Ishoc es Shemmaa - Locusts - A native pastor - The meteoric shower of 1866 - Elias Saadeh.
RETURNING to 1866, it must be noted that in March the Yusef Keram rebellion was still raging in the northern part of Lebanon, and we were straining every energy to complete the new girls' school building and to raise funds for the new church edifice. The French government had joined the other European Powers (England, Germany, Russia, Austria, and Italy) in aiding the Turkish government to suppress the Keram rebellion of priests and monks, Metawileh highwaymen and uncouth peasants. On April 29th, Rev. Khalil Maghubghub was ordained native pastor in Ain Zehalteh, Mount Lebanon. He was converted in 1846 by reading a Bible stolen in a Druse raid on a Christian village in the civil war of 1845.
Just at that time we heard the sad and stunning news of the sudden death of our colleague, Rev. J. Edwards Ford, in Geneseo, Ill., U. S. A. He rode out on horseback Sunday morning, March 25th, six miles across the prairie, to preach. It was bright, mild morning and he wore no overcoat. On his return fierce northwest blizzard began and before he reached home it had literally congealed his blood; double pneumonia set in, and in nine days, April 3d, he passed away.
The mission was thus deprived of one who was one of its strongest, ablest, and most efficient men. Mr. Ford was a master of the Arabic, a clear and cogent preacher, of commanding personality, sagacious in counsel, calm and patient and greatly beloved by the people. He was eminently a man of prayer. No one could be in his society or communicate with him in any way without being impressed with this fact. He was a wise counsellor. His judgment was sober, calm and clear, and his opinions, though modestly expressed, were well weighed and of great value.
In missionary labour he was indefatigable, of an iron frame, and with great physical vigour he endured what few other missionaries could. He seemed capable of doing anything without fatigue. He was thought to be the strongest man in the Syria Mission. [Rev. Joshua Edward Ford, born in 1825, graduated at Williams College 1844, graduated Union Seminary 1847, reached Syria March 8, 1848, reached Aleppo April 19, 1848, removed to Beirut November 11, 1855, removed to Sidon August 1, 1859.]
On May 1, 1866, Rev. S. H. Calhoun took his elder children to America for education, and returned January, 1867.
In March a young silk dealer from Hums, a member of the church, named Ishoc es Shemmaa, gave up his business and announced his purpose to give up his life to preaching the Gospel. Preparatory to entering a course of training under Mr. Calhoun in Abeih, he went on a preaching tour in the mountains west of Hamath. His life history is full of thrilling incidents. His grandfather, also named Ishoc, a Greek of the Orthodox Church, was a wild, fearless youth in league with the robbers and murderers of Hums. His weapon was a sharp sickle and night was his day. He was a famous swordsman and once put to flight a body of men with a walnut pipe stick. Being arrested for crime, he was taken out of the city by the governor and troops, to be hung. The governor said, "Ishoc, turn Moslem, and we will save your life and make you a governor, for you are a worthy man." He replied, "Impossible. I have been a man of blood and it will go hard with me. I cannot deny what religion I have. Whatever you wish to do, do it." Then he Sprang and attacked the commander of the guard but was seized and hung to a tree. The Greeks canonized him and said that a star appeared over his grave. Ishoc's father was even worse than the grandfather, and added to the sharp sickle swords, pistols, daggers, and guns, and became a notorious highway robber. He once dispersed fifty armed men. He was famous in the use of the sword, the club, and the spear, and an expert player on the harp, lute, and cymbals. A large number of enemies attacked him one night by the river Orontes. Some of them he cast into the river, others he killed and others he wounded. He too was a man of blood. Ishoc's account is now given in his own words: "As I grew up he used to beat me and threaten to butcher me so as to teach me to be bold and fight. He also taught me to sing vile songs and to play the stringed instruments. He took me to every haunt of immorality and crime and the people applauded my singing.
In 1860 I began to think about religion. I had persecuted the Protestants and mobbed them. I bought a Testament to read about the miracles of Christ, and see how great a man He was. A man asked me, 'I Have you heard this new Gospel?' I read the Testament, was troubled, saw my error and sin. My father said, 'What is this book ? Are you becoming Angliz?' He took a sword and rushed to kill me. Neighbours crowded in. I said, 'Blessed are ye when men persecute you.' Father said 'That is the talk of the Angliz.' I said it is the Word of Christ, Again he tried to kill me and watched his chance. At night he would say to my mother, 'Let me rise and butcher Ishoc while he sleeps, and be rid of such an iniquitous son.' Mother told him to wait a little and I would return to the Greek Church. So he waited and watched me. When I read the Gospel I seemed to be in the very days of Christ and the years of the apostles. Then all the family and town arose upon me and took my book. I fled, fearing that father would kill me. When I returned he asked me to read from the book. God opened his heart, he believed and rejoiced, went out to preach and was mobbed. People said, 'We thought that he would convince his son, but his son convinced him.' Yet all feared him. He testified for Christ. And when the people saw that he would not sing vile songs for money, nor drink arak, nor lie, they said, 'Truly they are Protestants.' He died trusting and rejoicing in Jesus and was persecuted even after his death, for his grave was insulted and dishonoured, but he was with Jesus." Ishoc afterwards laboured for thirty years as a faithful colporteur and evangelist in Beirut, Lebanon, and Latakia, where he is still at work.
In March, 1866, the locusts again appeared and the entire male population of Beirut was ordered out to the pines to gather them. full grown the body of each female locust is a me of eggs. Each man is required to gather six pounds of the eggs, i.e., the bodies of the locusts. Poor Syria! The land seems to be the victim of successive plagues: cholera, cattle murrain, civil war, locusts come one after the other or all together, so the people hardly recover from one before they are smitten with another. These, with the exactions and cruel extortions of the merciless tax-gatherers almost drive the people to desperation.
Dr. Thomson returned in March from England, having completed arrangements for publishing "The Land and the Book," and having helped Dr. Bliss in securing substantial aid for the college. By April our sorrow and anxiety about the failure of funds to complete the girls' school building were turned into JOY. In one week came a draft for 100 pounds from Mr. Henry Farnum then in Paris; 4240 from Mr. William A. Booth; and 50 pounds from Robert Arthitigton, 4390 in all. Dr. Thomson, Mr. Calhoun, Mr. Eddy, and Mr. Bird were all in Beirut when the news came and we had a service of thanksgiving and praise to God. On that very day Mr. Tod of Alexandria was in Beirut. His wife gave money for the first girls' school building for Mrs. Eli Smith in 1834, and he said he wished to contribute 100 pounds towards this second edifice.
April 3d - I wrote to Dr. H. B. Tristram, "As soon as the college gets settled in a permanent building, we hope to establish a Biblical museum of all the plants, birds, animals, minerals, and implements, etc., mentioned in the Bible, for the use of the pupils and the conservation of many things now rapidly going out of use. It is astonishing to see how rapidly the West is encroaching on the East."
At this time one hundred and ten new families came out as Protestants in Hums. The Emir Soleyman Harfoosh was poisoned in Damascus by a dose of "soleymany" (corrosive sublimate), given to him in coffee in the Damascus prison. The people exclaimed at the correspondence between his name and his bane.
In May the son of an American millionaire came to Lebanon for the summer. He held a nominal political office in Egypt and brought with him a Moslem Nubian servant, who was dressed in Parisian style with a gold-headed cane and high boots. The American did not have any religion to boast of but had evidently a vein of humour in his nature. One day he asked the American consul to inform Mr. Calhoun that his valet Ali was ready to be baptized, as he had become a Christian. The consul said, "What proof have you that he is a Christian?" The millionaire replied, "Tell Mr. Calhoun that he eats pork and gets drunk, and that proves that he is not Moslem, so he must be Christian." Alas, his master also used to get drunk, but neither of them were considered fit subjects for baptism.
June 9th - There are rumours of cholera at Tiberias. No wonder many of the Jews of Tiberias have made a vow that they will not change their clothes until the kingdom is restored to Israel; a convenient vow for such a lazy, unwashed rabble, but bad for their neighbours in cholera times.
The ever-recurring question of a Syrian pastor for the Beirut church was most pressing at this time when the foreign missionary force was so depleted and feeble. We were constantly criticized by neighbouring missions at the north and by Board officials at home for not having a native pastor in Beirut. No one regretted our failure more than I did. As acting pastor I urged upon them their duty to have a native pastor. We tried every educated native preacher but none would accept the place. We trained men for the ministry but they were tempted away by the higher salaries paid by other missions. In a letter to Dr. Clark of the American Board, I poured out my soul as follows: "The prospect of securing a native pastor for the Beirut church is as remote as ever. I cannot see a man among the young Protestants in Syria who seems to promise anything like what is needed in a pastor for this church. The central position of Beirut will
require the presence of an American missionary for some time to come, and it is not easy to satisfy the people with a native pastor while a foreign missionary is within reach. For this reason we steadily refused to send an American missionary to Hums. At length they were brought to the necessity of calling Sulleeba,
their present pastor. While Hums was in this transition state we had to do our best to prevent any other foreign missionary going there, a point which we could not forcibly carry in Beirut, should we abandon the native church in order to oblige, them to get a native pastor. I would like to see the experiment made, were it not that the English or Scotch would be only too glad of an excuse for introducing an Episcopal or other foreign missionary.
This is the great bane in this holy land. It is the carcase for all the missionary eagles, and it seems doubtful whether any foreign mission could settle native pastors over native churches and then pull up stakes and leave entirely, without simply opening the way for the entrance of another foreign mission. Yet our duty is not modified by this state of things. We have two native pastors and hope for more. We will preach and pray and print books as long as the Lord allows us to labour here. I believe Syria will yet be evangelized and in the simple gospel way, and true churches be formed on every side.
We feel the pressure as perhaps few missions do. Alas, how many bright hopes have been blasted on this and Syrian soil. How many young men of whom we had hopes that they would preach the Gospel have been tempted away by commerce or by higher pay in other missions, or become dragomen to travelers, or entered purely secular business. All missionaries feel that commercial centres and European communities in foreign lands are not favourable sites for the development of native independence in any sphere. The inland stations seem to assume more readily the principle of self-support and to demand a native ministry. I served the Beirut church nearly thirty tears as acting pastor.
In June, 1867, 1 endeavoured to persuade Rev. John Wortabet, M. D., recently called to a medical professorship in the Beirut college, to accept the pastorship of the Beirut church, but he absolutely refused. Mr. Williams of Mardin assailed me by almost every post insisting that I leave the church to itself until it found a native pastor. [When in New York, January 20, 1879, I was invited by Dr. H. Crosby to attend the New York ministers' Monday meeting at the Fourth Avenue Church, as the subject was to be, "How can foreign missions best honour the Holy Spirit by promoting the independence of the native churches and ministry?" I went and Dr. Clark called on me to explain why the Beirut church had not a native pastor. I explained, and gave a history of my agonizing efforts in this direction and how the church was contributing almost enough for the pastor's salary, and that we should throw the burden on them as soon as the right man should be found. Dr. Clark replied that there was altogether too much suppression of the native element in foreign lands. Then, one of the brethren, I think Dr. W. Phraner, called out, "And I would like to ask Dr. Crosby why it is that this Fourth Avenue Church has been for years suppressing the independence of its mission chapel in ---- Street, and reporting its members as of the 1,300 members of the Fourth Avenue Church and ignoring the mission chapel which ought now to be independent and self-supporting." There was loud applause at Dr. Clark's having found himself in the same box as myself.] The church consented to raise a sum annually equivalent to a pastor's salary and continued on this basis until 1890, when, after a very plain talk by Dr. Arthur Mitchell they called Rev. Yusef Bedr to be their pastor. During that twenty years we were training native preachers but the mere mention of the Beirut church terrified them. "There was Mr. So and So," and so many high and lofty characters, each one of whom claimed to be the greatest, that young preachers refused to preach to them lest they be repressed and humiliated.
A few months ago an elderly English lady, very deaf and decrepit, took lodgings at the Bellevue Hotel in Beirut. She had come on to the Holy Land to witness the winding-up of the Present dispensation. She prophesied a great earthquake in March which should destroy both London and Paris, and then Louis Napoleon would come to Beirut on a white horse leading the Jews back to the Holy Land. She laboured with some of us in the kindness of her heart and tried to persuade us to be ready for the coming of the Lord. We did all we could to answer her in Christian gentleness and printed some Arabic one-page tracts for her, containing Scripture texts about the certainty of death and similar themes. March came, but the earthquake did not, nor did Napoleon, nor the white horse, nor the Jews, and she paid her passage back to England in bitter disappointment.
In November, Dr. Post came to Beirut and was the guest of Dr. and Mrs. Bliss in Beit Kamad in the eastern quarter of Beirut. Here he had a severe attack of brain fever and his life was despaired of. On the night of November 11th, I watched with him, and the delirium of fever was very alarming.
Dr. Post recovered, and took a trip up the Nile, where, owing to the bitterly cold desert winds at night, he had an attack of pneumonia, but was mercifully restored. His physicians and brethren now said to him, "Doctor, no man can carry two watermelons in one hand. You are carrying two professions, that of preacher and itinerant missionary, and that of surgeon and physician. You must drop the one or the other."
The claims of the college were then so pressing that he withdrew the following year from the mission and entered the service of the Syrian Protestant College. He then had one watermelon in his hand, but, none the less, he could not relinquish the other, and has done what the Arabic proverb declares impossible. He has been not only the most skillful surgeon of the Orient, but a preacher, teacher and the author of an Arabic zoology, concordance of the Bible, surgery, Bible dictionary, and the Flora of Syria and Palestine.
Drs. Van Dyck and Wortabet were also elected professors in the medical college by the trustees in New York, and it began under the most favourable auspices.
In the fall of 1866, our former mission printer, Mr. G. C. Hurter, brought out for Boston merchants a cargo of kerosene oil and pine lumber. He introduced kerosene oil into Syria and thus conferred an untold blessing on the people. Before that time olive oil was the only oil used in lamps and it was becoming very expensive.
The sale of the American Press to private parties was seriously urged by some members of the mission, but, providentially, it was never effected. As long as matters continue as they are in the East, it would not be wise to subject the whole matter of printing the Bible to the whims of local censors and policemen. It remains American property and will remain so for many years to come; the very stronghold of truth and the fountain for sending out tens of millions of pages of God's Word every year in the future.
In October I had correspondence with Rev. Benjamin Davies, of Regents' Park College, London, about obtaining a manuscript copy of the "Kerm Sedde Kamus," a famous Arabic lexicon. A priest was engaged to copy it and another priest to copy the marginal notes, and the work required infinite pains in sending messengers, receiving the sheets and mailing them as they were received.
Just as I had finished the girls' school building and installed the teachers in it I began to purchase stone and lime for the new church. Mr. William A. Booth, of New York, always our staunch and wise friend, sent out an architect's plan which was adopted, and we made preparations to carry on the work. Dr. Thomson and his son-in-law, Mr. James Black, took much of the burden, and Mr. Black's labours have been commemorated in a memorial baptismal font of white marble which adorns the church.
Professor Morse, inventor of the telegraph, Mr. Geo. D. Phelps, of New York, and Mr. Henry Farnum, all residing in Paris, each sent $500 towards the building of the Beirut church.
This year (1866) a Scotch lady, Miss Jessie Taylor, came to Beirut and began work among the Moslem girls and women in the Bashura quarter of the city. By loving words and acts, caring for the and hungry and orphaned, she gained the confidence of the public. Then she took a few needy girls into her own house as boarders and the work extended for forty years during which she trained hundreds of girls in her home boarding-school. She was a woman of strong faith and courage and her pure, holy life exerted a powerful influence upon the community at large. In March, 1869,she had seventy-five Mohammedan girls.
The illness of Dr. Post, the removal of Rev. Samuel Jessup from Tripoli to Sidon, and the absence of Mr. Sulleeba Jerawan, left the whole northern part of the mission field without supervision, but the good seed grew and the church in Hums continued to prosper.
The meteoric showers of November 11th and 14th were notable events in Syrian history. My old college friend, Professor Newton, of Yale, had predicted a return of the periodic meteors or Leonids of 1833 in November 11th to 14th, 1866. In order to draw the attention of the people to the subject, we published in the weekly Arabic journal a request to the public to watch during the nights of the 13th and 14th of November for a grand display of falling stars. The notice was read with wonder by some and ridicule by others. The venerable Sheikh Nasif el Yazigy, the greatest modern Arabic poet, and the assistant of Dr. Eli Smith in the translation of the Bible, declared that he would not believe it until he saw it, and that it was a piece of Western assumption to claim to know the future. On the morning of Sunday, November 11th, a little after midnight, some young men saw what they described as a rain of fire, the stars seeming to have got loose, and to be running about the sky in disorder. A few minutes after a terrific thunder-storm set in; there was almost continuous thunder and lightning. On the two succeeding nights nothing was seen, as it was cloudy and rainy. I was watching in the sick-room of Dr. Post, and although I looked out every hour in the night, I could see nothing in the shape of meteors. On the morning of the 14th, at three o'clock, I was roused from a deep sleep by the voice of one of our young men calling: "The stars are all coming down." I arose immediately, called our guests, Dr. Budington and Mr. E. P. Hammond, and we spent the rest of the night on the flat roof of the house watching the wonderful display. The meteors poured down like a rain of fire. Many of them were large and vari-coloured and left behind them a long train of fire. One immense green meteor came down over Lebanon seeming as large as the moon, and exploded with a loud noise, leaving a green pillar of light in its train. It was vain to attempt to count them and the display continued until the dawn when their light was obscured by the King of Day. The alarm was first given by a native watchman of the preparatory department of the Syrian Protestant College, who had heard of the expected display and was on the lookout. The Mohammedans gave the call to prayer from the minarets, and the common people were in terror. [On November 27, 1872, there was a similar fall of Leonids, which continued from sunset till past midnight. The display was brilliant in the extreme.]
1867 - On Monday, January 7th, the Johanniter Hospital of the Knights of St. John of Berlin was inaugurated at 2 P. M. The German addresses were made by Count Wurtens Leben and Pastor Ebel, and the Arabic address by H. H. Jessup. Thus was begun a noble charity, which has continued for these forty-one years, a blessing to thousands of natives and hundreds of foreigners. In 1871 the medical management was entrusted to the American medical professors of the Syrian Protestant College.
January 26th I wrote to Dr. Holdich of the American Bible Society, asking permission to reprint the minim edition of the Arabic New Testament, as Dr. Van Dyck was then in New York and it would be long before that small edition could be electrotyped. I also stated that Ishoc, the colporteur, had visited 200 villages and been severely beaten by a robber hired for the purpose by a Greek priest. The Protestants of Safita were persecuted almost to death by the Greek priests and feudal chiefs. A Moslem sheikh, owning two lots at each extremity of the village, sold out his land and all the land lying between to a Greek scribe in the village. Owing to bribery he got a deed of nearly every house in the village, and proceeded to eject the Protestants from the houses for which they had legal titles. For two years the persecution went on. One day the entire body, men, women, and children, were seized by armed soldiers, and shut up in a small room where damp straw was set on fire, filling the room with dense smoke so that they Were almost suffocated. Then, at midnight, they were driven out In a driving storm to sleep among the volcanic rocks on the mountainside. Through the interposition of the British Consul-General Eldridge, Kamil Pasha of Beirut sent stringent orders which gave the brethren peace for the time being. The Syrian ecclesiastics, with rare exceptions, have been bitter enemies of the Gospel; using stripes, imprisonment, torture, and cruel oppression without compunction. But the Gospel has moved steadily on, and now in. that district between Tripoli and Hums are prosperous churches, among the largest in Syria.
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