H. A. (Herbert Alfred) Birks.

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

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Online LibraryH. A. (Herbert Alfred) BirksThe life and correspondence of Thomas Valpy French, first bishop of Lahore → online text (page 43 of 46)
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fur ever blessed in the bosom of the Most High, and there, while sweetly
labouring, takes its rest.'— Lorenzo Scupoli.

* And I heard a voice from heaven saying. Write, Blessed arc the dead
which die in the Lord from henceforth : yea, saith the Spirit, that they
may rest from their labours ; for their works follow with them.*— i?tfr.
xiv. 13 (R.V.).

From the desolate and scorching sea-margin of Muttra,
where the good bishop had not a single Christian face to
look upon, the change is sudden to the crowded 'Strand*
of our metropolis. On the north side, half-way between
St. Mary's church and Charing Cross, Exeter Hall, with
narrow frontage but far-reaching motto — ^i\ab€X<l>€iov — ^faces
the constant throng of busy by-passers.

On Tuesday, May 5, 1891, the Church Missionary Society
was holding there its ninety-second anniversary. Those who
would understand the mode and character of English
missionary enterprise, and all the subtle links of sympathy
that bind the solitary workers to the Church at home
(inspiring those abroad with something of the force of
numbers, ennobling those at home "v^dth something of the

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sense of a world-wide vocation), must picture to themselves
the stirring scene. The meeting is always marked with some
large measure of enthusiasm — enthusiasm in the best sense
of that dreaded word. This year two circumstances had
combined to give a special interest to the occasion. The
controversy between the bishop in Jerusalem and the
Society about their common work in Palestine was at its
height, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, who had selected
Bishop Blyth for the appointment, and to whom (with
certain assessors) the points under discussion had been
referred by the Society, had promised to be present and to

Bishop French had written from Muttra on April 24 to
Mr. Eugene Stock : —

^I am asking a special blessing for your May meetings and
services. It has been sad, indeed, to hear of so many breakdowns
in health in your staff, though not surprising. The archbishop
will be at his best, I trust, and directed what to say for the glory
of Christ, and the good of His Church, and the Society's highest

The bishop was at this time still holding out his hands to
the Society in vain, and was tempted to feel sore that he
was not more readily supported after his many years of
service. But though he was no longer officially connected
with them, and could not feel entire sympathy with all
their ways, his interest in their great work continued
unabated, the bonds of mutual affection remained entirely
unbroken, and mutual prayer and intercession resisted the
intrusion of any thought of bitterness. While he in his
far solitude remembered them, they too remembered him.
There were some who, with the claims of the whole mission-
field before them, felt that on grounds of missionary policy
it was not right, when many doors were open wide without
the men and means to enter them, to squander effort on
a door that seemed but half-ajar ; and there were others who
— much as they might respect the bishop for his devoted
character and labours — felt that it was not right for the Society
on grounds of missionary principle to use the services of

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one who, as they thought, had drifted from true lines of
Protestant observance. Still there were very many who
would eagerly have helped him, and whatever causes para-
lysed prompt action, their feeling found expression on
that day.

The speech of Sir John Kennaway, the president, began
with the startling announcement of the death of the
Archbishop of York (Dr. Magee), who in the year 1866 had
preached one of the noblest missionary sermons ever heard.
Then, after some allusions to the topics touched in the
report, and to the missionaries to be that day welcomed —
'household words are their names: Moule and Ashe and
Caley' — and to the joy of seeing Dr. Whipple, Bishop of
Minnesota, and the great apostle of the Indians, whom the
archbishop had brought with him as an unexpected guest,
and who subsequently stirred the vast audience with words
of apostolic force and fervency that breathed the love of
Christ, the President continued : —

* While we pledge oui-selves to renewed exertion and effoii, we
desire to send forth a message of tender, strong sympathy, en-
couragement, and support to those of our brethren in distant lands
who are holding the fort or carrying the war into the enemy's
country — a message which shall reach to the very heart of Central
Africa, penetrate to the far shores of Hudson's Bay, to China, to
Japan, to the very outposts of the Indian frontier, and cheer the
heart of that gi-and old veteran, Thomas Valpy French, who, as
you have heard, in the fortieth year of his missionary services
unsupported so far as human help goes, is attacking the seemingly
impregnable forti^ess of Islam in the eastern parts of Arabia, while
stretching out his hands to the old Society which he has served
and loved so long. . . . We are thinking of them, and praying that
the Master whom they serve may stand by them in their battle
against the powers of evil, and that God's Holy Spirit may in trial
and difficulty be their ever-present guide and comforter. Dear
friends, let us rise to-day to the height of our obligation, to the
full sense of our responsibility. Our duty, no less than our
privilege, is to ''go in and possess the land," taking to ourselves
the promise of God unto Joshua. The Lord thy God, He it is
that doth go before thee. Be strong and of good courage. Fear
not I He will not leave thee nor forsake thee.'

In concluding he read a letter asking prayer for Canon
Cadman, who was dangerously ill.

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"When the archbishop rose to move the first resolution
he at once won the heart of all who heard him by speaking
of the double sorrow that had fallen on him since he had
entered that room — the death of a warm friend and admired
colleague with extraordinarily brilliant gifts of mind and
speech, and the illness of one of his closest-loved and most
affectionate chaplains. In a speech of much power, sim-
plicity, and statesmanlike ability, he urged the need for
more European workers, spoke of his thankfulness for the
meeting (at Keswick) which lifted up its voice and suddenly
said, ^ You must send out a thousand more.' * For the moral
of the report/ he said, ' the first thing that strikes me as
shining through it is the old football word *' follow up.''
*' Follow up" or you will not win the goal. We have
to move up now really quickly.'

He went on to speak of Uganda and its extraordinary
interest, the martyr-boys, the scholar-chieftains, the (then)
advancing British Company. *I do not say I hope or
I tmsh Bishop Tucker could go back to Africa with forty
missionaries. I say that it will be an immense disappoint-
ment if he does not.' But perhaps the passage that excited
most attention was that concerning the existing troubles in
the Eastern missions, and here again the name of French
was honourably mentioned.

* I have another thing to remai'k upon. It seems to me to rise
out of the history both of the past and the present. We must
help others to do what we cannot do ourselves. All we know of
national characteristics and habits, all we know of the long educa-
tion of the Mohammedans in their own religion — of the ability
and zeal of the men who study and profess it, and the clearness
with which they hold their own opinions and hate our religion —
all this, I am afraid, tells us that it will not be possible for the
sons of Japhet themselves to convert the Mohammedan race.
That work, I believe, must be done by their own blood and flesh
— by other sons of Shem. It seems to rise out of that that it will
be our duty to set reform on foot amtong the Oriental Churches,
not to override them and dash ourselves to pieces against the
strong rock of Mohammedanism, but to trust that by our own
exertions and the exertions of others the spirit of reform, of the
disintegration in superstition, of return to the Scriptures as the
foundation of all knowledge, may be set on foot among those

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Oriental Churches, and we may see them themselves become the
true apostles of the Mohammedan races. I believe that that will
succeed without precipitancy ; and there is no special fact which
gives me more satisfaction than the fact that in this matter we
shall be guided by the counsels of Bishop French.'

He ended with a solemn reference to the great subject of
the Lord s Ascension and return.

* I do think,' he said, 'that with all the things we are engaged
in as a religious people, there is something of a silence in the pre-
sent day in many pulpits and in many places about the Advent of
our Lord. Yet it is for that we work, to that we press. To put
it most simply, the doctrine of the Advent of our Lord is that it
will come some time, and that it may come any time. Now, if we
are sincere in believing either in our Lord's Ascension the subject
of this season, or in His second coming which succeeds it, they
ought to awe us into forbearance and into unity. Could we be
discussing trifles if we verily saw our Lord either going or coming?
And we ought to see Him if the eye of our faith is clear. The
disciples were rebuked before His Ascension because they began
to discuss when the kingdom of God should come. My dear
friends, that was a far higher and nobler subject than many of
those which we are discussing. • . . Let me take up the words of
our pi'esident and say we pledge ourselves not merely to do all
that we can to promote the Gospel, but we pledge ourselves to do
nothing at home that shall hinder its progress. And so I commend
to you this resolution, of which I will read the last part again,
that it may sink into our ears and hearts. We are reminded of our
" Ascending Lord's command to His servants to be witnesses unto
Him to the uttermost parts of the earth," and of **the certainty
of His coming again in like manner " ; we are asked to pray that
** the whole expectant Church may be aroused to greater diligence
in preparing His way." '

Such was the message of the archbishop in his own
person, of Bishop French by his example and his influence
upon this missionary anniversary. For while these things
were going on in London, French was preparing to start — it
may be actually starting — from Muttra to the little town of
Sib, from whence he meant to penetrate to the interior,
preparing the way of his Lord \

^ There is a slight discrepancy in point of date. He himself wrote on
April 26 that he was hoping to set out upon May 4 or 5. Captain Dyke,
of H. M. S. Sphinx, supposed him to have started on the 4th ; Mr. Mac-
kirdy, whose house he occupied, upon the 5th ; while Colonel Mockler

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Mr. Maitland said, writing September 12, 1891, to Mrs.
French after his visit to Muscat : —

* I think it will be best to give as a continuous narratiye what
I have been able to piece together of those last days. . . .

' Before leaving Muttra for Sib Bishop French had been a good
deal weakened by fever, and appeared very feeble. Once or twice
he had gone into the Residency at Muscat almost prostrate, but
had quickly revived to some extent when he had been induced to
take food and a little stimulant. In May the heat became very
great, and the bishop decided not to wait till the end of the
Eamazan before starting for Sib, hoping it might be a little cooler
there. Sorely against his will the Sultan was informed of his
desire to visit the interior, and two sheikhs belonging to two of the
most influential tribes were appointed to accompany him, more or
less closely, so that he might have protection whichever way he

^ He left Muttra in a fishing-boat in the forenoon of May 6
[the boat was an open one ; he started at 11 a.m., and he had no
protection except an umbrella], and reached Sib, about twenty-
eight miles distant, in the same afternoon. Sib is a long,
straggling village, scattered through a grove of date-palms with
numerous wells and gardens. The house where the wall
(governor) lives is three miles from the little group of huts called
the bazaar, close to which is the house which the bishop used.
When he landed the heat was still very great, and he rested till
near sunset under some trees near the shore, and then went on to
the house which had been put at his disposal (through the kind
influence of Mr. Mackirdy), about three-quarters of a mile from the

' This house is on a rising sandbank on the edge of the main
grove of date-palms, but not in any way shaded by them. It is a very
light structure, made of wattled screens of date-leaves, thatched
with the same, giving fair shelter from the direct rays of the sun,
but none from the heat of the air, the wind blowing through the
walls as through a sieve. It consists of an outer verandah open
in front, and an inner room, and is raised on piles some five feet
above the sand. There are two such houses enclosed in a little
fence of palm-leaves. The bishop occupied one, and the two
sheikhs (whom he seems to have eluded at starting, but who turned
up the next morning) the other. After one attempt to get them
to go away he seems to have made the best of them, and I think
found them quite friendly and helpful. That evening, the 6th,

and Mr. Maitland both state the 6th as the day. I have thought it best
to give the atoiy in the words of Mr. Maitland, who drew up his very
careful narrative upon the spot some months later, after personal com-
munication with all these gentlemen. — En.

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the wall's son came to see the bishop ; but he sent out a message
that he could not see him then, but would come over and see the
wali next day.

* The next morning, the 7th (Ascension Day), on rising he
drank some milk, and then, in company with the two sheikhs who
had arrived, and the wali's son, walked three miles through the
grove of palms and called upon the wali. It was hot when he
returned, and the sun was reflected fiercely from the sandy lanes
among the trees. He was sick on coming in, but later took some
tapioca and milk and fried eggs, and some light food in the even-
ing (I cannot make out exactly what food he had, but it seems to
have been a good deal of milk and tapioca and arrowroot, with an
occasional egg, but no bread, tea, or meat at Sib). On the after-
noon of the 7th, being rested, he went out for a little, and did not
seem ill when he returned.

*0n the morning of the 8th he went out with some books.
Some time afterwards, perhaps about 10 a. m., some men told his
servant that his master was asleep in the date-grove. He went
and found the bishop lying down in a shady place under some
beautiful mango trees by the side of a tank. There is a sort of
raised space there with a good thatch over it, open at the sides,
and the coolest place in Sib. The men there had asked the
bishop to come under cover, but he preferred to lie down just
outside. On seeing his servant he asked him what he had
come for, and sent him back to the house, saying he would come
soon, and he did so. The house is only about 200 yards from
the tank, but across a hot piece of unshaded sand, and the hot
wind was very fierce that day. On coming in he lay down under
the house among the wooden piles.

^ Presently Kadu the servant heard him call out and clap his
hands, and on running to him found him insensible. He poured
water over his head, and in about fifteen minutes the bishop
regained consciousness, and then poured water over his own
head for some time, and some hours later went up into the
house. Later he had a little tapioca made, but could not eat it.

*The next day, Saturday the 9th, ho decided to return to Muscat,
apparently persuaded by the sheikhs, and told Kadu to get a boat.
When the boat was ready, however, he could not go. He did not
leave the house that day, nor the next, Sunday the loth, till
evening, when he started for Muscat. He occupied himself with
his books during those two days and lay down a good deal. For
food he took only a little milk and arrowroot. On the way to
Muscat he drank a little milk and ate some chocolate.

*He arrived at Muscat (not Muttra) at daylight on May 11.
It was the Id or festival after the Ramazan, and all the bazaars
were closed. He went to. the room he had hired very near both
Mr. Mackirdy's house and the Residency, but told Kadu to tell
no one of his return. Kadu went to Mr. Mackirdy's and got

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some tea, and told the butler they had returned that morning.
He went also to the house of the Sultan's doctor, a Goanese
named De Castros, and got some milk, saying there also that
they had returned. The bishop wanted a meat- stew for dinner,
but as the bazaar was closed it could not be procured till evening.
He did not go out that day, but Kadu says he was not ill.
On the morning of the 12th Mr. Allard (a young American
merchant in Mr. Mackirdy's employ) called at Mr. Mackirdy's
request (he being ill in bed) and had a long chat. Mr. Allard
was surprised (as I was afterwards) at the airiness of the room.
It was very much sheltered from the sun, and Mr. Allard says
there was a good breeze blowing through it that day, but it
needed sweeping out. The sheikhs seem to have returned to
Muscat that day, bringing with them some of the bishop's baggage
which he had left. Mr. Allard thought the bishop looking very
ill, though he moved about and talked in his usual spmts, and
of his plans for going to Hodaida by the next mail. He declined
the use of Mr. Mackirdy's house at Muttra, which was again
offered him. He said he wanted nothing and was quite comfort-
able, and would come to see Mr. Mackirdy on business next
morning. (About the business all I can conjecture is that it was
about money for his passage. He had deposited a purse with
seme sovereigns with Mr. Mackirdy, and I fancy took very little
money to Sib for fear of tempting robbers.) Mr. Allard on his
return sent over some bread, of which the bishop eat one slice
later, and Mr. Mackirdy wrote to Dr. Jayaker saying the bishop
had been ill and asking him to call on him. Dr. Jayaker lives
at Muttra, and comes over in the morning to Muscat, returning
usually about 11 a. m. Dr. Jayaker hesitated a little (as the bishop
had refused to see him at Muttra, and had written after that
to say that he did not require any medical attendance), fearing
the bishop would be vexed if he went without being asked.
However he did go next morning when he came into Muscat.

* After Mr. Allard went fever came on, and he was very restless
all night and drank a great deal of water. Kadu wanted to
call some one in, but the bishop would not allow it, and forbade
him to speak, as his head was very bad.

^On the morning of the 13th Dr. Jayaker came in about
7.30 a.m. and found the bishop unconscious, apparently from
exhaustion. He sent to Mr. Mackirdy's for some tea, and got the
bishop to drink a cup. This revived him a little. Dr. Jayaker
said on first coming in, " How are you, bishop ? " and the bishop
just murmured the words after him, apparently vrithout attaching
any meaning to them. After the tea Dr. Jayaker said, ^* Bishop,
it is absolutely necessary for you to take some stimulant. I am
going to give you some now, and my assistant * will look in and

Babu Mohamined Hassan.

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give you some every two hours *' (the hishop knew the assistant,
having heen to the hospital several times to see him dispense).
The bishop asked, " Is it absolutely necessary ? " Dr. Jayaker said,
"Yes, absolutely necessary"; and the bishop said, "Very well
then, I consent." Dr. Jayaker did not then venture to say any-
thing about moving, but he went to the Besidency and told
Colonel Mockler the bishop ought to be brought to the Eesidency.
Colonel Mockler said, "The bishop will never consent to that.'*
But he sent two servants at once to render what assistance they
could and himself went about 9 a.m. He found the bishop
almost unconscious, and said to him, "Bishop, I want to move
you to the Eesidency; will you consent? I want you to say
Yes." The bishop murmured "Yes," but Colonel Mockler thinks
it was merely repeating his last ^ord without realizing what
he said. Colonel Mockler then went away and had the room
prepared on the ground floor at Dr. Jayaker's suggestion,
a beautifully cool airy room, overlooking the harbour on the
shady side of the house. Dr. Jayaker went to see the bishop
again about noon and found him quite unconscious again. To-
wards sunset he was moved to the Besidency. He was put
into a cot and let down into the street with ropes from the roofs
on both sides. In the Eesidency Colonel Mockler got him to take
a large cup of broth, which he drank when it was held to his lips,
and wished him "Good-night and God bless you." Dr. Jayaker
came in about 9 o'clock and stayed till 3 a.m. His temperature
had then risen from 102 to 104. He kept murmuring "Oh dear !
oh dear ! " but that was all.

* Dr. Jayaker came in again from Muttra about 8 a.m. on the
14th, but the bishop was quite unconscious, and passed away
at 12.30.

' All the last oiBfices were performed by Christians, people whom
the bishop had not known coming forward, Goanese Eoman
Catholics, who had heard of him. That evening the funeral
took place in the cemetery, all the Christian community at-

The coffin was covered with the British flag, and the
service read by Colonel Mockler.

When in September Mr. Maitland called upon the wali
at Sib and spoke of Bishop French as his own spiritual
father, one of the men there said of him, ' Ah ! he had put
away this world and was entirely occupied with the things
of eternity.* This Mr. Maitland said exactly summed up
the impression he produced on those who saw him.

*In one point,' he continued, 'my view has been a good deal
modified. The first telegram gave sunstroke as the cause of

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death, . . . but it has gradually como home to me that it was not
sunstroke, and a conversation I had with Dr. Jayaker the day
before I left both directly and indirectly confirms the idea that
death was due not to any special stroke, but to the effects of
the great heat upon the bi^op's enfeebled constitution, which
produced exhaustion, and then failure of the brain, and finally
of the heart. ... So far as I can judge it was not any special
piece of exertion or exposure that killed him, but the whole
task he attempted was beyond his physical powers. He attempted
a mode of life which would have taxed a young man's strength
in a climate that crushed him. God had not left him the
measure of strength he hoped to have, but that could only be
proved by experience. If he attempted to labom: above measure
for his Lord, God grant us more of the Spirit which inspired
him. I was much struck by the way in which people had done
everything that they could, and more than he would allow, to
shelter and minister to him. You know it was part of his
plan of life everywhere, and more than ever at Muscat, not to
allow others to serve him either in health or in sickness \'

The bishop s illness was not one that would admit of
parting messages, but it is cheering to believe that the
words of the Sunday collect, the same that solaced Bede
a thousand years before, were often on his heart and lips in
those last days : —

* O God the King of glory, who hast exalted Thine only Son
Jesus Christ with great triumph into Thy kingdom in heaven ; we
beseech Thee leave us not comfortless ; but send to us Thine Holy
Ghost to comfort us, and exalt us unto the same place whither our
Saviour Christ is gone before, who liveth and reigneth with Thee
and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.'

That coUect was always an especial joy to him, and surely
never more than now I

^ In another letter, just after Mr. Winter's death, and when he was
preparing to start upon this visit, Mr. Maitland wrote, in woids which
have a special interest, in view of his own recent death : — ' It was God's
time to call him, and he went to Him— just as here it was God's time to
call Mr. Winter, and he went, though all that skill and attendance and
every comfort of abode and food could do was done to keep him among

Online LibraryH. A. (Herbert Alfred) BirksThe life and correspondence of Thomas Valpy French, first bishop of Lahore → online text (page 43 of 46)