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Life Of Henry Martyn Missionary To India And Persia by Sarah J. Rhea

LIFE IN INDIA.

On the 17th of July, 1805, the Union East Indiaman conveying Mr. Martyn sailed from Portsmouth. Mr. Martyn says: |Though it was what I had been anxiously looking forward to so long, yet the consideration of being parted forever from my friends, almost overcame me. My feelings were those of a man who should suddenly be told that every friend he had in the world was dead.|

Though suffering much in mind and body throughout the long and tedious voyage of nine months, Mr. Martyn seeks no selfish ease. He preaches, reads and labors assiduously with officers, passengers and crew, and shuns not to declare the whole counsel of God, even the unpalatable doctrine of the future punishment of the wicked. He says: |The threats and opposition of these men made me willing to set before them the truths they hated, yet I had no species of hesitation about doing it. They said they would not come if so much hell was preached, but I took for my text, 'The wicked shall be turned into hell and all the nations that forget God.' The officers were all behind my back in order to have an opportunity of retiring in case of dislike. H., as soon as he heard the text, went back and said he would hear no more about hell; so he employed himself in feeding the geese. However, God I trust blessed the sermon to the good of many; some of the cadets and many of the soldiers were in tears. I felt an ardor and vehemence in some parts which are unusual with me. After service walked the deck with Mrs. -- -- ; she spoke with so much simplicity and amiable humility that I was full of joy and admiration to God for a sheep brought home to His fold. In the afternoon went below intending to read to them at the hatchway, but there was not one of them, so I could get nothing to do among the poor soldiers.|

What a picture revealing Henry Martyn's character! -- the contrasting attributes of sternness and gentleness, his martyrlike determination to do his whole duty at any cost to himself from suffering and insult, the keen shrinking of a nature so refined and sensitive from coarseness and abuse, undeviating yet uncompromising, bringing to our thoughts the Divine Exemplar. I pass by the incidents of the voyage, including mutiny, sickness and death, romantic stay at St. Salvador, battles at the Cape of Good Hope, etc., eloquently and vividly recorded.

The Friday preceding his arrival in India he spends |in praying that God would no longer delay exerting his power in the conversion of the eastern nations. I felt emboldened| he says, |to employ the most familiar petitions by Is. xii.6, 7, 'Keep not silence; give him no rest,' etc. Blessed be God for those words! They are like a cordial to my spirits, because if the Lord is not pleased by me or during my lifetime to call the Gentiles, yet He is not offended at my being urgent with Him that the kingdom of God may come.|

April 21, 1806, the nine months' journey is complete, and they land at Madras. Mr. Martyn gives first impressions and description of the natives, ending in these words: |In general, one thought naturally occurred: the conversion of their poor souls. I am willing, I trust, through grace, to pass my life among them if by any means these poor people may be brought to God. The sight of men, women and children, all idolaters, makes me shudder as if in the dominions of the prince of darkness. Hearing the hymn, 'Before Jehovah's awful throne,' it excited a train of affecting thoughts in my mind.|

|Wide as the world is thy command. Therefore it is easy for Thee to spread abroad Thy holy name. But oh, how gross the darkness here! The veil of the covering cast over all nations seems thicker here; the friends of darkness seem to sit in sullen repose in this land. What surprises me is the change of views I have here from what I had in England. There my heart expanded with hope and joy at the prospect of the speedy conversion of the heathen; but here the sight of the apparent impossibility requires a strong faith to support the spirits.| Ah, how vividly this describes missionary experiences! After great peril from storm and illness, passing up the Hoogly from Madras, Mr. Martyn arrived at Calcutta, May 14. In this city for years had been a band of English Christians faithfully praying for the coming of the kingdom in that dark land, and into the home of one of these, Rev. David Brown, was Mr. Martyn received with much affection. A pagoda in one end of the yard on the river bank was fitted up for him, and the place where once devils were worshiped now became a Christian oratory. The first experience here was of severe illness from acclimating fever, from which he was kindly nursed into convalescence. He then applied himself earnestly to the study of the Hindoostanee, having engaged a Brahmin as a teacher. Here he witnessed with horror the cruel and debasing rites of heathenism. The blaze of a funeral pile caused him one day to hasten to the rescue of a burning widow who was consumed before his eyes. And in a dark wood he heard the sound of cymbals and drums calling the poor natives to the worship of devils, and saw them prostrate with their foreheads to the ground before a black image in a pagoda surrounded with burning lights -- a sight which he contemplated with overwhelming compassion, |shivering as if standing in the neighborhood of hell.|

Mr. Martyn's plain and pungent preaching was a great offense to some of the easy-going formalists of the English church at Calcutta, and some of the ministry attacked him bitterly from their pulpits, declaring, for instance, that to affirm repentance to be the gift of God and to teach that nature is wholly corrupt, is to drive men to despair, and that to suppose the righteousness of Christ sufficient to justify is to make it unnecessary to have any of our own. Though compelled to listen to such downright heresies, to hear himself described as knowing neither what he said nor whereof he affirmed, and as aiming only to gratify self sufficiency, pride and uncharitableness, -- |I rejoiced,| said this meek and holy man, |to receive the Lord's supper afterwards; -- as the solemnities of that blessed ordinance sweetly tended to soothe any asperity of mind, and I think that I administered the cup to -- -- and -- -- with sincere good will.|

September 13, 1806, Mr. Martyn received his appointment to Singapore. A farewell meeting of great interest was held in his pagoda, followed by a tender parting from the family who had been so kind to him, and two fellow laborers who, following his bright example, had just come out from England. The voyage to Singapore was performed in a budgero, a small boat with a cabin, in which he studied and translated and prayed while making the seventeen or eighteen miles a day of the six-weeks' journey. At night the boat was fastened to the shore. His journal record of these days is very interesting and very characteristic. He says:

|October 27. Arrived at Berhampore. In the evening walked out to the hospital in which there were 150 European soldiers sick. I was talking to a man said to be dying, when a surgeon entered. I went up and made some apology for entering the hospital. It was my old school-fellow and townsman, -- -- . The remainder of the evening he spent with me in my budgero.

|October 28. Rose very early and was at the hospital at daylight. Waited there a long time wandering up and down the wards in hopes of inducing the men to get up and assemble, but it was in vain. I left three books with them and went away amidst the sneers and titters of the common soldiers. Certainly it is one of the greatest crosses I am called to bear to take pains to make people hear me. It is such a struggle between a sense of propriety and modesty on the one hand, and a sense of duty on the other, that I find nothing equal to it. I could force my way anywhere, in order to introduce a brother minister; but for myself, I act with hesitation and pain.

|Walking out into a village where the boat stopped for the night I found the worshipers of Kali by the sound of their drums and cymbals. Invited by the Brahmins to walk in I entered and asked a few questions about the idol. The Brahmin who spoke bad Hindoostanee disputed with great heat, and his tongue ran faster than I could follow, and the people, about one hundred, shouted applause. I continued my questions and among other things asked if what I had heard of Vishnu and Brahma was true, which he confessed. I forbore to press him with the consequences, which he seemed to feel; and then I told him what was my belief. The man grew quite mild and said it was chula bat (good words), and asked me seriously at last what I thought, 'Was idol worship true or false?' I felt it a matter of thankfulness that I could make known the truth of God though a stammerer and that I had declared it in the presence of the devil. And this also I learnt, that the power of gentleness is irresistible. I never was more astonished than at the change in deportment of this hot-headed Brahmin.... Came to on the eastern bank below a village called Ahgadup. Wherever I walked the women fled at the sight of me. Some men were sitting under the shed dedicated to their goddess; a lamp was burning in her place. A conversation soon began, but there was no one who could speak Hindoostanee. I could only speak by the medium of my Mussulman, Musalchee. They said that they only did as others did, and that if they were wrong then all Bengal was wrong. I felt love for their souls, and longed for utterance to declare unto these poor simple people the holy gospel. I think that when my mouth is opened I shall preach to them day and night.

|October 31. My Moonshee said, 'How can you prove this book (the gospel), to be the word of God?' I took him to walk with me on the shore that we might discuss the matter, and the result of our conversation was that I discovered that the Mussulmen allow the gospel to be in general the command of God, though the words of it are not His as the words of the Koran are, and contend that the actual words of God given to Jesus were burnt by the Jews; that they also admit the New Testament to have been in force till the coming of Mohammed. When I quoted some passages which proved the Christian dispensation to be the final one, he allowed it to be inconsistent with the divinity of the Koran, but said, 'Then those words of the gospel must be false.' The man argued and asked his questions seemingly in earnest, and another new impression was left upon my mind, namely, that these men are not fools and that all ingenuity and clearness of reasoning are not confined to England and Europe. I seem to feel that these descendants of Ham are as dear to God as the haughty sons of Japheth; I feel, too, more at home with the Scriptures than ever; everything I see gives light to, and receives it from, the Scriptures. I seem transported back to the ancient times of the Israelites and the Apostles. My spirit felt composed after the dispute by simply looking to God as one who had engaged to support His own cause; and I saw it to be my part to pursue my way through the wilderness of this world, looking only to that redemption which daily draweth nigh. How should this consideration quell the tumult of anger and impatience when I cannot convince men 'the government is on His shoulders?' Jesus is able to bear the weight of it; therefore we need not be oppressed with care or fear, but a missionary is apt to fancy himself an Atlas.

|November 2. Walking on shore met a large party. I asked if any of them could read. One young man who seemed superior in rank to the rest, said he could, and accordingly read some of the only Nagree tract that I had. I then addressed myself boldly to them and told them of the gospel. When speaking of the inefficacy of the religious practices of the Hindoos I mentioned as an example the repetition of the name of Ram. The young man assented to this and said, 'of what use is it?' As he seemed to be of a pensive turn and said this with marks of disgust, I gave him a Nagree Testament, the first I have given. May God's blessing go along with it and cause the eyes of the multitudes to be opened. The men said they should be glad to receive tracts, so I sent them back a considerable number. The idea of printing the parables in proper order with a short explanation to each, for the purpose of distribution and as school books, suggested itself to me to-night and delighted me prodigiously.... A Mussulman, when he received one of the tracts and found what it was, was greatly alarmed, and after many awkward apologies, returned it, saying that 'a man who had his legs in two different boats, was in danger of sinking between them.'|

Established at Singapore, Mr. Martyn began upon three different lines of work, establishing schools, attaining readiness in Hindoostanee so as to preach the gospel in that language, and translating the Scriptures and religious books. To his great discouragement he was informed by the Pundit that every four miles the language changed, so that a book in the dialect of one district would be unintelligible to the people of another. Being advised to learn Sanscrit, he took up this language with great zeal. The commencement of Mr. Martyn's ministry amongst the Europeans of Singapore was not of such a kind as to either gratify or encourage him. At first he read prayers to the soldiers at the barracks from the drumhead, and as there were no seats provided, was desired to omit the sermon. Afterwards more decent arrangements being made, the families came in; but taking offense at his evangelical plainness, they asked that he should desist from extempore preaching. These European members of his flock were jealous and angry at his constant efforts for the salvation of the heathen natives. They thought it much beneath the dignity of an English chaplain to care for these degraded souls. Some of Mr. Martyn's duties as chaplain were exceedingly onerous. On several occasions he was summoned to distant places involving long and dangerous journeys to perform a marriage ceremony. On these journeys he suffered severely, and they were a great draft upon his very delicate health; always weak and languid, and often alarmingly disordered. Yet through all he continued to labor incessantly. Every Sabbath he held at least four services: at 7 for Europeans; at 2 for Hindoos, about two hundred in attendance; in the afternoon at the hospital; in the evening in his own room for the soldiers. In his household were two natives who assisted in his studies and translations, the Moonshee and the Pundit, with whom he held long disputes and with whom he labored daily, though unsuccessfully, to bring them to faith in Christ. He says, |translating the epistle of St. John with the Moonshee, I asked him what he thought of those passages which so strongly express the doctrines of the Trinity and of the divinity of Christ. He said he never would believe it, because the Koran declared it sinful to say that God had any Son. I told him that he ought to pray that God would teach him what the truth really is. He said he had no occasion on this subject, as the word of God was express. I asked him whether some doubt ought not to arise in his mind whether the Koran is the word of God. He grew angry, and I felt hurt and vexed. I should have done better to have left the words of the chapter with him without saying anything. I went also too far with the Pundit in arguing against his superstition, for he also grew angry.| If any qualification seems necessary to a missionary in India it is wisdom -- operating in the regulation of the temper and the due improvement of opportunities. Mr. Martyn needed the heavenly gift of wisdom also in the management of his native schools, five or six of which were supported by himself in Singapore. Little by little he succeeded in introducing as a text-book a part of the Bible -- his own translation of the sermon on the Mount and the Parables. He was called to do more and more of this work of translating the Scriptures, and was persuaded by the Rev. David Brown not only to continue the Hindoostanee, but to superintend the translation of the Scriptures into Persian. He engaged in it at once with zeal. He writes: |The time fled imperceptibly while so delightfully engaged in the translations; the days seemed to have passed like a moment. What do I not owe to the Lord for permitting me to take part in a translation of His word? Never did I see such wonder and wisdom and love in the blessed Book as since I have been obliged to study every expression. Employed a good while at night in considering a difficult passage, and being much enlightened respecting it, I went to bed full of astonishment at the wonder of God's Word. Never before did I see anything of the beauty of the language and the importance of the thoughts as I do now. What a source of perpetual delight have I in the precious Word of God!|

This ecstasy of enthusiasm in most successful and congenial labor was suddenly dashed by a great wave of sorrow which came to Mr. Martyn in the news of the death of his eldest sister. To missionaries in foreign lands such news is especially bitter, and to recover from such a shock and sense of irreparable loss seems almost impossible. The mind, unsatisfied with details of the sad event, is left in shadow which deepens into heavy gloom. Mr. Martyn was all alone and felt it keenly and inexpressibly. Some of his most intimate and sympathetic friends at this time, realizing how it was not good for him to be alone, encouraged him to renew his matrimonial offer to his ever beloved L. After her refusal he says, |The Lord sanctify this, and since this last desire of my heart is also withheld may I turn away forever from the world and henceforth live forgetful of all but God. With Thee, O my God, is no disappointment. I shall never have to regret that I have loved Thee too well. Thou hast said, 'delight thyself in the Lord, and he shall give thee the desires of thy heart.'|

Could sweeter words than these be expressed in any language! Could greater depths of submission or heights of consecration be attained! They deserve to be recorded on imperishable marble or blazoned on the sky in sight of all, and received as the confession of every Christian heart, to the honor and praise of Him who gave such glorious victory to this tried soldier of the cross.

Providentially for Mr. Martyn's comfort his thoughts were much occupied after this by the arrival of his coadjutors in the work of translation, one of these, Mirza of Benares, well known in India as an eminent Hindoostanee scholar; the other Sabat the Arabian, since but too well known both in India and England by his rejection of that faith which he then appeared to profess in sincerity and faith. In the latter of these Mr. Martyn confidently trusted that he had found a Christian brother with respect to the reality of his belief in Christianity, although Mr. Martyn immediately discovered in him an unsubdued Arab spirit, and witnessed with pain many deflections from that temper and conduct which he himself so eminently exemplified; yet, he could not but |believe all things and hope all things,| even while he continued to suffer much from him, and for a length of time, with unparalleled forbearance and kindness. Sabat's temper was a continual trial and mortification. The very first Sabbath in Singapore, imagining he was not treated with sufficient dignity, he left the church before service in great anger. Often in the midst of the translation he would come to a sudden stop and refuse to go on for the most trivial reasons, sometimes for fear that Mirza who would review the work might have part of the honor. About this time Mr. Martyn was much bereaved by the removal of a family with whom he had lived in intimate terms of Christian intercourse. |This separation affected him the more sensibly because it was not in every family at that station that he met with a kind and cordial reception.| He says, |I called on one of the Singapore families, and felt my pride rise at the uncivil manner in which I was received. I was disposed at first to determine never to visit the house again, but I remembered the words, 'overcome evil with good.'|

In the month of March, 1808, the New Testament in Hindoostanee was completed. He says, |I have read and corrected the manuscript till my eyes ache; such a week of labor I believe I have never passed. The heat is terrible, often at 98 degrees, the nights insupportable.| We next hear of Mr. Martyn suffering from severe illness with fever and vertigo, and pained with the thought of leaving the Persian gospels unfinished! So unselfish, so full of zeal! Again at work, mercury at 102 degrees. |Arabic now employs my few moments of leisure. In consequence of reading the Koran with Sabat audibly, and drinking no wine, the slander has gone forth that the Singapore Padre has turned Mussulman.

|June 6th. To-day we have completed the Persian of St. Matthew. Sabat desired me to kneel down to bless God for the happy event, and we joined in praise of the Father of lights. It is a superb performance in every respect, with elegance enough to attract the careless and please the fastidious; it contains enough of Eternal Life to save the reader's soul.... My services on the Lord's day always leave me with a pain in the chest, and such a great degree of general relaxation, that I seldom recover it till Tuesday. The society still meet every night at my quarters, and though we have lost many by death, others are raised up in their room. One officer, a lieutenant, is also given to me, and he is not only a brother beloved, but a constant companion and nurse; so you must feel no apprehension that I should be left alone in sickness.|

In April, 1809, Mr. Martyn removes from Dinapore to Cawnpore. Here he met friendship and hospitality. We quote from the graceful pen of Mrs. Sherwood: |The month of April in the upper provinces of Hindoostan is one of the most dreadful months for traveling throughout the year; indeed, no European at that time can remove from place to place, but at the risk of his life.

|But Mr. Martyn had that anxiety to begin the work which his heavenly Father had given him to do, that notwithstanding the violent heat, he traveled from Chunar to Cawnpore, the space of about four hundred miles. At that time as I well remember, the air was as hot and dry as that which I have sometimes felt near the mouth of a large oven, no friendly cloud or verdant carpet of grass to relieve the eye from the strong glare of the rays of the sun pouring on the sandy plains of the Ganges. Thus Mr. Martyn traveled, journeying night and day, and arrived at Cawnpore in such a state that he fainted away as soon as he entered the house. When we charged him with the rashness of hazarding his life in this manner, he always pleaded his anxiety to get to the great work. He remained with us ten days, suffering considerably at times from fever and pain in the chest.

|Mr. Martyn's removal from Dinapore to Cawnpore was to him in many respects a very unpleasant arrangement. He was several hundred miles farther distant from Calcutta and more widely separated than before from his friend Mr. Corrie. He had new acquaintances to form at his new abode, and after having with much difficulty procured the erection of a church at Dinapore he was transported to a spot where none of the conveniences, much less the decencies and solemnities of public worship, were visible.

|We find him soon after he arrived there preaching to a thousand soldiers drawn up in a hollow square, when the heat was so great, although the sun had not risen, that many actually dropped down, unable to support it.|

Yet Mr. Martyn's labors were not abated. Every Sabbath at dawn were prayers and sermon with the regiment, and again at eleven at the house of the general of the station. In the afternoon he preached to a crowd of poor natives, five, to eight hundred, rude, noisy, wretched beggars, for whose souls he felt a tender care. Again in the evening, the best of the day, he had a meeting with the more devout of his flock. These ministrations so earnestly performed were most exhausting, yet he knew not how to forego them; at this time, too, from England came the sad and sudden news of the death of his sister, the one who had led him to Christ.

The alarming state of his health made some change necessary, and Mr. Martyn was urged to leave India and make trial of a sea voyage. His Persian New Testament had been criticised as unfit for general circulation, being written in a style too learned and exalted for the comprehension of the common people. He was advised to visit Persia and there revise his work and also complete his version in Arabic, almost finished. Mr. Brown, his devoted friend, and the Calcutta agent of the British and Foreign Bible Society, thus writes: |Can I then bring myself to cut the string and let you go? I confess I could not if your bodily frame were strong, and promised to last for half a century. But as you burn with the intenseness and rapid blaze of heated phosphorus, why should we not make the most of you? Your flame may last as long and perhaps longer in Arabia, than in India. Where should the Phoenix build her odoriferous nest, but in the land prophetically called 'the blessed?' and where shall we ever expect, but from that country, the true Comforter to come to the nations of the East? I contemplate your New Testament springing up, as it were, from dust and ashes, but beautiful as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and his feathers like yellow gold.| His farewell services at Cawnpore were very tender and affecting, both with his great audience of natives and Englishmen. Of the latter, Mrs. Sherwood says: |He began in a weak and faint voice, being at that time in a very bad state of health; but, gathering strength as he proceeded, he seemed as one inspired from on high. Never was an audience more affected. The next day this holy and heavenly man left Cawnpore and the society of many who sincerely loved and admired him.| Stopping to visit the friends in Calcutta, the Rev. Mr. Thomason says: |This bright and lovely jewel first gratified our eyes on Saturday last. He is on his way to Arabia, where he is going in pursuit of health and knowledge. You know his genius, and what gigantic strides he takes in everything. He has some great plan in his mind, of which I am no competent judge; but as far as I do understand it, the object is far too grand for one short life, and much beyond his feeble and exhausted frame. Feeble it is, indeed; how fallen and changed! His complaint lies in his lungs and appears to be an incipient consumption. But let us hope the sea air may revive him, and that change may do him essential service and continue his life many years. In all other respects he is exactly the same as he was; he shines in all the dignity of love, and seems to carry about him such a heavenly majesty as impresses the mind beyond description. But if he talks much, though in a low voice, he sinks, and you are reminded of his being dust and ashes.| Though so infirm, Mr. Martyn preached every Sabbath of his visit, and his last sermon on the anniversary of the Calcutta Bible Society was afterwards printed and entitled |Christian India, or an appeal on behalf of nine hundred thousand Christians in India who want the Bible.|

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