H. A. (Herbert Alfred) Birks.

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

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an occasion of deeper concern for one's own, and a deeper insight
into the work and Person of our Divine Lord— to have Him
revealed anew with a fresh glow of love and power — to be better
able to say, I Jcnow whom I have believed I

April 22. About sunrise I rode to the other side of the city to
the Latin service. I tried to get into a quiet comer and conceal
myself, but I was soon ferreted out by a priest and begged to sit
within the rails, which I declined, being not in proper episcopal
habit. However, this only resulted in having an armchair with
a lectern in front brought out and placed by me in my conceal-
ment. The only part I enjoyed at all of the service was the
Epistle and Gospel in Arabic, the same as our own for the day
I was charmed to find, and the priest read the Gospel excellently,
a small boy in undress reading the Epistle, which I wondered at,
as there were five acolytes with crimson vests, capes, and a short
surplice besides I They read portions of the service also, with
a variety of gestures and movements, and endless genuflexions,

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which it must be bewildering to learn. The music was of the
sweetest Gregorian, and would have been a treat, if the service
generally had been more edifying and helpful to souls. Pictures,
of value some of them and high art, with images of our Lord and
the Virgin and Child, are prominent and conspicuous \ I reasoned
with the priest a little about these, and told him how I had
resisted having figures in my Lahore Cathedral, but he thought
the Moslems were so used to them as to be no longer offended !
Not a very satisfactory reply. . . . The Latin service does not
gain upon one by fresh experience of it. Nothing in Europe
could be less in harmony with the spirit and ritual of our Beformed
Church. I could not but hope I might have found simplicity of
rite in these Moslem lands.

Birijek (or Bir) on Euphrates. Chief crossing from South
Armenia into Syria, and sixty miles irom Oorfa. April 26,

Will you believe it ? I have been inflicting twenty pages of note
sheet MS. on the poor Archbishop to-day, on matters connected
with the Oriental Churches. Pretty audacious I considering he
has not commissioned me to write a line on the subject ; but my
conscience and a sense of duty would not let me be silent, and
possibly our dear Lord may make use of the letter as one brick
for the process of re-building and restoring these ancient [Churches].
Oorfa was a place of very special interest to me, from my Church
history studies before, but I was not prepared for so much in the
way of monuments of the past, nor to find so very flourishing and
growing a city. To me what was chiefly attractive was the recol-
lection of its ancient missions, and of King Abgarus, and of the
great St Ephraem, whose tomb was shown me, at least the
marble monument with Chaldee inscription, placed many many
centuries ago above his grave down in the crypt of the present
cathedral Of King Abgarus, the chief remains are two pillars in
the very ancient foii, erected to a daughter and son-in-law.

The Armenian bishop on whom I called was most gracious and
affable. He is a strong stout-built man, perhaps of seventy years,
with his purple vest beneath (like the one I wear, which in their
eyes marks the bishop at once!) and over it a thick dark blue
cloak, furred down the breast on both sides. His palace and
cathedral are about 300 yards outside the city, near where the
shadow of the grand old fort falls, now almost in ruins, yet
showing the stateliness of Edessa in the days of Abgarus the
First. I could not visit it, as I had so much to occupy me on
the one day (except Sunday) I could devote to Oor&. The
bishop took me over his own cathedral, and seemed delighted

^ The bishop had declined to kiss the silver crucifix when it was
brought to him in the course of the service.

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in the extreme pleasure I expressed in the Life and Works of
Si. Ephraem.

The cathedral, he tells me, is i,aoo years old, by which he
means its substructions, for above it is clearly modem, built of
the rich-coloured, pale yellow limestone of the adjoining hills.
He has an older cathedral in the city, almost square, and finely
pillared or colonnaded throughout. This is said to be 1,500 years
old, but the only authentic part, I should think, is the tomb of
Abgarus' first bishop, St. Atti (probably St. Thaddaeus) by name.
This tomb, the priests there told me, is under an ancient episcopal
throne of untold antiquity. The six priests were all engaged in
confessing various ladies dressed in white — some inside the rails,
some sitting down by the walls inside, the priest sitting by them ;
others walking about and confessing to the priest, while other
people were walking about and looking on (a singular and not
very edifying sight). There must have been some sixty or seventy
ladies thus engaged, but I was glad to find this only happens once
a year, L e. at the close of the Eastern Lent, when the yearly
confession is required, or at least expected. ... I visited the
Protestant church and inspected the schools (one hundred and
twenty boys and sixty girls), quite of the primary type. If the
Church of England succour is wanted for any purposes, it seems
certainly to be needed for a clerical training college, and a high-
class school for boys and girls. It might prove like life from the
dead to these Oriental branches. ... I spent two hours on the
Monday afternoon in chatting with the two pastors of the Pro-
testant congregation, one a lay pastor, and the other ordained by
the Presbyterians, after being well trained in the Basle missionary
seminary. He is an able, elderly man, of very independent views,
European in character as in training. One of the Aintab Ame-
rican missionaries visits him for a week or ten days twice a year.
Aintab is four days* journey from Oorfa. The pastor will have it
in spite of Layard and Eawlinson that Oorfa is Ur of the Chaldees,
but I feel sm-e he is wrong, . . . The pastor (Abool-Hayat) told
me the Armenian bishop (described above) is one of his great fri^nda
He says he is welcome in any one of the houses of the Armenian
Church he likes to visit, and finds everywhere copies of the Bible
on the table at least, if not read and valued. From 1,500 to 2,000
copies are sold annually in Turkish or Armenian.

The Syrian (old non-papal branch) seems very feeble, and its
priests untaught. The chief man among them is a really educated
layman, who selects for them in Lent what * midrashes ' (proper
readings out of the Fathers, St. Ephraem, &c.) they should read
daily, as the poor priests do not understand them, and can only
read the texts. This chief layman sat with me for some time, and
is evidently a man of some enlightenment. The Protestant
church has a congregation of from 800 to 1,000 on Sundays, and
is a very fine solid building, one of the best indeed in Oorfa, of the

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pale yellow limestona Inside, I fear I must call it hideously
plain, of the exaggerated type. Only half of it even is carpeted,
though, I doubt not, many of the people have Persian carpets in
their houses. Having no seats, they must be content with the
cold floor, which even at this season, not unlike the English
April, must be a little damping except to very warm hearts!
They have not even a Lord's Table. As the Holy Communion is
only held once in three months, they perhaps think it needless,
which so far is sound logic and sense. Yet with all that they are
doing a good work, and many of the hearers go to their own old
churches for their ritual and Sacraments, and to the Presbyterians
for their teaching, an arrangement I was unprepared for, but
which seems both at Oorfa and Diarbekir to be rather usual than
uncommon, only it turns the Presbyterian chapel into a preaching

I felt disposed to be a little excited at the sight, through
a telescope of Mr. Abool-Hay&t, of the ancient pillar or minaret
of Haran, the great patriarch's so long abode ! I could scarcely
believe my eyes ; yet there it was and no mistake, and here at
Bir he crossed the Euphrates doubtless : and though I could not
think my journey the last two days was over the same ground,
foot for foot as Abraham travelled, when he went from Ur of
the Chaldees, or from Haran, yet it must have been almost
identical. The wilderness I traversed seemed strangely transformed
in parts with flowery meads such as I have seldom or never seen
in English scenery even, some portions of the plain being
whitened with English daisies, others safi^oned with buttercups,
dandelions, the wild mustard flower, and other old familiar
flowers, blue-dyed here and there with periwinkles and perhaps
forget-me-nots, crimsoned with poppies, and English swallows
wheeled their flight around our horses for miles, as if delighting
in human society. What we saw that was un-English was some
miles of young unformed locusts swarming on the ground — (six
miles at least their army spread its scourge) — before them an
Eden, behind them a wilderness, as the prophet says so pic-
turesquely and aptly !

To Mrs. Moulsok.

Aktarim Village, one day's march from Aleppo on the
Diarbekir road. April 29, 1888.
We are resting in a small khan by the wayside, 'on the Sabbath
day, according to the commandment.' . . . This is a singular
little village, the houses all of bee-hive type and build, yet not
mere mud bee-hives like some of the African villages, but, though
coated with mud and earth outside, yet well and scientifically
built within, with layers of bricks ascending pyramidally at well-
adjusted angles, with strong stones at the top to make the key of
the arched dome-like structure strong. For security from heavy

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rains penetrating the roof I cannot think of any shape or fashion
more perfect There must be some hundreds of these bee -hives,
some houses having six or eight, surrounded with a court and
strong wall. . . . Nine hundred out of my thousand miles' ride
are now completed, for which you will praise God with me. The
season has been more favourable than when I was in Persia.
Even here from the Euphrates to Aleppo, where I expected dry
sandy wastes and blazing suns, the country is richly verdant with
crops, and particoloured with many English and foreign flowers,
skies cloudy, and breezes refreshing. My dragoman never fails to
get me milk and eggs, and most often a little mutton stewed or
made broth of. My Arabic and Syriac are certainly improved.
These desert journeys enable me to keep better in mind the dear
home circles in England, and to picture them more vividly than
I could in the midst of the crowd of cares at Lahore. I can see no
reason for thinking that the step I took (in resigning) was at
all precipitate ; except, perhaps, the Archbishop of Canterbury,
I hardly know of any who has doubted the soundness of my
judgement in so doing. I love to think of all my dear children's
steadfast, faithful labour, while I am a wanderer I

At AJeppo the bishop found little of any interest, but he
could not resist turning aside to visit Antioch (Antakieh),
with its grand missionary history.

* The plain of the Orontes,' he said, * is partly a marsh now, since
the old Syrian, Greek, and Roman monarchs passed away, and
engineering processes have long since ceased.

'The city has come down from 500,000, as in the Emperor
Justinian's time, or 250,000, as in Augustus' time, to some 20,000
or 25,000 souls, and if ever the glory of a city departed, this city
has been shorn of its pride. Still it can never lose the depth of
its interest to those to whom the history of the Acts is ever &esh
and inspiring, and who have ever profited by the great discourses
preached here by the most perfect almost of human preachers,
St. Chrysostom, in the fourth century. It is strange that so very
little survives however of its proverbial splendour. . . . Much of
this is owing to the series of earthquakes which, at different ages,
have demolished all its fabrics which were at all perishable. The
massive walls of Justinian, which are carried over the lofty hills
above it, have been constantly picked to pieces for new buildings,
and but scant and sparse fragments of them survive, sufficient to
show of what colossal and cyclopean strength and dimensions they
were originally built . . . We entered the city last Saturday by
an old paved road, of which a portion still remains in a very rent
and shattered state: once it was a colonnade two miles long
with four rows of pillars, embellished with rich statuary by order
of Tiberius. The two central rows were roofed in with slabs of

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granite by Antiochus Epiphanea Augustus built a circus of
great dimensions, besides public baths, and in other ways made
costly improvements. An excellent Irish missionary Mr. Martin
and his wife (Presbyterians) oflFered me quarters, and it would be
more comfortable, for they have a charming country residence in
the suburbs, but I wanted to see all I could of the town, and the
khan seems more like the place St. Barnabas must have brought
St Paul to, when he fetched him from Tarsus to Antioch, and for
a year they taught much people. Alas I all the best of the churches,
which cannot be later well than Justinian's (or possibly Theodo-
sius') time, are appropriated by the Mohammedans for mosques
and schools. The Orontes valley is a most tempting site for
a great capital ; its long soft slopes from the river banks to the
lofty dark heights of the Amanus range opposite the city offering
all facilities for villas and gardens, with small terraced plateaux,
and groves running up into the hills. South of the river is the
Mount Sylpius. I climbed yesterday with some pains to visit the
vestiges of the walls and towers. One tower alone remains, and
that partially in ruins. Through its carved and finely planted
gate almost at the summit you look to a wholly new scenery, and
hill ranges beyond, behind one of which stood Daphne, which was
a place dedicated to Venus' worship, and was as richly embellished
as Antioch or more so, and with better existing monuments,
I believe, but such as I do not care to see.

'On the whole, Antioch appears somewhat reviving, and to
have a pushing, thriving, striving population, the manufacturers
and mechanics of the place being mostly Moslems, and a fair
portion of the trade in Christian hands of rather a low and
degraded type. Of its ancient churches the most interesting is
one mostly hewn out of the live rock, the Church of St. John. . .
A Church of the Twelve Apostles, which Justinian spent much
in restoring and decorating, must be one of several in the place
which the Mohammedans have appropriated by force.

' The court of the mosque has a wondrously beautiful specimen
of stone paving. A large Moslem school (with a small body of
moollahs) is held in a series of buildings adjoining. What would
I give if I had ^1,000 to spare to get the Moslems to sell me that
church and school for a new centre, which the two great Apostles,
from their rest in the Spirit World, might tune their harps to
a fresh song of joy and praise to thank God for ! but alas ! these
bright dreams are of the impracticable and romantic as appears.
But I do feel a little envious, I confess, of every Christian body
that has got a settlement in a city of such singularly glorious and
almost divine antecedents.

^ . . Sunday last was the Greek Easter, and I hoped in the
early morning to find at least a specially solemn service being
conducted ; but I am sorry to say that it turned out to be quite
otherwise. The Mass had begun shortly after midnight, and

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must haye lasted some hours. At a second service the cathedral
was turned into a complete bear-garden, and given over to a kind
of saturnalia, such as I should have thought impossible in a
Christian church anywhere. Boys and young men were running
about firing pistols, and letting off crackers, and diverting them-
selves in the most unseemly manner, and the only excuse made
was that this only happened once in a year ! '

From Antioch the bishop went a hard day's ride to
Beilan, whence he descended by the fine carriage-road to
Scanderoon, and embarked on board a Bussian steamer for
Beyrout, the goal of his long journey. And thence on
May 15 he wrote to Mrs. French : —

Mr. Mentor Mott's House, Beyrout, May 15, 1888.
I am sitting again in a charming, elegantly and sumptuously
furnished upstairs room, with the Lebanon above me and the blue
Mediteri'anean below me ; lovely villas and gardens all round me,
only interspersed with large reddish sand heaps piled up in
mounds, and which tornadoes occasionally toss about in clouds,
80 that at such times doors and windows must be hermetically
sealed. The villas have the bright colours of the French water-
ing places; the finest among them being those occupied by
educational institutes. There are Jesuit Latin colleges and nun-
neries, a Russian school and hospital, an American college of the
most advanced standards, under Drs. Bliss and Vandyke, men of
great distinction, and recently a fine Greek college, rather an
antagonistic efibrt to the Americans. Mrs. Mott says, caustically,
that for the Greek ladies it is better at least they should have
something to think of (even if it is fighting) than spend their
lives in their usual empty frivolities and habits of gambling.
Altogether the place is more striking than I expected, and has
a dignity and imposing, august appearance which wins respect,
and entitles it to the name of an eastern capital of considerable
promise. The Christian buildings, especially the Protestant and
Jesuit, outstrip all the rest in stateliness: and I can scaixsely
wonder at the jealousy of the Moslems, which led to a recent riot,
arising from the sense that the Christians were becoming too
predominant. We arrived about 5.30 a. m. yesterday, and reached
the Motts* palatial residence soon after 7. I could scarcely believe
my eyes when I looked at the snow-white sheets and damask cur-
tains, richly carpeted daises, &c., and all the luxuries of civilized
life again, after the long exchange of them all for desert life ; and
then to think that without touching land again I might be at
your very door in London ! ... As to my own future there is
nothing to show any divine leading any whither at present ; and
I must be prepared to wait a while in patience.

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Though it seemed better not to interrupt the journal of
the bishop's travels by introducing any wider questions, his
comments on ecclesiastical affairs will be made clearer to
the reader by a bare outline of the history and present
status of the various communities of Oriental Christians.

In writing from Bagdad to Cyril on February 19, 1888,
the bishop himself said : —

*It is very difiScult to learn which is which (as regards the
names and the special lines taken) amidst the varied coloured
pieces which are spread over the chess-board in almost hopeless
confusion : Syrian and Chaldean, Jacobite and Nestorian, Roman-
Syrian, Roman-Chaldean, besides Armenians, Maronites, Greeks
and Romans proper. I hope I shall get a clearer notion of who
they all are, and whether there are any living branches of the
True Vine amongst them.'

The educated English layman has as a rule it may be
feared but small acquaintance with the history of Eastern
Churches, yet in these it is that the great doctrinal questions
that underlie our "Western creeds have been fought out
for us.

In the main doctrine of the Blessed Trinity all branches
of the Eastern Church are well agreed. All would con-
demn Arius, who said there was a time when Christ was
not, and recognized in Him a merely secondary Deity : and
aU would condemn Macedonius, who is said to have doubted
the Deity of God the Holy Ghost.

When these great controversies had been settled at the
Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople, the minds of men
turned to the subtle questions that surround the mystery of
the true union of Godhead and Manhood in the Person of
our Lord : and the great rival schools of learning struck
out divergent lines of thought.

The two chief schools were Antioch and Alexandria.

From Alexandria came Athanasius, the champion against
Alius : from Antioch there came forth Chrysostom.

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In opposing Alius, the Alexandrian divines insisted
strongly upon the paramount importance of maintaining
the perfect Deity of Christ our Lord : in opposing ApoUi-
naris — a Syrian bishop who maintained that the Divine
Logos (Aoyos) took the place of the rational soul (vovs) in
our Lord's nature, so that His humanity consisted merely
of body {(T&fia) and animal soul (V^x^) — ^^^ theologians of
Antioch were led to dwell with equal emphasis upon the
paramount importance of maintaining the full humanity of
Jesus. And both were right, but how were the two truths
to be combined and reconciled ?

The younger Theodosius (a.d. 428), appointed Nestorius,
a monk of Antioch, as Bishop of Constantinople. The
choice was popular, as Chrysostom, regarded still with
deepest reverence, had come from the same place. But
soon the new bishop incurred great odium by supporting
Anastasius, his presbyter, in his objections to the term
•Theotokos' (mother of God) as applied to the blessed

Nestorius believed the term implied that Mary was the
source and origin of the divine nature; his adversaries
only understood by it that Christ from the moment of con-
ception was God and man.

In maintaining his opinions Nestorius was betrayed into
expressions that seemed to indicate that in His Licamation
the Son of God joined to Himself * a human person,' instead
of taking into union the whole nature of man — a distinction
of grave consequence with reference to His example and
atoning work.

The Council of Ephesus, a.d. 431, assembled to decide the

The champion of orthodoxy on this occasion was the
extremely able but worldly and ambitious Cyril, Bishop of
Alexandria. After disgraceful wranglings and intrigues,
the doctrines of Nestorius were formally condemned and
he himself was removed from his episcopate.

'The Council of Ephesus,' says the historian Kobertson, Ms
received as the third general council, and its doctrine respecting

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the Saviour's person is a part of the Catholic faith. But it would
be vain to defend the proceedings of those by whom the true
doctrine was there asserted ; and there remains a question
whether Nestorius was really guilty of holding the opinions for
which it condemned him. . . . The great body of Orientals who
supported him at Antioch are unimpeached in their character for
orthodoxy. . . . He steadily disavowed the more odious opinions
which were imputed to him ; he repeatedly expressed his willing-
ness to admit the term 'Theotokos,' provided it were guarded
against obvious abuses. The controversy more than once appeared
to be in such a position that it might have been ended by a word
of explanation ; but an unwillingness on both sides to concede,
and personal animosities, unhappily prolonged it.'

The doctrines of Nestorius led by a natural reaction to
those of Eutyches. He held that there was * one incarnate
nature of God the Word,' for in the union of the two
natures the human (he believed) was merged and lost in
the divine. From this his followers were called Monophy-
sites (one-nature men).

The Council of Chalcedon in a.d. 451, largely influenced
by Pope Leo's masterly letter to Flavian, decided in terms
very similar to those of the (so-called) Athanasian Creed,
maintaining at once the distinctness of the two natures and
the unity of Person in our Lord,

A further refinement of the Eutychian heresy, to wit
that though there were two natures in the Person of the
Word Licamate there was but one will (the human being
merged in the divine), v^as formally condemned at the
Sixth General Council in a.d. 68a Those who maintained
it were called Monothelites (or one-vrill men).

This sketch of doctrinal developement, or rather defini-
tion, is needed for a proper understanding of the divisions
of this Eastern Christendom. The causes of the great
disastrous schism between East and West need not be

Online LibraryH. A. (Herbert Alfred) BirksThe life and correspondence of Thomas Valpy French, first bishop of Lahore → online text (page 27 of 46)