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 22 of 46)
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Thus the way was prepared more than a year beforehand
for what at last took place, but it was not without consider-
able hesitation and sacrifice of his own inclinations that the
archdeacon finally consented to accept the see.

To Wilfrid. (The Duke of Connaught at Lahore.)

Lahore, Nov. 7, 1886.

All the events of this week I hope your dear mother will have
been able to record for you. . . . Eoyalties and Vice-royalties have
been entertained, and treating us to levies and durbars, convo-
cations, installations, and speeches full of good counsels and
appropriately felicitous words, with varied, stately, and imposing
ceremonial. Loyalty forbad me of course to absent myself, and
I hope some good is done by suggesting moral and social improve-
ments to our rulers and the native chiefs, of whom I saw more
than usual, as my knowledge of the languages enables me to
converse with rajas, nawabs, et id genus omne, of whom there
was a large gathering and assortment, in gorgeous and splendid
apparel, like Herod Agrippa's of old, and which Homer or our
own Spenser would have delighted to describe in rich and effective
word-painting. I got a quarter-of-an-hour with the Viceroy at the
time he fixed. Two points had to be discussed, the sore Sabbath-
breaking at Simla, and erection of public buildings on the Lord's
day as on other days, and the necessity of increasing the number
of chaplains in this diocese. He promised to look into both
these matters. With the Duchess of Connaught I had a few
words about Persian and Sanskrit, of which studies she is am-
bitious. The Duke I only shook hands with. As he is General
of division at Bawul Pindi I may make acquaintance with him
there. I want to get him to help in building a new church there,
the design of which I brought from Caerleon, whither uncle
Eichard took me. A few native gentlemen called to hold inter-
course on religious matters, which I was thankful for.

The installation of Sir West Ridgeway with the Star of India
was an interesting ceremony, for his good services as head of the
Boundary Commission. The pomp and parade of it all was not
to my mind at all, except so far as it was characteristic of the
race, and gave them simple, childish gratification. It gives the two
races opportunities of meeting which but rarely occur. I found
it helpful in the intervals to prepare for to-day's services, one
sermon being a contrast between the natniyvpis of earth, its festive
assemblies and convocations, with the navriyvpis which St. Paul to
the Hebrews so beautifully touches upon (Heb. xiL 2a, 23),

ftavffyvfMi Koi ^mcXtfai^ irpnrcroK&p aKoyeypafXfjJvatP iv ovpavoif, (By-

the-by, I do hope, dear fellow, you keep up your Greek Testament
carefully by reading a few, even six, verses daily ; it will be such
a terrible loss to put it aside and forget it.) I fear we mAj never

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have the opportunity of Platonizing again, and conning the
histories of Tiberius and Claudius together. ... I thank you all
so much for your loving inquiries about my health ; I am
gradually gaining strength, but I feel I cannot hope to be equal
to the burden of the office for very long. . . . About six weeks
hence I shall be entering on the tenth year of my episcopate,
which I did not venture to hope when I first undertook it. I am
so pleased to hear of the interesting gatherings and philanthropic
meetings you are able to attend. High sympathies and aspirations
must be awakened and fed, and prayers ' for all estates of men in
Christ's holy Church.' . . . Bishop Bickersteth was a great friend
of mine, so that you must not take for granted that his estimate
of my work is at all a correct one. All will at once see that it is
sadly exaggerated. May all the credit, the little that may possibly
belong to me, and the more that does not, be yielded to Him of
whom Zechariah writes so beautifully, 'He shall bear the glory.'. . .
I leave for Quettah in ten days, please Gk>d. I wish I could get
the church there begun— the first stone laid at least. ... It has
been a year of sad disappointments ; of Christ alone it can be
always said, ' His reward is with Him, and His work before Him.'

To Mrs. Sheldon.

Ambala, Dec. 11, 1886.

A year hence, if I live, I shall have been forty years in orders,
all of them years of work, though I dare not say years of 'service.'
As I thought in preparing a sermon last week on that text —
^ Man goeth forth to his work and to his service (original) until
the evening.'

To Mrs. Sheldon.
Lahore, Dec. a6, 1886, St. Stephen's Day.

This morning I took, after long preparation, a new text,
Isa. xxviii. 5, 6, trying to show how, in spite of all the lowliness
of the manger of Bethlehem, Christ Incarnate had been seen to
His saints in all ages as 'the crown of glory and diadem of
beauty' — to St. Stephen, to St. Paul before Nero, to Bishop
Hannington and his little band of fellow-martyrs at Uganda— to
many in high and low places, as St Louis IX, Elizabeth of
Hungary, Alfred the Great. As the hymn has it beginning
'Palms of glory': —

* Kings their crowns for harps resign,
Crying, as they strike the chords —

"Take the kingdom, it is Thine,

King of kings, and Lord of lords." '

I was never so near breaking down from voicelessness since
I was curate at Burton, when I had to preach a charity sermon at

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dear old Trinity Church one Sunday evening in our dear father's
absence, on the text, 'Spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God
through Christ Jesus.' I remember good old Mrs. E. encoui'aging
me about it afterwards, and assuring me it was not lost labour,
though delivered in all but a whisper. I suppose you hardly
remember my distressful effort to get through in the presence of
one of those fine Sunday evening congregations. How the old
days come back upon one now that grey hairs and the incipient
infirmities of old age multiply. I must praise God that as far as
I can tell He has never given so much apparent blessing to my
preaching as this last year, . . . unless it were the twenty months
at Clifton. It is but small at the best, yet under tendencies to
depression it has helped me. ... I have just got Bishop Hanning-
ton's Life, How much of the interest of the whole is really
summed up in a few days as regards the spiritual interest, the
attempt to represent him as a hero and knight of chivalry rather
unduly predominating. However, that will make the book very
readable and useful to young men and women.

To Abchdeacon Matthew.

Lahore, Jan. 7, 1887.

I have notified my own resignation distinctly and decidedly for
Christmas next, because I feel my strength of mind and body is
spent, and memory fails me painfully, and that I am liable to
continuous and serious mistakes, besides inability to grasp the
whole of weighty matters brought before me from time to time.
I must make bold to say that in all my life's experience, and in
my studies of history, I never knew a case of any one called to
a prominent public post with such unanimous concurrence and
urgency of entreaty as the call I hear expressed from day to day
to yourself and Mrs. Matthew to come to the help, I may almost say
to the rescue, of a diocese threatening exhaustion and dilapidation.
I wish you had been present to witness the intense earnestness
with which Lord Dufferin spoke to me of the terrible blow which
your loss would inflict on the diocese, and expressing his strong
conviction that you were the right man to till the vacancy.
I may add also that I should try out of a reduced income to
support (anonymously) your diocesan charities, if only you were
at the head of management and of diiectiou, to the extent of
at least £100 per annum. I wish it might be i*2oo instead, only
I feel that I should wrong the diocese and wound it in its best
interests if I were to attempt to retain beyond Christmas next the
guidance of so anxious and responsible a diocese. For the next
six months, at least, the matter may be allowed perhaps to rest
where it does at present — in God's hands rather than man's.
I need not say how deeply my heai-t and soul would be gladdened
if it were shown you to be His will that for five years or so,
at least, you should accede to the Church's plebiscite^ as w^ell as

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to the call of its highest authorities, and yield yourself as a sacri-
fice in recognition of a crisis of its gravest and most momentous
needs. I don't think there is a word of exaggeration in all this,
and it seems to me but fairness and honesty that I should convey
my impressions simply to you of the precise position of affaii-s
out here.

To Mrs. Knox.

Murree, June 14, 1887.

A speech of a native youth at Lukoma, on the Nyassa (the
lake on which the Charles Janson steamer plies to and fro to
bays and islands), struck me the other day as rather good and

' King a bell in England, sir, ling a bell ; wake up the great
men in the colleges, and tell them to send us white teachers ;
many here have not seen the white man, nor heard of God ; but
these people want Him, and will receive Him. King a bell, sir,
for teachers to come and bring light to this land of darkness, and
tell them not to lose a moment.'

My young friend Johnson, a steady St. Ebbite, seems a true
apostle among the Nyassa tribes, one who literally dies daily.
I mourned greatly over O'Flaherty's loss ; he was one of a
thousand. Canon Linton's death has removed one of my few
surviving friends. Indian life grows very lonely towards the
close, for friends made out here are made in passing, and ' truly
there is none abiding.' One has not been long enough in England
to make friends there. I see the Central African Mission bewails
as much as I do Canon Linton's loss. What a marvellous wide
heart and purse he must have had. Good Mr. Christopher holds
out, sole survivor of the little band at the four sister churches.

The six months being nearly over, the bishop again wrote

to the archdeacon : —

Murree, June 15, 1887.

I have to thank you for your last full letter, which tells me
of the increasing difficulties which appear to stand in the way of
your returning to India. Full of sorrow to me and deepest
regrets as the tidings are, I dare not attempt to put the smallest
pressure of importunity. The girding to such posts of duty must
after all be from a stronger and tenderer hand than man's, and
to Him alone I must now commit the whole matter, having said
and done with regard to it all that I feel it right to do without;
presumption, and attempting to arrogate to oneself the shaping
and controlling of events which are in higher hands and wiser
counsels. In a week or two I shall tender my resignation to the
Secretary of State and to the archbishop, to take effect, with
God's permission, on the tenth anniversary of my consecration. . . .
It is humiliating to be brought to this, but I have no alternative,

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I am persuaded As to the future, I can only say, ' Lead, kindly
light One step enough for me.' I can only see thus much, that
I ought not to retain the episcopate.

To Mbs. Feench. j^^^

The half of this eventful year is all but over. To-day, my
letters have gone off to the archbishop. Lord Cross, and the
archdeacon. . . . Both to Lord Cross and the archbishop I have
said, that if the only hope of bringing out the archdeacon is my
holding on for two years (much and deeply as I deprecate it)
I would try to hold on at risk of life, and the credit of my
office. Now I think I have gone to the ne pltts ultra of my

To Mrs. French. _ , .

Lahore, Aug, 9.

Mr. writes asking if the cathedral is to be a Boman or

Protestant place of worship. I have been obliged to give him
a good setting-down in a quiet way. . . . These battlings worry
me sore, and at my age they are a sad waste of time and strength.
I am so thankful to be likely to be soon out of it. Younger men
don't object to the

* Martial trumpet and the clang of arms.'

All my Eastern tongues are simply buried in this grave of empty
controversy. The prophet's word is apposite : * Let the potsherd
strive with the potsherds of the earth.'

To Mrs. French.

Dalhousie, Aug. 14.

Yesterday morning the river and mountain-stream were too
swollen to be safe for travellers, but at two I got off, and the
boisterous river (where the bridge was till two or three weeks
ago) at the bottom of the Mamli hill was safely crossed with eight
or ten coolies holding up the doolie, and the great mountain-
stream of Pang Pul fiJso, one and a half miles from Dalhousie.
I nearly came to grief there walking on a narrow ledge where
a landfiJip had been while it was raining hard, and bits of big
rock came bounding down the decline^ and one caught me on the
knee, happily on the fleshy part of it chiefly, and knocked me on
my knees and nearly carried me over an awkward khud, but the
men picked me up, so I have only been lame and shaken. . . .

To Mrs. French.

Dhur, Pathankot, Aug. 3a

Since I got here last evening an immense landslip took place
(the very next hour !), for about 100 feet breaking down the whole

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road, so that to-day the travelling is peremptorily stopped.
Somehow or other Imam Baksh (native servant) managed to pull
his tattoo through the wrecks of road. He ought really to have
a medal. He was about an hour after me. Beally this journey
may well suggest to me a Te Deum of praise, having an escape
both in going and coming : I have thought over some of to-day's
psalms of praise with glad heart

To Mrs. Moitlson. (With reference to Mr. Moulson's illness.)

Aug. 15, 1887.

I was so thankful that the news from Suez was a little more
hopeful. I pray God to spare this poor bereaved Church the
darker weeds of widowhood which so great a loss of so noble
a worker would entail on us. . . . The sprout out of the stem of
Jesse is still [after so many failures of best hopes] able to revive
us and turn our winter into spring again. We can sympathize,
for your future as well as mine hangs in the balance.

' I believe all thy judgements concerning all things to be right ' :
this is our privilege as well as duty. If only Jehovah Himself
becomes to His Church its crown of glory and diadem of beauty
the extinguishing of our poor little lights is a small thing.
However, each Christian, I doubt not, must make it his or her
motto, * While she lived, she shone,' as the poem in Jean Ingelow
has it. ... I sometimes wish I could have had a long visit at
Murree and held a little private infant school for Euthie and
sisters. Little D. would have been too young. It would be
happy if one could become an infant with infants as Christ was.

To Cyril. Dalhousie, Aug. 22.

I am anxious to see what will come of the Board of Missions.
Both the great Societies seem to wash their hands of it, and all
the speakers at this first meeting spoke like children afraid to
bum their fingers in picking something out of a flame.

To Mrs. Knox.

Dhur, Aug. 30 (?).

I am happy to think that Edmund and yourself are in your
Scotch retreat, which must be a delicious conti'ast to your
Leicestershire townlet. I am afraid he cannot get over my
eccentricities, such as wishing the unction could be restored for
confirmation, and preferring the eastward position, as I believe
the rubric obviously directs it My Romanism (tf it be such)
goes no further than these, and the cross on the super-altar,
which I always commend when it is seasonable. Vestments,
incense, and suchlike I have none of. But I suppose all of us
have our peculiarities, though, doubtless, the fewer they are the

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better. ... I am trying to bring another High Churchman to
more moderate and deeper evangelical views, and with some
degree of real success, I trust. There are always two ways of
dealing with such men — one, ... to leave them alone to themselves,
or simply to hit them hard with reproofs : this I have more
often seen end in men becoming more angry and obstinate, and
little or no good has come of it.

The other is to remonstrate strongly but lovingly, acknow-
ledging at the same time the good that is in them, and their
devoted, self sacrificing labours, but not excluding them from
posts they have deserved. ... I have reason to hope and believe
that my way of dealing has not been other than successful. But
I do not set myself up as a model, only I feel that my method of
treating these cases is often cruelly misrepresented at home, though
my dear Presbyterian missionary brethren understand me better.
Old Mr. Forman of Lahore said (I am told) a few months since,
* If our bishops could be like Bishop French we should all be
ready to be Episcopalians.' This he and his brethren have several
times said publicly. Forgive me for thus appearing to magnify
my office, but at least St. Paul did so when his actions were
misconstrued, and at any rate Mr. Robert Clark (to judge by his
remarks, p. 479 of this year's Intelligencer) would not join with
those who condemn my proceedings.

A sound and strong Churchman I am not ashamed of con-
fessing myself ; but the dear old C. M. S. I plead for with heart
and soul, however much I wish sometimes they were able to
work more in harmony with Church authorities, and on the lines
of the Church history of the first four centuries as pourtrayed by
the late Bishop Wordswoi-th.

Now I have without intending it when I sat down poured out
my heart to you ; and to whom have I more the right to do it than
to my own beloved eldest daughter, whom I so truly love in the
flesh and in the Lord, and for whose bright example I thank
God, and for others of my dear children whose bright lives teach
me lessons I gladly learn, the aged from the younger? Your
last photos of self and children were a real treasure to ma I wish
I might have Edmund's newest also.

To Mrs. French. „ .

Sept 2, 1887.

The archdeacon's letter is far the most hopeful I have yet had
as regards his own acceptance. It really does begin to look as if
God had been pleased to give success to this plan for the handing
over of this diocese, just when I feel I am too broken to do
justice to its immense claims and responsibilities.

Lord Cross writes (what I pray may humbly be regarded by
me as tributary in some small way to the glory of our God and
Saviour), ' I am sure I am only expressing the feelings of many

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others besides myself when I say, that your retirement will cause
a void in the Indian episcopate which it will be very difficult
adequately to fill,'

Our cup of joy is almost overflowing. May our hearts be full
of praise and thanksgiving.

Lahore, Se^. 7.

Thanks many for your interesting and thoughtful dissertation
on the * Natural, and therefore Wrong.' You may be sure my
verdict would be with yours in the matter. Dr. B. can scarcely
have read Butler's sermons on ' Nature ' in its more elevated and
original sense, and its degraded and degenerate sense. Those
sermons have often helped me much. The historical characters
of the Old Testament Scripture Dr. B. handled with power,
I thought, on almost the only Sunday I ever heard him preach*
What a pity h6 could not be Archdeacon of Sindh, and broaden
his views by ventilating them, and smoothing the rough angles
by brushing them and rasping them against the great Eastern
world. In such a little corner, what could you expect ? and such
implicit reverence for his dicta obiter or jugitcr \ I dare say he
has edified very many, and that e*en his failings are on virtue's
and truth's side. I, at any rate, ought to speak charitably, for
my shadows are declining ; and though one can, on occasion, take
three full duties in this exhausting climate, yet . . . one seems to
carry people less with one, except the poor and children and
sufferers, with whom I seem more in touch than ever, thank God,
and growingly more with the natives than Europeans. Some of
the poor soldiers in hospital seem to value the word at one's lips,
as this morning two or three seemed quite affectionately thankful.
One waxed warm over that tract 'He's overhead,' which is
certainly one of the best ever written, I think. I wish the little
book of * Private Prayers ' put forth by Ck)nvocation were better
done. It seems sadly stiff and crabbed, and the style half-
obsolete. A little book by Pusey is a little better. I wish I had
begun when young to select the choice prayers out of vaiious
books. A most precious nosegay or garland of prayer might thus
be gathered. Do try this : your good sense would cull and
reject wisely. Some in the Imitatio Christi are worth blending
with one's other petitions. Some out of Scudamore are of the
veiy best

To Lydia.

S^t 13.

Each day's little added sacrifice I begin to think of more than
each day's added work. It is more comforting, and throws one
more on the Cross and its infinite inexhaustible sources of

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To THE Rev. F. A. P. Shirreff.

Sept 15, 1887.

My refiignation is at length accepted ; . . . and I trust the
report is true that the archdeacon has consented to succeed me.
This will create a response of real joy and thankfulness through-
out the diocese, and, I trust, among the heavenly watchers also
charged with the assistant ministering guardianship of the Church
on earth. My last year has heen one of the very hardest of all,
and I can only praise God that I have not collapsed, as I have
visited and sojourned some time at every one almost of the more
populous and influential stations, and it was not suspected how
severe the effort was by any but myself : indeed, I was thought
even to have been stronger than for some time back, and even
now am far from being as reduced in strength as you were when
you left us in the spring.

To THE Rev. R Bateman. ^ .

Sept, 17.

To-day I learn . . . that the archdeacon has accepted the episco-
pate, after long hesitation, and I fear with much reluctance. The
solemnity of the step taken with the uncertainty of the future
bow me down at present, and I feel as if I could not write
or speak about it with any freedom, and I beg my friends as
much as possible to refrain from mentioning it in letter, but
rather to pray that pardoning grace may rest on him who retires
(through no longer being equal to the weight of the office and
the intricacy and variety of its duties), and that sustaining and
establishing grace may rest on him who undertakes the burden
in his place.

To this Mr. Bateman replied : —

Dharmsala, Sept. 22.

I am sure that you have done right Ever since I saw you
here last year I have longed, in spite of my love for you as my
bishop, that you would speedily lay aside a burden that was too
great for you. You were nearly dead and did not seem to know
it, and that in the midst of arduous, physical, and spiritual
labours, you should have half a dozen letters at a time about
T. A. ^ made me very sad for you. . . . For your future, it is in
faithful hands. Whether in England or in India, God has given
you grace to show so many signs of an apostle, that I believe He
will put an end to your perils and joumeyings oft, and that you
will be given such a close to your life as we find at the end of the
Acts of the Apostles, when he who has been in so many things
your model dwelt in his own hired house and received all that

* Travelling allowance.

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came in unto him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching
those things that concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all con-
fidence, no man forbidding him. You must not try to follow
dear Gordon's steps as you spoke last summer.

To Basil. ^ah^^^^ q^^ ^

I see nothing better than (for rest's sake and for fulfilment of
pledges' sake), to carry out next year my old plan of staying a few
weeks at Beyrout, and so breaking the thread of the enormous
correspondence which has been oppressing and depressing me of
late, and from thence as from a watch-tower looking to see
whether and where God has any little work for me to do in my
ageing years before I settle down in the old country, possibly at
St. Andrews or Penzance, or wherever God's providence may lead
me. I have always been anxious to learn to talk Arabic as it is

Online LibraryH. A. (Herbert Alfred) BirksThe life and correspondence of Thomas Valpy French, first bishop of Lahore → online text (page 22 of 46)