THE BISHOPRIC OF CALCUTTA: THOMAS MIDDLETON, REGINALD HEBER, DANIEL WILSON.
Perhaps dying in a cause is the surest way of leading to its success. Henry Martyn was sinking on his homeward journey, while in England the renewal of the Charter of the East India Company was leading to the renewal of those discussions on the promotion of religion in Hindostan which had been so entirely quashed twenty years before, in 1793. Claudius Buchanan had published his "Christian Researches," the Life of Schwartz had become known, the labours of Marshman and Carey were reported, and the Legislature at length attended to the representations, made through Archbishop Manners Sutton, by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, and consented to sanction the establishment of a branch of the Church, with a Bishop to govern it at Calcutta, and an Archdeacon there and also at Madras and Bombay; the Bishop to have 5,000l. a year but no house, and each Archdeacon 2,000l. Such was all that the efforts of Wilberforce could wring from the East India Company for a diocese, in length twenty degrees, in breadth ten, and where the inconvenience of distances was infinitely increased by the difficulties and dangers of travelling.
One excuse for the insufficiency of this provision had more weight with the supporters of the Church than we can understand. England had for more than a thousand years been accustomed to connect temporal grandeur with the Episcopacy; a Bishop not in the House of Lords seemed an anomaly, and it was imagined that to create chief pastors without a considerable endowment would serve to bring them into contempt; whereas to many minds, that very wealth and station was an absolute stumbling- block. However, a beginning was made, and a year after Henry Martyn's death, in 1814, the first of the Colonial Bishops of England was appointed, namely, Thomas Fanshaw Middleton, the son of a Derbyshire clergyman, who had been educated at Christ's Hospital, and Pembroke College, Cambridge, and had since been known as an excellent Greek scholar, and an active clergyman in the diocese of Lincoln. Thence he removed to the rectory of St. Pancras, London, where he strove hard to accomplish the building of a new church, but could not succeed, such was the dead indifference of the period. He was also Archdeacon of Huntingdon, and one of a firmly compacted body of friends who were doing much in a resolute though quiet way for the awakening of the nation from its apathy towards religion. Joshua Watson, a merchant, might be regarded as the lay-manager and leader, as having more leisure, and more habit of business than the clergy, with and for whom he worked. This is no place for detailing their home labours, but it may be well to mention that to their exertions we owe the National Society for the education of the poor, and likewise that edition of the Holy Scriptures, with notes, which is commonly known as Mant's Bible. They were the chief managers at that time of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge; and when, in 1813, a Danish missionary was sent out by that Society to take charge of the congregations left by Schwartz and his colleagues, it was Archdeacon Middleton who was selected to deliver a charge to him. It was a very powerful and impressive speech, and perhaps occasioned Dr. Tomline, Bishop of Lincoln, to recommend the speaker to the Earl of Buckinghamshire for the bishopric created the next year.
The office would be, humanly speaking, most trying, laborious and perplexing, and neither Archdeacon Middleton's age (forty-five) nor his habits inclined to enthusiasm. He shrank from it at first, then "suspected," as he says, "that I had yielded to some unmanly considerations," and decided that it was his duty to accept the charge as a call from his Master. He was consecrated in the chapel at Lambeth, by Archbishop Manners Sutton, with the Bishops of London, Lincoln, and Salisbury assisting. The sermon was preached by Dr. Rennell, Dean of Winchester, but was withheld from publication for the strange reason that there was so strong an aversion to the establishment of episcopacy in India, that it was thought better not to attract attention to the fact that had just been accomplished.
Bishop Middleton, his wife, and two of his Archdeacons (the third was already in India) sailed on the 8th of June, 1814, and they landed at Calcutta on the 28th of November. There was no public reception, for fear of alarming the natives, though, on the other hand, they were found to entertain a better opinion of the English on finding they respected their own religion. The difficulties of the Bishop's arrival were increased by the absence of Lord Moira, the Governor-General, who was engaged in the Nepaulese war; and as no house had been provided for the Bishop, he had to be the guest of Mr. Seton, a member of the Council, till a house could be procured, at a high rent.
One of the first visitors was a Hindoo gentleman, who told him, "Sir William Jones was a great man and understood our books, but he attended only to our law. Your lordship will study our religion; your people mistake our religion; it is not in our books. The Brahminee religion and your lordship's are the same; we mean the same thing."
The man seems to have been one of those of whom there are now only too many in India, who have thrown off their old superstitions only to believe in nothing, save the existence of a Supreme Being, and who fancy that all other religions can be simplified into the like. This is the class that has, for the seventy years during which Christianity has been preached in earnest, been the alternate hope and anxiety of the missionary; intellectually renouncing their own paganism, but withheld by the prejudices of their families from giving up the heathenish customs of caste; admiring divine morality, but not perceiving the inability of man to attain the standard; and refusing to accept the mysteries in the supernatural portion of Revelation. Such was probably Serfojee; such was the celebrated Brahmin Ram Mohun Roy, with whom Bishop Middleton had much discussion, and of whom he had at one time many hopes, a man of very remarkable powers of mind and clear practical intelligence. Roy's endeavour at first was to purify the native forms of religion, and, recurring to the Vedas, to find a high philosophy in them; but he and the friends he gathered round him soon became convinced that these contained no system of reasonable theology, still less of morality, and they then constructed for themselves a theory culled from Christianity, but rejecting whatever did not approve itself to their intellect, in especial the holy mysteries regarding the nature of the Godhead and the Incarnation of our Lord. This teaching, called Brahmoism, from Brahma, the purest and highest of Hindoo divinities, is, under another form, the Neo-Platonism of the Greeks, or the Soofeeism of the Persians. There was even the germ of it in the grotesque medicine-man encountered by David Brainerd. It is the form of opposition which the spirit of evil always stirs up, wherever the natural character is elevated enough to appreciate the beauty of Christian morality. It only prevails where there are refined and cultivated men, afraid of all belief in the supernatural, as a humbling of their intellect to superstition; and just at present a form of it is very prevalent in India, owing to the amount of education which the natives receive, which uproots the old belief, but does not always implant the new. Whether it will become a stepping-stone to Christianity, or whether it has substance to become a separate sect, remains to be proved.
To return to Bishop Middleton. He knew when he left home that his work would be heavy, and that to set in order the things that were wanting must be his first undertaking; but no words could have conveyed the dead weight of care and toil that lay on him. The huge diocese was shamefully deficient in all that was needful for the keeping up of religious ordinances; the Company's chaplains, few in number, were stationed at immense distances apart, and for the most part had no attempt at a proper church for their congregations. Verandahs or dining-rooms were used on Sundays; and at Meerut, an edifice was actually built for the purpose of a riding-school in the week, and a place of worship on Sunday. Moreover, these chaplains were accustomed to look to the Governor-General as their only superior, and, living so far apart, each followed his own independent line of action, as if entirely unaccountable. Some, such as Mr. Corrie at Cawnpore, were admirable and earnest men; but Henry Martyn's successor at Dinapore had let the place sink into a lamentable state, and there were several chaplains who greatly resented the being brought under authority. The brunt of the battle fell of course upon the first Bishop, and being a man as sensitive as he was firm, it tried him severely. His entreaty was constantly for more men; and in order to obtain a ministry beyond that which the East India Company would provide for, he occupied himself in procuring the foundation of Bishop's College, close to Calcutta, a seminary where young men, both European and native, could receive a good theological and classical education, and be prepared for Holy Orders. The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge granted 5,000l. for the purpose, and private subscriptions came in, until on the 15th of December, 1820, the Bishop was enabled to lay the foundation- stone of an institution that has, now for half a century, admirably answered its purpose.
It has long been found that Christianity cannot take root without a native ministry, and Bishop Middleton was most anxious to ordain such catechists of Schwartz's training as were ready; but he found great technical difficulties in the way, since the ordination form in the Prayer Book left no opening for persons who, not being British subjects, could not be expected to take the oaths of allegiance and supremacy; and, moreover, it was not certain what language ought to be used with men not speaking English. The arrangement of these difficulties hindered him from ordaining Christian David, the godson and pupil of Schwartz, and a subject of Tanjore, on his visitation to the Presidency. This good man met him, together with the minister of Palamcotta, bringing a deputation about thirty in number. The minister was an exceedingly dark man, with a very interesting countenance. Addresses, interpreted by Christian, were made on either side, and the thirty sang a psalm of thanksgiving in Tamul. They were only a small deputation, for there were several Christian villages in Tinnevelly, with churches built of unburnt brick, and roofed with palmyra leaves, where the English Liturgy was used, having been translated into Tamul by David.
At Tanjore, the Bishop was received in the most friendly manner by Serfojee, who came down from his throne to welcome him, and caused Mrs. Middleton to be conducted to visit the ladies of his zenana. He conducted the Bishop into his library, which contained books in various European languages; also on medicine and anatomy, this being his favourite study, to assist him in which he had an ivory skeleton. He returned the visit in great state, with six elephants, two of enormous size, going before him, and accompanied by his troops, with a wild, horrid dissonance of cannon and native music. Two thousand persons escorted the Rajah to the Bishop's tent, where he conversed very sensibly on various subjects, especially English history, or as he called it, "the Generations of English Kings." He was keeping up the good works he had established, under the encouragement of the British resident, Colonel Blackburne, and in this district the native Christians numbered about 500, who were under the direction of Schwartz's companion, Pohle.
On the Malabar coast Bishop Middleton had much intercourse with the Christians of St. Thomas, visited their churches, and held much conversation with their Bishop, convincing himself that the distinctive tenets of Nestorianism had died out among them, and arranging for their receiving assistance in books and teachers.
His visit to Ceylon followed, and was always regarded by him as a time of much gratification; the good Governor, Sir Robert Brownrigg, had done so much for the improvement of the people, and the missions were flourishing so well. Here Christian David became a catechist, and on the Bishop's second visitation, in 1821, he ordained as deacon a man named Armour, whose history one longs to know more fully. He had come out to Ceylon originally as a private soldier, and finding a number of natives, probably the remnant of the Dutch Mission, whose profession of Christianity was only nominal, he had taken upon himself "almost the work of an evangelist," never varying from the teaching and services of the English Church. He had taught himself to speak and preach fluently in Cingalese, and could use the Dutch and Portuguese languages freely. He had even some knowledge of Latin and Greek, and was so staunch Churchman that he had resisted all invitations from the Baptists to join them. He had gone through frightful difficulties and dangers in the swamp and the jungle, and travelled thousands of miles; and when he came to the Bishop it was with deep humility, and the hope that he had not been presumptuous in taking on himself the charge of souls without sanction. It was his great desire to obtain this commission, and the Bishop, finding how sound in faith, pious, and excellent he was, admitted him to deacon's orders before leaving Colombo.
Ceylon was erected into an archdeaconry and attached to the Bishopric of Calcutta, and shortly after the same arrangement was made respecting Australia--an archdeaconry a great deal larger than the continent of Europe! Thence Bishop Middleton received and attended to the petition of the Rev. Samuel Marsden, a devoted worker in the vineyard, of whom our next chapter will speak.
Distinct missionary labour was scarcely possible to a man overtasked like Bishop Middleton. The district that kept St. Paul in continual "journeyings often" would have been but a quarter of that which depended on him for "the care of all the churches," and the long journeys by sea and land were by far the least harassing part of his life; for he had to fight the battles, sometimes of his Church, sometimes of the whole Christian cause, with unfair and prejudiced officials, and a malignant newspaper press, by which the bitterest attacks were circulated against him and his doings. And, "besides those things that were without," there were the troubles of dealing with men used to do "that which was right in their own eyes," and determined to oppose or neglect one whose powers could only thoroughly be defined by actual practice. To go into these conflicts would be wearisome and vain. They have lost their interest now; but it must be remembered that it is by manfully and firmly enduring vexations such as these, that systems are established which form the framework and foundation of more visible labours, which gain more praise for those who are allowed to carry them out.
The constant wearing effort, the daily vexation, the inability to gain support, the binding of his hands from free action by the machinery of State regulations only applicable to home ecclesiastics, the continual making beginnings that never were allowed to progress--or, as he himself called it, the continual rolling of the stone of Sisyphus--could not but exhaust his powers, above all in such a climate; and that same sickly summer of 1822 which proved fatal to Felix Carey was his last. In July, one of his clergy, on whom he had been obliged to pass censure, instituted proceedings against him in the Supreme Court--a most improper and disloyal act, which much grieved and agitated him. He had to spend eight hours in writing in preparation for this painful matter, and afterwards went out in the carriage with his wife, but too early in the evening, for the slanting rays of the sun, not yet down, fell full on him, and their force is always especially dreaded at that damp and sickly season. He immediately said that the sun had struck him, and returned home; a most distressing fever, chiefly on the nerves, and accompanied by grievous restlessness and afterwards delirium, set in, and he died on the 8th of July, 1822, in his fifty-fourth year, absolutely worn out by toil and worry. But his career had established both the needfulness and the position of a Bishop, and his successor was appointed without the same opposition, still to a path perhaps only less thorny because briefer.
Of a Yorkshire family, where the eldest son was always bred up as the country gentleman, the younger ones usually prepared to hold the family livings, Reginald Heber was born on the 21st of April, 1783, at Malpas, in Cheshire, a rectory held by his father, who was the clerical second son, but soon after became head of the house by the death of his squire- brother. He was twice married, and had a son by his first wife, so that Reginald was born, as it were, to the prospect of taking Holy Orders; and this fact seems to have in a certain degree coloured his whole boyhood, and acted as a consecration, not saddening, but brightening his life.
A happy, eager, docile childhood seems to have been his; so obedient, that when an attack on the lungs necessitated the use of very painful remedies, the physician said that the chances of his recovery turned upon his being the most tractable of children; and with such a love and knowledge of the Bible that, when only five years old, his father could consult him like a little Concordance, and withal full of boyish mirth and daring. When sent to school at Neasdon, he was so excited by the story of an African traveller overawing a wild bull by the calm defiance of the eye, as to attempt the like process upon one that he found grazing in a field, but without the like success; for he provoked so furious a charge that he was forced to escape ignominiously over a high paling, whence he descended into a muddy pond.
Neasdon was the place of education of his whole boyhood, among twelve other pupils. Mr. John Thornton, the schoolfellow friend and correspondent of his life, describes him as having been much beloved there. He had no scruple as to fighting rather than submitting to tyranny from a bigger boy, but his unfailing good nature and unselfishness generally prevented such collisions; he was full of fun, and excellent at games of all sorts; and though at one time evil talk was prevalent among the boys, his perfect purity of mind and power of creating innocent amusement destroyed the habit, without estranging the other lads from him. He took many of his stories from books not read by them, for he was an omnivorous reader, taking special delight in poetry, loving nothing better than a solitary walk with Spenser's "Faerie Queen" in his hand, and often himself composing verses above the average for so young a boy.
He was always thoughtful, and there is a letter of his to his friend Thornton, written when only seventeen, which shows that he had begun to think over Church questions, was deeply sensible of the sacredness of the apostolical commission to the ministry, and of the evils of State interference. That same year, 1800, began his University education, at Brasenose College, Oxford. His course there was alike blameless in life and brilliant in scholarship; his talents and industry could not fail to secure him honours in the schools.
Another young man was at the very same time at Oxford, whose course had been steered thither with more difficulties than Reginald Heber's. Daniel Wilson's father was a wealthy silk manufacturer, at Spitalfields, where he was born in the year 1778. He was educated at a private school at Hackney, kept by a clergyman named Eyre, who must have had a good deal of discernment of character, for he said, "There is no milk and water in that boy. He will be either something very bad or very good." One day, when he was in an obstinate and impracticable state of idleness, Mr. Eyre said, "Daniel, you are not worth flogging, or I would flog you," which so stung him that he never fell into similar disgrace again; nay, one morning when he had failed in his appointed task, he refused food saying, "No! If my head will not work, my body shall not eat." He had considerable powers, and when his own theme on a given subject was finished, would find "sense" for all the dull boys--varying the matter but keeping to the point in all: but his education ceased at fourteen, when he was bound apprentice to his uncle, who followed the same trade as his father, and lived in Cheapside. He was a widower with seven children, one of whom in after years became Daniel's wife. It was a strictly religious household, and whereas Daniel's parents had been wont to attend church or meeting as suited them best, his uncle was a regular churchman, and took his whole family constantly with him, as decidedly as he kept up discipline in his warehouse, where the young men had so little liberty, that for weeks together they never had occasion to put on their hats except on Sunday.
Daniel was a thoughtless, irreverent lad, full of schoolboy restlessness when first he came; but though he was at first remarkable for his ill- behaviour in church, his attendance insensibly took effect upon him, as it brought his mind under the influence of the two chief powers for good then in London, John Newton and Richard Cecil. The vehement struggle for conversion and sense of individual salvation that their teaching deemed the beginning of grace took place, and he turned for aid to them and to his old schoolmaster, Mr. Eyre. It was from his hands in 1797, at the age of nineteen, that he received his first Communion, with so much emotion and such trembling, that he writes to his mother, "I have no doubt I appeared very foolish to those about me," but he adds in another letter to a friend that it had been the happiest day of his life. "And to you I confess it," he says, "(though it ought perhaps to be a cause for shame,) that I have felt great desire to go or do anything for the love of JESUS, and that I have even wished, if it were the Lord's will, to go as a missionary to foreign lands."
It is very remarkable that this thought should have occurred at such a moment to one who only became a missionary thirty-five years later, at a summons from without, not from within. The distinct mission impulse passed away, but a strong desire remained to devote himself to the ministry of the Church. He tried to stifle it at first, lest it should be a form of conceit or pride; but it only grew upon him, and at last he spoke to Mr. Eyre, who promised to broach the subject to his parents.
His father was strongly averse to it, as an overthrow to all his plans, and Mr. Eyre, after hearing both sides, said that he should give no opinion for a year; it would not hurt Daniel to remain another year in the warehouse, to fulfil the term of his apprenticeship, and it would then be proper time to decide whether to press his father to change his mind. It was a very sore trial to the young man, who had many reasons for deeming this sheer waste of time, though he owned he had not lost much of his school learning, having always loved it so much as to read as much Latin as he could in his leisure hours. He submitted at first, but was uneasy under his submission, and asked counsel from all the clergymen he revered, who seem all to have advised him to be patient, but to have urged his father to yield, which he finally did before the year was out; so that Daniel Wilson was entered at St. Edmund's Hall, Oxford, on the 1st of May, 1798. He struggled with the eagerness of one whose desire had grown by meeting with obstacles. In order to acquire a good Latin style, he translated all Cicero's letters into English, and then back into Latin; and when he went up for his degree, he took, besides his Latin and Greek books, the whole Hebrew Bible, but was only examined in the Psalms. He gained a triumphant first-class, and the next year, 1803, he carried off the English prose essay prize. The theme was "Common Sense." He had not in the least expected to gain the prize, and had not even mentioned the competition to his friends, so that their delight and surprise were equal. That same year, Reginald Heber was happy in the subject for Sir Roger Newdegate's prize for English verse, namely, "Palestine," which in this case had fallen to a poet too real to be crushed by the greatness of his subject.
Reginald Heber was used to society of high talent and cultivation. His elder brother, Richard, was an elegant scholar and antiquary, and was intimate with Mr. Marriott, of Rokeby; with Mr. Surtees, the beauty of whose forged ballads almost makes us forgive him for having palmed them off as genuine; and with Walter Scott, then chiefly known as "the compiler of the 'Border Minstrelsy,'" but who a few years later immortalized his friendship for Richard Heber by the sixth of his introductions to "Marmion,"--the best known, as it contains the description of the Christmas of the olden time. It concludes with the wish--
"Adieu, dear Heber, life and health! And store of literary wealth."
Just as Reginald was finishing his prize poem, Scott was on a tour through England, and breakfasted at Richard Heber's rooms at Oxford, when on the way to lionize Blenheim. The young brother's poem was brought forward and read aloud, and Scott's opinion was anxiously looked for. It was thoroughly favourable, "but," said Scott, "you have missed one striking circumstance in your account of the building of the Temple, that no tools were used in its erection."
Before the party broke up the lines had been added:
"No workman's steel, no ponderous axes rung; Like some tall palm the noiseless fabric sprung; Majestic silence--"
The prose essay on "Common Sense" was first recited from the rostrum in the Sheldonian theatre, and Wilson always remembered the hearty applause of the young man who sat waiting his turn. But the effect of the recitation of "Palestine" was entirely unrivalled on that as on any other occasion. Reginald Heber,--a graceful, fine-looking, rather pale young man of twenty,--with his younger brother Thomas beside him as prompter, stood in the rostrum, and commenced in a clear, beautiful, melancholy voice, with perfect declamation, which overcame all the stir and tumultuous restlessness of the audience by the power and sweetness of words and action:
"Reft of thy sons, amid thy foes forlorn, Mourn, widow'd queen; forgotten Zion, mourn. Is this thy place, sad city, this thy throne, Where the wild desert rears its craggy stone; While suns unblest their angry lustre fling, And wayworn pilgrims seek the scanty spring?"
On flowed the harmonious lines, looking back to the call of the Chosen, the victory of Joshua, the glory of Solomon, the hidden glory of the Greater than Solomon, the crime of crimes, the destruction, the renewal by the Empress Helena, the Crusades, and after a tribute (excusable at the time of excitement) to Sir Sidney Smith's defence of Acre, gradually rising to a magnificent description of the heavenly Jerusalem.
"Ten thousand harps attune the mystic throng, Ten thousand thousand saints the strain prolong. 'Worthy the Lamb, omnipotent to save! Who died, Who lives triumphant o'er the grave."
The enthusiasm, the hush, the feeling, the acclamations have ever since been remembered at Oxford as unequalled. Heber's parents were both present, and his mother, repairing at once in her joy to his rooms, found him kneeling by his bedside, laying the burthen of honour and success upon his God. His father, recently recovered from illness, was so overcome and shaken by the pressure of the throng and the thunder of applause as never entirely to recover the fatigue, and he died eight months later, early in 1804.
The two youths who were in juxtaposition at the rostrum were not to meet again. Daniel Wilson was ordained to the curacy of Chobham, under Mr. Cecil, an excellent master for impressing hard study on his curates. He writes: "What should a young minister do? His office says, 'Go to your books, go to retirement, go to prayer.' 'No,' says the enthusiast, 'go to preach, go and be a witness.'"
"'A witness of what?'
"'He don't know!'"
While Wilson worked under Cecil, Heber, who was still too young for the family living of Hodnet, in Shropshire, after taking his bachelor's degree, obtaining a fellowship at All Souls College, and gaining the prize for the prose essay, accompanied John Thornton on a tour through northern and eastern Europe, the only portions then accessible to the traveller; and, returning in 1806, was welcomed at home by his brother's tenants with a banquet, for which three sheep were slaughtered, and at which he appeared in the red coat of the volunteer regiment in which he had taken an eager share during former years.
It was his last appearance in a military character, for in 1807 he was ordained, and entered on his duties as Rector of Hodnet. Two years later he married Amelia Shipley, the daughter of the Dean of St. Asaph. Floating thus easily into preferment, without a shoal or rock in his course, fairly wealthy, and belonging to a well-esteemed county family, connected through his brother with the very elite of literary society, it seemed as though, in the laxity of the early part of the century, Reginald Heber could hardly have helped falling into the indolence of learned ease, the peril of the well-beneficed clergy of his day, especially among those who had not accepted the peculiarities of the awakening school of the period.
But such was not the case. He was at once an earnest parish priest, working hard to win his people, not only to attend at church, but to become regular communicants, and to give up their prevalent evil courses. We find him in one letter mentioning the writing of an article on Pindar in the Quarterly Review, planning for a village-school on the Lancastrian principle, and endeavouring to improve the psalmody. "At least," he says, "I have a better reason to plead for silence than the Cambridge man who, on being asked in what pursuit he was then engaged, replied that he was diligently employed in suffering his hair to grow."
These "endeavours to improve the psalmody" were a forestalling of the victory over the version of Tate and Brady. The Olney Hymns, produced by Cowper, under the guidance of John Newton, had been introduced by Heber on his first arrival in the parish, but he felt the lack of something more thoroughly in accordance with the course of the Christian year, less personal and meditative, and more congregational. Therefore he produced by degrees a series of hymns, which he described as designed to be sung between the Nicene Creed and the Sermon, and to be connected in some degree with the Collects and Gospels for the day. Thus he was the real originator in England of the great system of appropriate hymnology, which has become almost universal, and many of his own are among the most beautiful voices of praise our Church possesses. We would instance Nos. 135 and 263 in "Hymns Ancient and Modern,"--that for the 21st Sunday after Trinity, a magnificent Christian battle-song; and that for Innocents' Day, an imitation of the old Latin hymn "Salvete flores Martyrum." They were put together, with others by Dean Milman and a few more, into a little volume, which Heber requested Dr. Howley, then Bishop of London, to lay before the Archbishop, that it might be recommended for use in churches, but the timidity of the time prevented this from being carried into effect.
A deep student of church history, his letters show him trying every practical question by the tests of ancient authority as well as instructive piety, and, on these principles, already deploring the undue elevation of the pulpit and debasement of the Altar to which exclusive preference of preaching had led. Missions had, since the days of Carey's first opening of the subject become so predominant a thought with the Nonconformist bodies, and were often conducted so irregularly, that there was certain dread and distrust of them among the sober-minded and orthodox; but Heber was one of the first English churchmen who perceived that to enlarge her borders and strengthen her stakes was the bounden duty of the living Church. He was a fervent admirer of Henry Martyn, whose biography was published soon after the news of his death reached England, and his feeling found vent in that hymn so familiar to us all--"From Greenland's icy mountains."
He was meantime rising in influence and station,--Canon of St. Asaph, Preacher at Lincoln's Inn, Select Preacher before the University. He was beloved by all ranks: by the poor for his boundless charity and sympathy; and by his equals, not only for these qualities, but for his sunny temper, bright wit, and playfulness, which showed in his conversation, his letters, and in many a droll, elegant, and scholarly jeu d'esprit, thrown off by a mind that could do nothing without gracefulness. All this prosperity was alloyed only by such domestic sorrow as might be fitly termed gentle chastening. The death of his next brother, Thomas, who had acted as his curate, was a severe loss to him; and in the desire to make every affliction a stepping-stone in Christian progress, he began, from that date, a custom of composing a short collect-like prayer, veiled in Latin, on every marked occurrence in his life. The next occasion was, after several years of marriage, the birth of a little daughter, whom (in his own words) "he had the pleasure of seeing and caressing for six months," ere she faded away, and died just before the Christmas of 1817. He never could speak of her without tears, and (his wife tells us) ever after added to his private prayers a petition to be worthy to rejoin his "sinless child." His grief and his faith further found voice in the hymn, each verse of which begins with "Thou art gone to the grave, but we will not deplore thee," and which finishes--
"Thou art gone to the grave, but we will not deplore thee, Whose God was thy ransom, thy Guardian and Guide. He gave thee, He took thee, and He will restore thee, And death has no sting, for the Saviour has died."
Such had been the training of Reginald Heber, through the pleasant paths of successful scholarship and literature, and of well-beneficed country pastorship; a life perilous to spirituality and earnestness, but which he kept full of the salt of piety, charity and unwearied activity as parish priest, and as one of the voices of the Church. Such had been his life up to 1822, when, on the tidings of the death of Dr. Middleton, Bishop of Calcutta, his friend Charles Williams Wynn, President of the Board of Commissioners for the affairs of India, offered him the appointment.
To a man of his present position, talents, and prospects at home, the preferment was not advantageous: the income, with the heavy attendant expenses, would very little increase his means; the promotion threw him out of the chances of the like at home; and the labour and toil of the half-constituted and enormous diocese, the needful struggles with English irreligion and native heathenism, and the perils of climate, offered a trying exchange for all that had made life delightful at Hodnet Rectory. A second little daughter too, whom he could not of course look to educating in India, rendered the decision more trying. But in his own peculiarly calm and simple way, he wrote: "I really should not think myself justified in declining a situation of so great usefulness, and for which, without vanity, I think myself not ill adapted, either from a love for the society and friendship of England, or from a hope, which may never be realized, of being some time or other in a situation of more importance at home." At first, however, the fear for the child's health induced him to decline, but only if anyone else equally suitable could be found; and finally he accepted it, with apparent coolness, veiling the deep spirit of zeal and enthusiasm that glowed within. It was not the ardent vehemence that enables some to follow their inward call, overcoming all obstacles, but it was calm obedience to a call from without. "After all," he wrote, "I hope I am not enthusiastic in thinking that a clergyman is, like a soldier or a sailor, bound to go on any service, however remote or undesirable, where the course of his duty leads him, and my destiny (though there are some circumstances attending it which make my heart ache) has many, very many, advantages in an extended sphere of professional activity, in the indulgence of literary curiosity, and, what to me has many charms, the opportunity of seeing nature in some of its wildest and most majestic features."
In the spring of 1823, he took leave of Hodnet, amid the tears of his parishioners; and on the 18th of May preached his last sermon in Lincoln's Inn chapel, on the Atonement. On coming out, one of the most leading men among the Wesleyan Methodists could only express his feelings by exclaiming, "Thank God for that man! Thank God for that man!"
It is striking to find him in the full pressure of business, while preparing in London for his consecration and his voyage, making time for a letter to one of the Hodnet farmers, to warn him against habits of drunkenness, hoping that it would dwell with him "as a voice from the dead." On the 1st of June, 1823, Reginald Heber was consecrated at Lambeth, and on the 10th sailed for India! He made several sketches along the southern coast, under one of which he wrote:--
"And we must have danger, and fever, and pain, Ere we look on the white rocks of Albion again."
A few days later, when passing the western coast of France on a Sunday, the sound of the bells suggested the following meditative verses:--
"Bounding along the obedient surges, Cheerly on her onward way, Her course the gallant vessel urges Across thy stormy gulf, Biscay. In the sun the bright waves glisten; Rising slow with solemn swell, Hark, hark, what sound unwonted? Listen-- Listen--'tis the Sabbath bell.
It tells of ties which duties sever, Of hearts so fondly knit to thee, Kind hands, kind looks, which, wanderer, never Thy hand shall grasp, thine eye shall see. It tells of home and all its pleasures, Of scenes where memory loves to dwell, And bids thee count thy heart's best treasures Far, far away, that Sabbath bell.
Listen again! Thy wounded spirit Shall soar from earth and seek above That kingdom which the blest inherit, The mansions of eternal love. Earth and her lowly cares forsaking, Bemoaned too keenly, loved too well, To faith and hope thy soul awaking, Thou hear'st with joy that Sabbath bell."
By the 28th of September, the vessel was in sight of the Temple of Jaghernauth, and on the 3rd of October was anchored close to the island of Saugor.
All through his voyage and residence in India, the Bishop kept a journal of the doings and scenes of each day, full of interesting sketches, both in pen and pencil. The beauty of the villages on the Hooghly, "the greenhouse-like smell and temperature of the atmosphere," and the gentle countenances and manners of the natives, struck him greatly, as he says, "with a very solemn and earnest wish that I might in some degree, however small, be enabled to conduce to the spiritual advantage of creatures so goodly, so gentle, and now so misled and blinded. 'Angili forent si essent Christiani.'"
On the 10th of October the Heber family entered their temporary abode in the Fort at Calcutta, and were received by two Sepoy sentries and a long train of servants in cotton dresses and turbans, one of them with a long silver stick, another with a mace. There, too, were assembled the neighbouring clergy--alas! far too few--and the next day the Bishop was installed in his cathedral.
Then began a life of very severe labour, for not only had the arrears of episcopal business after the interregnum to be made up, but the deficiency of clergy rendered the Sunday duties very heavy; and the Bishop took as full a share of them as any working parish priest; and even though he authorized the Church Missionary Society's teachers to read prayers and to preach, the lack of sufficient ministrations was great. Bishop's College had, however, been completed, and what Middleton had founded was opened by Heber, with the happiest effect, which has lasted to the present time.
The difficulties as to the form of ordination of such as were not British subjects had also been overcome, and Christian David was to be sent up from Ceylon in company with Mr. Armour, who was to receive Priest's orders. The latter excellent man died just before he was to set off, and this delayed David until the next spring, when he came to Calcutta, was lodged in Bishop's College, passed an excellent examination, and was ordained deacon on Holy Thursday, 1824, and priest on the ensuing Trinity Sunday. He is memorable as the first man of the dark-skinned races admitted by the Church of England to her ministry. An excellent and well- expressed letter from him, on the difficulties respecting the distinctions of caste, is given in Bishop Heber's Life. This, indeed, was one of the greatest troubles in dealing with converts. The Serampore missionaries had striven to destroy it, but Ziegenbalg, Schwartz, and their elder companions, regarded it as a distinction of society--not religious--and, though discouraging it, had not so opposed it as to insist on high and low castes mingling indiscriminately in church or at meals. The younger men who had since come out had been scandalized, and tried to make a change, which had led to much heartburning.
Next to his hymns, Bishop Heber is best known by the journal he kept of his visitation tour, not intended for publication but containing so much of vivid description of scenery and manners, that it forms a valuable picture of the condition of Hindostan as it then was.
His first stage, in barges along the Ganges, brought him to Dacca, where he was delayed by the illness and death of his much esteemed and beloved chaplain. He then went on to Bhaugulpore, where he was much interested in a wild tribe called the Puharries, who inhabit the Rajmahal hills, remnants of the aborigines of India. They carried bows and arrows, lived by the chase, and were viewed as great marauders; but they had a primitive faith, free from idolatry, hated falsehood, and, having no observance of caste and a great respect for Europeans, seemed promising objects for a mission; but unfortunately the climate of their mountains was so injurious to European life, that the clergyman, Mr. Thomas Christian, a scholar of Bishop's College, whom the Bishop appointed to this mission, was only able to spend three months in the hills in the course of the year, while for the other nine he took the children under his instruction back with him to Bhaugulpore.
At Bankipore, the Bishop met Padre Giulio Cesare, still a remarkably handsome and intelligent-looking little man, and speaking warmly of Henry Martyn. Dinapore, that first station of Martyn's, had since his time fallen into a very unsatisfactory state, owing to the carelessness of his successor, though it was newly come into better hands.
On the contrary, at Buxar, the Fort-adjutant, Captain Field, had so influenced all around, though without a chaplain, that, though the Bishop could not give the place a Sunday, his Saturday evening service in the verandah was thronged, the English soldiers coming with Prayer-books and making the responses, besides numerous Hindoos, many of them the Christian wives and children of the soldiers. There was a boys' school kept by a converted Mahometan, and one for girls by "Mrs. Simpson," a native of Agra, converted by Mr. Corrie, and the widow of a sergeant. She, however, got no scholars but the half-caste daughters of the soldiers. A little boy of four years old, son to an English sergeant with a native wife, was baptized, and the Bishop was delighted with the reverent devotion of the spectators. Cureem Musseh, once a Sepoy havildar, had his sword and sash hung over the desk, where, in a clean white cotton dress and turban, he presided over his scholars, whom he had taught to read Hindostanee, and to say the Creed, Lord's Prayer, and Commandments, with a short exposition of each. The school served them likewise to hold prayer-meetings in, and, on rare occasions, a clergyman visited them.
The Bishop's entrance into the sacred city of Benares he describes to his wife thus: "I will endeavour to give you an account of the concert, vocal and instrumental, which saluted us as we entered the town:--
"First beggar.--Agha Sahib! Judge Sahib, Burra Sahib, give me some pice; I am a fakir; I am a priest; I am dying of hunger!
"Bearers trotting under the tonjon.--Ugh! ugh!--Ugh! ugh!
"Musicians.--Tingle, tangle; tingle, tangle; bray, bray, bray.
"Chuprassee, clearing the way with his sheathed sabre.--Silence! Room for the Lord Judge, the Lord Priest. Get out of the way! Quick! (Then gently patting and stroking the broad back of a Brahmin bull.) Oh, good man, move.
"Bull, scarcely moving.--Bu-u-uh.
"Second beggar, counting his beads, rolling his eyes, and moving his body backwards and forwards.--Ram, ram; ram, ram!"
Benares, said to be founded on the point of Siva's trident, as the most sacred city of all Hindostan, swarmed with beggars, fakirs, sacred animals, and idols of every description; but close beside it was a church for consecration and thirty candidates for confirmation, of whom fourteen were natives. The next day the Bishop was taken to see a school founded by a rich Bengalee baboo, whom Mr. Corrie had almost persuaded to be a Christian, but who had settled down into a sort of general admiration for the beauty of the Gospel, and a wish to improve his countrymen. He had made over the house where the school was kept to the Church Missionary Society, and the staff consisted of an English schoolmaster, a Persian moonshee, and two Hindostanee writing masters, the whole presided over by an English catechist, a candidate for Holy Orders. There were several class rooms, and a large, lofty hall, supported by pillars, where the Bishop examined the 140, who read Persian and English, answered questions in Hindostanee and English, and showed great proficiency in writing, arithmetic, and geography. No objection was made to their reading the New Testament.
Afterwards, when the Bishop looked into a little pagoda, richly carved, and containing an image of Siva, crowned with scarlet flowers, with lamps burning before him, and a painted bull in front, a little boy, one of the brightest scholars in the school, came forward, and showing his Brahminical string, told, in tolerable English, the histories of the deities with which the walls were painted. "This," says the Bishop, "opened my eyes more fully to a danger which had before struck me as possible, that some of the boys brought up in our schools might grow up accomplished hypocrites, playing the part of Christian with us, and with their own people of zealous followers of Brahma, or else that they would settle down in a sort of compromise between the two creeds, allowing that Christianity was the best for us, but that idolatry was necessary and commendable in persons of their own nation." This in fact seems to have been ever since the state of a large proportion of the educated Hindoos. May it be only a transition state!
The street preaching employed by the Serampore community had not been resorted to by the Church Missionary Society, and Bishop Heber decided that in the fanatic population, amid the crowds of bulls, beggars, and sacred apes, it was far wiser not to attempt it; but the missionaries were often sent for to private houses to converse with natives of rank, on their doctrine. One notable Hindoo, Amrut Row, who had at one time been Peishwa of the Mahrattas, who had retired to Benares, used on the feast of his patron god to give a portion of rice and a rupee to every Brahmin and blind or lame person who applied between sunrise and sunset. He had a large garden with four gates, three of which were set open for the three classes of applicants; the fourth served himself and his servants. As each person received his dole, he was shown into the garden, and detained there to prevent his applying twice, but there he enjoyed plenty of shade, water, company, and idols! This day's distribution often amounted to above 50,000 rupees, and his charities altogether were three times as great in the course of every year. He was a good kind man, religious to the best of his knowledge; and just before the Bishop's visit, he had sent a message to Mr. Morris, the clergyman at Sealcote, to call on him in the middle of the next week as he wished to inquire further into Christianity. Alas! before the appointed day Amrut Row was dead, and his ashes were still smoking when the Bishop quitted Benares.
What had become of Henry Martyn's church does not appear, for at Cawnpore he found none, but service was alternately performed in a bungalow and in the riding-school. He went as far north as Oude, and found at Chinear a much larger native congregation than he expected, though the women still retained so much of Eastern customs that they would not even raise their veils when receiving the Holy Communion. Almost all were the converts of the excellent Mr. Corrie, Henry Martyn's friend.
Arriving at Surat, after a journey of ten months, he there embarked for Bombay, where his wife and eldest child came from Calcutta, by sea, to meet him, and thence, after a stay in Ceylon for some weeks, returned to Calcutta, where, in December, he ordained Abdul Messeh, the man who had been won by Henry Martyn's garden preachings. It was a very remarkable ordination, for Father Abraham, the Armenian Suffragan from the Patriarch of Jerusalem, was present, in the black robes of his convent, and laid his hand on the heads of the candidates, and the service was in Hindostanee, whenever Abdul Messeh was individually concerned. Abdul Messeh was a most valuable worker among his countrymen, but he only survived about eighteen months.
In his last letter to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, the Bishop records the reception into Bishop's College of Mesrop David, the kinsman of the Armenian Bishop and already a deacon; also of two native youths from Ceylon, one Tamul and one Cingalese. This college, though a work which had none of the romance of adventure about it, afforded the surest and most important means of thoroughly implanting the Gospel, and forming a native priesthood fit for the varying needs of the various people. Nor could such a task be committed to any but superior men. Only such as have abilities that would win them distinction in England, are fit to cope with the difficulties of dealing with intellects quite as argumentative as, and even more subtle than, those of the ordinary level of Englishmen.
Soon after writing this letter, Bishop Heber set forth on what was to prove his last visitation. On the voyage to Madras, he spent much time upon some invalid soldiers who were being sent home, and confirmed one of them on board. Also he devoted himself to comforting a poor lady whose baby died on the voyage, not only when with her in her cabin, but Archdeacon Robinson, his chaplain, could hear him weeping and praying for her when alone in his own.
At Madras, he was lodged in the house of Sir Thomas Munro, the governor, who had done much by the help of his excellent wife to promote all that was good. At Vepery, close at hand, the Bishop found, nearly finished, the first church built in the Gothic style in India. He was greatly delighted with it, and especially that the desk and pulpit had not been allowed to obstruct the view of the altar, which had more dignity than was usual in the churches of 1826. A monstrous pulpit in another little church at Poonamalee, a depot for recruits, and an asylum for pensioners and soldiers' children, he caused to be removed. He had a confirmation at this place, or rather two, for some unexpected candidates presented themselves, and he desired Archdeacon Robinson to examine them, so that they might be confirmed later in the day. Among them was an old pensioner, and a sickly-looking young woman with a little boy, whom the Archdeacon thought too young, and recommended her to keep back for another opportunity. She wept much, and the Bishop said, "Bring them both to me; who knows whether they may live to wish for it again?" The native Christians, poor people employed on the beach, remnants of the old Portuguese Missions, had built a church at their own expense, and, being unable to obtain regular ministrations from their own clergy, begged the Bishop to consecrate their building, and give them a clergyman, and this he hoped to do on his return.
Meantime, he went in his robes to present Lady Munro with a vote of thanks from the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, for the good works in the schools of her husband's government. "I have seldom witnessed a more interesting or affecting picture," writes Archdeacon Robinson: "the beauty and gracefulness of Lady Munro, the grave and commanding figure of the Governor, the youthful appearance and simple dignity of the dear Bishop, the beloved of all beholders, presented a scene such as few can ever hope to witness." "My lord," said Sir Thomas, with the tears rolling down his cheeks, "it will be vain for me after this to preach humility to Lady Munro; she will be proud of this day to the latest hour she lives."
"God bless you, Sir Thomas!" was all the Bishop could utter.
"And God bless you, my lord!" was the fervent answer.
Before eighteen months had passed the two good men who exchanged this blessing, had met in Paradise!
The Bishop went on from Madras, travelling by dak, and encamping during the heat of the day. He soon came into the field of labour of the Danish Missions, and was disappointed to find how poor and forlorn the Christian converts about Cuddalore were, and the great want of employment for them. Things were better in the Tanjore territory, where the Bishop was much interested by a visit from the native pastor of one of the villages, a fine, venerable old man. When about to take leave, he lingered, and the Bishop was told that the Tamul Christians never quitted a minister without receiving his blessing. He was greatly touched. "I will bless them all, the good people," he said, after blessing the pastor.
Arriving at Tanjore, the Bishop thus describes Serfojee:--"I have been passing the last four days in the society of a Hindoo Prince, the Rajah of Tanjore, who quotes Fourcroy, Lavoilier, Linnaeus, and Buffon fluently; has formed a more accurate judgment of the poetical merits of Shakespeare than that so felicitously expressed by Lord Byron; and has actually emitted English poetry, very superior indeed to Rousseau's epitaph on Shenstone; at the same time that he is much respected by the English officers in his neighbourhood, as a real good judge of a horse, and a cool, bold, and deadly shot at a tiger. The truth is, that he is an extraordinary man, who, having in early youth received such an education as old Schwartz, the celebrated missionary, could give him, has ever since continued, in the midst of many disadvantages, to preserve his taste for, and extend his knowledge of, European literature: while he has never neglected the active exercises and frank, soldierly bearing which become the descendant of the old Mahratta conquerors; and by which only, in the present state of things, he has it in his power to gratify the prejudices of his people, and prolong his popularity among them. Had he lived in the days of Hyder, he would have been a formidable ally or enemy; for he is, by the testimony of all in his neighbourhood, frugal, bold, popular, and insinuating. At present, with less power than an English nobleman, he holds his head high, and appears contented; and the print of Buonaparte, which hangs in his library, is so neutralized by that of Lord Hastings in full costume, that it can do no harm to anybody. . . . To finish the portrait of Maha Raja Sarbojee, I should tell you that he is a strong-built and very handsome middle-aged man, with eyes and nose like a fine hawk, and very bushy grey mustachios, generally splendidly dressed, but with no effeminacy of ornament, and looking and talking more like a favourable specimen of a French general officer than any other object of comparison which occurs to me. His son, Raja Seroojee (so named after their great ancestor), is a pale, sickly-looking lad of seventeen, who also speaks English, but imperfectly, and on whose account his father lamented, with much apparent concern, the impossibility which he found of obtaining any tolerable instruction in Tanjore. I was moved at this, and offered to take him on my tour, and afterwards to Calcutta, where he might have apartments in my house, and be introduced into good English society; at the same time that I would superintend his studies, and procure for him the best masters which India affords. The father and son, in different ways,--the one catching at the idea with great eagerness, the other as if he were afraid to say all he wished,--seemed both well pleased with the proposal. Both, however, on consulting together, expressed a doubt of the mother's concurrence; and, accordingly, next day I had a very civil message, through the Resident, that the Rannee had already lost two sons; that this survivor was a sickly boy; that she was sure he would not come back alive, and it would kill her to part with him; but that all the family joined in gratitude, &c. So poor Seroojee must chew betel and sit in the zenana, and pursue the other amusements of the common race of Hindoo princes, till he is gathered to those heroic forms who, girded with long swords with hawks on their wrists, and garments like those of the king of spades (whose portrait-painter, as I guess, has been retained by this family), adorn the principal room in the palace."
To the Bishop's great indignation, he found that whereas while the Rajah had retained his dominions, Christians had been eligible to all the different offices of State, there was now an order from the Company's Government against their admission to any employment. "Surely," he says, "we are, in matters of religion, the most lukewarm and cowardly people on the face of the earth. I mean to make this and some other things I have seen a matter of formal representation to all the three Governments of India, and to the Board of Control."
It is highly probable that this systematic dread of encouraging God's service on the part of the Company assisted in keeping Serfojee a heathen, in spite of the many prayers offered up for him. Almost the last in Heber's book of private devotions was for the Rajah; and he drew up one, to be translated into Tamul, for use in all the churches in his territory; this last not directly for his conversion, but for his temporal and spiritual welfare.
It is pleasant to know that the last Easter of Heber's life was made joyful by ministering to Schwartz's spiritual children. He preached in that church which Schwartz had raised, and where his monument stood. His text was, "I am He that liveth and was dead, and behold I am alive for evermore." Many English-speaking natives went there, and others besides; and at the Holy Eucharist that followed there were thirty English and fifty-seven native communicants. The delight and admiration of the Bishop were speedily apparent. In the evening he attended a Tamul service, where the prayers were said by a Hindoo, the sermon preached by a Dane, and the blessing delivered by the Bishop in Tamul, to the surprise and pleasure of the congregation, which numbered no less than 1,300, all reverent, all making the responses, joining in the Easter hymn, and in the 100th Psalm. Never had the Bishop been happier! As he was taking off his robes, he exclaimed, "Gladly would I exchange years of common life for one such day as this!" Even at night he could not help coming back to Archdeacon Robinson's room to rejoice, discuss, and finally pray over this blessed fruit of the toils of a holy man, who had been at rest thirty-eight years, yet whose work still increased. The next day he confirmed a large number; and Kohloff, a contemporary missionary of Schwartz, preached in Tamul.
After this happy Easter, the Bishop continued his route to Trichinopoly, where he preached and confirmed on the Sunday, but complained of a slight headache, and allowed himself to be persuaded not to go to the native service in the evening, though he spent a good deal of time conversing with Mr. Robinson, who was unwell enough to be lying in bed.
On Monday, the 3rd of April, he went at daybreak to hold a Tamul confirmation at the poor little neglected native church; then looked at the schools, but found that the want of ventilation rendered them too oppressive for him to remain; and afterwards received and graciously answered an address from the poor Christians, praying him to send them a pastor, for they had been without one for two years. He came back, still in his robes, to Mr. Robinson's bedroom, and, with great eagerness, talked over what he had seen and heard; speaking of the destitution of this poor church, and of the needfulness that a Bishop should receive regular reports of every station; also mentioning a Danish missionary whom he intended to appoint. He then went to his own room, and, according to Indian habit after exertion, went out in order to bathe. The bath was in a separate building. It was fifteen feet long, eight broad, and with stone steps descending into it to a depth of seven feet, and it was perfectly full of water. The servant sitting outside wondered at the length of time and unbroken silence, and at last looked in; but Reginald Heber had, by that time, long been lifeless in the cold bath!
He was only in his forty-fourth year; but medical opinion declared that there had been, unsuspected, the seeds of fatal disease, accelerated by climate, exertion, and excitement, and such as would probably have caused long helplessness and inaction, unless thus suddenly developed.
He was buried the next day at Trichinopoly church, where the mural tablet, with most touching and appropriate simplicity, bears no inscription in laudation, but merely the holy words, "Be ye also ready."
Thus ended a life of inward and outward brightness, which comes like a stream of sunshine among the shadows through which most of the labourers had to struggle, either for want of means of education, or from poverty or melancholy, and yet as true and as exhilarating a course as was ever one of theirs. May we not read his description in the verse:--
"And there are souls that seem to dwell Above this earth--so rich a spell Floats round their steps where'er they move, Of hopes fulfilled, and mutual love: Such, if on high their hopes are set, Nor in the stream the source forget; If, prompt to quit the bliss they know, Following the Lamb where'er He go, By purest pleasures unbeguiled To idolize or wife or child, Such wedded souls our God shall own For faultless virgins round His throne."
Mrs. Heber published soon after her return her husband's journals, and these, bearing the impress of his graceful, scholarly hand, attracted many readers who care merely for information and amusement; and thus, by their mere mundane qualities, his writings did much to spread knowledge of, and therefore interest in, the field of labour in which he died. Large subscriptions came into the societies, and in a few years a church and three schools for the natives, with the pastor he had indicated, served as the best monument of that Low Sunday at Trichinopoly.
His successor was John Thomas James: the most memorable event in whose life was a halt at the Cape of Good Hope. This was the first time that colony had ever been visited by a Bishop, and there was no church, though a piece of land had been newly granted for one, which he consecrated before proceeding on his voyage. He arrived in 1828, but the climate of Calcutta struck him for death almost immediately. He was only able to perform one ordination, one confirmation, and one charge to the Calcutta clergy, then was forced to embark, and died at sea within a few months of his arrival.
During this time Daniel Wilson had been working under Mr. Cecil at Chobham, where he remained for three years, when a tutorship at St. Edmund's Hall was offered to him, which enabled him to marry his cousin Ann, combining the small living of Warton with his tutorship. On the death of the Rev. Richard Cecil he took, by his especial wish, his proprietary chapel in Bloomsbury, and there continued till 1824 as one of the most marked London clergy, keeping up the earnestness that Newton and Cecil had been noted for, with quite as much energy; and though without the same originality, there was a telling force about his sermons which made a young man exclaim the first time he heard him, "I will never hear Daniel Wilson again," but something led him happily to infringe the resolution, and then it became, "I will always, if possible, hear Daniel Wilson." Sentences of his were very memorable; for instance, "Nineteen- twentieths of sanctification consist in holy tempers," and, besides exhibiting a pithy force of language, his sermons were prepared with infinite care and labour. When at St. John's, where he had no parochial charge, he selected his text on Monday and carried it about with him, so to speak, all the week, chewing the cud of it as it were, looking it up in every authority, ancient or modern, within his reach, and conversing on the subject with any one whom he thought likely to give him a hint. The sermons were written in a large legible shorthand, only on one side of the paper, and on the opposite page were copied out extracts of translations from illustrative authors, often as many as eight to a single sermon, so that he had in fact a huge secretion of stores, which he could adapt according to the needs of his congregation, and he made notes of what he found fall flat and incomprehensible, or what he felt was stirring the souls of his audience; and this time was most profitably spent, not only for his immediate congregation, but in laying up a provision for the busier days of after-life, when the same amount of study was out of his power. And the benefit of such painstaking may be estimated by the words of a gentleman when introduced to a relative of his in after-years, "I am only one of very many who do not know and never spoke to Mr. Wilson, but to whom he has been a father in CHRIST. He never will know, and he never ought to know, the good that he has been the means of doing, for no man could bear it."
Proprietary chapels have now nearly become extinct. They were an effect of the neglect of the heathenish eighteenth century, and one of the means of providing church room by private speculation; and thus they almost necessarily were liable to the abuses of popularity-hunting and of lack of care for individuals, especially the poor: but a man in thorough earnestness is sure to draw good even out of a defective system; and Daniel Wilson, sitting in his study which was connected with the chapel, became the counsellor of hundreds who sought spiritual advice and assistance, chiefly of the upper and well-to-do classes, but he took care to avoid wasting time over these conferences, and when it came to mere talk would put people's hats and umbrellas into their hands. There were also large Sunday-schools connected with his chapel, and taught by the members of his congregation, and these led to the first organization of a district visitors' society, one of the earliest attempts of the slowly reviving English Church to show her laity how to minister to the poor under pastoral direction.
His father-in-law, Mr. William Wilson, had purchased the advowson of the living of Islington, and, when it became vacant in 1824, presented it to him, when he carried thither all his vigour and thoroughness. Church building was his first necessity, and he absolutely prevailed on his parish to rate themselves for the purpose, so that three churches were begun almost at once, and by the time his Life was written in 1860 the great suburb had multiplied its single church in thirty-six years into fifteen. At Islington the chief sorrows of his life befel him. He had had six children, of whom one died an infant and two more in early childhood. The second son, John, after a boyhood of great promise, fell into temptation at the University and led a wild and degrading course; ending by his retirement to the Continent, where he died in 1833, after a very painful illness, in which he had evinced great agony of mind, which softened at length into repentance and hope. The eldest son, Daniel, who attended him on his death-bed, had taken holy orders and succeeded to his father's former living of Warton; and one daughter, Eliza, born in 1814, survived to cheer his home when his wife, after some years of invalidism, died in 1827. Zealous, resolute, and hardworking, he never allowed sorrow to interfere with his work, and was soon in the midst of his confirmation classes, and of a scheme for educating young tradespeople on a more thorough and religious system.
In the meantime he had always loved and urged the missionary cause, and had consulted with Bishop Turner before he went out. When the news of his decease was received (the fourth Bishop to die at his post within nine years), the appointment began to be looked on as a sentence of death, and it was declined in succession by several eminent clergymen. Daniel Wilson had anxiously watched for the answer in each case, and was suggesting several persons to Mr. Charles Grant, when the thought struck him, "Here I am, send me." A widower of fifty-four years old, of much strength, and with no young children, seemed to him the fit person to volunteer to fill the breach; and he wrote stating, that if no one else could be found for the post, he was willing to offer himself. The appointment was accordingly given to him, after an interval of nine months since the see had become vacant, and an infinity of toil and arrangements crowded on him. Islington was resigned to his son Daniel, and he was consecrated by Archbishop Howley on the 29th of April, 1832, "the day of my espousals to CHRIST my Saviour," as he wrote in his journal; and on the ensuing 18th of June he sailed with his daughter for Calcutta. The ship touched at the Cape, which under the government of Sir Lowry Cole was by no means in the same hopeless state of neglect as when Martyn had visited it. Bishop Wilson there held an ordination and a confirmation, the first for himself as well as for South Africa, whose Episcopate was not founded till twenty-three years later.
He landed at Calcutta on the 5th of November, 1832, and took possession of the large unfurnished house that had at last been wrung out of Government. He found only just enough chairs and tables, placed there by the Archdeacon, to suffice for immediate use; and was answered, when he asked why his orders that the place should be completely fitted up had not been attended to, "I thought this would be enough to last for six months,"--this being the term for which a Bishop of Calcutta was thought likely to need earthly furniture. But Bishop Wilson was resolved to take reasonable precaution, and not to be daunted, or to act as if he were afraid. He furnished the place, and rented a pleasant country-house, called the Hive, at Tittaghur, where he spent a few days of every week; and, having been told that much danger was incurred by the exertion of visitation tours before the constitution had become accustomed to the climate, he resolved to wait for two years before making any long journey; and, in the meantime, he was able to collect a great amount of information, as well as attending to the regulation of matters at head- quarters. He kept up more formality and state than Bishop Heber had done; and, of course, as the one had been censured for his simplicity, so the other was found fault with for pomp and stiffness. But these were minor points, chiefly belonging to the character of the two men, whose whole natures were in curious accordance with their prize performances at Oxford,--the one with all the warmth, fire, and animation of the poet of Palestine, sensitive to every impression, and making all serve to light his altar-flame; the other all common-sense, sincere, deep, and laborious, but with a narrower range of sympathies, and afraid of all that might distract attention from the one great subject. General literature had no charms for Wilson. He is believed never to have read one of Scott's poems or novels; and the playful mirth that enlivened all Heber's paths was not with him, though he had the equable cheerfulness of a faithful servant doing his Lord's work. His daughter, soon after his arrival, married her cousin, Josiah Bateman, his chaplain (and biographer), and thus continued to be the mistress of her father's house.
On the Whitsunday of 1833 the Bishop baptized one of those Hindoo gentlemen who are among the most satisfactory of Christian converts; they are free from the suspicion of interested motives which has always attached to the pariahs and low-caste people who hung about Serampore and its dependent stations, and, justly or unjustly, were accused of turning Christians when they had exhausted other resources of idleness and knavery. A curious instance of a thorough conversion happened the same year. A lad, educated like most other well-to-do Hindoos in the schools of the Church Missionary at Mirzampore, when about fifteen, became persuaded of the saving grace of Christianity, and determined to be baptized and openly forsake his idols. His parents persecuted him, and he fled to a friend, a Hindoo convert; but he was seized by his relations, and the case was referred to the Supreme Court, who decided that the father's power over the son must not be interfered with; and the poor boy was dragged away, clinging to the barrister's table, amid the shouts of the heathen and the tears of the Christians. The boy remained staunch, and three years later came again and received baptism; but his sufferings had injured his health, both of mind and body, and his promise of superior intelligence was blighted.
In 1834, the Bishop set off on his first long journey, which included Penang and Moulmein, where the Judsons had taken refuge after the Burmese war, and where he found, in the midst of half-cleared jungle and Buddhist temples full of enormous idols, a school kept by an American master, so full of notions of equality, that, at the examination, he expected the Bishop to go to each class, not the class to the Bishop.
The Commissioner had built a church, the walls of teak slabs, and the pillars each a single teak-tree, and it was ready for consecration. After this and a confirmation, the Bishop went on his way to Ceylon, and then to the Madras Presidency, where he had already had a long correspondence with the pastors of the Christian congregations on the question of caste. Things had not prospered of late; and, to the dismay of the Bishop, he found that, in the course of the last year, 168 Christians had fallen back to heathenism, where, not having broken their caste, they could still be received and find a place. The truth was that, though caste might appear only a distinction of mere social rank, it was derived from a pagan superstition, and was a stronghold of heathenism. Schwartz was all his life trying to make it wear and die out, lest the violent renunciation should be too much for his converts' faith. But his successors had allowed the feeling to retrograde; and Bishop Wilson found separate services, sides of the church allotted to the high and low castes, and the most unchristian distinctions made between them. He decided that toleration of the prejudice was only doing harm, and issued orders that henceforth catechumens preparing for baptism, confirmation, or communion, should be called on to renounce caste as a condition of admittance; and that, though the adult communicants should be gently dealt with, there should be no recognition of the distinction in the places in church, in the order of administering the Holy Communion, in marriages or processions, and that differences of food or dress, or marks on the forehead, should be discontinued. The clergy were in consternation, and made an appeal before they published the Bishop's letter to their flocks; but they found his mind made up, and yielded. The lesser stations complied without much difficulty; but at Trichinopoly, Vepery, and Tanjore, there were many Soodras, the soldier-caste, professing to have come from Brahma's shoulders, and second only to the Brahmins. They were desperately offended. At Trichinopoly, only seven Soodra families continued to attend the services, although the seceders behaved quietly, and offered no insults either to the clergy or the pariahs. At Vepery, on the reading of the Bishop's letter, the whole Soodra population walked out en masse, except one catechist, who joined them afterwards. They then drew up a paper, declaring that they would not yield, and would neither come to church nor send their children to school, unless they continued to be distinguished; and they set up a service of their own in a chapel lent them by a missionary belonging to the London Society. He was, however, reprimanded for this by the committee which employed him at Madras, and the chapel was withdrawn; upon which the Soodras remained without any public worship whatever for five months, when the catechists and schoolmasters came forward and acknowledged their pride and contumacy, the children dropped into the schools, and the grown-up people, one by one, returned to church, but in their own way.
At Tanjore, the contest was a much harder one. Serfojee had died in 1834, and the son whom Bishop Heber had vainly tried to obtain for education was one of the ordinary specimens of indolent, useless rajahs, enjoying ease and display under British protection; but the Mission had gone on thriving as to numbers, though scarcely as to earnestness or energy; and the Christians numbered 7,000, with 107 catechists and four native clergy, under the management of Mr. Kohloff, almost the last of Schwartz's fellow-workers. The Bishop's letter was read aloud by him, after the sermon, on the 10th of November, 1833. There was an immediate clamour of all the Soodras, who would not be hushed by being reminded that they were in church, and, while Mr. Kohloff was being assisted from the pulpit, gathered round his wife and insulted her.
Letters passed between the Soodras and the missionaries. There was no denial that the Bishop's command was right in itself; but an immense variety of excuses were offered for not complying with it, and only one of the four priests consented,--Nyanapracasem, an old man of eighty, who may be remembered as one of Schwartz's earliest converts, and of the four priests ordained by the Lutherans,--with three catechists, and ten of the general body; all the others remained in a state of secession. When the first death took place among them, Nyanapracasem, the one conforming priest, was appointed to read the funeral service; but he fell sick, and the only substitute available on the spot was a low-caste catechist, a very respectable man, but whom the Soodras silenced with threats, employing one of their own people in his stead. Next time, they borrowed the Roman Catholic burial-ground, and services were carried on, on Sunday, by one of the dissentient priests, but marriages were celebrated in the heathen fashion, and there was evidently a strong disposition to form a schism, which the reckless, easy, self-willed conduct of the Soodras showed would be Christianity only in name. There had even been an appeal to the Governor-General, and the Bishop felt the whole tone of Christianity in India to be at stake.
It was in the height of this crisis that his journey to Madras was made in the track of Bishop Heber. Twice he preached at Vepery, and the Soodras attended; but he asked no questions, and let them place themselves as they chose, and take precedence, intending to fight out the question at Tanjore.
There, at seven o'clock in the morning of January 10, 1835, on the bank of the Cavery River, he was received by all the faithful Christians and school-children, headed by Kohloff and Nyanapracasem, These were the two remaining fellow-workers of Schwartz. Kohloff, now becoming aged, had his hair long and loose round his florid German face; he was still a true German, full of simple kindness, and his English had a good deal of accent. His Hindoo companion was a beautiful old man, with long snowy hair flowing over his long white robes, who took the Bishop's hand between both of his, and blessed God for his coming, hoping that as Elijah brought back the stiff-necked Israelites, so the Bishop might turn the hearts of the Soodras.
Late that afternoon, a great party of these assembled to lay their complaints before the Bishop, bringing their two dissentient priests. One was of doubtful character, and was unnoticed; but to the other, John Pillay, the Bishop addressed himself, telling him to assure the other Christians that his heart was full of love, and that he would hear their grievances, and answer them another time, when less weary with his journey.
Several spoke, and the Bishop listened to their individual cases. They were anxious to come and hear his sermon, but would only do so if allowed to sit apart; and to this, as one great object was to obtain their attention, the Bishop consented, with a reservation that it was only for that once. The church was thronged, and after a Tamul service, the Bishop preached, pausing after every sentence that a catechist might render his words into Tamul. The text was, "Walk in love, as Christ also loved us," and the latter part of his discourse was on the lesson from the Good Samaritan, as to "who is my neighbour." There was at the end a long pause of breathless silence, and then he called on everyone present to offer up the following prayer: "Lord, give me a broken heart to receive the love of Christ, and obey His commands." The whole congregation repeated the words aloud in Tamul, and then he gave the blessing and dismissed them.
After this there were a great number of private conferences. People came and owned that they had been very unhappy; religion had died in their hearts, and they had had no peace; but their wives were the great objectors--they feared whether they should marry their daughters, &c. &c. The two priests especially saw the badness of their standing-ground, but they should lose respect, they said. No Pariah seems to have been in holy orders, but if a Pariah catechist visited a sick person, he was not allowed to come under the roof, and the patient was carried out into the verandah. And then came a rather stormy conference with about 150 Soodras, which occupied two days, since every sentence had to pass through an interpreter. The objections were various, but as a body the resistance continued, and it was only individuals that came over; some of these, however, did, and it was so clear from all that had passed that to permit the distinctions was but a truckling to heathenism, that the Bishop was more than ever resolved on firmness. Two of the priests had conformed, and the Christianity of those who would not do so was plainly not worth having.
There was some polite intercourse with Serfojee's son, whose taste was visible in the alteration of a fine statue of his father by Flaxman, from which the white marble turban had been removed to substitute a coloured one, with black feathers and tassels. In him the family has become extinct, since he only left a daughter, and the adoption of a son, after the old Hindoo fashion, has not been permitted by Government.
Thence, Bishop Wilson proceeded towards Trichinopoly. He encamped, by the way, at a place called Muttooputty, a large station on the Coleroon river, where the way had been so prepared for him that there was a grand throng of native Christians, untroubled about caste, and he was obliged literally to lengthen the cords and strengthen the stakes of the large tent used as a chapel. It was one of the memorable days of joy that come now and then to support the laborious spirit of the faithful servant. "One such day as we have just passed is worth years of common service."
At Trichinopoly, with the deepest sense of reverence, he visited the scene of Heber's death, ministered at the same altar, and preached from the same pulpit, after an interval of nine years.
Here, his mode of dealing with the caste-question was thus: When he came robed into the church, he saw groups of natives standing about, instead of placing themselves like the others of the congregation. He went up to two, led them to seats, and his chaplain following, did the same; the rest were seated in like manner without resistance.
When the Celebration took place, the Bishop had given directions as to the order of things. First, a Soodra catechist communicated, then two Pariah catechists, then an English gentleman, next a Pariah, then two Eurasians; and thus without distinction, 147 communicated. The barrier was broken down, and the nucleus of a church without caste was formed.
This presidency of Madras was immediately after formed into a separate see, and given to Daniel Corrie, the friend of Martyn, while Dr. Thomas Carr became Bishop of Bombay.
On Wilson's return to Tanjore he found an increasing though still small number had conformed, and before he left the place there were hopes of larger numbers. On his way back to Calcutta, he visited the horrible pagoda of Juggernaut (properly Jaghanatha, Lord of the World), which was still the centre of worship and pilgrimage; and though the self-immolation of the pilgrims beneath the car had been prohibited, yet the Company's Government still fancied themselves justified in receiving a toll from the visitors to this shrine of cruelty and all uncleanness, up to 1839, when the disgrace was done away by Lord Auckland.
In the year 1836 another journey was made, first to Bombay and then further into the interior, to many places, never visited by a bishop before, and with no chaplain or anything to keep up the sense of religion. At Aurungabad, the utter ignorance of the English officers was appalling. The old Colonel-commandant had not heard a sermon for twenty years, and thought every sentence on the text, "Walk in love," was a personal attack on himself. He refused to attend another service, or to bid the Bishop farewell! And when the Holy Communion was celebrated, nobody knew what the offertory meant, and scarcely any one was prepared to respond.
Yet in contrast to these English, a small band of Hindoos, four men, six women, and five children, presented themselves, asking permission to join in the service, and to have their children baptized. They had been once Roman Catholics, but an old Dutchwoman from Ceylon had taught them most of what they knew; and they had a Hindostanee prayer-book, whence they held a service every Sunday, but leaving out the Absolution and Benediction, which they rightly perceived to be priestly functions. Two of them were servants to an English officer, and they were all nearly related. They were perfectly respectable and trustworthy, and looked well dressed and intelligent. The Bishop tried to bring about an application from the Company to the Nizam, to defray the expenses of an occasional visit from a chaplain to the Christian officers and residents in his employ, but he was answered that "it would form a dangerous precedent."
The next step was into the Bengal presidency, always with the same kind of adventures; quaint civilities of the presentation of flowery garlands bedecking the neck and arms, given by the native princes, with a sprinkling of rose-water, and sometimes an anointing with oil; and then an endeavour to stir into Christian life the neglected English military and civil officers stationed in their dominions.
One of these, a gentleman of good birth and repute, actually went on smoking and gurgling his hookah when the Bishop was beginning family prayers, apparently with no more perception that it was anything that concerned him than if he had seen a Mahometan turning to Mecca, or a Parsee saluting the rising sun. Indeed many of these Company's servants had been sent out when fourteen or fifteen years old; and, if in a remote station, had been left without anything external whatever to remind them of Christianity.
This journey extended to the Himalayas, where the Bishop had four months' repose at Simlah, then in its infancy as a resort for wearied East Indians; and on his descent from thence, his first halting-place was Kurnaul, where he found the church in a state of efficiency, owing, in great part, to an officer whose conversion to a religious life had been very remarkable. Once, when in a large party, where gambling was going on to a reckless extent, he saw one of the players take out a hideous little black figure, supposed to represent the devil, to which he addressed himself with a mixture of entreaties and threats, involving such blasphemy that this officer, utterly horrified, withdrew from the company, spent the night in tears and prayers, and from that time became a religious man. There was also an active chaplain, a large church, and a bungalow, built by the soldiers of an English regiment, the centre part arranged for service, and the surrounding verandah partitioned into little cells, where the soldiers could retire for private prayer or reading. It was called St. John's Chapel, and was in the hands of the chaplain. Here the Bishop remained for two Sundays, and ordained Anund Musseeh, who had been fifteen years a Christian, and had been known to Bishop Heber. The difficulty in his case was the rule not to ordain a person who had a heathen family, since he had not been able to convert his wife. His excellence outweighed the objection, and he was the first Brahmin who received holy orders from an English bishop; but in after- times the heathen influence at home told upon him; and this failure perhaps rendered Bishop Daniel Wilson somewhat over-cautious and backward in ordaining a native ministry.
The next stage was Delhi, where a very interesting interview awaited him. An officer of Anglo-Indian birth, James Skinner by name, who had raised and commanded a capital body of light horse, had twenty years before entered Delhi with a conquering army, and, gazing on the countless domes and minarets, vowed that if ever he should be able, he would build an English church to raise its cross among them. He had persevered, though the cost far exceeded the estimate, and though the failure of houses of business had greatly lessened his means; and now he came, a tall, stout, dark man of fifty-six, in a uniform of blue, silver, and steel, a helmet on his head and a red ribbon on his breast, to beg for consecration for his church. His sons were Christians, but his wife was a Mahometan, though, he said with tears, that "for thirty years a better wife no man ever had."
The church was of Greek architecture, shaped as a Greek cross, with porticoes with flights of steps at each extremity except the east, which formed the chancel, and at the intersection was a dome and cupola. It was paved with marble, and the whole effect was beautiful. After the consecration a confirmation followed, and the first to receive the apostolic rite were the noble old Colonel himself and his three sons. Twenty years later this fine building was filled with dying men, and shared in the horrors of the siege of Delhi; but it has now returned to its rightful use, and as a church of martyrs.
Indeed, all the places that the Bishop visited in this excursion have since been associated with the Mutiny. Cawnpore was not much more satisfactory than when Heber had visited it; an irreligious commandant and a dissipated regiment had done much harm; and an imprudent letter of one of the chaplains had led to a quarrel, in which the clergyman unfortunately put himself in the wrong. Happily, a new commanding officer and better conducted regiment had replaced the first, and the ill- feeling was so entirely removed that the Bishop wrote, "Never did I enter a station with such despondency, nor leave one with so much joy." And thus he prepared Cawnpore for that which was in store for it!
His visit to Allahabad was chiefly memorable for his horror at the large resort of pilgrims to bathe in the Ganges, and at the tax by which a Christian government profited by their pagan superstition, with all its grossness and cruelty. He brought home a little ticket, with the number 76902 stamped on it, such as was issued to the pilgrims, and made a strong appeal to the Governor-General, as well as to persons in England. The next year both this tax and that on the pilgrims to Jaghernauth were suppressed. Here he heard of the death of Bishop Corrie, after having held the see of Madras only a year and a quarter, but having spent many years in India, and worked there for a whole lifetime, in which he had seen the very dawn of missionary efforts, and had watched the English Church spread from a few scattered chaplains to three bishoprics.
Lord Auckland and his sisters were more sincere friends of Christian efforts than any Governor-General had yet been, but these were trying times. Mr. Bateman, his daughter's husband, fell ill, and his wife was obliged to return to England with him; the Bishop's other chaplain died, and also some of his best friends. On going, a few years later, to consecrate a church at Singapore, he visited Moulmein, and was introduced to Dr. Judson, with whom he was very much struck.
The great work connected with Daniel Wilson's name, as that of Bishop's College is with Middleton's, is the building of the Cathedral of Calcutta. "What do you say, my four children," he writes, "to your father's attempting to build a cathedral to the name of the Lord his God in this heathen land?" It had been the desire of Bishop Middleton, but there had been too much to do during his nine years, and it was only now that at last the times were ripe. Subscriptions were opened, and the Bishop devoted a large amount of his income to the fund; plans were drawn up, land granted freely, and on the 9th of October, 1839, the first stone of St. Paul's Cathedral was laid by the Bishop.
Just at this time there was a most remarkable move made towards Christianity. Krishnaghur, 130 miles from Calcutta, was the great centre of the worship of Krishna, one of the manifestations of Vishnu. Here two missionaries of the Church Missionary Society had been at work; and when the Bishop was there in 1837, he described them as having made "a little beginning," by keeping schools and holding conferences with the people, but they had then no adult convert. A year after a message was brought by a native, entreating for further help. There were 1,200 seriously inquiring into the doctrine, with many candidates for baptism, and at many places around it was the same. In the year 1840, the Bishop set forth to visit the spot and the adjacent districts, where almost all the villages seemed to be actuated by the same impulse. The missionaries did their utmost to distinguish between mere fashion and hope of gain and a true faith; but after all their siftings, large numbers were ready for baptism, and the hope was so great that the Bishop was full of thankful ecstasy, and could hardly sleep from agitation, joy, and anxiety. One hundred and fifty converts were baptized at once, at a place called Anunda Bass. The examination was thus, the Bishop standing in the midst:--
"Are you sinners?"
"Yes, we are."
"How do you hope to obtain forgiveness?"
"By the sacrifice of Christ."
"What was that sacrifice?"
"We were sinners, and Christ died in our stead."
"How is your heart to be changed?"
"By the Holy Ghost."
"Will you renounce all idolatry, feasts, poojahs, and caste?"
"Yes, we renounce them all."
"Will you renounce the world, the flesh, and the devil?"
"Will you suffer for Christ's sake?"
"Will you forgive injuries?"
These converts had been under preparation for more than a year, and seemed thoroughly convinced and fairly instructed. Therefore the baptismal service was read by Mr. Deerr; and when the vows were reached, the Bishop turned to the Christians around and asked if they would be witnesses and godparents to these candidates; and, with one voice, they shouted that they would. Each candidate was singly baptized, and then came up to the Bishop, by whom the words receiving him into the Ark of Christ's Church were spoken. At Ranobunda there was another baptism of 250, and, in the whole district, full a thousand were admitted. It was not in over-confident joy. "Time will show," said the Bishop, "who are wheat and who are tares." It was impossible among so many that all should be perfect Christians, but it was a real foundation; the flame then lighted burns on steadily, and the Christian faith has a firm and strong hold in the district of Krishnaghur.
Anxieties of course crossed his work. The Church Missionary Society, after being used to control its clergy, was not properly ready to allow their canonical obedience to a Bishop; and the troubles that thus arose made him once speak of Heber as happy in being shielded by his early death from the class of vexations connected with societies. To his great grief, too, a lady who had worked for years at the education of girls and orphans at Calcutta seceded to the Plymouth Brethren, and was necessarily obliged to give up the charge. It was to him "as if a standard-bearer fainteth." The Oxford controversy also vexed him a good deal. The school of Newton and Cecil, in which he had been brought up, was at the most distant point that the Church permitted from the doctrines of the Tracts for the Times; and few men are able or willing candidly to judge or appreciate opinions that have grown up since their own budget was completed, especially after they have been for some time in the exercise of authority. Thus he set his mind very strongly against all the clergy holding those views who came to work in the diocese; and thereby impeded a good deal that might have worked heartily with him if he had only been able to believe it, and to understand that the maintenance of the voice of the Church is truly the maintenance of the voice of Christ.
In November 1844, when on a visitation at Umballah, he had his first serious illness, a fever, he being then in his sixty-sixth year and in the thirteenth of his residence in India. For about a week he was in great danger, but rallied, and was able to be removed by slow stages, though not without an attack of inflammation on the lungs before reaching Calcutta; and his constitution was altogether so much shaken that he was ordered home, without loss of time, to recruit his health.
He returned to England by the Overland route, and after a short respite recovered much of his strength, so as to be able to preach in many churches and appear at numerous meetings; and in a year's time the vigorous old man was on his way back to his diocese, where he arrived in time to keep the Christmas of 1846, just two years after he had been stricken down by fever. In the October of the next year he consecrated his cathedral, towards which 20,000l. had been his own donation, half towards the building, half towards the endowment. His strength was not quite what it had been before, but he still had abundant energy, and new branches of the Church were springing up around him; not only the three dioceses that had branched from his own in India, but Ceylon had a Bishop of its own, Australia had five, and the Cape and New Zealand and the Isle of Hong Kong had each received a Bishop. The principle had come to be recognized that to send out isolated workers without a head to organize was a plan that could hardly be reasonably expected to succeed; and in the long run prosperity has certainly attended the contrary arrangement. Not to speak of the Divine authority, the action of a body under a recognized head and superior on the spot must be far readier of adaptation to circumstances than that of a number of equals, accountable only to some necessarily half-informed Society at home.
In his 73rd year, just after a visitation tour, it somewhat dismayed Bishop Wilson to find a letter from the Bishop of London sending him to consecrate the new church erected by Sir James Brooke, at Sarawak. Few careers have been more remarkable than that of the truly great man who subdued Malay piracy, and gained the confidence of the natives of Borneo; and when the effort of the fourteen weeks' voyage had been made, the Bishop returned full of joy and hope, and not long after, together with the Bishops of Madras and Victoria, joined in consecrating the missionary Bishop of Labuan to the new field of work there opening. On the last journey of his life he also visited Rangoon, and there consecrated the church, finding the clergy hard at work and numerous converts.
During the year 1856 he had many attacks of illness, more or less severe; and in December, in going across the room in haste, he struck himself against a wooden screen, and was thrown down. His thigh was broken, and his age was such that great fears for his life were entertained, but he recovered, and was able to pray with, cheer, and comfort the many anxious hearts at Calcutta during the dreadful days of the Indian mutiny of 1857, when the churches he had consecrated were stained with the blood of the worshippers.
But there was no cause for despondency in the attitude of the converts. The districts where Christianity had been so widely diffused remained tranquil, and the Christians in the cities where the mutineers were raging did not apostatize; but, unless they could conceal themselves, suffered with the whites. There was a great day of fasting and humiliation appointed by him for the 24th of July, 1857.
That day Bishop Wilson preached his last sermon. The text was from Habakkuk i. 12. "Art Thou not from everlasting, O Lord my God, mine Holy One? we shall not die. O Lord, Thou hast ordained them for judgment; and, O mighty God, Thou hast established them for correction." Calcutta was then trembling under the tidings of the horrors of Cawnpore, the death of Sir Henry Lawrence, and the siege of Lucknow; and no one knew what peril might be the next. Slaughter seemed at the very gates, when the old man stood forth to console and encourage, but yet to give warning strong and clear that these frightful catastrophes were in great measure the effect of our sins, our fostering of heathenism, our recognition of caste, and were especially a judgment on the viciousness and irreligion that had been the curse of English life in India. It was in open Christianity alone that he beheld hope.
The day was observed by all the clergy, but the Governor-General for some reason declined to make it official, and, only when the worst of the danger was over, appointed the 4th of October as a fast-day. The Bishop arranged the services, but was too unwell to attend them. This was the beginning of his last illness; and though he held an ordination some weeks later, these latter weeks were all sinking, and increasing feebleness. A sea-voyage was twice attempted, but without success; and on the 1st of January, 1858, his trembling hand wrote, "All going on well, but I am dead almost.--D. C. Firm in hope."
Daniel Calcutta, whom these initials indicated, wrote these words at half- past seven at night. By the same hour in the morning he had peacefully passed to his rest.
One more Bishop of Calcutta we have since mourned; though the shortness of his career was owing to accident, not disease or climate. But with Daniel Wilson the see of Calcutta became established as a metropolitan bishopric, and ceased to possess that character of gradual extension which rendered its first holders necessarily missionaries. True, it needs many subdivisions. Four Bishops are a scanty allowance for our vast Indian Empire, and the see of Calcutta has a boundary scarce limited to the north; but these are better days than when it included the Cape, Australia, and New Zealand. The Bishop has now more to do with the development of old missions than with the working of new ones; and there can be no doubt that though there has been much of disappointment, and the progress is very slow, yet progress there is. The older converts form more and more of a nucleus, and although there is a large class who hang about missions from interested motives, there are also multitudes of quiet and contented villagers whose simplicity and remoteness shield them from the notice of the travellers who sneer at Christianity and call mission reports couleur de rose, because they have been taken in by some cunning scamp against whom any missionary would have warned them.
The towns and the neighbourhood of troops are not favourable places for observing the effects of Christianity. The work of the schools in the great cities tells but very slowly. At present, out of a hundred boys who go thither and receive the facts of Christianity intellectually, only the minority are practically affected by it; and of these, some lose all faith in their own system, but retain it outwardly in deference to their families, while others try to take Christian morality without Christian doctrine; and only one or two perhaps may be sincere and open believers. But even if only one is gained, is not that an exceeding gain? It took three hundred years of apostolic teaching to make the Roman Empire Christian. Why should we "faint, and say 'tis vain," after one hundred in India?