one loss in our family of my beloved brother. I should indeed
praise Gcd with all my heart if she were to be spared, for she
was very near my heart, and her childlike, artless talk seemed
to rest my weary brain. The thought of losing her will bring
tears, yet those whose angels do always behold the face of our
Father cannot themselves be hidden from His face.

To Edith. ^ __

Dec. II, 1881.

To hear of your sad illness makes my heart full of grief, but
God has been so good often to me and mine, that I must not
lose hope but commend you to the Great Physician, who * Him-
self took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses.' I often wish
I could be at home to read and pray with you, and have little
walks by the side of your chair ; but that could not make you

^ On receiving the telegram to say that he was dying.

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well, it could only assure you of what you know already, how
much I love you, though my work makes me such a cruel run-
away from home. I often seem just ready to break down, but
get raised up again. ... It comforted me this morning to preach
on those words, ^ The Lamb shall overcome them, for He is Lord
of Lords.' He is so strong, as the lion of the tribe of Judah, ^ and
yet so tender, and thoughtful, and kind, and patient.' He shall
feed them, and lead them to living fountains of waters, I say the
23rd Psalm most nights over to myself, and the last few days
I have thought of those words (Isa. xxxii.), * the work of righteous-
ness shall be peace ; and the effect of righteousness quietness and
assurance for ever.'

In these troubled, anxious, fretful, excitable days what rest it
gives to think of this, and feel that it is by hiding in the Rock of
Ages and taking hold of our Father's strength that the peacefulness
and restfulness comes. Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
yet shaU thou revive me,

I love to think of your dear efforts to gather money for me.

To Mbs. French.

Dec, 18, 1881.

My heart was comforted on Friday by getting your dear letter,
which as usual makes all the home start up so vividly before
me. ... I cannot but heartily praise God for the little improve-
ment, though I know I must not build over confidently upon it.
I must and will try to keep my will in harmony with His ; but
yet I cannot bear to think of losing the dear child. Mr. Cheyne
renders Isa. viL 4, 'Say unto him, See that thou keep calm;
feai* not, neither let thine heart be soft.' ... I think of the little
story : ' A gardener went into the garden, saw one of the loveliest
flowers plucked off, and asked the under-gardener " Who plucked
this flower? " "The master," was the reply. The gardener was
silent,' It is so full of truth, the little anecdote, only it cannot
tell what a Master ours is, how tender and sparing, if it is for the
best to spare.

To Edith.

Dec, 19, 1881.

I don't like a mail going without a line from me while you ai*e
such a sufferer, though I fear I cannot always quite manage it.
The suffering member of a family seems to have a first claim to
thought and sympathy. I am sure it is so in our heavenly
Father's great family too, and we may well imitate Him. I do so
wish sometimes I could fly across and have if only a peep at you.
It is very keen, cold weather here, and we are enjoying our wood
tires. Such huge blocks of wood they bring I I was obliged to
tell them not to bring whole trees, but more of the faggot kind. . . .
In about a month I expect to be on my journeys again beyond


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the Indus, where dear Mr, Gordon used to be with me. A few
years hence these little beginnings there will be forgotten in the
far greater work of our successors. I think often of Luther's
words — 'Let Luther die but Christ live.' It makes me happy
to think that He mtfM reign ; the idols He shall utterly abolish —
all that is false and unreal, not only the hideous images and
jujus of the Africans and Hindus —

'All shadows from the truth shall fall.
And falsehood die in sight of Thee.'

... I hope Wilfrid will read his Missionary Gleaners to you
sometimes. It is mail time, and this letter must take its long
journey ; so I must not write more or tire you. What more
I say must be said to God for you.

The next year was a brighter one. Edith obtained a little
respite in her sharper suffering, and though the bishop
suffered a bereavement in the death of his brother-in-law,
Mr. Gregg, the event of chiefest interest in his own imme-
diate circle was of a joyous character, the marriage of his
eldest son Cyril to Miss Emily Ballard.

To Edith. _

Jan. 22, 1882.

I must try once a fortnight, dearest Edith, to send you a line
or two of remembrance and sympathy. It saddens me sorely not
to get better tidings of you, but I daresay you are sometimes able
to say —

* Choose Thou for me my friends,

My sickness or my health ;
Choose Thou my eai*es for me,
My poverty or wealth.'

And you can be a faithful intercessor, pleading for all you love,
and for the work of God and His fellow -creatures everywhere.
Miss Elliott says invalids are a great jpowcr in the Church of God.
. . . This evening, 'Christ in you, the hope of glory,' is part of
my text : Christ in us as the crucifixion of self and sin, and the
resurrection to life, love, and holiness.

We had our house (Bishopstowe) broken into last Thursday.
Two natives got in and prowled about, and one walked with
a lighted candle into the Sisters' room', and when they spoke

^ The Murree Sisters, who as usual were spending their Christmas at

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blew the candle out, and fled through the glass doors, breaking
them to pieces. You would have smiled to see us all: two
Sisters, Mr. and Mrs. J. and me walking about in our dressing-
gowns, like ghosts, to see what had been taken ; but nothing was
carried off but a few little pieces of silk being worked for a bazaar.
They did not get to the spoons or money.

To Edith. jjissar, March 5.

I have got up early to try to write you a few lines by candlelight,
while the birds in this pleasant green garden are trilling their
earliest and sweetest songs to greet the Sabbath mom. . . . You
must so delight to have Basil with you sometimes, and the use of
his strong arms to help you upstairs, still more I pray that the
Everlasting Arms may sustain and bear you up that ladder by
which angels come and go — the ladder of prayers and answers
to prayers above which the Lord Himself stands. I am afraid
the carriage Mr. Bickersteth and I travelled in the last two
days, drawn by two camels along roads sometimes rough and
sometimes smooth, would not quite have suited you, dear child.
I hope you have been able to keep up your chair^rives along the
smoother roads of Brighton, and that you still look out of your
windows on the grand old seas and the distant shipping. I used
to like Newton's hymn—

*In every object here I see
Something, Lord, that leads to Thee.'

... I sat a long time in Eiwari two days since with a learned
old man at his street-door, who tries to bind together in one, two
teachings, one of them Hindu and the other Mohammedan, called
Vedanta and Soofic philosophies. They both teach that every-
thing is God. I took and read to him a translation I lately
made for the Prayer-book of the second long hymn in the
Ordination Service on the Holy Spirit, which I commend to
you, dearest E., to try to learn, at any rate to read as a prayer.
It seems to gather up so prettily and simply what the Bible,
teaches about the Holy Spirit, about which the great St. Basil
wrote so much, after whom our dear Basil was named. The old
man seemed quite pleased with the hymn, and I hope it may
do him good. I read yesterday a nice passage in St. Bernard on
the Canticles on the words (c. ii. 9), ^ My beloved standeth behind
the wall. He looketh forth at the windows.' This St. B. refers
to the Incarnation of our Lord, how He came and looked at
us through the windows and lattice of our human nature (what
the Hindus call jharoka and jaliyan), knowing and seeing all our
sorrows, and taking part in them so as to sympathize. When
in bodily pain perhaps this may comfort you also, dearest E.,
as it does me. I like to think when I am in very great trouble

M 7,

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how 'Refelt, and felt for us, in the garden of Gethsemane, as my
favourite hymn puts it —

'And in the garden secretly,
And on the Cross on high,
He taught His brethren, and inspired
To suffer and to die.'

The day before yesterday our dak carriage broke down ; it
broke in ^nt, not to the side, so that we were not upset, only
we had to wait two hours, ' chewing the cud of patience ' on the
roadside till something came to pick us up. We were so happy
as to have carriages sent both £rom before and behind to help us
on our way at last, reminding us of the words, ' The Lord shall
go before you, and the God of Israel shall be your rereward.' The
native officer at a small town behind us sent his own little trap, as
we call it, saying that I was his old master at Agra, and he seemed
so pleased to be able to help me. But as Mr. Bickersteth wrote
for me he was puzzled, for he said he was sure it was not his
old master's handwriting ! I am afraid no one ever knows how to
imitate my handwriting, especially now that my thousands of
letters spoil it so, and make it illegible, I fear. It is so sad that
you have not the strength to write me a little weekly line as you
used to doy but I could not bear to weary you.

To Edith.

April 8 (Easter Eve), 1882.

I am just breaking off in the midst of my sermon on the
two disciples walking to Emmaus, and Jesus meeting them on the
way, and then His making Himself known to them in breaking of
bread. I have been so enjoying trying to picture it to myself.
I am sure it must have been the Lord's Supper with the Lord
Himself for celebrant, ministering to them in a spiritual manner
His own broken body. It seems so strange, and yet so sweet
and happy to think of. I was wondering whether dear C. ever
, gives you the holy supper when he comes down to see you. . . .

I wonder whether you read the little girl's letter to the Queen
about her being saved from the assassin and the Queen's answer.
I am afraid I have lost the little letter else I would send it ; it was
such a simple, natural child's letter. It must have been still
more delightful when Baruch and the Ethiopian eunuch got
special messages from God, the King of all the earth, for them-
selves. How nice it is to think that both in the Old and New
Testaments such notice was taken of Ethiopian eunuchs. . . . Some
people seem to think that Egypt will be the seat soon of a great
struggle between the Mohammedan and the European Christian
powers. That would affect us in India very much. . . .

The pomegranate crimson blossom is so lovely just now.

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I have one just opposite my study window, which I love to look
at ; I wish you could have it opposite your window. If it is dry
I must try to remember to put in a blossom or two, but I fear
the crimson blush will be lost. I see that in Ex. xxviiL 33, 34
(I am sorry to say I had to look in Cruden's Concordance, and
owe the C. M. S. 2d. at least), the high priest's dress had on the
hem of it pomegranates of purple and scarlet, a golden bell and
a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate. I wonder
whether it was the flower or the fruit represented on the hem :
the most beautiful priest's dress must have been that which the
Lord Himself put upon Joshua, when he said to him, ' See, I have
taken away the filthy garments from thee, and clothed thee with
change of raiment.'

To Edith. jf^y ^^ 1882.

I hope, dearest Edith, this may be a bright May Day to you,
and of real thankfulness to our Heavenly Father for so far
granting you good hope of recovery, beyond what I had ever
hoped to hear ofl My heart has been full of gladness, and
a heavy weight has been lifted indeed. It seems as if the great
Physician Himself had come to your house and said, ' I am the
Lord that healeth thee.' ... I read lately of a poor man who
swept the street-crossing in London, and when a gentleman con-
doled with him, he said, ' D'ye think I could go on with this 'ere
work all the day long if I didn't often think of the golden streets
of the New Jerusalem ? ' These little stories do me good for my-
self, and I store them up for the children in the schools. When
you get a nice one, do copy it for me, please. I have often to give

addresses and distribute prizes. I am afraid does not always

find it like feeding lambs to bring her boys into order, but I should
not like to be the little boy that recklessly disobeys her, I think
he would not come off best. • • • We had my favourite collect at
the Saint's Day service to-day, * Grant us perfectly to know Thy
Son Jesus Christ.' I was thinking how much we have to thank
St. Thomas for in asking that question, * How can we know the
way ? ' and so that very, very beautiful answer came, which one
is always trying to get to the bottom of and never ¥rill, not to all

To Mbs. French. (Society at Simla.)

Jfa^ao, 1882.

Two large successive dinner parties have closed the last two
days ; about twenty-six people each evening ; and the evening
before a party of about fifty at the viceroy's! Is it not sad
dissipation? However, each evening has brought its opportu-
nities of trying to say some useful words to young or old, and I do
trust our dear Lord does not allow me to have my thoughts

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scattered over mucli, and the main objects of my ministry and
its chief ends forgotten. It is not likely I can be spared to it
many years. Nobody is introduced to anybody, so I have to do
my best to introduce myself, and beg people's pardon for so
doing, which they usually grant good-naturedly. Last night the
four IBurmese ambassadors dined and took in young ladies to
dinner, who did not seem quite to like it. I don't know what
A. would have felt! I took in one of Sir C. B.'s daughters, who
seemed quite satisfied to be taken in by a bishop instead of an
ambassador, though I told her she ought to have had a younger
partner ! The Burmese played on the piano, one or two of them at
least who had spent years in Paris. Several English officers from
Burmah were at dinner, Mr. and Mrs. Fryer, and others.

May 26, The Queen's birthday ball took place last night. The
people at the hotel breakfast were wild about it. The lady next me
said she danced twenty times in the night. ^ What a boi-e it must
be ! ' I said. * Oh no I I quite enjoyed it, only my legs ache a little
this morning,' I wish she might come to be as active in good

works as she is in the dance, poor girl. I had to dine with

and ^ <m Tuesday ; nearly the whole party was of atheists and

freethinkers, but I don't know when God has given me such an
opportunity of testifying boldly for His truth before gainsayers !
It was indeed of His grace and goodness. One man most enthu-
siastically stood up for Buddhism as far better than Christianity,
and the noblest, truest, and holiest religion in the world. Dr. and
Mrs, L. and Mr, P. were there, and several others, among them
Sir Salar Jung's subordinate ambassador from the Nizam of
Hyderabad. Mr. I. told me how interested and surprised the
Nizam's envoy was in the discussion, for he thought that English
gentlemen never talked about anything but polo. I should not
mind any number of dinner parties if such openings for minis-
terial work occurred. They are obliged to be civil, that is the
worst of it, for one escapes the cross in its severest form in that
way. Wednesday was the durbar for the Queen's birthday ;
there must have been sixty or seventy to dinner. I could not
get a janpan, so had to ride. It does me great good getting so
much riding.

To Cyril. (On his Wedding.)

May 26, 1882.

After sending off about fourteen letters, with a confirmation of an
unusually anxious character this afternoon, and a prayer-meeting
with ordination candidates at night, besides an examination paper
on Genesis and Ezekiel just finished and despatched, you will
understand how hard I find it even to write to you and E.

^ Leading officials at Calcutta.

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Cyril's wedding. Indian heat 167

a short letter, but my heart will not let me be quite silent toward
you, after hearing of the actual fact of your long-hoped-for union
being accomplished. To the hopes and wishes already expressed
there seems little to be added. Our heavenly Father gives grace
for gracCy and ever adds and increases, doing exceeding abundantly
above aU that we can ask or think ; and He that spared not His
own Son will with Him freely give us all things. His divine
power hath given us all things, so we have only to ask and receive
that our joy may be full. How sweet the holy enthusiasm of the
Psalmist : * But I will hope continually, and will yet praise Thee
more and more,' ... I am sorry you missed at the wedding so
many desired and expected faces, but our dear Friend and Saviour
never fails us, and He ever keeps the best till last Blessed
are they that are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb.
White raiments for service on eai-th, for the resting-place in
Paradise, for the perfect rest-and-service-in-one of the homes
beyond — we seem to be promised all these. What an honour is
set on joy and purity 1 I must add no more. There is lamenta-
tion in Simla that E. and you could not come, but joy^ I hope,
in London courts and angel choirs that London is your India,
and that you are helping together to bind a sheaf for the great

To Mrs. Fkench. (Hot weather at Lahore.)

June 14, 1882.

One seems to exist rather than live this weather, yet on the
whole I am better than last week, and manage my evening walk
beyond the orchard sometimes, and get through a fair amount of
reading, though the brain seems to refuse to think and the hand
to write. A week hence I hope to start for Baisauli and Simla.
I somehow managed three duties on Sunday. It was a day that
made one's brain feel half paralysed. I think this house without
a thermantidote seems almost insuflferable ; I find all my friends
consider a thermantidote is necessary. The air indoors seems
so burnt up and heated. I do not know how to keep up with
my letters this week, which are unrelenting, especially four letters
I have had to answer this week from Mr. Clark on most difficult
questions started by the C. M. S. committee on points of machinery
and organism. I really think our work in danger of being stifled
and strangled by its machuiery. . . .

June 15. Thus much with great violence put on myself last
evening. I have been down this morning to examine part of the
High School, of which I am Visitor, and it always does me good
to begin each day by an effort to rouse and stir oneself to a duty
one shrinks from. One is more vigorous all the day for it, and
the day begins with a victory which ought to give a victorious
tone to the day, as when A. took her first class at the Sunday
school. . . . Both the Dicksons and Elsmies pressed me very hard

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(almost till I was ashamed) to come and stay with them a few
days, promising all sorts of comforts and delightful rooms ; hut
I have held out, as packing one's papers and running backwards
and forwards for one's books would be dreadful ; yet I value the
kindness much. ... I am carrying baskets of plums about to my
friends, there seem to be bushels on bushels ; and the peaches are
ripening fast. I thought of leaving a basket at Ambala for the
Knoxes. I wish I could send one to the still dearer Knoxes at
Oxford ; but I should have to stuff them all first. I am afraid
I could not send any to the naughty little grandchild who would
not go to church. I must have the next good speech she makes
reported to me to help me to forget the other& I hope to carry
some to Miss E. and her girls this evening ; also the High School
should have soma

To Basil. (On the loss of a College friend.)

June 18, 1882.

How curious it is that the higher we grow in the scale of
creation, the more acutely and deeply we feel suffering, and groan
with more intense yearnings for reasons which St. Paul so grandly
describes in Eomans viii. ... I have felt so much with you, dear
fellow, about the loss of your fast friend ; it is a deep trial to lose
so early a real brother and helper in Christ, from whose fellow-
ship and example one is daily profiting. I lost in the same way
my chief friend at Oxford by a fatal railway accident, and at
Oxford, too (though he died at Burton), I lost my own most
beloved brother Peter, so good, and true, and humble, and
conscientious, and attached to the best things, that I almost
fear he will be too near the throne for me ever to see him again,
as Whitfield said of Wesley ! Still if there is to be a revelation
(diroKuXv^iff) of the sons of God, one may hope to see them all,
and the liberty of God's children will be above small restrictions.
Somehow, all the Peters in the family have been good, and will
be so, I trust, through the grace that makes them differ, and keeps
them from falling. ... If you keep up French, I think you would
find Gratry's Connaissance de Vdme a very suggestive and attractive
book, full of thought, and of vivacity too, setting one thinking
on some very wholesome points in psychology, and natural as
well as moral philosophy. I am preparing a lecture on Queen
Elizabeth and what she did for the Church of England, whether
of good or bad. Banke in his History of England is very enthu-
siastic about her, seems quite to have lost his heart to her, as
Leicester and Essex did. For instance, he says, ' There never was
a sovereign who carried on a conflict of world-wide importance
amid greater dangers or with greater success.' A fine subject
this to discuss in a debating club! He has many simply strilong
thoughts about the great heroes of her day, e.g. of Burleigh:

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'He was specially effective through a moral quality. He never
lost heart. It was remarked he worked with the greatest alacrity
when others were most doubtful,' Miss Havergal's life also has
been interesting, I hope edifying me much. I took it to the
soldiers' bedsides in hospital at Meean Meer, and read bits of it to
them. I could write on about such things, but I have heavy
anxieties just now, and am about to write to one of our young
Oxford friends of '76, '77, who speaks hopefully about accepting
a chaplaincy. I pray God send me one (it would be covetous
to say more than one) Henry Martyn. God only can make and
send such. He has been very good to me in sending me a few
men certainly above the average, and very zealous, besides the
missionary band.

To Mrs. Sheldon. (Expected furlough. Brother-in-law's
death. Egyptian troubles.)

Between Simla and Ealka, July 19, 1882.

Should I be able to visit you next year, it will be about six
years since the precious father was with us, those three or four
happy days when I took counsel of him and of yourselves as to
the future. I can't bear to think that I shall see him no more
in this world, and most of all that dearest Carry can have none
of that intensest sympathy and support which his loving heart
would have yielded to a suffering and bereaved daughter. What
a strange little episode those few last days in England were I It
seems so short a time, and yet one seems to have lived half
a lifetime in it. ... A portion of a regiment, to whom I hoped to
have ministered at Sabathu next Sunday, is passing by here for
Gwalior this evening with their camels. They are to relieve there
some troox)s who are to go forward to Egypt, if the contingent
is called for ; so we seem to be in confusion up here again, with
movements of troops hither and thither as in the Cabul War.
I trust this may not become an empire struggle. . . . Last Sunday
it seemed comforting to preach on the text, 'These shall make

Online LibraryH. A. (Herbert Alfred) BirksThe life and correspondence of Thomas Valpy French, first bishop of Lahore → online text (page 18 of 46)