The reader will be interested in the following extract, from a letter of Hoimar to Miss Fiske, in 1859:—
"I cannot tell you how glad I am to hear that your health is better. O that quickly you might meet us, if the Lord will! Till death I can never forget your love, nor your reminding your pupils to ask the Lord to support a poor, ignorant one like me. I do not believe your thoughts can ever rest about your little company of Nestorians. If a mother leaves a nursing child, she cannot rest till she returns to it. If you are far from us in body, I know your spirit is with us. If Jonah mourned over the gourd for which he had not labored, how shall not you mourn after those for whom you have labored?
"If the breezes did not bring the cry of 'Salvation' over the ocean, our desolations would cry out. But thanks to Him who favors those that leave their native land to labor among the ignorant. Yet what shall this people do? The beast having great iron teeth still reigns here; but it may be the Lord will speedily destroy him with the breath of his mouth. I trust that you will ever remember in your prayers one who will remember you in her weakness till death."
Two years later brought the following, with its graphic delineation of the trials that such as choose the better part may meet with yet for years to come:—
BELOVED MISS FISKE: Almost every day of this summer has been a bitter day. For my mother had become willing to give Raheel (Rachel, sister of Hoimar) to the Papists, and she had prevailed over my father to do the same. And now I will tell you how Goliah fell upon the earth, and he that had no weapons overcame; but it was from the power of God. The arrangement had all been made by my parents, and the betrothal feast made ready. Sanum and I were in Oroomiah, but Deacon Joseph was in Salmas, and we had also this comfort—my oldest brother stood firm, saying, "Fear not; till death I stand." Raheel also was firm, hoping for help. With entreaties and tears, I asked Deacon Isaac to go to Salmas. He went, but Raheel knew it not. She was very sorrowful for only an hour remained to the time fixed for putting the betrothal ring on her finger. The hope of her life seemed to hang on a hair. She went to the vineyard, and prayed God to deliver her; then returned sorrowful to her room. She hears them say, "They have come!" and locks her door. They ask her to open it, bat she opens it not. Just then, Deacon Joseph goes to the window, and, seeing that Doacon Isaac has come, says, "Open; be not afraid." Deacon Isaac sits down with the Papists who have come to the betrothal. My father leaves it with him, and he says, "Very well; I have only now come; I must have time to examine into this business. To-morrow I will give you an answer." He talks with my father, saying, "How can you give your daughter to the Papists? The missionaries are not willing, our people are not willing, I am not willing; and more than all, the girl is not willing." My father at length said, "She is your daughter, not mine; do as you please." Then Deacon Isaac sent word to the Papists, "There is no possibility of your carrying this forward. I have questioned the girl, she is not willing; speak no more about it." The deacon then asked my father to let her go to the city to school again. At first he consented, but finally left it with her mother, who did not let her go. The deacon left displeased. When I heard this, I arose and took Mar Yohanan's brother, and went to Salmas, thinking I might possibly bring Raheel. While yet a good way from the village, like Canaan's spies, we sent for my oldest brother (who is, as we trust, a Christian). He, gave us good news, and said, "Raheel is all ready to go to school." As the Lord favored Eleazar about Rebecca, so he favored us; and the next morning my sister and Deacon Joseph returned to Oroomiah, while I remained to meet the wrath of my mother. As soon as Raheel was gone, she left, and as yet we know not where she is. Truly, great is the power of prayer. So God brought to nought evil counsels, scattered fearful, dark clouds, and caused the light of joy to rise upon us. But I am very sad about my mother, because she has turned away from the fear of God, and is fleeing from life. My father and husband still get intoxicated. I trust that you will multiply your prayers for them; and ask your friends to do the same, and to pray for me, and our village and country. Give my love to all your friends.
From your lover, HOIMAR.
We shall hear from Hoimar again, in connection with the communion.
LANGUAGE OF PRAYER.—PRAYER ON HORSEBACK.—OLD MAN IN SUPERGAN.—MAR OGEN.—-EARNESTNESS.—FAREWELL PRAYER MEETING IN 1858.—LETTER FROM PUPIL.—SPIRIT OF PRAYER IN 1846.—WOMAN WHO COULD NOT PRAY.— "CHRIST BECOME BEAUTIFUL."—CLOSET IN THE MANGER.—MONTHLY CONCERTS.—PRAYERFULNESS IN 1849 AND 1850.—SABBATH, JANUARY 20TH.— INTEREST CONTINUED TILL CLOSE OF TERM.—FAMILY MEETINGS.—AUDIBLE PRAYER.—ANSWER TO MOTHERS' PRAYERS.—CONNECTION OF REVIVALS WITH PRAYER AT HOME.
The Nestorian converts have been noted for their spirit of prayer.
In 1846, the prayers of the hopefully pious in the Male Seminary were very remarkable. Several rooms were appropriated to devotion, and there one might hear the voice of supplication from morning till night. Many spent several hours a day in this holy employment; and one needed only to listen to know that their prayers came from the depths of the soul. At one time, they beg that the dog may have a single crumb from the table of his master; again, they are smiting on their breasts by the side of the publican. Now they are prodigals—hungry, naked, and far from their Father's house; and now they sink in the sea, crying, "Lord, save me; I perish!" or, as poor outcast lepers, they come to the great Physician for a cure. This one builds on the Rock of Ages, while the torrents roar around. That one washes the feet of Jesus with his tears, and wipes them with the hair of his head; another, as a soldier of the cross, plants its blood-stained banner in the inner citadel of his heart. Their ardent feelings found such appropriate expression in their Oriental metaphors, that one might learn from children to pray as he never prayed before.
On the reopening of the Seminary that spring, the first desire of the pupils was to enter their closets and commune with God.
Riding out one evening, Mr. Stoddard saw three persons before him on the way to Seir. Their horses went from one side of the road to the other, at random; and their own heads were uncovered to the cold March wind. At first he took them for dervishes; but on coming nearer he heard the voice of prayer, and found they were Nestorians. The eyes of all were reverently closed, and when one finished the other continued their supplications. He turned aside, and left them undisturbed. On another occasion, when John and Moses were riding to Geog Tapa on the same horse, they again engaged in devotion; but as the horse was unruly, they each prayed in turn, while the other held the reins.
Sometimes the language of their prayers is very broken. Mr. Stoddard once stood in the church in Supergan, twenty miles from Oroomiah, while prayers were read in the ancient Syriac, and overheard an old man, very ignorant, praying back in the congregation by himself. He had, perhaps, never heard five prayers, in his whole life, in a language he could understand; but reverently, and in a low tone, commingling the memories of old forms with the utterance of new desires, he was saying, "Our Father in heaven—always going, after Satan—O Lord Jesus Christ—hallelujah—forever and ever, Amen!" It was incoherent, but comprehensive. He addresses God as his heavenly Father. He confesses his sins. He appeals to Christ as his only helper. He praises God for his unspeakable gift, and then closes in the usual form.
The pious Mar Ogen, of Ishtazin, when in great pain, and hardly able to move, often broke out in words like these: "O Lord Jesus, thou art the King of glory, the King of kings and Lord of lords; thou art great and holy, and merciful. I am a sinner, condemned. My face is black, my bones are rotten. O Lord Jesus, have mercy upon me, poor, and blind, and naked, and miserable. O Lord Jesus Christ, I am vile. I am lost; but do thou remember me."
No language expressed their sense of guilt better than the words, "All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags." In the fervor of their desire for Christ, and grace through him, they would say, "Blessed Saviour, we will cling to the skirts of thy garment, and hope for mercy till our hands are cut off." A common petition was, "O Lord, we pray that we may never deny thee, even to the blood of our necks"—most expressive words, in a land where so many criminals are beheaded.
One prayed for our country, when he heard of the southern rebellion, thus: "O God, pour peace into that land. Permit them not to fight with each other, but with Satan and their wicked hearts, and may they fight spiritually to subdue the whole world to Christ."
During one of the revivals in the Female Seminary, the prayers of the pupils were exceedingly earnest. A member of the mission, having occasion to open the door of a room where a few of them were together, heard as follows:
"We are hanging over a lake of fire, with a heavy load upon our backs, by a single hair, and that is almost broken. We are in a ship burned almost down to the water; the flames are just seizing upon us. O God, have mercy. Jesus, Son of David, have mercy. O Lamb of God, have mercy on us." "No wonder," a missionary wrote, "I sometimes think that it is pleasanter to pray in Syriac than in our own language, because I have such fervent-minded ones with whom to pray."
The day Miss Fiske left Oroomiah, a large number of women and girls gathered around to bid her farewell. They said, "Can we not have one more prayer meeting before you leave?" They were told that they might meet in the school room. "But may it not be in that Bethel?" they asked, referring to the teacher's own room. She told them she could not lead their devotions then. Their reply was, "You need not do it; we will carry you to-day." Seventy were soon assembled in her room. They sung, "Blest be the tie that binds," and offered six prayers. One asked that when Elijah should go up, they might all see the horsemen and chariot, and all catch the falling mantle; not sit down to weep, or send into the mountains to search for their master, but take up the mantle, go, smite Jordan, and, passing over, go to work. She then reminded the Saviour that he had promised not to leave them orphans (John xiv. 18, Greek and Syriac), and begged him not only to come to them, but to abide with them when their teacher was gone. Her thoughts then turned to the departing company, who were to take their long land journey of six hundred miles on horseback. She asked that the sun might not smite them by day, nor the moon by night. Theirs was a desert way, and the Lord was entreated to spread a table for them through all the wilderness, and, when they should pass over the narrow, precipitous roads, to give his angels charge to keep them in all their ways, and bear them up in their hands, lest they dash a foot against a stone; and when they should go through the rivers, not to let the waters overflow them. The company would lodge by night in tents, and it was asked that the angel of the Lord might ever encamp round about the moving tabernacle. Borne in mind as they should pass on, first to the steamer, and then to the sailing vessel, she asked that when they should be on the "fire ship," the flame might not kindle upon them; and when on the "winged ship," where the waves would go up to heaven, and down to hell, that He would keep them in the hollow of his hand, and bring them to the desired haven. She then asked that all her teacher's friends might be spared till she should reach them, especially the aged mother, and that when she should fold her daughter in her arms, she might say, like Simeon of old, "Now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace." Here she paused, and Miss Fiske thought she had finished; but soon she added, "May our teacher's dust never mingle with a father's dust, or with a mother's dust; but may she come back to us to mingle her dust with her children's dust, hear the trumpet with them, and with them go up to meet the Lord, and be forever with him." Nor did their prayerfulness cease after their teacher had left them.
There was a pupil in the Seminary, who, before conversion, was exceedingly obstinate and rude; but afterwards, in writing to Miss Fiske, she uses expressions like these: "I remember how you used to put your arms about my neck, and tell me how Christ became obedient unto death; not for friends, but for enemies like me. Especially do I remember how you spoke of that love which saw a remedy in its own blood, when there was no help for a lost world. At that time I did not understand it, but now I know not how to express my gratitude. I know that you are very happy with your aged mother, though your heart is here; and she is happy, too, that she sees your face. Yet these earthly meetings, though so pleasant, are but for a season. But how delightful will be that meeting with the holy angels, with the risen Lamb, and with God our Father! and if separations are so trying here, what must be those of the last day? May I not then be separated from you. If I should be, I know you will say, 'Holy, holy Lord God, just art thou, for she has been taught.' We miss you much; but the Teacher who is better than any earthly instructor, came and taught us this winter (1858-1859). The Lord Jesus has been the gardener of our school. He has come down and watered it with heavenly rain. He has truly fulfilled his promise, 'I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.' He said, 'Wait for the promise of the Father.' We waited for his coming, and he turned himself quickly, and we had delightful seasons. Our times of prayer were longed for. We prayed more than we did any thing else. When we retire from the school room now, in many places two girls are found praying together. In my village I meet the women together and alone. I also have precious seasons, praying with a company of girls; and I have selected two women to pray with and for till they shall be Christians. I hope that they will choose Christ for their portion. Some of the women of our village, like Mary, sit at Jesus' feet. One Christian mother had an only son, and very wicked, who trod the Sabbath under foot, and was wholly given up to his own pleasure. She set apart a day for fasting and prayer in his behalf, and soon the Lord met him in his evil way, and now he is a decided Christian."
But let us leave these general views, and look at this prayerfulness more in the order of its manifestations.
During the revival in 1846, two of the pupils spent a whole night in prayer for the conversion of their brothers, first one leading in devotion, and then the other, till morning. Like Jacob they felt, "We will not let thee go except thou bless us." While the missionaries admired their pious zeal, it is proper to add, that they generally insisted on the observance of regular hours of sleep, as conducive alike to bodily and spiritual health. Yet one writes on a similar occasion, "Sometimes, in my anxiety, I have gone to their cold closets to persuade them to leave; but the fervor of their prayers has oftener driven me to mine, than it has allowed me to call them from theirs."
Twice, and even three times, a day, were not enough for them to retire for communion with God. Many spent hours every day at the mercy seat. There were but few closets, and this was a great trial to them. Often three or four of them might be seen sitting, in tears, waiting their turn to go in to the mercy seat. Would that they might have had some of those closets at home that are never entered! At another time, the Bible of one of the girls was found on one of their wooden stools, open at the fifty-first psalm, and the page blotted with weeping, as she read it preparatory to retiring for prayer. Her teacher could put her finger on no part of those large pages without touching a tear. Still later, when news of the death of Munny, of Ardishai, by the accidental discharge of a gun, reached Miss Fiske in America, her first thought was, "Dear child, I shall never again break off your communion with Jesus;" for she remembered that when once she begged her to leave her closet and get rest for the Sabbath, her reply was, "O, I am so sorry that you spoke to me! I was having such a good time with my dear Saviour." Only a few days before her death, while in the vineyard with her brother, she suddenly clasped her hands, and exclaimed, "Blessed Mr. Stoddard! when shall I see him? and when shall I see my blessed Saviour?" [Footnote 1: See page 138.]
A poor woman came to the Seminary one day, weeping for her sins, and seated herself on the floor. The teacher was soon at her side, telling her of Him who was wounded for our transgressions. She prayed with her, and then asked her to pray for herself. "But I can't pray; I don't know your prayers." "Hatoon, don't try to pray like me, or like any body; but just tell God how you feel and what you want." "May I tell God just what is in my heart?" Being assured on that point, she fell on her face, weeping aloud, saying amid sobs, "O God, I am not fit even for an old broom to sweep with," and could say no more. This was doubtless the most worthless thing the poor woman could think of in her humble home. But it was not long ere she could join others in their little meetings for prayer; and she still lives, honoring the Saviour, whom she loves. She is the mother of two of the most useful graduates of the Seminary.
Again: a pious man brought his wife to spend a few days in the Seminary, when she was somewhat thoughtful, and left her nearly a week. Let Miss Fiske describe their meeting. "He came for her at noon, and I was conversing with him in my room, when she passed out from her closet without seeing him. (The small upper window to the left, over the central door, marks the closet.) But he saw her, and reached out his hand, saying, 'My beloved, come here.' She placed her hand in his, looked up in his face, and answered his 'Is Christ become beautiful?' with a gentle 'I think so.' The tears of both fell fast, while he led her, without leave, into my chamber, that they might unite in prayer. But I was glad to have them offer their first united prayers there. It was ever after a more sacred place."
Miss Fiske spent most of the vacation that followed the first revival, in 1848, with Mr. Stoddard, in the villages, where her pupils aided her much in labors among the people. After a very pleasant evening spent in Geog Tapa with those who were seeking Jesus, Hanee, the pupil with whom she staid, came and asked, "Would you like to be alone?" It was the first time she had ever been asked such a question by a Nestorian, and it awakened feelings similar to those that filled her heart when first she heard the voice of a Nestorian woman leading in prayer. To use her own words, "I followed the dear child, and she led me to the best closet she could give me—a manger, where she had spread clean hay; and she said to me, as she turned to leave, 'Stay just as long as you like.' You may well suppose it was a precious spot to me. It was my own fault if I did not there meet Him who was once laid in a manger for us."
The members of the Seminary were especially interested in the monthly concert, which was held in Oroomiah, on the first Monday of the month. On that day they generally wanted two or three meetings; and in 1846 it was often difficult to persuade them to study at all. From the rising to the setting sun, the voice of supplication for a dying world continually fell upon the ear. At one time, all united in pleading for a world's redemption; then, in little companies of five or six, they urged the request; and again, each, alone in her closet, still pressed the same petition.
Previous to 1846, so few of the Nestorians knew how to pray, that religious meetings were for instruction rather than prayer; but now it was a delightful privilege to unite with them in pleading for the conversion of the world to Christ. Never were their petitions so full of unction as when offered for this object. In April, Miss Fiske's pupils, not satisfied with an extra meeting by themselves, though continued till near sunset, were induced to close it only by the promise of having a similar meeting next day. No wonder their teacher never enjoyed a monthly concert in America as she did that one. It was indeed a rare privilege to unite with such spirits in its observance.
The pupils wrote to the Seminary, at South Hadley—"Dear sisters, we love the monthly concert very much. Three hours on that day we meet together to pray that the kingdom of God may come among us, and among all the nations of the earth. It is a very sweet day to us, and we love none so well, except the Sabbath."
In January, 1849, they spent day and night in weeping and prayer, mostly for themselves, as unfit to pray for others. The same was true of the Male Seminary. The teachers, the older pupils, and Deacons John and Guwergis spent nearly the whole of one night in prayer; and so burdened were they with the lost condition of their people, and their own unfaithfulness, that almost all of them gave up their former hope in Christ, and sought anew for pardon. The voice of praise and prayer was now heard, not only through the day, but frequently during the night.
Up to January 29th, only two or three of the unconverted in the Seminary showed any concern for salvation. Most of them were so careless and trifling, that their teachers were almost heart-broken; but when the retiring bell rung that night, many were so distressed for sin that they could not heed it. The pious were pleading in behalf of those out of Christ, and many of these last were crying for mercy. One prayer commenced, "O Lord, throw us a rope, for we are out in the open sea, on a single plank, and wave after wave is dashing over us." So they continued till near midnight, when their teachers constrained them to retire.
At the beginning of February, the other Seminary witnessed a remarkable outpouring of the spirit of prayer. Every spare moment of the previous day, and much of the night, had been devoted to fervent intercession by those who feared that the Spirit of God was about to leave them. So intense was the feeling, that the ordinary services were suspended, and at once every closet was filled; yet a majority had no place for retirement. One of them proposed prayer in the yard, and there, on that wintry day, for an hour, their earnest cries went up to heaven. All of the careless were deeply moved, and many dated their conversion from that day.
The work extended to Geog Tapa, Seir, and other villages. From Degala, Deacon Joseph wrote, "Whenever I went home, I found our house a house of mourning. After the lamp was put out at night, I could not sleep for the sounds of prayer and weeping on all sides. In some houses, very young children had heard their parents pray so much, that they also did the same. The women, too, had frequent meetings by themselves. One day I led some men to a place where they could hear women praying within the latticed window of a house, and, trembling, they begged me to teach them also how to come to God."
The missionaries avoided all stirring appeals to the passions, among a people so excitable, though the ready performance of every duty manifested the sincerity of the praying pupils, while it made the labors of their teachers pleasant.
There was not that agonizing wrestling in prayer on the first Monday of 1850 that had marked the same day the year before; but the following week was characterized by unusual tenderness in both Seminaries, and two of the older pupils of the Female Seminary found no rest except in their closets.
On the evening of the second Sabbath in January, Miss Fiske was not able to attend the prayer meeting, and remained in her room alone. The gentle opening of her door announced that the meeting was over, and a little group passed on hastily, but quietly, to the rooms beyond. She had just risen to follow, when she heard several voices in earnest supplication. She turned to the stairway, and there also the sound of fervent entreaty came up from many closets, while some groped about to light their lamps, or stirred the dying embers of their fires. What meant this simultaneous movement to the mercy seat? There had been nothing unusually exciting in the meeting, and she sat down with the sweet assurance that it was from above. It was late before the suppliants left their closets, and retired in perfect silence; but morning found them resuming the same loved employment, and good news came of similar blessings from the Boys' Seminary.
That week was one of deep solemnity. The pious pupils devoted every leisure moment to prayer. Their domestic duties were performed faultlessly, and much earlier than usual, and then they sought their closets. Some spent five hours each day of that week in those sacred retreats, and when urged to leave for needed sleep, the reply was, "For weeks we have slept, doing nothing for God and souls. How can we sleep until forgiven?"
Saturday afternoon, several begged leave to give themselves entirely to prayer for a blessing on the morrow; and never did the teachers more gladly welcome the approach of holy time. A blessed Sabbath followed such a preparation day. During morning service, almost all were in tears. At dinner, many seats were vacant. It may seem an exaggeration, but it was literally true, that no voice was heard all that day save the voice of prayer. Miss Fiske has never known such a Sabbath before, nor since. In the afternoon, the feeling was overpowering. There was no request for prayer, but unbroken stillness and the perfect performance of every duty, without a word being said. At the supper table, every face seemed to say, "Our meat and drink are not here." Some asked to be excused, but at length all were seated; and the scene that followed can never be forgotten. All who were previously interested, and more beside, wept tears of silent sorrow. The blessing was asked, and the steward began to help them, himself in tears; but no plate was touched, for even the uninterested gazed in silent wonder. Their teacher urged them to eat; but one, seizing her hand, said in a voice too low to be overheard, "You would not ask me to eat if you knew my heart." The reply was, "I feel just as sure that the Lord would have you eat, as that he would have you pray." They were then besought to eat, so as to have strength to pray. This touched a tender chord, and so succeeded; and then they silently withdrew to make that use of their renovated strength. Each hour that night found some at the mercy seat, feeling that to leave off at such a crisis might lessen the blessing. [Footnote 1: Yohanan, father of Esli. See page 67.]
Two months now passed on, each day furnishing new evidence that those prayers were heard. There was less of excitement, but no diminution of interest, to the close of the term. The uniform and sustained prayerfnlness of those months surprised the beholders. The voice of supplication was the latest sound of evening, the watchword of midnight, and the lark song of the dawn. One pupil, nine years of age, after spending two hours in her closet, consented to retire only when allowed to rise and pray if she awoke during the night; and she was sure to wake. About three o'clock every morning, her earnest pleadings roused her teachers from repose.
The hours of social prayer were full of tenderness. Those who heard the pupils pleading far within the veil, close by the mercy seat, almost forgot that they were yet on earth. The school, their parents and relatives, were all affectionately remembered. The hour always seemed too short, and often closed with such expressions as these: "If we have not been heard here, we will go to our closets, and if not heard there, we will return here, and again go back to our closets, and so continue to plead for these loved ones to the last." These meetings, though varied in character, were always of thrilling interest. Now there was an overwhelming sense of sin, as committed against a holy God, and then, as a ray of hope appeared, a weeping voice would implore, as on one occasion, that "the Holy One would walk over the hills of Judea, find Golgotha, and let them live." Again, the sight of manifold transgressions prompted the cry, "But we fear our sins have covered Golgotha from thy sight, and then are we forever lost." Another part of the same prayer contained the entreaty, "Lift not the mercy seat from off the holy ark, to look on the law we have broken, but look into Jesus' grave, and bid us live."
In the daily family prayer meetings every inmate of the room was specially and tenderly remembered. Once, when a father had come for his daughter, and Miss Fiske went to find her, on opening the door she heard a prayer for one who had shown little feeling; and in pleading the sufferings of Christ on her behalf, each petition seemed to rise higher, till every face was turned upward, as if to see him; and the one who led in devotion involuntarily stretched out her hands to lay hold of him, saying, "Come, Lord Jesus, and save our perishing sister; but if she will not receive thee in this life we must forever rejoice in her destruction"—a striking illustration of intense spiritual emotion, bringing the heart into sympathy with the whole truth of God. (Rev. xix. 3.)
These labors for their impenitent associates, and for those women who came to the Seminary, were full of Christ. The hour between supper and the evening meeting was usually spent in personal labor from room to room; and the entreaties and prayers, then audible on all sides, made it delightful to be a stranger in a strange land for Jesus' sake. It was scarcely less affecting when superstitious grandmothers, worldly mothers, and giddy sisters were prayed with and entreated to come to Christ.
The audible prayers of the pupils may trouble some readers, but not more than they troubled their teacher. She desired more silent devotion; but Mr. Stoddard, himself in the habit of praying aloud, looked on it with more favor, and feared to have it checked. Soon after his own conversion, a friend remarked to him, "I think you had better not pray quite so loud;" and for days after it he could not pray at all. He had never thought of others while communing with God, and he was troubled that others should think of him. Even to the last he continued the practice of praying audibly.
Miss Fiske sometimes spoke to her pupils on the subject. There was one who spent hours daily in her closet, but her teacher heard all she said. So, on a fitting opportunity, she suggested to her, in a gentle way, that she might modify the practice. "I will try to pray in a lower voice," was the reply; "but I never thought of anybody's hearing me." That night her voice was more subdued, but her prayer was very short; and soon after midnight her teacher was awakened by the voice of prayer out on the roof. She stepped out quietly; and there was her pupil wrapped in a blanket, and thanking the Lord for such a place to pray. She continued her devotions till near morning; and the kind teacher had no heart to interfere any further. Mr. Stoddard was much amused with her success; and it may teach all of us, in this matter, to suffer the Holy Spirit to divide to every one severally as he will.
On another occasion, not liking to assume the responsibility herself, and yet fearing for the health of her pupil, who generally spent a long time in fervent devotion, she led the physician to the outside of the door; but he, too, after listening for a while, did not venture to interrupt such communion with God. Sarah of Tiary was within.
Meetings were held three days in the week with the women in the neighborhood, and were well attended. The older pupils were allowed to assist in these in order to form habits of doing good for after life; and they did so to edification, both leading in prayer and addressing the beloved mothers—as they called those older than themselves—tenderly and in fitting words.
It was of such a work that Miss Fiske wrote at the time, "We cannot speak confidently of its fruits at this early date, especially as many of our dear charge are so young; but we can say what present appearances are; and while we daily try to obey our Saviour's command, 'Feed my lambs!' we trust that friends at home will hear no less distinctly the same voice, saying, 'Pray for my lambs in Persia.' All those whom we regarded as Christians have shown themselves most faithful to their Master during this season. Others, of whom we were less confident, have seemed to pass through a previously untried experience, and, we tremblingly hope, have laid hold of eternal life. The same is true of several never before convicted. Among these last is a little girl who was suddenly awakened, with as clear convictions, apparently, as I ever saw in any; and her final trust in Christ as implicit. For several days she would say, with tears and sobs, 'I have never yet loved the Saviour; but O, I do want to love him now.' Her mother is one of the few converted in Geog Tapa before the first revival. She has suffered almost every thing for Christ. Often, on returning late from meeting, she has found herself shut out for an hour in a piercing winter wind, before her husband would open the door. At other times she has been beaten, but never denied Him who bought her. The pious natives often say that in the conversion of her daughter, she now receives the reward of her years of prayer and faithful endurance. The last days of the term bound the dear pupils very closely to each other, and we trust to Christ. When the hour of separation came, a prayer meeting was held in each room, and continued to the last moment. Those without hope clung to their praying sisters, with tears and entreaties for prayer. The hopeful converts went forth with a holy, chastened gratitude and trust. We tremble for them among their wicked friends, but rejoice that Israel's Shepherd will keep his own."
Their prayer was, "May we not carry to our homes the poison of the second death in our hearts, but bear to them the seeds of eternal life."
But the rich blessings bestowed in Oroomiah were not all in answer to prayer ascending from that place. There was a connection between them and prayer offered in our own country, of which David would say, "Whoso is wise, and will observe it, even he shall understand the loving kindness of the Lord." Most of the revivals in Oroomiah commenced on the day of the monthly concert of prayer, and several on or immediately after the first Monday in January—a day specially set apart to prayer for missions. But there was a special centre of prayer for the Female Seminary in the institution at South Hadley; and pious hearts loved to watch the connection between the two. While the two inquirers, on that first Monday in 1846, were making closets for themselves with the sticks of wood in the cellar, some of Miss Lyon's pupils distinctly remember how she said to them that morning, "We must pray more for Miss Fiske and her school." They did so; and they remember, too, how the good news of the revival cheered them, when it came.
The earliest indication of interest, in 1847, was on the first Monday in January; and letters afterwards told of special prayer for the school offered that day in South Hadley. Almost every letter written during the winter of 1849 contained similar information. The revival of 1856 came suddenly and unexpectedly; but when, on the night of February 17th, one of the praying pupils could not sleep, because, as she said, "the whole school was resting on her," and at midnight went to her teacher to ask her help in prayer, subsequent letters from America showed, that on that night she wrestled not alone. In 1857, the first inquiry for the way of life was on the last Thursday in February, the day of prayer for institutions of learning. Miss Fiske returned from the February concert of prayer, in 1858, feeling depressed on account of the want of interest in the school, and in half an hour was called to see two of her pupils, who felt that they could not remain the enemies of God. In the first week of February, 1859, meetings were held every evening in the Seminary at South Hadley to pray for the school in Oroomiah; and a letter from Miss Rice, written that week, says, "God is with us; souls are seeking Christ; and I am so strengthened for labor, that I am sure Christian friends are praying for us more than they did last month." Do Christians in this country realize as they ought the connection between their prayers and the blessings bestowed on the opposite side of the globe? Do we go to the monthly concert believing that prayer, offered then and there, will, through infinite grace in Christ Jesus, result in the salvation of souls and the advancement of his kingdom? Such facts as these ought surely to increase our faith. Well might a missionary say, "I have so often felt sure that I was reaping in answer to the prayers of those far away, that on this subject my heart is full, and my first and last word to friends is, 'Pray for us.'"
MOUNTAIN GIRLS IN SEMINAKY.—PRAYING SARAH.—RETURN TO THE MOUNTAINS.—VISIT OF YONAN AND KHAMIS, IN 1850.—OF MR. COAN, 1851—OF YONAN, AGAIN, 1861.—SARAH'S LETTERS.
But rich as are the benefits conferred on the females of the plain, the influence of the Seminary is not confined to Persia. It has climbed the rugged steeps of Kurdistan, and pours into its wild glens and secluded hamlets the same spiritual blessings. It is delightful to trace the way in which God has led to results, as yet only beginning to appear, among the mountain Nestorians.
As the Seminary could not enter the mountains, Providence brought the mountains to the Seminary. In 1843, Badir Khan Beg sacked and burned the villages of Tiary, and the homeless fugitives who escaped the sword fled to the plains of Assyria and Azerbijan. Towards the close of that year, a miserable group presented themselves at the Seminary door for charity, asking for the lady who teaches Nestorian girls. The quick eye of the teacher detected three in the company before her, and replied, "Silver and gold we have not, but such as we have we will give you—a home for these children." This sent them away sorrowful, for it was not what they wanted. But while the parents retired to the shade of the tall sycamores to debate the matter, the little ones, attracted by kindness in a stranger, staid with their new friend. By and by the parents came back, and, falling on the necks of their children, told them they might stay, till they returned to Tiary. The teacher never heard a more gentle and subdued "thank you" than this announcement called forth from those mountain girls. This was the first movement of the school towards the evangelization of Kurdistan, and it will be seen how Providence led the Seminary at Seir in the same path.
The girls were taken in, washed, and clothed; and though at first they knew no more of good manners than of the alphabet, they made commendable progress in both. Better than that, Sarah and Nazeo became hopefully pious in the revival of 1846, and Heleneh three years afterwards.
The last days of the spring term, in 1849, as we have seen, were full of interest. The teachers did not understand it then, but now they see that God was preparing his first messengers to the rude mountaineers for the work before them. Among a company of praying ones, Sarah had long been known as "the praying Sarah." She was the pupil whom Deacon Isaac invited to come and pray [Footnote 1: See page 151.] with him; and the strong man bowed before the simple piety of that mountain girl. Her mind was not so gifted as many of her associates. She comprehended truth with difficulty, but she prayed with all prayer and supplication in the spirit. At this time an unusual spirit of prayer was imparted to the school. The prospect of vacation, instead of diverting the mind from devotion, seemed to produce intenser earnestness. The voice of prayer fell on the ears of the teachers at all hours, except the most silent watch of the night. After the evening meeting, some spent two hours in their closets, and others of the older pupils could not leave till they had prayed with each one in the school alone. On the last morning of the term, they separated with many tears and fervent supplications. The quiet of the hour seemed a foretaste of the rest of heaven. Not a loud voice, heavy step, or harshly shutting door was heard in all the house. All was so sacredly quiet that the still small voice might be heard the more distinctly. The teachers sent out the lambs from the fold with feelings of peculiar anxiety. Some were to go into families where every soul would gladly undo in them the work of the Spirit; others to villages where not one heart could enter into their feelings as the followers of Christ; and as they went forth, their teachers prayed, from full hearts, that the Shepherd of Israel would himself be to them for a little sanctuary in the places where they went.
While their thoughts were on such of their flock as belonged to the plain, the thoughts of God were on those also whom he was about to send forth to a life-long separation from these means of grace. As late as ten o'clock, on the evening after the close of the term, Miss Fiske heard the voice of prayer for the absent ones, and fearing that the occupant of the closet was transgressing the laws of health, she approached the door, intending to enter, and advise her to retire; but as she listened to her strong crying, with tears, for each of the school by name, she could not find it in her heart to disturb the intercessions of Sarah. She was then a great bodily sufferer, but very patient, and for a long time had not spent less than four hours daily in her closet. The next day her disease assumed a serious form, and for more than a week she hovered on the borders of the grave. Several times she appeared to have drawn her last breath. But though her sick room seemed to all like the gate of heaven, and though to her the dark valley was all light, and she longed to embrace the messenger who should lead her through, it was not her Father's will to call her then. She was at first disappointed at the prospect of coming back to the world; yet still she sweetly said, "Thy will be done," as God restored her to health, with its responsibilities and temptations,
April came, and a scarcity in the plain, occasioned by locusts, drove the fugitives from Tiary back to their mountains. The teachers hoped the girls might remain, and besought their parents to allow them to do so, but in vain. They were only too glad to get their daughters away from influences which in their blindness they abhorred. But God intended through these daughters to lay the foundations of many generations, and build again the old waste places of those mountains.
It was hard for them to go. How could they leave their Christian home, and the means of grace they had enjoyed so much? It was no less hard for the teachers to think of those lambs as about to be left at the mercy of wolves, in rocky glens, so far away that no cry of distress would ever reach them. Yea, even if those loved ones died, long years might pass ere their friends could hear of their death. Those were days of sadness, and communion with God was the only comfort of all, and especially of Sarah.
On the day of their departure, the whole school came together, in the room of the teachers, for the parting prayer. All was silent, till the three asked to go and bid a farewell to their closets. They went, and only He who seeth in secret knows how they prayed. They returned weeping. A few words of comfort were uttered, and the teachers commended them to God. They rose from their knees, but only to kneel again; for one of the pupils proposed that all who would pledge themselves to remember their Tiary sisters in every prayer should join hands around them, commend them to the good Shepherd, and give to him their pledge. About twenty thus enclosed the departing sisters, and so they continued in prayer until the last moment. As the dear ones passed out, they could not speak, they whispered but one word,—"the promise,"—and so they went. For years after, no prayer was heard within those walls that did not contain a petition for "blessings on our Tiary sisters."
Many a time had her teacher noticed the large folio page of Sarah's Syriac Testament wet with her tears, and after she left, found the whitewash of the wall in her closet furrowed with the same. It opened out of the passage behind the door on the left of the engraving. She did not tell this to the school, lest superstition should attach an idolatrous sacredness to the place; and yet she could not obliterate marks that to her own heart were so full of comfort. Sarah had gone but a little way before she pleaded with her parents to stop, and allow her to retire a little from the road for prayer.
And so, weeping and praying as they went, these lambs were led into the dark recesses of a den of lions. We shall see persecution raging, pitiless as the mountain storm, and long continued. But we shall also see the Hearer of prayer preserving them unharmed; and if we hear more from the others than from Sarah, it may be that the revelation of the answers to her prayers is reserved for that day which shall unfold displays of grace too glorious for comprehension here.
Nothing was heard from them till October, 1850, when Yonan and Khamis entered those rocky fastnesses to gather tidings of them. They spent the first Sabbath of the month in the house of Nazee; but she was absent. They say in their journal,—
"We preached three times to large assemblies. They brought us Nazee's Testament to preach from, and seemed accustomed to the sound of the gospel. In respectful attention to the word, as well as in knowledge, they were far superior to other villages in Tiary. This we knew was the result of her teachings. Monday we waited her return. She came about noon. How can we express the joy of that meeting! We spent another night there, the most of it in sweet Christian conversation with Nazee. We were surprised at the respect shown to her, and the restraint felt in her presence. If any chanced to swear, he at once went and asked pardon for thus injuring her feelings. Tuesday we had to leave, lest we should be detained by the snow till spring. We longed to pray with her before we left, but custom here forbade it; yet she accompanied us a little on our way, which gave as an opportunity to mingle our prayers and tears together. As we bade her farewell, she said, weeping, 'Here is my love for my teachers, for my sisters in the school, for the missionaries, their children, and all that know me. Tell them to remember me in their prayers, that God may keep me in this place of temptation.' We left her looking after us, and wiping away her tears, till we were out of sight.
"We went that day to the village of the other two. As soon as Heleneh saw us, she began to weep, thinking of the past. Sarah we did not see; she was in another village, very anxious to come, but her wicked husband, whom she had been forced to marry, would not permit it. We spent the night with Heleneh, and preached to a large company. Next morning we left, and she too, with tears, begged that all her friends in Oroomiah would remember her in their prayers."
Was Sarah prevented from seeing her Christian friends, that God might show hereafter how, without even that help, he could answer the prayers of others for her, and her own?
The next we hear of them is through Mr. Coan, who visited Tiary in August, 1851. The writer can understand his account of crossing the Zab, as the bridge was in the same condition when he crossed it with the late Dr. Azariah Smith, August 31st, 1844. But hear Mr. Coan:—
"A toilsome day, over the roughest of roads, brought us opposite Chumba. The bridge had been swept away, and fording such a torrent was impossible. Two long poplar trees spanned the flood; and we crossed on them, bending under us at every step. Nazee was on the bank, ready to greet us. After a few words of salutation and kind inquiry, she hastened to prepare a place for us; and while doing this, the malik took us to his house. She was much disappointed, but followed, anxious to treasure up every word. After supper, we spoke long to the company assembled on the roof. It was affecting to see how eagerly she listened. She staid after the rest, for religious conversation, till near midnight, when she apologized for keeping us up so late. She is cruelly persecuted by her wicked mother and ungodly neighbors; for she is a shining light, by which the dark deeds of the wicked are reproved; and hence their hatred. When Mar Shimon's attendants come, they treat her with wanton cruelty. Some friends in America had sent her several articles of clothing; but her neighbors came together and tore them in pieces before her eyes. She bore it meekly, and only prayed for them. She expected fresh insults because of our visit, but prayed that nothing might separate her from the love of Christ. Long before day, she again sought to improve every moment for Christian conversation. We tried to comfort her: and her eyes filled with tears of gratitude. She received a copy of the Gospels with joy. When we left, she followed us, lonely and sad, to the river side. I opened her Testament, and pointed to Matt. xi. 28: 'Come unto me, all ye that labor, and are heavy laden;' but her voice choked, and tears prevented her reading. We kneeled by the roaring Zab, and in broken accents commended her to Him who will keep her, for his promise is sure."
For ten long years we hear nothing of either of the three; till, in September, 1861, Yonan—the same who found them in 1850—and another preacher visited the mountains. In a village of Tiary, some two thousand people were keeping the feast of the cross—eating, drinking, dancing, and carousing. They sat down among the quietest of the crowd. Heleneh came up and saluted them. Though she had not seen her teacher for eleven years, she recognized him at once. They talked from morning till near sunset. As they spoke of old friends, Yonan asked, "Heleneh, do you remember where our Lord was crucified?" "On Calvary. Can I forget Calvary?" as though grieved that he should think she could forget. Yonan gave her a kerchief for the head, saying, "Take this, and remember me by it." "Shall I remember you by this?" was the reply. "I will remember you in my prayers." "Do you pray, Heleneh?"—She was the last one converted, and left Oroomiah soon after her conversion; so he wanted to know whether she still held on her Christian way.—"Always," was the answer. They sought a place to pray together; and though they might not go away alone, yet there, in sight, but not in hearing of the crowd, they approached the mercy seat, the spectators little dreaming of the nature of their intercourse. It was delightful to find that she had not forgotten the language or the spirit of devotion.
The accompanying sketch of a Tiary girl will show how the kerchief is worn. It also exhibits the mode of using the Oriental spindle, which is probably a facsimile of the article mentioned by Solomon. (Prov. xxxi. 19.)
The other two were not at the feast; so, next day, they left to seek them at their homes. Nazee was absent, but came home in the morning—a widow with two children. She was delighted, and even her children seemed to recognize in the strangers their mother's friends. She was poor; her house had been burned, and almost all it contained; but a stone was on her Testament, and that was saved. They talked long with her, and gave her a copy of the Rays of Light (the monthly periodical issued by the mission), and a pencil to write to her friends. She gave them letters written ten years before, which she had penned in secret, and carried about with her ever since, waiting an opportunity to send them.
The next day, another long journey brought them to the home of Sarah; she saw them coming and hastened to meet them; but that very night she had to leave for a distant village: yet not till in answer to prayer they had an opportunity to pray together; and the friends left that village happy; for, as Yonan said, they "found her, like the others, having the love of our Christ in her heart."
That solitary disciple, through those long years of seclusion, never hearing the voice of Christian fellowship, or knowing whether her pious friends were alive, or if her sisters still remembered their pledge, was yet kept of God according to his promise; and it is interesting to see that she does not once allude to her persecutions in her letters, but only solicits the prayers of her friends for her relatives and neighbors; and then, while both Mr. Coan and her teacher testify to her usefulness, with what humility does she allude to herself, and "the very little she has made known of the Lord Jesus Christ."
Extracts from the letters that she kept so long here follow. The first, to friends in Middlebury, Vermont, is dated September, 1851, and reads thus:—
"To you, dear friends, I write a letter unworthy and imperfect, in which I make known to you my lost condition and my present abode. Know ye that a little more than two years ago I left the Seminary, and came with my friends to our country. I did not wish to leave so soon, for I had learned but very imperfectly what the Scriptures teach about our Lord Jesus Christ. But my mother was not willing I should remain, for her heart is yet hard and dark. Know, then, dear sisters in Christ, I dwell in Tiary, in the village of Chumba, about six days' journey from Oroomiah. Again, though so far away, know ye, that your letter reached me in May. It was translated and sent to me by Mr. Perkins, our beloved father, whom we are unworthy to call such. My dear sisters, when I took your letter in my hands and read, my heart longed to fly and sit down by you, and behold your faces in the body; but I said, "The will of the Lord, not mine, be done." When I look within myself, and see not a place worthy to cherish gratitude to God for his great mercy and grace, which he hath wrought for us, sinful and unworthy, I liken myself to the slothful servant, who did not the will of his Lord. Yet, O, my sisters, though I have not done the will of my Saviour, I have hope in him that I shall do it, and serve him henceforth so long as I am in this world—fleeting as a dream in the night.
Though our country has been, in time past, greatly afflicted by the Koords, yet God has spared many of us, who had sinned and trodden under our feet the blood of his holy Son. But do not marvel that we have sorrow from the scourge God brought upon us for our sins. No. Still every day we provoke our Maker more and more. Then ought we not to mourn over this people, lost and fallen under the yoke of Satan? For should you go through all Tiary, you would not find one soul that fears the Lord, but all bound in fetters not to be loosed. If God do not loose them, quickly will they perish; and not this country only, but many others, sit under the shadow of death and walk in darkness, going to destruction. Then, dear sisters, though unworthy, we should increase our painful efforts, and our prayers to God, that speedily his kingdom may come and his will be done on earth as it is done in heaven, that all regions may know him and praise him forever. Beloved sisters, I am unworthy to thank you, and still more to thank God, who has disposed you to show such kindness to my poor body, and yet more to my perishing soul, with words so gentle and full of love; yet greatly do I thank you.
Again, dear friends, I have one request to make—that every time you bow before God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of all who love him, you will remember me in your prayers, for I am very needy, and there is great danger that my soul will perish forever. Remember also my mother, and all my friends, sinners, and on their way to destruction. Know ye, further, that I conceal the writing of this because they would not allow me openly to write, for they are very foolish and benighted. Accept, then, this poor letter, as a token of friendship and gratitude, in the love of our Lord Jesus Christ.
From your unworthy and sinful sister,
NAZRE, of Tiary. Amen.
The following are extracts from another letter to the same persons:—
"Though we are far from each other in this evil world, yet I hope that our Lord Jesus Christ will make us pure from sin, and worthy of his kingdom, where we shall see each other with that light which shall not end, in the joy of the holy angels. Ah, my friends, how great are our mercies and we how unworthy, but especially I!— unworthy of the gift of the gospel of God, which I have received, that I might make it known to lost souls around me. But know ye, very little have I made known about our Lord Jesus Christ. Now, dear friends, I desire to speak of him to lost souls, in the imperfection of my mind. But many do not desire even to hear of the sound doctrine of the Lord Jesus Christ, and yet think to gain heaven, while they practise in this world according to their wicked desires. And for this reason, O my sisters, I beseech you that you will remember this people, lost and fallen under the snares of Satan; especially my mother, and brother, and all my friends. But more especially, I beseech you to remember me, a sinner, in your prayers, every time that you bow the knee before God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Father of all who fear him, and listen to his commandments."
Accompanying these was the following to Dr. Perkins, dated October 3d, 1851:—
"To you, O my spiritual father, Mr. Perkins, I presume to send two letters, for friends in Middlebury. If you please, you will translate them, and send them; but I fear that they will give you much trouble.
"Again, you wrote me in your letter, that I should teach children to read. Now, I am very needy myself of instruction. Yet I desire that that might be my employment. But that is a very difficult matter among such a people, of whom you have heard that although there may be here and there one who would walk in this way, yet there is a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence therein; so that every one that goeth in it, his foot stumbleth, and quickly he turns back.
"Again, O friend beloved, though I am unworthy to call you such, yet I beseech you that you remember me always in your prayers. I know that you do remember me, but I desire that you remember me more, for I greatly fear for my perishing soul. Greatly do I desire to see you once more in this world, if the Lord will."
He who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working, commissioned these praying souls to prepare his way in the mountains, even as he chose those other three to show forth his grace in death; and they who live to mark the future course of the river of life in those rocky glens will find, we trust, that his strength was made perfect in their weakness.
LABORERS IN THE MOUNTAINS.
LETTER OF BADAL.—ACCOUNT OF HANNAH.—THE PIT.—'LETTER OF GULY AND YOHANAN.—ACCOUNT OF SARAH.—LETTERS OF OSHANA.—LETTERS AND JOURNAL OF SARAH.—LETTER FKOM AMADIA.—CONFERENCE OF NATIVE HELPERS.
Besides these, the Seminary has sent up other laborers into the same field. At the monthly concert in Oroomiah, June, 1858, there were present four graduates, with their husbands, either going there for the first time, or returning to resume their labors. Guly, the wife of Yohanan, who had already spent one year in little Jeloo, was now about to return there with her husband. Nargis, the wife of Khamis, who had spent the winter laboring alone in the vicinity of Amadia, on the Turkish side of the mountains, was now with him, going back to Gawar. Hannah, the wife of Badal, who had sent her husband, three days after marriage, to his winter's campaign in the same region, was now accompanying him to the chosen field of his labors; and Eneya, the wife of Shlemon, his associate, was also expecting to leave in a few days.
By the way of introducing the reader to one of these laborers, we subjoin a letter from Badal to Miss Fiske, dated December 12th, 1859. It is a good specimen of Oriental style.
"Writing to you brings to mind many sweet conversations with you. Dwelling on them, my mind is sad. My sighs rise like the swelling stream, and almost carry me away, especially when I look at your garden, where you labored with so much skill to graft in these wild olive plants, cutting off your sleep with watchings by night, that they should not be rooted up by the desert wind. Thus you watched them, till they became as noble forest trees that not even the avalanche can overturn. Your garden, now, not only gives a shade pleasant to the traveller, but it yields sweet fruits; clouds rise from it that give us the early and the latter rain; they empty themselves,—the plain rejoices, and the barren places become verdant. Yes, the vine that you planted has budded, and blossomed, and gives of its fruit to every passer by. Come to us, our beloved, open the door of your garden, that the traveller may enter in and be refreshed. You have left many pleasant remembrances in the work of your hands. On every side you have left a picture for our eyes, and the skilful work of your hands (his wife), lo, and behold! it is with me. I cannot be silent. My voice shall be heard as the turtle's; 'Behold, your feet are within my doors, and your counsels are ever in my family.' The Lord reward you for these pupils, that you have taught to be patient and persevering, so that they truly help us in the work of life.
"Beloved, give my love to your friends, and ask them, when they go up to Shiloh to offer sacrifice, to place me in the censer of their prayers.
"We are troubled that as yet we know not the Lord's thoughts concerning you,—whether he will allow you to meet your flock again, or says to you as to Daniel, 'Thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days.' Like Moses, you are gathered to your fathers; but Miss Rice stands like Joshua, commanding the sun not to go down till the sword of the gospel shall triumph. We thank the Lord that she is still a judge in Israel, so that as yet the sceptre has not departed from Judah.
"Your affectionate friend, BADAL."
There are some things about Hannah, and the work of divine grace in her, that demand grateful record.
She was the daughter of one of the most intelligent and wealthy Nestorians, who placed her in the Seminary as early as 1845. She was then quite small, and the teacher objected very much to taking her; but paternal importunity prevailed. As soon as her father turned to go, she began to scream; but he left, saying she must remain, and "learn wisdom." The kind teacher took her in her lap to soothe her; but it was of no use; her bleeding hands bore the marks of the nails of her new protege for weeks. She called for her father, but he was intentionally out of hearing.
The child remained, but learned wisdom very slowly. She had her fits of rage so often, that she was sent home sometimes for weeks, and again for months. She made little progress, either in study or other good, till the winter of 1850, when she seemed to begin to love the truth; yet, though her general deportment was correct, she often showed such a determined will, that her instructors feared she had never said from the heart, "Not my will, but thine," and often told her that, if she was a Christian, God would, in love, subdue that will. She could not feel her need of this, and thought that they required too much of her. So they were obliged to leave her with God, and he cared for her in an unusual way. The mission premises had formerly been occupied by an Oriental bath; and here and there were old pits, once used for carrying off the water, but now covered up, so that no one knew where they were. One evening Miss Fiske called the girls together, and told them some things she wished they would refrain from. They promised compliance, and went out; but hardly had they gone before their teacher heard the cry, "Hannah is in the well!" She ran there, but all was right. Then they led her to an opening just before the back door, saying, "The earth opened and swallowed her up." The covering of one of the pits had given way, and she had fallen perhaps twenty feet below the surface. Fortunately, as in the case of Joseph, there was no water in the pit, and in a few days she was able to resume her place in school, but much more gentle and subdued than ever before. The change was marked by all. Months after, in a private interview with her teacher, she gave an account of the whole matter. She said the girls went out, most of them saying, "We will obey our teachers;" but she, stamping her foot, said, "I did right before, and I shall do so again." With these words on her lips, she sunk into the earth. At first she did not know what had happened, but remembered all that had been said, and felt that God was dealing with her. Lying there helpless and bruised at the bottom of the pit, she made a solemn vow to God, "Never again my will." From that time she was a most lovely example of all that was gentle. She seemed to give up every thing, and "bear all things." Her father saw the change, and one day said to her teachers, "I am not a Christian; but Hannah knows nothing but God's will. If she should die now, I should know she was with Christ, she is so like him." Her Christian character developed beautifully; the school learned of her to be Christ-like. She longed to do good, and was ready to make any sacrifice for the good of souls. When Badal sought her hand from her father, the latter called her, and said, "Hannah, Badal the son of the herdsman, wants you to go to the mountains with him, and wants you to live here with him. It shall be as you say." She replied very meekly, "I wish to suffer with the people of God. I choose to go with Badal;" and June 8th, 1858, she left for her mountain home.
The parting prayer meeting with those four girls, going as missionaries to the mountains, was one of the pleasantest memories that Miss Fiske carried away from Oroomiah. She left soon after, but often heard from Hannah and her companions that she was happy in her life of privation for Jesus' sake, and did what she could. She suffered, however, from the change, and was advised to visit Oroomiah for her health. It was hoped she might soon recover; but she went only to leave her sweet testimony to the blessedness of knowing no will but God's, and then go home. She sent the following messages to Miss Fiske from her dying bed: "I love to have God do just as he pleases. I thank you for all your love, and especially for showing me my Saviour." She died in December, 1860.
Having given herself to Missionary work among the mountains, it is interesting to know that her little property also went to the same object. In the remarkable revival of benevolence, in Oroomiah, in the spring of 1861, her brother gave her inheritance, which had fallen to him, to sustain laborers in the mountains: thus, after her life had been laid down in the work, all her living went to carry it on.
Let Guly introduce herself to the reader by giving her own account of her conversion, in 1856:—
MY DEAR SUPERINTENDENT, MISS FISKE: I wish now, as far as I can, to describe to you my spiritual state. The first four weeks of the revival I did not realize that I was lost, but afterwards was more burdened; my sins were round about me like dark clouds. One night I went to Miss Rice to have her pray with me. I did not know how to find Christ. She told me; yet all that night I saw no light, but only darkness. I was almost in despair, yet felt that this was from Satan. In the morning the sun rose pleasantly, but it was as night to me; for I knew that I had no portion in God. So I continued all that day. I could not read in my class, but went to my room, and vowed not to leave it till I had some token that Christ was mine. I brought nothing in my hands save my sins, which were like mountains. I remembered that scripture, "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;" and I recalled the promises of God, and that no other could pardon me. With earnest longing, I laid my soul into the hands of Jesus. I heartily covenanted to serve him all my life, and sought help from him in prayer. Then suddenly I saw light, as if he were at my side; and I did not wish to rise from my knees, so blessed was that communion. From that time I had hope, but sometimes fear I may be deceived. Yet daily I find Christ more and more precious. Though old Adam is not dead, yet in the strength of God I will resist him.
Yes, my dear mother in Christ, my guide to the cross, my desire is to please God, and live for him, not for myself. I cannot say that I shall never sin, for I am weak, and my foe is strong; but I will seek help from Him who was tempted, and can succor me when tempted.
I am most thankful to you that you have been the means of my salvation, and can never forget your love till my tongue is silent in the grave.
Your affectionate GULY, of Seir.
She and her husband, Yohanan, have labored in the mountains ever since their marriage. He writes to Miss Fiske in February, 1861,—
"I have not forgotten your pleasant love, and trust I never shall until I die. I hope that, with all your friends here, I shall see you again. As our joy is not full in your absence, may you not rest till you return.
"We are now in Vizierawa of Gawar; for the people of Ishtazin, instigated by Mar Shimon, have cast us out. I had hoped to go to Amadia, but was robbed and wounded, in the autumn, by the Koords; and before I could recover my goods, it was too late to go so far. So I remain here; and, thanks to God, our labor in the gospel is more pleasant than ever. Some of the men wish to hear the whole will of God; and women and girls come to Guly to hear his words. A few children also are constant in learning to read. The work of God prospers this year in Gawar, and the laborers are more numerous and more faithful."
In estimating the zeal and self-denial of these Nestorian missionaries, it should be borne in mind that our missionaries there, think it requires as much self-denial for a native of Oroomiah to go to the mountains, as for an American to go to Oroomiah; and according to the testimony of a native observer, the married graduates of the Seminary, in the mountains, are centres of light in that great sea of darkness.
Besides those already mentioned, Oshana and Sarah, with Shlemon and Eneya, are laboring in Amadia. This Sarah is daughter of Priest Abraham, of Geog Tapa, and was one of the earliest pupils of the Seminary. When Deacon Isaac broke it up, in 1844, she was the only pupil who remained. She was hopefully converted in 1846, and while in the Seminary was supported by the Sabbath school in Owego, New York.
In 1849, it was proposed that her father labor in Ardishai, one of the darkest and most wicked villages of the plain, as one might expect the home of the notorious Mar Gabriel would be. Great opposition was made by the people to his coming among them; and his own wife—not then converted—did much to hinder his going; but Sarah did all in her power to encourage him; and a letter of hers on the subject decided him to go. She rejoiced to give up her friends, her pleasant home, and even her privileges, that he might labor in that unpromising field. Nor was she by any means idle. She spent all her vacations there, laboring with much acceptance and success; and after she graduated, in 1850, besides her day school through the week, she had a Bible class on the Sabbath, with the women; and on Friday, also, she sent out her pupils, in the afternoon, to invite their mothers and other women to a meeting she held with them in the evening. She thus acquired great influence, and led several to the Saviour. Her labors were very systematic. She had a plan for conversing personally with one pupil each day, and was noted for her tact and success in efforts with individuals. Others might act from impulse, and soon tire; but hers is an activity controlled by principle, and therefore uniform and enduring. Very faithful in admonition when admonition is required, she is at the same time noted for gentleness, and thus expresses to Miss Fiske her delight in laboring for Christ: "Separated from Christian friends, I am sometimes sad; but I am not greater than my Master, who left the holy society of heaven to come to earth, and I am glad for a corner where I may labor for such a Master. Come and spend a Sabbath here if you can; if not, pray much and often for these poor women." Again speaking of her school, she says, "It is the goodness of God that gives me these little girls. Pray for them. I see indications that they will be lovers of the Lord. Forty or fifty of the women come to meeting, and twenty-two are willing to receive the truth." She was accustomed to study the Bible with her father, and in that way also aided him in his labors.
But it is time to bring forward her husband, in letters which open up a new department of usefulness, and illustrate the meaning of Mar Yohanan, when he brought her first pupils to Miss Fiske, and said, "No man take them from you." The truth was, that the same parents, who at first could not trust their daughters in the Seminary for a single night, were now unwilling that they should be united to a husband who did not commend himself to its teachers as a suitable companion for their pupils. But let Oshana speak:—
HONORED LADY, MISS FISKE: I have a petition to lay before your zeal, which is active in doing good to all poor insignificant ones like me. Dear lady, whose love is like the waters of the Nile, and spreads more than they; for it reaches the sons of the mountains of Kurdistan, as well as those of the plain. I am venturing to trouble you more than ever before. This summer, when I went to my country (Tehoma), my mother and uncles, who greatly love me, with a natural love, beset me to marry one of the daughters of my country, whomsoever I should please; but I made known to them that I wished, if possible, to take one of the pupils of your school, for I said to them, "If I take one of these who are so wicked, ignorant, immodest, and disorderly, they will embitter my life;"' I entreated of them not to put this yoke of iron on my neck. They listened a little to my petition, from the mercy of God, but made me promise that if it should reach my hand, I would marry this winter. The girl on whom I have placed my eye, to take her, is Sarah; because she has the "fear of God, which is the beginning of wisdom," and she has been brought up in all the graces of Christianity, and has well learned the holy doctrines; and in the fear of God, and the knowledge she has acquired, she can help me, and strengthen me, in the work of God, on which I have placed my heart for life.
And now, to whom shall I look to help me in this matter? I will look to God, the Lord of heaven and earth. But he works by instruments. Then to whom shall I look, as the instrument to do this work? I am a stranger, poor, and without a name here. My relatives are far away. If I have friends in Oroomiah, they cannot do this kindness for me. If I remain silent, silence alone shall I see. Now, my lady, I look to you for help; and with confidence shall I do so more than I should to my parents; for you have guided me and my sister better than any Nestorians have guided their children. Yes, by your hand God will supply my need. Now do as you think proper. From your unworthy
P.S. The other letter (enclosed) is for Sarah, and on this subject.
Some time after he was engaged to her, she was very sick, when he wrote as follows; and the reader will notice that the "honored lady" gives place to
DEAR MOTHER, AND NOURISHER OF SARAH: I have no friend in whose pleasant, pure love I can delight as in Sarah, and she is now wasting away on a bed of sickness. My heart is very heavy with sorrow on her account. Yes, I am so borne down with trouble, that for three days my tears have not been stayed. I do not say this to boast of my love. I owe her all this. I have a petition to make; which is, that you will do all you can for Sarah. But I need not ask this, for I am confident that your kindness, will lead you to do, and cause to be done, all that can be done for her. But will you not let me know whether her sickness increases or diminishes?—if it increases, that my sighs and tears may increase in pleading before the Lord for mercy, and if it diminishes, that my thanksgivings may increase before our merciful Father in heaven.
Dear mother, if it is the will of our Father in heaven to take Sarah to the upper mansions,—though I shall be comforted on account of her being saved from all the bitter misery of this world, and her blessed rest with the Saviour, where she can praise his love with her pleasant voice, joined with the sweet songs of angels,—still it will be hard for me. If I live after she has gone, God forbid that I behold her dust, and not long to be her companion in heaven. Your unworthy
Our next letter is from Sarah to Miss Fiske, written at Seir, in 1859, more than two years after her marriage, and gives a good idea of her Christian spirit:—
BELOVED: The good news that you gave us of the revivals in your country, rouses our hearts to warmer zeal. Shall we not also prepare the way of the Lord? We know, by the gracious visits of God here this winter, that Christians there are ever praying for our poor people. For we hear from the preachers who come up to the concert every month, that the work of the Lord goes forward in the villages of the plain, and also in the mountains.
Here in Seir, the good work began among the women. I hear them say, "Though we have had revivals before, we have never seen a year like this, when the words of God had such deep effect." Mrs. Cochran and I have good meetings with these women. Our congregations make glad the Christian heart, and I am particularly happy in laboring for them, one by one. A portion of them, with tearful eyes, are covenanting to be the Lord's. We ask the Lord to strengthen them in their covenant, and we entreat of you and of your friends to pray for them.
Our Sabbath schools are very pleasant. Mr. Cochran will tell you how the work goes forward. Mrs. Cochran has a class of women, and so have I. Last Sabbath Mr. Cochran read one of your letters to the congregation, and we learned from it how the work of the Lord goes forward in your blessed churches. We praised the Lord, and then we entreated him to bless our churches, and make them more spiritual, for we are confident that his grace is sufficient for us all.
She visited Tehoma, in May, two months after the date of the preceding, with her husband, Oshana, and two little children, and gives the following account of their journey:—
"Through the favor of our heavenly Father, I have made a journey into these mountains, rejoicing in the opportunity to labor for my people. I am very happy that my father and friends brought me on my way in willingness of soul. From the day that I left my own country, in every place that I have entered, until now, my heart has been excited to praise my Guide and my Deliverer, and I have also been grateful to my teachers who brought me to labor in a desolate vineyard, joyfully, I, who am so weak, and such a great sinner. In all the various circumstances in which I have been, your counsels have been of great benefit to me.
"I think you will be glad to know that the gospel door is wide open here. You and your friends will pray that the Lord of the harvest would send forth laborers into his harvest.
"We left the city of Oroomiah, May 6th. We were ten souls—Hormezd, of Aliawa, Sagoo, of Geog Tapa, Matlub, the Tehomian, Guly, and little Gozel, Oshana and his brother, our two little girls, and myself. May 8th, we reached Memikan, and remained there three days.
"It was our first Sabbath in the mountains. I met that company of women for whom our departed Mrs. Rhea used to labor. May 12th, we left Memikan, and went up to the tops of the snowy mountains of Gawar. The cold was such that we were obliged to wrap our faces and our hands as we would in January. As we descended the mountain, we found it about as warm as February. That night we staid in the deep valley of Ishtazin, in the village of Boobawa, where Yohanan and Guly dwell. The people here are very wild and hard. Yohanan and Guly were not here, having gone to visit Khananis. Only a few came together for preaching. The people said, 'Yohanan preaches, and we revile.' May 13th, we left Boobawa, and soon crossed the river. Men had gone before us, and were lying in wait there. They stripped us, but afterwards, of themselves, became sorry, and returned our things. As we were going along this wonderful, fearful river, and beheld the mountains on either side covered with beautiful forests, we remembered Mr. Rhea, the composer of the hymn, 'Valley of Ishtazin.' And when filled with wonder at the works of the Great Creator, we all, with one voice, praised him in songs of joy fitting for the mountains. Here the brethren reminded me that our dear Miss Fiske had trodden these fearful precipices. This greatly encouraged me in my journey. This day we went into many villages, and over many ascents and descents. At evening we reached Jeloo, and remained over night in the pleasant village of Zeer, which lies in a valley made beautiful by forests, and a river passing through it. They showed great hospitality here, and were eager to receive the word of the Lord. May 14th, we left Zeer, and went to Bass. It was Saturday night, and we remained over the Sabbath in the village of Nerik. I shall always have a pleasant remembrance of the Sabbath we passed there. Prom the first moment that we went in till Monday morning, we were never alone, so many were assembling to hear the words of the Lord. With tearful eyes and burning hearts, they were inquiring for the way of salvation. They would say, 'What shall we do? We have no one to sit among us, to teach us, poor, wretched ones.' Truly, a man's heart burns within him as he sees this poor people scattered as sheep without a shepherd. May 16th, we mounted our mules, and went on our way. Half an hour from Nerik we came to the village of Urwintoos. An honorable, kind-hearted woman came out, and made us her guests. This was Oshana's aunt. As soon as we sat down, the house was filled with men and women. They brought a Testament themselves, and entreated us to read from that holy book. Did not my heart rejoice when I saw how eagerly they were listening to the account of the death of our Lord Jesns Christ! When the men went out, the women came very near to me, entreating for the word of the Lord, as those thirsting for water. Then I read to them from the book.