FURLOUGH is a temporary release from service. To the soldier it is a release from bearing arms. To the foreign missionary it is a change of place and generally a change of work, but no relief from work. If the returned missionary be an invalid , he may obtain absolute repose. But if he is in good health, he will probably have as strenuous a period of work as at any time in his life. I have visited America seven times in the past fifty years, four times on regular furlough, and three times through circumstances beyond my control. This has involved travelling 105,000 miles by sea and 50,000 miles by land. The shortest furlough was thirteen weeks, and the longest two years and three months. While in America, I delivered 901 addresses and sermons besides numerous talks to Sunday-schools. This was an average of 128 addresses each year, or more than two a week. I spoke to the students of nine theological seminaries, fifteen colleges, seven female colleges and seminaries, attended four meetings of the American Board of Foreign Missions, and six General Assemblies of the Presbyterian Church.
At the annual meeting of the A. B. C. F. M. in Milwaukee, September, 1878, owing to the illness of Dr. Manning of Boston, who was expected to preach the opening sermon, I consented, on three hours' notice, to deliver the annual address.
In May, 1879, when attending the Saratoga General Assembly as a commissioner from Lackawanna Presbytery, I found myself nominated to the high office of moderator. It was an embarrassing situation. The other nominees were Rev. Dr. E. F. Hatfield, the venerable stated clerk, and Dr. Darling of Albany, both friends of my sainted father, I was seated in the rear of the church when my dear friends, Hon. Wm. E. Dodge and Dr. Chas. S. Robinson, were putting me in nomination. Just ahead of me sat several substantial-looking elders, one of whom said to the other in an anxious tone, "Do you bear? They are nominating for moderator a foreign missionary who, they say, has never been even moderator of a presbytery, and knows little or nothing about conducting a great assembly. If he is elected we shall not get away from here for three weeks!" Just then we three candidates were ordered to retire, and as we walked together under the elms in front of the church, I resolved that, if called to that chair, I would let no grass grow under the feet of that body of grave and reverend brethren. Then came the tug of war. I was confronted with the necessity of appointing, before nine o'clock the next morning, seventeen standing committees, each comprising from ten to twenty men, to be selected according to certain fixed rules of priority and propriety from among a body of some 500 men, with not more than sixty-eight of whom I was personally acquainted. I at once sought the advice of that sagacious and experienced man, Dr. Hatfield, and he agreed to help me. I went to his room in the evening and we worked until 2 A. M., arranging and rearranging. He justly declined to take any responsibility, and I assumed it all. It was the hardest night's work I ever undertook, and I expected that many mistakes had been made, but it was a relief to find when the list was read the next morning, that there was no outburst of dissatisfaction. The next week a minister called at my boarding-place and requested a private interview. He asked, "Did you appoint the standing committees?" "Yes," said I, "I only am responsible. But why do you ask such a question?" He said, "Because our large presbytery was entirely overlooked." I said to him, "I am glad to hear that only one was overlooked. I did my best, and if you are ever made moderator you will know how to appreciate the task."
It was no easy matter to decide points of order when a Philadelphia lawyer, took one side and a Washington judge the opposite view. But I had Dr. Hatfield at my left hand and Dr. Patton of Princeton near by, and so I piloted the ship through the breakers. The assembly adjourned at the usual day and hour, and the pessimistic elder did not have to stay out his three weeks. The strain upon mind and body, through that ten days' assembly of three sessions each day, was severe, and it was with great joy and gratitude that I left Saratoga immediately after adjournment for an outing among old friends in Pittsfield, Stockbridge and Boston.
I owe it to the many friends who have opened their homes to me and treated me as a son and brother, to acknowledge their loving hospitality, when I have come among them as a stranger from a strange land. Dr. Goodell used to say that he had already the "hundredfold more in this present life, houses and lands and brethren" etc., for all the houses in Christian America were his. The Arabs say, in welcoming a guest, "beitna beitkum" - our house is your house, and this has been my glad experience in hundreds of houses and homes. And what a blessing it is, after years in a foreign land, to come for a season, and see the American Christian family life, the family altars, the lovely children and breathe the sweet air of liberty.
I believe in missionary furloughs. Some one has written of a traveller who found a missionary in Eastern Turkey, who had been there twenty years and this traveller had never heard of him. Whereupon he was filled with admiration. "Here is the true missionary, who has buried himself in Mesopotamia, done good work and yet never been heard of-so engrossed was he in his great work." I knew that missionary Rev. A. W. and he had been heard from. His brethren heard from him, his Board heard from him and published his letters; the churches of the A. B. C. F. M. had heard from him and prayed for him. His college classmates, one of whom was my brother William of the class of '49, Yale, had heard from him. Only this traveller had not heard of him. He had not read the Missionary Herald, and probably had not attended the missionary meetings. And when he unearthed this good man at his work in a far country he thought he had made a discovery and is loud in his praise of the man who goes abroad and never shows his head in America. But there are two sides to this question. Dr. Cornelius Van Dyck, co-translator of the Bible with Dr. Eli Smith, came to Syria in 1840. He visited America in 1853, again in 1865 to electrotype the Arabic Bible, remaining two years, but never took another furlough. Before his death in December, 1895, he said to me, "It is twenty-eight years since my last furlough. I have made a great mistake. I should have improved my regular vacations. I have lost touch with the American Church and American life." Dr. Thomson, author of "The Land and the Book," once made a similar remark to me, and so did my dear friend Rev. Wm. Bird, who, when he died, in 1902, had not been in America for fourteen years.
Paul and Barnabas returned to Jerusalem after a missionary tour, and "rehearsed how God had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles." The Church has a right to know what its army is doing at the front, and will feel a deeper interest in men and women whom they have seen and heard. And the missionary is benefited by a change from what are often the depressing surroundings of life in barbarous or semi-civilized lands, to the light and peace and stimulating influences of the home land. He needs it to restore impaired energies and prolong life. It is a Christian labourer's duty to live as long as he can, and it is true as a rule that a year at home adds years to a foreign missionary's life. All the foreign boards believe in this, and provide stated furloughs for all their labourers in distant lands, and their officers are generally considerate of the health of their missionaries while at home.
The variety of labour thrown upon them by the churches is a benefit to both parties. It is an education to the people and a recreation to the missionary.
As it is not probable that I shall live to take another regular furlough in America (in 1911), a word of counsel may be in place for young missionaries visiting home. When speaking to the churches and assemblies of the church, do not waste breath and time in scolding the people for their indifference and want of liberality. Tell them of your work - give them facts, descriptions, incidents. You can find out what they want to know by listening to their questions as you visit them in their homes. Do not take for granted that they know anything about your field or work. What you regard as commonplace or stale will come to them with all the charm of novelty. Above all, do not "curse Meroz." I was once in a General Assembly. It was Foreign Missions Day. Five missionaries were to speak, preceded by two secretaries. We each had eight minutes allotted us, and Dr. Ellinwood enjoined us to condense and be brief. The programme was handed to the moderator. A missionary from China spoke after the secretaries. He began deliberately an exposition of the text, "Curse ye Meroz," etc., and he made it hot for the pastors and elders, as he rebuked their shortcomings. And then he reached his subject, "China is the greatest empire in the world. It has eighteen provinces." Down went the moderator's gavel! "Your time is up!" The speaker turned and said, "Why, sir, I have come 10,000 miles and I have just begun to speak!" Down went the gavel again. "I have no option, the time is limited." The speaker descended, confused and probably very indignant, and sat down by us in the front seat. At the close of the service I said to him, "My dear brother, your mistake was in cursing Meroz in such an assembly as this. These good men curse Meroz all the year around. They wanted to hear about China and you used up your time in your exordium. The next time leave off the exordium; and begin where you ended today."
Entertainment by Christian friends is one of the most delightful and at the same time exhausting features of a missionary's homecoming. In February, 1863, Dr. Daniel Bliss, who had been in America six months, raising funds for the new college, found great difficulty in securing board with his wife and three children. Time after time he would answer an advertisement and apply for rooms and board, and be met with the question, "Any children?" "Yes, three." "Then I cannot take you." In writing to me he said, "I once thought that Jeff Davis ought to be hung. Now I think hanging is too good for him. He ought to be obliged to board around and visit around for three years with a wife and three children!"
Rev. George Muller, of Bristol, England, visited Beirut in 1882, but he persistently declined to accept the hospitality of any of our missionary families. He said he could make a few public addresses, but he must then retire to his hotel and have absolute rest, as he could not bear the strain of visiting. You will sometimes be asked to speak to a Sunday-school at 9 A. M., preach at eleven, address a Y.P.S.C.E. at 5 P. M., and a union meeting at 7: 30 P. M., and during the intervals a houseful of lovely children and youth will ply you with questions for "that bear story," or "that tiger story," or, if from Africa, about the biggest python you ever saw, and by eleven o'clock at night you will be exhausted if not an "insomniac." A man once said that "it was not the regular drinks that hurt him, but the drinking between drinks." It is not so much the talking at regular meetings that exhausts one, as the talking between talks.
A returned missionary is often exposed to another temptation. Some church which you visit is without a pastor. It may offer you, as some have done, five times the salary you receive abroad, and good opportunities for the education of your children. Some will even dare to say, "Why should you go abroad? Such men as you are, are needed at home. Anybody will do for Chinese coolies, Africans and Hindus. Why throw yourself away on such people? Men of culture and learning are needed here in our city churches." You will need much grace, patience and self-control to reply courteously to such low views of the great, work of the world's evangelization. Your only way is to keep your hand on the plow and refuse to look back. Resist every such temptation. I can speak from experience. On my first visit to America, in July, 1857, when I went home to be married, I was met on landing with a package of documents, being the correspondence between the faculty and directors of Union Theological Seminary, N. Y., and the secretaries of the A.B.C.F.M. in Boston, in which I was invited to accept the professorship of Biblical literature in Union Seminary, after spending two years in Germany (at the expense of the seminary), studying the Semitic languages and other needed branches, I took the documents to my room at my sister's house that night, read them carefully and prayerfully, and my decision was made in the negative. However, not to seem wanting in respect to my old teachers, I agreed to meet a committee of the faculty in August, in New York, Drs. Robinson, Smith, Hitchcock and Prentiss. It was a privilege to meet those revered and noble men, and not easy to decline to defer to their judgment. Dear Dr. Robinson, who, under a somewhat rough exterior, had a very tender heart, plead with me to accept, using arguments which in other circumstances would have been overwhelmingly convincing. Said he, "Union Seminary was founded to train missionaries for home and foreign missions. We need a man in the faculty full of the missionary spirit, to train our students for the foreign field, and your knowledge of Arabic will be invaluable in teaching the Old Testament language and literature." The others spoke in a similar strain. I thanked him from the bottom of my heart, but told them that as all family obstacles to my returning to Syria were now removed, I could never consent to leave a work to which I had consecrated my life. I said, "You can find men better qualified than I am to take this professorship, but it is hard to find men to go abroad. How could I plead with young men to go, when I had voluntarily withdrawn from the work? I might say to them, 'You ought to go,' and they would reply, 'Why did you not go?' 'I did go.' 'Why did you return?' 'I came to take this professorship.' 'Very well, we will remain and take pastorates and professorships without putting the churches to the expense of sending us out and bringing us back!'" I said, "Brethren, if I should now give up my work, my lips would be sealed on the subject of foreign missions."
These honoured and revered men then agreed that, in view of my strong convictions, they would not urge the matter further, and they always invited me to address the students during my subsequent visits to America.
Years after a member of the American Board said to me that when judge Wm. J. Hubbard, chairman of the Prudential Committee, heard of the invitation of Union Seminary to me, he declared that "If Henry Jessup withdraws now from the foreign missionary work, I will never trust another man." He probably had heard of some of my enthusiastic utterances when in Boston, at the time when I declined the St. Petersburg chaplaincy, and thought that I was bound to stand by my word. I am thankful that I did. It would have grieved me beyond measure to have done anything to discredit the sincerity of missionary consecration. It has always been my conviction that the foreign missionary service is a life enlistment. The twelve years or more of study in preparation, and the formal enlistment in the great army of Christ, make it, at the lowest estimate, one's duty to keep at it as long as health and life continue. I well remember the shock I received on learning that a foreign missionary had resigned in order to write a guide-book for travellers, and another to take a professorship at home, and another because he became discouraged and did not see fruit to his labours.
On my second furlough I was offered the pastorate of a metropolitan church, with most liberal salary, far beyond anything I had dreamed of. Yet this made no impression on my mind, during the furloughs of 1868 and 1883 the Lord permitted me to take part in the last filial offices to both of my parents. How can I express my gratitude for this blessed privilege!
During my visit home in 1882-1884, the trustees of the college asked me to raise $20,000 as a scholarship fund. The lamented Rev. Gerald F. Dale, Jr., of Zahleh, had received a legacy of $10,000 which he offered to the college on condition that they raise $20,000 in addition, and, as I left Beirut in June, 1882, he asked me to undertake the work while in America. I accepted the service, and in a year had raised about $22,000, through the kind cooperation of the heirs and executors of the late Frederick Marquand, Mr. and Mrs. Elbert B. Monroe, and Mr. and Mrs. D. W. McWilliams, James Lenox, and many others.
The various services of money raising for different objects in Syria have brought me into contact with some of the purest noblest spirits the world has ever known, and I learned how sacredly wealthy Christian men and women regard the property entrusted to them as God's stewards, and how solemn is the responsibility of those who receive pecuniary aid from their hands. Among these honoured servants of God I might mention Mr. and Mrs. W. E. Dodge, Dr. D. Stuart Dodge, William A. Booth, Egbert Starr, Frederick Marquand, Levi P. Stone; Matthias W. Baldwin, John A. Brown and Jay Cook of Philadelphia; Wm. Thaw of Pittsburg; Dr. Willard and daughters of Auburn; Dr. Frederick Hyde, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Dale; Henry Farnum of New Haven; Mr. and Mrs. Elbert B. Monroe and Mr. and Mrs. D. W. McWilliams, James Lenox, Morris K. Jesup, John S. Kennedy, Elliott F. Shepard and many others.
But the most touching experience of all was when I applied to an elderly widow lady in Philadelphia for aid in building the girls' school edifice in Beirut. It was in November, 1864, just before the reelection day of Abraham Lincoln. I had been advised to call on this lady although she had but little property. I found her in a beautiful neat residence with the typical white marble steps at the entrance. I sent in my card and she greeted me cordially and with beautiful grace and courtesy. At her request, I explained our need of a building for the girls' boarding-school in Beirut. She listened attentively and then said, "My dear friend, I would gladly help you, but I have nothing to give but what I earn. This house is not mine. I am allowed to remain in it while I live. I have just sufficient income to pay my daily expenses. But it is such a privilege to give to the dear Lord that I work every day and earn money and whatever I earn goes into the Lord's bag and is ready at His call. If there is anything in the Lord's bag now, you shall have it." She then went and brought a little bag and emptied seven dollars into my hands, and said, "I give this cheerfully because it belongs to the Lord and you are His servant." I was deeply touched, thanked her heartily, and asked her how she earned money, when she was nearly eighty years old. She replied that she bought up ragged pieces of haircloth, removed from sofas and chairs by the upholsterers, and from the horsehair she made clothes-brushes, binding them with coloured ribbon, and selling them for a half dollar apiece! In this way she made several hundred dollars in a year, and was able to answer every call for aid. "She hath done what she could." That seven dollars put at least thirty stones in the girls' school building, and this gift will never be forgotten!