He says, on his voyage towards Persia: "All down the Bay of Bengal I could do nothing but sit listless, viewing the wide waste of water, a sight that would have been beautiful had I been well. In my Hebrew researches I scarcely ever felt so discouraged. All the knowledge I thought I had acquired became uncertain, and consequently I was unhappy. It was in vain that I reflected that thousands live and die happy without such knowledge as I am in search of.
"Proposed family prayer every night in the cabin -- no objection was made.
"February 18, anchored off Bombay. This day I finished the thirtieth year of my unprofitable life, the age at which David Brainerd finished his course. I am now at the age at which the Savior of men began his ministry, and at which John the Baptist called a nation to repentance. Hitherto I have made my youth and insignificance an excuse for sloth and imbecility, now let me have a character and act boldly for God.
"March 5. Feerog, a Parsee who is considered the most learned man here, called to converse about religion. He spoke Persian and seemed familiar with Arabic. He began by saying that no one religion had more evidences of its truth than another, for that all the miracles of the respective founders depended upon tradition. This I denied. He acknowledged that the writer of the Zendavesta was not cotemporary with Zoroaster. After disputing and raising objections he was left without an answer, but continued to cavil. 'Why' said he, 'did the Magi see the star in the East and none else? from what part of the East did they come? and how was it possible that their king should come to Jerusalem in seven days?' The last piece of information he had from the Armenians. I asked him whether he had any thoughts of changing his religion. He replied with a contemptuous smile, 'No, every man is safe in his own religion.' I asked him, 'What sinners must do to obtain pardon?' 'Repent,' said he. I asked, 'Would repentance satisfy a creditor or a judge?' 'Why, is it not said in the gospel,' rejoined he, 'that we must repent?' I replied, 'It cannot be proved from the gospel that repentance alone is sufficient, or good works, or both.' 'Where then is the glory of salvation?' he said; I replied, 'In the atonement of Christ.' 'All this' said he, 'I know, but so the Mohammedans say, that Hosyn was an atonement for the sins of men.' He then began to criticise the translations he saw on the table.
"April 23. Moscat, Arabia. Went on shore and met the Vizier. His African slave argued with me for Mohammed and did not know how to let me go, he was so interested in the business.
"April 25. Gave him an Arabic copy of the gospel, which he at once began to read, and carried it off as a great prize, which I hope he will find it to be.
"Bushire, Persia. Called on the governor, a Persian Khan. He was very particular in his attentions. Seated me on his own seat and then sat by my side. After the usual salutations and inquiries the calean (pipe), was introduced, then coffee in china cups placed within silver ones, then calean, then some rose-water syrup, then calean. Observing the windows of stained glass, I began to question him about the art of coloring glass, observing that the modern Europeans were inferior to the ancient in the manufacture of the article. He expressed his surprise that Europeans, who were so skillful in making watches, should fail in any handicraft work. I could not help recollecting the Emperor of China's sarcastic remark on the Europeans and their arts, and therefore dropped the subject. On his calean -- I called it hookah at first, but he did not understand me -- I noticed several little paintings of the Virgin and child, and asked him whether such things were not unlawful among Mohammedans. He answered very coolly 'Yes,' as much as to say, 'What then?' I lamented that the Eastern Christians should use such things in their churches. He repeated the words of a good man who was found fault with for having an image before him while at prayer, 'God is nearer to me than that image, so that I do not see it.' This man, I afterwards found, is like most of the other grandees of the East, a murderer.
"On the 30th of May, our Persian dresses were ready, and we set out for Shiraz. The Persian dress consists of first, stockings and shoes in one; next, a pair of large blue trousers, or else a pair of huge red boots; then the shirt, then the tunic, and above it the coat, both of chintz, and a great coat. I have here described my own dress, most of which I have on at this moment. On the head is worn an enormous cone made of the skin of the black Tartar sheep with the wool on. If to this description of my dress I add that my beard and mustachios have been suffered to vegetate undisturbed ever since I left India; that I am sitting on a Persian carpet, in a room without tables or chairs, and that I bury my hand in the pillar (rice), without waiting for spoon or plate, you will give me credit for being already an accomplished Oriental.
"At ten o'clock on the 30th our califa began to move. It consisted chiefly of mules with a few horses. I wished to have a mule, but the muleteer favored me with his own pony; this animal had a bell fastened to its neck. To add solemnity to the scene, a Bombay trumpeter who was going to join the embassy was directed to blow a blast as we moved off the ground; but whether it was that the trumpeter was not an adept in the science or that his instrument was out of order, the crazy sounds that saluted our ears had a ludicrous effect. At last, after some jostling, mutual recriminations and recalcitrating of the steeds, we each found our places and moved out of the gate of the city in good order. The residents accompanied us a little way, and then left us to pursue our journey over the plain. It was a fine moonlight night, the scene new and perfectly oriental, and nothing prevented me from indulging my own reflections. As the night advanced the califa grew quiet; on a sudden one of the muleteers began to sing, and sang in a voice so plaintive that it was impossible not to have one's attention arrested. Every voice was hushed.
"These were the words translated:
Think not that e'er my heart could dwell
Oh, then forsake thy friend for naught
"Thus far our journey was agreeable. Now for miseries. At sunrise we came to our ground at Ahmedu, six parasangs, and pitched our little tent under a tree; it was the only shelter we could get. At first the heat was not greater than we had felt in India, but it soon became so intense as to be quite alarming. When the thermometer was above 112 degrees, fever heat, I began to lose my strength fast; at last it became quite intolerable. I wrapped myself up in a blanket and all the warm covering I could get to defend myself from the external air, by which means the moisture was kept a little longer upon the body, and not so speedily evaporated as when the skin was exposed. One of my companions followed my example and found the benefit of it. But the thermometer still rising, and the moisture of the body being quite exhausted, I grew restless and thought I should have lost my senses. The thermometer at last stood at 126 degrees. In this state I composed myself and concluded that, though I might hold out but a day or two, death was inevitable. Captain -- -- continued to tell the hour and heights of the thermometer, and with pleasure we heard of it sinking to 120 degrees, 118 degrees, etc. At last the fierce sun retired and I crept out more dead than alive. The next day we secured some comfort from a large wet towel wrapped about the head and body. At sunset, rising to go out, a scorpion fell upon my clothes. The night before we found a black scorpion in our tent, that made us uneasy, so we got no sleep."
June 9 Mr. Martyn arrived at Shiraz, the celebrated seat of Persian literature, and at once began work upon his translation with the efficient help of Mirza Seid Ali Khan. In this work he had many interruptions, being himself an object of attention and curiosity. He received many calls, and unwilling to lose any opportunity of benefiting the inhabitants of Shiraz, was never inaccessible to them. He says, "June 17, in the evening, Seid Ali came with two Moollahs, and with them I had a very long and temperate discussion. One of them read the beginning of John in Arabic and inquired very particularly into our opinions respecting the person of Christ, and when he was informed that we did not consider His human nature eternal nor His mother divine, seemed quite satisfied, and remarked to the others, 'how much misapprehension is removed when people come to an explanation.'"
"June 22. The Prince's secretary called to talk about Soofeeism. They believe they know not what. He thought to excite my wonder by telling me that I and every created being was God.
"June 26. Two young men from the college came, full of zeal and logic, to try me with hard questions such as, whether being be but one or two? What is the state and form of disembodied spirits? and other foolish and unlearned questions ministering strife. At last, one of them discovered the true cause of his coming by asking me bluntly to bring a proof of the religion of Christ. You allow the divine mission of Christ, said I, why need I prove it? Not being able to draw me into an argument they said what they wished to say, namely, that I had no other proof for the miracles of Christ than they had for those of Mohammed, which is tradition. 'Softly' I said, 'You will be pleased to observe a difference between your books and ours, when by tradition we have reached our several books, our narrators were eye witnesses; yours are not, nor nearly so.'
"In the evening Seid Ali asked me the cause of evil. I said I knew nothing about it. He thought he could tell me, so I let him reason on till he soon found he knew as little about the matter as myself. He wanted to prove that there was no real difference between good and evil; that it was only apparent. I observed that the difference, if only apparent, was the cause of a great deal of misery.
"June 30, Sunday. Preached to the Ambassador's suite on the 'Faithful Saying.' In the evening baptized his child. Zachariah told me this morning that I was the town talk." Indeed Shiraz was stirred to its depth by the presence of Mr. Martyn during the whole year of his stay. Men of every kind, especially the learned and zealous, came singly and in groups almost every day to argue and dispute against Christ. Now it was a party of Armenians, now learned Jews, now a prince, now a general, now the very Moojtuhid himself, the professor of Mohammedan law. This great dignitary invited Mr. Martyn to his house, where for hours he talked on and on, defending his Prophet and showing his learning; he was greatly annoyed at any difference of opinion, and decided it was "quite useless for Mohammedans and Christians to argue together, as they had different languages and different histories." But fearing Mr. Martyn's influence he was stirred to write a defense of his faith, which was said to surpass all former treatises on Islam. He concludes it in these words, addressed to Mr. Martyn: "Oh, thou that art wise! consider with the eye of justice, since thou hast no excuse to offer to God. Thou hast wished to see the truth of miracles. We desire you to look at the great Koran: that is an everlasting miracle." Mr. Martyn replied, showing why men are bound to reject Mohammedanism; that Mohammed was foretold by no prophet, worked no miracles, spread his religion by means merely human, appeals to man's lowest and sensual nature, that he was ambitious for himself and family, that the Koran is full of absurdities and contradictions, that it contains a method of salvation wholly inefficacious, sadly contrasting with the divine atonement of Jesus Christ. The Prince's nephew, hearing of the attack on Mohammed, said, "the proper answer to it is the sword."
Mr. Martyn writes, February 8: "This is my birthday, on which I complete my thirty-first year. The Persian New Testament has been begun and finished in it. Such a painful year I never passed, owing to the privations I have been called to, on the one hand, and the spectacle before me of human depravity on the other. But I hope I have not come to this seat of Satan in vain. The Word of God has found its way into Persia, and it is not in Satan's power to oppose its progress if the Lord hath sent it."
The Psalms in Persian was finished by the middle of March.
On the 23d Mr. Martyn writes: "I called on the Vizier. In the court where he received me, Mirza Ibraheem was lecturing. Finding myself so near my old and respectable antagonist, I expressed a wish to see him, on which Jaffier Ali Khan went up to ascertain if my visit would be agreeable. The master consented, but some of the disciples demurred. At last, one of them, observing that by the blessing of God on the master's conversation I might possibly be converted, it was agreed that I should be invited to ascend. Then it became a question where I ought to sit. Below all would not be respectful to a stranger, but above all the Moollahs could not be tolerated. I entered and was surprised at the numbers. The room was lined with Moollahs on both sides and at the top. I was about to sit down on the floor but was beckoned to an empty place near the top, opposite to the master, who, after the usual compliments, without further ceremony, asked me, 'What we meant by calling Christ, God?' War being thus unequivocally declared, I had nothing to do but stand upon the defensive. Mirza Ibraheem argued temperately enough; but of the rest, some were very violent and clamorous. The former asked 'if Christ had ever called himself God -- was he the Creator or a creature?' I replied, 'The Creator.' The Moollahs looked at one another. Such a confession had never before been heard among the Mohammedan doctors.
"One Moollah wanted to controvert some of my illustrations by interrogating me about the personality of Christ. To all his questions I replied by requesting the same information respecting his own person. To another, who was rather contemptuous and violent, I said 'If you do not approve of our doctrine, will you be so good as to say what God is, according to you, that I may worship a proper object?' One said, 'the author of the universe.' 'I can form no idea from these words,' said I, 'but of a workman at work upon a vast number of materials. Is that a correct notion?' Another said, 'One who came of himself into being.' 'So then he came,' I replied, 'out of one place into another, and before he came he was not. Is this an abstract and refined notion?' After this no one asked me any more questions, and for fear the dispute should be renewed Jaffier Ali Khan carried me away."
When we think of the bigotry and intolerance of these people and of Mr. Martyn's unflinching courage single-handed and alone, declaring the truth and preaching Christ, exposed to the greatest personal danger, contempt and insult, but unabashed, he stands before the world during his Shiraz residence as one of the bravest and grandest heroes that has ever lived. Such a spectacle is thrilling and sublime. God was with him to protect him and to inspire his magnificent confessions. A figure-head in history! A sight for angels and for men!
And God was with him to cheer and comfort, and we rejoice to know that some of the scenes of his life in Shiraz were quiet and restful. At one time a tent was pitched for him in a garden in the suburbs of the city.
Living amidst clusters of grapes by the side of a clear stream and frequently sitting under the shade of an orange tree, which Jaffier Ali Khan delighted to point out to visitors, until the day of his own departure, he passed many a tranquil hour, and enjoyed many a Sabbath of holy rest and divine refreshment.
He says: "Passed some days at Jaffier Ali Khan's garden with Mirza Seid Ali, Aga Baba, Sheikh Abul Hassam, reading at their request the Old Testament histories. Their attention to the word and their love and respect for me seemed to increase as the time for my departure approached. Aga Baba, who had been reading St. Matthew, related very circumstantially to the company the particulars of the death of Christ. The bed of roses on which we sat and the notes of the nightingales warbling around us, were not so sweet to me as this discourse from the Persian."
The plain of Shiraz is covered with ancient ruins, and contains the tombs of the poets Zaadi and Hafiz.
A vision of the bright Shiraz, of Persian bards the theme; The vine with bunches laden hangs o'er the crystal stream; The nightingale all day her notes in rosy thicket trills, And the brooding heat-mist faintly lies along the distant hills.
About the plain are scattered wide in many a crumbling heap, The fanes of other days, and tombs where Iran's poets sleep; And in the midst, like burnished gems, in noonday light repose The minarets of bright Shiraz, -- the City of the Rose.
One group beside the river bank in rapt discourse are seen, Where hangs the golden orange on its boughs of purest green; Their words are sweet and low, and their looks are lit with joy, Some holy blessing seems to rest on them and their employ.
The pale-faced Frank among them sits; what brought him from afar? Nor bears he bales of merchandise, nor teaches skill in war; One pearl alone he brings with him -- the Book of life and death, -- One warfare only teaches he, -- to fight the fight of faith.
And Iran's sons are round him, and one with solemn tone Tells how the Lord of Glory was rejected by his own; Tells from the wondrous gospel of the trial and the doom, -- The words divine of love and might, -- the scourge, the cross, the tomb.
Far sweeter to the stranger's ear these eastern accents sound, Than music of the nightingale that fills the air around; Lovelier than balmiest odors sent from gardens of the rose, The fragrance from the contrite soul and chastened lip that flows.
The nightingales have ceased to sing, the roses' leaves are shed, The Frank's pale face in Tocat's field hath mouldered with the dead; Alone and all unfriended midst his Master's work he fell, With none to bathe his fevered brow, with none his tale to tell.
But still those sweet and solemn tones about him sound in bliss, And fragrance from those flowers of God forevermore is his; For his the meed, by grace, of those who rich in zeal and love, Turn many unto righteousness, and shine as stars above.
1851. -- HENRY ALFORD.
On the 24th of May, after a year's residence, Mr. Martyn left Shiraz, bearing his precious translation to be presented to the Shah. The journey was an occasion of disappointment, exposure and suffering.
Arrived at the Shah's camp he says: "June 12th, attended the Vizier's levee, when there was a most intemperate and clamorous controversy kept up for an hour or two, eight or ten on one side, and I on the other. Amongst them were two Moollahs, the most ignorant of any I have met in Persia or India. It would be impossible to enumerate all the absurd things they said. Their vulgarity in interrupting me in the middle of a speech, their utter ignorance of the nature of an argument, their impudent assertions about the law and the gospel, neither of which they had ever seen in their lives, moved my indignation. The Vizier said, 'You had better say, God is God and Mohammed is the prophet of God.' I said, 'God is God,' but added, instead of 'Mohammed is the prophet of God,' 'Jesus is the Son of God.' They had no sooner heard this, which I had avoided bringing forward till then, than they all exclaimed in contempt and anger, 'He is neither born nor begets,' and rose up as if they would have torn me in pieces. One of them said, 'What will you say when your tongue is burnt out for this blasphemy?'
"My book which I had brought, expecting to present it to the king, lay before Mirza Shufi. As they all rose up after him to go, some to the king, and some away, I was afraid they would trample upon the book; so I went in among them to take it up, and wrapped it in a towel before them, while they looked at it and me with supreme contempt. Thus I walked away alone to my tent to pass the rest of the day in heat and dirt. What have I done, thought I, to merit all this scorn? Nothing, I trust, but bearing testimony to Jesus. I thought over these things in prayer and found the peace which Christ hath promised. To complete the trials of the day a messenger came from the Vizier in the evening to say that it was the custom of the king not to see any Englishman unless presented by the ambassador or accredited by a letter from him, and that I must therefore wait till the king reached Sultania, where the ambassador would be."
Traveling toward Tabriz he writes, June 22: "Met with the usual insulting treatment at the caravansarai when the king's servant had got possession of a good room built for the reception of the better order of guests; they seemed to delight in the opportunity of humbling a European -- all along the road when the king is expected the people are patiently waiting as for some dreadful disaster; plague, pestilence or famine are nothing to the misery of being subject to the violence and extortion of this rabble soldiery.
"June 26. Have eaten nothing now for two days. My mind much disordered from headache and giddiness; -- but my heart is with Christ and His saints.
"June 27. Passed the third day in the same exhausted state, my head tortured with shocking pains, such as, together with the horror I felt at being exposed to the sun, showed me plainly to what to ascribe my sickness."
Thus in great illness and suffering Mr. Martyn reached Tabriz, and was nursed through a fever of two months' continuance at the ambassador's residence. This defeated his plan of presenting the Persian New Testament to the king -- but it was afterwards done by Sir Gore Ouseley himself, and publicly received the royal approbation, and still later was printed in St. Petersburg.
On leaving Cawnpore, Mr. Martyn had intended returning to England, but had willingly remained in Persia to finish the translation, which being now disposed of, he reverted to his original intention, and set out on his last fatal journey towards Constantinople, September 2. His journal is filled with expressions of gratitude for restored health, delight in the scenery of Tabriz, descriptions of the country and the journey, the Araxes river, the hoary peaks of Ararat, the governor's palace, the ancient Armenian church and monastery at Ech-Miazin, where he received great kindness from the Patriarch and the monks. He was profoundly impressed with the view from an elevated table-land looking out upon Persia, Russia and Turkey -- a Pisgah vision, which excites in later missionaries a strong desire for Christian conquest. Describes Cars and Erzroom. September 29, left Erzroom. Was attacked with fever and ague.
"September 30. Took nothing all day but tea; headache and loss of appetite depressed my spirits, yet my soul rests in Him who is as anchor of the soul, sure and steadfast, which, not seen, keeps me fast.
"October 1. Marched over a mountainous tract; we were out from seven in the morning till eight at night. After sitting a little by the fire I was near fainting from sickness. My depression of spirits led me to the throne of grace as a sinful abject worm. When I thought of myself and my transgressions, I could find no text so cheering as, 'My ways are not as your ways.' From the men who accompanied Sir Wm. Ouseley to Constantinople I learned that the plague was raging at Constantinople and thousands dying every day. One of the Persians had died of it. They added that the inhabitants of Tocat were flying from their town from the same cause. Thus I am passing into imminent danger. O Lord thy will be done! Living or dying, remember me.
"October 2. Lodged in the stables of the post-house. As soon as it began to grow a little cold, the ague came on and then the fever, after which I had a sleep, which let me know too plainly the disorder of my frame. In the night Hossan sent to summon me away, but I was quite unable to move. Finding me still in bed at the dawn he began to storm furiously at my detaining him so long, but I quietly let him spend his ire, ate my breakfast composedly, and set out at eight. He seemed determined to make up for the delay, for we flew over hill and dale to Sherean, where we changed horses. From thence we traveled all the rest of the day and all night. It rained most of the time. After sunset the ague came on again, which in my wet state was very trying. I hardly know how to keep my life in me. About that time there was a village at hand, but Hassan had no mercy. The night was pitchy dark, so that I could not see the road under my horse's feet. However, God being mercifully pleased to alleviate my bodily suffering, I went on contentedly to the munzil (stopping-place). After sleeping three or four hours Hassan hurried me away, and galloped furiously toward a village, which he said was four hours distant, which was all I could undertake in my present state; but village after village did he pass, till night coming on, and no signs of another, I suspected he was carrying me on to the munzil; so I got off my horse and sat upon the ground and told him I neither could nor would go any farther. He stormed, but I was immovable, till a light, appearing at a distance, I mounted my horse and made toward it, leaving him to follow or not as he pleased. He brought in the party, but would not exert himself to get a place for me. They brought me to an open verandah, but Sergius told them I wanted a place in which to be alone. This seemed very offensive to them, 'and why must he be alone'? they asked, ascribing this desire of mine to pride, I suppose. Tempted at last by money they brought me to a stable room, and Hassan and a number of others planted themselves there with me. My fever here increased to a violent degree, the heat in my eyes and forehead was so great that the fire almost made me frantic. I entreated that it might be put out or that I might be carried out of doors. Neither was attended to; my servant, who from my sitting in that strange way on the ground, believed me delirious, was deaf to all I said. At last I pushed my head in among the luggage and lodged it on the damp ground and slept.
"October 5. Preserving mercy made me see the light of another morning. The sleep had refreshed me but I was feeble and shaken, yet the merciless Hassan hurried me off. I was pretty well lodged and felt tolerably well till a little after sunset, when the ague came on with a violence I had never before experienced. I felt as if in a palsy, my teeth chattering, and my whole frame violently shaken. Aga Hosyn and another Persian on their way here from Constantinople, came hastily to render me assistance if they could. These Persians appear quite brotherly after the Turks. While they pitied me, Hassan sat in perfect indifference, ruminating on the further delay this was likely to occasion. The cold fit after continuing two or three hours was followed by a fever, which lasted the whole night and prevented sleep.
"October 6. No horses were to be had, and I had an unexpected repose. Sat in the orchard and thought with sweet comfort and peace of my God: in solitude my companion, friend and comforter. Oh, when shall time give place to eternity -- when shall appear that new heaven and earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness! There, there shall in no wise enter in anything that defileth; none of that wickedness which has made men worse than wild beasts, none of those corruptions which add still more to the miseries of humanity, shall be seen or heard of any more."
Here abruptly closes the journal, with pantings for the glory and the purity of Immanuel's land, into which he was admitted by a blessed translation, released from all the sufferings of life on October 16, 1812, at Tocat, Turkey. The manner of his death is not known, whether it resulted from the sickness described, or from the plague, then raging. Whether Hassan was cruel and driving to the last, whether all his heartless Turkish attendants deserted him or not in his hour of final agony, we cannot tell. No relative or friend was there, no tender voice of sympathy, no woman's soothing hand, no alleviations from medicine. Even the commonest decencies and necessities of civilized life were lacking. Earth gave nothing to Henry Martyn in his mortal need, but we are sure heavenly consolations were unstinted.
"Jesus can make a dying bed
And Jesus was there! And Henry Martyn was satisfied, and is forever satisfied! "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." And the most priceless legacy of the blood-bought and commissioned church is the memory of a life, so gifted, so unselfish, so consecrated.
It is wanting in no element of moral heroism. Our souls confess its grandeur. The contemplation lifts us into a higher atmosphere than that of mammon, and self, and earth. We rejoice to see a crown so rare, so fair, so precious, laid at the feet of Jesus, the King. He is worthy. And we long to see the youth of our land and the church inspired by Henry Martyn's example, as he was inspired by David Brainerd's. And so we would have the apostolic succession continued till the millennium, of such as shall not count their lives dear for the testimony of the gospel.
It is said that after Mr. Martyn's death one of his earliest and most devoted friends, the Rev. Charles Simeon, used always to keep his picture before him in his study for help and inspiration. "Move where he would through the apartment, it seemed to keep its eyes upon him, and ever to say to him, 'Be earnest, be earnest; don't trifle, don't trifle,' and the good Simeon would gently bow to the speaking picture, and with a smile, reply, 'Yes, I will; I will be in earnest, I will not trifle; for souls are perishing and Jesus is to be glorified.'"
Would that Henry Martyn's life might bring such a message to every heart, and awaken in every one a similar response.