HENRY MARTYN, THE SCHOLAR-MISSIONARY.
Again do we find the steady, plodding labourer of a lifetime contrasted with the warm enthusiast, whose lot seems rather to awaken others than to achieve victories in his own person. St. Stephen falls beneath the stones, but his glowing discourse is traced through many a deep argument of St. Paul. St. James drains the cup in early manhood, but his brother holds aloft his witness to extreme old age.
The ardent zeal of the Keltic character; the religious atmosphere that John Wesley had spread over Cornwall, even among those who did not enrol themselves among his followers; the ability and sensitiveness hereditary in the Martyn family, together with the strong influence of a university tutor,--all combined to make such a bright and brief trail of light of the career of Henry Martyn, the son of the head clerk in a merchant's office at Truro, born on the 18th of February, 1781. This station sounds lowly enough, but when we find that it was attained by a self-educated man, who had begun life as a common miner, and taught himself in the intervals of rest, it is plain that the elder Martyn must have possessed no ordinary power. Out of a numerous family only four survived their infancy, and only one reached middle age, and in Henry at least great talent was united to an extreme susceptibility and delicacy of frame, which made him as a child unusually tender and gentle in manner when at his ease, but fretful and passionate when annoyed.
Of course he fared as ill with his fellow-scholars at Truro Grammar School as he did well with the masters; but an elder boy took him under his protection, and not only lessened his grievances at the time, but founded a lasting friendship.
In 1795, when only fourteen, Henry Martyn was sufficiently advanced to be sent up as a candidate for a scholarship at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and passed a very creditable examination, though he failed in obtaining the election. Eight years later, we find him congratulating himself in his journal on thus having escaped the "scenes of debauchery" to which his "profligate acquaintances" might have introduced him. Was Corpus very much changed, when, only eleven years after, John Keble entered it at the same age? Was it that Martyn's Cornish schoolfellows were a bad set, or does this thanksgiving proceed from the sort of pious complacency which religious journalizing is apt to produce in the best of men?
The failure sent Henry back to work for two years longer at the Truro Grammar School, and when at sixteen he was entered at St. John's, Cambridge (most peculiarly the college of future missionaries), he immediately made proof of his remarkable talent. Strange to say, although his father's rise in life had begun in his mathematical ability, Henry's training in this branch had been so deficient, and the study appeared so repugnant to him, that his first endeavour at Cambridge was to learn the proportions of Euclid by heart, without trying to follow their reasoning. This story is told of many persons, but perhaps of no one else who in four years' time, while still a month under twenty, was declared Senior Wrangler.
This was in 1801, and the intervening time had been spent in hard study and regular habits, but neither his sister at home, nor a seriously-minded college friend, were satisfied with his religious feelings during the first part of the time, and he himself regarded it afterwards as a period of darkness. Indeed, his temper was under so little control that in a passion he threw a knife at a companion, but happily missed his aim, so that it only pierced the wall. The shock of horror no doubt was good for him. But the next step he recorded in his life was his surprise at hearing it maintained that the glory of God, not the praise of man, should be the chief motive of study. After thinking it over his mind assented, and he resolved to maintain this as a noble saying, but did not perceive that it would affect his conduct.
However, the dearest, almost the only hallowed form of the praise of man, was taken from him by the death of his father in 1799, immediately after the delight of hearing of his standing first in the Christmas examination. The expense of a return home was beyond his means, but he took to reading the Bible, as a proper form to be complied with in the days of mourning; and beginning with the Acts, as being the most entertaining part, he felt the full weight of the doctrine of the Apostles borne in on him, and was roused to renew his long-neglected prayers. When next he went to chapel, with his soul thus awakened, he was struck by perceiving for the first time how joy for the coming of our Lord rings through the Magnificat.
The great religious influence of the day at Cambridge emanated from the pulpit and the rooms of the Reverend Charles Simeon, who did a truly remarkable work in stirring up young men to a sense of the responsibilities of the ministry. Henry Martyn regularly attended his sermons, and the newly lighted sparks were also fanned by anxious letters from the good sister at home; but until the strain, pressure, and excitement of preparing for the final examination were over, he had little time or attention for any other form of mental exertion.
When, however, he found himself in possession of the highest honours his University could award, he was amazed to discover how little they satisfied him, and that he felt as if he had grasped a shadow instead of a substance.
This instinctive longing, the sure token of a mind of the higher pitch, was finding rest as he became more and more imbued with the spirit of religion, and ventured upon manifesting it more openly. He had hitherto intended to apply himself to the law, but the example and conversation of Charles Simeon brought him to such a perception of the greatness of the office of the ministry that he resolved to dedicate himself thereto. During the term after this decision was made, while he was acting as a tutor at his college, he heard Mr. Simeon speak of William Carey and his self-devotion in India; he read the Life of that kindred spirit, David Brainerd, and the spark of missionary zeal was kindled in his ardent nature. The commission "Go ye and teach all nations" was borne in on his mind, and, with the promptness that was a part of his nature, he at once offered himself to the "Society for Missions to Africa and the East," which had been established, in the year 1800, by members of the English Church who wished to act independently of the elder Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. The name has since been altered to the "Church Missionary Society."
However, Martyn was only just twenty-one, and not of an age to take Holy Orders, and he had therefore to wait, while studying divinity, and acting as a tutor at Cambridge. All through his life he kept copious journals of his sensations and resolutions, full of the deepest piety, always replete with sternness towards himself and others, and tinged with that melancholy which usually pervades the more earnest of that school which requires conscious feeling as the test of spiritual life.
In October 1803, he went to Ely for ordination as a deacon, though still wanting five months of twenty-three. Those were lax days, there was little examination, and a very low standard of fitness was required. Henry Martyn was so much scandalized by the lightness of demeanour of one of his fellow candidates that he spoke to him in strong reproof--with what effect we do not know, but he records that he never ventured to speak in rebuke, "unless he at the same time experienced a peculiar contrition of spirit."
He became Mr. Simeon's curate, and at the same time took charge of the neighbouring parish of Lolworth. People then had small expectations of clerical care, if a parish could be entrusted to a young deacon, non-resident, acting as tutor and examiner, and with an assistant curacy besides! His whole mind was, however, intensely full of his duties, and so unworthy did he consider all other occupations that he prayed and struggled conscientiously against the pleasure he could not but feel, in getting up Thucydides and Xenophon for the examinations. Everything not actually devotional seemed to him at these times under a ban, and it is painful to see how a mind of great scope and power was cramped and contracted, and the spirits lowered by incessant self-contemplation and distrust of almost all enjoyment. When, at another time, he had to examine on "Locke on the Human Understanding," the metaphysical study acting on his already introspective mind produced a sense of misery and anguish that he could hardly endure. It is pleasant, however, to find him in another mood, writing, "Since I have known God in a saving manner, painting, poetry, and music have had charms unknown to me before; I have received what I suppose is a taste for them, for religion has refined my mind, and made it susceptible of impressions from the sublime and beautiful."
This, no doubt, was true, but another influence had awakened his heart, earthly perhaps in itself, but so noble and so holy that it bears a heavenly light. He had become attached to a young lady in Cornwall, named Lydia Grenfell, like-minded enough to return his affection. His intention of volunteering for the Church Missionary Society was overthrown by a disaster in Cornwall which deprived himself and his unmarried sister of all the provision that their father had made for them, thus throwing her upon him for maintenance, and making it necessary that he should obtain a salary that would support her. It was suggested by some of his friends that one of the chaplaincies founded by the old East India Company, before the jealousy of religious teaching had set in, would both give him opportunities for missionary work and enable him to provide for his sister at home. Application was accordingly made, and a man of his talent and character could not fail of being accepted; he was promised the next vacant post, and went down to spend the long vacation in Cornwall, and bid farewell to all whom he loved there, for the journey was long and expensive, and he had resolved not to trust himself among them again.
He writes in his journal, "Parted with Lydia for ever in this life with a sort of uncertain pain, which I knew would increase to violence." And so it was, he suffered most acutely for many days, and, though calmness and comfort came after a time, never were hopes and affections more thoroughly sacrificed, or with more anguish, than by this most truly devoted disciple of his Master.
He worked on at Cambridge till he received his appointment in the January of 1805, and he then only waited to receive Priests' Orders before going to London to prepare for his embarkation.
In those times of war, a voyage to India was a perilous and lengthy undertaking. A whole fleet was collected, containing merchant, convict, and transport vessels, all under the convoy of the ships of war belonging to the Company; and, as no straggler might be left behind, the progress of the whole was dependent on the rate of sailing of the slowest, and all were impeded by the disaster of one. The Union, in which a passage was given to the chaplain, contained, besides the crew, passengers, the 59th Regiment, some other soldiers, and young cadets, all thrown closely together for many months. She sailed from Portsmouth on the 17th of July; but in two days' time one of the many casualties attendant on at least sixty vessels made the fleet put into Falmouth, where it remained for three weeks. This opportunity of intercourse with his family might well seem an especial boon of Providence to the young missionary, who had denied himself a last visit to them, and he carried away much comfort from this meeting. His sister was engaged to be suitably married, so that he was relieved from care on her account, and some hope was entertained that Lydia would be able to come out to him in India. A correspondence likewise began, which has been in great part preserved. Two days after weighing anchor, the Union still lingered on the coast, and the well-known outline, with Mount's Bay, the spire of St. Hilary's church, and all the landmarks so dear and familiar to the young Cornishman's eye and heart, were watched from morning to night with keen pain and grief, but with steadfast resolve and constant inward prayer.
Then he addressed himself to the duties of the voyage. Private study of Hebrew and of Hindostanee was of course a part; but he hoped to be useful to his companions as a friend and as a minister. He could only obtain permission to hold one service every Sunday, but he hoped to do much by private conversations and prayers, and he tried to gain over the cadets by offering to assist them in their studies, especially mathematics. Some of them had the sense to see that the teaching of a senior wrangler was no small advantage, and these read with him throughout the voyage; but in general they were but raw lads, and followed the example of their superiors, who for the most part were strongly set against Mr. Martyn. Those were the times when sailors were utterly uncared for, and when mauvais sujets at home were sent out to India to the corruptions of a luxurious climate and a heathen atmosphere. Men of this stamp would think it bad enough to have a parson on board at all, and when they found that he was a faithful priest, who held himself bound not to leave them unchecked in their evil courses, they thought themselves aggrieved. Nor was his manner likely to gain them. Grave and earnest, he had never in his life known sportiveness, and his distress and horror at the profanity and blasphemy that rang in his ears made him doubly sad and stern. From the first his Sunday service was by most treated as an infliction, and the officers, both of the ship and of the military, had so little sense of decency as to sit drinking, smoking, and talking within earshot. The persons who professed to attend showed no reverence of attitude; and when he endeavoured to make an impression on the soldiers and their wives between-decks, he was met with the same rude and careless inattention.
With very little experience of mankind, he imagined that these hardened beings could be brought to repent by terror, and his discourses were full of denunciations of the wrath of God. He was told that, if he threatened them thus, they would not come to hear him, and his reply was an uncompromising sermon on the text, "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the people that forget God." The bravery of the thing, and the spirit of truth and love that pervaded all he said on this solemn verse, was not lost upon all: some of the cadets were moved to tears, and an impression was made upon several persons. Indeed, there was much that should have induced serious thought, for, after having touched at Madeira and the Azores, it was made known that the 59th was to be disembarked at the Cape, to assist in the struggle then going on between the English and Dutch. Moreover, there was much sickness on board, and the captain himself, who had been always bitterly opposed to Mr. Martyn, anxiously called for him to attend upon his death-bed.
The 59th were landed in Table Bay just in time to take part in Sir David Baird's victory. Martyn went on shore the next day to do his best for the wounded; but they were mostly in hospital, and, being Dutch, he could do little for them. He found congenial spirits among the Dutch clergy in Cape Town, and spent a happy month there, but the latter part of his voyage was not more satisfactory than the first. The educated portion of the passengers continued to set their faces against him, treating him with increased contempt, and even turning into ridicule the farewell sermon, in which he took an affectionate leave of all who had sailed with him.
It may be that his manner was ill-judged, but it is a fearful thing to find that it was possible for so many Christian people to have been in daily contact with as true a saint as ever lived, and yet make him their mock! Perhaps some of his words, and far more his example, may have borne fruit in after years, such as he never knew of.
The whole voyage had lasted nearly ten months before entering the Hooghly. While ascending the stream, the lassitude produced by the climate was so great that Martyn's spirits sank under it: he thought he should "lead an idle, worthless life to no purpose. Exertion seemed like death; indeed, absolutely impossible." Yet at the least he could write, "Even if I should never see a native converted, God may design, by my patience and continuance, to encourage future missionaries."
This feeling of exhaustion was the prelude to a severe attack of fever, which assailed him almost immediately after his arrival; but happily not till he was safely lodged at Aldeen, in the kindly house of the Rev. David Brown, where he was nursed till his recovery. His friends wanted to keep him among the English at Calcutta, but his heart was set on ministering to the heathen, and the sights and sounds of idolatry that constantly met him increased his eagerness. He once rushed out at the sight of the flames of a Suttee, hoping to rescue the victim, but she had perished before he reached the spot.
His arrival was when the alarm about the meeting at Vellore was at its height, and when the colony at Serampore had been forbidden to preach or distribute tracts in Calcutta. He by no means agreed with all the Baptist doctrines, but he held in great esteem and reverence such men as Carey and Marshman, was glad to profit by their experience and instructions, and heartily sympathised in all their difficulties. Mr. Carey might well write, "A young clergyman, Mr. Martyn, is lately arrived, who is possessed with a truly missionary spirit." Together the Serampore missionaries, with Mr. Martyn, Mr. Corrie, and Mr. Brown, united in dedicating to the worship of God a heathen pagoda, which the last-mentioned had succeeded in purchasing from the natives. Altogether he was much cheered and refreshed. During the time that he waited at Aldeen he improved himself in Hindostanee, and began to study Sanscrit, and learnt the most approved method of dealing with the natives. Moreover, he found that his allowance as a chaplain was so liberal as amply to justify him in writing to urge Miss Grenfell to come out and join him; and, during the long period of sixteen or eighteen months before her refusal to do so reached him, he was full of the hope of receiving her.
His appointed station was Dinapore, where his primary duty was to minister to the English troops there posted, and to the families of the civilians; but he also hoped to establish native schools, to preach in their own language to the Hindoos, and to scatter translations of portions of Scripture, such as the Parables, among them.
He had to read prayers to the soldiers from the drum-head by way of desk; there were no seats, and he was desired to omit the sermon: but afterwards a room was provided, and then the families of the officers and residents began to attend, though at first they were much scandalized by his preaching extempore. In fact there was a good deal in his whole tone that startled old orthodoxy; and in the opposition with which he met at times, there was some lawful and just distrust of the onesidedness of his tenets, together with the ordinary hatred and dislike of darkness to light. So scrupulous was he in the Jewish force given by his party to the Fourth Commandment, that, having one Sunday conceived the plan of translating the Prayer-book into Hindostanee, he worked at it till he had reached the end of the Te Deum; and there, doubting whether it were a proper employment for the day, desisted until the Monday, to give himself up to prayer, singing hymns, Scripture-reading, and meditation. The immediate value of this work was for the poor native wives of the English soldiers, whom he found professing Christianity, but utterly ignorant; and to them every Sunday, after the official English service, he repeated the Liturgy in the vulgar tongue. In this holy work he was the pioneer, since Swartz's service was in Tamul. While working at his translations with his moonshee, or interpreter, a Mussulman, he had much opportunity for conversation and for study of the Mahometan arguments, so as to be very useful to himself; though he could not succeed in convincing the impracticable moonshee, who had all that self-satisfaction belonging to Mahometanism. "I told him that he ought to pray that God would teach him what the truth really is. He said he had no occasion to pray on this subject, as the word of God is express." With the Hindoos at Dinapore, he found, to his surprise, that there was apparently little disinclination to "become Feringees," as they called it, outwardly; but the difficulty lay in his insistance on Christian faith and obedience, instead of a mere external profession.
It was while he was at Dinapore that we first acquire anything like a distinct idea of Henry Martyn; for there a short halt of the 53rd Regiment brought him in contact with one who had an eye to observe, a heart to honour, and a pen to describe him; namely, Mrs. Sherwood, the wife of the paymaster, a woman of deeply religious sentiments and considerable powers as an author. Mutual friends had already prepared Mr. Martyn to expect to find like-minded companions in the Sherwoods, invited to stay with him for the few days of their sojourn at Dinapore. "Mr. Martyn's quarters," says that lady, "were in the smaller square--a church-like abode, with little furniture, the rooms wide and high, with many vast doorways, having their green jalousied doors, and long verandahs encompassing two sides of the quarters." So scanty, indeed, was the furniture, that, though he gave up his own bedroom, Mrs. Sherwood could not find a pillow, not only there, but in the whole house; and, with a severe pain in her face, could get nothing to lay her head on "but a bolster stuffed as hard as a pin-cushion."
She thus describes the first sight of her host:--"He was dressed in white, and looked very pale, which, however, was nothing singular in India; his hair, a light brown, was raised from his forehead, which was a remarkably fine one. His features were not regular, but the expression was so luminous, so intellectual, so affectionate, so beaming with Divine charity, that no one could have looked at his features and thought of their shape or form; the outbeaming of his soul would absorb the attention of every observer. There was a very decided air, too, of the gentleman about Mr. Martyn, and a perfection of manners which, from his extreme attention to all minute civilities, might seem almost inconsistent with the general bent of his thoughts to the most serious subjects. He was as remarkable for ease as for cheerfulness. He did not appear like one who felt the necessity of contending with the world and denying himself its delights, but, rather, as one who was unconscious of the existence of any attractions in the world, or of any delights which were worthy of his notice. When he relaxed from his labours in the presence of his friends, it was to play and laugh like an innocent child, more especially if children were present to play and laugh with him."
His labours were the incessant charge of the English, travelling often great distances to baptize, marry, or bury, together with constant teaching in the schools he had established both for the English and natives, attendance on the sick in the hospitals, and likewise private arguments with Mahometans and Hindoos. Public preachings in the streets and bazaars, like those of Swartz, Carey, and Ward, he does not seem to have attempted at this time; but his translations were his great and serious employment, and one that gave him much delight. His thorough classical education and scholarship fitted him for this in an unusual degree, and besides the Hindostanee version of the Prayer-book, the Persian--so much wanted in the Bombay Presidency--was committed to him; and an assistant was sent to him, whose history, disappointing as it is, cannot be omitted from the account of Indian missions.
Sabat was an Arab of the tribe of Koreish, the same which gave birth to Mahomet himself. He was born on the banks of the Euphrates, and educated in such learning as still lingered about the city of the Khalifs; but he left home early, and served in the Turkish army against the French at Acre. Afterwards he became a soldier in the Persian army, where he was several times wounded, and in consequence retired, and, wandering into Cabul, there rose to be a royal secretary.
He formed a close friendship with his colleague, Abdallah, likewise a Koreishite Arab, and very able and poetical. When the Wahabees, the straitest sect of the Mussulmans, seized Mecca, their chief wrote a letter to the King of Cabul, which was committed to Abdallah to translate into Persian. By way of a graceful compliment, he put his translation into Persian verse, and the reward he received was equally strange; namely, the gift of as many pearls as could be stuffed into his mouth at once. He was, however, observed to be unusually grave and thoughtful, and to frequent the house of an Armenian--of course a Christian: but as this person had a beautiful daughter, she was supposed to be the attraction, and no suspicion was excited by his request to retire into his own country.
Soon after Sabat was made prisoner by the Tartars of Bokhara, and, by appealing to the king, as a descendant of the prophet, obtained his release and promotion to high honour. While visiting the city of Bokhara, he recognized his old friend, Abdallah, and, perceiving that his beard was shaved off, examined him on the cause so closely that he was driven to confess that the Armenian had converted him to the Christian faith, and that he did not wish to be known. Hereditary Christians are tolerated by the Moslem, but converts are bitterly persecuted; and Sabat flew into a great rage, argued, threatened, and at last denounced his old friend to the Moollahs as a recreant from Islam.
Abdallah was arrested, and showed himself a true and faithful confessor and martyr. The Moollahs strove hard to make him recant. They demanded of him: "In the Gospel of Christ, is anything said of our Prophet?"--intending to extort that promise of the Comforter which Mahomet blasphemously applied to himself.
Abdallah's answer was: "Yea--Beware of false prophets which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves."
This brave reply was requited by blows on the mouth till the blood flowed, and Sabat thought of the day he had seen that same mouth filled with pearls. Abdallah was sent back to prison, and four days were allowed him in which to recant; after which he was brought out and set before an assembled multitude. Pardon was offered him if he would deny his Lord, and, on his refusal, his left hand was cut off. The look of deep sorrow and pity he gave the former friend who had betrayed him sunk deep into Sabat's heart. Again his life was offered, again he confessed himself a Christian, and finally his martyrdom was completed by cutting off his head.
This history Sabat told with feeling and earnestness, that convinced his hearers of its truth; and from this he did not vary, though his account of his own subsequent adventures varied so much that it was not possible at last to attach credence to anything he said of himself before he became expounder of Mohammedan Law in the Civil Court at Vizagapatam. At any rate Abdallah's look dwelt with him; he detected discrepancies in the Koran, and became anxious to study the Christian Scriptures. He obtained from Bombay a copy, first of the New Testament, then of the Old, and, having become convinced, he came to Madras, and demanded baptism from Dr. Ker, the British chaplain. After some probation, which made Sabat so impatient that he threatened that he should accuse the minister before God if he delayed, he was baptized by the name of Nathanael, and sent to Serampore as a person likely to be useful in the translations always in hand there.
He was delighted with the habits there prevailing, dismissed his attendants, dined at the common table, and altogether conformed himself to the spirit of the place. When it was decided to send him to Dinapore to assist Mr. Martyn in rendering the Bible into Persian, he took leave of Serampore with tears in his eyes. He was gladly welcomed by Mr. Martyn, and they worked together at the Gospel of St. Matthew, Sabat showing a scholar-like anxiety both for correctness and rhythm; but there was so much of the wild Arab about him that he was a continual anxiety. The Serampore missionaries thought him a grand, dignified figure. Mrs. Sherwood paints him much less pleasantly, and says he was exactly like the sign of the Saracen's head, with intensely flashing eyes, high nose, white teeth, and jet black eyebrows, moustache, and beard. His voice was like rolling thunder, his dress of gorgeous material and thoroughly Oriental, silk skull-cap, jacket, jewelled girdle, loose trousers, and embroidered shoes, and he had a free and haughty manner, according with his signature, when writing to a gentleman who had offended him--"Nathanael Sabat, an Arab, who never was in bondage."
In April 1809, Mr. Martyn was removed to the station at Cawnpore, where the Sherwoods were then residing. The time was one of the worst in the whole year for travelling across the sandy plains, with a wind blowing that made the air like "the mouth of an oven." For two days and two nights, between Allahabad and Cawnpore, Mr. Martyn travelled in his palanquin without intermission, and, having expected to arrive sooner, he had brought no provision for the last day. "I lay in my palanquin, faint, with a headache, neither awake nor asleep, between dead and alive, the wind blowing flames." When he arrived, Mr. Sherwood had only just time to lead him into the bungalow before he fainted away, and the hall being the least heated place, a couch was made ready for him there, where for some days he lay very ill; and the thermometer was never below 96 degrees, though the punkah never ceased.
As soon as he mended a little, he enjoyed talking over his Hebrew and Greek studies and his ethnological researches with his clever and eager hostess, who must have greatly refreshed his spirit. He delighted in music: his voice and ear were both excellent, and he taught her many hymns and their tunes. He also took much pleasure in a little orphan girl whom she was bringing up. At this time she herself was almost a childless mother, all her Indian-born infants having been victims to the climate; but a few months later Mr. Martyn christened her little daughter Lucy, a child of such gentle, gracious temper that he was wont to call her Serena. Mrs. Sherwood gives a pretty picture of this little creature, when about eighteen months old, creeping up to Mr. Martyn as he lay on a sofa with all his books about him, and perching herself on his Hebrew Lexicon, which he needed every moment, but would not touch so as to disturb her. The pale, white-clad pastor, and the child with silky hair, bare white feet and arms, and little muslin frock, looked equally innocent and pure.
Mr. Martyn's house at Cawnpore was at the end of an avenue of palms and aloes: there were two bungalows connected by a long passage, in one of which he himself lived, the other was given up to Sabat and his wife. The garden was prettily laid out with shrubs and tall trees, with a raised platform in the centre; and on one side was a whole colony, consisting not only of the usual number of servants allowed to a military chaplain, but of a host of pundits, moonshees, schoolmasters, and poor nominal Christians, who hung about him because there was no one else to give them a handful of rice for their daily maintenance.
Here Mrs. Sherwood describes a motley entertainment, at which she was the only lady. Her husband, in his scarlet and gold uniform, and Mr. Martyn, in his clerical black silk coat, were the only other English. The other European present was Padre Giulio Cesare, an Italian Franciscan, whom Mr. Martyn was obliged to receive when he came to minister to the numerous Irish Roman Catholics in the regiment. He wore a purple satin cassock, a cord of twisted silk, a rosary of costly stones, and a little skull-cap, and his languages were French with the Sherwoods, and Italian and Latin with Mr. Martyn. Sabat was there in his Arab dress; there was a thin, copper-coloured, half-caste gentleman in white nankeen, speaking only Bengalee; and a Hindoo in full costume, speaking only his native tongue: so that no two of the party were in similar costume, seven languages were employed, and moreover the three Orientals viewed it as good breeding to shout at the very top of their voices.
Unluckily, too, Mr. Martyn in his politeness suddenly recollected that Mrs. Sherwood had expressed a liking for certain mutton patties, and ordered them to be brought, in a bachelor's entire oblivion whether any mutton was procurable otherwise than by killing a sheep: and the delay forced the guests to continue to sit on the platform in the dark, with the voices and languages making too great a Babel for the night-enjoyment sometimes so valued, when Mr. Martyn would show Mrs. Sherwood our own Pole Star just above the horizon, or watch the new moon "looking like a ball of ebony in a silver cup." At last the patties were ready, and Mr. Martyn handed Mrs. Sherwood to a seat by him at the top of the table, while Sabat perched himself cross-legged upon a chair at the bottom.
The good chaplain's simplicity seems to have been a great amusement to the Sherwoods. Late one evening he quietly observed, "The coolie does not come with my money: I was thinking this morning how rich I should be, and now I should not wonder in the least if he has run off and taken my treasure with him." Thereupon it turned out that, not having drawn his pay for some time, he had sent a note to the collector at Cawnpore, asking that the amount should be forwarded by the bearer, a common coolie. It was all paid in silver, tied up in cotton bags, and no one expected that he would ever see it; however, the coolie arrived safely with it a little later. Another time, when each household had ordered a pineapple cheese, it was observed that the fissures in the two were marvellously similar; and at last it was discovered that the servants, though paid for two cheeses, made one do duty for both, appearing in turn at the two tables, which was the easier as Mr. Martyn supped on limes and other fruits, and only produced his cheese when the Sherwoods came to supper. He heeded little but his immediate thoughts, and, when he drove out in his gig, went on with his disquisitions on language and pronunciation, utterly unheeding what his horse was about.
The hope of having Lydia with him to brighten his life and aid his labours had by this time passed away. She had some entanglement which prevented her from coming out to India, and his disappointment was most acute. His letters urging her to come out to him are so strong, and full of such anguish, that it is hard to understand that the person who could withstand them could have been the admirable woman Miss Grenfell is described to have been in after-life--unless, indeed, Martyn did not appreciate the claims at home to which she yielded. "Why do things go so well with them and so hardly with me?" was a thought that would come into his mind at the weddings where he officiated as priest. Meantime he had established native schools, choosing a master, usually a Mussulman, and giving him an anna a head for each boy whom he obtained as a scholar in reading and writing. Mr. Martyn supplied books, and these were translations of Scripture history, of the Parables, and the like, through which he hoped to lay a foundation for distinctive teaching. Here is Mrs. Sherwood's description of the Cawnpore school, then in a long shed by the side of the cavalry lines:--
"The master sat at one end like a tailor on the dusty floor, and along under the shed sat the scholars, a pack of little urchins with no other clothes on than a skull-cap and a piece of cloth round their loins. These little ones squatted, like their master, in the sand: they had wooden imitations of slates in their hands, on which, having first written their lessons with chalk, they recited them a pleine gorge, as the French would say, being sure to raise their voices on the approach of any European or native of note. Now Cawnpore is one of the most dusty places in the world; the Sepoy lines are the most dusty part of Cawnpore; and as the little urchins are always well greased either with cocoa-nut oil, or, in failure thereof, with rancid mustard oil, whenever there was the slightest breath of air they always looked as if they had been powdered all over with brown powder. Who that has ever heard it, can forget the sounds of the various notes with which these little people intonated their 'Aleph, Zubbin ah, Zair a, Paiche oh,' as they moved backwards and forwards in their recitations? Who can forget the self-importance of the schoolmaster, who was generally a grey-bearded, dry, old man, who had no other means of proving his superiority to the scholars than by making more noise than even they could?"
In the winter of 1809, Mr. Martyn made his first endeavour at native preaching. The Yogis and Fakers, devotees and vagrants, haunted the station, and every Sunday evening he opened the gates of his garden, admitted all who were collected by the assurance of the distribution of a pice a head; and standing on his platform, read to them some simple verse of Scripture, and then endeavoured to make them believe there is a pure Almighty Universal Father. A frightful crowd: they were often five hundred in number. "No dreams," says Mrs. Sherwood, "in the delirium of a raging fever, could surpass the realities" of their appearance; "clothed with abominable rags, or nearly without clothes, or plastered with mud and cow-dung, or with long matted locks streaming down to their heels; every countenance foul and frightful with evil passions; the lips black with tobacco, or crimson with henna. One man, who came in a cart drawn by a bullock, was so bloated as to look like an enormous frog; another had kept an arm above his head with his hand clenched till the nail had come out at the back of his hand; and one very tall man had all his bones marked on his dark skin with white chalk, like the figure of grim Death himself." The assemblage, in contrast with the pure, innocent, pale face and white dress of the preacher who addressed them, must have been like some of Gustave Dore's illustrations.
These addresses were jealously watched by the British authorities, and were often interrupted by the howls and threatenings of his loathsome congregation; while, moreover, pulmonary complaint, the enemy of his family, began to manifest itself, so that the physicians insisted on his trying the effect of cessation from work, a sea-voyage, and a visit to England. On this plan he had at first fixed. He enters in his journal a happy dream of a walk with Lydia, and, waking, the recollection of the 16,000 miles between them; but in the meantime he heard from the critics at Calcutta, that his translation of the Gospels into Persian, done with the assistance of Sabat, was too full of Arabic idioms, and in language not simple enough for its purpose; and he therefore made up his mind to spend his leave of absence in making his way through Persia and part of Arabia, so as to improve himself in the languages, and submit his translation to more trustworthy scholars. Mr. Brown, on hearing of his plan, consented in these remarkable terms: "Can I then bring myself to cut the string and let you go? I confess I could not if your bodily frame were strong, and promised to last for half a century. But as you burn with the intenseness and rapid blaze of phosphorus, why should we not make the most of you? Your flame may last as long, and perhaps longer, in Arabia than in India. Where should the phoenix build her odoriferous nest but in the land prophetically called the 'blessed'? And where shall we ever expect but from that country the true Comforter to come to the nations of the East?"
In September, therefore, Henry Martyn made ready to set forth, and to take leave of his congregation of beggars. He had baptized one poor old Hindoo woman, and she seemed to him to be the only fruit of his toils; but though the exhortation, at the end of all his labours of the Sunday, cost him severe pain and exhaustion, he had constantly persisted, often beginning in a low feeble tone, but gradually rising in fervour to the full power of his musical voice; then himself going among the disgusting throng to distribute their petty bribe for attendance, and often falling afterwards, faint and speechless, on a sofa.
He knew not that one seed, cast on these turbid waters, had found good soil, and was springing up. Sheik Salah was the son of a pundit at Delhi, and was well-learned in Persian and Arabic. When a youth he had become moonshee to two English gentlemen then living at Lucknow, and while in their service converted a Hindoo fellow-servant from his idolatry to Islam. Elated with his success, he gave himself such airs that his English masters reproved him; and he left them in displeasure, vowing never to serve a Feringhee again. However, being in the pay of a Mahratta chief, he was sent in company with a Mahometan envoy who had undertaken to murder a rival of his master, and having lulled his victim into security by an oath on the Koran that no treachery was intended, decoyed him into his tent, and there stabbed him.
Sheik Salah was a deeply conscientious man, and not only did he leave the Mahratta service, lest some such horrible act should be required of him, but he conceived a certain distrust of his own faith, which, though it condemns such deeds, had not hindered them. While in search of employment, he came to Cawnpore, and there, one fine evening, he sat with some other young Mussulmans, in a summer-house on the garden wall that bounded Mr. Martyn's garden, enjoying their hookahs and sherbet, and amusing themselves with what they called the "foolishness" of the Feringhee Padre, who was discoursing to the throng of hateful looking beggars below. By and by, anxious to hear more, they came down, entered the garden, and stood in a row before the front of the bungalow; their arms folded, their turbans placed jauntily on one side, and their countenances expressive of the utmost contempt.
But the words that Sheik Salah caught were sinking deep. They were of the intense purity and holiness of God and of His laws, and of the need of His power to attain to the keeping of them, as well as of His Sacrifice to atone for man's sinfulness. Sheik Salah could not rest without hearing more, and becoming determined to obtain employment at Cawnpore, he undertook to copy Persian manuscripts for Sabat, and was lodged by him in one of the numerous huts in Mr. Martyn's compound. He was a well-educated, graceful man, exceedingly handsome, looking like a hero of the Old Testament; and probably Sabat was afraid of a rival, for he never mentioned to Mr. Martyn the stranger who, Sunday after Sunday, listened to his preaching, and no doubt would have as thankfully profited by his individual teaching as he would have joyfully given it.
Sabat was at this time a great trial to Mr. Martyn, who in the flush of enthusiasm had let him be put too forward at first, and found the wild man of the desert far too strong for him. Sometimes, when they differed about a word in the translation, Sabat would contend so violently for a whole morning that poor Mr. Martyn, when unable to bear it any longer, would order his palanquin and be carried over to the Sherwoods to escape from the intolerable brawling shout. What Sabat could be was plain from the story of his wife Amina; his seventh, as he told his friends. When he was trying to convert her, she asked his views upon the future lot of those who remained Mahometans, and, when he consigned them to the state of condemnation, she quietly replied that she greatly preferred hell without Sabat's company to heaven with him. The poor man was no doubt in great measure sincere, but his probation had been insufficient, and his wild Ishmaelitish nature, so far from being overcome, gained in pride and violence through the enthusiasm that was felt for him as a convert. Once, in a fit of indignation, he wrote a Persian letter, full of abuse of Mr. Martyn, to a friend in the service of the English resident at Lucknow. By him it was carried to his master, who, wishing to show Mr. Martyn the real character of his favourite convert, sent him the letter. Instead of looking into it, Mr. Martyn summoned Sabat, and bade him read it aloud to him. For once the Arab was overpowered; he cowered before his calm master and entreated his pardon, and when Mr. Martyn put the letter into his hands, assuring him that he had not read it, he was really touched, and showed sorrow for his violence.
On the last Sunday of September 1810, Mr. Martyn took leave of Cawnpore. It was also the Sunday of the installation as chaplain of his dearest friend, the Reverend Daniel Corrie, and of the opening of a church which his exertions had prevailed to raise, whereas all former services had been in his own long verandah. The first sound of the bell most deeply affected those who had scarcely heard one since they had left their native country. That church has given place to the beautiful building which commemorates the horrors of 1857; but the name of Henry Martyn ought never to be forgotten at Cawnpore, if only as the priest to whom it was granted first to give thanks that, in his own words, "a temple of God was erected and a door opened for the service of the Almighty in a place where, from the foundation of the world, the tabernacle of the true God had never stood."
After returning from church he sank, nearly fainting, on a sofa in the hall; but, as soon as he revived, begged his friends to sing to him. The hymn was--
"O God, our help in ages past, Our hope in years to come, Our shelter from the stormy blast, And our eternal home."
After the early dinner and afternoon rest, on a sickly, hazy, burning evening, he preached for the last time to his beggars; came away fainting, and as he lay on his sofa told his friends that he did not believe that he had ever made the slightest impression on one of his audience there.
He knew not that Sheik Salah's heart had been touched, and so deeply that he sought further instruction. As to Sabat, his later career was piteous. He fell back into Mahometanism, and, after some years of a wandering life, took service with the Mussulman chief of Acheen in Sumatra, where, having given some offence, he was barbarously hacked to pieces and thrown into the sea. Such bitter disappointments occur in missionary life; and how should we wonder, since the like befel even St. Paul and St. John?
On the 1st of October, 1810, Mr. Martyn embarked on the Ganges, and on the last day of the month arrived at Mr. Brown's house at Aldeen. He was then much the stronger for the long rest to his voice and chest, but his friends thought him greatly changed and enfeebled, and he could not even hold a conversation without bringing on painful symptoms. Nevertheless, he preached every Sunday but one at Calcutta until the 7th of January, 1811, when he took his last leave of his Anglo-Indian friends, and set forth on his journey to lands almost entirely strange even to his countrymen, in the hope of rendering the Scriptures available for the study of the numerous Hindoos and Mahometans who understood Persian better than any other literary language. He went forth, in broken health, and not only without a companion, but without even an attendant, and for his further history we have only his own journals and letters to depend upon. He went by sea to Bombay with a captain who had been a pupil of Swartz, and whose narratives delighted him much, and afterwards obtained a passage in an English ship which was to cruise in the Persian Gulf against Arab pirates. Here he was allowed to have public prayers every evening, and on the 22nd of May was landed at Bushire, where he was lodged in the house of an English merchant with an Armenian wife.
The time for a journey to Persia was so far favourable that the Shah, Fath' Ali, who had succeeded to the throne in 1794, owed England much gratitude for having interfered to check the progress of Russian conquest upon his northern frontier. After Persia had long been closed from foreign intercourse by the jealous and cruel Shah, Aga Mohammed, Fath' Ali, a comparatively enlightened prince in the prime of life, willingly entertained envoys and travellers from European courts, and Sir Gore Ouseley was resident at Shiraz as British Ambassador. Yet it was not considered safe for a Frank to travel through Persia without an Oriental dress, and, accordingly, Martyn had to provide himself with the tall conical cap of black Tartar lambskin, baggy blue trousers, red boots, and a chintz coat, allowing his beard and moustache to grow, and eating rice by handfuls from the general dish. Meantime he was hospitably entertained, the Armenian ladies came in a body to kiss his hand, and the priest placed him beside the altar in church, and incensed him four times over, for which he was not grateful on being told "it was for the honour of our order."
An English officer joined company with him, and a muleteer undertook their transport to Shiraz. It was a terrible journey up the parching mountain paths of Persia, where Alexander's army had suffered so much, with the sun glaring down upon them, never, in that rainless belt around the Persian Gulf, tempered by a cloud. They travelled only by night, and encamped by day, sometimes without a tree to spread their tents under. The only mode of existing was to wrap the head in a wet cloth, and the body in all the heavy clothing to be had, to prevent the waste of moisture; but even thus Martyn says his state was "a fire within my head, my skin like a cinder, the pulse violent." The thermometer rose to 126 degrees in the middle of the day, and came down to about 100 degrees in the evening. When exhausted with fever and sleeplessness, but unable to touch food, it was needful to mount, and, in a half-dead state of sleepiness, be carried by the sure-footed mountain pony up steep ascents, and along the verge of giddy precipices, with a general dreamy sense that it was magnificent scenery for any one who was in a bodily condition to admire it.
Swift clear streams and emerald valleys began to refresh the travellers as they rose into the higher land above the arid region; and, after one twenty-four hours' halt in a sort of summer-house, where Henry Martyn was too ill to move till he had had a few hours of sleep, they safely arrived at the mountain-city of Shiraz, where he was kindly received by Jaffier Ali Khan, a Persian gentleman to whom he had brought letters of introduction.
Persia, as is well known, has a peculiar intellectual character of its own. Descended from the Indo-European stock, and preserved from total enervation by their mountain air, the inhabitants have, even under Islam, retained much of the vivacity, fire, and poetry inherent in the Aryan nature. Their taste for beauty, especially in form and colour, has always been exquisite; their delight in gardens, in music, and poetry has had a certain refinement, and with many terrible faults--in especial falsehood and cruelty, the absence of the Turkish stolidity, the Arab wildness, and the Hindoo pride and indolence--has always made them an attractive people. Their Mahommedanism, too, is of a different form from that of the Arab and Turk. Theirs is the schismatical sect of Ali, which is less rigid, and affords more scope for the intellect and fancy, and it has thrown off a curious body called the Soofees, a sort of philosophers in relation to Islam. The name may be either really taken from the Greek Sophos, wise, or else comes from the Persian Soof, purity. The Soofees profess to be continually in search of truth, and seem, for the most part, to rest upon a general belief in an all-pervading Creator, with a spirit diffused through all His works. Like their (apparent) namesakes of old, they revel in argument, and delight to tell or to hear some new thing.
Thus, Jaffier Ali Khan, who belonged to this sect, made the English padre welcome; and his brother, Seid Ali, whose title of Mirza shows him to have been a Scribe, undertook to assist in the translation, while Moollahs and students delighted to come and hold discussions with him; and very vain and unprofitable logomachies he found them, whether with Soofee, Mahometan, or Jew. But the life, on the whole, was interesting, since he was fulfilling his most important object of providing a trustworthy and classical version of the Scriptures, such as might adequately express their meaning, and convey a sense of their beauty of language and force of expression to the scholarly and fastidious Oriental.
He made friends in the suite of the Ambassador, Sir Gore Ouseley, whose house he ministered on Sunday, and he was presented by him to the heir to the throne, Prince Abbas Mirza. He had, by way of Court dress, to wear a pair of red cloth stockings and high-heeled shoes, and was marched up through the great court of the palace, where a hundred fountains began to play the moment the Ambassador entered. The Prince sat on the ground in his hall of audience, and all his visitors sat in a line with their hats on, but he conversed with no one but the Ambassador, looking so gentle and amiable that Mr. Martyn could hardly believe that the tyrannical acts reported of him could be true.
In the summer heat, Jaffier Ali pitched a tent for him in a garden outside the walls of Shiraz, where he worked with much enjoyment, "living among clusters of grapes, by the side of a clear stream," and sitting under the shade of an orange-tree. From thence he made an expedition to see the ruins of Persepolis, greatly to the perplexity of his escort, who, after repeatedly telling him that the place was uninhabited, concluded that he had come thither to drink brandy in secret!
On the New Year's Day of 1812 Martyn wrote in his journal: "The present year will probably be a perilous one, but my life is of little consequence, whether I live to finish the Persian New Testament, or do not. I look back with pity and shame on my former self, and on the importance I then attached to my life and labours. The more I see of my own works, the more I am ashamed of them. Coarseness and clumsiness mar all the works of men. I am sick when I look at man, and his wisdom, and his doings, and am relieved only by reflecting that we have a city whose builder and maker is God. The least of His works is refreshing to look at. A dried leaf or a straw makes me feel myself in good company. Complacency and admiration take the place of disgust."
On the 24th of February he finished his Persian New Testament, and in six weeks more his translation of the Psalms. His residence in Persia had lasted just a year, and, though direct missionary work had not been possible to him there, he had certainly inspired his coadjutor, Mirza Seid Ali, with a much higher morality and with something very like faith. On one of the last days before his leaving Shiraz, Seid Ali said seriously, "Though a man had no other religious society, I suppose he might, with the aid of the Bible, live alone with God." It was to this solitude that Martyn left him, not attempting apparently to induce him to give up anything for the sake of embracing Christianity. Death would probably have been the consequence of joining the Armenian Church in Persia, but why did Martyn's teaching stop at inward faith instead of insisting on outward confession, the test fixed by the Saviour Himself?
On the 24th of May, Mr. Martyn and another English clergyman set out to lay his translation before the Shah, who was in his camp at Tebriz. There they were admitted to the presence of the Vizier, before whom two Moollahs, the most ignorant and discourteous whom he had met in Persia, were set to argue with the English priest. The Vizier mingled in the discussion, which ended thus: "You had better say God is God, and Mahomet is His prophet." "God is God," repeated Henry Martyn, "and JESUS is the Son of God."
"He is neither born nor begets," cried the Moollahs; and one said, "What will you say when your tongue is burnt out for blasphemy?"
He had offended against the Mohammedan doctrine most strictly held; and, knowing this well, he had kept back the confession of the core of the true faith till to withhold it longer would have been a denial of his Lord. After all, he was not allowed to see the Shah without the Ambassador to present him, and descended again to Sultania--a painful journey, from which he brought a severe ague and fever, through which he was nursed by Sir Gore and Lady Ouseley.
As soon as he had recovered, he decided on making his way to Constantinople, and thence to England, where he hoped to recruit his health and, it might be, induce Lydia to accompany him back to India. His last letter to her was written from Tebriz on the 28th of August, dreading illness on the journey, but still full of hope. In that letter, too, he alludes to Sabat as the greatest tormentor he had known, but warns her against mentioning to others that this "star of the East," as Claudius Buchanan had called him, had been a disappointment. His diary is carried on as far as Tocat. The last entry is on the 6th of October. It closes thus: "Oh! when shall time give place to eternity? When shall appear that new heaven and earth wherein dwelleth righteousness? There, there shall in nowise enter in anything that defileth; none of that wickedness which has made men worse than wild beasts, none of those corruptions which add still more to the miseries of mortality, shall be seen or heard of any more."
No more is known of Henry Martyn save that he died at Tocat on the 16th of that same October of 1812, without a European near. It is not even known whether his death were caused by fever, or by the plague, which was raging at the place. He died a pilgrim's solitary death, and lies in an unknown grave in a heathen land.
What fruit has his mission zeal left? It has left one of the soul-stirring examples that have raised up other labourers. It has left the Persian Bible for the blessing of all to whom that language is familiar. It left, for the time, a strong interest in Christianity in Shiraz. It left in India many English quickened to a sense of religion; and it assuredly left Sheik Salah a true convert. Baptized afterwards by the name of Abdul Messeh, or Servant of the Messiah, he became the teacher of no less than thirty-nine Hindoos whom he brought to Holy Baptism. Such were the reapings in Paradise that Henry Martyn has won from his thirty-one years' life and his seeming failure.