V. WILLIAM GOODELL, THE SCHOLARLY SAINT
Syria can claim William Goodell as one of her pioneers and benefactors. He spent five years and sixteen days in Syria. He was appointed to Jerusalem but never saw Jerusalem. He came to an Arabic-speaking land, but studied chiefly the Armenian and Turkish languages with Armenian ecclesiastics who had become Protestants, and thus prepared for his great work of translating the Bible into the Armeno-Turkish, i. e., the Turkish language with Armenian characters. He arrived in Beirut November 16, 1823, left for Malta May 2, 1828, and reached Constantinople, the scene of his life-work, June 9, 1831, having been transferred to that post on account of his proficiency in the Turkish and Armenian languages.
In many respects his character was unique. He seemed saturated with the Bible and Bible phraseology, so that it flowed naturally from his tongue and pen. His letter, entitled "The Missionary's Father," is a gem of pure English and devout expression, and has been perpetuated in tract form. His sense of humour was refreshing, bubbling over on all occasions, and sparkling even in the darkest hour of persecution and tribulation.
His chum and loved colleague, Daniel Temple of Smyrna, was of a grave and serious temperament, looking on the dark side, while Goodell's buoyant spirits were always rejoicing in the sunlight. One day at Andover, while they were sitting in their room together Temple said to Goodell with a heavy sigh (ab imo pectore), "Ah me! I don't see how I shall ever get through the world!" " Why," replied Goodell, "did you ever hear of anybody who stuck fast by the way?"
Just before they went abroad as missionaries, they were visiting together at the home of a hospitable lady in Salem Mass., who said, after welcoming them, "Mr. Temple, take the rockingchair." "No, madam, if you please," said Mr. Temple, "I will take another. Missionaries must learn to do without the luxuries of life." "Well," said the lady, turning to Mr. Goodell, "you will take it." "Oh, certainly," he replied; "missionaries must learn to sit anywhere!"
Dr. Hamlin says of Mr. Goodell that he bad substantially Puritan theology, Puritan saintliness and Puritan patriotism, and this saintliness was adorned with the most sparkling cheerfulness. His wit and mirthfulness made perpetual sunshine. When his colleague, Father Temple, reproved him, saying, "Brother Goodell, do you expect to enter heaven laughing?" "I don't expect to go there crying," was his quick reply. His sagacity and judgment were remarkable, and it was owing largely to his good judgment, with that of his associates, Riggs, Schauffler, Dwight and Hamlin, that the Earl of Shaftesbury said in 1869, "I do not believe that in the whole history of missions, I do not believe that in the history of diplomacy, or in the history of any negotiations carried on between man and man, we can find anything equal to the wisdom, the goodness and the pure evangelical truth, of the 'body of men who constitute the mission."
When in Beirut in 1826, during the Greco-Turkish war, Greek vessels of war cruised along the coast and attacked Beirut, the Pasha of Acre sent to Beirut a large detachment of Albanians, and Bedawin to protect the city. As the Greeks who landed had evacuated the city, these troops began to plunder, A party of seven Bedawin attacked Mr. Goodell's house which was a quarter of a mile east of the city wall. They knocked at the street door at the foot of the stairs. Mr. Goodell opened the second story window at the head of the stairs, told them he was a European and warned them to desist. But they cut down the door with their hatchets and rushed up-stairs. Some city Moslems rushed up after them and took their station at Mrs. Goodell's door, not allowing a Bedawy to enter. As they passed with the plunder, Mr. Goodell and these friendly Moslems snatched from them all they could and threw it into the "hareern" of Mrs. Goodell, which they dared not enter. At length Mr. Goodell reproached them severely and told them he had already sent word to the pasha, and that Mrs. Goodell's condition prevented their going to the mountains. The villains prayed that God would bless Mrs. Goodell and make her exceeding fruitful! Some of the rogues came a few days afterwards to inquire after her health and one came to ask for some tobacco in a pouch, which he said Mr. Goodell had stolen from him when he called the other day! A Greek artist made a painting of the house and pictured the Bedawin (according to Mr. Goodell's sketches at the time) in their striped ahbas. This picture was shown to the pasha by the British consul, Abbott, and he at once recognized the men and ordered them to be bastinadoed and full indemnification ($230) to be paid at once.
In January, 1827, Dr. Goodell wrote of a delightful communion season. It was the day of the monthly concert of prayer, and the ingathering of the first-fruits: Dionysius Carabet, formerly Archbishop of Jerusalem, Gregory Wortabet, an Armenian priest (whose distinguished and learned son, Rev. John Wortabet, M.D., died in a ripe old age in Beirut, 1908), and Mrs. Maria Abbott, wife of the English consul, born in Italy and formerly a Roman Catholic.
(Mrs. Maria Abbot, afterwards left a widow, married, August 3, 1835, Rev. Dr. William M. Thomson, author of “The Land and the Book." One of her daughters, Eliza, married Mr. James Black, an English merchant, whose sterling integrity, high business principles and unflinching veracity gave him an influence for righteousness in Syria never surpassed The Mohammedans, when wishing to use an oath stronger than the oath 41 “by the beard of Mohammed," would swear “by the word of Khowaja Black, the Englishman." Another daughter, Julia, married Rev. Dr. Van Dyck, translator of the Bible into Arabic. Another daughter, Miss Emilia Thomson, is the senior teacher in the Beirut Girls' School.)
At the communion above mentioned, prayer was offered for our beloved Asaad es Shidiak, “who would have been with us were he not in bonds for the testimony of Jesus." Dr. Goodell wrote, “Oh, that this mission might henceforth be like ‘the tree of life’ bearing twelve manner of fruits, and yielding her fruit every month! "
In 1862 Dr. and Mrs. Goodell visited Beirut, and remained two weeks. He preached twice in English and visited old friends. I went with him to the house in which the Bedawin attacked him, and we found the aged couple, who owned the house in 1826, still living in it, and they were rejoiced to see Dr. Goodell. He says in alluding to the visit, “One of our first visits was to the Protestant cemetery, a retired and pleasant spot, which I myself purchased of the sons of Heth for a possession of a burying-place thirty-seven years ago, in 1825. Here we stood by the graves of the well-known and beloved brethren, Fisk (who died at my house in Beirut), Smith and Whiting, whose memories are as fragrant as ever and whose works still follow them. The changes that have taken place in Beirut are great, and those that have taken place on Mount Lebanon are still greater. The pride of Lebanon is broken, those high looks are brought low, and that terrible power which trampled upon all who thirsted for God or desired a knowledge of His ways, is cast down." Dr. Goodell refers to the prostration of the Maronite hierarchical power in the civil war and massacres of 1860
He then says, “I was amazed at the amount of influence and confidence possessed by the missionaries. Their character is now known and respected, and their names, which were once odious to a proverb, are now held in honour."
In 1863 his labours in the work of translating and revising the Holy Scriptures came to a close, in the completion of the final revision of the entire Bible in the Armeno-Turkish language. This work will now remain a monument to his accurate scholarship, his sound critical judgment, his lifelong perseverance and his Scriptural piety. Before leaving Constantinople he published forty-eight of his sermons in Turkish which he had preached to the people. They were afterwards translated into Bulgarian and Armenian.
Dr. Edward Prime, in his life of Goodell, says, “The trials of childhood and youth, his struggles into the work to which he was called; perils by land and sea; plundered by Arabs; his life attempted by poison among the Turks; living in the midst of the plague that killed a thousand and more daily, and fires that swept off every house but eight, where he dwelt: such is an outline of the life he has led, yet he is the same genial, pleasant, cheerful man that he was when he took the rocking-chair in Salem nearly a half century since." When he came to Beirut in 1862 he had strong hopes of being able to visit Jerusalem, but the movements of steamers prevented, and he said to me, “I came from America in 1823, appointed to Jerusalem, but I never got there, and now I am disappointed again. It must be that the Board meant that I was bound for the heavenly Jerusalem, which I am sure of reaching in the Lord's good time."
When he finished the final revision of the Armeno-Turkish Bible, he wrote to Dr. John Adams, his teacher at Andover, “Thus have I been permitted to dig a well in this distant land at which millions may drink, or, as good Brother Temple would say, ‘to throw wide open the twelve gates of the New Jerusalem to this immense population!"
In 1851 he visited his native land, where, in two years, he traveled 25,000 miles, addressing more than 400 congregations in aid of foreign missions, besides meeting students of colleges, theological seminaries, and Sabbath and select schools. In 1853 he returned to Constantinople, having published his volume, "The Old and the New." Here he laboured until 1865, when at the age of seventy-three he requested a release from the Board and returned to the United States. He continued to preach until his death in 1867, at the age of seventy-five, at the residence of his son in Philadelphia. He was rarely gifted, full of genial humour, sanguine, simple, courageous, modest, above all, holy. He won hearts and moulded lives.
My father heard him address the New School General Assembly in Washington, D. C., in May, 1852. I was teaching in the academy in Montrose at the time, and father came home full of missionary enthusiasm and admiration of the eloquence, the saintliness and fascinating humour of this veteran missionary, The following winter, I heard him several times in the churches in New York and felt the same fascination. And now, at the age of seventy-seven, I am glad to pen this brief record of the works and the worth of this American pioneer in Syria.