In reply to a request for the picture of a day in the Seminary, Miss Fiske writes, in 1862,—
"You ask for a day of my life in Persia. Come, then, to my home in 1854. You shall be waked by the noise of a hand-bell at early dawn: twenty minutes after, our girls are ready for their half hour of silent devotion. The bell for this usually finds them waiting for it, and the perfect quiet in the house is almost unbroken. At the close of it, another bell summons us to the school room for family devotion, where, besides reading the Scriptures and prayer, they unite in singing one of our sweet hymns. In a few minutes after this, another bell calls us to breakfast, and, that finished, all attend to their morning work. Tables are cleared, rooms put in order, and preparations made for supper—the principal meal in Persia; then for an hour they study silently in their rooms. At a quarter before nine o'clock I enter the school room, while Miss Rice cares for things without. We open school with prayer, in which we carry to the Master more of our little cares and trials than in the early morning. My first lesson is in Daniel, with the older pupils, while two other classes go out to recite in another room. Yonan stays with me, for I want him to help and be helped in these Bible lessons. The class enjoy it exceedingly, and the forty minutes spent on it always seem too short. The other classes now come in, and all study or recite another forty minutes. After that, a short recess in the yard makes all fresh again. The older classes then study, while one of the younger ones has a Bible lesson with me on the life of Christ. Each time I go over it with them I find things which I wonder I had not perceived before. It is delightful to hear them express their own thoughts of our blessed Saviour. We trace his journeyings on maps prepared by the pupils, and they study the Scripture geography of each place. After this, one class recites ancient Syriac to Yonan, and another, in physiology, goes out to Miss Rice, leaving me to spend forty minutes with the older girls on compositions. At present the topic is, "The Christ of the Old Testament;" and I am thankful that I studied Edwards's History of Redemption under Miss Lyon. This done, fifteen minutes remain for a kind of general exercise, when we talk over many things; and then the noon recess of one and a half hours allows the girls to lunch, see friends, and recreate, till fifteen minutes before its close, when they have a prayer meeting by themselves. [Footnote 1: At first, only one hymn was printed on a separate sheet; then a little hymn book of five,—as many as Luther commenced with at the Reformation. Now the hymn book contains about two hundred hymns, and some of the pupils can repeat them all.]
"In the afternoon, Miss Rice takes charge of the school, and I have the time out. At present the first hour is given to writing; soon astronomy will take its place. Recitations in geography follow till recess, and after that singing or spelling. The last hour, I go in and hear a lesson in Hebrews. On this Epistle we have full notes prepared in Syriac, and we study it carefully, in connection with the Old Testament. Miss Rice also has a lesson in Judges, and then all come together for the daily reports, more as a family than a school. There is still an hour before supper for mutual calls, knitting, sewing, and family duties. After supper and work are over, and they have had a little time to themselves, come evening prayers. Then they have a short study hour in their rooms, followed by the half hour for private devotion, which closes the day.
"Of course, at another time, the studies might be somewhat different. The hours that Miss Rice and I are out of school we spend in seeing visitors, holding prayer meetings, going out among the women, and sometimes devote a whole day to a distant village."
Having thus looked in on a day of study, let us, through the same glass, take a view of the Lord's day. The letter is dated December, 1855.
MY DEAR FRIEND: I have learned here that He who fed five thousand with the portion of five can feed the soul to the full with what I once counted only crumbs. May I give you one of the Master's sermons? A few Sabbaths ago, I went to Geog Tapa with Mr. Stoddard. It was afternoon, and I was seated on a mat in the middle of the earthen floor of the church. I had already attended Sabbath school and a prayer meeting with my pupils, and, weary, I longed for rest. It seemed as if I could not sit without support through the service. Then I remembered that after that came my meeting with the women readers of the village; and O, how desirable seemed rest! But God sent it in an unexpected way; for a woman came and seated herself directly behind me, so that I could lean on her, and invited me to do so. I declined; but she drew me back, saying, "If you love me, lean hard." Very refreshing was that support. And then came the Master's own voice, repeating the words, "If you love me, lean hard;" and I leaned on him too, feeling that, through that poor woman, he had preached me a better sermon than I could have heard at home. I was rested long before the services were through; then I spent an hour with the women, and after sunset rode six miles to my own home. I wondered that I was not weary that night nor the next morning; and I have rested ever since on those sweet words, "If you love me, lean hard."
But I intended to tell you of our Sabbaths in school. Saturday is the girls' day for washing and mending, and we are busy all day long. Just before sunset, the bell calls us to the school room, and there we inquire if the last stitch is taken, and the rooms are all in order. If any thing is still undone, the half hour before supper sees it finished. After leaving the table, every thing is arranged for the morning, and then we have a quiet half hour in our rooms. After this, half the pupils come to Miss Rice, and half to me. Each has a prayer meeting, remembering the absent ones, also the Female Seminaries in Constantinople, South Hadley (Mass.), and Oxford (Ohio). All retire from these precious meetings to their "half hour," as they call it, and before nine o'clock all is quiet, unless it be the voice of some one still pleading with her God.
The first bell, Sabbath morning, is at half past five, when all rise and dress for the day. Morning prayers are at half past six; then comes breakfast, and, our few morning duties being done, the girls retire to study their Sabbath school lessons, and sometimes ask to meet together for prayer. At half past nine, we attend Syriac service in the chapel. The Sabbath school follows that, numbering now about two hundred pupils. About two thirds of our scholars are teachers in it, and it is a good preparation for teaching in their homes. Those who do not teach form a class. We then go home to lunch, flavored with pleasant remembrances and familiar explanations of the morning service. The afternoon service commences at two o'clock, and our Bible lessons an hour before supper, though some are called earlier, to help us teach the women who come in for instruction. At supper, all are allowed to ask Bible questions, and before leaving the table we have evening prayers. At seven o'clock, Miss Rice and I go to the English prayer meeting, while the pupils meet in six or seven family meetings, as they call them, the inmates of each room being by themselves, and the pious among them taking turns in conducting them. If any wish to come to us after this, we are glad to see them; and often this hour witnesses the submission of souls to God.
Besides these there is a weekly prayer meeting on Tuesday evening, a lecture on Friday afternoon, and on Wednesday, as well as Sabbath evening, the school meets in two divisions for prayer.
The following journal, kept during the revival, in 1860, by Esli, an assistant teacher, forms an appropriate continuation of this interior picture of the Seminary:—
"February 1st. To-day, a part of the girls wrote compositions on 'anger,' and a part on 'the gospel.'
"3d, Friday. John was here to-day writing to Mount Holyoke Seminary, and attended our noon prayer meeting. In the afternoon, Deacon Joseph of Degala preached from the words "King of kings and Lord of lords." In the evening, Mr. Coan sung with us, and we read the weekly report of our conduct.
"5th, Sabbath. In the forenoon, Dr. Wright preached from Acts ii. 37. He said that we must know what sin is; that we are sinners; and that we cannot save ourselves. In the afternoon, Priest Eshoo preached from Luke xv. 32. The evening prayer meetings were very pleasant.
"9th. A blessed morning. Some of the girls are thoughtful. This was seen in the quiet at table and the silence in the kitchen. The work was done both earlier and better than usual. During the study hour, the voice of prayer sounded very sweetly in every room. When the girls walked in the yard, it was very quiet, and so when they came in. Our noon prayer meeting was very pleasant; Miss Rice said a few words on the shortness of time. While Hanee prayed, some wept. When Miss Rice dismissed us, no one moved; all were bowed on their desks, weeping. She then gave opportunity for prayer, and while I prayed, all were in tears. The girls have kept all the rules well to-day. This evening, the communicants met with Miss Rice, and the rest with Martha. Miss Rice read about Jonah in the ship, and said a few words; after that, Raheel the teacher prayed. Then Hanee spoke a little of her own state, and asked us to pray for Raheel of Ardishai, who is thoughtful. I spoke, and asked them to pray for Hannah and Parangis, who are in my room.
"10th. The state of our school is the same. Mr. Cochran preached on the faithfulness of the Jews under Nehemiah, when they rebuilt Jerusalem. After meeting he told us that the members of the Male Seminary spent yesterday as a day of fasting and prayer, and many rose confessing their sins. One very wicked man, also from the village, asked them to pray for him. After work was done in the kitchen this evening, a little time remained, and the girls there asked to have a meeting. With gladness of heart I knelt and mingled my tears with theirs, as though I, too, were commencing the work. Afterwards Mr. Coan came and sung with us, and we read the accounts of the week."
Esli, the writer of the above, is the daughter of Yohanan, a pious man in Geog Tapa, who for a time was steward of the Seminary. She was one of the first fruits of the revival of 1856, and graduated after Miss Fiske's return to America. She has since been a most faithful assistant of Miss Rice, and is very much beloved by the pious Nestorians. But the following letter to Miss Fiske, from her own pen, dated April 1859, will form her best introduction to the reader:—
"When I recall your love to me, my heart is full. I remember the times when we knelt together before our Father in heaven, in godly anguish for priceless souls. Especially do I remember when God first came near to me, how you shared my sorrow by day and by night, and pointed me to Him who bled for me. After you brought me to Christ, you showed me the helps to a Christian life; that I must pray not only in my closet, but also in my heart, when at work or studying, that God would keep me. O that I had heeded your counsels more!
"This winter the Lord led me to see my cold state. For a time the Saviour's face was hidden; then it seemed to be midnight; but I looked above, and the darkness fled. I saw him standing with open arms, and quickly I threw myself into those arms. Tears of joy fell from my eyes, and by the grace of God I was enabled to go forward day by day. Secret prayer has since been very pleasant to me.
"We have had pleasant seasons of prayer in our school this winter, and we trust that some souls have been born again. I have the care of a circle of girls in the kitchen. They work well, and keep it clean. I think you know that such work is difficult, but if you were to come in you would find every thing in order. Every Wednesday we scour all the shelves and the doors.
"The girls have made the yard very pleasant; but one thing is wanting there: we miss you at the cool of the day, walking in it to see if any evil has grown up in your garden.
"I went to my village in vacation; the prayer meetings there were very pleasant, and I enjoyed much, praying with the women alone. Our seasons of family devotion also were delightful. In the morning we read the Acts in course; and as each read a verse, my father asked its meaning. When he went away to preach, I used to lead, and we then read the portion for the day, in the book called 'Green Pastures for the Lord's Flock.'
"In the school we have studied Ezra, in connection with Haggai and Zechariah, and are now in Nehemiah. In the New Testament we are on Paul's third journey, and have nearly finished Scripture geography and theology."
The Seminary keeps up a Christian intercourse with the institution at South Hadley, as the following letters will show; and the beautiful melodeon in the sitting room is a tuneful testimony to the liberality of Holyoke's daughters.
"Many salutations and much love from the school of Miss Fiske to you, our dear sisters of the school at Mount Holyoke. We rejoice that there is such a great institution full of holy words and the warm love of Christ: we hear that many of you have an inheritance above, and are daily looking forward to it. We want to tell you how glad we are that the Holy Spirit has come among you, and that God has turned so many to himself. Though we are great sinners, we rejoice exceedingly in the success of the work of God in every place; and we beg you to pray that the Holy Spirit may visit us also, and our people, and strike sharp arrows into flinty hearts, that they may melt like wax before the fire. Blessed be God, that though we had become the least of all nations, and adopted many customs worse than the heathen, and our holy books were carefully laid away and never used, yet he put love into the hearts of his servants, that they should come to this dark land. We are greatly obliged to you and to your people for so kindly sending us these missionaries. They have greatly multiplied our books, and, as we trust, brought many souls to Christ. Some of us, formerly, knew not who Christ was, or whether a Redeemer had died for us; but now he has gathered us together in this school of godly instruction; and some of us are awaking to our sins, and to the great love God has shown in sending his Son to die for us. We thank God very much that we know Jesus Christ, the only Saviour.
"Again, we want to thank you for sending Miss Fiske to teach us the way of life; we love her because she greatly loves us, and desires our salvation. Every day she takes much trouble that we may be the daughters of God. But her burdens are so great, that we fear she will not remain long with us, unless some one comes to help her. And now we have a petition to present: we hear that in many of you dwelleth the spirit of our Master, Jesus Christ; and that you are ready to leave home and friends, and go to distant lands, to gather the lost sheep of Christ. Dear sisters, our petition is, that you will send us a teacher. We shall greatly rejoice if one comes, and will love her very much. We ask this, not because we do not love Miss Fiske. No! no! this is not in our hearts; but she is weak, and her work is more than she can do alone. We shall expect one to come, and pray God to bring her to us in safety. [Footnote 1: Miss Mary Susan Rice, already mentioned in these pages, went out this same year (1847), from the Seminary in South Hadley.]
"Please remember us in your closets and in your meetings, and ask your friends to pray for us and for our people. Farewell, beloved sisters."
The following extracts are from a letter written by them, in 1848, to Miss Susan L. Tolman, now Mrs. Cyrus T. Mills of the Sandwich Islands, and formerly of Ceylon:—
"Much love from the members of the Female Seminary of Oroomiah to you, our dear Miss Tolman. We are very glad to find one who loves us so much, and prays for us. Our delight in your letter was greater than we can express. Miss Fiske came in joyfully with it in her hand, and while she read, it seemed as if you were present, inviting and drawing us to Christ.
"Give our love to all in your favored school, and ask them to pray for us. We love all those dear ladies, because they have been so kind to us, and have been willing that Miss Fiske and Miss Rice should leave them, and come here for our sakes. Though they were dear to you, we think that now they have come to us, your joy in them is greater. We hope to hear of many of you carrying the leaves of life to the dark corners of the earth.
"Dear Miss Tolman, you said, 'You love Miss Fiske, you must also love Miss Rice.' Did you think that we would not love her? We love them both, not only for leaving their friends to come to us, but also because they are full of the love of our dear Redeemer.
"We have heard that you are going to India. We are glad, and love you more for it, because the love of Christ constrains you to this, and thus in spirit you come very near to our dear teachers. We entreat Almighty God to be with you, and bring you in safety to the place he appoints for you, that you may be a light among a dark people. We hope that when there you will not forget us, but write us about your work, and about the daughters of India, whether they love you much or not. Tell your friends not to sorrow for you, but to rejoice that they have a friend ready to go and teach those who know not Christ. The Saviour guide you in all your labors."
Those who aided Miss Lyon to carry out her large-hearted plans in New England, little dreamed that offshoots from the vine they planted would so soon be carried to the ends of the earth. Who does not admire that grace which, in this missionary age, raised up such a type of piety to be diffused over the globe? Doubtless it will undergo changes in Persia, as it has done already; but the devout student of Providence will watch its growth with interest, and its developments will not disappoint his hopes.
IN GAWAR AND ISHTAZIN.—VILLAGES OF MEMIKAN.—OOBEYA, DARAWE, AND SANAWAR.—IN GAVALAN.—ACCOMMODATIONS.—SABBATH SCHOOL.
To the interior pictures of the school in the last chapter we add some vacation scenes, though chronologically in advance of other things yet to come.
Towards the close of July, 1851, Mr. Stocking and family, with Misses Fiske and Rice, and several native helpers, spent the vacation in Gawar. Mr. Coan accompanied them on his way to regions beyond. Wandering from place to place, like the patriarchs of old, they pitched their tents at first near the village of Memikan. A sketch of these tents is here presented. The women there were frequent visitors, and few went away without some idea of the truth as it is in Jesus. The pious natives were unwearied in labor, and sometimes woke the missionaries in the morning with prayer for the people round about them. On the Sabbath, there was preaching in as many as five different villages, and after morning service in Memikan, the women came to the tents to receive more particular instruction from their own sex. In the evening, a mother who had buried her son in February—then a very promising member of the Seminary at Seir—brought her youngest daughter, about six years of age, saying, "We give her to you in the place of Guwergis. He has gone to a blessed place. You led him there. We thank you, and now intrust to you our little daughter." Eshoo, the father, spoke of his departed son with much feeling, but most sweet submission. He said to Miss Fiske, as the big tears glistened in the moonlight, "I shall not be here long. I shall soon rejoin him. My hope in Jesus grows stronger every day." The death of that dear son was not only a great spiritual blessing to him, but the mere mention of his name at once secured the attention of the villagers to any thing the missionaries had to say about his Saviour. [Footnote 1: Nestorian Biography, p. 127.]
On Monday, they left for a visit to the Alpine district of Ishtazin. Unable to take horses along those frightful paths, they rode on hardy mules. In a subsequent journey over the same road, the fastenings of Miss Fiske's saddle gave way, and she fell, but providentially without injury. Sometimes they climbed, or, more hazardous still, descended, a long, steep stairway of rock, or they were hid in the clouds that hung around the higher peaks of the mountain. Now the path led them under huge, detached rocks, that seemed asking leave to overwhelm them, and now under the solid cliffs, that suggested the more grateful idea of the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. Down in the valley were pleasant waterfalls, little fields rescued by much labor from the surrounding waste, choice fruits, and such a variety of flowers, that it seemed as if spring, summer, and autumn had combined to supply them. Then, in looking up, the eye rested on silver threads apparently hanging down from far-off summits, but really foaming streams dashing headlong down the rocks, yet so distant that no sound came to the ear from their roaring waters.
The party stopped at Ooreya, on one of its flat roofs, shaded by a magnificent walnut tree. The villagers brought mulberries, apples, and other fruits, till they could prepare something more substantial, and seemed to forget their fears of the patriarch in their zealous hospitality. After supper, all adjourned to the churchyard, and there, in the bright moonlight, a crowd of eager listeners heard of Christ, and redemption through his precious blood. The silence of night was broken only by the voice of the preacher, and the echoes of the surrounding cliffs seemed to repeat joyfully the unwonted sounds. Yonan preached from the words "Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom." He commenced by asking whether Christ was right in so doing. They replied, "Certainly he did right." "Yes," said the preacher, "and as he did, so must his followers do; and you must expect to see them in Ishtazin. When we cease to climb over these precipices to come to you, fear lest we have become Mussulmans, for Christians cannot but go from village to village to preach the gospel." The reader will see the force of such an appeal, when he remembers that Mar Shimon had forbidden these people to receive the missionaries because they preached. This was followed by a statement of the doctrines that Jesus preached, in which he did not fail to bring out the essence of the gospel. When he sat down, Khamis, the brother of Deacon Tamo, followed with a most impassioned exhortation. The missionaries had thought him a good preacher before, but the place and the circumstances—he was among his own native mountains—seemed to carry him beyond himself. All through this region, the people appeared to render as much honor to him as they would have done to Mar Shimon. The assembly dispersed, and the travellers lay down where they were, to battle with the sand-flies till the welcome dawn lit up the conspicuous summits high above them.
Almost every moment of the next forenoon was filled by personal religious conversation with many who never heard such truths before. In the evening, even more fixed attention was given to another service in the open air, at the village of Boobawa, for the pious Mar Ogen was then living there, and the bright light of his piety had not shone in vain. Several were earnestly inquiring how to be saved. [Footnote 1: Nestorian Biography, p. 267.]
On Thursday, the day after their return to Memikan, Mr. Coan, Priest Dunkha, Khamis, and Deacon John left for Central Koordistan, and Deacon Isaac went to Kochannes. But though the laborers were fewer, the number of visitors continued the same. Next Sabbath, besides two services, and two meetings with the women in Memikan, there was preaching in three other villages. In Chardewar, the home of Priest Dunkha, Miss Fiske found his daughter, who had come with them from Oroomiah, already full of work. She had just dismissed her Sabbath school, and was reading the Bible with her cousin, the village priest, who did all in his power to help her, both in her school through the week, and her meetings with the women. One Sabbath, almost every woman in the place had been present, as was the case also when she was visited by Misses Fiske and Rice, and Sanum said that she could not ask for a better place in which to work for Christ. There was more of real hunger for the truth here than any where else in the mountains.
Leaving Memikan, the travellers removed to Darawe, the village described on page 21. Here they could scarcely get permission to pitch their tent, or procure provision for themselves and horses; yet even in such a place, the manifestation of Christian love was not without fruit, though many bitterly opposed them to the last. The neighboring villages wondered at the missionaries going there at all, and still more at their being able to remain.
At Keyat, the kindness of the people, and pleasant intercourse with them, were all the more grateful for the contrast with what had gone before. Here Miss Fiske met with that kind reception from Mar Shimon, then passing through the place, described on page 159, while the tent literally flowed with milk and honey furnished by the villagers, whom he had charged to take good care of their visitors.
On the following Sabbath, Yonan preached to a congregation of about two hundred, at Sanawar, where forty families of refugees from Saat were spending the summer. When Miss Fiske and Miss Rice visited their camp, they found a number of temporary huts enclosing a circle, where the domestic labors of spinning, weaving, and cooking were actively going on. All the women at once left their work, and welcomed their visitors with every mark of confidence and gladness. Some of them had heard the gospel from the missionaries in Mosul, as they had often spent the winter near there. So they drank in every word with eagerness.
The ladies were delighted with their visit, especially with a widow, who, though unable to read, showed unusual familiarity with the Bible, and, as they hoped, a spiritual acquaintance with its doctrines. When the topic of our fallen nature was mentioned, "Yes," said she, "we were all shapen in iniquity, as David testifies." When asked if she had any hope of being saved from sin, she replied, "I am very far from God, yet my only hope is in the wounded side of Jesus Christ. If penitently I stand beneath the blood dropping from his cross, I hope that my sins, though red like scarlet, may become as white as snow." Her views of the way of salvation were not only clear, but beautifully expressed. It was exceedingly refreshing, in that region where they had expected only darkness, thus to find the rays of light struggling through from their associates in another mission; and it gave a delightful foretaste of the time when the voice of one watchman upon those mountain tops should reach to another, and on all sides the eye behold the trophies of Immanuel. It was with feelings of peculiar interest that they heard, some years after, that this stranger in Sanawar, but, as they fondly hoped, their sister in Christ, held fast her confidence in his grace to the end, and so fell asleep in Jesus.
For a companion picture to the preceding, we turn to the summer of 1852. Mr. Stocking moved out to Gavalan, the native place of Mar Tohanan, early in the season, and both teachers followed, with thirteen of their pupils, about the middle of June. The village lies near the base of a range of mountains, at the northern end of the plain of Oroomiah, forty miles distant from the city. On the east the blue waters of the lake seem to touch the sky, and stretch away to the south in quiet loveliness. Sometimes, when reposing in the gorgeous light of sunset, or reflecting the red rays of the full moon, they remind the beholder of the "sea of glass mingled with fire" revealed to the beloved disciple. The breeze from the lake, in the long summer days, is very grateful, and the evening air from the mountains makes sleep refreshing.
Mar Yohanan gave the school free use of two rooms as long as it remained. In the court yard before them a large tent was pitched, that served for dining room, dormitory, and reception room, or diwan khaneh. An adjoining house afforded a comfortable recitation room. Here the regular routine of the school went on, and while men from the village found their way to Mr. Stocking's at the hour of evening prayer, women also came to the school room at the same hour. At the last meeting of this kind before Miss Fiske returned to the city, nearly forty were present, listening with quiet attention to the words of life. On the Sabbath, the sides of the tent were lifted outward from the bottom, and fastened in a horizontal position, so as to admit the air and exclude the sun. The ground beneath was covered with mats, and formed quite a pleasant chapel. In the forenoon, this was thronged with attentive hearers. The children of the boys' school in the village sat close to their teacher. The members of the girls' school could be distinguished from their playmates by the greater smoothness of their hair, the whiteness of their faces, and general tidiness. Among the old men, the venerable father of the bishop was very conspicuous. The members of the Seminary crowded round their teachers so as to leave more room for others, and still all could not get under the shadow of the wings of the tabernacle. Mr. Stocking preached in the forenoon, and in the afternoon the people came together again as a Sabbath school. Each of the pupils of the Seminary had a class of women or girls, and seemed to learn how to do good faster than ever before. They visited them at their houses during the week; they sought out the absentees; and it was delightful to go round the school and note the interest of both scholar and teacher. If these were zealous in teaching, those were no less so in learning. The classes, after the introductory services, filled every available corner in the rooms, the tent, the front of the house, and even sat on the low mud wall of the court. With the same variety of character, there was greater diversity of lessons than in schools at home. Some studied the Old Testament, and some the New; others were just learning to read, and those who could not read at all were taught the Scriptures orally. One class of Armenians was taught in Turkish.
Matters went on very well for two Sabbaths, but on the third, women and children had vanished. What was the matter? It had been reported that all this labor was only a preparation to transport them to America, and the simple-minded mothers staid away with their children in great trepidation; but visits from house to house, during the week, dispelled their fears, and next Sabbath all were again in their places, and this pleasant labor in Gavalan continued till September.
EARLY LABORS FOR WOMEN.
FIRST MEETINGS WITH THEM.—FIRST CONVEKT.—FIRST LESSONS.—WILD WOMEN OF ARDISHAI.
The teachers of the Seminary did not confine their labors to its inmates; they expended both time and toil for adult women as well as for their daughters, and never felt that they gave them too large a proportion of their labors. At first there was a strong feeling among most of the women that they might not worship God along with deacons and readers; and so they could not be persuaded to attend public preaching. But Miss Fiske found that a few would come to her room at the same hour; so, encouraged by her missionary sisters whose hearts were in the work, but whose family cares prevented their doing it themselves, she visited the women at their houses, to urge them to come in. Then, as her own knowledge of the language was as yet imperfect (this was in 1844), and she wisely judged that listening to a gentleman would sooner prepare them to come in to the regular service, she secured one of the missionary brethren to conduct the meeting. The first day only five attended; but soon she enjoyed the sight of about forty mothers listening to the truth as it is in Jesus. On the third Sabbath, she was struck with the fixed attention of one of them, and, on talking with her alone, found her deeply convinced of sin. She had not before seen one who did not feel perfectly prepared to die; but this one groaned, being burdened, and seemed bowed to the dust with the sense of her unworthiness. When Miss Fiske prayed with her, she repeated each petition in a whisper after her, and rose from her knees covered with perspiration, so intensely was she moved: her life, she said, had been one of rebellion against God; and she knew that no prayers, fasts, or other outward observances, had benefited her, or could procure forgiveness. In this state of mind she was directed to Christ and his righteousness as her only hope; and though for some time little progress was apparent, at length, as she herself expressed it, "I was praying, and the Lord poured peace into my soul." The change in her character was noticed by her neighbors. From being one of the most turbulent and disagreeable of the women in her vicinity, she became noted for her gentleness and general consistency. She has since died, and her last days were full of a sweet trust in her Saviour. She was the first inquirer among Nestorian women.
This meeting was given up as soon as the women found their way to the regular service; but ever since there have been separate meetings for them at other hours.
Until the revival in 1846, those who conducted these meetings had to labor alone, for there were none of the Nestorians to help them. Indeed, Miss Fiske had been in Oroomiah more than two years, before women came much to her for strictly religious conversation, or could be induced to sit down to the study of the Scriptures.
Some of her first efforts to interest them in the Bible were almost amusing in the difficulties encountered, and the manner in which they were overcome.
She would seat herself among them on the earthen floor, and read a verse, then ask questions to see if they understood it. For example: after reading the history of the creation (for she began at the beginning), she asked, "Who was the first man?" Answer. "What do we know? we are women;" which was about equivalent in English to "we are donkeys." The passage was read again, and the question repeated with no better success. Then she told them, Adam was the first man, and made them repeat the name Adam over and over till they remembered it. The next question was, "What does it mean?" Here, too, they could give no answer; not because they did not know, for the word was in common use among them; but they had no idea that they could answer, and so they did not, and were perfectly delighted to find that the first man was called red earth, because he was made of it. This was enough for one lesson. It set them to thinking. It woke up faculties previously dormant. The machinery was there, perfect in all its parts, but so rusted from disuse, that it required no little skill and patience to make it move at all; but the least movement was a great gain; more was sure to follow. Another lesson would take up Eve (Syriac, Hawa, meaning Life). Miss Fiske would begin by saying, "Is not that a pretty name? and would you not like to know that you had a great-great-grandmother called Life? Now, that was the name of our first mother—both yours and mine." It was interesting to notice how faces previously stolid would light up with animation after that, if the preacher happened to repeat the name of our first parents, and how one would touch another, whispering with childish joy, "Didn't you hear? He said Adam."
Such were the women who came to the Seminary for instruction; but the teachers also went forth to search out the no less besotted females in the villages; and, as a counterpart to the above, we present an account of labors among the wild women of Ardishai, a village twelve miles south-east from Oroomiah.
When Miss Fiske had been in Oroomiah about one year, Mr. Stocking proposed a visit to Ardishai. So the horses were brought to the gate, one bearing the tent, another the baskets containing Mr. Stocking's children, and a third miscellaneous baggage; besides the saddle horses. The first night, the tent was pitched on one of the threshing floors of Geog Tapa; but as American ladies were a novelty in Ardishai, the party there, in order to secure a little quiet, had to pitch their tent on the flat roof of a house. It was Miss Fiske's first day in a large village, and she became so exhausted by talking with the women, that she can never think of that weary Saturday without a feeling of fatigue. As the village is near the lake, the swarms of mosquitoes allowed them no rest at night; and morning again brought the crowd with its idle curiosity as unsatisfied as the appetite of more diminutive assailants. About nine o'clock, all went to the church, where Mr. Stocking preached, while the women sat in most loving proximity to their strange sisters, handling and commenting on their dresses during the discourse. Mr. Stocking could preach though others talked, and readily raised his voice so as to be heard above the rest. At the close, Priest Abraham, without consulting any one, rose and announced two meetings for the afternoon; one in another church for men, and a second in this for women, who must all come, because the lady from the new world was to preach. So the news flew through the neighboring villages. The good lady called the priest to account for his doings; but he replied, "I knew that they would come if I said that, and yon can preach very well, for your girls told me so." He was greatly disappointed, however, when he found that his notice left him alone to preach to the men, while Mr. Stocking preached to some six hundred women, with half as many children. They were a rude, noisy company, not one of them all caring for the truth; and there was no moment when at least half a dozen voices could not be heard besides the preacher's. When he closed, as many as twenty cried out, "Now let Miss Fiske preach." So he withdrew, and left her to their tender mercies. Her preaching was soon finished. She simply told them, that when she knew their language better, she would come and talk with them, but she could not talk at the same time that they did, for God had given her a very small voice, and her words would no more mingle with theirs than oil and water. They said, "Oil and water never mix; but we will be silent if you will come and preach." Months passed on, and she again visited the village. The women remembered her promise, and hundreds came together; but they did not remember to be silent. As soon as she began, they began; and if she asked them to be quiet, each exhorted her neighbor, at the top of her voice, to be still; and the louder the uproar, of course the louder the reproofs. At length Miss Fiske said, "I cannot say any more, unless you all put your fingers on your mouths." All the fingers went up, and she proceeded: "I have a good story to tell you; but if one takes her finger from her mouth, I cannot tell it." Instantly muzzled voices, all round the church, cried, "Be still, be still, so that we can hear the story!" Some minutes elapsed, and the four hundred women were silent. "Once there was an old woman—I did not know her, nor did my father, and I think my grandfather did not; but he told me—" Here commenced many inquiries about said grandfather; but again the fingers were ordered to their places, and their owners told that they should hear no more about the woman if they talked about the grandfather. "Now, this woman talked in meeting,—I should think she must have been a relative of yours, for ours do not talk in meeting,—and after many reproofs she was forbidden to go to church any more if she continued to do so. She promised very faithfully; but, poor woman, she could not be still; then, as soon as she heard her own voice, she cried out, 'O, I have spoken in meeting. What shall I do? Why, I keep speaking, and I cannot stop.' Now, you are very much like this woman, and as I think you cannot stop, I must." By this time their fingers were pressed closely on their lips, and no one made a reply. Having thus secured silence, Miss Fiske took the New Testament, and read to them of Mary, who, she was sure, never talked in meeting; for if she had, Jesus would not have loved her so much. She talked to them about fifteen minutes more, and prayed with them, and they went away very still and thoughtful.
Miss Fiske gave this account to the writer, with no idea that he would print it. But he thinks—and the reader will doubtless agree with him—that in no other way could he convey so vivid an idea of woman as she was in Persia, or the tact needed to secure a first hearing for the truth. Miss Fiske was often called to deal with just such rude assemblages, and by varied methods she generally succeeded in securing attention. In subsequent visits to Ardishai the number of hearers was never again so large; but they came together from better motives, and, as we shall see, not without the blessing of the Lord. In March, 1850, Miss Rice met nearly three hundred women in the same church, some of them awakened, and a few already hopefully pious.
FRUITS OF LABOR IN NESTORIAN HOMES.
USEFULNESS AMONG RELATIVES OF PUPILS.—DEACON GUWERGIS.—REFORMED DRUNKARD AND HIS DAUGHTER.—MATERNAL MEETINGS.—-EARLY INQUIRERS FROM GEOG TAPA.—PARTING ADDRESS OF MR. HOLLADAY.—VISIT TO GEOG TAPA.—SELBY AND HER CLOSET.
Having thus glanced at early labors for women in the Seminary and in the villages, let us now turn to another field of usefulness among the relatives of the pupils, who came to visit them in school; and here we are at no loss for a notable illustration.
In the autumn of 1845, Deacon Guwergis, of Tergawer,—and almost every reader was either priest or deacon,—brought his oldest daughter, then about twelve years of age, and begged for her admission to the Seminary. He was known as one of the vilest and most defiantly dissolute of the Nestorians, and Miss Fiske shrunk from receiving the daughter of such a man into her flock. Yet, on the ground that, like her Master, she was sent not to the righteous, but to the lost, she concluded to receive her. Still the father, during his short stay, showed such a spirit of avarice and shameless selfishness,—he even asked for the clothes his daughter had on when she came,—that she rejoiced when he went away.
His home was twenty-five miles off, in the mountains, and she hoped that winter snows would soon shield her from his dreaded visits. Little did she think that his next coming would result in his salvation. In February he again presented himself at her door in his Koordish costume, gun, dagger, and belt of ammunition all complete. He came on Saturday, when many of the pupils were weeping over their sins; and the teacher could not but feel that the wolf had too truly entered the fold. He ridiculed their anxiety for salvation, and opposed the work of grace, in his own reckless way. She tried to guard her charge from his attacks as best she could; but they were too divinely convinced of sin to be much affected by what he said. His own daughter, at length, distressed at his conduct, begged him to go alone with her to pray. (The window on the right of the central door of the Seminary points out the place.) Ho mocked and jeered, but went, confident in his power to cure her superstition. "Do you not think that I too can pray?" And he repeated over his form in ancient Syriac, as a wizard would mutter his incantation. His child then implored mercy for her own soul, and for her perishing father, as a daughter might be expected to do, just awakened to her own guilt and the preciousness of redemption. As he heard the words "Save, O, save my father, going down to destruction," he raised his clinched hand to strike; but, as he said afterwards, "God held me back from it." No entreaties of his daughter could prevail on him to enter the place of prayer again that day.
The native teacher, Murad Khan, then recently converted, took him to his own room, and reasoned with him till late at night. Sabbath morning found him not only fixed in his rebellion, but toiling to prevent others coming to Christ. At noon Miss Fiske went to the room where he was. (The two lower windows on the right of the engraving of the Seminary mark the place.) He sat in the only chair there, and never offered her a seat; so she stood by him, and tried to talk; but he sternly repelled every attempt to speak of Jesus. She then took his hand, and said, "Deacon Guwergis, I see you do not wish me to speak with you, and I promise you that I will never do it again unless you wish it; but pledge me one thing: when we stand together in judgment, and you are on the left hand, as you must be if you go on in your present course, promise me that you will then testify, that on this twenty-second day of February, 1846, you were warned of your danger." He gave no pledge, but a weeping voice said, "Let me pray." The hand was withdrawn, and he passed into the adjoining room, whence soon issued a low voice, that Miss Fiske could hardly yet believe was prayer. The bell rung for meeting, and she sent her precious charge alone, while she staid to watch the man whose previous character and conduct led her to fear that he was only feigning penitence in order to plunder the premises undisturbed. She staid till a voice seemed to say, What doest thou here, Elijah? then went and took her place in the chapel; soon the door opened again very gently, and Deacon Guwergis entered; but how changed! His gun and dagger were laid aside; the folds of his turban had fallen over his forehead; his hands were raised to his face; and the big tears fell in silence; he sank into the nearest seat, and laid his head upon the desk. After Mr. Stoddard had pronounced the blessing, Miss Fiske requested Mr. Stocking to see Deacon Guwergis.
He took him to his study, and there, in bitterness of soul, the recent blasphemer cried out, "O my sins! my sins! they are higher than the mountains of Jeloo." "Yes," said Mr. Stocking, "but if the fires of hell could be out, you would not be troubled—would you?" The strong man now bowed down in his agony, exclaiming, "Sir, even if there were no hell, I could not bear this load of sin. I could not live as I have lived."
That night he could not sleep. In the morning, Miss Fiske begged Mr. Stoddard to see him, and after a short interview he returned, telling her that the dreaded Guwergis was sitting at the feet of Jesus. "My great sins," and "My great Saviour," was all that he could say. He was subdued and humble, and before noon left for his mountain home, saying, as he left, "I must tell my friends and neighbors of sin and of Jesus." Yet he trembled in view of his own weakness, and the temptations that might befall him. Nothing was heard from him for two weeks, when Priest Eshoo was sent to his village, and found him in his own house, telling his friends "of sin and of Jesus." He had erected the family altar, and at that moment was surrounded by a company weeping for their sins. So changed was his whole character, and so earnest were his exhortations, that for a time some looked on him as insane; but the sight of his meekness and forgiving love under despiteful usage amazed them, and gave them an idea of vital piety they never had before. He returned to Oroomiah, bringing with him his wife, another child, and brother, and soon found his way to Miss Fiske's room. As he opened the door, she stood on the opposite side; but the tears were in his eyes, and extending his hand as he approached, he said, "I know you did not believe me; but you will love me—will you not?" And she did love him, and wondered at her own want of faith. In a few days, he was able to tell Mr. Stocking, with holy joy, that two of his brothers were anxiously seeking the way of life. His own growth in grace surprised every one, and his views of salvation by grace were remarkably clear and accurate.
When his daughter returned to school, on the 30th of March, she was accompanied by one of her father's brothers, who seemed to have cast away his own righteousness, and to rely on Christ alone for pardon. As no missionary had conversed with him, Mr. Stocking felt desirous to know how he had been led into the kingdom, and learned that he had promised Deacon Guwergis to spend the Sabbath with one of the native teachers of the Female Seminary. This teacher and others prayed with him, till he threw away his dagger, saying, "I have no more use for this," and in tears cried out, "What shall I do to be saved?" He gave no evidence then of having submitted to Christ, but in his mountain home he seemed to make a full surrender, and became well acquainted with the mercy seat. The native helpers felt that he was moving heavenward faster than themselves. In April, it was found that as many as nine persons in Hakkie, the village of Deacon Guwergis, gave evidence of regeneration, five of them members of his own family; and the whole village listened to the truth which the zealous deacon constantly taught.
He always remembered the school as his spiritual birthplace, and ever loved to pray for it. Once, when rising from his knees in the Male Seminary, where he had been leading in evening devotion, he exclaimed, "O God, forgive me. I forgot to pray for Miss Fiske's school." So he knelt again and prayed for it. And Mr. Stoddard said he did not think there was a smile on a single face, it was done with such manifest simplicity and godly sincerity.
In June, 1846, Miss Fiske visited Hakkie with Mr. and Mrs. Stocking. It was the first time ladies had been in the mountains, and the good deacon was greatly delighted. Labors were then commenced for females there that have been continued ever since. The annexed sketch will give a more vivid idea of the nature of such labors than the most accurate description. One day the party was toiling up a rough ascent, and the deacon, as much at home among the rocks as the wild goats, offered his assistance. The reply was, "We get on very well." At once his eyes filled, and he said, "You once helped me in a worse road; may I not now help you?" And his aid was at once gratefully accepted. At the top of the hill, while the party rested, they heard his voice far off among the clefts of the rocks, pleading for them and their relatives in distant America.
After his conversion, the deacon devoted himself to labors for souls, especially in the mountains. One might always see a tear and a smile on his face, and he was ever ready, as at first, to speak "of sin and of Jesus." He traversed the mountains many times on foot, with his Testament and hymn book in his knapsack. In the rugged passes, he would sing, "Rock of Ages, cleft for me," and at the spring by the wayside, "There is a fountain filled with blood" flowed spontaneously from his lips. He warned every man, night and day, with tears, and pointed them to Jesus as their only hope. He rested from his labors March 12th, 1856, and, as his mind wandered in the delirium of that brain fever, he dwelt much on those days when he first learned the way to Christ. He would say, "O, Miss Fiske was right when she pointed out that way;" and then he would shout, "Free grace! free grace!" till he sunk away unconscious. Again he would say, "That blessed Mr. Stocking! O, it was free grace." These were almost his last words. The daughter who prayed with him that first Saturday was by his dying bed, and her voice in prayer was the last earthly sound that fell upon his ear.
It may strike the reader as strange that a man so notorious for wickedness as Deacon Guwergis was, should be allowed in the Seminary; but Oriental notions of hospitality are widely different from ours; and in order to do good to a people, however rude, they must feel that you are their friend. No protection from government can take the place of this feeling of affectionate confidence from the people; and while sufficient help was at hand to repel any overt wickedness, the highest usefulness required that patient love should have its perfect work, and in this case, at least, its labor was not unrewarded.
The usefulness of the Seminary among the relatives of its pupils was illustrated in another case that occurred about the same time. March 2d, 1846, the father of one of the girls called and inquired, with tears, if his daughter was troubled for her sins. Surprised at such an inquiry from a notorious drunkard, he was exhorted to seek his own salvation. He then told how he had been taught the plague of his own heart, and, as a ruined sinner, was clinging to Christ alone. His prayers showed that he was no stranger at the throne of grace. Father and daughter spent the evening mingling their supplications and tears before the mercy seat. The daughter had given more trouble than any in school, and several times had almost been sent away. Four days later, her mother came, and remained several days, almost the whole time in tears, and hardly speaking, except to pray. Her daughter and the pious members of the school were unwilling to let her go till she came to Christ, and she seemed to take him for her Saviour before she left. She was a sister of Priest Abraham, and had been so exceedingly clamorous and profane in her opposition to religion, that her brother had for years dreaded to see her. How did he rejoice, when, instead of the customary oath, he found her uttering the praises of her Saviour! The sister of her husband had been one of the vainest of the vain, wearing an amount of ornament unusual even for a Nestorian; but she no sooner put on the righteousness of Christ than she sold her ornaments, and, giving the proceeds to the poor, clothed herself with that modest apparel which becometh women professing godliness. The husband himself, though an illiterate laborer, preached the gospel while at work in the field, and often took two or three of his associates aside to pray with them, and to tell them of Christ and his salvation.
But these cases must suffice: we can only indicate the ways in which the school became a centre of holy influence, especially for woman; but it is impossible to narrate all the facts.
After the revival, the Seminary was thronged with visitors, who desired the time to be filled up with religious instruction. That year witnessed a rich ingathering of wives and mothers, brought by their converted husbands and children to be taught the way of salvation. The teacher who received visitors always found enough to do both by day and by night. As soon as there were two praying women in a village, Miss Fiske and Miss Rice sought to establish female prayer meetings; and when they visited a village, the women expected to be called together for prayer; and when the women returned the visit, they each sought to be prayed and conversed with alone. This was done also with the communicants generally three times a year. The prayers and remarks of the pious members of the school often gave a high spiritual tone to the weekly prayer meeting. Occasionally there were maternal meetings; and on such occasions one teacher met with the mothers, and the other with the children in a separate room.
These took the place of the early meetings with women mentioned in the beginning of the chapter, and were very useful.
Nestorian families have been already described in part, but the absence of the religious element in them can hardly be realized by Christians here. They did not believe that a child was possessed of a soul until it was forty days old. This belief affected all their feelings towards children, and their custom of burying unbaptized infants outside of their cemeteries did not serve to correct such impressions.
Family registers were unknown. In 1835, probably not five Nestorians could tell their birthday, and but few knew in what year they were born. Miss Fiske kept a list of all the children, which was read at every meeting; but at first she could record the birth of only the very youngest. The deceased children were written down in a separate page, and it was sad to see how much they exceeded the number of the living. One childless mother, who had buried eleven, was always present; for she said she wanted to pray for the children of others, though her own were not. They assembled in Miss Fiske's room, sometimes to the number of thirty, with, such of their little ones as were too small to attend the other meeting, and, seated on the floor around her, were never more happy than when telling their troubles, asking questions, and receiving instructions about family duties, much more specific than could be given on other occasions. Now and then she read to them, from English books, facts and truths adapted to their needs. One good man in Fairhaven, Connecticut, who had heard of this, sent a complete set of the Mother's Magazine, to be used in that way. So interested were they, that many of them walked regularly three miles and back again, under a burning sun, to enjoy these gatherings; and from a monthly, it had to be changed to a weekly meeting. It sometimes lasted three hours, but never seemed to them too long; and, commenced in 1850, it is still kept up with as much regularity as Miss Rice's many other duties will allow. It would be interesting to dwell on its results; but a single incident may suffice. One mother, whose husband was not a Christian, was very regular in private devotion, but thought she could not offer prayer in the family, till her husband became dangerously sick, when, in the agony of her intercession for him, she vowed that, if God would spare him, she would establish family prayer. So, as soon as he was able to bear it, she gathered her children around his bed, and after they had read the first chapter of Matthew, verse about, she led in prayer, and so went on reading the New Testament in the morning and the Old Testament in the evening, till she got through with the whole of the former, before any one of the missionaries knew that she had commenced.
The teachers of the Seminary enjoyed very much the visits of the early inquirers from Geog Tapa, in the summer of 1845, most of whom became hopefully pious the following winter. Let us look in on one visit made towards the end of May. A pupil announces that two women below wish to see Miss Fiske; and a middle-aged stranger is shown into her room. In answer to the usual inquiry, "From whence do you come?" she replies, "I have come from Geog Tapa, for I have heard that you have repented, and I want to know about it." She has walked six miles on purpose to make the inquiry. "I wish that you, too, had repented," calls forth the reply, "Alas, I have not! I am on my way to destruction." Feeling that the Bible was the safest guide for such an inquirer, Miss Fiske reads appropriate portions, explaining as she reads. The visitor shows a great deal of Bible knowledge for one who cannot read, indicating that she had not been inattentive to the faithful instructions of Priest Abraham and Deacon John, and her questions are numerous and intensely practical. Among other things, she asked, "Is it true, that for one sin Adam and Eve were cast out of Eden?" and on being told that it was so, "There," said she, turning to the unconcerned neighbor, who had come with her, "do you hear that? What will become of you and me, who have sinned so often?" At length prayer was proposed, to which she eagerly and tearfully assented; and though the tongue that commended her to Jesus, in that strange language, might have faltered, the heart did not share in the embarrassment. The woman, like the first inquirer, repeated every word of the prayer in a low whisper, as though unwilling to lose a single syllable. The conversation was then resumed till it was interrupted by the entrance of some of the pupils on business. "Have you finished?" was the woman's eager inquiry. "I wish very much to hear more of these things." Her companion now begged her to go home. "No," was the kind reply; "you may go, but I must stay here to prayers." Evening prayers were earlier than usual that evening for her sake, but still she lingered. She had not yet found rest. Selby, one of Mrs. Grant's pupils, then in the Seminary, now conversed with her; and as there seemed to be a sympathy between them (Selby had recently found peace in believing), they were left by themselves. After supper, Selby remained with her an hour or more, that they might pray together, till it was quite dark, and her friends had sent for her repeatedly. She left, having first begged permission to come in to morning prayers. Morning came, and before sunrise she was again listening intently to the reading of the Word, and, after devotions, left for home, earnestly begging Miss Fiske to come and spend a week in Geog Tapa.
The Seminary was dismissed June 5th. On that day, several hundreds of the parents and friends of the pupils, in both Seminaries, were invited to a simple entertainment, got up in native style. The gentlemen of the mission ate in one room, with the men and boys, and the ladies in another, with their own sex. The confidence and kind feeling manifested by all towards the school was very gratifying. After dinner, the whole company, seated in the court, listened to an address from Mr. Holladay, then about to return home. He spoke to parents and children on their duties, privileges, and responsibilities: towards the close, he spoke of the almost certainty of never meeting them again till the judgment, and bade them an affectionate farewell. His utterance was often choked, and his hearers wept; and well they might, for in him they parted with a faithful friend. During the exercises, the members of the two schools sang, twice, to the great gratification of their friends.
That evening most of the pupils went home, all but a few of the girls carrying with them a copy of the four Gospels, in modern Syriac, which they had paid for with their needles.
Miss Fiske left for Geog Tapa on the 14th of June with Mr. Stocking, reaching that place as the people were coming out from evening prayers in the church. The first to welcome them were six pupils, residents in the village, who greeted their teacher with a hearty good will. Next to them came Pareza, the inquirer, changed somewhat in her feelings, but with no loss of religious interest. John, too, was there (the native pastor): he had been busy, day and night, instructing the people, and had taken special care of the pupils, that they might both improve themselves and exert a good influence on others. When Mr. Stocking asked him about matters in the village, "O sir," said he, "it is a very good time here now; very many love to hear the truth; their hearts are very open. O sir, I have very much hope!" After supper, the villagers poured into the room for a meeting, to the number of one hundred, while some thirty or forty more were unable to get in. This was all the more welcome, as no notice whatever had been given. It was a clear moonlight evening, and the groups outside were distinctly visible, through the latticed side of the room. John commenced with an earnest prayer for a blessing on the evening; asking, in his simplicity, that "the people might run after the word like sheep after salt"—a strange expression to us, but most appropriate and striking there. Fixed attention was given to Mr. Stocking's discourse: then John, who feared that those around the door had not been fed, spoke to them of Zaccheus. "The crowd about him," said he, "did not know his feelings; but Jesus knew them, and loved him; and so, mothers and sisters"—they, as an inferior class, had to take the lowest places while the men were within—"if you have come here to-night with a broken heart, though we have not seen you, Jesus has." He then, with Miss Fiske's pupils, sung a hymn, and the meeting closed. Still, many women lingered; some sitting down by Miss Fiske, and others in little groups, talking over what they had heard; very different from previous visits, when dress and such things were the most interesting themes of conversation. This was the first meeting in the village in which the missionaries noticed much religious interest.
Early in the morning, Miss Fiske's pupils were gathered together for a Bible class. The women soon filled the room. The exercise continued all the forenoon, simply because it could not be closed. It was impossible to send away unfed those who hungered for the word. Among the women were a few men, one of them the husband of the inquirer. He was asked, "Have you and your wife chosen the good part?" He covered his face for a moment; the tears rolled down his cheeks; and then he said, "By the grace of God, I hope we have." His heart was too full to say more.
Soon after noon, Mr. Stocking preached in the church, on the barren fig tree, to a crowded assembly. The heat and the multitude made the place very uncomfortable, but the interest deepened till the close. As soon as they were out of the church, many women crowded around Miss Fiske, some of whom she could look on as truly pious, and more as thoughtful. One, who was the first to be awakened about a year before, seemed now a growing Christian. On leaving, she said, "Perhaps I shall not see you again till I meet you in heaven." She seemed to be looking forward with humble hope to a sinless home. With others, she had encountered much opposition from her family and friends. She has since entered into rest.
On the 19th, Selby visited Miss Fiske, and in answer to a question about a place for private devotion, "O, yes," said she, "there is a deep hole under our house, like a cellar, and there I go every day to pray."
A brief account of her may not here be out of place. In 1830, when she was an infant in her mother's arms, the cholera in five days carried her father and five of his household to the grave. In 1838, she was one of the first pupils of Mrs. Grant. She learned more rapidly than the rest, and yet was so amiable that she was loved by those whom she excelled. Still, she was a stranger to God, and she felt it. When thirteen years of age, her brother took her out of school, replying to her earnest pleadings, to be allowed to remain, "You have been there already too long." At the same time she was forced to marry a boy twelve years of age, with whom she had never spoken. For days previously, tears were her meat and drink; nor was she the only one that wept. After this, the missionaries seldom saw her, till, one cold Sabbath in the winter of 1844-45, a girl entered the chapel, wrapped, as brides usually are, in a large, white sheet. She was not recognized, of course, till her mother led her forward, saying, "I have brought Selby here to-day to listen to the words of God; she loves them and you very much." She was feeble and much depressed, and expressed a strong desire to return to school. Her father-in-law consented to her teaching in the primary department, on condition that her husband was received into the Boys' Seminary, which was done. She now manifested much interest in religion, and one day wept much, and inclined to be alone. The next evening, she went to Miss Fiske, distressed with a sense of sin. Said she, "I have lied, and stolen, and sworn; nor that only, but have lived so long without once loving my kind, heavenly Father! When I felt sadly about dying at home, I thought then only of hell; but now my sins— O, how many they are! I never knew before that I was such a sinner." The next day, at her father-in-law's request, she was to spend the Sabbath at home. She was very loath to go, but it was not thought best to try to retain her, and she went. There she found neither closet nor Christian friend, and the house was full of guests from morning till night, whom, she was required to entertain. Yet in the morning she returned with even increased interest in spiritual things. Said she, "Two or three times I was left alone for a moment, and then I tried to commit my soul to my Saviour." Those few moments she seemed to value above all price. Not long after, she found peace in Jesus, who became her chosen theme. No wonder she loved to point others also to the Lamb of God, and lead them to the mercy seat.
DEACON MURAD KHAN IN 1846.—PENTECOSTAL SABBATH IN 1849.—MEETINGS IN 1850 AND 1854.—EXTRACTS FROM JOURNAL OF YONAN IN 1858.
The village of Geog Tapa is so prominent, and has been so largely blessed, that, though there is not room for a continuous account of the work in that place, we here give a glimpse of its progress in different years.
Deacon Murad Khan, one of the assistants in the Seminary, and a native of the place, spent some Sabbaths there in May, 1846. He took turns with the other native teacher in this, going Saturday, and returning on Monday. He tells us that, after morning prayers in the church, pious men met together to pray for a blessing on the day; twelve of their number then went to labor in other villages, the rest remaining to work at home. Passing through a vineyard, he found hidden among the vines a youth setting home gospel truth to a group of others about his own age. At their request, he expounded the parable of the ten virgins to them till it was time for forenoon service; then they separated, to spend a few moments in private devotion before entering the church.
In 1849, the pious men of the village divided it into districts, and visited from house to house for religious conversation and prayer. Meetings were held daily, and well attended. The most abandoned persons were hopefully converted. Crimes committed twenty-five years before were confessed, and restitution made. One Sabbath in February, Mr. Stocking and Mar Yohanan found a large assembly in the house of Mar Elias, listening to an exhortation from Priest Abraham. Mar Yohanan, who had not been there since his conversion a little while before, was then called on, and spoke of himself as the chief of sinners, having led more souls to destruction than any other of his people, and being all covered with their blood. In regard to his flock he said, the fattest he had eaten, the poorest he had cast away, the lame and the sick he had neglected. He begged them no longer to look to their bishops for salvation, but to repent at once and turn to God. Priest Abraham, then recently awakened, also made a humble confession of his sins as their priest, and besought them, one and all, to attend to the salvation of their souls.
In the afternoon, the church was crowded, and a number, unable to gain admission, retired to a school room, where a meeting was conducted by a member of the Male Seminary. In the church, they sung the hymn, "Come, Holy Spirit, heavenly Dove." Mar Yohanan offered prayer, and Mr. Stocking preached from the text, "Now, then, we are ambassadors for Christ," and produced a very deep impression, which was increased by short addresses from the bishop and others. This was known afterwards by the name of the Pentecostal Sabbath.
In 1850, those previously renewed gained new light, and those whose piety was doubtful—to use Deacon John's broken English,-were "very much firmed." Miss Fiske and Miss Rice spent a day in the village, after the close of their spring term, and had delightful intercourse with about twenty women hopefully pious, and many more inquirers. In the evening, supper was hurried through, and men, women, and children hastened to the house of the pastor. Mr. Stocking preached there to a crowded assembly of men, while the teachers adjourned to a neighboring house, to meet with the women. Their hearts were full at meeting so many for whom they had alternately hoped and feared, now sitting in heavenly places in Christ Jesus; they remembered seeing their first penitential tears, and could hardly restrain their own for joy. The house was full, and in a silence interrupted only by stifled sobs, they communed together concerning Jesus and his grace. It seemed as though God perfected praise that night out of the mouths of babes, by keeping them perfectly still in their mothers' aims; and as the pupils of the Seminary belonging to the village, in their prayers, laid mothers, sisters, and friends at the feet of Jesus, the place seemed near to heaven. Next day, about one hundred and fifty attended another meeting, and it was with difficulty the teachers could tear themselves away. One of the pious mothers could not bear to have her daughter, recently converted in the Seminary, leave her sight; and more than once a day they bowed together at the throne of grace. When this mother met Miss Fiske her feelings were so intense she could only say, "Thank God," over and over, and weep. Her husband was moved by his child's anxiety for his salvation. Once, when she urged him to pray, he replied, "I cannot; but you may pray for me." She at once knelt and interceded for him, with many tears. The gray-headed man knelt also, deeply moved, and tears flowed from eyes not used to weep. When she ceased praying, she rose; but his strength was gone; he could not rise. Yet the love of the world was strong within him, and it is to be feared that he resisted the Holy Ghost.
In 1854, Miss Fiske found about sixty families maintaining family prayer, and hardly a family in which there was not some one that seemed to be a true disciple. John held a prayer meeting Sabbath morning with those whom he sent out, two and two, to preach in the neighboring villages, and in the evening they reported what they had done. Sabbath school commenced about nine o'clock, and before it opened, almost all were reading or listening to those that read; and then the school continued in session two hours, without a sign of weariness. The number wishing to learn to read was so large that it was difficult to provide for them. Men came begging good teachers for their wives, and women came pleading for spelling books for their husbands. After school, at their own request, Miss Fiske met twenty-one girls, who had been members of her school (twenty of them now teachers in the Sabbath school), and gave them a word of counsel and encouragement in their work. At the close of afternoon service, the women who could read staid with her till near sunset, they never so thankful before, and she never more thankful to be with them.
The next glimpse we take of Geog Tapa shall be from a native standpoint. A young man of the village, possessed of more than ordinary abilities, was early taken into the Male Seminary. His influence over the rest was so great, and so decidedly opposed to religion, that he was about to be sent away, when grace made him the first fruit of the revival in 1846. Yonan (for that is his name) was a teacher in the Female Seminary from 1848 till 1858, and, as he was generally accustomed to spend his Sabbaths in his native village, on Monday morning he handed in to Miss Fiske a written report of the labors of the previous day; and from, these we now give some extracts:—
"January 17th, 1858. I had a pleasant time in morning family prayer, at which several young persons were present. The Sabbath school was followed by a meeting, at the close of which I returned to my room with four young men. I talked with them about two hours, first about coming to church,—for they attend only occasionally,— and in this they promised to do better. I then questioned until I reached their inmost souls. I asked one, 'What is the distance between you and God?' 'My teacher, there is a very great distance between us.' 'Is it God's fault, or yours?' 'It is mine.' I then looked on another, noted for his wickedness, and said, 'Beloved, did not Christ come for you? His stripes, his anguish, his crucifixion,—were they not for you? Why, then, treat him so ill? Has he left the least thing undone for you?' He admitted the truth, but seemed like a rock. At length I said to them, 'Now, Satan has provided something or somebody outside the door, to drive these thoughts from your hearts.' One replied, 'True, Satan has let down all the nets of the Sea of Ardishai for us.' I prayed for them, and they left me, serious. Then I prayed for them alone. Soon my little sister Raheel came in, who is under Papal influence. I talked with her about prayer to the saints, and opened to the ten commandments, and began to read; but she did not want to hear. My heart yearned over my poor sister, and I prayed with her. [Footnote 1: Lake of Oroomiah.]
"Moses preached in the afternoon about Achan, and after that I had my usual meeting with the pious women. Guly returned with me for conversation. I think she is a blessed Christian. She labors and prays with two of her companions. She told how her cousin ridiculed her, and I encouraged her to go forward, but said, 'If all the world think you a Christian, don't rest till you can say, 'I know in whom I have believed."' We prayed together, and O, what a prayer she offered! Deacon Siyad led the evening meeting.
"January 24th. After morning service, I took Baba Khan and Guwergis to my room. The first I had labored with last year, and thought him interested. His wife fears God, and has often asked me to talk with him. He is seldom absent from church or prayer meeting, and often goes out with our young men when they preach. This was my thought in talking with him: 'Near the kingdom, but not in it.' I earnestly pressed these questions: What do you think of yourself? What is your dependence for salvation? Have you repented? In short, on which side are you? He was troubled; tears ran down his cheeks, and for a time he made no reply. At last he said, 'I cannot tell.' A companion began to answer for him, with the confidence of ignorance, judging Christians and finding holes in the coats of the righteous: 'Who knows whether a man is a Christian? God alone.' I said, 'Are there any Christians in our village?' 'Yes.' 'Then you know some as Christians?' His words were many, while Baba Khan's were few. My father here came in, but I prayed with them all, and then went to church, where I preached from the words, 'And thou mourn at the last.'
"To-day I conversed with Sadee. I found her in the habit of praying with her sisters in Christ one by one. I advised her to try and lead some of her unconverted neighbors to Christ by her labors and prayers. She promised to do so. We spent more than an hour speaking the language of Canaan, and then knelt at the feet of the Saviour whom we love. She prayed, spreading out her hands to heaven, as I think the early saints used to do; and it seemed as though God would fill us with blessing in answer to that prayer. She left me alone, and thanking God for these blessed opportunities to labor.
"January 31st. After meeting, conversed with Munny, daughter of Mukdesseh. It was profitable to talk with her. She said that her sainted mother used to say, "When, my heart is cold, I go to Christ, and never rise from my knees till he warms it." She has some hope for her husband, and also fear, since he does not forsake wine. She told of a woman for whom she had prayed and labored five or six years, and promised to do so with others. O, what a sweet savor of piety did I receive from her! If we had many such mothers in Geog Tapa how changed it would be! I cannot write all our pleasant words; they remain for eternity.
"February 7th. I took home from Sabbath school two young men, for whom I have fears because they drink too much wine. I talked long with them, not as though I would take a pledge from them, or that it is a sin ever to drink at all, for I thought this would not be profitable; but I asked them questions, that they might themselves distinguish what is right; as, 'Does wine make you to sin?' They owned that it did. Their hearts seemed won to the right, but the work is the Lord's. May he save them from this temptation.
"In the afternoon, I began to talk with Sanum without feeling, but ended in tears. I did not ask questions, but carefully explained the difficulties and the fight of faith, also the special grace of God to his people. When I said to her, 'I want you to enlarge your heart, and take in one more besides the two women whom you now labor with,' she selected a very ignorant one. I am afraid that I do differently, seeking rather an easy work.
"February 22d. This afternoon I sent for Nargis. I had never thought of her as a Christian, but I found that I was greatly mistaken. It is all my own fault. I had seldom met her, and never prayed with her. I commenced: 'Do you think yourself a Christian?' 'I do.' 'How long have you thought so?' 'About eight years.' 'How is it that I have not known it?' 'Yakob was my pastor, and since he left I have had none.' Then she told of her awakening, and sufferings for Christ's sake, between her betrothal and her marriage. 'I used to go to evening meetings with Yakob, and on my return my uncle would take me by the braids of my hair and throw me on the ground, saying, "You go because there are young men there." Sometimes I found the door barred against me; then I went to a neighbor's to lodge, or oftener to the stable, and slept in a manger; but I was never afraid, for Christ was with me: for a time my betrothed wished to put me away. It was then I found Christ, and I have never forsaken him since.' She is now poor and in distress. She attends church and Sabbath school, but cannot go to evening meeting, as her two little children keep her at home. She lamented this, not thinking that she could serve Christ in the care of these little ones. I told her, 'I preach that prayer and the care of children are equally a duty.' She was greatly comforted: these words seemed like oil poured into the flickering lamp. I gave her the 'Green Pastures,' and prayed with her. I have great confidence in her piety.