H. A. (Herbert Alfred) Birks.

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

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people, but it shall stand for ever'— and the hymn seems support-
ing, 'Thy way, not mine, Lord.' I sent on this morning to his
brother an unfinished beginning of the last circular letter which
he was preparing for his friends as usual, descriptive of the sicken-
ing and appalling scene he had just witnessed, the staggering into
camp in small, famished, sunburnt groups of the shattered relics of
Burrows' brigade, Candahar is recovered, but they cannot give the
diocese back its apostle, nor to me my friend. The Punjab can
scarcely be to me again what it has been, for my right arm seems
gone ; but Christ knows better than we do what makes best for His
cause, and it is possible the death of such a man may kindle a new
and undying enthusiasm to catch at least a shred of the apostolic
mantle which fell from him when he was translated. He seems to
have lived (so the chaplain, Mr. Kane says, who was with him to the
last) some eight hours after he was wounded. The bullet passed
through his arm into his side, and another struck his leg. He
knew very soon that he could not recover, but was in perfect peace.
He sent messages to me that there were funds in the bank to pay
what was owing to the catechists, and the various plans he had set
afloat. Doubtless his friends will help to enlarge his itineration
plan on the Jhelum and Indus, of which he was the pioneer and
founder ; and I have advertised in the Guardian a plan, which
I should gladly see realized, that an aisle or transept in our
mother-church here should be specially allotted or appropriated to
the native church for vernacular worship and preaching— as there
is a transept in St. David's where Welsh preaching goes on every
Sunday. Since leaving Dalhousie and my dear wife a fortnight
ago, I have been journeying rather hurriedly, confirming, conse-
crating, preaching, lecturing to crowds of soldiers on temperance
at Dalhousie and Dugshai, beside native work occasionally. One
may well learn from recent events, * Whatsoever thy hand findeth
to do, do it with thy might,' &c, bnt I am growingly persuaded
that men do much more good, and effect more, by loving, patient,
gentle, saintly character, than by feverish excitement of overwork
and fretful impulsiveness. A life of Sibthorpe in the Guardian
lately teaches that lesson well ; and still better, lives of such as
De Sacy, Bossuet, F6n6lon, not to speak of dear Gordon : his
gentleness and manliness combined were very influential.

The correspondence my cathedral and other diocesan work
involves me in seems to grow incessantly. Each of the last mails
has taken out with it some ten long letters, and a good part of the
last three days before the mail has to be devoted to it. Still, the
spiritual part of the work claims, and has, the choicest of my time,
whether for natives or Europeans, and so long as this is so, and
health is graciously preserved, for you and for me the word seems

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to be, 'Faint, yet pursuing.' What a great prayer is that— * Set
me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm.' I fear^
there is not much hope of my dear wife being able to stay out to
help me through the synod, as her two youngest are in so weak and
anxious a state of health. It is a sore trial, and it seems to cut up
a part of one's plans by the roots, but in these things I suppose
* patience must have her perfect work.'. . . I hope dear V.* is having
much success in his vocation of seeking to break down that strong-
hold of sin which in my smaller degree I am also wrestling with in
tough embrace. Dear Mr. Gordon took the pledge at Candahar one
evening when we were advocating the temperance cause. ... I am
glad dear M. and yourself have the prospect of a short change
at least this summer. What a joy it would be to share the holiday
with you, but I hope for two or three years more to get on without
requiring a furlough.

The aisle was associated in the bishop's appeal with
Gordon, and the chancel with the fallen officers. In
writing to his son Basil on October 8, about the soldiers'
joy that the war was practically over, he said : —

' I have been attacked in the leading paper here for connecting
the cathedral with slaughter and battle-fields, but to this I have
replied that the soldier represents very much the spirit of self-
sacrifice and loyal homage to duty, and that these excellences
ought not to be thought lightly of, but rather immortalized.'

But whilst providing for the fiiture, the bishop did not
suffer bis sense of personal bereavement or zeal for his
great project for his diocese to render him unmindftil of
the soldiers' present needs. Eather his sympathies were
quickened by his own calamity, and he spoke out nobly
in moving the first resolution at a meeting gathered to
support a Patriotic Fund.

' The expression Patriotic Fund,' he said, * is most happily chosen.
There was a time when patriotism was restricted to the feeling
which bound Englishmen together, now it implies the bond which
unites the English race and nation with the people of this great
country in common interests, sympathies, and hopes. So it was

* This apprehension, it may be remembered, was not realized.
^ His youngest brother, at that time largely engaged as a temperance

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with the Boman citizenship and empire. There was a time when
it was limited to those who dwelt within the city walls or its near
neighbourhood ; it grew and expanded till, by a decree of Caracalla,
the citizenship came to be as wide as the empire. We may com-
pare with this the deepening and strengthening of the conviction
that we were one nation and one empire from the time our gracious
Queen assumed the title of Empress at Delhi, proclaiming herself as
head, under God, of an empire whose members were as citizens of
one country. Our country, England and India united in one, has
lost some of her noblest and bravest sons, native and European,
Our empire mourns, and is clad in weeds of sorrow for a great and
sore bereavement. Out of the love we bear our country we weep
with her, and we would not weep with unpractical sorrow, with
** crocodile" tears : as an African once said to a meeting expressing
great enthusiasm of sorrow—" how many pounds do you weep ? " . . .
They have rendered us the best service, at the price of the most
costly and precious thing they could oflfer, " All that a man hath
will he give for his life." It is little we can do at the best to
requite such incalculably costly services. Let us do at least what
we can for the disabled, the widows and orphans of the fallen.
Which of us could have closed his purse-strings or stint his offer-
ings ... if we could have looked on at that marvellous display of
fidelity, chivalry, and gallantry which was seen at Maiwand, in the
way in which the 66th regiment, and the noble Galbraith, their
colonel, held out for hours against overwhelming odds amid
showers of bullets and shell, defending their colours, till the
hundred that stood about their captain became eleven before they
would retreat on Candahar? Who could close his purse-strings
that has looked on the wan, worn, emaciated countenances, as it has
been my lot to do, of sufferers in hospital, weakened perhaps in the
very prime of vigorous manhood, maimed and mutilated, and so
stripped of the main support of themselves and those nearest and
dearest to them? We cannot requite them by standing in a shower
of shell and shot as they did ; but as a great writer says, just as
forces in nature are transmuted, so their courage can, in some small
measure, be transformed in us, and take the shape of contributing
unsparingly that which it is hard and costly for us to spare out
of the means we possess.'

He concluded with his favourite story of the Roman
centurion with eight children, who volunteered for service,
and whose claim that his children should receive support
was recognized as merely just by the great iron empire.

This meeting took place in the autumn. Meantime
General Eoberts' magnificent march had culminated in the
crowning fight at Candahar upon September i. Ayub had

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fled to Herat, and, though the evacuation of the country
after Abdul Eahman had been established as Ameer by
British bayonets was not completed till the spring, by
November 13 a fine army of io,cxx) men was assembled at
Lahore, and there reviewed by Lord Eipon, the new
Viceroy, who had come to India in the summer.

This strikingly fulfilled the forecast of the military
leaders. At a banquet in Cabul before his march began,
Sir F. Roberts had said : —

' Sir Donald Stewart is wilUng to guarantee— and, were it not an
indecorous thing for an officer so high in rank, would even bet— that
we shall reach India again vid, Candahar by November next.'

The bishop wrote to his sister, Mrs. Gregg, from Dera
Ismail Khan,, whither he had come from Jhang by tonga,
driving no miles in eleven hours and a half, including
half an hour's stoppage to mend a broken wheel : —

* I have just come down here on a visitation after taking such
part as I was bound to take in the Viceroy's public ceremonial.
He came to welcome the troops on their return from Cabul, so
I had no opportunity of talking with him, except for about two
minutes. The assemblage of native chiefs was large and picturesque :
your dear girls would have greatly wondered at the pomp and
pageantry and the bespangled dresses in which they came to be

presented. was almost beside herself with the enchantment

and fascination of the scene.'

By the time of his synod in December, the bishop was
able to, speak of a ' lull in the operations which is hardly
yet a great calm.' Indeed, though the early Afghan wars
affected him most closely, there was hardly a great calm
all through the time of his episcopate. His military pro-
vince was profoundly stirred and affected by the wars in
Egypt and the Soudan. In 1885 there was a serious alarm
of war with Russia, in connexion with the Penjdeh inci-
dent, and there was almost always fighting on the fron-
tier. When war seemed imminent in April, 1885, the
bishop wrote to the editor of the Lahore Church Gazette,
putting forth a sketch form of humiliation and prayer,
and saying : —

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'I beg leave to mention two or three thoughts that have been
helpful to me the last two days.

* (i) One of these is the remarkably providential fact that just
when war seems imminent, and so serious a burden of responsi-
bility, peril, and possible suffering is laid on our soldiers, one
commanding, stately figure \ should have been made prominent
before the sight of armies everywhere, but emphatically of the
British army, as the type and model, the ideal of what the soldier
may be in his true greatness and goodness. May we not believe
that it will be an incalculable blessing to thousands to have such
an image of noblest Christian chivahy and devotion presented to
them for study and imitation, and to know for certain from his
own witness and that of countless others, that the star of his
manly, knightly, godly life, fetched its chief radiance and radiating
power from this,— that, like St. Paul, he found his losses all gains,
because he had won Christ ? Living, to Him he lived : dying, to
Him he died.

* The second is the hopefulness inspired by the thought that in
no country in the world, probably, could the news of an outbreak
of war have caused such an upspringing from so many faithful
hearts of prayer devout, humble, and penitent,— prayer, not so
much for success and victory to our arms, but with an under-
current of longing desire that, by whatsoever events, God may
be glorified, and the coming kingdom of the Prince of Peace

* The third is the joy and thankfulness I should have from learning
that the annexed sketch of a form of prayer, homage, and humilia-
tion for public worship (or private where the other is impossible)
might bring many more worshippers to the daily services of our
church, than are usually found there : that it might be the occasion
of a fresh start in the direction of wiping off what is a real blot
to our Christianity, and a stumbling-block to our Moslem fellow-
subjects, as well as a grievous dishonour to Him who is greater than
the temple- 1 mean the almost utter emptiness and nakedness of
our churches during the hours of week-day service. Our fresh
confirmees, and the heads of Christian womanhood in our English
society, might earn a well-deserved place among our fellow-workers
for the Kingdom of God, who are a comfort to us, and in the
proposed " Company of the Ministry of Jesus," if they would take
the lead in a movement toward daily services, which my brethren,
the chaplains, would meet, I doubt not, by fuller forms of prayers,
and short thoughtful expositions (where asked for), or readings
from eminent divines. The calm, restful, devout spirit, breathed
in the sanctuary of God, would be more befitting, more helpful and
uplifting to the soul, than the circle of agitated and excited listeners

Charles Gordon.

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to the latest telegrams and rumours of Bussian advance, with
-whose sad forebodings and real home-anxieties we must, all the
same, deeply sympathize.'

His description of the great camp gathered at Eawul
Pindi, in connexion with this war- scare, is worthy to be
quoted : —

^ March 2rj, 1885. It is a strange scene in which one finds oneself
here in the midst of a camp of 20,000 troops, a much larger force
than that at Candahar in 1880, with all the pomp and paraphernalia
of great military preparations on the one hand, and barbaric
eastern splendour on the other. It is the seriousness of all the
circumstances and the prevailing conviction there is that a war
of vast dimensions is imminent, which makes it a time of much
solemnity, and seems to hold a kind of awe and hushed suspense
over men's minds, and restrains all that excitement and rejoicing
which usually distinguishes such scenes, more especially now that
a popular Viceroy^ is being welcomed, and so many meetings of
old friends from all parts of the Punjab, and beyond, are taking
place, and every kind of rich uniform and gaudy colouring of
native costiune diversify the scene. Even when the Viceroy
alighted on his arrival to-day, enthusiasm was much subdued,
and there was a shadow brooding over men's countenances, it
seemed to me, which betokened misgivings and uneasy apprehen-
sion. The future, however, is in God's hands, and it is just
possible the worst may be averted, but to-day's tidings are the
worst yet received, and officers are being sent off in hot haste to
Quettah and the Pishin valley beyond it to see, I suppose, what
defences that frontier admits of. That we are extremely unpre-
pared all admit, but the gathering of an army of 60,000 under
Greneral Stewart is proposed, and we hear from home of the calling
out of the militia and reserves, so that you will be almost in the
midst of as much warlike preparations as we are. The Viceroy is
greeted warmly, but silently, and if a man could rally and attach
to himself hearts, I think he would. He received me most
pleasantly and kindly to-day, but after all " Except the Lord keep
the city the watchman waketh but in vain." I confess the alliance
with the great Mohammedan power is not to me a very hopeful
outlook for the future. Colonel Abbadie of the 9th Lancers said
to me to-day, " Well, but we are a Mohammedan power already."
I hope we shall be kept calm and in good spirits, waiting on Him
who has befriended us so marvellously often in terrible straits, and
that we shall not be ashamed of confessing Him. I had four
divisions of the English forces to provide chaplains for, and

Lord Dufferin.

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accordingly took one myself, and appointed Messrs. Spens, Tribe,
and Nugent, who seem all working with a heart, and we are all
harmonious in action as regards arrangements.

''Monday, Matvh 30. Yesterday I held an early parade at 7.30
out on the great plain for the 9th Lancers, portions of Highlanders,
and one battery of Artillery. Then at 11, sermon at station
church, the Viceroy and Lady Dufferin and Sir Charles Aitchison
and party being present. I contrasted our Lord's triumphal pro-
cession with that of these days at Rawul Pindi. I fear it was not
as flattering as might have been expected to the latter. There
was such a dense lev6e (9.30 the fixed time) at the Viceroy's state
tent on Saturday evening that all was in sad confusion, natives and
English all jumbled inextiicably. I never saw anything imperial
so disorderly done. I suppose the flocking together of such multi-
tudes was unexpected, and much had to be extemporized. Then all
the carriages were packed together in masses in all directions, and
in the dark it was a hopeless search, so I begged a seat home in the
first carriage I found driving my way (which turned out to be the
Roman Bishop of Lahore's), and I was indebted to him for driving
me home (not to Rome, happily) about 10.40.

' Easter Bay, I missed seeing the Ameer after all. He came in
just as early service commenced on Tuesday morning, and it was
very wet also. There was to be a durbar in the afternoon, but in
consequence of rain it was put off, and I left at 8 p.m.

' KoJuit, May 21. The accounts from Russia are very unfavour-
able, it appears to me, but people go on hoping. The officers are
indignant, and think England is to be branded with ignominy.
What is to come of it I know not. It is curious to see even
Mr. Chamberlain refuses a deputation from the Peace Society. It
looks serious that the Czar has sent a jewel-hilted sword to
General Komaroff I Dear Agnes will be amused at the Maharanee
of Baroda offering her services to form an army of Mahratta
amazons to fight the Russians, and recounting what the Mahratta
ladies, such as Ahilya Beg, did in the old annals of the confederacy.
The Civil and Military hopes the ladies of India and England avlII
follow her example. I think Agnes would like to be her A. D. C. !
It really seems as if this war were cementing a fresh union between
the English and the Hindus. I am most of all surprised at the
apparent loyalty of the Mohammedans.'

But it was not in war alone, but in peace, that Bishop
French was ever the soldiers' true friend. Among other
efforts, he felt it needful to advocate the cause of temper-
ance, and, amongst other self-denials, he became a total
abstainer. It teas a self-denial, for the bishop was no
enthusiast, and felt himself the better for the use of

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stimulants; indeed, from time to time he was forced to
have recourse to them for his * often infirmities/ In his
temperance addresses he always put the gospel in the
forefront, urging the soldiers to become true Nazarites, and
not mere Rechabites ; to make their total abstinence only
a link in that chain of graces which, beginning with man-
liness, ended in brotherly kindness and love.

In a letter to Miss Brocklebank in the first year of his
episcopate he said: —

* Thus far, I think, those to whom my new work seems to have
been most blessed are the British soldiers, but the natives keep
their hold upon me rather determiuately, and claim my sy^mpathy
and co-operation in what concerns them, and you may be sure this
is no sorrow or trouble to me, whatever labour may be involved.
Thus far I have been preserved wonderfully in health, more than
I could have dared to hope, yet I feel it is a severe strain some-
times, and having felt it necessary to be a teetotaller (the soldiers
in one camp made me take the pledge twenty-six times one night
after a lecture ! as they like my individualizing plan), I cannot take
stimulants to keep up brain power. I hope I shall be able to get
on without'

Another point in which he showed himself the soldiers'
friend was in protesting with all his influence, in public
and in private, against all profanation of the day of
rest: —

* You and I,' he wrote to an officer of highest rank in one of the
hill-stations, *have great responsibilities, you greater than myself in
some ways, and with responsibilities a greater influence, and you
are not one who will think I ought to ask your pardon for pleading
earnestly with you (as the chief pastor of the Church of Christ in
this diocese) to exert that influence more wholly to the glory of
God and the good of His Church— I mean as regards the observance
of the Lord's Day and the services of the Church.

*In my visitation journeys, among other observations I could
not fail to make this very especially, that the respect and reverence
for God and holy things was affected to what we may feel a lament-
able, but is yet perhaps a natural and inevitable, extent by the
bearing and conduct of the chief officers, military more than civil,
towards the house and worship of God.

' If in any respect the manner of conducting the services should
be objectionable, I shall feel very thankful if you will publicly or
confidentially complain to me, that I may remonstrate and, if pos-
sible, make a change in the arrangements complained of.


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' If it be otherwise, allow me, dear sir, with the utmost courtesy
and respect, which your kindness to myself personally And well-
known philanthropies must inspire, to exhort you in the name of
the great Head of the Church to consider how greatly the exercise
of influence has to do with the great account we must both render,
and how deep the debt is we owe to Him of whose government one
of the most recognized, and most righteous, and surely fulfilled
Jaws is, " Them that honour Me, I will honour." '

It has been already noticed how successfully on another
occjasion he appealed to General Roberts to defer a Sun-
day march. This was a point on which he was at all times
ready to lay the greatest stress, and in 1882 he obtained
a General Order on the subject: —

* It having been brought to the notice of the Commander-in-Chief
that in several instances lately the orders and customs of the
service requiring troops on the line of march to halt on Sundays
have been infringed, his Excellency directs that no movement
of troops shall take place on a Sunday, except when absolutely

As a preacher, the bishop might sometimes weary the
patience of the soldier in that hot Indian climate by the
length of his discourse, or shoot above the heads of all but
the more thoughtful of his hearers. He tells good-
humouredly against himself the story of a general's wife
who, after listening for three-quarters of an hour in the
heart of the hot season, vowed she would never hear him
preach again. But every soldier could appreciate his mani-
fest sincerity, and when he went miles out of his way in
the burning sun to minister to two or three in their
sickness, or stripped off his coat in hospital to rub the
limbs of some poor fellow writhing with pains of cholera,
they recognized that in their own chief pastor they had
one who understood their troubles, one who was ever ready
to endure all hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ ;
and so it is no wonder they respected him — in many cases
loved him — for his work. That this is no exaggerated
language two simple anecdotes may serve to show. On
June II (St. Barnabas Day), 1885, the Bishop had been
taking the parade service of a regiment, three miles from
Murree, under the grand forest trees.

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' I took,' he said, ' the character of Barnabas, and it seems to
haye attracted the men much. One of them gave an account of

the whole sermon to Mr. in the evening. " Ah, sir," he said,

'^when the bishop put his hand up to his head and said, ^Why
I with my grey hairs even want encouragement, how much more
do you young men want encouragement such as Barnabas gave ? '
it seemed to give me quite a pain here in my heart, it i^ected

On another occasion, when he was dining with the
Artillery mess at Meean Meer, the colonel in command
thanked him most warmly, in the presence of all the
oflBcers, for what he had done for them in a recent visita-
tion of the cholera, and said with a bright smile, 'If
there is a forlorn hope to be led, we will follow you to
a man.'

Thus both by men and ojS&cers his moral force was felt ;
and Captain Dunlop Smith, a former aide de camp at

Online LibraryH. A. (Herbert Alfred) BirksThe life and correspondence of Thomas Valpy French, first bishop of Lahore → online text (page 4 of 46)