SUNDRY NOTES AND INCIDENTS - INCIDENTS
A clergyman of the Church of England, a free lance, came to Syria desiring to baptize men. Not knowing the Arabic he was easily imposed upon and baptized a Bedawy renegade who went to Alexandria and I wrote to Mr. Strang, American missionary, there as follows:
"As to the gentle Bedawy, yes, Dr. ---- did baptize him and soon after he was baptized he told the natives in Suk el Gharb that 'When you tar a camel, it covers the skin but does not reach the bones,' i. e., that he is outwardly a Christian but inwardly what he always was - a Bedawy. He eloped with a girl of his tribe in the Bookaa, and the tribe pursued and killed her and tried to kill him and so he ran and turned Christian. Be careful not to leave him around where there are elopable women and girls. His weakness runs (one part of it) in that direction."
At the close of the communion service one Sabbath, a young man met me at the door and said, "Fereedy and I are in great trouble. Our little girl of nine months is dead, and now our little boy of three years is dangerously ill, and we want you to pray for him. We are Greeks but we feel that you know how to pray better than we do, and 'the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.' Fereedy is your pupil and says she knows that you will pray for our little Habeeb." I found that he was the husband of that beautiful girl Fereedy, once in our school, and that Dr. Post performed an operation on the little boy last week removing a large stone from his bladder, from which he had been suffering untold agony for months. All went well after the operation until Thursday night when the little fellow got up in the night while all were asleep and went to the bottle of nitrate of potash which Dr. Post had prepared with a sweet syrup and drank the entire contents at once, enough for sixteen doses, one every three hours. On Friday he was very ill and on Sunday the case became critical. Ameen came to ask our prayers. I told him I would do as he requested, and also asked the young ladies in the seminary to pray for the child. On Monday noon I went to the house, and found the child decidedly better, and the father's heart burst out, "We knew you were praying, for the child grew better from the time we left you." I remained some time and prayed with them urging upon them the duty of praying for the child themselves.
Another incident in Beirut shows how the people of other sects look upon Protestant prayers. A young Moslem of the aristocratic family of Beit Berbeer, who had been some time in Mr. Bistany's school, came in great anxiety to a Protestant young man who keeps a shop near Mr. Bistany's school and said, "I beg you to pray for me that I may escape the draft and draw a white paper. I went to the Moslem sheikh and asked him to pray for me and he would not and laughed at me. I know that you Protestants ask what you need from God, and He grants it, and there are no prayers like yours." So Khalil, who is a converted Druse, went around to Sit Khozma, who was one of Dr. De Forest's pupils, and she promised to pray for the Moslem. Hearing this he went with a light heart to the seraia, and awaited the drawing. He drew a white paper and came back to Khalil in perfect delight, declaring that there is no prayer like that of the Christians. Said Khalil, "Be careful how you say that before your father." He answered, "I will say it before the world, for it is true"
It is Ramadan, the thirty days' fast of the Mohammedan world. It is a sacred fast, rigidly kept. A true Moslem will cat nothing from sunrise to sunset, drink nothing and smoke nothing, and not even smell sweet odours. But when the sunset gun fires, which is the dinner bell of two hundred millions, the fast is suddenly transformed into a feast. The whole family of Islam rush to the dinner table as if famine stricken. The evening is spent in social visiting and then a nap is indulged in until midnight, when the whole city is aroused to eat by the patrol who beat huge drums with a deafening clamour. Then another nap and another gormandizing before day dawns and then the faithful are ready for the abnegations of the day. This year Ramadan falls in a month of short days and long nights, so that it is comparatively easy. The price of provisions is higher than usual. Shopkeepers say that the Moslems buy up all the best provisions at any price. This is a comment on Moslem self-denial. They eat more, and buy more expensive food in Ramadan than in any other month of the year.
It is much the same with the Papists and Greeks. They fast on Wednesday and Friday of every week. That is they cat no meat. But they can eat fish in every style, and fruits, vegetables, and sweetmeats, of the most exquisite varieties.
Ramadan is a grand nocturnal festival, and the Greek weekly fasts are a compulsory variation of the bill of fare.
A young Bedawy youth aged fifteen came to me one Saturday desiring to become a Christian. I asked who Christ is. He said, "He is the Exalted God and came down here and slew Himself to save us." I have taken steps to get him into a school on trial, to see whether he is in earnest or not.
In November 1873, I wrote to Dr. Ellinwood as follows:
"A notable week has just passed, as the Arabic has it, 'Yobeel' or jubilee week in Beirut, it being just fifty years since the American missionaries settled in Beirut. On Wednesday, November 19th, services were held in the English language in the church at 3 P. M. and addresses were made by Dr. Thomson, Dr. Post and myself, and the devotional exercises conducted by Dr. Van Dyck, Mr. Calhoun, and Rev. Mr. Robertson, our excellent Scotch pastor. In the evening a social reunion was held in the house of Mr. Robertson at which informal addresses were made by Dr. Bliss, Dr. Wortabet, and Professor Porter of the Syrian Protestant College and Dr. Brigstocke, the resident British physician.
"These exercises had special reference to the long-continued cordial cooperation of the British and American residents in Syria in a joint religious service for half a century in the English language. And it is a fact worthy of mention that in this land of the Bible, so much of the Bible spirit has prevailed, as to induce Presbyterians, Methodists, Episcopalians, Congregationalists, and Baptists from America, England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales to worship together and commune together for fifty years with hardly ever a jar or discord. It was worthy of a jubilee of gratitude and praise to God. Last Sabbath, November 23d, the jubilee was made the subject of remark in the Arabic service, and on Monday evening about 200 of the Syrian people assembled at my house to celebrate the occasion in the Arabic language. We had music and simple refreshments, and then addresses by Messrs. B. Bistany, Elias Fuaz, and Ibrahim Sarkis, who reviewed the history of the past fifty years in Syria. Mr. Sarkis read in the first place the bull of the Maronite partriarch in 182S cursing the Protestant Bible and forbidding its distribution and sale in Syria, and then a statement of the number of Bibles and religious books published since that time. The whole number of Scriptures is about 70,000 and of religious books about 90,000 in the Arabic language, making a total of 160,000 volumes which at an average of 500 pages would make 80,000,000. This is hardly what the Maronite patriarch anticipated.
"I have just returned from a house of mourning, not a house where death has entered, but where a sad calamity has befallen the family. Ishoc, a faithful preacher, has an invalid wife named Laiya, and lately sent to Hums, his native city, for his sister Fetny to come and aid in the domestic affairs. Last week Fetny, who has one blind eye, was attacked with ophthalmia which is now an epidemic in a virulent form and highly contagious, and in forty-eight hours lost the other eye, becoming stone blind. Then Laiya was attacked and has lost both eyes! I went in the evening to see them. They sat silent on their low beds, one on the floor and the other on a divan. Not one word of complaint escaped them. They seemed rejoiced to hear a word of comfort and said that they had great peace of mind in the faith that it was the hand of the Lord, who does all things well. Ishoc said, as I entered the door, 'My dear brother, how I bless God for the religion of Jesus Christ! How could I bear such a stroke without His aid?' The poor women also said that they had not one word of complaint to utter, and could only bless God for His mercies. It would do our friends in America good to enter this room of physical blindness and witness the blessed effects of the faith of Jesus which is truly like a light shining in a dark place."
November 18th was a glad day for us in Beirut. That missionary company which then reached us was probably as gladly greeted as any company that has ever arrived here. All were in perfect health and cheerful spirits, and we are thankful for such a reinforcement to our missionary band.
The party consisted of Rev. and Mrs. Samuel Jessup and two children, Rev. F. W. March, a new recruit, Miss Emily Bird of Abeih, Miss Fisher, and a teacher for Constantinople.
Mr. March has gone to Zahleh for the winter; Miss Fisher is established with the female seminary to the great joy of her fellow teachers and is laying siege to the Arabic gutturals.
The arrival of my brother, Rev. Samuel Jessup, fresh from reviving intercourse with the American churches and especially from the great meeting of the Evangelical Alliance, added new interest to all these jubilee meetings, and he has given us accounts of the meeting both in Arabic and English. We have great reason for gratitude for the safe arrival of his large party after that long trip of 7,000 miles, and there was peculiar occasion for thanksgiving that they arrived no later. They had hardly reached their resting places in our various homes when the gathering tempest burst upon us. The sea was lashed into fury and the rain poured in a literal deluge. Five inches of rain fell in Beirut in that one night between sunset and sunrise. The custom-house was submerged by a flood of muddy water and $50,000 worth of goods were destroyed. The thunder and lightning were almost continuous for twenty-four hours. In the midst of it all Mr. and Mrs. Calhoun rode down from Abeih, five hours on horseback, to attend the jubilee, and during our meetings, which were well attended, the crash of the thunder was so violent as almost to drown the voices of the speakers. But we all rejoiced in the abundant rain and although several boxes of missionary goods were in that ill-fated custom-house, and were saturated with muddy water, our friends took joyfully the spoiling of their goods, in view of the universal gladness of the Syrian people that the eight months' drought had come to an end. Men looked complacently on the falling walls, the washing away of terraces, the gullying of highways, the inundation of shops and storehouses, for the prices of wheat and flour had fallen, the poor were freed from the famine prices of the past few months and Moslems and Greeks, Maronites and Protestants, Druses and Jews, forgetting their differences, congratulated one another on the "rahmet Allah" the mercy of God to the suffering land.
The Tripoli Girls' School was opened by Mrs. Shrimpton, formerly of the British Syrian Schools, and Miss Kip, in the Yanni house, the domestic department being conducted by Dr. and Mrs. G. B. Danforth. Dr. Dennis was called to the theological seminary on account of his ripe scholarship and love of literary pursuits. The judgment of the mission was fully justified. While in connection with the seminary he prepared, with the aid of Mr. R. Berbari and Mr. Ibrahim Haurani, three works which have become standards in theological instruction wherever the Arabic language is used: a treatise on theology in two volumes, based largely upon Hodge, but abridged, with judicious additions and adaptations to suit the Oriental environment, Evidences of Christianity, and Biblical Interpretation.
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