The call which John Yeardley had received to visit the German colonies in South Russia, and which had lain for a long time dormant, now revived. A friend who had watched with regret his unsuccessful attempts on former journeys to enter that jealous country, and who augured from the political changes which had taken place that permission might probably now be obtained, brought the subject again under his notice. The admonition was timely and effectual. After carefully pondering the matter -- with, we doubt not, as on former occasions, a childlike dependence on his Omniscient Guide for direction, -- he came to the conclusion that it was his duty once more to address himself to this undertaking: and when it was accomplished, and he had returned in safety and peace to England, he alluded more than once to the manner in which the concern had been revived, saying he had been, before he was thus aroused, like the prophet asleep.
He re-opened the prospect of this service before his Monthly Meeting, on the 3rd of the Fifth Month, 1853. In a letter written the same day, he says: --
I am just returned from our Monthly Meeting in London, where I mentioned to my friends my concern to visit the German colonies in the South of Russia, which, thou wilt probably recollect, was included in my certificate for religious service on the Continent of Europe, five years ago. I received the expression of much sympathy and unity from my friends, and the certificate was ordered, including on my return, if permitted, any service that may present in Constantinople, the island of Malta, and some places in the South of France. Weak as I am, I cast myself once more into the hand of our Lord and Blessed Protector, in holy confidence that he will do all things well.
On receiving a passport from the Secretary of State, with the requisite counter-signature of the Russian Ambassador, he wrote to John Kitching, the 25th of the Fourth Month: --
I want thee to know that, through the kind and efficient aid of our mutually dear friend Samuel Gurney, I have at length been enabled to procure a Russian passport, and also a letter of recommendation to one of the first houses in Petersburg. Thou knowest, my dear friend, for a long time this matter has been heavy on my mind. It is a great comfort to have the ground cleared in this respect.
John Yeardley left London at the end of the Sixth Month, and went to Hull to take the steam-packet direct to Petersburg. In the narrative which follows, we have interwoven with the Diary extracts from his letters to his sisters; and we have been allowed the use of William Rasche's Journal, in relating and describing many circumstances of which J.Y. himself made no record.
Petersburg.7 mo. 10. -- On the 30th of the Sixth Month I left my peaceful home at Stamford Hill for my Russian journey. At our kind friend Isabel Casson's at Hull I met my young companion William Rasche. We were affectionately cared for by dear I. C. and her daughter, and she and several other friends saw us on board the steamer. It is a fine ship, well ventilated, with good sleeping accommodation and provisions: the captain is a kind, religious man.
On First-day evening, the captain invited us to the ship's service -- an invitation which we gladly embraced. When he had finished, I addressed the company, much to my own comfort: great seriousness prevailed. After I had relieved my mind, the captain closed with a few sweet and feeling words. When the occasion was over, he came to me and expressed his thankfulness that I had been enabled to strengthen his hands by throwing in a word of exhortation. He said that sometimes, when he had felt indisposed and unprepared for his religious duty, he had given himself to a quiet dependence on the Lord, and had been mercifully helped, to the benefit of his own soul, in endeavoring to do his duty to others.
There is great uncertainty (he says in a letter written during the voyage), how we shall find things at Petersburg, and whether they will permit us to proceed to the South; but this I must leave. Whatever way it may please Providence to turn the matter, as it regards myself I believe I shall be relieved from Russia in having made this last attempt.
They arrived at Petersburg on the 9th of the Seventh Month, after a safe and agreeable passage of seven days.
Before we reached Cronstadt, to quote from J.Y.'s Diary, we encountered a strong gale, so that the officers from the guardship, who came to see that all was in order, had hard work to get on board. There were eighteen Russian sailors with oars, yet they could not draw the boat, and our steamer was obliged to throw ropes and haul her in. The sight of Cronstadt was formidable; for more than two miles in and near the harbor there was a line of ships of war. At Cronstadt we had to be put on board a smaller steamer, which caused us much detention. At the custom-house all passed off well; they were more civil and less strict in their examination than in England. The Russian sailors look very unbright; they are not active in managing a boat. They not unfrequently received a few strokes from the fist of the helmsman, or a rope's-end, either of which they took with that unconcerned composure which showed they were accustomed to it. We are located at the hotel of H. Spink, an intelligent Yorkshireman; his wife is very kind and attentive.
13th. -- Spent this day at Peterhoff, with W.C. Gillibrand and wife, with two of their friends. It is the first opportunity we have had for serious conversation in this place, and I hope it was to mutual comfort. They took us a drive after dinner to see several of the Emperor's pavilions, mostly surrounded by beautiful pieces of water. There was an intelligent man present, who had spent some time in India, -- -- Watson; he now has charge of the British school in Petersburg. We find the Scripture Lessons are no more in use in the school; nor is the New Testament in the Russian language allowed to be circulated in the country. The Bible Society is just alive, but can hardly breathe; other institutions languish for want of support; party spirit has crept in to their great injury. The law is still very stringent in not allowing a member of one religious body to join another; but the different sects are allowed their own worship and schools.
20th. -- Left Petersburg by the train at 11 o'clock yesterday, and arrived at Moscow about nine this morning. The road, with but little exception, is flat and uninteresting. The forests are immense, mostly of firs and birch, which being thickly set grow small. Many of the stations are superb. The line of railway did not conduct us near any towns or villages that I could observe, but by some of the poorest scattered huts I ever saw in any country.
At Moscow, John Yeardley and his companion called on Pastor Dietrich, a German, residing a little out of the city: --
He is, says J.Y., in one of his letters, a worthy pastor of the Old Lutheran Church, a sweet venerable-looking man with long white locks. He was at dinner with his family when we called, but he would not allow us to go away, but took us up to the attic story to his study; primitive indeed, but clean, and to him I have no doubt a room of prayer, as well as of study. He seemed delighted to find our mission was to the Colonies. "But what will you do about the language?" said he; "they speak nothing but German." I wish the dear girls could have seen his countenance lighted up with cheerful brightness, when he found we could speak German: "Ah, I need not trouble you any longer with my poor English!" He knows a great many of the pastors, and will give us letters of introduction to the little flocks in the Colonies and the Crimea.
As might be expected, it was with a sinking heart that John Yeardley contemplated the formidable journey before him; but, as in other times of extremity, he cast himself wholly upon the Lord, and found his soul to be sustained, and his courage renewed to undergo the hardships that awaited him.
7 mo.21. -- Rose this morning much cast down in mind at the thought of our long journey, and a want of a knowledge of the Russian language. Poured my complaint in fervency of soul before the Lord, and was a little comforted in believing that he would still care for us and preserve us in this strange and long wilderness travel. It is his own cause in which I am engaged, and I am willing to endure any bodily fatigue if I may only be strengthened to do the works to which my blessed Master has called me. The Divine Finger seems pointing to the place where the people I am seeking are to be found.
I went after breakfast to the dear Pastor Dietrich. His heart was filled with love for me, and I felt the sweetness of his spirit to encourage me; preciously was the divine unction spread over us. He gave me some information of the religious state of things here. There seems to be about 800 of the evangelical party in Moscow, including the French and English Protestants, and the different classes of Lutherans; a small number out of 350,000 souls which the city contains; the rest are Roman Catholics and of the Greek church, mostly the latter. God knows the hearts of all.
22nd [?]. "In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed: deliver me in thy righteousness. Bow down thine ear to me; deliver me speedily: be thou my strong rock, for a house of defence to save me." -- (Ps. xxxi.1, 2.) "Hear the right, O Lord, attend unto my cry; give ear unto my prayer, that goeth not out of feigned lips." -- (Ps. xvii.1.) The above sweet words were brought home to my heart with power this morning after a time of conflict in spirit. Lord, grant me faith and patience to the end of the race, when I shall have to say, Now, Lord, lettest thou thy servant depart in peace. Amen.
Providing themselves with food, and with small change of money for the journey -- two things indispensable to Russian travel -- John Yeardley and William Rasche left Moscow on the 23rd, by malle-poste for Orel. They stopped some hours at Toula: the land south of this town they found to be well-cultivated, and the harvest had begun; it consisted mostly of rye. The journey to Orel occupied forty-four hours. Among their fellow-travellers was a resident of Moscow, Charles Uyttenhoven, who spoke English, German, French and Russ, and who, like themselves, was going to Kharkov. He was a pleasant and gentlemanly companion, and was of great service to them in acting as spokesman on the road.
From Orel there was no malle-poste in which they could continue their journey, and they were obliged to hire a tarantas, or posting-carriage, a very inferior kind of conveyance. In consequence, besides, of the fair at Pultowa, every vehicle of this description had been taken up except one, which was of course the worst in the town. When they had loaded their luggage and spread hay to lie upon, they started; but before they were out of sight of the stable the crazy vehicle broke down, and they were detained till nearly eleven o'clock at night, whilst it was being repaired. In this new kind of conveyance they experienced great discomfort: they could neither sit nor lie with ease, as the space was much too small for three passengers. The country they passed, through was very rich; it may be called the granary of Russia; they found the harvest more advanced the farther they penetrated into the south.
At Koursk they hired a fresh tarantas. The roads were inferior to those along which they had travelled, but the country was more picturesque, still fertile, and producing much wheat; the weather was very hot, as it had been all the way from Petersburg. On the 27th, at midnight, they reached Kharkov.
We have travelled, says John Yeardley, four days and nights in succession from Moscow to this place. The conveyances of the country are exceedingly bad; they almost shook our bones asunder.
The next day they visited Pastor Landesen, to whom they had a letter of introduction from Pastor Dietrich. They spent the day with the family of this intelligent and pious man. Tea was spread in the garden, to which meal a number of Christian friends were invited.
The pastor's wife, says John Yeardley, is a sweet-spirited woman. After much social converse our garden-visit closed with a religious occasion, in which I expressed a few words of exhortation. I think we were sensible of the nearness of the presence of our Divine Master, which proved a brook by the dreary way. We met at the pastor's Louse Superintendent Huber, a worthy and experienced Christian, kind and fatherly to us.
The next day William Rasche went with Pastor Landesen to hire a carriage. No such thing, however, was to be had, and they would have been happy if they could have engaged as good a vehicle as their old crazy tarantas; for the only alternative was a bauer-wagen (peasant's cart), if we except the very expensive extra-post carriage, with which they would have been obliged to take a conductor. It happened that a young man, an apothecary's assistant, wanted to go to Iekaterinoslav; his ancestors were German, and he could speak both that language and Russ. By Landesen's recommendation they took him as their companion, and he was very useful to them on the road. The bauer-wagen was much more uncomfortable than the tarantas had been; travelling in it was like gallopping over a bad road in an English farmer's waggon; and, as the vehicle had no cover, the travellers were exposed without protection to the full power of the sun. The floor of the waggon was spread with mattresses, and, thus furnished, it served them for parlor, kitchen, and lodging-room.
They travelled in this way through the night, but the next day were obliged to wait at a small dirty station for horses till the afternoon; and in the evening John Yeardley became so ill, from hard travelling and exposure to the heat, that they were compelled to alight at another little station near Novomoskovsk, and make the best of the poor accommodation they could procure. The next morning, somewhat refreshed by rest, they went forwards to Iekaterinoslav, where they happily met with a clean inn, the Hotel Suisse, kept by a German.
The same day they went in a boat up the river Samava, to Rybalsk, seven miles, to see a German schoolmaster named Schreitel, to whom they had a letter of introduction. This is a colony of twenty-five families, founded in 1788: the schoolmaster, who was also the minister, received them in a brotherly manner. It was here that their mission properly commenced. From this place a succession of German colonies extend in a south-easterly direction to the Sea of Azov. The villages are all built on the same pattern, being formed of one straight street of neat houses on both sides, adorned with trees in front and gardens behind. The German colonists consist principally of Mennonites and Lutherans. The former are the most numerous and thriving; they were invited to settle there by Catherine the Great, in order to improve the state of agriculture; but their example has not had the desired influence on the surrounding districts. Although his German neighbor is in an infinitely better condition than himself, the Russian peasant will not imitate the husbandry which is practised so successfully before his eyes.
At Rybalsk, John Yeardley had a Scripture reading and a religious opportunity with a few serious persons who came to the house; and the next evening he held a meeting for worship with the colonists.
On the 3rd, they left for Neuhoffnung. They travelled in a covered carriage, which, though without springs, was a great improvement on their last vehicle. They came the first day as for as Konski, where they passed the night, sleeping in the carriage, the air being very mild the night through. In the afternoon they arrived at another Mennonite colony, Schoenweise, where they had a short interview with Pastor Obermanz and a few of his flock. These people produce a small quantity of silk. The travellers were now on the Steppes; they found them very thinly peopled, so that all the country out of sight of the villages appeared like a vast desert. On the 4th they passed through three colonies -- Gruenthal, Priship, and Petershagen. The settlers here are from all parts of Germany, mostly from Prussia and Wuertemberg. Next came Halbstadt, the seat of the Bishop, and Alexanderwohl, where the Friends passed the night. They were surrounded by a large number of settlements on all sides.
These were the places where, according to his previous impressions and apprehension of duty, John Yeardley was to have entered on that work of gospel-labor to which he had so long looked forward. But, instead of finding, as on former occasions of a similar kind, his heart enlarged and his mouth opened to preach the word, he seems now to have felt himself straitened in spirit, and to have been obliged to pass in silence from colony to colony, a wonder perhaps to others, a cause of humiliation to himself. Never before, in all his many journeyings, had such a trial befallen him; and it may be supposed that, coming so soon after the copious and unrestrained exercise of his gift which he had experienced in Norway, it would press upon him with peculiar force. The people to whom he was now come, seem, it is true, to have been in a different state from the simple-hearted Norwegians, who thirsted for the "pure milk of the word;" and their comparative indifference to spiritual things may have been a main cause of the silence which he felt to be imposed upon him. With the reserve natural to him, he has left but little clue to the motives and feelings under which he acted. Great must have been the relief when, as happened on several occasions, his bonds were loosened, and the command was renewed to speak in the name of his only-loved and gracious Lord.
On the 5th they passed through several colonies to Gnadenfeld, where, says J.Y.: --
We halted to breakfast with one of the colonists, and found him a sweet-spirited man, and his family pious. His name is David Voote. He appreciated the object of our mission, and spoke of the awakening that had taken place of late; telling us that devotional meetings had been established, but that some of their preachers did not approve of them. We sent for one of the ministers, with whom I was pleased; he invited us to hold a meeting with them on a future occasion if we could make it accord with our journey, which I hope will be accomplished.
We obtained some information respecting the Molokans, and were directed to Nicolai Schmidt in Steinbach, who often has communication with them. We found him a delightful man, quite of the right sort to be useful to us. As the Molokans speak nothing but Russ, we shall be in want of an interpreter in our visit to them. I told him he must go with us; and he immediately said. I will go with pleasure; whenever you return here and incline to go, I will be at home and will accompany you. This seemed an opening of Providence, and removes one great difficulty in the way of a visit to this people, for whom I have felt more than towards any others in South Russia. N. Schmidt is a wealthy farmer, and sets himself at liberty to promote the extension of the Saviour's kingdom; I felt at once at home with him as a friend and brother.
From Steinbach, which lay a few versts out of the direct road, they proceeded to Stuttgardt, and the next day, the 6th, to Neuhoffnung, where they were accommodated at a farmer's, and had the comfort of a good clean apartment and kind attention to their wants. This is the principal seat of the German Lutheran colonists.
On Seventh-day, says John Yeardley, we attended the school-children's meeting, about 200 present. After Pastor Wuest had questioned on or explained the Scriptures, I had an opportunity to address them. On First-day afternoon we held an appointed meeting [with Wuest's congregation], which was not large, on account of many [with the Pastor himself] having to attend an interment in the neighborhood. After the meeting we received a salutation from some of the young sisterhood, who came to us and surprised us with their sweet melodious voices, singing in concert a hymn well suited to our present situation. After they had ended I went out and had a long conversation with them.
In all my journeyings, he touchingly continues, I was never so much cast down as in this scene of labor; I never before so much missed the help and consolation of my precious one as I now do; but, blessed be a gracious God, she is safe with Him, and free from a toil which she could never have endured. I marvel, and praise his great name for upholding me thus far; I am astonished at the way in which I am enabled to bear the hardships of this journey, and am preserved in health. It is the doing of my gracious Saviour, and I thank him out of a grateful heart. Should I never be permitted to return to my earthly home, I have a joyful hope he will take me to a glorious rest with himself and with those I have so tenderly loved on earth.
On the 8th, William Rasche went to Berdjansk, on the Sea of Azov, to change some English money, and to inquire if there were any religious people there. He met with some interesting persons, who seemed at first to be prejudiced against the Friends but after some conversation became very loving, and desired he would bring J.Y. to see them the next day. Accordingly, on the 9th, J.Y. and W.R. went to Berdjansk, accompanied by Pastor Wuest and several others. The meeting which they went to attend was held in a private house. It commenced in the usual manner, with singing; after which, -- -- Buller read a chapter, and the pastor commented upon it; and then they asked J.Y. what he had to say regarding it. He answered by giving his view of the subject, and afterwards addressed them in the ministry. Various individuals then related their experience, one after the other, as is usual in the more private religious meetings in these churches.
-- -- Buller (writes J.Y. in recording this meeting) is an interesting man; I had much conversation with him as to his own conversion. It seems to have been a work of the Spirit, without, in the first instance, any other instrumentality than reading the Bible. I met several pious persons in the meeting-room, and held converse with them to mutual comfort. They are simple and sincere. We took tea in the garden after the meeting, and did not reach our lodging in Neuhoffnung until 12 o'clock the same night.
10th. -- This morning they started for Elizabethsdorf, accompanied by Robert Lehmkuhle, a teacher from Kharkov. Their way lay entirely through the boundless steppes, where so many ways ran into each other that the driver missed the road, and they wandered about until 10 p. M., when they took shelter at a German colonist's. The inmates, who had gone to rest, rose to give them milk and bread.
The next day they proceeded to Elizabethsdorf, being escorted on the way by hospitable members of the settlements through which they passed. At Elizabethsdorf they were received by schoolmaster Seib, a brotherly Christian man, whose conversation was "seasoned with grace."
After tea, says John Yeardley. we held a devotional meeting, in which I had an opportunity to address the little company; but the people generally in the colonies are busy till late in the evening. Being much weary with our jolting journey, I retired to the waggon for the night, as I supposed; but W.R. soon came to inform me that a number of young persons, men and women, were come, it being as early as they could be liberated from their day's labor, to have some of our company. I sprang from the waggon with joy, and we had a delightful meeting, with a pretty large company. They sang repeatedly, and betweentimes I related to them something of my travels in Germany and Greece, with which they appeared wonderfully pleased. We were all served with tea out of doors, and the company remained together till after eleven o'clock, and then returned joyfully home.
I was much pleased with Seib. He and another schoolmaster, named Kapper, have been dismissed from their office of teacher, because of their holding private meetings and preaching in them, or explaining the Scriptures. Some of the Lutheran ministers are so lifeless that they will not allow the people to meet in private for their edification. The dead persecute the living, and light struggles with darkness. This is even the case in some districts among the Mennonites. The ministers fear that their people should go before them in religious light. The more I see of the one-man system, the more I prize the gospel liberty in my own beloved religious Society.
They returned to Neuhoffnung, and on the 13th went to Nicolai Schmidt's at Steinbach.
Attended the meeting there in the morning, and at Gnadenfeld in the evening, in both which places opportunity was given me to communicate what was in my heart for the people.
The settlements of the Molokans, consisting of three villages, each of about a thousand inhabitants, lie to the south of the German colonies. These people are native Russians and seceders from the Russo-Greek church; they receive their name from the word Moloko, milk, because they drink milk on fast-days, which is forbidden by the national religion. The Steppes are their Siberia, to which they have been banished. Their worship is simple, commencing with silence and prayer, and they do not use the ceremonies and discipline common among most other Christians; but they are firm believers in the Christian faith, and many of them are spiritually-minded people.
On the 15th John Yeardley and William Rasche, under the conduct of N. Schmidt, left Neuhoffnung to visit the Molokans. The first village they came to was Novo-Salifks, a prosperous colony in worldly matters, but said to be behind the others in spiritual life. At the next, Wasilowkov, they met with Terenti Sederhoff, the apostle of the Molokans, whose remarkable history J.Y. related in a tract called The Russian Peasant, forming No.12 of his series. Here they also met with A. Stajoloff, who remembered William Allen's visit in 1819. Sederhoff accompanied them to the third village, Astrachanka, where they had a conversational meeting with several of the chief men, but the intercourse was carried on at a double disadvantage.
They spoke, says John Yeardley, nothing but Russ. T never regretted more the want of the language. Schmidt had a manifest unwillingness to interpret all I wanted to say, because it did not accord with his own sentiments, and he feared it might strengthen the people in those views from which the Mennonites would draw them. There was a precious feeling over us, and I felt assured they appreciated our motive in visiting them; they often pressed my hand when comparing Scripture texts on which we were of one mind. I felt satisfied in having done what I could to direct them in the right way, and to strengthen them in it. They are well read in the Scriptures.
The travellers passed the night at this village, sleeping as usual in their carriage; and the next day, taking a loving leave of their friends, directed their course over the steppes into the Crimea. Here they found themselves in the heart of the Tartar country, beyond the verge of civilized life.
The Tartar villages, says John Yeardley, are the meanest possible, consisting sometimes of mere holes dug in the earth, or huts standing a little above the ground. The men wear wide drawers with the pink shirt over them; the women have a chemise reaching to the calf of the leg, dirty and coarse, an apron round the waist, sometimes so scanty or so ragged that it will not meet, and a handkerchief tied in a slovenly manner on the head. In these three articles of dress they drive the horses and oxen; the sun burns them to a dark brown, almost black. The children we saw were quite naked. Various attempts have been made to civilize and instruct them, but without success. One missionary pursued the work so far as to feed and clothe the children, and collect them for instruction, which they received for a while, but all at once and with one consent it was at an end. When I see the Tartar galloping over the steppe as if riding on the wind, it constantly makes me think of the wild Arabs. When we are anxious to find a well of water where we may take our meal, and when we see travellers assembled to water their cattle and flocks, and the camels running loose on the steppes -- which they do till autumn, when they are sought up for work, -- all reminds us of customs of the East.
This evening they halted at a Tartar village, where the occupant of the traktir, or house of entertainment, persuaded the driver to take out his horses for the night. The conduct of this man and his companions was suspicious; they eagerly examined the mattresses of the travellers, which were of superior quality; and when William Rasche came to make the tea, which he did by the moonlight outside the hut, the boiling water which he poured in to rinse the teapot came out into the tumblers a white liquid; and after the tea was put in the innkeeper held up the pot against the moon, and looked curiously into it. Instead of retiring early, as the Tartars always do, the men in the hut kept a watch upon the travellers; and the suspicions even of the driver were awakened, when one of them came to him, as he was lying by his horses, to borrow his knife. His horses, however, were so weary, and he himself so unwilling to move, that the travelers contented themselves with harnessing the horses, and making ready to depart in case of necessity. Soon after midnight, finding they were still watched by the Tartars, and apprehending that these waited only till they should all be asleep, to carry off their horses or to rob their persons, they decided to make the best of their way out of their hands. The driver being slow to move, W.R. jumped into his place, seized the reins, and drove quickly off, thankful to have effected a safe escape. It is very common for the Tartars to prowl about in the night, and steal the horses and waggons, of their more settled and thrifty neighbors.
After about three hours' driving, the moon shining so bright that they could see to read by it, they arrived at another village, of a less suspicious character.
On the 18th they reached Simpheropol, where they were glad to rest. The next day they wished to visit Pastor Kilius of Neusatz, to whom they had an introduction: as they were considering how they should get to him, he opportunely came to the hotel. He introduced them to several estimable persons, and took them the next day to his dwelling, situate in a picturesque mountain village, twenty versts from the city. At Neusatz commences another chain of German colonies, settled by the Evangelical Lutherans. The next morning they attended the public worship, and in the afternoon the Scripture-teaching for the children. On the 22nd they went to Zuerichthal, a village formed of well-built houses, but where they found the school in a very low state. The 23rd they started early for the Sudag colony, intending to spend the time there until the departure of the steamer for Odessa; but they found nothing to interest them in this settlement, and accordingly proceeded to Feodosia, (or Kaffa,) a watering-place on the south coast of the Crimea. The German inns in this place were all full, and to procure a wholesome lodging, the; drove the next day four miles among the hills, where they hired a large apartment at the house of a German. The situation was romantic, with an extensive prospect over sea and mountains; and on the hill-side was a thicket, forming a delightful bower, where John Yeardley and his companion "live by day, walked, talked, reposed, and wrote." In this retreat, breathing cool air and quietude, J.Y. received the physical refreshment he so much needed, while he reviewed the course of his laborious journey. Notwithstanding his discouragements, he was able to cast all his burden upon his Saviour, with whom he seems to have dwelt in nearer communion as his day on earth went down.
8 mo.26. -- This morning I felt more sweet union with my God in spirit than for a long time; and a strong desire has arisen to live in closer communion with Jesus, the beloved of my soul, the only access to the Father -- the only place of rest, safety, and true peace. I long more than ever not to be troubled with cross occurrences over which I have no control, and which have too long perplexed me and disturbed my inward peace. I long more than ever to spend my few remaining days on earth as with my God in heaven, to refer everything to Him, and to pray more earnestly and diligently for his grace to preserve me near to himself under all circumstances, until he shall have prepared me to be taken to heaven, to join the happy company there in a blissful eternity. "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee." -- Isa. xxvi.3.
On the 1st of the Ninth Month they sailed to Odessa, where they had to remain eight days. In this city they received a visit from a pastor, who conversed with them on the work of the heavenly kingdom then going on in the Bast, especially in Constantinople and Asia Minor.
The Saviour's kingdom, writes John Yeardley, in allusion to this conversation, is spreading, and many instruments are being raised up in various nations to help forward the great work. The kingdom of Satan is in danger; he sees it, and stirs up the jealousy of men, setting them against one another, and, by their seeking through party-spirit to exalt their own particular religion, hindering the Lord's work. Into whatever nation the beams of the Sun of Righteousness shine, the inhabitants begin to inquire the way to Zion, and turn their faces thitherward. This alarms the rulers whose kingdom is of this world.
From Odessa to Constantinople they had a quick and safe passage. At Constantinople John Yeardley was deeply interested in the institutions which the American missionaries have founded for the religious and temporal improvement of the Armenians. He visited two of these, the high school at Bebek and the girls' seminary at Has-keui, both beautifully situated on the shores of the Bosphorus. In the former they found forty-eight young men, -- sixteen Greek and thirty-two Armenian. The industrial part of the education was particularly gratifying to him.
Cyrus Hamlin, he says, who has the superintendence of their studies and labor, is wonderfully adapted for his vocation. He is assisted only by native teachers. The young men looked serious: some of their countenances were peculiarly impressive, indicating that they had been with Jesus. I saw them assembled in the school-room, and addressed them for some time; and C. Hamlin most willingly interpreted into Armenian what I said. It was a sweet and memorable time. The Armenian teacher would scarcely let go my hand after the meeting, he had been so touched with the power of divine love. In the girls' boarding-school we found twenty-five girls, all Armenians, with the exception of two or three Greeks. It was a lovely sight to see so many of this class under a course of religious and useful instruction. Many of the countenances were marked and pleasing, and were fixed on me with great apparent seriousness while I addressed them, along with some of the neighbors. -- -- Everett (the conductor of the school) kindly and most willingly interpreted what I had to communicate. He and his wife have also a day-school for boys and girls. I consider these institutions as bright and hopeful spots in the East, from which much good may arise.
The persevering and well-directed efforts of the American missionaries for the evangelization of the Armenians, and the field of Christian labor which was thus opened, took firm hold of J.Y.'s mind; he longed to visit the schools and congregations in Isnik and Brusa, and probably only abandoned the journey at this time in the hope of undertaking it at some future day. John Yeardley describes Constantinople as --
Built entirely on the hills which slope from a considerable eminence down to the Bosphorus. The trees towering among the houses, the high spires and gilded domes, have a most imposing effect; but what is the astonishment of the traveller when he commences his ascent up steep, narrow, clumsily-pitched streets. I could only compare them to the worst-constructed bridle-roads in England which the packhorses traversed centuries ago. The three days we were in the city I only saw one or two carriages, -- the most curious vehicles; indeed, there is scarcely a street in which two carriages can pass. Donkeys are the chief carriers. As to dogs, they are born and bred in the streets and are the property of the town, and in the day-time He by dozens in the streets, young and old, are always under the feet of the traveller, and he must constantly poke them out of the way with his stick; by night they are furious. The shops present a jumble of all kinds of wares; and the Turks sit cross-legged in the window, or work at their trade inside.
They left Constantinople on the 15th, and on the 17th went on shore at Smyrna, where, at the house of the American missionary Ladd, they met with another missionary, named Stacking, returning with his family from Persia, where he had labored sixteen years among the Nestorians. The account which he gave John Yeardley of the creed and condition of the Nestorian Church, and of the schools which had been opened in Persia, aroused his deep sympathy and produced an abiding impression on his mind.
Smyrna, like the other Turkish cities which they saw, vividly impressed the travellers with its Oriental character.
Like Constantinople, says J.Y., it is a town of all nations. The streets are narrow, with a run of dirty water down the middle. We met docile camels in great number, bringing figs from the interior. In the fig-market were thousands of boxes being prepared and packed for exportation. It is a sight of interest to see Turks, Greeks, &c., huddled together, walking, talking, or sitting cross-legged and smoking their long pipes. We took donkeys and ascended the hill, where we obtained a good view of the town, and then examined the ruins where the ancient city stood, and saw the place where the message from Heaven was received by the angel of the church of Smyrna. The church of Polycarp stood not far from that of John the Baptist. After a visit of peculiar interest, I returned to the steam-ship and read the message to the church of Smyrna, which gave rise to more reflections than I can here record.
Steaming on the sea of Marmora, (to continue J.Y.'s narrative of his homeward journey), the Bosphorus and the Greek waters, was very pleasing. We had a good sight of the walls of ancient Troas, where the apostle Paul received the message in vision from the man of Macedonia, to come over and help them. The quarantine prevented us from landing at Syra; but I conveyed a note through the English Consul to my old friend Hildner, who came alongside our steamer. I learned from him that Argyri Climi was five years in his school, and usefully filled the office of teacher of the higher classes; had been married about ten years to a lieutenant in the army; had three children, and was living happily with her husband at the Piraeus. It appears she retains her religious principles.
21st. -- Arrived at Malta. Ours is the first steamer that has reached the island since the removal of the quarantine; we went on shore directly after breakfast. Isaac Lowndes was rejoiced to see me. We met in the street, and he conducted us to his house. He has been in Malta seven years, acting for the Bible Society; he gives no bright account of among the Greeks, as to spiritual religion, nor of the island generally. The present governor has admitted the Jesuits into the island, who are doing mischief; privileges are being granted to the Romanists to the prejudice of the Protestants; and a regulation has been proposed which would subject a Protestant to six months imprisonment for not taking off his hat when he meets the procession of the Host.
Isaac Lowndes took John Yeardley and William Rasche to visit Selim Aga, or, as he was named after baptism, Edward Williams; who with his wife, sister-in-law, and four children, formed an interesting Christian household. J.Y. published the history of this man in No.13 of his series of tracts, Turkey and the Converted Turk, where also he has depicted several scenes from the latter part of this journey.
Arriving at Marseilles, they proceeded quickly on to Nismes. It was with a gush of natural sorrow that J.Y. revisited a place whore he had often sojourned with his beloved wife.
The thought, he writes, of the difference in my circumstances now and when last in this place fills me with sorrow. The beloved one of my bosom, then the stay and solace of my heart, is no more with me to help and comfort me in the toils of life. Yet when I consider what a large amount of suffering she has escaped, I cannot but rejoice that she is at rest with her God and Saviour, where I humbly hope soon to meet her. Lord, prepare thy unworthy worm for that awful but joyful day!
John Yeardley held a small public meeting at Nismes, and the next day, the 3rd of the Tenth Month, set out for the bathing-place of Bagneres de Bigorre, in the Pyrenees. His principal reason for going there was to recruit his shattered health. "On our arrival at Nismes," he says, "and during our few days' sojourn there, I began to feel the effects of my long, toilsome Russian journey; and, in the hope of preventing a return of my suffering complaint, I thought it justifiable to make trial of the sulphur baths and water of Bagneres." But he had also another object in view: "I had long thought," he adds, in a letter from Bigorre, "whether there was not a seeking people in this neighborhood, and now I think there is."
His first care on arriving at Bigorre, was to call on Pastor Frossard, formerly of Nismes, who feelingly reminded him of the changes which had happened to each of them since they had met before. He proposed to John Yeardley to meet some Christian friends at his chapel. This was just what J.Y. had been wishing for. The meeting was held; and after it was over he gave the company an account of his travels in Russia, with which they were highly gratified.
In a letter to his sister, Mary Tylor, which he wrote from this place, is the following characteristic sentiment:
Thy welcome letter duly readied me at Nismes, and drew forth my tender sympathy for thee and your whole circle in the loss of a kind and beloved brother. It is another link taken from the family chain, and the shorter it becomes the nearer we are drawn together in the bond of affection. How the spirit seems to ascend with those loved ones who are taken from us, and from earth to heaven! Our desire for a blissful eternity becomes more ardent, because they have already entered upon it; but above all, we desire to be with Him in whom we shall be one, and all will be glory.
Returning to Nismes, he occupied himself with holding meetings in many places in that neighborhood. In some meetings which he attended in the city, he had for fellow-laborers Eli and Sybil Jones, from the United States, with their companions. Amongst the audience at one of these meetings were three soldiers, who, with two others, had been awakened at Lyons, and who manifested the progress they had made in Christian doctrine by refusing to kneel before the procession of the Host. Their officer observing their disregard of this required practice, held his sword over the neck of one of them, saying he would strike off his head if he did not bow down. The man was firm in his refusal, and was sent to prison. To encourage one another in their new profession, these men were accustomed to keep religious meetings. They were in consequence accused of sedition, and when they asserted the simply religions character of their meetings, one of them was required to swear to the truth of his statement; he refused to take an oath, pleading that the New Testament commanded him not to swear. A second was then called upon in the same way; he also refused; and their stedfastness was reported to the commanding officer as an act of contumacy. The officer happened to be a Protestant, of an enlightened and pious disposition; he said that soldiers were called upon to vindicate the innocence of their companions, not to procure their condemnation, and that if they did not choose to give evidence the law would not compel them. Two of the five received their discharge from the army; the rest were removed to Nismes. John Yeardley had some conversation with these three after the meeting, with which he was well satisfied. They told him that when they were awakened they wrote and received so many letters that it excited suspicion, and that the police who examined the letters took the texts of Scripture, or rather the figures that referred to the chapters and verses, for a secret language, used to deceive their vigilance.
On the 8th of the Eleventh Month, J. Yeardley and W. Rasche, accompanied by Jules Paradon, went to Valence, and visited Bertram Combe, at Pialoux, where they remained a few days. B.C. had fitted up a commodious room adjoining his own dwelling, where he held meetings regularly: --
And where, says J.Y., we had several solemn and edifying occasions; and as our being there became more known the attendance increased, so that the last gathering was quite a large one, and peculiarly quiet and satisfactory. Among some meetings which we appointed in the neighborhood two were held in the temple of the Protestant Church, which was a mark of great liberality; these two occasions were peculiarly favored. In the latter B.C. alluded to the persecution he had had to endure on account of the disuse of the Supper and Baptism. He boldly avowed the conviction he felt as to the non-use of these things, and that the preaching of the gospel ought to be free. I have seldom been in a district where there is more openness for the gospel message in its simplicity, than in this mountain region.
From Valence, John Yeardley returned direct to England, only stopping at Friedrichsdorf. where he visited the boarding-school.
I reached my home, he says, on the 24th of the Eleventh Month, with a thankful heart to my Heavenly Father for his merciful preservation.