H. A. (Herbert Alfred) Birks.

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

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mentioned here; through the conquest of Constantinople
by the Latins in the Fourth Crusade, a. d. 1204, the breach
one may fear was left almost irreparably gaping.

The divisions as they now exist in Eastern lands are
these : —

(i) The Orthodox Greek Church, with its chief patriarch

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at Constantinople^ and with branches, nationally but not
doctrinally separate, in Kussia, Bulgaria, Servia, and else-
where. It is strong in Syria and Palestine (Antioch and
Jerusalem both being patriarchal sees), but not in the Tigris
and Euphrates valleys. By far the greater number of
Greek Christians throughout the world belong to it

(2) The Armenian Church : it is divided between Russia
and Turkey, with important off-shoots in Persia, India, and
even England. It numbers some 5,ckx>,ooo of an highly
intelligent, enterprising, commercial people. Its eccle-
siastical centre is the monastery of Etch Miadzin, near
Erivan. The kingdom of Armenia, under Tiridates the
First, at the beginning of the fourth century owed its
conversion to St. Gregory Illuminator. His story, even
divested of its legendary halo, is fiill of interest. A Christian
nurse saved him from the royal vengeance when all his
family were massacred, and her act of faithful loyalty
resulted in the conversion of a whole new people to the
faith. The Armenians separated from the Greek Church by
adopting the doctrines of Nestorius; but 450 years ago
a large proportion of them owned the supremacy of Rome,
gave up the teaching of Nestorius, but kept in a great
measure their own peculiarities.

(3) The Jacobites are Sjnrian Monophysites. Their patri-
arch resides at Diarbekir ; their *maphsian* (or * fruit-bearer')
is now established at Mosul. They derive their name most
probably from Jacobus Baradeus (the * ragged one '), a monk
of great energy who was consecrated bishop of Edessa and
died in a.d. 578. At one time this Church had ic»
bishoprics ; now it has only five.

(4) The Maronites are strong in the Lebanon. They
were Syrian Monothelites, but in the twelfth century they
yielded to the Church of Rome. Their name comes from
St. Maro, a Syrian anchorite of the fifth century according
to themselves, or else more probably perhaps fix)m John
Moro, their own first patriarch a.d. 701.

Lastly (5) the Chaldean or Syrian Nestorians number
perhaps 2CX>,ooo souls.

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No Cliurcli can be of greater interest. They trace back
their own origin to the Chaldean magi. They reckon
St. Thomas and St Thaddaeus among their early teachers.
In the first centuries, political troubles, arising from their
living under Persian rule, led to the recognition of the
town of Ctesiphon as a Church centre, independent of the
patriarchal see at Antioch.

Thus they afforded a safe refuge to the persecuted
followers of the heresiarch Nestorius, who fled beyond the
firontiers of the empire, and they did not join in councils
that condemned him. So far they are Nestorians, although
Chaldeans probably would be a truer title. Their Church
in the immediately succeeding ages became the greatest
missionary centre of the world, with grand schools of
learning at Nisibis. Edessa, and Bagdad. They preached in
India, where the Christians of St. Thomas on the coast of
Malabar stiU testify their living energy; and in China,
where a bilingual Syriac inscription bears witness to their
missionary zeal; and they established a smaU Christian
principality in a district north of China under the famous
Prester John, of whom such strange stories were current in
the Middle Ages. At last in the fourteenth century the
reckless fttry of Timur wrecked all their enterprise : large
portions of the scattered remnant took refage in the
mountains of Kurdistan, where they are found to-day,
oppressed and ignorant, but steadfastly devoted to their
ancient creed. After two centuries a sad schism occurred.
It had been the custom for the patriarch to nominate one
of his nephews as his successor, but in 1552 some of the
bishops assembled at Mosul elected their own nominee.
The Nestorians of Kochanes (in Turkey) and Oroomiah
(in Persia) adhered to the old plan, and still own the
supremacy of Mar Shimun \ hereditary priest and ruler.
The rival body at Mosul ere long submitted to Rome, but
a ftirther split occurred among them upon the promulgation
of the Vatican decrees.

^ Mrs. Bishop, Journeys in Pema, vol. ii. p. 288 sq.

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The patriarch Mulus would not admit the Pope's infalli-
bility, and for a long time held out stoutly against his

In almost all these Churches are some men of piety and
learning, but the majority are grossly ignorant, and the
life-witness in face of the prevailing creed of Islam is
neither bright nor clear.

Further, these lesser sects of Eastern Christendom are
almost all marked by a triple cleavage — an orthodox section
with leanings towards the great central Greek Church,
a national section tenacious of the local customs, and a
catholic or united section acknowledging the dominance
of Rome.

The advent of the American Presbyterians on the one
side, and of the emissaries of the English Church upon the
other, though fraught undoubtedly with great advantages
in many ways, inevitably tends in some respects to multiply
the manifold divisions. It is however to be noted that the
fixed principle of Church of England missions is to purify
the already existing Churches, and not establish fresh com-
munities in face of the united force of Islam. How far
this may be possible is one of the most interesting problems
of the nearer future. Bishop French himself spoke of his
letters to the primate as being possibly one brick for the
rebuilding and restoring of these long desolated Churches.
Hence the ensuing extracts may be given : —

To His Grace the Lord Archbishop of GAKTERBtTRY and
THE Primate of All England.

Jazeerah on the Tigris (halfv^ay between
Mosul and Mardin), Easter Day, 1888.
My Lord Archbishop,

Your deep interest in all that concerns the Eastern
Churches, of which your Grace spoke with so much heart when
I took leave of you in Lambeth in 1884, has led me to think that
some jottings from my diary (however roughly thrown together,
with scarcely the least leisure for digesting results) may be
acceptable as confirmatory at least of accounts already received
from your officially commissioned clerical agents. . . .

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I have taken care to let it be understood that I bore no direct
commission tvhatever from your Grace, and that I approached them
as a traveller, in relations personal and private wholly. From
Mr. Riley's abstract of 1886, however, and from lettera from your-
self shown me in Mosul, I was tolerably well informed as to the
course your Grace considered it best and wisest to adopt. . • .
I may venture to say that that course has always entirely com-
mended itself to me, and seems to me precisely the one, and the
only one, which the Church of England could on its own prin-
ciples fairly pledge itself to, even if the present disturbed
condition of the Eastern Churches (with America and Eome at
opposite poles threatening their equilibrium, and seeking, for
their good as they believe, to break up the existing fabrics) did
not emphasize the necessity.

I have seen all I could of the Boman matrans and priests with
their churches, schools, monasteries, and tried to remove their
extreme ignorance as to the ritual, liturgies, services, and the
general relation to Christendom and its Churches of the Church
of England.

With the Chaldaeo-Boman or Latin Churches these plain state-
ments, and attention drawn kindly and not in hard controversy
to some plain facts, may not be wholly inappropriate at this
moment, and be a small link in the chain of labour contained in
your instructions to Canon Maclean and others, whose visits to
these parts have been noised abroad, and cannot pass unobserved
even in small towns like this, where the names of the three
members of your commission were repeated to me and inquiries
made. Only yesterday at the Tigris ferry here I met a postman
on his way to Mr. Browne^ at Kochanes, and sent by him
a message of sympathy. . . .

You will long since have been informed of the vast and steadily
growing influence and almost authority the Latin Church exer-
cises in Mosul, by State support from France and from Constan-
tinople, by the wealth showered upon and into it, the splendour
of its churches (Latin and Komano-Chaldaean at Mosul), and the
compact marshalling of educational forces, the attractive beauty
of their services, and persuasiveness of their preaching in French
and Arabic.

This struck me greatly during the eight days or more I spent
there, sojourning at the house of the Jacobite priest in charge of
the Jacobite cathedral during the matran's absence to plead his
Church's cause at Constantinople against the Latin seizure of their
churches, as Mr. Riley records it. Four still remain to them, as
when he wrote his statement.

The splendour of the Chaldaean patriarch's reception-room was
most imposing. The Sultan's arms at one end of it in costly
gilding and embroidery, with the crescent flashing brilliantly in

* See also Bishop, Journeys in Persia, voL ii. p. 317.— Ed.
VOL. n. S

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gold on both sides of it, instinctively brought back Mr. Edward
Elliott's exposition of the woman seated on the beast. The
Ghaldaeo-Latin chui'ch, though of less majestic dimensions and
general effect than the Latin, yet exceeds it in its rich material ;
every stone in it from end to end being of costliest marble, far
beyond even Sennacherib's palaces of old Koyunyik renown. ....
Somehow the thought must strike a casual observer that the
monuments of Nineveh of the past pale before the prospective
plan and policy of a church which loves to revive empires, of
which it shall wear or distribute the crowns. Most of all, how-
ever, they are buttressed up by their admirable and judicious
school system, L e. for church purposes ; and by requiring periodi-
cal visits to Eome of all their chief bishops and priests won over
from Eastern Churches ; and, better still, by the laborious and,
I should judge from what I learn and see, exemplary lives of their
clergy and sisterhoods. Such a man was Le p^re Besson, whose
tomb at Mariaco, an old Chaldean monastery three days from
Mosul — now tenanted by Latin monks as well as Romano-
Chaldaean — I went out of my way to see. . . . The chief French
monk there is a pattern gentleman, refined and in every way
candid, tolerant, and conciliatory.

Easter Tuesday, Tel Shaiyid. . . . The village at which we have
halted to-day, like most of the villages in these parts, is made
up largely of Jacobean Christiana They have been sitting
round me in a group of thirty or more, listening (with a few
Mohammedans interspersed) to the histories of the resurrection
or some of them, all on the gi*een grass, which at this season
carpets the plains in colours of richest verdure, a contrast to
my cathedral services a year ago, but scarcely if at all less
interesting. The villages throughout this range of hills, which
we have had for two days on our right, are mostly of the
above-named Christian Church. One little boy in the group
I found able to read the Arabic Bible excellently, and to his
great delight I gave him the last copy I have to spare. His
father was charged to gather the neighbours together and let
his young son read aloud. They have no church, but pointed to
a village three miles off where their priest resided, and whence
he paid them visits, or oftener they visit his church there.

At Mosul I got two hours of Syriac lessons daily (from
St. Ephraem and their books re Church liturgies) from their
chief priest, who aims at succeeding to the office of matran
eventually as I gathered. He objected to us our small value
set on priestly confession, on fasting, on extreme unction, and
one or two other like points. I explained as fully as possible the
more catholic position maintained by our Church more recently
in these matters, and told him I had even ventured to recom-
mend in my last charge the use of the last of these in the
case of catechumens baptized on their death-bed as a kind of

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confirmation added to baptism. I cannot doubt that the
rejection of St. James' unction of the sick in its simplicity, as
opposed to the Roman novelties and corruptions of that sim-
plicity, offends the Easterns not unreasonably.

The second Sunday I received the Holy Communion from
your friend the matran Mulus or Mooloos, a truly saintly man
I do believe, and whom I was privileged to hold much
communion with in the flesh and the spirit, a man whom one
would be almost ready to act as suffragan to, though I can't
say he would be ready, in spite of all his loving-kindness to
me, to appoint me to that office.

NisibiSf April 4. A very bright sun shone on the castle
and old cathedral of Nisibis as I approached it early this
morning, emblematic to me at least of the call it received
twelve centuries ago and more: 'Arise, shine, for thy light
is come'; and the pure stream issuing freshly from the bed
of rock it stands on seemed to suggest the like thoughts.
The matran is away at Mardin, but is expected this evening.
His reception-room is placed at my disposal by those in charge.
The old Norman arches, reliques of ancient churches indeed,
built into the modem walls of the church and tomb of Mar
Yakub (quite out of place and order, yet perfect specimens of
the old style) seem to show Professor Sayce is not far wrong
when he attributes all arts and sciences, and orders of archi-
tecture among the rest, to the ancient Assyrians.

Dara Jan, April 5. The matran's speedy return yesterday
broke up my time devoted to recollections of the matran
Mulus, but I must try to recall them. The old bishop seems
discouraged and depressed at present, and half disposed to
accept a call to a M^abar matranate, but it would be a triumph
indeed to Rome if he does. Old Sh&mas (Deacon) Y^r^miah,
one of the characters known from Dr. Grant's and Dr. Badger's
writings, and almost the sole survivor of the early truth-seekers,
who keep in memory the work of those two great men, spoke
to me with great sorrow of the possibility of losing him from
Mosul, being the one standing pillar of independent catholicity
and scriptural truth in opposition to the Papacy. . . . The
matran Mulus is a man of grande dtendue of studies and of
large thoughts. . . . Mr. Rassam thought that if they could
be helped even to the extent of £100 a year, they would be in
a position to keep up a good school both for boys and girls,
and that this of all their needs was the most urgent, the Latins
carrying all before them in this direction, with the Chaldeans
under their controL . . .

I shall try to plead earnestly that the blessed Spirit may
shower down His richest gifts and graces on the synod to be
gathei'ed, if He will, imder your Grace's presidency. My health
is still very feeble, and I manage these journeys, interesting


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as they are, with extreme difficulty. I hope it is not a case
of self-gu-ding, but I think our gracious Lord has signified
a measure of acceptance of this work which (almost unsought)
these missionary travels have led to my fulfilling.

I beg to remain, with grateful and very i*espectful regards.
Your Grace's unworthy brother in Christ,

Thos. V. French, Bishop.

In a second long letter to the Archbishop dated from Bir
or Birijek, the old passage of the Euphrates into Syria, on
April 26, the bishop spoke more ftiUy of the work of the
Americans — its substantial value, but at the same time its
disintegrating tendencies.

*The American missionaries are fairly strong at Mardin, and
show a good spirit towards us. Many express their own fears
and almost convictions that internal reform is hopeless for the
Eastern Churches: they say that they should have preferred
to work on those lines themselves at first instead of proselytizing
into their own particular body, but that they had been forced
reluctantly and inevitably into their present course of action
by the persecuting spirit of the Churches and the exclusion
with bitterest hostility of those whose spiritual character and
views of doctrine reproved their own. . . .

At Diarbekii' (some fifty miles further north) I spent three
days very agreeably with an Armenian who acts as British
consul there, Mr. Boyajian and his excellent English wife and
family. Probably your Grace has heard of him, as his wife
was connected with Archbishop Tait. he tells me, and they
both had spent a day occasionally at Addington during his

Diarbekir is full of churches of ancient Christian communities,
some seven at least I counted, the Latins having lately entered
and having two priests settled do^Ti, who were expecting a. visit
of two months immediately from the Bishop of Mosul, who is
a kind of kasis or nuncio of the Pope, and has the direct control
of the grand papal system which is ramifying through all the
cities on the two great rivers and their tributaries, and even
in the smaller towns such as Jazeerah and Nisibis. . . .

Mr. Boyajian, though on good terms with the Armenian
Church of his youth, is yet the head and sort of lay-bishop of
the Protestant community, numbering several hundred families,
which has cut itself adrift from the American or Protestant
body, partly because it wished to adopt some Church of England
ritual and forms of service, which produced a quarrel ; and
at present they work on congregational lines wholly, and seem
to have no law, order, or discipline, except what is self-imposed

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or ministered by Mr. Boyajian. ' He would himself rather see
the whole movement under Church of England direction
(possibly the bishop in Jerusalem taking the oversight), but
his people like their independence of foreign control, and all
they admit at present borrowed from us is the Nicene Creed !
a link, however, which they think a great deal of. They go
by the usual name of Protestants. Mr. B. preached in Armenian
the Sunday afternoon I spent there to 600 persons, men and
women, and at an informal service for young people I addressed
by interpreter some 300. I took our Lord's message to the
Church of Pergamos, and ventured to inflict on them a little
distinct Church teaching as well as the spiritual teaching of
the passage. The women of the congregation seem to have
appreciated this. They dress in white to be distinct from the
Mussulman women who dress in black. The Christians and
Moslems are nearly equal in number in that city, as in Oorfa also.
Mr. B.'s opinion is that through the 50,000' Protestants gathered
out of all the Churches of the East in different cities, a very marked
effect is being produced on the ancient Oriental Churches ; and
the same opinion was rather strongly expressed by two rather
i-emarkable men to whom is committed by the Americans the
joint headship of the Protestant Church at Oorfa. Most of all
he believes that in the ancient Armenian Church (which is
naturally the most numerous in Diarbekir, having 1,500 families ;
the Protestant is the next, with nearly 500) there is a veiry decided
and grmoing craving for enlightenment and self-reform, of which
there was no sign thirty-five years ago, chiefly on the part of the laity
rather than of the priests. . . . One instance of this, a curious one,
he mentioned. Two years ago the Armenian church was burnt
down (by the Latins, ill-natured people say), and the people
themselves have built a noble cathedral in its place. . . . However,
the laity of the Armenians in Diarbekir prevailed on the priests
to have no pictures in the new cathedral, and it is absolutely
devoid of any picture except perhaps one (over the altar) of our
Lor^ : a most remarkable innovation, and unique I should suppose.
Mr. B. further told me an interesting fact, which was confirmed
by much that I heard from the lips of Protestants in different
places along my line of journey, that the feeling in Church
matters among those who have been separated for the time at
least from their own old Churches is very decidedly different
from what it was in the beginning, when all or most was dark.
There is, as he said pointedly, a decided reaction from the old
breaking-up process towards the opposite process of a building up
of the old ; a growing disposition, if only the introduction of
more distinctly scriptural and Gospel teaching, and also of
practical and ritual reforms, will be borne with and accepted,

^ This is probably an over-estimate.

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to join heart and hand in the reformation and restoration of their
old ancestral Churches, after the t3rpe of our English Keformation.
'Building up on primitive lines' is the order of thought now,
rather than breaking up after American precedents.

I talked over very plainly and friendlily with the Americans
themselves in every place I visited the chief points of distinction
between our line of action and tone of counsels from theirs, and
I was surprised to find how temperately and appreciatively they
received what was said, and appeared quite to be of opinion in
the main that if practicable (and they admitted that it was not so
impracticable as once), the ultimate end to be aimed at should be
the restoration of the old, and only the extracting and supplanting
of what was distinctly coiTupt, false, and degrading.

I must confess that I set out on this journey with a very unjust
prejudice against the American Protestants, but on all hands, and
not merely from statements of their own, I find witness borne
to the remarkable stirring and awakening which their schools
and public services and ministries, with the large circulation of
the Holy Scriptures, have brought about among several of the
Churches of the East, most of all among the Armenians and
Kestorians, as your Grace is aware; the laity rather than the
priests being in the forefront of this revival and resuscitation of
the coal which was left.

I find also the feeling of the Americans towards the Church
of England not only far less intolerant but far more friendly
than I supposed, and a greater readiness on their -part to regard
collateral efforts on the Church of England lines, by planting
down schools and teachers where such help is invited at a few
head-quarters of Christians in the East, as being in co-operation
with them rather than in any sense antagonism, though probably
in America one must not look for such large-mindedness. I was
quite unprepared for the respectful welcome accorded to an
English bishop who yet spoke his mind freely, while appreciating
to the full what in their great work should have its meed of praise
and grateful acknowledgement.

From the chief pastor of the American Church at Oorfa (brought
up at Basle, a practical man, full of sound, sensible, solidly formed
judgement) I learned that among the 12,000 non-papal Armenians
in Oorfa there is not a family where he is not welcomed, and where
he does not find the word of God read and valued in the houses
of the people, and that by the express permission and hearty
encouragement of the Armenian bishop and his clergy, who bid
them t^e and read them freely, as quite in harmony with their
Church teaching in all serious and important matters ; and it is
the same with the Syrians and Jacobites. Only the Latins forbid
its purchase in Oorfa, yet strange to say the Latin priests and
nuns at Oorfa received me with most gracious attentions, and
would have put for me a bishop's seat by the altar, only I felt

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obliged to decline it Theirs is the only Arabic service in Oorfa
(a real wonderful city, worthy of the old Edessa of Abgarus, and
the ancient Syrian missions to China and India), the rest being in
Turkish, Armenian, Syriac

One*s heart's instincts involuntarily uttered the desire and
almost prayer — Could it but be that in Gk)d's good providence
a St. Sulpice college, after the type of that of MM. Olier and
Ti-ouson, could be established under joint management of Arme-
nian and English clergymen, though with the control of studies

Online LibraryH. A. (Herbert Alfred) BirksThe life and correspondence of Thomas Valpy French, first bishop of Lahore → online text (page 28 of 46)