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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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fire towards the prophets of Baal. They seemed interested in the
contrast, poor fellows ; I wish they might be led to make inquiry
further about the way of salvation.

This spot, called Mahrakah, is one of the loftiest of the Carmel,
and one of the greenest, except where precipitous grey rocks hem
it in. One would have supposed the plateau would have been
more extensive ; but perhaps if the buildings were removed —
a Latin church and a small refectory with a little farm-house and
yard — 3,000 or 4,000 people might readily stand or be seated to
watch the spectacle. I have been gazing on the spot of the
massacre of the priests, and the route which Elijah must have
taken when he ran before Ahab right across the plain to the
entrance of Jezreel, whose white buildings the Druse guardian
pointed out in a distant gleam of sunshine parting banks of clouds
before and behind.

To THE Same.

Nablous. Ancient Shechem (curious as the most ancient
place in the world within the range of history proper).

Nov, 4.
I left Mahrakah on the morning of All Saints' Day, a festival not
ill-suited for the scenes of so memorable a saint and prophet



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MAHRAKAH, SEBASTIYEH, NABLOUS 283

A long and hot day's ride brought me to Janin, the ancient
Ain-Oannim, but not famous in history ; the next day to Nablous
by way of Sebastiyeh, the ancient Samaria, a place worth going
very far to sea A few pillars of a temple, built by Herod the
Great to Augustus his imperial patron, are almost the only
ancient remains. A cathedral of crusading times of the twelfth
century and of noble proportions still stands in great measure,
though turned into a mosque by the Moslems. In a crypt is the
traditional tomb of John the Baptist, not altogether proofless, as
St. Jerome notices the tradition. It is difficult to understand
how the disciples could have brought the body to a place so long
a day's journey distant However, it is not impossible. Of coui*se
I visited the crypt.

Samaria is in a splendid position, being encircled with a girdle
of lofty hills, the mountains of Samaria, which stand at a respect-
ful distance. ... Its valleys in various directions are beautifully
fringed with rich verdure from the abundance of unfailing springs
and fountains. From the hills above too the Mediterranean is
visible. On a far-off isolated and imposing sunmiit stands one
of the Bamas of the Bible, I am afraid not the one to which
Samuel returned from his circuit, though it seemed just the place
he was likely to come back to for refreshment and rest. Between
it and Barka, a large village which looks down on Sebastiyeh,
there is for niiles a sea of olive plantations, as one might venture
to express it.

To Mbs. Fbekch.

Nablous, Nov. 6.

This morning I have been examining the schools of the Nablous
mission, both boys' and girls' : there were some forty in the former
and thirty in the latter ; both acquitted themselves much to my
satisfaction. As usual I tried to discover rather how much they
thought than how much they knew, and I was gratified.

With the girls I had St. John iv. to catechize upon, and only
here could I have asked, ^ How far off was the well our Lord sat
upon ? ' and got the answer, ' Half an hour off.' It seemed so
delightful ; and to ask whether they carried their pitchers down
to the same welL I dwelt on the interest our Lord took especially
in women, the sinful and the suffering, and how they ministered
to Him in His journeys, and by the cross, and were rewarded with
the earliest sight of the risen Lord, so I could plead with them,
whether Greeks, or Moslems, or Anglicans, to love the Lord
Jesus as those women did, and win the message Mary Magdalene
got from his lips, 'I ascend to My Father and your Father.'
I was so glad that these thoughts were given me for them. With
the boys I had Jacob's wrestling with the angel, as expounded in
Hosea xL Mr. Fallscheer, the missionary, was with me part of
the time ; then Salim, the chief muallim [teacher] of the mission,



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284 LIFE OF BISHOP FRENCH

took me to call at the Samaiitan high priest's, rather a young,
thoughtful and dignified man ; by his side was an aged but
inferior priest, a Levite perhaps.

I tried to plead for the use of the Psalms of David, as well as
the Toret or Pentateuch, and as much as I could for the wprk
and kingdom of Christ ; but all this was parried. I begged him
at least to plead daily for a fuller and fuller enlightenment from
God's Holy Spirit, with which he seemed more in sympathy.

He took me then to a school where Samaritan boys were read-
ing out of the Law in Arabic in some Bible Society copies given
by Mr. F. ; and, last of all, to his little synagogue, very plain and
unfurnished except for being strown with Persian carpets. He
gladly took some help for his poor and sick, which they refused to
do in Bagdad. He showed me an extremely ancient copy of the
Law in the usual circular case of silver and brass with the capital
words of the inscription in gold. He asked me very curiously
whether I had baptized any Jews in India, and I told him of
Benjamin at Agra, the young rabbi, the first I baptized there.
It seemed to amuse him that we had occupied an island fronting
Beyrout, Jaffa, Haiffa, and Alexandria, and he asked whether we
could not add Jerusalem also, to which I said we were not capable
of ruling the world I He asked, as so many do, whether there
were not any Russian invasions on our frontier. . . . The Falls-
cheers were a little vexed, I think, I could not stay with them,
but I so prefer living in the khans among the people as hereto-
fore, in spite of having to sleep on the stone floor, softened how-
ever by your rizais [quilts]. The rainy season has begun, and one
has to keep as dry and warm as possible to escape fever. . . . The
F.'s have a very small, unpretending little house, which I admire
them for. . , . My fare has been rather meagre since my new
dragoman has been with me, as I have to cook instead of him,
even a dish of oatmeal, and he seldom seems to find anything
eatable in the bazaars. I hope in Jaffa to be rejoined by my old
sei'vant. The streets of Nablous are unique almost, through the
long heavily vaulted archways which compose some of them, with
no light except at each end. Cabbages and turnips with other
European garden products abound in the well-watered gardens
east of the city. At the Bible Society's depdt portions of Holy
Scripture are bought more readily than heretofore by the Moham-
medans, but more of the Law and Psalms than the Gospel. . . .

I have managed to visit two deeply interesting spots this even-
ing : one the well at which our Lord sat when weary with the
journey and discoursed with the Samaritan woman. Sychar, now
called Askar, is a small village ten minutes distant on a low slope
of hill. I read on the spot most of the chapter, and much
enjoyed it. The other was Joseph's tomb, about which there
seems to be reasonable doubt that it is genuine. It is surrounded
with a strong wall built by a recent consul of Damascus.



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SYCHAR, JOPPA, AND JERUSALEM 285

To Mks. Fbench.

Joppa, Nov. 15.

, • . I reached this place after two days' heavy riding from
Nablous, feeling the worse too for bad lodging and bad food at
the khan there. The weather was damp and the scents somewhat
pestilential, and sleeping on the hard floors not favourable to
good nights. But I have been very comfortably housed here at
the Halls', though I had begged them to hire part of an Arab
house for me. . . • For two days we have had fearful storms and
torrents of rain. . . . Much indeed have I to be thankful for in
having escaped the terrible weather, and only enjoyed the grand
sight of the tempest-tossed ocean from the sand-ridges crowned
with the vineyards, which overlook the shore and the scenes
of St. Peter's labours and Tabitha's charities. It seemed certainly
the fittest place in the world almost to address ladies' working
parties in, and express the hope and prayer that Joppa might
be privileged still to have many modem Tabithas, both Syrian
and English, to walk in the steps of their ancient exemplar.

The addresses have been given partly in the school church,
partly in Mr. Hall's study, and partly at the hospital opposite,
which is a fine and admirably worked institute imder Mrs. Bowie
and several accomplished and devoted ladies of the Mildmay
mission. This has been working for some thirty years or more :
as also a large girls' boarding school of which a Miss Arnott
(Presbyterian) has been lady principal for about twenty-five
years, whose seventy scholars I catechized yesterday morning at
some length. . . . The Latins have a whole colimtm of priests and
nuns here in a palatial sort of building, and there is a German
colony with two pastors.

The Halls are much valued, and have a wide influence for
good. Messrs. Wilson and Welters from Jerusalem and Nazareth,
Dr. Elliott from Gaza, and Mr. Zeller also of Jerusalem are
the men of mark in this little circle, and it has been a pleasure
to be so friendlily admitted to thoir brotherhood and counsels.
The teachers from all their out-schools have been gathered for
these addresses, and most of them understand English, though
I talk with them all I can in Arabic.

Jeioisalem, Nov. 21, 1888.
I only arrived last evening after a long day's journey from
Ramleh. . . . About halfway between Eamleh and Kuds^ we
descended upon a wooded valley, whose slopes on both sides
were most cai-efully tilled and rich in varied produce of vines,
olives and com crops, a lovely contrast to the rock-strewn wastes
preceding. This was the ancient Kirjath-jearim where David
found the ark : ' Lo, we heard of it at Ephratah : we found it



* The Arabic name of Jerusalem.



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286 LIFE OF BISHOP FRENCH

in Kiijath-jearim ' (fields of the wood, English version). Now
I understood at last what the 'fields of the wood' mean. . . .
It was not till the glooming of the evening that we neared
Jerusalem, but as we approach it by long ascents for some two
hours it does not break on the sight in any remarkable way
from this direction. In fact of the city we saw nothing till this
morning, when I ascended the heights above the mosque of
Omar, where the Bussians have a fine cathedral (octegon),
recently built, with a tower of very lofty and imposing pro-
portions which commands the whole country.

Very little met the eye last evening but the grand buDdings
of the Greeks and Latins, which by their splendour and the lofty
heights they occupy have made the Moslem buildings almost sink
into insignificance. Again I am surprised that Christian powers
have been allowed to present so lordly an appearance, and plant
themselves down almost as majestically as they must have done
in old cmsading days.

I cannot attempt to describe the humbling and solemnizing
thoughts which the entrance on the holy city occasioned.
They were rudely broken in upon by the necessity of settling
reasonable terms with the landlord of the Jerusalem hotel. . . .
I was anxious to walk alone to-day, so as not to have the current
of thought disturbed by irrelevant and frivolous remarks. The
air is so crisp and clear, and the sun in such full brightness, that
I am agreeably surprised in the dignity and majesty of the view
the city presents from the lofty grounds above it, and walking
through some of its lower streets to day I did not discover the
meanness and filth of which travellers complain.

It is useless attempting to call on all the dignitaries of
countless Churches here, and institutions of which there are
shoals, from all conformist and nonconformist bodies every-
where.

Nov, 26. I first visited on Thui-sday the little * green hill,'
skull-like in shape and now a Mohammedan cemetery, said by
the Jews to be the ancient place of punishment, and believed
by General Gordon (of Africa) and a long succession of travellers
and writers on the topography of Jerusalem to be the actual
Calvary and scene of our blessed Lord's crucifixion.

Of course the Greeks and Latins maintain the spot in the
Holy Sepulchre, called the Calvary, to be the identical site of
the crosses ; but to a plain common-sense observer the little hill
outside the walls, whence almost the whole city is in sight, and
from which those on the walls might see the title on the cross
if in large bold characters, commends itself as the place on which
that awfully grand and solemn event took place which has
changed the face of the world, and of which Himself said, * I, if
I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.'

I sat alone on the crest of the little hill and read the various



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THE 'GREEN HILL/ BETHANY 287

accounts in the gospels, and could find nothing in contradiction
to the view which assigns this spot to the ci*ucifixion, though one
imagined it to be further removed from the city walls, and capable
of containing a greater throng. Those lines occurred —

"Calvary's mournful mountain view,
There the Lord of Glory see."

It was such a relief to enjoy that meditation in stillness,
instead of encountering the crowd and turmoil which mar all
recognition and appreciation of the great realities within the
Church of the Holy Sepulchre. I wished . . . that we might
have enjoyed it together in the quietness you would have loved.
We should scarcely have spoken a word, but we should have felt
and thought together. . . .

Yesterday morning I spent in examining the praeparandi
class at Bishop Gobat's schools; they are evidently well and
carefully taught I hope to visit other schools during the week
and learn all I can of what is done and what ought to be done.

I spent the afternoon in walking with Mr. Kelk to Bethany ;
it was a most bracing and exhilarating day, and the whole
wilderness of Judea southward with the mountains of Moab
made a striking panorama.

In spite of the distractions of the multitude of beggars, by
whom Bethany is infested, it was with most thrilling and glad-
dening interest I gazed from the hill above on the village
home which yielded our blessed Lord almost the only human
refreshments He allowed Himself when in the precincts of
Jerusalem.

The traditional tomb of Lazarus in the village has no real
proof of identity, the old cemetery with its rock-hewn tombs was
far more probably, as Mr. Kelk remarks, the actual scene of the
great miracle which most of all brought about the crucifixion.

One prominent hill with almost beetling brow to the north is
with much reason thought the true mount of the Ascension.
Thus is Bethany most glorious in its surroundings, as most
precious also in its inner and hidden histoiy.

The road which passes by it to the city, and is its eastern
boundary, was probably the pathway from which our Lord
beheld the city and wept over it. The city stands out grandly,
and must have been a noble spectacle when it was so much more
beautiful, and strengthened with fortresses and bulwarks, and
the temple was its pride. The ruins of a very massive stately
mansion still go by the name of the House of Simon the Leper.

Jerusalem, Dec. 2 (Advent Sunday).

It is so delightful to me to be allowed to preach in Jerusalem

this Advent Sunday to an Arab fiock, pai-tly in Arabic, and partly

in English translated for me, and to read both the ante-and-post-

Commuuion Service in Arabic, and celebrate in the same. I do



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288 LIFE OF BISHOP FRENCH

praise God for His goodness in granting me this token of my not
being discai'ded and dismissed from His missionary service. • . .
On Friday (St. Andrew's Day) I preached on Mount Zion to a fair
congregation on the subject of the missionary festival from * O
Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high moun-
tain.' You may imagine what an inspiring, animating theme it
was, and what a rich privilege in smk a place, on such toords, to
such a flock. Then in the evening at Mr. Kelk's I had to give an
address on missions in India in their contrast with those in
Palestine, to a party of nearly all the Church of England workers
in Jerusalem for various societies. The pleasantest St. Andrew's
Day I ever spent, I must say.

There is quite a large band of ladies just come out, rallied by
Mrs. Meredith . . . chiefly I believe to work in Jewish houses,
and perhaps others of the people of the land. They seem so
thankful to get these words of encouragement on first entrance on
their work. . . . The missionaries are so kind here, Messrs. Wilson
(famous in Uganda mission history), Zeller, and Kelk especially,
that it has cheered me much, and relieved me of my long loneli-
ness rather in the Lebanon.

Dec. 5. Yesterday I spent the afternoon first in the usual
Arabic lesson, and then in visiting the Greek archimandrite
(Stephanos), the next in mnk to the patriarch. Mr. Zeller
introduced me, and we had an hour's chat in Arabic on many
interesting topics touching the relations between the Greek and
English Churches. He asked with much interest about the late
conference at Lambeth, and seemed to think that the English
Church might readily help them in Palestine by founding some
high-class theological schools. He seemed aware how many able
theologians we have in our universities, and felt that his own
Church was very defective in this matter. This was the most
hopeful conversation I have yet had with any of the Greek
dignitaries. He has written an elaborate work in Arabic to
disprove the Pope's title to supremacy and infallibility, a work
which the C. M. S. missionaries here set a high value upon, and
are able to use in dealing with the subject. . . . Mr. Zeller took
me afterwards through several streets of which all the houses
belong to the Greek Church on the one side and Latin Church on
the other ; and new convents, churches, hospitals, schools, are
springing up on all sides at immense cost.

We visited the Eoman patriarch's cathedral (Monsignor
Braco), an exquisitely beautiful and artistically arranged church,
everything in colour, music, choir-singing, and architectural
detail most attractive and elaborate. The nuns and their schools
were seated in such exact file and perfect order you would
suppose they were statuary rather than living boys. A band
of priests knelt in the same precise, almost motionless, rank and
file before the high altar. Priests and a few laity came and



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GETHSEMANE AND OLIVET 289

took chairs and knelt on the right hand, the ladies being on the
left. Yet, as all was in Latin, and there were scarce any
responses, the want of anything likely to edify seemed grievous.
. . . Monday evening I spent in examining Nehemiah's walls with
Mr. Hanauer's help, and in a visit to the pool of Siloam, which at
present is almost dried up, so one could not realize as one could
wish the beautiful words of Isaiah, * Because this people refuse
the waters of Siloah which flow softly.' Still it was a rich treat
to stand at the very pool where the blind man was bidden to
wash. We visited other gates, of Herod, of the Crusaders, and
St. Stephen's Gate, just beyond which his martyrdom took place,
it is said.

Jerusalem, Dec. 9, 1888.

I see various schools day by day, but there is little record as
they all seem to follow in a beaten track and are generally very
elementary. . . . The Prussian schools here are some of the best.
Mr. Schneller has 150 orphans, who are trained for various trades
and professions, and Sister Charlotte has a corresponding one for
girls. They are both of them remarkable people, who have been
some thirty years in chai'ge, and they received me very friendily ;
but the classes are in German, so I can make little of them.
Mr. Schneller is a man of great character, a sort of prophetic type
of man, with a quaint original view of thought and speech.
I wish I could see more of him, but he is very aged and has
much on his hands. These two Prussian colleges are among the
grandest edifices in the suburbs of Jerusalem. They can scarcely
touch the Mohammedan population, though I learn that the
Sisters of Mount Zion have eighty Mohammedan girls.

The greatest Arabic scholar among the ladies working in the
East is Miss Jacombs, of Bethlehem. She has invited me to
occupy rooms there next week. Dr. Wheeler, of the Jewish
Society Hospital, has promised to take me over the principal
synagogues to-morrow. He is a very hard-working missionary,
and is earning great respect. Dr. Chaplin, who preceded him,
left a great name behind him and had great influence among
the Jews.

Dec. 10. Friday was to me an enjoyable and solemn day, as
I visited the scene of our Lord's agony, under some extremely
ancient olives of most weird and rugged appearance, whose roots,
at least so Dr. Edersheim thinks, may have been the original roots
of the very trees under which Jesus prayed those fervent prayers
*with strong crying and tears.' From thence I took rather
a long and rather a steep walk to the mount of His 'glorious
Ascension,' about whose true locality there can scarcely be any
doubt, as it is just above Bethany, overhanging it in fact, and is
at the extremity of the Mount of Olives : only my dragoman and
my muallim (native teacher) accompanied me. ... At the garden

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290 LIFE OF BISHOP FRENCH

we were able to pray together the suitable prayers out of the
Litany, and on the mountain the two Ascension Collects.

Miss Barlee has a Bible-class of Jewish women, which I have
promised to address on Wednesday evening.

Dec. II. I examined Miss Fitz- John's Jewish girls' school
(some thirty children present), and I was quite taken by surprise
by their answers, so full of thought and quick intelligence. . . .
I don't know when I have more enjoyed a catechizing, these
little Jewesses, not converts, entering with such bright smiles
and vivacious remarks into the whole story of our Lord's trium-
phal entry with its successive incidents. The Hosanna, ^Save
us now, O Lord 1 ' I suggested as their constant prayer till
death.

After lunch I accompanied Mr. Hanauer to see the pool of
Bethesda, the real pool, in all probability, as distinct from the
traditional. It is inside the enclosure of a large Dominican
monastery, where a ruined church has been buUt up by the
French on the old model throughout, a splendid specimen of the
old crusading style of church-building. The ruins were offered,
Mr. Hanauer says, to the English in 1840, but were declined by
them ; so it is, that as we retreat everywhere the Latins advance.
I do wish we could have inherited Bethesda, and so had a central
home for our Church in the heart of this city of most blessed
memories, whence to welcome, it might be, the returning Saviour
when His feet touch the Mount of Olives. I generally return
from my walks quite saddened in heart to think how the Church
of England makes light of the noble opportunities it has of
planting the standard of the Gospel, and blowing its trumpet in
this land of Greek and Jew, Druse and Moslem, and towards
which the eyes of the whole Church are so increasingly turned.
We examined the scanty remains of the old tower of Antonia . . .
and also some pillars, the only above-ground remains of the
basilica of Constantino.

At this time the bishop received news of the death of his
son-in-law, Major Thomdike, who had served with credit
in the Black Mountain expedition, but who succumbed
to sickness contracted on the homeward march only
a fortnight after his return. A few words from his letter
of condolence to his daughter may be given : —

Jerusalem, Dec 16.
... I have thought by day and night of your anguish, but all
words of sympathy must seem so cruelly cold and inadequate
when by an inscrutable providence like this your life's best hopes
seem wrecked all in a moment, as if noonday had become mid-
night all at once. ... It is clear that he has fallen a mart>T to



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DEATH OF MAJOR THORNDIKE 29I

duty and to that patriot-courage (not seldom with a high Christian
element added) which has so long, especially during the past
eleven yeara, endeared to me and ennohled in my eyes the
British officer. ... I felt proud to have for a son-in-law so good
a specimen of the soldier, . . . but I certainly had no presentiment
that you would be called so soon to share in his martyrdom and
be a joint sacrifice with him to duty and honour for country and
for Christ. This thought at least does contain ixi it true elements
of comfort to a soldier's wife and widow, and wiJl prove to you



Online LibraryH. A. (Herbert Alfred) BirksThe life and correspondence of Thomas Valpy French, first bishop of Lahore → online text (page 31 of 46)