WOMAN AND HER SAVIOUR IN PERSIA.
A RETURNED MISSIONARY.
Fine Illustrations, and a Map of Nestorian Country.
Our Saviour bade his disciples gather up the fragments, that nothing be lost; and many who have known of Miss Fiske's fifteen years of labor for woman in Persia, have desired her to prepare for publication the facts now presented to the reader. The writer was one of these; and it was only when he found that she could not do it, that he attempted it, in accordance with her wishes, simply that these interesting records of divine grace might not be lost.
The materials have been drawn from the letters and conversations of those familiar with the scenes described, and especially from Miss Fiske. In all cases, the language of others has been condensed, as much as is consistent, with the truthful expression of their ideas; and, in the translation of the letters of Nestorians, it has not been deemed essential to follow slavishly every Syriac idiom, for, instead of these letters owing their interest, as some have supposed, to their translators, they may have sometimes rather suffered from renderings needlessly idiomatic.
It was at one time proposed to embrace the history of both the Male and Female Seminaries, but the proposition came too late, and the memoir of the lamented Stoddard gives so full an account of the former, that now we need to hear only the story of its less known companion; but let the reader bear in mind that as much might have been said of the one as of the other, had the design been to give an account of both.
A strict adherence to the order of events in the following pages would have produced a series of disjointed annals. To avoid such a breaking up of the narrative, each subject has been treated in full whenever introduced, though that has involved a freedom somewhat independent of chronological order.
The notices of the revivals are mere incidental sketches. Their complete history remains to be written.
The beautiful Illustrations introduced are all new, copied from sketches taken on the spot by the skillful pencil of a dear missionary brother, whose modesty, though it will not consent to the mention of his name, yet cannot prevent a grateful sense of his kindness. The Map is an improvement on others previously published, and, besides adding to our geographical knowledge, will be found valuable to the friends of missions.
If the readers of these pages enjoy but a small part of the delight found in their preparation, the writer will not regret his undertaking. May the day be hastened when heaven shall repeat the hosannas of a regenerated world, even as now the abundant grace bestowed upon the Nestorians redounds, through the thanksgiving of many, to the glory of God.
WOMAN WITHOUT THE GOSPEL.
POLITICAL CONDITION.—NESTORIAN HOUSES.—VERMIN.—SICKNESS.—POSITION AND ESTIMATION OF WOMAN.—NO READERS AMONG THEM.—UNLOVELY SPIRIT.—SINS OF THE TONGUE.—PROFANITY.—LYING.—STEALING.—STORY ABOUT PINS.—IMPURITY.—MOSLEM INTERFERENCE WITH SEMINARY.
VISIT THERE.—NATIVE ACCOMMODATIONS.—HOSPITALITY OF SENUM.—MOHAMMEDAN WOMEN.
THE SCENE OF THE NARRATIVE.
NESTORIANS.—THEIR COUNTRY.—FRONTISPIECE.—LAKE.—PLAIN.—FORDING THE SHAHER.—MISSION PREMISES IN OROGMIAH.
OBJECT.—MEANS.—STUDY OF BIBLE.—PUPILS KEPT IN SYMPATHY WITH THE PEOPLE.—PEOPLE STIMULATED TO EXERTION AND SELF-DEPENDENCE.— TAHITI.—MADAGASCAR.
MRS. GRANT.—EARLY LIFE AND LABORS.—GREAT INFLUENCE.—HER SCHOOL.—HER PUPILS.—BOARDING SCHOOL.—GETTING PUPILS.—CARE OP THEM.—POVERTY OF PEOPLE.—PAYING FOR FOOD OF SCHOLARS.—POSITION OF UNMARRIED MISSIONARY LADIES.—BOOKS.
MAR YOHANAN.—STANDARD OF SCHOLARSHIP.—ENGLISH BOOKS READ IN SYRIAC.—EXPENSE.—FEELINGS OF PARENTS.—DOMESTIC DEPARTMENT.—DAILY REPORTS.—PICTURE OF A WEEK DAY AND SABBATH.—"IF YOU LOVE ME, LEAN HARD."—ESLI'S JOURNAL.—LETTER FROM PUPILS TO MOUNT HOLYOKE SEMINARY—FROM THE SAME TO MRS. C.T. MILLS.
IN GAWAR AND ISHTAZIN.—VILLAGES OF MEMIKAN.—OOREYA, DARAWE, AND SANAWAR.—IN GAVALAN.—ACCOMMODATIONS.—SABBATH SCHOOL.
EARLY LABORS FOR WOMEN.
FIRST MEETINGS WITH THEM.—FIRST CONVERT.—FIRST LESSONS.—WILD WOMEN OF ARDISHAI.
FRUITS OF LABOR IN NESTORIAN HOMES.
USEFULNESS AMONG RELATIVES OF PUPILS.—DEACON GUWERGIS.—REFORMED DRUNKARD AND HIS DAUGHTER.—MATERNAL MEETINGS.—EARLY INQUITIES FROM GEOG TAPA.—PARTING ADDRESS OF MR. HOLLADAY.—.VISIT TO GEOG TAPA.—SELBY AND HER CLOSET.
DEACON MURAD KHAN IN 1846.—PENTECOSTAL SABBATH IN 1849.—MEETINGS IN 1850 AND 1854.—EXTRACTS FROM JOURNAL OF YONAN IN 1858.
REVIVAL IN 1846.
PREPARATORY WORK.—SANCTIFIED AFFLICTIONS.—NAME FOR REVIVAL.—SCENES IN THE SEMINARIES IN JANUARY.—DEACON JOHN, SANUM, AND SARAH.—MR. STODDARD.—YACOB.—YONAN.—MEETING IN THE BETHEL.—PRIEST ESHOO.—DEACON TAMO.—PHYSICAL EXCITEMENT AND ITS CURE.—ARTLESS SIMPLICITY OF CONVERTS.—MISSIONARY BOX.—MEETINGS BEFORE VACATION.—MR. STODDARD'S LABORS.—FEMALE PRAYER MEETING.—REVIVAL IN THE AUTUMN.
SARAH, DAUGHTER OF PRIEST ESHOO.—MARTHA.—HANNAH.
DEACON JOHN STUDYING BACKSLIDING IN 1849.—WORK IN VILLAGE OF SEIR.—WIVES OF SIYAD AND YONAN.—KHANUMJAN.—WOMEN AT THE SEMINARY.—GEOG TAPA.—DEGALA.—A PENITENT.—SIN OF ANGER,—REVIVAL IN 1856.—MISS FISKE ENCOURAGED,—STILLNESS AND DEEP FEELING.—UNABLE TO SING.—CONVERSION OF MISSIONARY CHILDREN.—VISIT OF ENGLISH AMBASSADOR.—REVIVAL OF 1857.—LETTER OF SANUM.
SEMINARY BROKEN UP IN 1844.—DEACON ISAAC.—PERSECUTION BY MAR SHIMON.—FUNERAL OF DAUGHTER OF PRIEST ESHOO.—DEACON GUWERGIS.—ATTEMPT AT ABDUCTION OF PUPIL.—PERIL OF SCHOOL.—MRS. HARRIET STODDARD.—YAHYA KHAN.—ANARCHY.—LETTER FROM BARILO.
EVIL INFLUENCE OF HOMES.—OPPOSITION IN DEGALA.—ASKER KHAN.—POISONING OF SANUM'S CHILDREN.—REDRESS REFUSED.—INQUISITOR IN SCHOOL.—TROUBLES AT KHOSRAWA.—LETTERS FROM HOIMAR.
LANGUAGE OP PRAYER.—PRAYER ON HORSEBACK.—OLD MAN IN SUPERGAN.—MAR OGEN.—EARNESTNESS.—FAREWELL PRAYER MEETING IN 1858.—LETTER FROM PUPIL.—SPIRIT OF PRAYER IN 1846.—WOMAN WHO COULD NOT PRAY,—"CHRIST BECOME BEAUTIFUL."—CLOSET IN THE MANGER.—MONTHLY CONCERTS.— PRAYERFULNESS IN 1849 AND 1850.—SABBATH, JANUARY 20TH.—INTEREST CONTINUED TILL CLOSE OF TERM.—FAMILY MEETINGS.—AUDIBLE PRAYER.-ANSWER TO MOTHERS' PRAYERS.—CONNECTION OF REVIVALS WITH PRAYER AT HOME.
MOUNTAIN GIRLS IN SEMINARY.—PRAYING SARAH.—RETURN TO THE MOUNTAINS.—VISIT OF YONAN AND KHAMIS, IN 1850.—OF MR. COAN, 1851.—OF YONAN, AGAIN, 1861.—SARAH'S LETTERS.
LABORERS IN THE MOUNTAINS.
LETTER OF BADAL.—ACCOUNT OP HANNAH.—THE PIT.—LETTER OF GULY AND YOHANAN.—ACCOUNT OF SARAH.—LETTERS OF OSHANA.—LETTERS AND JOURNAL OF SARAH,—LETTERS FROM AMADIA,—CONFERENCE OF NATIVE HELPERS.
EXAMINATION IN 1850.—COLLATION AND ADDRESS.—VALEDICTORY BY SANUM.— SABBATH SCHOOL IN GEOG TAPA.—EXAMINATION THERE IN 1854.—PRAYER MEETING AND COMMUNION AT OROGMIAH, MAY, 1858.—SELBY, OF GAVALAN, AND LETTER.—LETTER FROM HATOON, OF GEOG TAPA.
THE FIELD OF CLOVER.—THE LOST SOUL.—THE SAVED SOUL.—HANNAH.
HOSPITALITY OF NESTORIANS.—KINDNESS OF PUPILS.—BATHING FEET.—LETTERS OF GOZEL, HANEE, SANUM OF GAWAR, MUNNY, RAHEEL, AND MARTA.—HOSHEBO.— RAHEEL TO MRS. FISKE.—MOURNING FOR THE DEAD.—NAZLOO.—HOSHEBO'S BEREAVEMENT.—DEATH OF MISSIONARY CHILDREN.—LETTER FROM SARAH, DAUGHTER OF JOSEPH.
PROGRESS AND PROMISE.
BENEVOLENCE, EARLY MANIFESTATION OF.—PROGRESS.—REVIVAL OF BENEVOLENCE IN APRIL, 1861.—INTEREST OF PARENTS FOR THE CONVERSION OF THEIR CHILDEREN.—PEACE IN FAMILIES.—REFORMED MARRIAGES.— ORDINATIONS.—COMMUNION SEASONS.—MISS RICE AND MISS BEACH.—CONCLUSION.
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List of Illustrations.
I. PLAIN AND LAKE OF OROOMIAH, AS SEEN FROM ROOF OF SEMINARY AT SEIR
II. MAP OF THE NESTORIAN COUNTRY.
III. FEMALE SEMINARY.
V. MISSIONARY SCENE IN TURGAWER.
VI. COURT YARD OF SEMINARY.
VII. SEIR GATE, OROOMIAH.
VIII. TIARY GIRL.
WOMAN AND HER SAVIOUR.
WOMAN WITHOUT THE GOSPEL.
POLITICAL CONDITION.—NESTORIAN HOUSES.—VERMIN.—SICKNESS.—POSITION AND ESTIMATION OF WOMAN.—NO READERS AMONG THEM.—UNLOVELY SPIRIT.—SINS OF THE TONGUE.—PROFANITY.—LYING.—STEALING.—STORY ABOUT PINS.—IMPURITY.—MOSLEM INTERFERENCE WITH SEMINARY.
We love to wander over a well-kept estate. Its green meadows and fruitful fields delight the eye. Its ripening harvests make us feel as if we too were wealthy. But while the view of what lies before us is so pleasant, our joy is greater if we can remember when it was all a wilderness, and contrast its present beauty with the roughness of its former state.
So, in viewing the wonders of divine grace, we need to see its results in connection with what has been. We can appreciate the loveliness of the child of God only as we compare him with the child of wrath he was before. Paul not only recounts the great things which God had done for the early disciples, but bids them remember that they were once without Christ; and before he tells them that God had made them "sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus," he reminds them that they had "walked according to the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience."
In seeking, then, to set forth the great things which God has done for woman in Persia, let us first look on her as his gospel found her, that we may better appreciate the grace which wrought the change.
We can understand the condition of woman in that empire only as we bear in mind that its government is despotic, and that no constitutional safeguards shield the subjects of a thoroughly selfish and profligate nobility. The Nestorians, too, are marked out alike by religion and nationality as victims of oppression. However great their wrongs, they can hope for little redress, for a distant court shares in the plunder taken from them, and believes its own officials rather than the despised rayahs, whom they oppress. Even when foreign intervention procures some edict in their favor, these same officials, in distant Oroomiah, are at no loss to evade its demands.
The Nestorian is not allowed a place in the bazaar; he cannot engage in commerce. And in the mechanic arts, he cannot aspire higher than the position of a mason or carpenter; which, of course, is not to be compared to the standing of the same trades among us. When our missionaries went to Oroomiah, a decent garment on a Nestorian was safe only as it had an outer covering of rags to hide it. [Footnote 1: The bazaar is, literally, the market, but denotes the business part of a city.]
In their language, as in Arabic, the missionaries found no word for home; and there was no need of it, for the thing itself was wanting. The house consisted of one large room and was generally occupied by several generations. In that one room all the work of the family was performed. There they ate, and there they slept. The beds consisted of three articles—a thick comfortable filled with wool or cotton beneath, a pillow, and one heavy quilt for covering. On rising, they "took up their beds," and piled them on a wooden frame, and spread them down again at night. The room was lighted by an opening in the roof, which also served for a chimney; though, of course, in a very imperfect manner, as the inside of every dwelling that has stood for any length of time bears witness. The upper part of the walls and the under surface of the roof—we can hardly call it ceiling—fairly glitter, as though they had been painted black and varnished, and every article of clothing, book, or household utensil, is saturated with the smell of creosote. The floor, like the walls, is of earth, covered in part with coarse straw mats and pieces of carpeting; and the flat roof, of the same material, rests on a layer of sticks, supported by large beams; the mass above, however, often sifts through, and sometimes during a heavy rain assumes the form of a shower of mud. Bad as all this may seem, the houses are still worse in the mountain districts, such as Gawar. There they are half under ground, made of cobble stones laid up against the slanting sides of the excavation, and covered by a conical roof with a hole in the centre. They contain, besides the family, all the implements of husbandry, the cattle, and the flocks. These last occupy "the sides of the house" (1 Sam. xxiv. 3), and stand facing the "decana," or raised place in the centre, which is devoted to the family. As wood is scarce in the mountains, and the climate severe, the animal heat of the cattle is a substitute for fuel, except as sun-baked cakes of manure are used once a day for cooking, as is the practice also on the plain. In such houses the buffaloes sometimes break loose and fight furiously, and instances are not rare when they knock down the posts on which the roof rests, and thus bury all in one common ruin.
The influence of such family arrangements, even in the more favored villages of the plain, on manners and morality, need not be told. It is equally evident that in such circumstances personal tidiness is impossible, though few in our favored land have any idea of the extent of such untidiness. If the truth must be told, vermin abound in most of these houses; the inmates are covered not only with fleas, but from head to foot they are infested with the third plague of Egypt. (Ex. viii. 16-19). This last is a constant annoyance in many parts of Turkey as well as Persia. If one lodges in the native houses, there is no refuge from them, and only an entire change of clothing affords relief when he returns to his own home; even there the divans have to be sedulously examined after the departure of visitors, that the plague do not spread. The writer has known daughters of New England, ready for almost any self-denial, burst into tears when first brought into contact with this.
At first, the teachers of the Female Seminary in Oroomiah had to cleanse their pupils very thoroughly, and were glad thus to purify the outside, while beseeching Christ to cleanse the heart. Each one, on her first arrival, had to be separately cared for, lest the enemy should recover ground from which he had already been driven with much labor. Missionary publications do not usually tell of such trials, but those who drew the lambs from the deep pit, loved them all the more tenderly for having gone down into it themselves, that thence they might bring them to Jesus. Such trials are less common now, for it is generally understood that a degree of personal cleanliness is an indispensable requisite for admission to the Seminary; but such a demand, at that time, would have rendered the commencement of the school impossible.
The pupils became much improved in personal appearance, and some of their simple-hearted mothers really thought their children had grown very pretty under their teachers' care. So, as many of them were strangers to the cleansing properties of water, they would ask again and again, "How do you make them so white?"
But if such houses were comfortless abodes for those in health, what were they for the sick? Think of one in a burning fever, perhaps delirious, lying in such a crowd. In winter, there they must remain, for there is no other place, and in summer, they are often laid under a tree in the day time, and carried up to the flat roof, with the rest of the family, at night.
Dr. Perkins, in the early part of his missionary life, tells us that in a village the family room was given up to him for the night, and in the morning he found a little son had been born in the stable. He supposed that he had been the unwitting cause of such an event occurring there; but longer acquaintance with the people shows that woman almost invariably resorts to that place in her hour of sorrow, and there she often dies. The number who meet death in this form is very large.
In Persia, as in other unevangelized countries, women spend their days in out-door labor. They weed the cotton, and assist in pruning the vines and gathering the grapes. They go forth in the morning, bearing not only their implements of husbandry, but also their babes in the cradle; and returning in the evening, they prepare their husband's supper, and set it before him, but never think of eating themselves till after he is done. One of the early objections the Nestorians made to the Female Seminary was, that it would disqualify their daughters for their accustomed toil. In after years, woman might be seen carrying her spelling-book to the field, along with her Persian hoe, little dreaming that she was thus taking the first step towards the substitution of the new implement for the old.
Nestorian parents used to consider the birth of a daughter a great calamity. When asked the number of their children, they would count up their sons, and make no mention of their daughters. The birth of a son was an occasion for great joy and giving of gifts. Neighbors hastened to congratulate the happy father, but days might elapse before the neighborhood knew of the birth of a daughter. It was deemed highly improper to inquire after the health of a wife, and the nearest approach to it was to ask after the welfare of the house or household. Formerly, a man never called his wife by name, but in speaking of her would say, "the mother of so and so," giving the name of her child; or, "the daughter of so and so," giving the name of her father; or, simply "that woman" did this or that. Nor did the wife presume to call her husband's name, or to address him in the presence of his parents, who, it will be borne in mind, lived in the same apartment. They were married very young, often at the age of fourteen, and without any consultation of their own preference, either as to time or person.
There was hardly a man among the Nestorians who did not beat his wife. The women expected to be beaten, and took it as a matter of course. As the wife lived with the husband's father, it was not uncommon for him to beat both son and daughter-in-law. When the men wished to talk together of any thing important, they usually sent the women out of doors or to the stable, as unable to understand, or unfit to be trusted. In some cases, this might be a necessary precaution; for the absence of true affection; and the frequency of domestic broils, rendered the wife an unsafe depositary of any important family affair. The same causes often led the wife to appropriate to her own foolish gratification any money of her husband she could lay hands on, regardless of family necessities. Women whose tastes led them to load themselves with beads, silver, baser metal, and rude trinkets, would not be likely to expend money very judiciously.
In 1835, the only Nestorian woman that knew how to read was Heleneh, the sister of Mar Shimon; and when others were asked if they would not like to learn, with a significant shrug they would reply, "I am a woman." They had themselves no more desire to learn than the men had to have them taught. Indeed, the very idea of a woman reading was regarded as an infringement of female modesty and propriety.
It is a little curious, and shows how we adapt ourselves to our situation, that the women were as unwilling to receive attention from their husbands as they were to render it. Several years after the arrival of Miss Fiske in Oroomiah, the wife of one of her assistants visited the Seminary, and on leaving to return to her village, the teacher, in the kindness of her heart, proposed to the husband to go and assist her to carry the child. She seemed as if she had been insulted in being thought unable to carry it, and sent her husband back from the door in any thing but a gracious mood, leaving the good teacher half bewildered and half amused at this reception of her intended kindness.
Indeed, until some of them were converted, all that was lovely and of good report in woman was entirely wanting. They were trodden down, but at the same time exceedingly defiant and imperious. If they were not the "head," it was not because they did not "strive for the mastery." They seemed to have no idea of self-control; their bursts of passion were awful. The number of women who reverenced their husbands was as small as the list of husbands who did not beat their wives. Says Miss Fiske, in writing to a friend, "I felt pity for my poor sisters before going among them, but anguish when, from actual contact with them, I realized how very low they were. I did not want to leave them, but I did ask, Can the image of Christ ever be reflected from such hearts? They would come and tell me their troubles, and fall down at my feet, begging me to deliver them from their husbands. They would say, 'You are sent by our holy mother, Mary, to help us;' and do not think me hard-hearted when I tell you that I often said to them, 'Loose your hold of my feet; I did not come to deliver you from your husbands, but to show you how to be so good that you can be happy with them.' Weeping, they would say, 'Have mercy on us; if not, we must kill ourselves.' I had no fear of their doing that, so I would seat them at my side, and tell them of my own dear father,—how good he was; but he was always obeyed. They would say, 'We could obey a good man.' 'But I am very sure you would not have been willing to obey my father.'
"It is one thing to pray for our degraded sisters while in America, but quite another to raise them from their low estate. When I saw their true character, I found that I needed a purer, holier love for them than I had ever possessed. It was good for me to see that I could do nothing, and it was comforting to think that Jesus had talked with just such females as composed the mass around me, and that afterwards many believed because of one such woman."
Sometimes the revilings of the women were almost equalled by similar talk among the men, as in a village of Gawar, where they said, "We would not receive a priest or deacon here who could not swear well, and lie too." In the same village, a young man spoke favorably of Mr. Coan's preaching in Jeloo. Instantly a woman called out, "And have you heard those deceivers preach?" "Yes," was the reply, "both last year and this, and hope I shall again." Hearing this, her eyes flashed, and drawing her brawny arms into the form of a dagger, with a vengeful thrust of her imaginary weapon, she cried, "The blood of thy father smite thee, thou Satan!" and dreadful was the volley of oaths and curses that followed. Yet she was only a fair specimen of the village.
We of the calmer West do not know what it is to have a mob of such women come forth in their wrath. In one town was a virago, who often, single-handed, faced down and drove off Moslem tax-gatherers when the men fled in terror. No one who has ever heard the stinging shrillness of their tongues, or looked on their frenzied gestures, can ever forget them, or wonder why the ancients painted the Furies in the form of women. Words cannot portray the excitement of such a scene. The hair of the frantic actors is streaming in the wind; stones and clods seem only embodiments of the unearthly yells and shrieks that fill the air; and yet it was such beings that grace made to be "last at the cross and first at the sepulchre."
The East is notorious for profanity, and among the Nestorians women were as profane as men. The pupils in the Seminary at first used to swear, and use the vilest language on the slightest provocation. Poor, blind Martha, on her death bed, in her own father's house, was constantly cursed and reviled. She was obliged sometimes to cover her head with the quilt, and stop her ears, to secure an opportunity to pray for her profane and abusive brother; and though, in such circumstances, she died before her prayers were answered, yet they were heard, for he afterwards learned to serve his sister's God. "Do you think people will believe me," said a pupil to her teacher, who was reproving her for profanity, "if I do not repeat the name of God very often?"
Lying was almost as common as profanity, and stealing quite as prevalent as either. It was a frequent remark, "We all lie here; do you think we could succeed in business without it?"
In the early days of the Seminary, nothing was safe except under lock and key. Sometimes there seemed to be a dawn of improvement, and next, all the buttons would be missing from the week's washing, and the teacher was pretty sure to find that her own pupils were the thieves. Miss Rice tells of one, amply supplied with every thing by her parents, yet noted for her thefts. Indeed, sons and daughters were alike trained to such practices. In 1843, Miss Fiske could not keep a pin in her pin-cushion; little fingers took them as often as she turned away, and lest she should tempt them to lie, she avoided questioning them, unless her own eye had seen the theft. No wonder she wrote, "I feel very weak, and were it not that Christ has loved these souls, I should be discouraged; but he has loved them, and he loves them still." If the pins were found with the pupils, the answer was ready—"We found them," or, "You gave them to us;" and nothing could be proved. But one summer evening, just before the pupils were to pass through her room to their beds on the flat roof, knowing that none of that color could be obtained elsewhere, the teacher put six black pins in her cushion, and stepped out till they had passed. As soon as they were gone, she found the pins gone too, and at once called them back. She told them of her loss, but none knew any thing about it. She showed them that no one else had been there, and therefore they must know. Six pairs of little hands were lifted up, as they said, "God knows we have not got them;" but this only called forth the reply, "I think that God knows you have got them," and she searched each one carefully, without finding them. She then proposed to kneel down where they stood, and ask God to show where they were, adding, "He may not see it best to show me now, but he will do it some time." She laid the matter before the Lord, and, just as they rose from their knees, remembered that she had not examined their cloth caps. She now proposed to examine them, and one pair of hands went right up to her cap. Of course she was searched first, and there were the six pins, so nicely concealed in its folds that nothing was visible but their heads. This incident did much good. The pupils looked on the discovery as an answer to prayer, and so did their teacher. They began to be afraid to steal when God so exposed their thefts, and she was thankful for an answer so immediate. The offender is now a pious, useful woman.
Yet some were so accustomed to falsehood, that, even after conversion, it cost a struggle to be entirely truthful, and missionaries could see, as Christians in our own land cannot see, why an apostle should write to the regenerate, "Lie not one to another." The teacher labored to impress her charge with the sinfulness of such conduct, but in the revival of 1846, they seemed to learn more in one hour than she had taught them in the two years preceding. Yet that faithful instruction was not lost. It was the fuel which the Spirit of God kindled into a flame. The sower has not labored in vain because the seed lies for days buried in the soil.
In that revival, the awakened hastened to restore what they had stolen. One came to Miss Fiske in great distress, saying, "Do you remember the day, two years ago, when Sawdee's new shoes were taken from the door?"—They leave off their shoes on entering a house.—"Yes, I recollect it." "You thought a Moslem woman stole them, but"—and here her feelings overcame her—"I took them, for I was angry with her, and threw them into a well. What shall I do? I know Christ will not receive me till I have confessed it to her. Can I go and confess it to-night, and pray with her, and then may I go and work for money to replace them?" She paid for the shoes, and became a bright light in her dark home. There were many such cases, and from that time the teachers had little trouble from theft. New pupils would sometimes steal, but the older ones were ready to detect them, and show them a more excellent way. Miss Fiske says of this, "The frequent visits of the Holy Spirit have removed an evil which mocked my efforts. God made me feel my utter helplessness, and then he did the work." That same term there was but one case of theft in the Male Seminary, though formerly it was not infrequent there.
In reference to transgressions of the seventh commandment, much detail is not expedient. It is sufficient to say, that the first impressions of earlier missionaries respecting the purity of Nestorian women were not sustained by subsequent acquaintance. The farther they went beneath the surface of things, the more they found of corruption. One might go to Persia supposing that he knew a good deal of the degradation of the people, and yet really know very little of the pit into which he was descending.
A seminary gathering together such a company of young females, was a new thing in Persia, and it will readily be conceived that amid a Mohammedan community it was an object of peculiar solicitude to its guardians. Many a Moslem eye was on those girls, as the results of a religious education appeared in their manners, their dress, and personal beauty. In one instance, an officer of government attempted to take one of them to his harem, but God thwarted his purpose through the interference of the English consul. Similar dangers threatened from other sources, and eternity alone will reveal the burden of care and watchfulness they involved. If only one pupil had been led astray, what a hopeless loss of confidence would have followed among the people! In the early years of the institution, when parents could hardly be persuaded to trust their daughters out of their sight for a single night, it might have broken up the whole enterprise; but in this matter, also, God showed himself the hearer of prayer, and not one danger of the kind was ever allowed to be more than an occasion for renewed intercession, and more confiding dependence on his gracious care. Sometimes, in vacation, it seemed strange to its guardians that they had no longer a fold to protect, and could retire to rest free from that anxious solicitude that sometimes drove sleep from their eyes.
It is not in the beginning of missionary life that all these things are understood: they are learned gradually. This is wisely ordered, that the missionary be not discouraged at the outset. Strength is given each day to meet new trials as they come, and it would not be leaving a truthful impression on the reader, if, at the close of this description of what has been, it should not be recorded, to the praise of divine grace, that a great change has taken place. There are many to-day to whom the missionary may say, "Such were some of you; but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." Not only do some who stole steal no more, but many young husbands now provide separate apartments for the bride whom they bring home, and they need all that the word "home" expresses to describe their mutual joy. The hour of suffering is anticipated by a considerate affection, and that affection is so reciprocated that many hearts safely trust in the daughters of the Female Seminary of Oroomiah.
It is not merely education that has wrought this change, but a Bible education. Paul cared for just such converts, and left divine teachings for the use of those who should come after him in the same work. As a young wife said to her teacher one day, after she had been talking with her about her new duties, "I thank you; you are right. I am glad that you have told me what Paul says, and I think that God has told you the same thing." Many a graduate might say, with another, "I thank you for your instructions, and as I look on the trials of ungodly families, every drop of my blood thanks you."
VISIT THERE.—NATIVE ACCOMMODATIONS.—HOSPITALITY OF SENUM.— MOHAMMEDAN WOMEN.
The following account of Miss Fiske's visit to Marbeeshoo, in November, 1847, presents a vivid picture of things as they were, and the Christian thoughtfulness of one who had learned a more excellent way:—
"As we sat at dinner a few days since, Mr. Stocking proposed that I spend the Sabbath with him at Marbeeshoo. I said at once, 'I cannot leave my school.' But he forthwith called Sanum, Sarah, and Moressa, my oldest girls, and asked them if they did not love souls in Marbeeshoo well enough to take good care of school, and let me be absent till Tuesday. They were delighted to think of my going where no missionary lady had ever been, and said, 'We will do all we can for the girls, and we will pray for you, if you will only go and try to do those poor women good.' It was hardly two o'clock before we were on horseback. Marbeeshoo is about fifty miles from us, and in Turkey. Two years ago it was said 'no lady should try to go there,' but brother Stocking thought not so now; and I was willing to follow where he led, especially as a former pupil had recently settled there. We must be out over night, but we thought best not to spend it in a tent, on account of the cold. Near sunset we came to Mawana, a village of mud huts. We went to the house of the head man, who joyfully welcomed us to his house. It consisted of a single low room, inhabited by at least a score of men, women, and children. They came in one by one, but already the hens had found their resting place, evidently no strangers there. Several lambs had been brought into their corner, and three or four calves, each had his couch of grass. Our horses had been arranged for the night on the other side of a partition wall, some three feet high. When all were within, the coarse bread and sour milk were brought out for supper. Then Mr. Stocking read from the Bible, and talked, and prayed with the numerous family, and the women sat around me, while I tried to do them good, till about ten o'clock. At that time, the mother of the family rose, saying, 'Now we will settle it.' I listened to hear the settlement of some family quarrel, but to my surprise her meaning was, 'We will settle where to lie down for the night;' and as I looked over the room I thought, surely some little skill in settling is needed, if we are all to sleep here. But soon she took out three of the children to an empty manger, where she put new hay, and quickly settled them; they were covered with an old rug, and at once fell fast asleep. She then returned, saying, 'Now there is room for our guests,' and brought a piece of cotton cloth, which she said was all for me. In a short time, one and another was fast asleep. They lay on mats, without either bed or pillow, and the divers breathing or snoring of men, and calves, and lambs was soon heard, all mingled together.
"I found myself sitting alone with the old lady, and so, putting my carpet bag under my head, and drawing my shawl about me, I lay down too. This was a signal for extinguishing the light; but before that, I had marked a road, where I thought I might possibly pass out between the sleepers should I need fresh air. There was no sleep for me; and the swarms of fleas made me so uncomfortable, that before midnight I found my way out, and remained as long as the cold air of that November night allowed, and so passed out and in several times during the night. I watched long for the morning, and at length it came, and the sleepers, one by one, arose. They all hoped I had slept well, and I could not tell them I had not, for they had given me the best they had, and told me again and again how glad they were that I had come, and hoped their house would always be mine when I came that way. There was a proposal for breakfast, but the morning was so fine that I suggested to Mr. Stocking that a carpet bag sometimes furnished a very good breakfast.
"We did enjoy that ride very much after a sleepless night. The road was often only a narrow path on the edge of a precipice, and such as I had never passed over before; but I thanked my God at every step for the pure, fresh air of those mountains. As we approached the village, hid away among the cliffs, and in such a narrow spot that houses were placed one above another on the terraced hill-side, one of our attendants insisted on riding forward, and we were not greatly surprised to find a crowd ready to welcome us. One and another cried out, 'Senum wants you to go to Zechariah's.' So to Zechariah's we went, and there was my pupil, waiting with open arms to receive me. She took me from my horse, exclaiming, 'Is it true that you have come? I have heard where you staid last night, and I know you did not sleep at all. Come right into my room; there are no fleas here; I have a bed that is clean, that I keep for the missionaries. I will spread it for you, and you shall sleep before any body comes to see you.' The bed was spread; she gave me milk to drink (Judg, iv. 19), and then said, 'I will guard the door so no one shall disturb you, and I will wake you for dinner.' I was soon asleep, and slept two long hours before she woke me.
"When she did, she came with her tray in her hand, where was the freshly baked bread, the nicely cooked little fish, which, she said, 'my husband caught expressly for you and Mr. Stocking,' honey from their own hives, milk from their flock, and other simple refreshments. All was neatly prepared, and we were so thankful for the dear child's attentions! When dinner was over, she said, 'Now I want you to see the women; but they must not come here, for they will leave fleas, and you will not be able to sleep tonight. There is another large room the other side, and we will have meeting there this afternoon.'
"About three o'clock I met there more than one hundred poor women, who of course must ask many questions before their curiosity would be satisfied. They finally became quiet, however, and I could tell them of the Saviour, who had loved to teach just such needy ones as they were. I enjoyed the afternoon very much; it was all the more precious for the discomforts of the night, and the comforts of Senum's house. The next day was the Sabbath, and most of the time I was in the 'large room,' where the women came freely. In the afternoon about three hundred were present. I was weary at night, but Senum's care, with the thought of the privilege of meeting so many who had never before heard of Christ as the only Saviour, made me forget it all."
Painful as is this view of woman as she was among the Nestorians, her condition was still worse among the Mohammedans; not, indeed, in matters of outward comfort, for the wealth of Persia is in Moslem hands, and they occupy every position of rank or authority in the land. But in all that pertains to morality and religion, they stand on a lower level.
The Nestorian woman may not have known what was contained in the Bible, yet she knew that it was the word of God, and was ready to receive all its teachings as of divine authority. To her Moslem sister it is not only an unknown book, but one she is taught to regard as superseded by the Koran.
Although the Nestorian woman knew nothing of spiritual worship, yet she regarded the Lord's day as set apart for his service. The Moslem, on the other hand, regards it like any other day of the week, and exalts her Friday to the place that of right belongs to the Sabbath of the Lord.
In all her degradation, the Nestorian woman reverenced the name of Jesus as her God. True, she had no correct idea of salvation or redeeming love; yet even a blind attachment to that sacred name is not without its reward. She may have fallen very low, but there was a power even in her ignorant adherence to Christ, that kept her from falling to the level of those who renounced him for the Arabian impostor. This was seen especially in the blessings that came to her through the institution of Christian marriage, while others groaned under the debasing influence of a sensual polygamy. The wretchedness this occasioned is a topic too large and too painful to dwell upon here. But the wide gulf that separated the two classes was clearly seen, when on her Sabbath the missionary could speak to the Nestorian of her Saviour out of her Bible, while the Moslem knows nothing beyond her kohl and her henna, her dresses and her follies, and other topics at once belittling, debasing, and corrupting. [Footnote 1: Kohl is a black powder used to paint the eyebrows and eyelashes. Henna is a plant employed to stain the nails, and sometimes the entire hand and part of the foot, of a dark orange hue.]
THE SCENE OF THE NARRATIVE.
NESTORIANS.—THEIR COUNTRY.—FRONTISPIECE.—LAKE.—PLAIN.—FORDING THE SHAHER.—MISSION PREMISES IN OROOMIAH.
We will now glance at the scene of the events to be narrated, as it may not be familiar to every reader. To write of woman in Persia would embrace the whole empire as the field of inquiry; for the existence of woman is coextensive with the population. But "Woman and her Saviour in Persia" confines our attention to those who have been taught the truth as it is in Jesus; for when Christ sent forth Paul to preach his gospel to the Gentiles, it was that they might receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them who are sanctified by faith that is in him; and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? Our theme, then, confines us to the Nestorians, who number about one hundred thousand souls. About two thirds of these live in Turkey; but the following pages relate principally to those residing in Persia, and hence the title of the volume.
This people inhabit, along with Koords and other races, the territory extending from the western shore of the Lake of Oroomiah to the eastern bank of the Tigris. It includes the Persian province of Oroomiah, and both the eastern and western slope of Central Koordistan. The most inaccessible recesses of the Koordish Mountains have been their refuge for centuries. The whole region extends across four degrees of longitude, with a varying breadth of from one to two degrees of latitude. Attention will be called especially to the city of Oroomiah and the villages around it. The plain of that name is seventy-five miles long and from twelve to twenty miles in width, containing more than a thousand square miles. It is dotted with perhaps three hundred villages, the population varying, according to the size of the village, from less than one hundred to more than a thousand inhabitants.
The frontispiece gives a view of this plain, from the roof of the mission premises at Seir, one thousand feet above the city. The lofty Wolf mountain appears on the right, and the high range west of the narrowest part of the lake on the left. The lake itself is seen beyond the plain at the foot of the mountains which rise abruptly from its eastern shore. The distance makes it seem much narrower than it is, for while one hundred miles in length, it is not far from thirty miles in breadth. Its surface is forty-one hundred feet above the sea, and four hundred feet below the city of Oroomiah. No living thing exists in its waters, which are both salt and bituminous.
The plain is more crowded with villages than here represented, and each one is made conspicuous by its grove of trees, as well as its houses. The city appears prominent at the foot of the hill, though six miles distant from the spectator. It is in the same latitude with Richmond, Virginia, and contains about thirty-five thousand souls. The plain slopes up very gradually from the lake, and Mount Seir rises, behind our point of view, two thousand eight hundred and thirty-four feet above the city. Farther west, the summits of Central Koordistan rise, range above range, to the height of seventeen thousand feet.
We pass down from Seir to the city by a carriage road, now by the side of vineyards, and now near fields of wheat and clover, diversified by orchards and gardens of cucumbers. All of these, and indeed the whole plain, owes its fertility to canals, led out from the rivers which descend from the mountains. Willow, poplar, and sycamore trees line these watercourses. All kinds of fruit trees abound, while the rich verdure of the plain contrasts strikingly with the bare declivities that overlook it from every side. The villages on either hand are clusters of mud houses crowded together for greater security, and every tree in their groves has to be watered as regularly as the fields and gardens.
Before reaching the city we must ford the Shaher, a river that, though frequently all drained off into the fields in summer, is very deep in early spring, when fatal accidents sometimes occur. It was here that, in May, 1846, Miss Fiske narrowly escaped a watery grave. On her way to Seir, with Mr. and Mrs. Stoddard, the horse lay down in the middle of the river, leaving her to be swept off by the rapid current. Mr. Stoddard hastened to the rescue; but the moment his steed was loose, he rushed to attack the horse of Mrs. Stoddard, and, as Miss Fiske rose to the surface, she caught a glimpse of Mr. Stoddard looking back on the battle, and his wife held between the combatants by her riding habit, which had caught on the saddle; but while she looked the dress gave way, and Mrs. Stoddard was safe. She herself had sufficient presence of mind not to breathe under water, and, on coming up for the fifth time, floated into shallow water near the opposite shore, forty rods below the ford, just as Mr. Stoddard reached the same point.
From the river, beautiful orchards line the road on both sides to the city gate, of which a representation is given on page 154; and about one eighth of a mile inside of that, where the Nestorian and Moslem sections of the city join each other, stand the mission premises, built of sun-dried bricks, like the houses around them.
They occupy a little more than an acre, in the form of a parallelogram; and if, for the sake of clearness, we compare it to a window, the bottom of the lower sash is represented by a long, earthen-roofed structure, half of it a dwelling house, once the home of Dr. Grant, but now the dwelling of Dr. Wright. It is the building on the left of the engraving at page 131, and the round object occupying the nearest window in the second story is a clock, the gift of a well-known merchant of Boston, brother of one of our deceased missionaries. Let our lower sash be filled by two large panes in modern style, and these are represented by two courts surrounded by pavements, and shaded by large sycamore trees. In the engraving just referred to, the spectator stands in one of these courts, looking over a low wall into the other. For the top of the lower sash, we have another building, extending across the premises. The left half of this appearing on page 131, behind the trees, and on the opposite page represented without them, was the first home of Dr. Perkins, and is now the Female Seminary; but repeated additions and modifications have been required to transform a building, originally erected for a private residence, into a structure suitable for such a school.
Miss Fiske first taught in one room of a building to the right, which does not appear in the engraving, though a part of it is seen on page 131; then, as the school grew larger, another room was added, and when those quarters became too strait, this building was remodelled for its use.
As we shall have a good deal to do with the Seminary in these pages, let us become familiar with its home. Between the central door and the one on the left, those three windows belong to a large room once used as a chapel, but since then as a guest room for the accommodation of the women whom we shall see coming here to learn of Jesus. In this room, Nestorian converts first partook of the Lord's supper with the missionaries. The left of the three windows directly over these, with the rose-bush in it, belongs to Miss Fiske's private room, and the other two to her sitting room. This the pupils have named "The Bethel," and it is so connected that the teacher can step into recitation room, dining room, or kitchen, as occasion requires. The last named apartment is on the rear of the building. The largest recitation room, by a curious necessity, is in the form of a carpenter's wooden square, with the teacher's desk in the angle between the two compartments. One of these is on the back side of the building, out of sight; the other, extending across the end, is represented in front by the window at the extreme left.
Over the central door is, first, the steward's room, and then closets over that; for one of the results of the successive alterations and additions is, that parts of the building are two, and other parts three, stories high. Miss Rice's room is directly over the door on the left hand, as the steward's is here. The three windows in the second story, to the right of the two central closets, open into the dining room, and one of the girls' rooms occupies the corner beyond. On the lower floor, going from the central door to the right, is first a closet, and then a large guest room for visitors; and underneath the whole is the cellar where the boys' school was first taught, that has since grown into the Male Seminary at Seir.
The rooms of the pupils are mostly in the rear. These are large enough to accommodate six or eight occupants, as the Oriental style of living does not require so much furniture as ours. In each room is a member of the senior class, who exercises a kind supervision over her younger companions. Every room has two or more closets, designed especially, but not exclusively, for devotion; and some sleep in the recitation rooms, as such a use of them at night does not interfere with other uses during the day.
But we had almost forgotten our imaginary window, the upper sash of which remains to be described. In that we have only one pane, representing a large court, with the chapel on one side, and the wash rooms and other outbuildings of the Seminary on the other. This court is more garden-like than the other two, has fewer trees, and a long arbor, covered with grape vines, forms a covered walk in the middle of it. It was in this arbor that the tables were spread for the collation in 1850, to be described hereafter. This court is invaluable as a place for out-door exercise, where the pupils may enjoy the fresh air, free from the annoyances and exposures of the streets in an Oriental city.
A stream is led through all these courts in a channel lined with stone. Its murmuring waters are a pleasant sound at early dawn, when they mingle sweetly with the morning song of birds. Here many Nestorian women come to fill their earthen pitchers, as the water is not carried through the courts of Christian houses. The mission premises belonged to Mohammedans; and here, in the shade of the tall sycamores, Mrs. Grant used to sit, with her children, and talk with the women who came for water. Her successors find time to continue the same practice, and as the natives let down their pitchers (Gen. xxiv. 18), and now and then one is broken (Eccles. xii. 6), realize that they live in a Bible land, and seek to make its daughters feel the power of Bible truth.
The Seminary is outwardly very humble, and would contrast very unfavorably with the stately edifices of similar institutions at home. But we shall see that the Saviour has not disdained to honor it with his presence, and its earthen floors and mud walls have witnessed many a gracious visit of the Holy Spirit. Though the glory of Lebanon has not come unto it, yet has God himself beautified the place and made it glorious. [Footnote 1: The pilasters in the engraving are made of brick, and not only support the large timbers of the roof, but, by their greater projection, protect the softer material of the wall from the weather. The whole is plastered outside with a mixture of lime and clay, that requires frequent renewal.]
OBJECT—MEANS—STUDY OF BIBLE—PUPILS KEPT IN SYMPATHY WITH THE PEOPLE.—PEOPLE STIMULATED TO EXERTION AND SELF-DEPENDENCE—TAHITI. —MADAGASCAR.
Let us now look at some of the principles on which missionary education was here carried on, that we may see what kind of an instrumentality God was pleased to crown with his blessing.
The Seminary was founded, not to polish the manners, refine the taste, or impart accomplishments, but to renovate the character by a permanent inward change. The main dependence for bringing this about was the power of the Holy Ghost—the only power that can impart or maintain spiritual life in man. This dependence was expressed in fervent prayer, offered for years amid discouragement and opposition, and, instead of ceasing when an answer came, only offered by a greater number. It is worthy of note that some of the seasons of greatest revival were preceded by disasters that threatened the very existence of the mission.
The principal text book was the word of God; partly, as we shall see, through a providential necessity, but chiefly because it was God's own chosen instrumentality for the salvation of our race; and it was eminently adapted for the education of such a people. The teachers could say, with a beloved co-laborer on Mount Lebanon, "To the Scriptures we give increased attention; they do more to unfold and expand the intellectual powers, and to create careful and honest thinkers, than all the sciences we teach." It is also most efficient in freeing mind and heart from those erroneous views that are opposed to its teachings; and actual trial developed a richness and fulness of practical adaptation to the work that astonished even those who already knew something of its value. Its precepts and instructions were also clothed with power: requirements and counsels which from the missionary had only awakened opposition, coming from the Bible were received as messages from heaven. Said a Nestorian to a missionary who had been speaking to him the words of God, "His words grew very beautiful while we were talking." In reference to every suspicious novelty or distasteful duty, the Bible was the ultimate appeal. The missionary could say to them as Paul did to an early church, "When ye received the word of God, which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of man, but, as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe." Besides, those thus educated were to teach others, and needed to be thoroughly furnished from the divine oracles with the truths they were to impart. It is not strange, then, that in the Seminary the Bible was studied both doctrinally and historically; that they had a system of theology and tables of Scripture chronology; that biblical biography and geography were regular studies; that different portions of Scripture occupied different years; and that, instead of Butler's Analogy and Wayland's Moral Science, were the Epistles to the Romans and Hebrews studied with all the accurate analysis and thoroughness bestowed elsewhere upon the classics. Such teaching would yield good fruit any where, and the good seed found good ground in Persia.
So much for the instrumentality; but, then, influences are every where at work to check the growth of the plant of grace, and these must be overcome. There is danger that missionary education may be made worse than useless by allowing the sympathies of pupils to become alienated from the masses around them. Children from heathen families may be puffed up with an idea of superiority to their own people. Their taste may be cultivated so as to render disgust with heathen degradation stronger than the Christian desire to do them good. A foreign language, foreign dress, and foreign habits may widen the gulf that separates them from their people, till, what with an undue exaltation on the one hand and a suspicious jealousy on the other, usefulness is well nigh impossible. But here such tendencies have been carefully watched and guarded against. The pupils have been trained with the view of doing good among their own people. No line of separation has been drawn in dress or diet, furniture or household arrangements. While taught to be neat, the goal kept ever in sight has been, a happy usefulness in their own homes, the elevation of the mass just as fast as was consistent with mutual love and sympathy, the people not feeling that their daughters were denationalized, and they not lifted out of sympathy with the homes they were to bless. Hence, even in 1844, we find the mud floor of the small school room covered with straw mats; one window, of oiled paper, admitting the light; and a brick stove, with a few rude benches, its only furniture. In the other room, where the cooking was done, the pupils ate, and spent their time out of school. Here were two windows of like material; and besides the mats, the floor was covered with a thick felt, on which they spread their beds at night. A table was provided, covered with a coarse blue and white check. There were also a set of coarse plates and a, few other dishes, but no knives nor forks. They eat their soup with wooden spoons, and their other food with their hands. Their clothing, like their cooking, was mostly in native style; and they were taught to make it for themselves.
Another object in missionary education is, to do enough to stimulate to exertion, and yet not foster inefficiency or undue dependence. The Nestorians are poor, but doing too much for them may make them still poorer. They must be brought to sustain their own institutions at the earliest possible moment, and their training should keep that end in view. Hence Miss Fiske writes, "At first I was inclined to do more for them than afterwards, and at length settled down on this principle,—to give my pupils nothing for common use which they could not secure in their own homes by industry and economy. So I furnished only such articles as they could buy in the city. I preferred that they should make all their own clothing, and may have grieved friends sometimes by declining clothing which they offered to send for them. We chose rather to spend our own strength in training them to provide for themselves. I do not mean that I am not glad to see foreign articles in Oroomiah; but we were in danger of fostering a more expensive taste than they would have the means of gratifying. Our great object is to raise up the most efficient coadjutors from among the people, and they must labor among their neighbors as of them, and not as foreigners, and be prepared to carry forward the work when we leave it.
"At first we clothed as well as boarded our pupils, and then led them to provide one article after another, till they clothed themselves. It was delightful to see the interest parents began to take in clothing their daughters, in order to send them to school after they provided their own garments. They took better care of them, and so learned to take better care of other things. Since I left, Miss Rice has advanced farther in this matter; and last year most of the pupils paid a trifle for tuition, amounting in all to over twenty dollars. It often costs more than the amount to secure these pittances; but it does our pupils good, and we spared no pains to this end."
It is touching to see the spirit manifested by some parents in this connection. One very poor widow, whose little field of grain had been devoured by locusts, brought a large squash and a quantity of raisins which she had earned by laboring for others—a self-denial almost equal to her previous giving up of her only bed for the use of a daughter in the Seminary, which she brought, saying, "I can sleep on the hasseer [rush mat], if you will only receive her into school."
It certainly is not benevolence to do for others what they can do as well for themselves, or to do for them in a way to diminish either their ability or disposition to provide for themselves. Missionaries may be in danger of staying too long and doing too much for a people, rather than of leaving them too soon after the gospel has taken root among them.
Native pastors came into being at Tahiti simply because the French drove off the missionaries. They were not ordained before, but at once proved themselves equal to the work that Providence assigned them; and after twenty years of French misrule, in spite of Popery on the one hand and brandy and vice on the other, there are now more church members under these native pastors than ever before.
Twenty years ago the European shepherds were driven from Madagascar, and a few lambs left in the midst of wolves; but God raised up native pastors, and, instead of tens of Christians under Europeans, there are now hundreds, yea, thousands, under these natives. Those missionaries are wise who aim constantly at results like these; and it is in such a spirit that work has been done among the women of Persia. [Footnote: Rev. Dr. Tidman, secretary of the London Missionary Society, in "Conference of Missions at Liverpool," 1860, p. 225.]
MRS. GRANT.—EARLY LIFE AND LABORS.—GREAT INFLUENCE.—HER SCHOOL.— HER PUPILS.—CHANGED INTO BOARDING SCHOOL.—GETTING PUPILS.—CARE OF THEM.—DIFFICULTIES FROM POVERTY OF PEOPLE.—PAYING FOR FOOD OF SCHOLARS.—POSITION OF UNMARRIED MISSIONARY LADIES.—BOOKS.
We have seen that among the Nestorians it was counted a disgrace for a female to learn to read; and even now, in the districts remote from missionary influence, a woman who reads, and especially one who writes, is an object of public odium, if not of persecution. How, then, could the Nestorians be induced to send their daughters to schools? What overcame this strong national prejudice? These questions open a delightful chapter in divine providence, showing how wonderfully God adapts means to ends, even on opposite sides of the globe.
A Christian gentleman in the State of New York, on the death of his wife's sister, adopted into his own family her infant child. She was trained to the exercise of a practical Christian benevolence, and her superior mind was improved by an education remarkably thorough. In the classics and mathematics she exhibited uncommon aptitude, and made unusual attainments; so that it was truly said of her, "Perhaps no female missionary ever left our country with a mind so well disciplined as Mrs. Judith S. Grant." She sailed for Persia, July 11, 1835; and there she displayed rare ability in acquiring the language of the people. The Turkish she soon spoke familiarly. In a short time she read the ancient Syriac, and acquired the spoken language with at least equal facility. Previous even to these acquisitions, she taught Mar Yohanan and others English; and as they noticed the ease with which she turned to her Greek Testament, whenever ours seemed to differ from the ancient Syriac, they regarded her with feelings in which it would be hard to say whether wonder, love, or reverence was the strongest. Some might have cried out, when her fine intellect and rare acquirements were devoted to the missionary work, "Why is this waste of the ointment made?" But had her friends searched the round world for a sphere of greatest usefulness, they could not have selected one where her rare gifts would have accomplished so much; and when such a woman manifested deep solicitude for the education of her sex, ancient prejudice fell before her. She taught her own domestics to read. She sedulously cultivated the acquaintance of both Christian and Mohammedan women; nor did she rest till she had opened a school for girls in what is now Mr. Coan's barn. Such was her zeal, that when her health would not allow her to go there, she taught the pupils in her own apartment. She commenced with only four scholars, but at the same time prepared the maps for Parley's Geography in modern Syriac, and the old map of Oroomiah, so familiar to the readers of the Missionary Herald, was her handiwork. Nor was her usefulness confined to her school room. Hers was the privilege of creating such a public sentiment in favor of the education of woman, that her successors have found the gates wide open before them, and often wondered at the extent and permanence of the influence she acquired. There is no one topic of which Miss Fiske has spoken to the writer so frequently, and with such enthusiasm, as the great work that Mrs. Grant accomplished for woman in Persia, during her short missionary life. She was the laborious and self-denying pioneer in female education, and every year thus far has brought to light new evidence of her extensive usefulness. It was no empty compliment, when the venerable Mar Elias said, "We will bury her in our church, where none but very holy men are laid. As she has done so much for us, we want the privilege of digging her grave with our own hands."
Miss Fiske writes, shortly after her arrival, "The first Syriac word I learned was 'daughter;' and as I can now use the verb 'to give,' I often ask parents to give me their daughters. Some think that I cannot secure boarding scholars, but Mrs. Grant got day scholars; and when I hear men, women, and children say, 'How she loved us!' I want to love them too. I mean to devote at least five years to the work of trying to gather girls into a boarding school, as Mrs. Grant desired to do. She has gone to her rest. I wonder that I am allowed to take her place." And again: "I am usually in school till three P.M., and then I go out among the poor mothers till tea time. They often say to me, 'Mrs. Grant did just as you do.' Her short life was a precious offering. I feel each day more and more that I have entered into the labors of a faithful servant of Christ."
Among the pupils of Mrs. Grant was Selby, of Oroomiah, who was hopefully converted while teaching some day scholars connected with the Seminary, in 1845. Raheel, (Rachel,) the wife of Siyad, the tailor mentioned in the Memoir of Mr. Stoddard, was another. So were Sanum, the wife of Joseph; Meressa, the wife of Yakob; and Sarah, the daughter of Priest Abraham, and wife of Oshana, of whom we shall hear more hereafter.
After the death of Mrs. Grant, January 14, 1839, the school was continued under the charge of Mr. Holladay, who employed native teachers to assist him, the ladies of the mission cooperating as they could. It then passed into the hands of Dr. Wright, who had the care of it when Miss Fiske arrived in Oroomiah, June 14, 1843. During all this time it was only a day school, and contact with vice in the homes of the pupils greatly hindered its usefulness. It was for this reason that Miss Fiske was exceedingly anxious to make it a boarding school, so as to retain the pupils continuously under good influences. But would they be allowed to spend the night on the mission premises? This was doubted by many, and all had their fears; yet in August an appropriation was made for the support of six boarding pupils, who were to be entirely under the control of the mission for three years. Some said they could not be obtained for even one year, and not one of them would remain to complete the three. Even Priest Abraham said, "I cannot bear the reproach of having my daughter live with you." At that time, scarcely a girl twelve years old could be found who was not betrothed; and years were devoted to the preparation of a coarse kind of embroidery, a certain amount of which must be ready for the wedding.
One day in August, Mar Yohanan said to Miss Fiske, "You get ready, and I find girls." She devoted that month and the next to preparation for her expected charge. But the day came for opening the school, and not one pupil had been obtained. The teacher was feeling somewhat anxious, when, from her window in the second story, she saw Mar Yohanan crossing the court, with a girl in either hand. One of them was his own niece, Selby, of Gavalan, seven years of age; the other, Hanee, of Geog Tapa, about three years older. They were not very inviting in outward appearance; but it did not take Miss Fiske long to reach the door, where the bishop met her, and placing their little hands in hers, said, in his broken English, "They be your daughters; no man take them from your hand." She wrote to a friend an account of her success, adding, "I shall be glad to give them to the Lord Jesus, and love to look on them as the beginning of my dear school." These two pupils were supported by ladies in Maiden, Massachusetts, and the number soon increased to six; but fifteen days after, two of them, finding the gate open, suddenly left for home. Their teacher did not think it advisable to follow them; nor did she see them again till, ten years after, an invitation for a reunion of all her scholars brought two whom she did not recognize. She said, "Perhaps you were here under Mrs. Grant?" "No, we were your own scholars for fifteen days, and we are very sorry we ran away." They are now both useful Christians, and the places they left in 1843 were speedily filled by others.
The care of the school was much more exhausting than its instruction. When the teacher went out, and when she came in, she must take her pupils with her, for she dared not leave them to themselves. Indeed, so strong were the feelings of their friends, that they allowed them to remain only on condition that they should lodge with or near their teacher, and never go out except in her company. A native teacher rendered such help as he could, needing much teaching himself; and everything combined to make the principal feel that hers was to be a work of faith and prayer. As the first of January approached, she thought how sweet it would be to be remembered by dear friends at Mount Holyoke; and when it came, she wrote to Miss Whitman, "In looking over Miss Lyon's suggestions for the observance of the day, last year, I cannot tell you how I felt as I read the words, 'Perhaps next new year's day will find some of you on a foreign shore. If so, we pledge you a remembrance within these consecrated walls.' I thought not then that privilege would be mine; but since it is, I count your prayers the greatest favor you can confer."
At Oroomiah, the missionaries met together for prayer at one o'clock, and after that Dr. Perkins and Mr. Holladay preached to the assembled Seminaries, while the ladies of the mission met separately for prayer; then united intercession again closed the day. And they needed to wait on God, for many difficulties combined to prevent success.
One was the poverty of the people. To say merely that they were poor gives no true idea of their situation to an American reader. They were extremely poor, and grinding oppression still keeps them so. In 1837, Mr. Stocking found very few pupils in the schools wearing shoes, even in the snow of midwinter; and one sprightly lad in Sabbath school had nothing on but a coarse cotton shirt, reaching down to his knees, and a skull cap, though the missionary required all his winter clothes, besides a fire, to keep him comfortable.
Another evil growing out of their poverty was, that the missionairies, in order to give the first impulse to education, resorted to some measures which, after an interest was awakened, had to be laid aside in order to increase it. For example, poor parents could not be persuaded to earn bread for their children while they sent them to school; hence, to get scholars at first, the mission furnished their daily bread; and this having been done for the boys, had to be done for the girls also. So, in the winter of 1843-44, twenty-five cents a week was paid to the day scholars, the others having their board instead. But the current having once commenced to flow in the new channel, such inducements became more a hinderance than a help, and, in the spring of 1844, Miss Fiske told her scholars that no more money would be paid for their bread; and though some of the mission feared it would be necessary to resume the practice, instead of that it was soon dropped in the other Seminary also.
But the special difficulty growing out of the condition of woman in a Mohammedan country demands our notice. Some may suppose that because Miss Fiske and Miss Rice have succeeded so well, an unmarried lady from this country has nothing to do but to go there and work like any one else. This is not true; such a one cannot live by herself: her home must be in some missionary family. She cannot go out alone, either inside or outside of the city. In many things she needs to be shielded from annoyances here unknown. And God provided all that the teachers of the Seminary needed of such help; first, in the kind family of Mr. Stocking, and, after his death, in the pleasant household of Mr. Breath. Indeed, not one of all the missionary circle ever stood in need of such a hint as Paul gave the church at Rome concerning the deaconess of Cenchrea. As Miss Fiske says, playfully, "Whenever we went with them to visit pupils at a distance, they always made us believe that it was a great privilege to take us along;" and every lady who goes out, in a similar way, to labor in the missionary field, will find just such Christian kindness indispensable to her comfort and usefulness. In such a sphere of action, a lady's dependence is her independence.
Another difficulty was the want of books. Such a thing as a school book had been unknown among the Nestorians. The only ones to be had in 1843 were the Bible in ancient Syriac,—a language unintelligible to the common people,—and the Gospel of John, with a few chapters of Genesis, in the spoken language, besides a few tracts. Later came the Gospel of Matthew, and, after that, the four Gospels. Mr. Stocking prepared a Spelling Book of fifty-four pages, 8vo, a Mental Arithmetic of twenty-four pages, and afterwards a larger Arithmetic. Mr. Coan, a Scripture Spelling Book of one hundred and sixty pages, 8vo. Mr. Stoddard issued a very full and complete Arithmetic for the older scholars in 1856, but his System of Theology did not appear till after his decease, in 1857. Dr. Wright was the author of a Geography of three hundred and two pages, printed in 1849. Mr. Cochran's Scripture Geography appeared in 1856, and Barth's Church History was published the same year. But the book studied more than all others, and most efficient in enlightening and elevating the people, was the Bible, of which the New Testament appeared in 1846, and the Old in 1852. As many as three hours a day were devoted to that; and no recollections of missionary education in Persia are so pleasant as those of the Bible lessons. The pupils have pleasant memorials of some of them in the form of Bible maps, drawn by themselves, which now form a conspicuous and appropriate ornament of their homes.
It may seem to some as though so much study of the Bible would make the pupils weary of its sacred pages; but precisely the contrary was true. When the New Testament, shortly after it was printed, was offered to those who, during recreation hours, would commit to memory the Scripture Catechism, containing more than one thousand texts, some learned it in three weeks, and others in a longer time; and their joy in receiving the reward could hardly be expressed. It was near the close of the term, and some who had not quite finished when vacation began remained to complete the task; for they said they could not go home unless they carried with them their Testament; and the diligent use they made of it afterwards showed that their desire was more than mere covetousness. Even eighteen months after, writing to a friend in America, they say, "Now we have each of us this blessed book, this priceless blessing; would that in it we might all find salvation for our souls. This book is from the unspeakable mercy of God; nor can we ever repay our dear friends for it." I cannot forbear quoting here the closing sentence of the letter—"Dear friend, the gentle love of the Saviour be with you. AMEN."
MAE YOHANAN.—STANDARD OF SCHOLARSHIP.—ENGLISH BOOKS READ IN SYRIAC.—EXPENSE.—FEELINGS OF PARENTS.—DOMESTIC DEPARTMENT.—DAILY REPORTS.—PICTURE OF A WEEK DAY AND SABBATH.—"IF YOU LOVE ME, LEAN HARD."—ESLI'S JOURNAL.—LETTER FROM PUPILS TO MOUNT HOLYOKE SEMINARY.—FROM THE SAME TO MRS. C. T. MILLS.
When Mar Yohanan returned to Persia after his visit to the United States, in 1843, Prince Malik Kassim Meerza, who could speak a little English, asked him, "What are the wonders of America?" He replied, "The blind they do see, the deaf they do hear, and the women they do read; they be not beasts." Having visited Mount Holyoke Seminary, he often said, "Of all colleges in America, Mount Holy Oke be the best; and when I see such a school here, I die;" meaning that then he would be ready to die. When he brought her first boarding scholars to Miss Fiske, he said, "Now you begin Mount Holy Oke in Persia."
As she sought to reproduce one of our female seminaries, as far as was possible in such different circumstances, it seems fitting to enter somewhat into the minutiae of its arrangements.
Resemblance to similar institutions at home is not as yet to be sought in the standard of scholarship, though that is rapidly advancing. In an unevangelized community, the people move on a lower level. Not only social condition, but morality and education, feel the want of the elevating influence of the gospel. A seminary that commences operations by teaching the alphabet must advance far, and climb high, before its graduates will stand on a level with those whose pupils were familiar with elementary algebra when they entered; yet its course of study may be the best to secure the usefulness of its members in their own community. If ragged village girls, untutored and uncombed, studying aloud in school hours, and at recess leaping over the benches like wild goats, now study diligently and in silence, move gently, and are respectful to their teachers and kind to each other, a thorough foundation has been laid; and if, in addition to that, the literary attainments of the lower classes to-day exceed those of the pupils who first left the school, the superstructure rises at once beautifully and securely.
Leaving out the Bible,—which has been already spoken of,—to the original reading, writing, singing, and composition; have been added by degrees, grammar, geography, arithmetic, and theology; with oral instruction in physiology, chemistry, natural philosophy, and astronomy.
But we should neither understand the attainments of the pupils, nor the source of their marked ability as writers, did we not notice that, as a reward for good conduct during the day, their teacher was accustomed to translate orally to them, at its close, at first simple stories, and then such volumes as Paradise Lost, The Course of Time, and Edwards's History of Redemption. To these were added such practical works as Pike's Persuasives to Early Piety, Pastor's Sketches, and Christ a Friend; and the pupils understood books a great deal better in the free translations thus given, than in the more exact renderings issued from the press. Baxter's Saints' Rest, poured thus hot and glowing into a Syriac mould, was more effective, at least for the time, than the same after it had cooled and been laboriously filed into fidelity to the original.
The Seminary was unlike similar schools at home in the matter of expense. In 1853, the cost for each pupil was only about eighteen dollars for the year, including rent, board, fuel, lights, and clothing in part; and as this was paid by the American Board, education to the people was without money and without price. We have already alluded to the efforts of the teachers to train up the people to assume this expense themselves.
Let us now trace the progress made in getting the pupils away from the evil influences of their Persian homes. In 1843, besides her six boarding pupils, Miss Fiske had a few day scholars; next year she had still fewer; and the year after that, they were dropped entirely. Many wished to send their daughters in this way; but she was decided in her refusal to receive them, because thus only could the highest good of the pupils be secured. At first, so great was her dread of home influences, that she sought to retain them even in vacation; but she soon saw that their health and usefulness, their sympathy with the people, and the confidence of the people in them, required them to spend a part of the year at home. This also gave their teachers a good opportunity to become acquainted with their friends and neighbors, and a door was opened for many delightful meetings with women, in which the pupils rendered much assistance. It also secured the influence of the parents in favor of what was for the good of their daughters, and made them interested in the school. During Miss Fiske's entire residence in Persia, fathers rarely disregarded her wishes concerning their daughters in her school.
The only time that the teachers were ever reviled by a Nestorian father was in the case of a village priest. He came one day to the Seminary to see his daughter, and because she did not appear at once,—she was engaged at the moment,—he cursed and swore, in a great passion, and when she did come, carried her home. No notice was taken of it, and no effort made to get her back; but three years after, the first indications of his interest in religion were deep contrition for his conduct on that occasion, and a letter full of grief for such treatment of those who had come so far to tell him and his of Jesus. He at once sent his daughter back, and three weeks after she too came to the Saviour, and even begged, as a favor, to have the care of the rooms of the teachers her father had reviled. Since then, the priest has written no less than three letters, as he says, to be sure that so great wickedness was really pardoned, it seemed to him so unpardonable.
The circumstances of the Seminary required a domestic department. It was difficult, in Persia, to have girls only ten years old take charge of household affairs; yet a beginning was made; but how much labor of love and patience of hope it involved cannot be told to those who have not tried it. At first, their one hour of work each day was more of a hinderance than a help; but gradually, through watchfulness and much effort, they were brought to do the whole without the least interference with their regular duties in school. They were thus trained to wait upon themselves, and so one deeply rooted evil of Oriental life was corrected. This practice also relieved the school of the bad influence of domestics, while it prepared the pupils for lives of contented usefulness among a people so poor as the Nestorians. Besides, in this way they acquired habits of regularity and punctuality such as they never saw in their own homes.
But while these Western habits were inculcated, such of their own customs as were harmless were left untouched. They were carefully taught to do things in their own way, so as naturally and easily to fall into their proper place at home.
At first, in their daily reports, Miss Fiske dared not ask any question the answer to which she could not ascertain for herself. The earliest she ventured to put was, whether they had combed their hair that day. The pupils all stood up, and those who had attended to this duty were asked to sit down. The faithful ones were delighted to comply. The others, mortified and ashamed, remained standing; but if one of them tried to sit down, a glance of the eye detected her. This simple method laid a foundation for truthfulness and self-respect; and from this the teacher gradually advanced to other questions, as their moral sense became able to bear them, till, when they could answer five satisfactorily, such as, "Have you all your knitting needles?" "Were you at prayers?" "Were you late?"—things that could be ascertained at once,—they thought themselves wonderfully good, little dreaming how much the teacher did not dare to ask, lest she should lead them into temptation. After the first revival, she could ask about things that took place out of her sight; and now this exercise is conducted in the same way as in our best schools at home. There is very little communication now between them in the school room. In 1852, there were only five failures on this point for four months, and those by new scholars. Dr. Perkins wrote, that year, "The exact system in this school, and the order, studiousness, good conduct, and rapid improvement of the pupils, in both this and the other Seminary, are probably unsurpassed in any schools in America."