"There are many sad deeds of wickedness among these mountain Nestorians; and when Christians hear how anxious they are to receive the words of life, will they not feel for them? We reached Tehoma May 17th. Now, from the mercy of God, we are all well and in the village of Mazrayee. I am not able to labor for the women here, as I desired, because many of them have gone to the sheep-folds. It is so hot we cannot remain here, and we will go there also, soon. I trust, wherever I am, and as long as I am here, I shall labor for that Master who wearied himself for me, and who bought these souls with his blood.
"The Lord keep and bless you, our beloved, who have been a mother to the Nestorian girls, all of whom, with longing hearts are expecting your return. We continually pray Him who gave you to us, to restore you again in mercy to our people. If counted worthy, I should greatly rejoice to receive a little note from you."
She returned to Oroomiah in the spring of 1860, and left again in 1861 for Amadia. When she went away, her three children had the whooping cough; so she would not go into any of the mission families lest she should spread the disease among the children; but after she was all ready to go, and the heads of her own little flock were peeping out of the saddle-bag contrivance in which they rode, Mrs. Breath went out to bid her good by. Sarah told her how Miss Fiske had said, when she took her oldest child into her arms for the first time, "'Now, Sarah, you will not seek for this child a pleasant home upon the plain, as Lot did, but rather to do God's will, and then he will give you all things." "I have always remembered it," she added, "and am not willing now to be found seeking my pleasure here."
During the long winter of 1861-62, no messenger could cross the mountains from Oroomiah to Amadia; and she thus writes in March, 1862, to Miss Rice:—
"I did greatly long for the coming of the messenger. We were very sad in not hearing a single word from home. Now I offer thanksgivings to Him in whose hands are all things, that he has opened a door of mercy, and has delighted us by the arrival of letters. They came to-day. Many thanks to you and your dear pupils. The Lord bless them, and prepare their hearts for such a blessed work as ours.
"Give Eneya's salutations and mine to all the school. I think they will wish to hear about the work of the Lord here. Thanks to God, our health has been good ever since we came, and our hearts have been contented and happy in seeing some of our neighbors believing, and with joy receiving the words of life. Every Sabbath we have a congregation of thirty-five, and more men than women. For many weeks only the men came; but now, by the grace of God, the women come too, and their number is increasing. I have commenced to teach them the life of the Lord Jesus from the beginning. I have strong hopes that God is awakening one of them. His word is very dear to her. Her son is the priest of the village, and a sincere Christian. Four other young men and five women are, we trust, not far from the door of the kingdom. We entreat you, dear sisters, to pray in a special manner for these thoughtful ones, that they may enter the narrow door of life.
"From the villages about us we have a good report. They receive the gospel from Oshana and Shlemon, who visit them every Sabbath. In my journeys through these mountains, I have seen various assemblies of men and women listening to the gospel, poor ones, exclaiming 'What shall we do? Our priests have deceived us: we are lost, like sheep on the mountains. There is no one to teach us.' They sit in misery and ignorance. They need our prayers and our help. I verily believe that if we labor faithfully—God help us to labor thus—we shall soon see our church revived, built up on the foundation Christ Jesus, and adorned for him as a bride for her husband. With tears of joy we shall gaze on these ancient ruins becoming new temples of the Lord. Soon shall these mountains witness scenes that will rejoice angels and saints. Those will be blessed times. Let us pray for them, and labor with Christ for their coming."
Our latest news from Sarah is, that during the summer of 1862, her little son had died, and she herself was just recovering from a dangerous fever.
The joyful anticipations awakened by such a letter from a graduate of the Seminary, in ancient Amadia, are not diminished by accounts received of a conference of "Mountain helpers," held in Gawar, from May 30th to June 2d, 1862. They came from Gawar, Jeloo, Tehoma and Amadia. At the opening of each session, half an hour was spent in prayer; then carefully prepared essays were read on subjects previously assigned, and each topic was afterwards thoroughly discussed. The first subject was, "Hinderances to evangelization in the mountains,—such as their ruggedness, deep snows, superstition of the people, and persecution." Deacon Tamo, in speaking, admitted all these, but said, "For rough roads we have our feet and goats' hair sandals; for deep snows, snow shoes; for the darkness and superstition of the people, we have the light of the truth and the sword of the Spirit; and for persecution, we have God's promise of protection and the firman of the sultan." "The faithful pastor's duty to his flock," and "Means of securing laborers for the field," were among the topics discussed. Their discussions on the subject of benevolence showed that they regarded that duty as binding as any other. They engaged to observe the monthly concert, and take up monthly and also annual collections in their congregations, and apply the proceeds to the support of a laborer in the mountains. On Sabbath evening the monthly concert was observed, and after stirring addresses, the contribution amounted to what was for them the very large sum of fifty-two dollars. Among the offerings were a horse, an ox, a sheep, a goat, and different articles of jewelry. Arrangements were made at the conference for the formation of a Protestant community in Gawar, in accordance with the firman of the sultan. In all respects the meeting was a rich spiritual festival, and from the spirit its members manifested, and the progress already made, we may hope for extensive and important results before many years have passed away.
EXAMINATION IN 1850.—COLLATION AND ADDRESS.—VALEDICTORY BY SANUM. —SABBATH SCHOOL IN GEOG TAPA.—EXAMINATION THERE IN 1854.—PRAYER MEETING AND COMMUNION AT OROOMIAH, MAY, 1858.—SELBY, OF GAVALAN, AND LETTER.—LETTER FROM HATOON, OF GEOG TAPA.
There are occasions, interesting in themselves, that also serve to mark the progress which they promote. Such an occasion was the examination of the Seminary, June 6th, 1850. There have been examinations since, but none so marked in their influence for good; none where the teachers felt so much like calling the name of it "Ebenezer," and saying, "Hitherto hath the Lord helped us."
The pupils had improved, during the last weeks of the term, more than they had ever done in twice the same length of time, both spiritually and mentally. At the close of the term, their parents and friends, with some of the leading Nestorians, were invited to the examination. More than one hundred and sixty spectators, besides the pupils, were crowded into the large recitation room. This had been adorned with a profusion of roses, from the vineyard of Mar Yohanan, arranged in wreaths and bouquets, with festoons of sycamore leaves, and other devices. The people were delighted,—for, like other Persians, they are great admirers of flowers,—and many, on entering, involuntarily exclaimed, "Paradise! Paradise!" In their various studies, the attainments of the pupils would have reflected honor on a seminary in our own land; but their knowledge of Scripture exceeded all besides. Even on the details of the Tabernacle they rarely faltered; and their compositions showed an intimate acquaintance with Bible facts and doctrines.
Dr. Perkins delivered an address, comparing the early days of the mission with that scene, and felicitously answering various objections that had been raised against female education; and, at the close, diplomas were given to three of the oldest pupils.
The exercises were pleasantly diversified by a plentiful collation under the arbor in the court behind the Seminary, where lambs roasted whole, in the native style, lettuce, cherries, pilav (a preparation of rice), and some cake, prepared by the pupils, were duly discussed. Many of the women had never before sat at the same table with men, and it was amusing to witness their awkward embarrassment. Some snatched the food from the table by stealth, and ate it behind their large veils, as though it were a thing forbidden.
Hormezd, the Miner of John, now aged and blind, who had been led all the way from Geog Tapa, said, towards the close of the afternoon, "I wish Joshua were here."
"And what do you, want of Joshua?"
"I want him to command the sun and moon to stand still, for the day is altogether too short." As the company dispersed, several old men took Miss Fiske and Miss Rice by the hand, saying, with moistened eyes, "Will you forgive us that we have done no more for your school?" But the best of all was, some sixty adult women, from different villages, begging for spelling books, that they might commence learning to read. Thirty of them did not rest till they could read their Bibles. The cause of female education never lost the impulse that it received that day.
Instead of the valedictory composed for this anniversary, is here subjoined the greater part of the one prepared by Sanum, for a like occasion, because it takes a wider range, and is richer in its historical allusions:—
"Now that another year is closed, and we are ready to leave each other in peace, it is fitting to review the past, that together we may praise the sweet Keeper of Israel for the blessings he has poured upon our heads. We fear to try to recount them all, lest we tempt the Lord; so we will speak of but a few.
"Let us renew the wings of our loving thoughts, send them to the years that are past, and see where rests the dust of some of the dear teachers of this school. Listen! There comes a voice, 'They are not to be found among the living.' Yes, the place of one is empty here, and of another there. Then, where are they? Thou, O country art a witness that they have pressed thy soil; and you, ye blessed winds, answer us, 'They have gone!' and ye green leaves of time are true witnesses that they lie among the numbered dead. But where shall we find them? They lie far apart. We must visit one that first laid her hand on some of us to bless us (Mrs. Grant); and though we remember her not, she often embraced us in the arms of love, and carried us before a throne of grace. She was one of the first that left all her friends, and ploughed the mighty waves of ocean, that she might come to Oroomiah's dark border. Though fierce tempests raged, and heavy waves raised themselves above the ship, her prayers, mingled with love for us, ascended higher still, and overcame all. At the foot of Mount Ararat she doubtless remembered the bow of promise; and her consolations were renewed, when she thought of it as a prophecy, that a company of the fallen daughters of Chaldea should become heirs of glory. She so labored, that her influence is widening from generation to generation.
"The Lord is rewarding her even to the third and fourth generation. But though she engaged in her work with such holy zeal, her journey was short. Some of us had not seen our eighth summer when those lips, on which were written wisdom, were still; and that tongue, on which dwelt the law of kindness, was silent in death. Now she rests in our churchyard. She sleeps with our dead, and her dust is mingled with the dust of our fathers, till that day when she shall rise to glory, and a company of ransomed Nestorians with her.
"But where is that other dear friend of our school [Dr. Grant], who was the beautiful staff of her support? He encouraged her to labor for us while many of us were yet unborn. His heart was large enough to love every son and daughter of our people. He sowed with many tears, and gave himself for the Nestorians. Shall we not believe that the fruits of his labors have sprung up among us? Then, where is he? Let us go silently, silently, and ask that ancient city, Nineveh. It will direct us, 'Lo, he rests on the banks of the noble Tigris.' Would that our whisper might reach the ear of the wild Arab and cruel Turk, that they walk gently by that stranger grave, and tread not on its dust. Then, shall we think no more of it? No; with a firm hope we expect that those mountains, on which his beautiful feet rested, shall answer his name in echoes, one to the other; and the persons who saw his faithful example there shall mingle in the flock of his Saviour.
"But the journey of our thoughts is not finished. We must leave in peace this blessed grave, and go search for one with whom we were well acquainted [Mrs. Stoddard], and whose gentle, loving example is so graven on the tablet of memory, that it cannot be erased. Can we forget her prayers with some of us the week she left us? or how, when she took our hand for the last time, she said, 'The blessing of the Lord rest upon you'? We did not then expect that our eyes would no more rest on that lovely face, and our ears no more hear that sweet voice in our dwellings. When we heard of her departure to a world of light, it was hard to believe that she had gone and left us behind. Lo, on the shores of the Black Sea she has laid her down to rest. O ye angry waves, be still, and ye winds of God, fan gently that sacred spot. All our people are indebted to thee, thou blessed one. Thou, who didst first teach us to sing the songs of Zion, now removed from sin and sorrow, thou art singing with the myriads of the just. We would not call thee back, but rather praise the Lord that you and those other dear friends are entered into rest. No, ye are not lost, ye spirits made holy; but as it was necessary that some should come from a distant land to labor here, so ye were necessary to do a greater work in heaven. We believe that ye are doing there more than ye could have done here; yea, that ye form a part of that great cloud of witnesses that encompass us to-day. It is delightful to us to think that ye blessed ones guard us. It is a comfort to our teachers to think that you, who laid these foundations, are still round about us. Beloved ones, we would not call you back. Cling closely, and more closely, to your Saviour, till we, too, through free grace, shall share in your glory.
"And now, beloved friends, who with them flew on the wings of the gospel across the ocean to tell us of salvation, we rejoice to-day that the sharp arrows of death have not touched you. Ye have been more than fathers and mothers to us. Our hearts are full of love to every one of you, O blessed band! but we cannot express it, except with a heavenly tongue. When darkness reigned in the breast of every son of the Chaldeans, and no whisper of salvation had fallen on the ear of their daughters, you opened the beauties of the priceless pearl before our eyes, that it should enlighten us with heavenly brightness. We cannot make known all that you have done for us. Let it remain till that day of light when the Lord shall commend you before his chosen. When we look at our dear teachers, our hearts warm to you with no common love, because you led them to leave the sweet place of their nativity for our sakes. You have been parents to them, wiping away their tears with the soft hand of a mother, and sharing their trials with a father's heart. While you have helped them in every department of their school, the blessing has all been ours.
"If on the wings of an eagle we should fly to the extreme north, we should find no such school as this, crowned with blessings, but should see our sisters groaning in bitterness, saying, 'Not one ray from the divine sun rises on us in our misery.' If we turn to the south, there we see the daughters of Arabia lamenting, 'In all this desert, not one oasis yields the waters of life to quench our burning thirst.' Eternity alone will suffice to praise Him who sent you, the only heralds of his grace, to us sinners.
"But our southern journey is not finished. From one end of Africa to the other our sisters lie wrapped in the shadows of death; and if we turn to the east, all the way to China, the daughters cry, 'Wretched is our unhappy lot: no cloud of mercy, such as surrounds you, lights up the place of our abode. So on the west, as far as Constantinople, our companions in suffering have no school to sound in their ears the blessed name of Jesus.
"What are we, that the Lord should choose us from the midst of such darkness, and send you to us with the message of life? Let all nations, with wondering lips, praise the Almighty for his grace to us, so worthless.
"Now that we go from you, we leave with you this our handiwork as a token of gratitude. [A specimen of needlework now among the curiosities at the Missionary House in Boston.] Receive it, though a trifle. The figures on it show what you have taught us in our pleasant school. As we have first of all been taught to sit at the foot of the cross, and neither hope nor glory in anything else, we have made that the foundation. Under the cross you have watered us with the showers of divine instruction and prayers, that, like this vine, we might entwine about it and bear pleasant fruit. From this cross we learned, while yet in the bloom of life, like newly-opened flowers, to join together in sweet friendship. Above this we have placed a circle around the Holy Bible, that bright lamp of the Lord, that will enlighten us like the sun if we follow its leading—that well of living waters, which will cause us to flourish like the palm tree. Thus will our leaf be ever green, and our fruit sweet till the day when the mystery of love shall be revealed, and we dwell in the mansions of the blest. There, joining with all the singers in heavenly places, we shall receive harps and sing glory to our heavenly King, who saved us from everlasting woe. There we shall inherit crowns of gold, and, with myriads of the saints, cast them down before the Lamb. If but one of us reach that place, will you deem your labor in vain? God, who rewards even the gift of a cup of cold water, will never forget what you have done to the least of his people, and if the least are on the earth, we are they. Now that you send us forth into the world, remember us, we beg you, whenever you bring your sacrifice before the Lord.
"Dear teachers, your acts of kindness have been more than the hairs of our heads; we cannot recount them. We can only ask Him, who alone is rich, to reward you from his good treasures, for none but He can meet our obligations to you. Each thought that reverts to the past demands a tear of gratitude. O blessed seasons, when God sent down his Holy Spirit, that through your labors these walls of Jerusalem, so long broken down, might be again rebuilt. It is sweet to think that in the hand of Christ, you have been the means of the salvation of our souls, which are to live forever. We believe that your prayers and tears are in the golden censer before the throne. Now that we go out from under your wings of love, which cannot reach to all your scattered flock, we entreat you to ask the Good Shepherd to lead us in green pastures and beside the still waters, and keep us under his wings of mercy in our weakness.
[Her address to the native teachers, bishops, &c., is omitted.]
"Dear parents, we rejoice exceedingly to see you here, looking on us with eyes of love. No words can express what you have done for us, especially in sending us here to learn of Jesus. We trust that it has been, or shall be, a blessing to you also. It is our hope that you will be willing to send your daughters to distant places, to make known eternal life. If you do, great will be your reward from the Lord.
"And now, sweet sisters, another year have we sat under our own vine and fig tree unmolested. We have tasted the honey and milk of the blessed land, and drank of the waters from the Rock. But now the time has come to leave these bowers of knowledge, but not the lessons here learned, nor the counsels of our teachers, nor the sweet whispers of the Holy Spirit.
"Dear sisters, let us bear forth with us the light-giving countenance of the Saviour, which will scatter all the evil around us as the light dispels the darkness: without this we cannot go. Though separated in body, let us be united in fervent prayer. Let a conscience made sensitive by grace be our abiding companion. Let the tent of Abraham teach us that we have no abiding city here; and like him, let our first work be to offer those prayers to God which shall testify that he is ours. And now, before going forth, let us clothe ourselves with the meekness and gentleness of Christ. Yea, let us take with us all his virtues, being obedient, teaching our dying associates, and leading them one and all to Christ. Though we part, our love can never be sundered, and we will ask the Lord to send his ministering spirits to strengthen our faltering steps, and feed our souls with heavenly manna, so that if we never more see each other here, we may meet in heaven with our sisters who have gone before."
The teachers improved the interest awakened by the examination in 1850, to urge their older pupils to labor in the village Sabbath schools; and let us look in on their efforts in Geog Tapa. The children there were divided into ten classes, each with one of the pupils for a teacher. Others taught the women who could not read. Soon these were joined by both old and young men, who were taught by pupils from the Seminary at Seir, and as many as forty spelling books were in active use. The children, too, were taught to sing. Thus they labored till winter, when the school was put in charge of the village school teachers. In the spring the pupils resumed the work with undiminished zeal. Nor did they toil in vain, for the attendance increased from about seventy to four hundred; and some of the teachers testified that they spent there some of the most delightful Sabbaths they ever knew. Yonan, who superintended the school with Moses, had also a class of old women, that increased from six to thirty-seven, whom he taught from the book, well known to our Sabbath school children, "Line upon Line." His own account of it is very interesting. He says," The women, especially the aged among them, have a habit, when they meet, of engaging in unprofitable conversation, and, both on the way to church and in it, we could not stop it. Awakening sermons produced no impression; and though they had heard preaching for fifteen years, they were still very ignorant. But now what I teach them on one Sabbath I require them to repeat the next; and so they are obliged to leave off their gossip, and talk over what they have heard, that they may not forget it. These women are so anxious to be taught, that if I am hindered a little longer than usual in arranging the classes, they cry out after me in the church, that all the other classes are being taught, but they forsaken."
A class of old men, taught by Deacon John, commenced with an attendance of ten, but soon numbered forty. Formerly they went to market on the Sabbath, or sat sunning themselves in the street, going to hear preaching about half the time; but they became so interested in the exercises, that they were unwilling they should close. They brought others with them, and if one of them was kept away one Sabbath, he mourned that the rest had got so far before him.
The women carried their books with them when they went out to the vineyards, and at resting time: while others slept, they read. Some, who could not afford oil at night, read by moonlight, and when they spun, they fastened the book open on a shelf, so that they could read at the same time. Once, when a woman was asked if she could repeat her lesson, she replied, "O, yes; I repeated it over just now while I was milking." The men also took their books out to the fields, that they might improve every spare moment, and one was so earnest that, when waked in the night to attend to the cattle, he read till morning; but his family, finding that he burned so much oil, took care after that to let him sleep. Good old Mar Elias rejoiced to see such a work among his flock; and it was most pleasant to see the large church so crowded by people, seated on the floor, that one could hardly walk about among them.
After the teachers had attended to their classes about an hour and a half, the younger scholars repeated the portion of Scripture they had learned during the week, and the parents were much pleased to hear their children recite.
The daily report of the Seminary was introduced into the Sabbath school in a way that only Orientals could do it. The older members of the school were required to report any cases of swearing, stealing, or quarrelling among the younger ones during the week, who were publicly reproved on the following Sabbath. This made the parents more careful to watch over their children, and the children more circumspect in their daily behavior. If any little trouble occurred among them during the week, they said to each other, "Let us be careful; Sabbath is near;" and though at first some of the people smiled when the children were reproved, it soon became more common for them to weep.
After taking an account of the attendance, the children sung, divided into two companies, on opposite sides of the church; and then Mar Ellas, or some of the elders of the village, addressed the school. Yonan closes his account of it by saying, "We have learned in this work more than ever before the value of female education. Among our most energetic, faithful teachers are young women who love to sit down before little children, and the ignorant of their own sex, and teach them the way of life."
Thursday, June 1st, 1854, was a great day in Geog Tapa. The forenoon was devoted to the examination of a girls' school, taught by Hanee and Nargis, graduates of the preceding year, and both belonging in the village. As it was a feast day, a large number were present from the neighboring hamlets. At nine o'clock the examination commenced in the spacious church, which was crowded, the congregation numbering about six hundred in all. The fifty pupils occupied the middle of the church. The studies pursued were ancient and modern Syriac, geography, arithmetic, both Scripture and secular history, reading and spelling; and in all of them the pupils did credit both to themselves and their teachers. The singing, that day, especially pleased the parents, many of whom exclaimed with wonder, "Our daughters can learn as well as our sons." Miss Fiske rejoiced to see her children's children in the pupils of her first pupil, who gracefully managed her little flock with an easy control. The villages of Gavalan, Vizierawa, and Ardishai, had each a similar school, containing in all one hundred pupils; and each of these schools was as valued a centre of religious influence as of intellectual training. The teachers were in the habit of praying with one of their pupils alone every day, as well as of opening the school with prayer; and Friday afternoon was regularly devoted to a religious meeting with the mothers of the pupils. These schools fitted the teachers for usefulness, and the pupils for admission to the Seminary, as well as for teachers in the Sabbath school; and they furnish a delightful view of the present and prospective usefulness of the Seminary among the people.
Noon came, and the large assembly scattered, to enjoy the hospitality of the village. For the people opened their houses for those in attendance, just as they do with us at the annual meetings of the American Board. Geog Tapa could also boast of its committee of arrangements, in humble imitation of greater things.
After a recess of an hour and a half, the people reassembled for the examination of the Sabbath school, in a grove behind the church, as that building could not contain the multitude which now numbered more than a thousand. First came a class of men, from twenty to seventy years of age, headed by Malik Aga Bey, the village chief. They had been taught orally by Deacon John, and answered questions in Old Testament history very readily. Then followed a class of women, fifty or sixty in number, most of them over forty years of age. These had been taught by Yonan, and were quite familiar with the Old Testament, from the creation to the reign of David. One old blind woman wanted to point out the stopping places of Israel in the desert, on the map which hung on one of the tall trees: she had learned their names by heart, and was familiar with their location by touch.
Next came a class of twenty men, who had recently learned to read; for which they had each received a copy of the New Testament. A class of women then followed, numbering twenty-three, who had also been taught to read by the boys and girls in the village schools. Mr. Stoddard called for the teacher of each woman to step forward; and a copy of the Old Testament was presented to every one of them, as they stood in a row in front of their pupils. There was one woman who stood without a teacher. Mr. Stoddard called for hers also, and some one whispered to him that she had been taught by her husband. Mr. Stoddard thereupon led him out, and, placing his hand on his head, said, before the whole assembly, "All honor to the man who has taught his wife to read!" and presented him also with a Bible.
One who was frequently present often wept to see Women giving a morsel to their infants to quiet them, that they might devote the longer time to their lessons; some of them so intent on the work of learning, that their faces were bathed in perspiration. She used to fill her pocket and reticule with cakes for the little ones, so that their mothers might be more free from interruption. The exercises of that day gave a great impulse to the cause of education in Geog Tapa. As many as seventy adults were soon poring over their spelling books; and the next summer one half of the adult women were either readers or engaged in the same employment; though previous to the examination of the Seminary in 1850, not one in thirty could read, or cared to learn.
Having given an account of these two interesting occasions, let us now look in on another equally interesting, though of a different kind, that took place in Oroomiah, three years later. During the interval, Mr. Stoddard had entered into rest; and his bereaved widow, Dr. Perkins and family, and Miss Fiske, were about to sit down together, perhaps for the last time, with the Nestorian converts, at the table of the Lord.
It was in May, and the day one of the finest of those charming May days in Oroomiah. The most of the Nestorians who had been admitted to the communion were present; and in distributing the guests among the mission families, it was understood that all who had been connected with the Seminary should go there. The object of this was, to gather all the scattered members of the family together once more in the place where prayer had been wont to be made, before they went to the Lord's table. As yet, no one knew that their teacher was about to leave them; for she did not wish any thing else to turn away their thoughts from Jesus. When they had assembled in the school room, she could not say much, but besought the Lord Jesus to be the Master of the assembly. After singing a hymn, the words "looking unto Jesus" were given as the key-note of the meeting. He came and whispered peace, and all felt that they sat together in heavenly places. The eyes of their hearts were opened, so that they realized the fulfilment of the promise, "There am I in the midst of you."
They were invited to speak freely of their joys and sorrows, in order that together they might carry them to Jesus. The first to speak was Hanee, one of the two whom Mar Yohanan brought to Miss Fiske at the commencement of the school. She had, not long before, buried her only child; and holding her hands as though the little one still rested on her arms, she said, "Sisters, at the last communion you saw me here with my babe in these arms. It is not here now. I have laid it into the arms of Jesus, and come to-day to tell you there is a sweet as well as a bitter in affliction. When the rod is appointed to us, let us not only kiss it, but press it to our lips. When I stood by that little open grave, I said, 'All the time I have given to my babe, I will give to souls.' I try to do so. Pray for me." She told but the simple truth; for after the death of her child, she used to bring the women into the room where it died, and there talk and pray with them. Since then, she has received another little one, and in the same spirit given it back to Christ. When she ceased, the whole company were in tears. The leader could only ask, "Who will pray?" and Sanum, whose children had died by poison, and who could enter into the feelings of the bereaved mother, knelt down and prayed as very few could pray for mothers left desolate, and for those who still folded their little ones in their arms. There was perfect silence while she pleaded for them, save as the sweet voice of her own babe sometimes added to the tenderness of her petitions. A child in heaven! what a treasure! and what a blessing, if it draw the heart thither also! [Footnote 1: See page 51.]
There was a little pause after the prayer; and, to the surprise of all, the voice of Nazloo was heard in another part of the room; for they had supposed her near, if not already entering, the river of death. "Sisters," said she, "since seeing you, I have stood with one foot in the grave; and may I tell you that it is a very different thing to be a Christian then, from what it is in this pleasant school room. Let me ask you if you are sure that you are on the Rock Christ Jesus." A tender prayer followed, the burden of which was, "Search us, O Lord, and try us, and see if there be any wicked way in us, and lead us in the way everlasting."
The next to speak was one of the early pupils, who had come many miles that day to be present. She said, "I could think but one thought all the way as I came, and that was, 'Freely ye have received, freely give.' We have certainly received freely: have we given any thing? Can we not do something for souls? I fear the Lord Jesus is not pleased with us."
They were then asked if they were ready to engage in direct labors for souls, to search them out, and by conversation and prayer seek to lead them to Christ. Many pledged themselves to the work, and engaged to bring the names of those for whom, they had labored to the next communion, that all together might intercede in their behalf to God. Before that time arrived, Miss Fiske left for America; but the first letter she opened, out of a large parcel that awaited her in Boston, was one containing the names of those with whom her pupils had labored and prayed in distant Persia. Is it strange that, as the slips of paper fell at her feet, her heart was moved?
But we cannot dwell longer on the prayer meeting. As many as twelve said a few words, and more than that number led in prayer, during the two hours they were together: from thence all repaired to the dining room,—the three upper windows on the right of the engraving belong to this,—where they did "eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart." Then it was announced that arrangements had been made for class prayer meetings. It seemed to be just the thing that all longed for, though none had spoken of it; and at once each class went along the familiar passages to the room assigned it, and the voice of prayer arose from nearly every apartment in the building. The chapel bell rung, but it was unnoticed; and each little company had to be separately summoned to church. There, according to previous arrangement, Miss Fiske led each to a seat, that the communicants might be together, and then herself sat down behind them all. A glance revealed ninety-three sisters in Christ before her; and as the services had not yet commenced, her thoughts went back to the day when, asking concerning many of them, "Is this one a Christian?" "or that one?" "or that other?" the answer came, "You have no sister in Christ among them all!" No wonder she now inwardly exclaimed, "What hath God wrought? The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad." There was but one among the ninety-three with whom she had not bowed the knee in prayer, and that same evening, as she was devising methods to get her away from the rest to her room alone, the Lord sent her, unexpectedly, to the door; and with her also she enjoyed the privilege of personal religious intercourse and prayer.
At the communion, when all stood up to enter into covenant with thirty-nine new converts, six of them pupils of the Seminary, there seemed a deeper meaning than ever before in engaging to be the Lord's forever.
In Hanee we have seen the grace bestowed on one of the two whom Mar Yohanan brought to form the nucleus of the school. The other was Selby, of Gavalan, his own niece. She became hopefully pious in 1846, when hardly ten years of age. There were very few in whom her teachers took such uniform delight, though they felt some anxiety when she married Priest Kamo, of Marbeeshoo, a cousin of Mar Shirnon—intelligent and influential, but unconverted. Yet she had strong faith that he would become a Christian, and soon gained a wonderful influence over him, without compromising in the least her own religious principles. She became his teacher in the Bible,—it was a new book to him,—and in her he saw the Christian life it described beautifully exemplified. She had just begun to hope that her prayers were answered in his conversion. He was much interested in aiding the evangelists in the mountains, and the mission was hoping great things from him, under the good influence of Selby, when he died. Her feelings, under this affliction, are thus described by her own pen, in a letter to her teacher, dated Marbeeshoo, June 4th, 1859:—
"It is not because I have forgotten you that I have not written you until now. How can I forget you? And were that possible, I could not forget your instructions. I remember them at all times, by day and by night. They comfort me in sorrow, and strengthen me in anguish. You have taught me the duties of this life, and you have pointed me to the world to come. I remember when you used to take me by the hand, and lead me into your closet, and there pray with me; and my heart fills with mingled joy and sorrow—with joy, that such precious seasons were given me; with sorrow, that they will be mine no more. Shall I never see your face again—that face, which bore to us more than a mother's love? You were a perfect mother, because in Christ.
"I grieve very much that I did not see you before you left; but I believe that the seed you have sown will continue to spring up to the end of the world. You asked me, in your letter, to tell you about my work. I have a greater work than any of my companions, but it is in a place covered with thick darkness, like that of Egypt. The people are stiff-necked, wise to do evil, but of God they have no knowledge. Temptations surround me as mountains; they rise up about me like the waves of the sea. While Kamo lived, I was comforted, for he loved the truth. Every day he used to read the Scriptures with me, and ask the meaning of each verse. I had hoped he would have Paul's zeal in the work of the Lord. I had expected that we should have schools in our village after a year or two, and that the places of concourse for idle conversation would become places for reading the Scriptures, and for prayer. But it has pleased the Lord to give me a great and heavy affliction. He has smitten me with his own rod, making this world a vale of tears. But it is the Lord; let him do what he pleaseth. It is all for my profit.
"I want to ask you and your friends to pray for me, that I may endure to the end."
The feelings of the pupils, after the departure of Miss Fiske, are graphically expressed in the following letter from Hatoon, of Geog Tapa:—
"My heart longs to tell you of the change in our dear school. Our return, after vacation, was much like that of the Jews from Babylon, when they found their city laid waste, and their temple in ruins. Every time they looked on the spot where it had stood, their hearts were crushed. So when we did not see you, and went not to take your hand and be kissed by you,—when we saw not your ready feet coming to the door, to bring in each one and make her happy,—our hearts were broken, and we could not restrain our tears; especially when I remembered the times that the daughters of the church used to meet in your room to mingle our prayers, our tears, and our joys together. These recollections leave an aching void which cannot be filled. It seems to me that the ways of your room mourn, because you come not to the solemn feasts. If Jeremiah were here, I think he would say, 'How doth Miss Fiske's room sit solitary that was full of people! How do the daughters of the Oroomiah schools mourn, and their eyes run down with water, because Miss Fiske is far from them?' These changes show us that this world is as down driven by the wind. Perhaps you will reply, in your cheerful way, 'Do you feel so? There is much that is pleasant in the world.' I know it; but our school was always such a pleasant place to me. I was so happy in it and its heavenly employments, that not even the death of friends could destroy that joy. But now I seem overshadowed by dark clouds, and sinking in deep mire. Yet I will try, in all this, to bow my will to the holy will of Him who doeth all things well."
THE FIELD OF CLOVES.—THE LOST SOUL.—THE SAVED SOUL.—HANNAH.
It was very important that the pupils should be able to express their own thoughts, readily and correctly, with the pen, and unwearied effort was devoted to this end; but for a long time they seemed incapable of clothing an idea in words. The simplest sentence was copied over and over without the change of a single word; and even when it was expressed for them in other language, they only repeated over that variation of the first. Three years were spent in trying to teach them to write their own thoughts, with very little success; but in 1846, the Spirit of God secured the result that man had sought in vain. After that, both their ideas and their language were very beautiful. Nothing pleased them better than to be allowed to write; and it was matter of grateful remark that those compositions which were penned during a revival were always the best.
This was especially true in the awakening of 1850, which was noted for the prevalence of a spirit of meditation and holy communion with God. The pupils at that time came forth from private intercourse with their Saviour, to pen some of the sweetest writings in the Syriac language.
One day that winter, both the teachers wished to attend an examination at Seir, and asked them if they would be diligent during their absence. "O, yes," was the reply, "if you will only let us write composition." The following was found on the slate of Nazloo, when they returned:—
"THE CLOVER FIELD.
"We walk out in the country, and the road leads us by a lovely field of clover. We see it in all its modest beauty. There are the green leaves, so regular in their form and outline; the beautiful flowers, so wonderful in their structure; and the sweet fragrance, that regales our senses as we pass. All these are there, but we see not whence they come. No showers descend to make it grow; the earth is parched on all sides. Do you inquire for the source of all this loveliness? A tiny rill of water flows gently underneath. No eye sees it. You cannot hear its quiet advance, for it does not murmur as it wears itself out in its work of love. Noiseless it hies to each little rootlet. It conveys nourishment to every leaf; not one is overlooked or forgotten. That unseen rill causes these fair blossoms to spring forth. It distils these odors for the enjoyment of all that pass this way. What that streamlet is to the field, prayer is to the Christian. We see it not; it is all hid from human eye; but O, the rich fruit that it yields every day in the soul thus made partaker of the life of Christ! That also makes the wilderness to rejoice and blossom as the rose."
At the annual examination in 1850, Sanum read her composition, a translation of which is here inserted:—
"THE LOST SOUL.
"I have dreamed a dream, dear friends—may I relate it?
"In my dream I was wandering about, seeking for earthly pleasures, though my life was crowned with blessings more plentiful than the dew of the morning. My father and mother did every thing they could to bring me to Christ. Their labors for me were enough to make me weep my last tear, but my hard heart remained unmoved. Four times did the Holy Spirit strive with me, and as often I grieved him away. I broke every promise that I made to serve the Lord.
"There came a beautiful day in spring. The sun lighted up every thing with gladness. The fields were dressed in green. The trees were in blossom. Loved by my friends, surrounded by every thing to make me happy, and rejoicing that so much enjoyment was still in store for me, I was saying to my soul, 'Take thine ease,' when suddenly a voice cried, 'This night thy soul shall be required of thee; then whose shall be all these?' Another voice added, 'These four years heaven and earth have pleaded with you to bring forth fruit to God, but you have refused. Your heart has said "I will fix my seat above the stars of heaven." Now you must go down to the abyss.' Like arrows these words pierced my heart; my strength departed, and others bore me to my home. There my parents were speechless with sorrow. The bed of down was made ready, but it afforded me no rest. I seemed to lie on thorns. Then I appeared to faint, though still able to hear their conversation. Sobbing aloud, they said, 'Sweet child, if you were only a Christian, gladly would we go with you to the gates of heaven, hoping soon to meet again; but this is more than we can bear. Alas, that one borne in the arms of our love, with whom and for whom we have prayed, must now say that our God is not her God, nor our Saviour hers! Is there no ray of light for her in the darkness? Can we never again point her to Jesus?' As I listened in anguish, I cried aloud, 'Is there no hope for me?' They replied, 'We will implore mercy for you again and again, and possibly the physician may help you. Here he is.' As he came in the recollection of his past faithful warnings made me weep aloud. He said, 'Why weep? Do you not wish to see me?' 'Dear friend, it is not that; but the sight of you recalls your entreaties to come to Christ, and my neglect of them. If you can only give me one hour of quiet, I will try to come now.' He saw that the hand of death was on me, and replied, 'What you do you must do quickly.' 'What can I do in such distress?' 'Can you not cry, "Lord, remember me," like the dying malefactor?' 'Those words comforted me once, but now I cannot use them.' 'Can you not pray?' 'No. Once I would not hear God, and now he will not hear me. O father, mother, friends, pray for me. Send for my teacher to pray for me. Ask every servant of God to entreat for me while yet I live.' The request went forth. The weeping physician offered supplication at my side. My father and mother seemed to pour forth their last breath in intercession for me. As I turned, I saw my teachers, and conscience arrayed before me every word they had ever spoken to me of Christ and heaven. All my own actions were likewise spread out before my eyes. Then the whirlwind of my sins swept me away like a tiny leaf, to sink in a sea of anguish. My teacher now cried, 'We had hoped to see our dear pupil passing over to the new Jerusalem; but, instead of that, must she dwell among the lost?' A gentle voice then whispered, 'Go to Jesus; he will not cast you out.' 'To Jesus! nay, for knowingly my hands have pierced him. Willingly these feet have trampled on his precious blood. I have compelled his spirit to forsake me, and must perish.'
"Then I saw those whom I had led into sin and encouraged in unbelief, and said to them, 'Can you forgive me?' But a voice from heaven replied, 'You cannot be forgiven; for the name of Jesus you have set at nought, and there is none other.' Then my teacher pressed my hand; she could not speak. I said, 'You have ever shown great love; can you not help me now?' 'Dear child, have I not told you that though I love you, yet I have no power to help in this hour or hereafter.' 'O, dreadful thought! Must I leave you all, forever? parents, teachers, all! Can you do nothing for me?' 'We can only point you to Jesus.' 'I have no part in him. I am a Demas; and with such agony now, what will be the wrath to come?' I begged all present not to live as I had lived. 'Seize the moments that fly swifter than the lightning. There is no place for repentance now: my retribution begins. Forget not these words of your lost sister.' I turned to my mother: 'There is no love like a mother's; can that do nothing for me now?' What could she do? 'Can no one help me? Father, father, I am going; can you do nothing?'
"Now the light forsook my eyes. O for a few moments more! But even this was denied me; for, as I remembered, 'Cursed is the man that trusteth in man, and whose heart departeth from the living God.'
"I now heard a voice as of a rushing, mighty wind. Trembling seized me, as I discerned four fiends of darkness. I uttered a piercing shriek, and died. Then I found myself suspended between heaven and earth. Behind me, the world I loved so well had gone forever. Before me I saw the Ancient of Days seated on his throne, his raiment white as snow, his eyes as a flame of fire, his feet like brass glowing in the furnace, and a stream of fire issued from before him; thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. Brightness radiated from him on all sides. He fixed his eyes on me, glowing with holy indignation, while a two-edged sword proceeded out of his mouth. My sins arose before me. Conscience condemned me. I could not look up. The pains of hell gat hold upon me. In a voice unlike all I ever heard before, he said, 'Slayer of my Son, despiser of my grace, what hast thou done? Thou hast set at nought all my counsels.' I longed to flee; but above me stood the Judge, below, the abyss. I could give no reply. Again he said, 'My covenant thou hast trodden under foot;' and he commanded his servants, 'Bind her hand and foot, and cast her into outer darkness, where is weeping and gnashing of teeth. There let her remain till that great day, when all mine enemies shall be trodden in the wine-press of my wrath.'
"Then a voice from out of the throne said, 'Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great;' and all cried, like the voice of many waters, 'Amen. Allelujah.' Heaven responded from all sides, 'Just and true are thy judgments, thou King of saints.' Then Satan and his angels clapped their hands; and mocking my misery, they thrust me into the inner prison.
"I now found myself associated with Cain, Judas, Jeroboam, and Jezebel. I understood what Christ meant when he said, 'Bind the tares in bundles to burn them,' for I was enclosed by them on all sides, and the flames from them kindled on me. Then a voice said, 'Judas sold his Lord once, but thou many times. Cain slew one brother; thou hast brought many to this place of torment.' Then all, especially those whom I had led there, cursed me. Fallen spirits gloried over me. The evil passions of all the lost were let loose on me. My own wicked feelings were kindled into a flame by the divine wrath. Now I understood that scripture, 'They have no rest day nor night.' My ears, that had taken pleasure in evil conversation, were filled with revilings. My tongue, which had set on fire the course of nature, now itself set on fire of hell, I gnawed for pain. I looked up to beg a drop of water; but instead of it came the word, 'Daughter, remember.' As I looked up, I got a glimpse of one of my companions in Abraham's bosom. Once we were together pointed to Jesus. Now the impassable gulf was between us. Hope now fled forever, and that word, 'Remember,' brought every moment of my life before me in characters of flaming fire. Gladly would I have exchanged this agony for the pangs of death endured a thousand times over, or for all the sufferings of earth till the final conflagration. I cursed my soul, weeping without a tear. Why were my associates, once, like me, children of wrath, now in heaven, while I was shut out? Ah, they listened to Jesus, while I rejected him, and to enjoy a momentary pleasure plunged into all this anguish. I had loved those who now tormented me, and cast aside the loving Saviour. No ray of mercy can ever reach me more. No friend will ever love me again. In my madness I sought to flee; but wrath held me rooted to the spot. Cloud on cloud rose above me, each inscribed, 'Eternity!' A voice cried aloud, 'Forever!' and another replied, 'Forever and ever!' The waves of fire now rolled over me, and the worm that dieth not seized hold of me. I begged for even the smallest mitigation of misery, and the vials of wrath were poured out upon me. In my anguish I cried, 'Roll on, ye eternal ages!' But why? They will be no nearer through. 'O Lord, how long?' With an earthquake, that seemed to shake the very throne, came back the reply, 'Forever! Forever!' I sank down in unutterable agony. Then I awoke, and lo, it was all a dream. The darkness of night was yet around me; a cold sweat covered me; and that word, 'Forever!' still rang in my ears. Friends, this was a dream, and only a drop in the ocean, compared with the terrible reality. Let us pray that we may be saved from it through Jesus Christ our Lord."
The large audience listened to these vivid delineations, part of the time, in breathless silence; and again the women beat on their breasts with half-suppressed cries for mercy. The reader, as well as they, will find relief from the companion picture by Moressa. Sanum's was an original conception of her own. The theme of this last was suggested by Miss Fiske, as a fitting counterpart to the preceding, but the treatment of it was left wholly with the writer.
"THE SAVED SOUL.
"While meditating on death, I fell into a sweet sleep, and dreamed a dream which rejoiced my spirit. I cannot refrain from relating it to you, dear Christian friends, who are looking forward to the glory that shall be revealed. I dreamed that my heavenly Father said to me, 'Dear child, heir of my kingdom, you have long enough borne the troubles of this vale of tears; now you shall be freed from them, and come to your heavenly home, to worship me in holiness.' As I listened, sickness came, and I laid me down on my bed of death with this thought: 'One more fruit of sin, and then—heaven.' My poor friends, not understanding this, inquired, with weeping, if I could not possibly recover; but when they saw that I was dying, they gathered round me, to go down with me to the banks of Jordan. My soul was exceeding joyful, for the light of the promised land shone on me, and the dread river was quiet, for Jesus had said to it, 'Peace, be still.'
"While in this joyful state, I remembered with sorrow how many years I had refused to acknowledge the Prince of life as my King, while he waited with open arms to receive me; and how often, after putting my hand to the plough, I had looked back. My backsliding, my evil example, my neglect of souls, all rose before me like a dark cloud, and I was in agony. But soon a voice said, 'Thy sins are forgiven!' and all was light. I said, 'Lord, I must praise thee for this forever; but I cannot forgive myself.' Yet, though the pains of death were on me, I was comforted to be nearer the land where they sin no more. Earthly pleasure now seemed emptiness. The pleasures of heaven filled my thoughts. I said, 'Is this death—that which we poor mortals fear?' My friends asked, 'Has he no terrors for you?' 'No; none. The king of terrors is to me the chief of joys.' One of my teachers said, 'So you have no fear of him—no sorrow that your body shall lie in the grave!' 'Why fear or sorrow, when Christ has overcome both death and sin?' My father then asked, 'Do you suffer much'?' 'Yes; but if I suffered a thousand times more, what would that be to those bitter hours upon the cross. This veil must be rent asunder, though by suffering, before I can see Him, whom, even now, I long to behold.' My poor mother interposed, 'But are you willing to leave us?' 'You are all very dear to me; but there is only one who is altogether lovely. When shall I see him as he is, and be filled with his love?'
"It was now difficult to speak, but I could bid my friends farewell. I could thank my dear teachers for telling me of Christ, and ask their forgiveness for all I had ever done to grieve them. As my weeping mother wiped the cold sweat from my brow, she gently whispered, 'Where is my child going?' 'Mother,' I replied, 'your poor sinful child is going to that Saviour who has been willing to receive her.' His rod and staff then comforted me, till I had passed quite over into the blessed land. And, as I was borne on in my Saviour's arms, voices cried, 'Welcome, dear sister; you are now made whole—you shall sin no more—enter into rest.' Mortal tongue cannot tell what I now saw of the treasures which Christ has prepared for the redeemed. He gave me a mansion he had made ready for me, and I found myself gazing on the brightness of the Father's glory. What a change had come over me! I was among those without spot, for they had been made white in the blood of the Lamb. Their voices were one, for all praised the Lord. Now the glory of the Ancient of Days filled me with awe. He sat upon a throne of light, with seraphim on the right and cherubim on the left, and I could read the foundations of his throne. Legions of bright angels and happy saints were around him. I fell down with them to worship at his feet, when he touched me and raised me up, saying, 'Thou art blessed, for thou art redeemed with the blood of my Son.' Then he clothed me in a heavenly robe, and bade all heaven rejoice, saying, 'This my child was dead, and is alive again, and is saved from everlasting destruction.'
"He then revealed to me more fully that mystery of ages—the Redeemer standing on the right hand of the Father. He stood with open arms, saying, 'Come, daughter of my bitter grief, come in peace. I remembered thee on the cross. For thee I drank that cup of agony; thy curse has rested on me, that everlasting joy might dwell in thee.' As he thus spoke, I fell down to worship, and when I looked up, my eyes rested on his pierced hands and wounded side. Tears filled my eyes when I remembered that my sins had caused them; but they were tears that Jesus wiped away,
"When I saw the book of remembrance at his side, I thought, there is the record of my sins; but he opened it, saying, 'Fear not; from the day thou first camest to me, they have been blotted out.' He then held out to me the Book of Life, bidding me to read my name recorded there, and added, 'Ages hence, in the great day of account, the world shall know that I have saved thee; and as thou hast not denied me before men, I will confess thy name before my Father and before his angels; enter into the full joy of thy Lord; inherit the kingdom, prepared for thee from the foundation of the world.' Then all the blessed ones cried, 'Amen.' Their harps were tuned to a new song, and they praised the living God that another soul was rescued from the great adversary. A crown was also placed upon my head, that, with the saints, I might cast it at the feet of the Redeemer.
"Afterwards I was led to our first parent, now for more than five thousand years in Paradise, but not walking amid forbidden fruit. Still, when he stretched out his hand to the tree of life, he seemed to remember that first sin, and to thank God more than others for the healing of the nations. His bright face glistened with a tear as he took my hand, saying, 'Heir of my fallen nature, welcome to this inheritance of the second Adam;' and I learned that tears are always wiped from that face when Christ brings home his fallen children.
"As I turned, I saw the great company of the patriarchs, perfect in holiness, and clothed in light. Faithful Abraham was there, his faith changed to perfect sight, and rejoicing in his spiritual children. The meek Moses was there, adoring the Prophet whom God raised up from the midst of Israel like unto him. And I beheld Isaiah, satisfied with the eternal sight of the glory of which he had a glimpse on earth. Jeremiah, too, was no more weeping for the slain of the daughter of his people, and all the holy prophets were clothed upon with immortality, and praising their Beloved with holy lips.
"While I stood gazing, on them in wonder, my thoughts reverted to my former state. What a glorious change, from a world of sin to a world of holiness—from sinful friends to the Friend of sinners. How different these sweet sounds of praise from the rude sounds of earth! I am receiving my reward for every bitter tear of penitence I shed on earth; an age of joy is before me. Who am I, that I should be raised from companionship with sin to the society of heaven? My soul at length is at rest. But how? Not as rests my poor body in the grave, but in blessedness; for I rest from sin, but not from praise. I rest from suffering, but not from everlasting joy. How sweet to rest, while not ceasing to cry, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty! I rest in the bosom of my Saviour. My prayers are turned to praise, and my love is perfect.
"While these thoughts filled my soul, I thanked the Lord with a new song on the golden harp that had been placed in my hands, singing with a loud voice, 'What is my worthiness, O eternal King, that thou hast made me to walk in thy pilgrimage, while millions are shut out from it?'
"Now a company of the holy ones led me through a street of pure gold, to where the river of water of life proceeded out of the throne of God. They showed me the hidden manna, and the tree of life yielding its twelve fruits, and leaves for the healing of the nations; and beyond, I saw a great company of martyrs who had been slain for the word and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. They stood beneath the altar, for they were living sacrifices. They were clothed in white, and wore crowns of glory on their heads, and they sang hallelujah to him who had been slain for them, and made them kings and priests forever in his kingdom.
"While thus wandering among those holy mansions, I met a spirit crowned with honor,—Mary, the mother of our Lord. She was specially delighted at seeing me, saying, 'How glad I am that you, from that erring people who trust in me, have found the right way to this blessed place! Are there other sisters of like faith, who believe in the only Mediator?' When I told her that there were, she embraced me, and led me where I could see the twelve apostles of the Lamb. They were all seated round their Master, just as they used to be on earth; but no more debating who should be greatest, for now they ascribed all greatness to their King, and dwelt in perfect love. Among them I saw Peter, zealous still, but with a holy zeal. I heard him ask, 'How long shall those precious souls, redeemed by thy blood, be led astray? May I not fly on the wings of love, and destroy that city of blasphemy on the seven hills, that the glory may be thine?' But Jesus looked on him with an eye of love, and said, 'Simon, son of Jonas, the time is not yet come.' Then Peter only replied, 'Lord, thou knowest. Thy will be done.'
"While in this joyful state, I walked in the green pastures of life. I went round about the holy city, and counted its towers. They were all of purest gold, and built with skill divine. I looked from the top of one of them, and beheld the sea of glass, and also caught a glimpse of the abyss, enough to see that the enemies of our God were all beneath his feet. I could see some, once my friends among them; but I could say, 'Holy and just art thou, O Lord God; and O, wonderful grace, that has made such as I to differ.'
"But while thus filled with praise, and delighting myself in that ocean of love, I awoke, yet only to say, 'Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord.' Dear friends, let us cleave to Christ on earth, until he plants our feet on the Mount Zion above."
The next composition was written by Nargis, of Geog Tapa, in 1852. It is an account of Hannah, the mother of Samuel, and gives a very good idea of the Bible knowledge of the pupils, and their interest in Scripture themes. The allusions to the condition of Nestorian families, illustrate, and are illustrated by, the statements of Chapter I.
"About three thousand years ago, the family of Elkanah dwelt on the hill of Zophim, in Palestine. He was a just man, and one that feared God. According to the custom of those days, he had two wives, Peninnah and Hannah. Let us turn our thoughts to Hannah, for every memory of her is pleasant. She had no son, on whom she could look as a staff of joy for her old age. Yet Hannah had a worthy portion in the love of Elkanah, which flowed unceasingly like a crystal stream. Why was she thus loved? We believe because of the lovely spirit which she had received from that gentleness of the eternal Son which maketh great; and, like him, her voice was not heard in the streets. Instead of the contentious temper of the women of this age, we find in her a meek and quiet spirit; instead of pride, humility; and instead of anger, patience; she was kind, pleasant, and abounding in other graces. Shall not such a woman be praised?
"Now Elkanah took his family to Shiloh, to worship and feast before the Lord. But the envious Peninnah so grieved Hannah that she could neither eat nor drink. Soon, however, she heard the sweet tones of her husband's voice. Was it not like an angel's? saying, 'Hannah, why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved? Am I not better to thee than ten sons?' When she heard that she arose and ate. Love was rewarded by love. She would not grieve Elkanah. Unlike many in our day, she was obedient to her husband, yielding her will to his, and clothed with humility. They were not only one flesh, but one spirit; and they walked together in the valley of love to that world where love is made perfect. Now, after she had shown her love by partaking of the feast, may we not suppose that she arose and whispered to Elkanah to know if he would approve of her intended vow; and did he not reply, 'Your vow is mine.' Then did she not seek a corner of the court where she might pray? Radiant spot, where Hannah communed with God! herself a bright light among the women of that age. There, in bitterness of soul, she wept before the Lord, and obtained his blessing. She believed that God would grant her request, as he saw best, and gave back her expected son to the Lord to be his forever. Here was true faith. She left all with God; and though, like her Saviour, she prayed the more earnestly: still her voice was not heard. But we hear the voice of Eli: 'How long wilt thou be drunken?' 'O Eli, Eli, why speak to her thus? She was of thy flock, and thou shouldst have distinguished her from other women round about her.' [Footnote 1: In Oriental families, anger is shown by refusing to eat, sometimes for several days.]
"Bright star of that generation! Blessed art thou among the daughters of Levi. The moving of thy lips is like the voice of the dove. There was a blessing in thy mouth, like the olive leaf of Noah's dove, that told of rest from the tossings of the flood; for thy request was about to give rest to the millions of Israel. Blessed art thou, daughter of Zion. Thou soughtest not a son for thy own glory, but for the glory of thy God.
"What a prayer was Hannah's! It brought a deliverer and a prophet to Israel, an intercessor and a preacher to the people of God. May the daughters of Hannah and the sons of Elkanah be multiplied among our people. She is a mirror into which we may look, to learn how to forsake our evil ways. Let us, like her, build up the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.
"Her prayer finished, Hannah returned to her house. Her sorrow was now turned into joy, and her happy face was like the opening rose of the morning. No wonder she was joyful. The will of the Lord was her will, and what evil could befall her? Blessed Israel, that contains such a praying soul.
"Time passes on, and the answer to that prayer is a beloved son. The grateful mother calls him Samuel—'God heard.' Her full heart could give no other name to this child of prayer. She would remember ever, Not mine, but God's. And now the childless one folds in her arms a child of the covenant. New joy fills the heart of Elkanah. Their son was new to them every day; yet not alone as theirs, but His who answered prayer.
"The time now draws near for them to go again to Shiloh. The happy father does not forget God in his mercies. He appears before the Lord with his thank offering;—a noble example to us. He asks Hannah to go with him: not in a voice of harsh command, but in love he said, 'Will you go?' and it was, doubtless, a gentle voice that answered, 'Not now, for then I must bring Samuel back with me. He is too small to leave; but when he is weaned, I will bring him, that he may appear before the Lord, and there abide forever.' The good Elkanah was satisfied, saying, 'Only the Lord establish his word;' for he had not forgotten the vow. So the happy Hannah remained at home another year, and taught the child as a mother only can.
"When the time came to go up again to Shiloh, Samuel was probably three years old. That praying mother did not say, 'He is small; let him stay with me one year longer.' No! With her whole heart she carried him to the house of the Lord, to abide there; and she went not up empty, saying, 'It is enough that I give my son;' but in the three bullocks we find the burnt offering, the sin offering, and the peace offering, and in her son the first fruits besides. She was ready to say, 'In all things I am a debtor to the Lord.'
"Nor did she come in pride of spirit, saying to Eli, 'You called me drunken, while offering a prayer that God hath heard;' but in all humility she accosts the aged priest, saying, 'I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying;' and then, leading forward the child, 'for this child I prayed, and the Lord hath given me my petition, and I have lent him to the Lord.' We seem to see little Samuel approaching Eli reverently; and then turning those speaking eyes to his mother, he says, 'Is this my father, of whom you told me, and with whom I am to live?' 'Yes, my child, he will be your father.' And now Eli places his hand upon the head of Samuel, saying, 'Blessed art thou, son of a true daughter of Levi. The Lord bless thee, and make thee a prophet of the Most High.'
"Hannah worships, and returns to her home. Her little son asks not to go with her; for he has been taught that he is the Lord's, and is to abide in Shiloh. What a blessing are praying mothers, training their children for God!
"Still she does not forget the Lord's Samuel. Every year she goes up to Shiloh, with her husband, and as often does she carry for the little prophet a coat, made by a mother's loving hand. She did not say, like some of our mothers, 'If he is in the school of the prophets, let the prophets clothe him;' but she clothed him for the Lord's service, and he comforted Eli as he was never comforted by his own children. Will our mothers follow the example of Hannah? Should a voice come from the mountains to-day, calling for preachers, would they give their sons to go and save the lost? Blessed are those mothers who give their sons to be soldiers of the cross; who, like Hannah, lead the way to the throne of grace, and serve God in their households.
"The Lord helped Hannah to pray, and he helped her to write that beautiful song. Her words are golden and full of wisdom. It is fitting to call her a mother in Israel. Deborah sat as judge, but Hannah gave a judge and teacher to the people of God. Both were bright stars, but where is the people on whom they shone? The chosen people are scattered. Deborah, perchance, sleeps under the oak of judgment, and Hannah on the hill of Zephim. We love to think that her son stood by her dying bed to thank her for all her prayers and instructions, and see her reverently gathered to her people.
"We leave thee, mother of the holy prophet. Thou hast passed through this valley of humiliation. Thy works follow thee, and thy God hath crowned thee with glory and honor. Sweet singer of Israel, sing on in heaven, for with thy Saviour thou canst never sorrow more. Who will rise among us to carry forward the kingdom of our Christ? Such as honor the Master here, he will honor when mothers in Israel see their sons made kings and priests unto the Lord forever."
HOSPITALITY OF NESTORIANS.—KINDNESS OF PUPILS.—BATHING FEET.— LETTERS OF GOZEL, HANEE, SANUM OF GAWAR, MUNNY, RAHEEL, AND MARTA.— HOSHEBO.—RAHEEL TO MRS. FISKE.—MOURNING FOR THE DEAD.—NAZLOO.— HOSHEBO's BEREAVEMENT.—DEATH OF MISSIONARY CHILDREN.—LETTER FBOM SARAH, DAUGHTER OF JOSEPH.
The foregoing pages have told something of the change that grace has wrought among women in Persia. Let us now look at some points in that change more carefully.
The Nestorians are noted for their hospitality. Kindness to strangers is regarded as a part of their religion; and if, after bringing out the choicest of their stores, it is said, even in a strange language, "How can I eat this?" or, "Who could endure a dish like that?'" the words may be unintelligible, but not so the look and tone of the speaker. Yet even such treatment often only calls forth additional efforts to please. A stranger may not relish some of their dishes. Yet a spirit of kindness would be careful not to let this appear. In the Seminary, the pupils studied how to please, even in the folding of a table napkin; and the kind-hearted steward was perfectly delighted when reminded that the pains he took in the preparation of a meal was so much service to Christ, because it strengthened his servants to labor for him.
The girls were very kind to each other. When any one was sick, her companions not only readily performed her share of domestic work, but nursed her tenderly besides. If their teachers were ill, they coveted the privilege of attending them by night and by day. It may comfort some timid one to know, that in Oroomiah Miss Fiske never had a missionary sister with her by night in sickness; not that they were backward to come, but the services of the pupils left nothing to be desired. It did good like a medicine to see those girls, once coarse and uncouth, showing even kindness in a way offensive to refined feelings, now move with noiseless step, anticipating every wish. They sought to conform every thing to the home tastes of their teachers; and yet there was nothing of that show of effort that says, "See how much we do for you." They seemed to feel that they could not do too much, or do it well enough. If Miss Fiske was exhausted and feeble during the day, they might say nothing at the time, and not trouble her even to answer a question; but when they supposed she was ready to retire, there would be a gentle knock on the door, sometimes on more than one door, and then, with a "Teacher, you looked tired to-day. Shall we come in and bathe your feet? The water is warm, and every thing ready," their loving service would not cease, till every thing was in its place, and they had put out the light after she retired.
Woman, there, as in the days of our Saviour, still bathes the feet of the guest whom she wishes to honor. And sometimes, when stooping over them, she rubs them gently with her loosely-flowing hair—not as a substitute for a towel, but as a token of kindly welcome. This privilege belongs to the oldest daughter of the family; and the custom once liable to perversion, now shines with new beauty, as the expression of Christian love. He who once accepted the service in his own person, will hereafter say, to many a daughter of Chaldea, "Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye did it unto me."
Their tender sympathy with the afflicted was not confined to their own household. In January, 1857, Miss Fiske was absent at Seir, assisting in taking care of Mr. Stoddard in his last illness; and from a number of letters written to her, at that time, by her pupils, we select the following:—
JANUARY 1st, 1857.
Many of your flock have observed this as a day of fasting and prayer; and all have looked on it as a blessed day. The pleasant voice of prayer has been heard during all its hours, and it seems as if the Saviour was about to come among us with great power. I trust that he will work in many hearts by the Holy Spirit. We greatly desire to have you here; but again, with all our hearts, we wish you to do for the sick one whom we love. Yes, if each pupil were to write to you, all would say, we wish you to remain, and do all you can for him; and may he be raised up again to labor for our poor people. Give our love to Mrs. Stoddard, and tell her we are glad to have the one we greatly love, with her at this time.
Your daughter, GOZEL.
JANUARY 2d, 1857.
My heart is drawn towards you all the time; but I thank God that he has given you strength to do for our beloved brother Mr. Stoddard. I am very much distressed when I think of him, and can only say, "The will of the Lord be done." I greatly desired to hear your voice yesterday. It was indeed a blessed day. Give my love to Mrs. Stoddard, and though it is hard for her to bear these bitter pains, tell her to try to trust the Lord of our beloved brother.
Peace be to you, HANEK.
The next is written by a graduate, who was then on a visit at the Seminary:—
JANUARY 3d, 1857.
I cannot tell you what great anxiety and anguish I have for Mr. Stoddard. He has won my whole heart by taking so much pains for my dear companions, and particularly for Elisha. I did not think he would be taken from us. This trial seems to me heavier than losing Elisha and Jonathan (her children, who died by poison), for it is not only a loss to his dear family, but also to this band of stranger missionaries, and a dreadful desolation to our poor people. May the Lord see how great is the harvest, and how few the laborers. I cannot write more; my eyes fail because of my tears. Give my tenderest love to dear Mrs. Stoddard. I know her sorrows in such trying days; would that I could help her.
From your truly afflicted pupil,
The following was written the day after the death of Mr. Stoddard, which took place the 22d of January, and refers to that sad occurrence:—
JANUARY 23d, 1857.
What bitter intelligence comes to us these days!—the taking away of those who carried us in the arms of love to the blood-stained cross of Christ. Truly, my mother, these afflictions fall very heavily on our heads. The guides of our souls are cut off from us. What shall we do?
Dearly loved sister Mrs. Stoddard, sorrow and mourning are ours. There is hope that you will soon meet the ornament of your life. But in his school and in ours are those for whom there is no hope that they will ever see him. Wounded sister, blessed is the heavenly pilgrim who has spent his life in a strange land, and been a well of living water to many thirsty souls. I know this separation is bitter to you; but there is consolation for you, for it is not eternal. But what shall I say of our poor people?
O, how much more than any of you knew we loved that dear brother. It was a quarter past three o'clock this morning when your letter reached us (Miss Fiske's). I handed it to Miss Rice, and never saw such a bitter night except that in which my father died. I did not sleep till almost dawn; and when I slept, I saw the loved one standing in Miss Rice's room, his face shining like the morning star. Both his hands were raised to heaven, when suddenly he stooped and looked in my face. I said, "O, you are not dead!" He answered, "No!" and I cried aloud, "O, Mr. Stoddard is not dead!" and my own voice awoke me. How favored those of you are who see the face of our beloved friend!
Still later, she writes to her teacher, who was again at Seir, during the sickness of Harriette Stoddard, whose death occurred March 16th, 1857.
Though it is a time of anguish, yet, blessed be God, he has given us One to whom we may look for comfort. A thousand thanks to the Saviour that he does not chastise us by taking away the Holy Spirit. Though the discipline is bitter, yet it is mingled with love, in that the Lord comes by death among his own, and by his Spirit to those who have not known him, that he may make them his own also. What grief would the lovers of the Lord have, if you now sat by the bedside of a sister of whom we had no evidence that her heart was purified by a Saviour's blood? If you are so distressed about one whom you trust your Father Is taking to rest in the bosom of his Son, how would you feel if she were one of those who, as soon as the breath left her body, would dwell with everlasting burnings! How thankful we should be that it is not the bed of one of these!
I have never seen such a trying year; but I do not believe it is for the harm of those that fear the Lord. It only fulfils the promise, "Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth." O that the gentle voice of Jesus might be heard, whispering, "Daughter, I say unto thee, arise!" Who knows but, if our faith were as Christ would have it, he would call this sister back to life, though now so near to death! But your Father knows what is for your good, and you know that here he often gives anguish to those who love him, that they may be exceedingly joyful with him hereafter. The Lord grant that these afflictions do not harden our hearts.
I have conversed and prayed with all the younger girls, save two. Eleven say that they are resolved to follow Christ; but I fear lest the vineyards and the cotton fields do not testify hereafter that they have walked with God. It is very pleasant to me to sit down by them and ask them of their state.