H. A. (Herbert Alfred) Birks.

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

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absolutism of the particular ruler, with the moollahs at his
shoulder ever inciting to bigotry, and bent on demanding loss
of goods and life as the x>enalty of conversion \

^ It was curious riding through the crowded bazaars, though
there were no pilentis matres in moUibtisK It was like riding a horse
through a crowded drawing-room almost : the hoi-se bore it
wonderfully well, though the hammers of the naijahs and copper-
smiths rather tried him. Some leading Jews called in the
afternoon, and we had a little conversation on some prophecies
of Zechariah and Daniel, but no interest awakened ! They have
eleven mosques (? synagogues), one 300 years old. They are
much satisfied with the treatment of the present Prince and
Shah ; they said they were waiting for the coming of the

'From 4 to 5.30 I tried Arabic (Makamat-i-Hariri) with
Dr. Bruce's moonshee. At 6 the congregation gathered, many
women and a fair number of men, and I addressed them in
Persian. Light refreshments, much conversation with men,
women, and children, prayer and singing, with passage of Holy
Scripture. I feel want of perfect fluency much on these occa-

^May 10. Visits to the Ts., the Roman Catholic priest, and
Mr. Agenor, the British agent. Long conversations with all,
most serious with Ts. About noon examined the girls' school,
Mrs. Bruce kindly acting as interpreter in Armenian. They
answered with spirit and a fair measure of correctness, though it
is a comparatively new school. The children are so merry, rosy,
and bright, so much more like English children than Indian
children are. It seems such fun to them to come and have

^ Dr. Bruce says the only remark the Zill-i-Sultan made on the recep-
tion of the Gospel wajs, ' It is a pity you were not better occupied.'
^ * Chaste dames in cushioned cars.* — Virg. Aen. viii. 666.

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a peep at the bishop, and when they get caught they are radiant
with smiles like sunshine.

* Arabic reading with moonshee in afternoon, and conversation
with a young Persian relative of one of the great mujtahids, an
inquirer, but not of the most earnest type, I fear. I warned him
of the necessity of deeper seriousness and humility in studying
such solemn mysteries as the nature of God.

'Dinner with the Armenian bishop and his friends, chiefly
laymen. I was veiy tii-ed and very feeble altogether : it lasted
three and a half hours, and was sadly wearisome, because I could
not get response to any serious remarks. The dinner was very
much an English dinner : much wine was drunk by most : not to
excess however. Healths were dnmk, my own and others, and
I proposed the bishop's health ; but I had not anticipated healths.
The bishop hoped that England and Russia might both be blessed
and prospered, and that Persia's relations to both might be
happy and peaceful, and he desired to express also, on the part of
the Armenian Church, their gratitude to the Government of
India for their kind treatment and friendly bearing towards the
Armenians there.

* Throughout the day I felt but little equal to its burdens : may
its many sins and weaknesses be forgiven ! '

* May 12. Rode four miles and back to the city to call on the
new Imam Juma, who, on his father's death, has lately come
into the hereditary office ; he had a blotched face and was not
very prepossessing naturally, but was civil, affable, and urbane.
I spoke to him of the Kingdom of Christ and of God as in Daniel,
the stone cut out without hands, our expectation of the coming
King, &c.

*We passed through about a mile and a half of bazaar on
horseback, vaulted much like the underground railway in Lon-
don, but with an orifice above (in each successive dome we
pass under), to let in light and air, so that it never seems
close and stifling or hot, though crowded in many parts ynih
by-passers and traffickers. I wonder horses stand as well as
they do the noise of carpenters, smiths, and braziers, plying their
trades. There is no assigning of different trades to different
bazaars as in India, but all trades in bewildering confusion. The
shops most conspicuous are those of carpet, glass, and china
sellers, with silversmiths, vendors of inlaid carved enamelled
boxes of various kinds, dealers in fruits, flowers, sweetmeats.
We passed by one of the most lovely bridges* I have seen,
crossing the Zainderood river. It has ten or twelve arches, and

* The Pul-i-Khaju, depicted and described by Curzon, vol. ii. p. 50, but
with the river nearly dry, and without a hint of the grand panoramic

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from each, of these there is a separate waterfall of eight or ten
feet deep, with much force and gush of the stream, even though
there is no flood. As you pass over the hridge, on either side
of you are ornamental archways, alternately containing vaulted
apartments, used for teas and picnics in hot weather, and open
spaces, through which panoramic views (each different in kind)
charm the eye, embracing groves, gardens, hills far and distant,
scattered villas, the winding course of the river, and just at this
time the Prince Eegent's small fleet of boats with fireworks at
night, and his tents along the banks.'

Dr. Bruce says that on most occasions the bishop's Ian-
guage was too learned and too classical to be entirely
effective, although his character had influence in spite of
every drawback ; but on this day he spoke with great
simplicity, and gained complete attention. The hubble-
bubble pipes were brought, and he would make pretence
to smoke, puflBoig down into his instead of drawing out.
Then came the regulation beverages, two cups of tea fol-
lowed by one of coffee. French took his first cup in hand
and began his argument. When he had spoken for an
hour, and the others had all finished their refreshment, he
gave a little start, and said, ' Oh, but I quite forgot my tea.'
The sight of such unwonted earnestness produced a great
impression on the dilettante Persians.

On Whitsunday (May 13) he sent off letters to two of
his children, Cyril and Edith.

Dearest Cyril,

My heart very often and lovingly turns to you and yours,
and I have some hope of seeing you after not much more than
two months' interval, though nearly half of my fatiguing journey
still remains, besides what I may accomplish by steam and rail.
My way has been fairly prospered thus far, though my longing
desii-e has scarcely been satisfied of coming in contact with leading
Mohammedan minds through the medium of the Persian, which
I have long been led to make a study of for the Mohammedans
of India and the frontier, though I never thought of preaching in
it in this great and ancient kingdom, now so fallen and humbled,
yet still having in its rustic and nomad population (of whom
Herodotus speaks so much) fine elements of endurance, courage,
and independence. I reached this place Saturday (the 5th). . . .
The view from the crest of the ridge of hills by which Ispahan
is approached from Shiraz is very striking, the Zainderood river

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flowing through clusters of palatial houses and clumps of trees,
with mosques and bridges and walled gardens spreading for miles.
Many old parts of the city are in ruins, but these are sheltered and
beautified by vegetation encircling and overshadowing. ... I am
of course at the Mission House, containing a number of little
squares with dwelling-houses, chapel, boys and girls' schools,
industrial school and workshop, orphanage with dormitories,
a really noble work gradually grown up under Dr. and Mrs.
Bruce's hands the last ten years, and which has caused them
to be a kind of centre of light both to the scattered English
telegraph officers up and down the great Persian highway
between the Persian Gulf and Caspian along which my journey
lies, and "also to the Armenian Church, which presents a sorrowful
sight of coldness, barrenness, dearth, and deadness, and has had
its hands tied for a long time by the jealousy of the Mohammedan
population which hems it in, and the hard terms on which it has
obtained bare toleration and leave to exist from an often tyrannical
government. There is a small mission of the Propaganda here
from Rome, besides some twelve Armenian priests under an
archbishop. As he knows little besides Turkish and Armenian
I find it difficult to get on with him to any profit. He is a rather
gentlemanly man, and fairly sensible and thoughtful, but not
well educated, nor yet I fear well taught of the Spirit of God,
nor mighty in the Scriptures. A good proportion of his people
attend Dr. Bruce's ministry. There must be 125 or 130 on the
Sunday morning, never more than one in ten Mohammedans, so
far ad I can gather, but with the latter he (Dr. Bruce) holds
constant conversation, his study being always open to inquirers.
The great Sheikh here, or Head of Islam, has been very bitter
lately because of some copies of the Mizan-ul-Uaqq of Dr. Pfander
being circulated (though not by Dr. Bruce), in which the character
of Mohammed is severely dealt with and censured. He has tried
to induce the Prince Eegent to turn the mission out, but the
Prince, being in favour of religious liberty, has stopped his
mouth in a manner very humiliating to him, since which he has
threatened even to poison Dr. Bruce. Dr. Bruce is too accustomed
to peril to make much trouble of this. I should think his life
has been as often in his hands as that of most men. He was
once closely pursued by robbers and shot after, and owed his
life to the superior swiftness of his steed. He is a splendid
horseman, quite famed. ... I have read with extreme interest
and profit, I hope, the accounts of Archbishop Benson's installation.
It seems to mark an epoch almost of English Church history.
He seems able to bear the elevation and adulation as few

I am, your very loving father,

Thos. V. Lahore.

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Deabest Edith, ^^y ^3, 1883, Whitsunday.

On this happy day, which always is to me so bright and
happy a day, I must write my dariing child a few lines, though
it must be a month before it reaches you, and a month after that
I may hope to see you face to face. I am not sure I have yet
answered your long, loving letter, which it must have cost you
much pain and effort to write. The last few days have been
cloudy and rather rainy, which is unusual, and to me quite
unexpected at this season in Persia. It keeps the climate cool
and healthy, though scarcely invigorating as England is at this
time. We had a large congregation, chiefly Armenian Christians,
with a few Persians interspersed, this morning : about seventy
stayed to the Holy Communion. Dr. Bruce preached. . . . On
one side the women sit in their clean white dresses, covering the
whole face almost as well as the rest of the body, though they
do not quite wrap up as close as the Mohammedan ladies. They
were so kind as to treble their usual offertory this morning, and
to beg it might go towards building the church at Lahore. It
was really a very nice kind thought of theirs. I suppose it will
be about £3 altogether. Many of them are very poor, I fear, and
apt to get into debt. It is only a few years since they have come
under Dr. and Mrs. Bruce's influence. We had a tea-meeting
on Thursday, and I addressed them in Persian, and said a few
kind words to as many as I could. I am so thankful to be able
to do this. I wish I could perfect my Arabic in the same way,
so as to be able to preach a little bit to the Arabs on the coast,
but I must not be too covetous of this kind of gifts, all of which
pass away and fail, as St. Paul says, but charity never faileth.
After service we had an immersion of an infant in a large tin
tub. They prefer immersion to sprinkling, it seems, in the
Armenian Church. The baby squealed a little ! though Dr. Bruce
did not put it quite under the water, as I should have done. The
water was warmed, so as not to hurt and chill the child. Nearly
the whole congregation stayed for the baptism. The child was
nearly six months old. Then the Prince Kegent's physician
came to invite me to dine with the Prince and see his fire-
works, which are kept up for three days on the Zainderood river
banks, and tents are spread for the upper classes present at the
festivities. I am obliged to beg off, as I am really not strong
enough to take part in such scenes. To talk for hours with such
triflers and lovers of pleasure is most wearisome, and to serious
counsels they do not care to listen. I had three hours at dinner
at the Armenian bishop's three days ago. I was quite done up
all the next day. These Eastern Christians seem so sunk into
iudifference and neglect through Mohammedan oppression and
bad example too. Yet the bishop was very kind and civil.
I hope to preach in English this afternoon on the words in
Ezek. xxxiv, 'Thei'e shall be showers of blessing.' I have

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been pleased with the Armenian rendering to-day of the verse
in Ps. Ixviii, * The God who daily helpeth us and poureth His
benefits upon us.* The Armenian renders it, * Every day men
put loads upon us, but God saves us ' — or it might be rendered,
* Every day puts its load upon us, but God is our Saviour.' That
seems a nice text for you, dearest Edith : I have felt helped by it
too. We had all the Canticles, including the Te Deum, chanted
to day. The organist is an Armenian, and was three years at the
Training College near St. Paul's, Cheltenham ; then with Mr. Frost,
one of my old friends, and a missionary at Nasik ; last of all he
came to help in this mission. . . .

Dogs are scarce in Persia, which is a great relief after the
swarms of them which are a pest in India : they chiefly keep
them for hunting and coursing ; and the nomad wandering tribes
in their felt tents and enclosures keep them as watch-dogs. In
Persia cats abound, as you would suppose. Mrs. Bruce's cat is so
genteel that it sleeps on the sofa at night, and usually has its meals
on a little table-cloth spread for it ! I saw some fine horses and
cats on their way from Ispahan to Bombay, to be sold last Saturday.
The cats are tied up in bags, which must be a very unpleasant
way of travelling. I saw the man tying the cats up ! The little
girls are much like English girls, but prettier if anything, quite
ruddy and rosy, and they wear a very graceful round cap with
gilding and ta^ls. When they grow up to be women, they
wear often five or six head coverings all together, one over the
other, so Dr. Hoemle tells me. I wish I could write to all of you,
but, alas ! I am almost used up, and must wait to tell all I can
remember by word of mouth, if God bring me safe homa

I am, your very affectionate father,

Thos. V. Lahore.

In the course of a letter written two days later to his
eldest daughter Ellen, he said : —

' It is pleasant to find myself once again associated even with
my old friend Dr. Bruce, who is A i in the missionary field, and
blest in a marked way with wisdom and courage, and making
his influence more and more widely felt. He has a very anxious
and critical post, the Prince Regent being indeed at the present
moment disposed to take a bold line in defence of religious
liberty, but opposed secretly, and as much as he dares openly,
by the Sheikh- ul-Islam, the great Mohammedan ecclesiastical ruler
here, who would like to rule supreme in all cases, civil and
religious, but for the firmness and vigour of the prince. Dr. Bruce
and myself rode over to his mosque this afternoon, about three
miles off, and sat an hour with him, but he expressed his strong
determination to stop all sales of the Holy Scriptures in Ispahan,
and protested bitterly against their being continued. He waxed

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veiy warm and fierce in dispute. We pleaded hard for liberty to
circulate the Book of God, but he seemed inexorable and bitter to
extremes. He had a knot of moollahs sitting about him, who of
course flattered and encouraged him. The comfort is, after all,
*'The word of God is not bound," nor can it be. Yesterday he
had one of the colporteurs apprehended, but let him go finally,
after charging him strictly ** not to preach at all nor speak in the
name of Jesus." Dr. Bruce got warnings from several parties
not to venture himself into the Sheikli's house, as he had threat-
ened ** coflFee," which means a poison-cup. However, he felt sure
that the Sheikh was too wise to carry out this threat for the sake
of his own interests, and so we drank our coffee, and smoked the
kalijan without any real apprehension. Still, I c^tn scarcely
doubt that our deai* brother is in some danger, as the sheikh and
moollahs— especially in a change of the present governor, which is
always possible — might rouse the fury of the ]X)pulation and
sweep the mission away for a season.'

The next day (May 16) the bishop spoke with the Church
Committee in his study on their duties and that of the little
church there, and in the afternoon received a number of
callers to whom he tried to talk to profit. On the i8th he
confirmed sixty-seven, and addressed the large congregation
(almost equal to Sunday) at length, and was helped to speak
intelligibly out of a fall heart. In the afternoon he gave
Minas, the candidate for orders, a lecture in Old Testament
prophecies, of which his notions were very indistinct, and
in the evening went to see two curious Armenian churches.
One is St. Stephen's, on whose walls are many quaint pic-
tures drawn, mostly from our Lord's birth, miracles, parables,
resurrection, and ascension— some very vigorously executed.

* In St. George's,' he said, 'all within is vacancy and dreaiy dull-
ness, the one object of interest being six or seven blocks of granite,
thrown in a heap in one of the corridors outside the church, said to
have come through the air from £ch Miazin (where the Armenian
patriarch lives) to the Cathedral of Ispahan, then to have trans-
ported themselves supernaturally to St. George's, where they are
regarded as possessing powers of healing. Sick people come to
sleep in this corridor to get a vision of St. George, who appears to
them and heals thom by night. We saw a very sick old lady
propped up with pillows, in hope of a cure to-night.'

Next day the deacon-elect Minas was examined with
prayer and reading, and the bishop was engaged all through

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the afternoon in controversy with a learned Jew, a perfect
scholar in Hebrew and Persian, and a vigorous talker, much
versed in Babism, and perhaps under its influence.

At night he attended service at the Tabriz Muhalla
Armenian church. The archpriest put him in the bishops
throne, where he was duly incensed by a youth in white.
The women's place behind the screen was fairly filled with
bundles of white dresses. Now and then a stray eye peeped
out to have a glance at the English bishop. These women
formed the main part of the congregation. There was
a choir of some twenty-four men and boys of all ages, who
chanted reverently, if not sweetly. The bishop was pleased
to find such reverent behaviour and so much made of the
Bible, as two lessons were read out by the village priest,
but as it was in old Armenian, which contains a good many
obsolete words, it seemed a little doubtfiil how much the
people really understood of it.

Next day, the 20th, he wrotB : —

* This morning has been the special climax of interest, the
ordination of Minas. The church was crowded, the interest in
our first ordination here being clearly great and sustained through-
out, though the service lasted two hours and a half, or more.
There was a larger sprinkling of Persians (known by their keeping
their turbans on) than usual. I saw one old moollah turn a little
Armenian boy out and take his place, making him sit on his father's
lap. ... It was a scene and a service I can never forget while
memory lasts. I preached in Persian for nearly an hour, and
fair facility and fluency were given me, thank God. The little
gallery was quite full, and all stayed throughout. I took for text,
** In all things approving ourselves as the ministera of Christ
... by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, by the word of
truth, by the power of God/' dwelling on these as the great
tests and touchstones of the Holy Ghost's witness to and ap-
proval of the ministers of Christ. . . . Minas, the old cate-
chist (he must be 49 or 50 years old), with grey hairs here and
there upon him, behaved with simple quiet dignity, which it was
a pleasure to look on. He read th^ Gospel and gave the cup to
the last row of communicants. The singing was delightful in the
Armenian tongue. Among the hymns were **The Church's one
Foundation ' and **Just as I am." One's heart does yearn over
these dear people. Surely the Lord is working by Dr. Bruce and
his fellow-workers a sure and true and deep, though it may be
a slow and cautious, work among this Aimenian race, planted

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here nearly three hundred years ago, and left here with nearly all
the light they have hidden under a busheL'

Next day the Armenian clergy and bishop came to
dinner. They had much talk about Bishop Andrewes and
languages, the early history of Persian Christianity and its
martyrs, the Bible and its wonderful circulation since the
beginning of the century. The Armenian bishop had seen
a copy of St. John i. in twenty-one languages, but his idea
evidently was only of a literary curiosity, and not of the
value of its wide circulation for soul purposes.

*I had some talk,' said French, 'with the priest of Chahar
Mahl about his congregations in those parts. He was dissatisfied
and anxious ; they did not attend church well. I wish I could
have tried more to speak, as Martyn did, as to spiritual views of
the priestly ofQce, but attempts I made to introduce such subjects
were so soon parried. . . . The priests enjoyed Mrs. Bruce's
singing in the chapel at night — " Just as I am," " How sweet
the name," &c. The priests took the Armenian translations with
them, and said, " Why can't we have such hymns, and carry the
people's hearts with us as you do ? " Only the bishop found
fault with the translations. It was an excellent instance of the
many little occasions the Bruces have for introducing light into
the churches around them.'

On the day following the bishop took a wedding, and
at the entertainment afterwards gave an address to the
Armenian congregation on our Lord's and St. PauFs delight
in family life, and thanked them for their offering for his
cathedral. On May 23, at 4.30 a.m., he sorrowfully parted
with prayer from his friends at Julfa, and went upon his

The details of the further marches from the diaries would
be of little interest except to those (they are not very many)
who may be called to traverse the same ground. Only
sufficient extracts from the bishop's letters will be quoted
to give some notion of the dangers he incurred, and of the
work that he accomplished en route towards the Caspian.

To Mks. French.
Sob (three stages north from Ispahan), May 25, 1883.
Again I have to send you the rough and, I fear, half illegible
letters which are possible to me on the line of march, always an
VOL. n. a

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effort to dU, and specially so to me at my age. I have ridden
twenty-eight miles to-day, yesterday twenty-four, and sixteen the
day before — the first day out of Ispahan, accompanied by Dr.
Bruce, from whom I parted early yesterday morning, and from
his little family the morning before. As it is getting warmer
I start at 4 each morning, with the very first blush of daylight,
and lose no time on the way. I got in at 8 this morning,
after four and a half hours of pretty quick riding, stopping only
half of an hour on the way to change horses and drink a cup of
milk. To-morrow, after a twenty miles' ride, I hope to stay one and
a half days for Sunday in a place of groves and streams 8,000 feet
above the sea. Martyn describes it as Karoo^ though the real
name is Kohrood (mountain-streams). I shall be very thankful
for this little rest, as the three next marches are rather severe,
and there is a sudden descent to warmer regions, from 8,000 to
3,000 feet in one day's march. To-day and yesterday I am re-
minded much more of Indian heat and languor than I have been
hitherto, yet happily it seems the actual heat of India is never

Online LibraryH. A. (Herbert Alfred) BirksThe life and correspondence of Thomas Valpy French, first bishop of Lahore → online text (page 9 of 46)