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introduction to Fifty-Three Years in Syria

Fifty-Three Years in Syria



Introduction by James S. Dennis, D. D.



Fleming H. Revell Company



Copyright 1910, by


New York: 158 Fifth Avenue
Chicago: 80 Wabash Avenue
Toronto: 25 Richmond Street, W.
London: 21 Paternoster Square
Edinburgh: 100 Princes Street

Dedicated to the
Memory of

my revered father, Hon. William Jessup, LL. D., and my beloved mother, Amanda Harris Jessup: by whose godly example, wise counsel, and fervent prayers, I was led to Christ in my early boyhood; who helped me on my Christian course and to learn the luxury of doing good, and cheerfully gave me and my brother Samuel to the missionary work, at a time when a journey to Syria seemed like an act of self-immolation… I have tried to follow their example, and pray that my children and grandchildren may all prove worthy of such an ancestry. "

The memory of the just is blessed."

Hon. William Jessup                    Amanda Jessup
Hon & Amanda Jessup


The author of this volume is one of the pioneers of the new historic era and the changing social order in the Nearer East. He is entitled to this distinction not because of direct political activity, or of any strenuous role as a social reformer, but because of those fifty-three years of missionary service in the interests of religious uplift, educational progress, social morality, and all those civilizing influences which now by general consent are recognized results of the missionary enterprise.
It is a chronicle of eventful years in the history of Western Asia. It is necessarily largely personal, as the book is a combination of autobiographical reminiscence with a somewhat detailed record of mission progress in Syria. No one can fail to be impressed with the variety and continuity, as well as the large beneficence of a life service such as is herein reviewed. In versatile and responsible toil, in fidelity to his high commission, in diligence in the use of opportunity, in unwavering loyalty to the call of missionary duty, his career has been worthy of the admiration and affectionate regard of the Church. The writer of this introduction regards it as one of the privileges of his missionary service in Syria that for twenty-two of the fifty-three years which the record covers he was a colleague of the author, and that such a delightful intimacy has marked a lifelong friendship.
Dr. Jessup has been a living witness of one of the most vivid and dramatic national transformations which the world's annals record, as well as himself a contributor, indirectly and unconsciously perhaps, yet no less truly and forcefully, to changes as romantic, weird, and startling as the stage of history presents. We seem to be in the enchanted atmosphere of politics after the order of the Arabian Nights. In fact, no tale of the Thousand and One Nights can surpass in imaginative power, mystical import, and amazing significance, this story of the transportation of an entire empire, as if upon some magic carpet of breathless flight, from the domain of irresponsible tyranny to the realm of constitutional government. The cruel and shocking episode of massacre in transit seems to be in keeping with the ruthless barbarity of the despotic environment.
The author has presented his readers with a chapter of church history, which resembles a modern version of the annals of the great Reformation, and at the same time has a significant bearing upon the contemporary status of Christianity where it impinges upon Islam. The early fathers wrote of the opening struggles of Christianity with an overshadowing and hostile heathen environment. Modern historians have told us of the great conflicts with the corrupt and unsavoury medievalism of the Reformation era. Now in our day has come the turn of the later fathers of this missionary era, who are giving us a voluminous record of the world-embracing conflicts of present-day Christianity with
the great dominant religions of the non-Christian world. Such volumes as Cary's "History of Christianity in Japan," Richter's "History of Missions in India," Warneck's "Outline of a History of Protestant Missions," Stock's "History of the Church Missionary Society," and the "Records of the China Centenary Conference at Shanghai," with many others that might be mentioned, already form the later chronicles of a triumphant advance, which is no doubt finally to claim a world-wide victory.
The author's record is limited of course to one storm-centre of the foreign mission field. The story as he recounts it in page after page of his book is full to overflowing with rapid movement and crowded detail, but his fund of anecdote and incident constantly enlivens what readers unfamiliar with missionary story in Syria might find lacking in personal interest to them. His reminiscences of distinguished visitors and travellers, his genial records of social hours, or of touring companionships, his wealth of judicious and vigorous comment upon questions of missionary policy and practice, his unflinching characterization of fraud, corruption, and hierarchical assumption, his frequent allusion to the light which the land and its customs throw upon the Bible, his sketches of social etiquette and everyday life a generation or more ago, before the modernization of Syria began, are all valuable features of the narrative.
There are other aspects which no reader will fail to note, and which give a lively interest to the contents of the volume. His chronicles of persecution, spoliation, civil war, and massacre, which have so often marked the religious and political turmoils of the Asiatic Levant, his flashlights upon the confused religious entanglements of the Nearer Orient, his descriptive glimpses of the natural features and the physical phenomena, as well as the flora and fauna, of lands famous in literature and history, his references to men and women prominent in the tragic drama of civil and religious strife, as, for example, his story of Abd el Kadir, are illustrative of the variety which marks the subject matter.
His annals of church growth and organization in Syria, and the touching and often deeply stirring accounts of the experiences of individual converts, some of whom were martyrs, and all of whom passed through spiritual struggles, or endured cruel mockings and harassing persecutions, lend a living interest to the record. His report of educational progress - marvellous and beyond all expectation in the case of such an institution as the Syrian Protestant College at Beirut, his chronicles of literary toil and scholarly achievements in Bible translation, as well as in a broad range of literature issued by the American Mission Press, his tribute to the untiring and unstinted services of medical missionaries in Syria, of whom the lamented Dr. George E. Post was such a brilliant example, all add a historical and personal value to this, story of unwavering consecration in one of the difficult and faith-testing mission fields of the world.
The record he gives of the sacrificial lives of eminent and devout men and women who have rendered noble service to Christ's kingdom in Western Asia should be sacred to the modern Church. In these days of phenomenal missionary advance, when converts in many fields are counted by the thousands, and when such elaborate and vigorous organized support is given to the cause of missions, there is much that is wholesome and instructive in the study of such a chapter as that upon "The Seven Pioneers of the Syria Mission," which recounts the struggles and toils of those remarkable men who faced the difficulties and perils of those early days. Let us not forget or ignore amid the missionary successes of the present those "nights of toil " which tried the faith and taxed the fortitude of the toilers. We are sure that Dr. Jessup's volume will meet with a sympathetic welcome among hosts of friends. That it will command also the attention of students of the East, as well as of that portion of the Christian public, now rapidly increasing, who are interested in missions, we have every reason to believe.


In Memoriam

Since the above Introduction was written the chronicle of Dr. Jessup's busy and useful life has come to its final chapter. He died in Beirut, April 28, 1910. Many appreciative notices have appeared in the public press, and his death has been widely recognized as the passing of a loyal and consecrated soul to the realm of its higher service. It is a gratification to his friends that lie lived to complete this, his final task, and also that he survived long enough to know something of the welcome accorded to his captivating volumes, and the sympathetic and admiring response they have awakened in many hearts.

J. S. D.

Prefatory Note

"douloi axpeioi semen"
"Unprofitable servants." - Luke 17: 10

ANOTHER book? and that an autobiography? An Arabic scholar recently died in Cairo who was a poet, grammarian, and editor, and who painted his own trait by looking in a mirror.
Through the importunity of many friends, some of them my children, and some in official position, I was persuaded to undertake take a sketch of my life and times, especially my now fifty years of missionary service, and thus paint my own portrait. In an unthinking moment I consented, and during the past four years I have had to live over my whole life of seventy-seven years and my Syrian life of fifty-three years, until I am tired my story and myself. A man true to himself can get little comfort from unrolling the musty scroll of seventy-seven years in order to find out what he has been seeing, thinking, and all this time.
My autobiography is one thing; the history of the Syria mission is quite another, To weave the two into one tends to magnify the one and to minify the other, I have become weary of seeing and writing "I."
Having kept a pocket diary since 1855, and having copied all important letters in my letter copy-books of which I have volumes of 500 pages, each, the tax on my memory has not been so severe as on that man about whom our good Mr. Calhoun used to tell. A bachelor storekeeper, who wrote out all counts on the painted doors and window casements of his house, married a tidy woman who soon put his house in order. One day he came home, looked around him, and in dismay exclaimed "Wife, you have ruined me!" "Why?" she inquired. "Cause all my accounts were written on these doors and you have washed them off." After a moment she asked, "Don't you think you can recall them?" He replied, "I'll try." After a few days she asked him, "How have you succeeded?" He replied, "Fairly well; I have not got so much written but it is charged to better men!" That is the danger where one has to depend on mere memory. One may not recall as much, but he may put things in a better light than if he could refer to a record of the facts.
Once in Montrose when I was a boy, a pile of lumber fell on judge Isaac Post and knocked him unconscious. On recovering consciousness he said that when the beams struck him he recalled in an instant every event of his whole long life, and every word he had ever spoken. Thus the contact of this pile of literary lumber has caused me to relive my life in a very short time. And what a startling revelation it has been! and how many shortcomings it has revealed! How easy to see now how I might have done better, preached better, taught better, and lived nearer to my Lord and Saviour! "Not one good thing hath failed of all the good things which Jehovah our God spake concerning us" (Josh. 23: 14). "Remember all the way which Jehovah thy God hath led thee these forty years in the wilderness, that He might humble thee to prove thee" (Deut. 8: 2).
He has been faithful to His promise, "with you always" and He has been with me in sunshine and shadow, in joy or sorrow, on land and sea, amid perils from robbers, perils temporal, and perils spiritual. I take no credit to myself for anything God has helped me to do or rather has done through me. How often I have felt humiliated by the fulsome laudation expressed of foreign missionaries by friends in the home land, and I have longed for the time when all Christian workers at home and abroad shall stand on a level as disciples of a common Master and equally engaged in His service. A soldier sent to the Philippines deserves no more credit than one on guard in the fort on Governor's Island. I have tried to stick to my life-work. Tempted at various times to leave it and go home, or enter other fields of labour, I have tried to resist the tempter and to hold on. And God has helped me to hold on by giving me robust health, a happy home, and work enough to keep me from idleness.
It has well-nigh broken my heart at times to see young men entering on what seemed a life-work, obliged by failing health to drop their work, recross the sea to linger and die, "without the sight." And I have always urged new recruits in the Lord's foreign army to pray that they may have long life in His service.
In writing the early history of the work in Syria I have had the goodly companionship of noble men, who stand out before my mind as men of consecration, earnestness, and unusual ability. I have tried to do them justice. Yet "time would fall me" to give details of all their lives. In some cases such details cannot now be obtained.
I cannot close this preface without acknowledging my indebtedness to my eldest daughter Anna. Her sympathy and encouragement lightened the labour. Her discriminating intelligent judgment in selection of salient points of interest to be emphasized - her industry in sifting the enormous mass of "raw material," diaries, letters, manuscripts, addresses and prior published articles-her persuasions and her dissuasions - were alike an invaluable aid. [Acknowledgment is made for photographs and plates to:
Rev. Dr. James S. Dennis; The Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions; The Trustees of the Syrian Protestant College; The British Syrian Mission Committee in London; William T. Van Dyck, M. D.; Bonfils & Co., Beirut; Messrs. Reiser & Binder, Cairo, Egypt; Dr. Ira Harris and Rev. Dr. Nelson, of Tripoli; Rev. G. C. Doolittle, Sidon; Mr. E. Barudi; Miss Anna H. Jessup; Dr. F. T. Moore; Mr. Lucius Miller; The Lebanon Hospital for the Insane; and largely to Messrs. Sarrafian, of Beirut.]

HENRY HARRIS JESSUP. Beirut, January 1, 1910.

Henry Harris Jessup [1855]
Henry Harris Jessup [1855]

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