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H. A. (Herbert Alfred) Birks.

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

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spoken in so many missionary lands, and either in India or
elsewhere I may be able to turn it to account. Anyhow, my
friends feel that it would be more becoming for me, and less
embarrassing for the bishop who succeeds me, that I should
absent myself from India for a year. Then if God requires me
for any Indian work His call wiU reach me. If elsewhere, I ho}>e
I shall be ready. ... I am packing up my books already, and have
almost dismantled my crowded shelves, which begin to look
reproachfully empty. Thousands of letters have to be torn up :
happily there is a dry well in the compound whose mouth could
take in 1,000 cartloads of torn letters and still be gaping, and ever
so many Josephs besides ! which I hope it will not have to do.
Thus far only a small jackal's cub has been known to fall into it.
I delight to think of you in my favourite St. Andrews : I wonder
what took you there.

To Mrs. Gregg. _ , ^ ,

Lahore, Oct 14.

, . . Much of my labour in the Punjab has been to distinguish
mere Low Church partisanship from the genuine pure and sound
evangelical doctrine, together with wholesome Church discipline
and order. I feel so thankful to God for allowing me to have this
role allotted me in a matter where my own convictions were so
strong, and I had to call no man master, but only Christ. It is
only when by God's grace this independence of character is given
that a man's judgement has any weight, though our friends may
sometimes be distressed, and one may be led by that very in-
dependence into occasional mistakes to be regretted. ... It is
a marvel to me that I have been kept up for ten years, yet
I am not much above half Moses' age. Sometimes I feel as well
as ever and then droop again. I have had no fever this year as
last autumn.



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2o8 LIFE OF BISHOP FRENCH

To BA8IL. j^„^^^ ^ ^^

I wonder Cyril and yourself had forgotten the enthusiasm with
which I used to speak of my former visit to St. Andrews, and
my selection of it as perhaps the place where I should like to
spend my last days, if in England at all. The valley of the
Dura, with its geological points of interest, I walked over to and
examined, as idso tiie old cathedral, castle, cemeteries, and the
University lecture-rooms where Chalmers used to lecture, John
ELnox's pulpit, TuUoch's pulpit, Hugh Miller's geological collection,
the grave of Rutherford. Moreover, I heard the great preacher you
speak of, and another perhaps still greater of the Scotch Free
Church. So my two days were pretty well spent, though I did
no golfing, I am afraid. The view of it as one enters by train is
very striking and attractive, and even the grass in the streets
looks like the grass that grows in venerable ruins. I shall be
happy indeed to learn that your exam, is passed satisfactorily.
I can scarcely doubt it will be so, please God.

To THE Rev. R Bateman.

Batala, Oct. 24, 1887.

I was much affected, beloved brother in Christ, by your loving
letter received on Friday last. . . . None I have received has
touched me so much. I must feel, however, that I am tenfold
more indebted to you for what God*s grace has enabled you to
teach us by way of example, than you can possibly be to me for
my poor scattered and imperfect efforts in the missionary field.
Nevertheless I cannot fail to be cheered and encouraged and
quickened in my thanksgivings to Him * who counted me worthy
putting me into the ministry,' by the assurance that I have been
in the least helpful to one whom I so truly and deeply love and
honour, though our minds are in some ways differently constituted,
and diversity of experience, as well as of the posts we have been
called upon to occupy, sometimes cause our lines of action to
diverge. Perplexed and embarrassed sorely, I must confess to
have been of late amid ' the things that are shaken ' in churches
as well as states, as distinguished from *the kingdom which
cannot be moved,' * the kingdom of God which is within us,' and
my comfort is to feel that the Spirit that dwelleth in us is the
Spirit of counsel and strength as well as of love and peace, and also
to seek for that simplicity and singleness of godly sincerity which
the great apostle so loved to cultivate, and felt a ground of
assurance in the consciousness that in that simplicity his life was
lived and his work was done. May our gracious Saviour bless
and reward you for all the comfort you have ministered to
me. . . . Don't forget to pray for me in this trying epoch of my
life's histoiy.



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A TESTIMONIAL 209

The Rev. R Batehan to Bishop French. (Ee Testimonial
from Native Church.)

Amritsar, Nov. 18, 1887.

. . • The impulse comes from the mitives, the direction is better
in European hands. Being questioned as to what would be an
acceptable present, ... I avowed that I thought I could only
guarantee one article, and that was a black instead of a blue bag to
carry your books about in ! So it was decided to collect money
and leave the disposal of it to your lordship. Some said a scholar-
ship, others a bed in a hospital, others a prize fund, others a new
mission station ; but all with whom I have come in contact feel
that as there is every hope that you will continue to be a standard-
bearer amongst us, it was best that you should choose the flag and
the place for planting it. ... I think I am safe in my expectation
that from 1,300 to 1,500 rupees is likely to accrue. . . . What would
you think of a double presentation at Amritsar and Delhi ? . . .
It is our business to consult your convenience, well knowing the
checks you place on that convenience yoursel£

To THE Rev. R. Bateman.

Jjihore, Nov, 19, 1887.

In face of recent Government regulations prohibiting (if I rightly
understand them) Government officers from accepting tributes
and memorials of regard on vacating their posts of duty, I feel
some difficulty in knowing how I ought to deal with such
affectionately devised proofs of esteem as I learn (to my exceeding
surprise) you are made the channel of conveying to me from
a widespread circle of members of the native flock, who in their
poverty must have severely taxed themselves to contribute so
large a sum in the form of a thank-offering for services, the
remembrance of which (as they draw for the present to a close)
presents itself to me in scarcely any other light than that of deep
humiliation and cause of contrition, more especially for things
left undone as well as defects and feeble results of things dona
I have deprecated firmly as in duty bound any contributions and
presents gathered for myself personally. Perhaps I need not
hesitate to regard the acceptance of the sums raised ... as stand-
ing on a different footing altogether, and scarcely admitting of
being interpreted into a breach of regulation. The plan has been
very lovingly and thoughtfully devised, being so designed as to
save me the pain with which the richer must ever receive gifts
from the poorer and more straitened, while the spirit of it and the
readiness betokened by the large amount raised ai-e themselves
a possession and an inheritance of incalculable value, and of which
I both have now and must ever retain a very full and hearty
appreciation and grateful recollection.

VOL. n. P



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2IO LIFE OF BISHOP FRENCH

One thing I must earnestly ask you to get me excused from . . .
and that is any public demonstration. ... I shall feel it to be
a most considerate act of filial and brotherly affection if they will
dispense with this act of bidding me a public farewell. ... I had
much rather look forward hopefully and thankfully to the very
probable meeting by ones and twos on my return, if God will, to
the land whose people I love and long after *in the bowels of
Jesus Christ.'

As to the choice of a special object, which is with so much
kindness and delicacy of feeling left with myself, I would suggest
that its form be the putting a new life and giving a new impulse
to the Native Pastorate Fund, which I think the most really
helpful and unobjectionable method possible of promoting the
pastorate of our Indian Church, making a grant to each flock no
more than equivalent to what they themselves contribute to the
support of their own pastor : this up to the point that the fund
will hold out. This fund has about Bs. 6,250 in hand, and the
addition of such an amount as you specify would not only in
itself be a large accession but would draw attention to the
fund, invite further accumulation, and stir up congregational
liberality. ... In the midst of heavy and anxious preparations for
the morrow I have with difficulty written thus much, and must
close, begging to repeat all that I expressed above of my heart's
cordial thankfulness, and to add my fei*vent prayer that the
promise, 'I will bless thee and make thee a blessing,' may be
richly the portion of the whole flock (which has dealt so truly
and affectionately by its chief earthly shepherd) from the hands
of the great and chief Shepherd.

To Mbs. Gregg.
Lahore (Advent Sunday), Nov. 27, 1887.

I prepared two sermons (partly farewells) for to-day, but one
I thought too elaborate for such an occasion on the words, * Then
Cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom,'
a difficult passage on which I made a careful study of St. Hilary,
Chrysostom, and Athanasius, with Godet and Wordsworth, but
after all I leave it unpreached for the sake of more edification.
The more learned sermons and creditable to one's head one does
occasionally put aside for something simple and more appealing
to the heart \ ... It may be long before I have a stated ministry
again, but I have very much to be thankful for in open doors set
before me in time past, and the great House-Master often finds
some easier places and less exhausting services for his old and
worn-out servants. ... I trust I am not breaking with the native



The bishop substituted a sermon on i Thess. ii. 19, 20.



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THE WEDDING OF HIS DAUGHTER 211

Churches and cutting oif connexion with them. Some messages
I have received both from flocks and individuals among them
have been very affecting, and contain thankful assurance that my
episcopate has not built any barrier between myself and my old
work. The wedding guest-chamber gave me a public opportunity
of bidding farewell to the community here. ... I am promised
a hearty welcome by my missionary brethren if I am permitted
to return to the field of labour in the Punjab, but of course in my
present state of health I promise nothing and give no pledges.
It would not do to enter the field again without some definite
post being assigned me. I don't find much comes of erratic and
semi-detached labourera There is too much tendency towards
this kind of unfettered and undisciplined independence, and
I have protested against it on principle. Little groups of ex-
perimentalists, women and others, think to make for themselves
little spheres of this sort, wholly uncalled, and enjoy acquiring
an easy reputation and giving vent to a little passing excite-
ment to the embarrassment rather than the help of the Church
of God.

I pleaded with the people in the cathedral yesterday for Bible-
readings amongst themselves, as a great help to watchfulness
against their own special sins, and those of the age, and of the
society they move amongst. If they really want to be fed I am
sure there are few things so helpful. I have pressed this specially
in the hill-stations this year, as I deeply feel the need of it for the
spiritual growth of the European flocks in India. . . . My care-
fully gathered library will gradually be handed over to the
cathedral and Divinity School libraries, and be a useful nucleus,
I hope, for the studies of clergy and laity in the diocese. . . . Till
Jan. 31 the duties of my office go forward, as it is in fulfilment of
them I pay my visit to the Persian Gulf. I take Persian psalms
and gospels with me, and a few Arabic also, as Arabs meet one
along that coast.

Other literaiy work I hope to carry forward for our various
missionary departments, if God give me strength.

The allusion to the wedding guest-chamber refers to the
marriage of the bishop's daughter Agnes to Major Francis
Henry Thomdike, of the 2nd Eoyal Sussex Eegiment,
which took place in the cathedral at Lahore on November
15, 1887. His death next year from sickness contracted
during the Black Mountain expedition was a heavy blow.
The wedding was made the opportunity of many demon-
strations of affection, and the bishop took the occasion to
give a parting message to the diocese.

Afler referring humorously to the evasion of the recent

p a



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212 LIFE OF BISHOP FRENCH

regulations adroitly compassed by making his daughter,
not himself, recipient of their liberality — an honour which
she well deserved — he spoke of the three sanctities which
dated back to Paradise : the sanctity of marriage, the Sab-
bath, and the covenant of grace, which had its ground on
the first promise of the * seed of the woman.*

These three sanctities he had made it the one great
object of his episcopate to witness to, and to enforce by his
private counsels and public teachings.

* The sanctity of marriage dates from Paradise. Wherever our
Lord's feet trod there was Paradise. He honoured Oana with His
presence, and it is worth noting the wedding festivities there
follow immediately a statement of the sublimest mysteries of our
faith, '' Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of
God ascending and descending upon the Son of man," on which
the words straightway follow, "Two days after there was a mar-
riage, and the mother of Jesus was there, and Jesus was invited
and his disciples." And surely there is no spot a truer Paradise
now on earth than the genuine Christian home and family, where
Christ's presence and abode is ; and of the Paradise that is to be,
one of the loveliest and most expressive symbols ia drawn from
the ceremonies of the wedding feast : " The marriage of the Lamb
is come, and the bride hath made herself ready." At that most
blessed of all marriage reunions God grant us all to be re-
assembled.'

After the wedding Mrs. French left for home from Bom-
bay at the beginning of December, and the bishop went on
visitation to Karachi.

To Mrs. Fbench.

Steamer en route for Karachi, Dec. 2.

... I have offered up most feivent prayers for protection,
guidance, and comfort during your voyage, and that both of us
may perceive and know what things we ought to do, and also
may have grace and power faithfully to fulfil the same — a beauti-
ful prayer that just fits our present need. ... I wish you could
carry this beautiful sea weather all the way to England, but
I fear you must have trying seas and biting winds — the last part
at any rate, and perhaps much eai'lier. Your steamer seemed to
bear itself nobly along as it left its moorings to take its position
opposite the Bunder.

Dec 6, Karachu What a grand and noble scene the opening of
the Truro Cathedral seems to have been ! I hope you will get the



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THE RESIGNATION-DAY 213

Ouardian's account of it. The archdeacon was there, and is
enthusiastic about the occasion.

Dec. II. I must appreciate the great kindness and affectionate
condescension the archbishop shows in setting such store on my
coming to help them in their difficulties, but the whole matter
of the Board of Missions would complicate me so much with the
C. M. S. that I should be walking on a porcupine's bristles, I fear,
if I talked all my mind out, and really it seems at my age as if
a little doing were better than very much talking. Talkers there
are to satiety, and always will be ; and I do feel I should carry
your views out best— if we must be parted for a while — in taking
a small department of my old work up again, and searching for
some hidden native apostles.

To Mrs. Fbekch.

Sukkur, Dec. 22, 1887.

. . . And so at last the long anticipated day of resignation has
come and gone. On the way home from the ordination service
yesterday, I turned aside to the telegraph office and sent off an
express telegram to the Secretary of Government to say, * My
resignation takes effect from 4 p.m. this afternoon.' I mentioned
that hour because it is just two-thirds of the month, and the
salary bill is so easily calculated, without minute fractions and
decimals for my poor head. You will smile I As I write these
words a telegram comes in from Sir C. Aitchison to say, *We
think of you to-day and bear you upon our hearts.' I am sure you
are embraced in this. Now I shall seem to be almost more yours
. . . that I sign myself no longer * Lahore,' but * T. V. French.'
Mr. Tribe writes with wonderful affection : —

' I may frankly confess that when you first came to Lahore as
bishop I was extremely prejudiced against you, and I am afraid
a few other clerg3^nen were also, but your courtesy and large-
minded views at once made me feel my own littleness and the
injustice of listening to what other people say. I feel sure that
not only I but all the clergy in the diocese sincerely regret your
departure, and our earnest prayers will be offered that you may
be spared many years, and that God's blessing may rest upon
your labours. To thank you enough for all your past kindness
and forbearance is quite beyond my power.'

Ought I not to be thankful ... for so many tokens of affec-
tionate regard as I have so unexpectedly received ?

Dec, 29. Did I mention that another great trouble removed,
I trust, is the apprehended dosing of the Divinity School, as
Mr. Weitbrecht is directed by the Society to take it up for the
next twelve months ? . . . One of the officers gladdens me by
telling me that the new Church foundations at Quettah are being
vigorously proceeded with. This takes one of my deepest regrets



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214 LIFE OF BISHOP FRENCH

out of the way, as the two recent ordinations dispelled two others,
besides fulfilling Miss Holmes' anxious desires to have her frontier
evangelists' posts filled satisfactorily.

It is interesting thus to see the bishop's two early interests,
the frontier mission and Lahore College, holding his heart
till the last This long chapter of correspondence may be
closed by a short letter to Cyril from Shikarpur, Dec. 28 : —

'The new bishop has made a noble sacrifice in accepting the
office, and that always promises well for the issues of an enter-
prise. It is a marvel to me all along that I have been peimitted
to commend such a man to our Church and State rulers, and that
they have so graciously made all straight and smooth for the new
appointment. . . . How well I remember the pleasant smile on
your face at breakfast, at Weymouth, when I announced to the
fanuly group that I was not to be released from taking the
bishopric of Lahore. It is strange to think more than ten years
have elapsed ; it seems like yesterday.'



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CHAPTER XXIL



THE CHURCHES OF THE EAST.



FROM BAGDAD TO BEYROUT.



* Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.*— 5/. John
vi. 12.

'The hungry sheep look up and are not fed,

But swoln with wind and the rank mist they draw,
Rot inwardly, and foul contagion spread;

Besides what the grim wolf with privy paw
Daily devours apace, and nothing said.'

Milton.

' Lands of the East, awake !

Soon shall your sons be free, —
The sleep of ages break,
And rise to liberty!'

Oakley.

The bishop left Karachi on Jan. 5, 1888, with a general
view of seeking rest in the Lebanon, but still undecided as
to his exact route. He compared himself to the Pilgrim
Fathers going forth not knowing whither they went. Some
fiiends urged him homewards, but he could not feel he had
earned home yet, so long as any strength remained to him
for missionary work, having been out only three and
a quarter years.

He took with him a small representative library of all
sorts of books almost, except high mathematics and novels,
and prepared to face the unknown perils of a desert journey
of about i,ocx5 miles, in some respects almost a repetition of
his experience in Persia, except that now the midland sea
of Europe and not the Caspian was his objective point.



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2l6 LIFE OF BISHOP FRENCH

With his usual strong feeling for Church order he had
written to Bishop Blyth in Jerusalem before he started for
leave to preach within his diocese.

Being the sole first-class passenger on board the B. I.
Company's Arabia, he passed perhaps the quietest week
that he had ever known as far as Bushire, but threw
himself at once with enthusiasm into the study of colloquial
Arabic, in which he found some help from the ship's crew.
Whilst he was reading the * Sermon on the Mount' with
them they had their dinner brought, spiced rice, meat, and
dates for garnishing.

* I perforce,' he said, * sat down on the floor with them, and
took a date or two to please them. I could not venture on rolling
up in lumps in my Angers and pitching into the mouth the
savoury food, which they evidently loved like Isaac I '

At Bushire he was met by the sad (telegraphic) intelli-
gence of Mrs. Matthew's death. He spent a week there,
and held frequent services both there and at Besheerah, the
telegraph station — the last ministrations in what may fairly
be considered an appendage of his former diocese. He
preached on, * We which have believed do enter into rest.'

BUSSOBAH TO BAGDAD AKD BABYLON.

An untoward detention on a sandbank at the river bar
involved a week's delay at Bussorah, a most uninteresting
little town, where the bishop and his fellow-passengers.
Dr. McAlister, an American professor, and Mr. Hodgson,
a C. M. S. missionary, were entertained by Mr. Buchanan,
one of the leading merchants. The Shut-el-Arab, as the
joint river is called, is fringed on both sides for some
fifty miles up to this point by a thin line of palms, and
indeed for some twenty miles fiirther where the Tigris and
Euphrates join. Four days from Bussorah up the Tigris
brought them to Bagdad : the point most interesting to the
bishop was the junction with the river Kerrah or Kerkhan,
the old Choaspes, which flows beside the ruins of the
ancient Shushan. Upon the way, on February 3 he wrote



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LETTER TO HIS SUCCESSOR 217

a second letter of condolence to his successor, in whicli lie
said : —

* I shall not be far wrong if I devote the 19th \ or as much of
it as in the midst of heavy journeys can be spared to the remem-
brance of your entrance on the sphere of duty, whose special
difficulties and ever-engrossing toils and responsibilities I so well
know and can appreciate to a great extent. May you be abun-
dantly upheld and supported in the discharge of ite duties, and
find, as I have been privileged to do sometimes, how light arises
in darkness : how alleviated the weight of care is by the simple
remembrance of the promise to the weary and heavy laden. In
the singular sohtariness of a bishop's office such promises come
home to the heart and bring refreshment, as I had never known
them to do before, so that we may boldly say **The Lord is my
helper." I do not feel regaining strength much at present, and
hardly know whether I shall find myself equal to the proposed
journey across the deserts to Mosul and Aleppo. It will be very
interesting in its reminiscences of the most ancient and primeval
histories of the world, few and dim as the monumental traces are,
and relics of ruined splendour and sunken empires. . . . What
I am afraid of is being so wrapped up in these inspiring me-
mories of the past as to enfeeble one's holdfast of the bright
promises of the future kingdom, which is to break in pieces and
supersede all these, and lose sight of that which the archbishop in
a recent letter says we should be trying to awaken ourselves and
others to comprehend better, **the duty and dignity of Christian
missions."

* I was glad to have in the Guardian the extract from your speech
in Oxford on the miscalculations of Canon Taylor as to the rela-
tive spread of Islam and the Gospel in India. I think at the
same time that there is a subject of deep and self-abasing humili-
ation in the lack of very marked and wide- extended growth of the
kingdom of Christ in Mohammedan lands, and if the Friday fast
in the Church of England could be more faithfully observed with
a special view to this fact and its causes, which reflect so severely
on the Church's dearth of zeal and love, our kindlings of repent-



Online LibraryH. A. (Herbert Alfred) BirksThe life and correspondence of Thomas Valpy French, first bishop of Lahore → online text (page 23 of 46)