The surviving stories about the patriarchs focus, not surprisingly, on their bravery and valor as they fought to civilize the countryside, administer justice, and keep peace in an area that had a well-deserved reputation for wildness. Herbert no doubt grew up with these tales but could not have had much contact with the men themselves: his grandfather, evidently a remarkable courtier, warrior, and politician, died the month after Herbert was born; and his father, also an active local sheriff and member of Parliament, died when Herbert was three and a half years old.
Herbert may have spent his early years in a home without a strong father figure, but this is not to say that the household lacked a commanding presence. His mother, Magdalen, from the Newport family of Shropshire, was by all accounts an extraordinary woman, fully capable of managing the complex financial affairs of the family, moving the household when necessary, and supervising the academic and spiritual education of her ten children.
There is evidence of Herbert's deep attachment to, and even identification with, his mother throughout his works: his earliest surviving poems, which attempt to outline his direction as a poet, were written and sent to her as a gift; he mourned her death and celebrated her life with a collection of Latin and Greek poems, Memoriae Matris Sacrum ; and The Temple is filled with images of childlike submissiveness and maternal love, devotion, and authority.
John Donne 's funeral sermon on Magdalen focuses quite a bit on her melancholy, and one wonders whether this too--not necessarily religious despair, but a kind of spiritual vulnerability and sadness--is a crucial part of her legacy to her son. Magdalen did not keep the family long in Wales. Shortly after the birth of her last child, Thomas, in , she moved the family first to Shropshire, then to Oxford -- primarily to oversee the education of the oldest son, Edward--and then finally to a house at Charing Cross, London.
This last move also facilitated the education of the other children. George was tutored at home and then entered Westminster School, probably in , a distinguished grammar school that not only grounded him in the study of Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and music, but also introduced him to Lancelot Andrewes, one of the great churchmen and preachers of the time.
Full text of "Catholic Prophecy"
From Westminster, Herbert went up to Trinity College, Cambridge, in and began one of the most important institutional affiliations of his life, one that lasted nearly twenty years. At Cambridge, Herbert moved smoothly through the typical stages of academic success: he gained a B. The orator was the spokesperson for the university on a variety of occasions, making speeches and writing letters, and the little evidence that survives of Herbert's activities as orator indicates that he served in this capacity with both ceremonious wit and independent boldness.
He was well able to offer the required fatuous compliments to the king: in a letter thanking King James I for the gift of his Latin works to Cambridge, he compared these volumes themselves to a library far grander than that of the Vatican or the Bodleian Library at Oxford. But he was also willing to dare to offer some unwanted advice when it was needed: in an oration on 8 October capping the university's celebration of the safe return of Prince Charles later Charles I and George Villiers, first Duke of Buckingham, from Spain, Herbert made a forceful plea for the value of keeping the peace, even though it was clear that the failure to marry off the prince to the Spanish Infanta made war with Spain more desirable and likely.
It is unclear whether Herbert helped or hurt his chances for secular advancement by being both witty and principled. During the Cambridge years Herbert wrote much of his poetry. He began, auspiciously enough, with a vow, made in a letter accompanying two sonnets sent to his mother as a New Year's gift in , "that my poor Abilities in Poetry , shall be all, and ever consecrated to Gods glory. Herbert was not alone in wanting to redirect poetry from Venus to God: Sir Philip Sidney , Robert Southwell , and Donne, among others, urged the same thing, and even King James helped encourage this kind of revolution by writing and publishing his own religious poems.
But these two sonnets have the force of personal discovery behind them, and they are a preview of a cluster of later poems in The Temple that examine his willingness and ability to write religious verse. As in so many of his best poems, exuberance betrays a deep sense of disorder and nervousness. These sonnets are disturbing declarations, filled with aching desire--"My God, where is that ancient heat"--but based on contemptuous dismissals of erotic love, love poetry, and women.
As a present to his mother these verses are particularly curious. Magdalen Herbert was strikingly beautiful, if one can gauge this by her portrait and by contemporary accounts, and inescapably vital, with ten children and a dashing new husband half her age she had married John Danvers in One wonders how Herbert expected her to respond to the anatomy of a woman that concludes his second sonnet:.
Perhaps Magdalen would not have read the poem from the position of one of the women being so anatomized and would have simply appreciated the closing celebration of the Lord's beauty. Donne evidently trusted her as a reader not easily offended and capable of discerning the sincere motive of a poem. In sending her "The Autumnall," a poem presumably about her that contains some remarkably audacious and severe praise, Donne seems to have relied on certain qualities of her as a reader on which Herbert also counted. Magdalen herself may have been a model for this kind of forthright and uncompromising directness: even as he writes her epitaph in Memoriae Matris Sacrum number 13, Herbert describes her as "seuera parens" [strict parent].
In any event, Herbert's earliest poems announce his dedication to sacred poetry in a startling fashion. It is difficult to date most of Herbert's poems with certainty, but it is clear that not all his early poetic efforts were the kind of impassioned sacred lyrics promised by the sonnets he sent to his mother.
His various occasional pieces--poems on the death of Prince Henry oldest son of James I in and Queen Anne wife of James I in , to the queen of Bohemia in exile, to his friends Francis Bacon and Donne--show that Herbert, like his contemporaries, viewed and used poetry as a medium of social discourse, not just self-analysis and devotion.
And even the bulk of Herbert's early religious poetry is public and didactic rather than introspective and meditative. His modern reputation rests almost exclusively on the devotional lyrics collected in "The Church," the middle section of The Temple , and while some of these lyrics may have been written as early as , there is good reason to believe that most of them date from much later, from the mid s to the last years of his life at Bemerton. But "The Church" is carefully positioned between two long poems, "The Church-porch" and "The Church Militant," both of which are early pieces much different from the later lyrics.
Amy M. Charles, Herbert's most thorough and meticulous biographer, suggests that "The Church-porch" was perhaps written as early as and that at least on one level it is a poem of advice addressed to his brother Henry, one year younger than George but already a man of the world and living in France. The two brothers shared a love of proverbs, and indeed what saves the poem from turning into a plodding collection of "thou shalt nots" is Herbert's ability to release the dramatic as well as the moral potential of some of these proverbs.
In the context of The Temple , "The Church-porch" is intended as a kind of secular catechism instructing a young man in basic moral principles and manners to prepare him for life in society and, more important, entrance into the church, a place where he will encounter moral and spiritual problems of a different sort. What enlivens the poem is Herbert's ability to complement the moral tags with striking images and brief dramatizations techniques that characterized the best, or at least the most appealing and effective, sermons of the time as well.
Many of the traits that Herbert warns against are defects in the eyes of God but also disadvantages in the company of other men, particularly one's competitors and superiors. At this time in his life Herbert undoubtedly had high ambitions for himself, and it does not paint him as a mere placeseeker to suggest that he was shrewdly aware that a morally self-controlled and cautious person might gain both earthly and heavenly rewards. Still, one should not overemphasize the secular context of "The Church-porch.
The structure of the poem thus entices the imagined reader from where he lives to where he should live, from superficial concern for the pleasure of this world, a joy that "fades," to a much deeper awareness of holy joy that "remains. In the broad plan of The Temple , the reader "sprinkled" by the "precepts" of "The Church-porch" and then transported by the twists and turns of faith in "The Church" still needs to see the fate of the institutional church, dramatized in "The Church Militant.
Like each individual believer, the church as a whole is bound to a rhythm of rising and falling, simple purity followed inevitably by excessive embellishment, wholeness turned into fragmentation. After an invocation to God's beneficent creation of the church as an instrument of divine love, not earthly power--an outspoken political comment, especially during an age when the church was being counted on more and more as a subordinate but nevertheless vital ally of the king and administrator of his power--the poem is broken up into five main sections, each concluding with the lines "How deare to me, O God, thy counsels are!
Despite the success that Christianity has in transforming pagan religion and culture into something beautiful and worthy of worship, sin is always capable of sneaking in to turn faith to "infidelitie," peace to controversy, and light to darkness. Sin is imagined in broad terms as superstition, pride, and disorderly pleasure, but its most current and insidious form is Roman Catholicism. Herbert seems to align himself with the apocalyptic Protestant militants of late-sixteenth- and early-seventeenth-century England as he energetically and somewhat venomously satirizes the pope as Antichrist, Rome as "Western Babylon ," the Jesuits as the Devil's army, priests as crafty wizards, and Roman Catholicism in general as a religion of shameless glory rather than grace.
And England is by no means a secure fortress: reformed though it is, the British church is all but ready to succumb to the darkness that has afflicted all previous churches. Herbert's prophetic vision of the beleaguered true church poised and ready to depart England for America was quoted repeatedly by his seventeenth-century readers:. For many these lines accurately predicted a new age of Protestant martyrdom and exile and the demise of the Protestant church in England at the hands of King Charles I; his French wife, Henrietta Maria, a Roman Catholic with a large entourage; and Archbishop William Laud, a High Churchman and anti-Calvinist though not a Roman Catholic with little taste or tolerance for Reformation theology or notions of church government.
But for all Herbert's historical accuracy and prescience, his eyes were on the end of history, which promised a happy consummation of his "progress. The two long early poems that frame "The Church" are thus substantially different from the lyrics that are Herbert's greatest achievement. But they serve an important function in the overall structure of The Temple , helping Herbert to present a multidimensional, comprehensive examination of moral, spiritual, and institutional history, and situating the persona and reader alternately in the world, in the church, and then finally in the midst of a macrocosmic struggle between religion and sin that begins in time but ends out of it.
And in a curious way these two long poems do share something with the poems of "The Church. Fish's phrase: that is to say, the premises from which they begin are suspended by their conclusions. In "The Church-porch" adjustment to life in the social world of "plots" and "pleasures" is rendered if not inconsequential then at least of secondary importance by the concluding turn to life within the church, where "vain or busie thoughts have During this time at Cambridge, Herbert also composed a substantial amount of Latin poetry.
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This, of course, should be no surprise: grammar school and university education was largely a matter of immersion in classical texts and repeated exercise in copying, translating, and imitating Latin authors. The Renaissance turn to distinctively national literature and the Reformation turn to vernacular Bible translations and church services by no means displaced Latin as the international language for diplomats and scholars and as the common vehicle for many types of serious disputation, religious devotion, and intellectual and poetic wit and playfulness.
Writing Latin poetry was a natural development of Herbert's day-to-day activities at Cambridge and--because of the particular traditions of Latin and Neo-Latin literature that he knew intimately and the learned audience to which Latin works would be directed--allowed him to use different poetic voices than the ones he cultivated in his English lyrics.
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Musae Responsoriae is a series of energetically witty and satiric "Epigrams in Defense of the Discipline of Our Church" meant to counter the attacks of Scottish Presbyterian Andrew Melville, whose poem Anti-Tami-Cami-Categoria pictured the British church as insufficiently reformed and still too beholden to Roman Catholic ceremonies, rituals, and accompaniments to worship.
The publication of Melville's poem in perhaps provided Herbert with an opportunity to assert himself as the newly appointed orator of Cambridge--the universities were, after all, under siege by Melville, who criticized both Oxford and Cambridge for not supporting Puritan reform--and an occasion to clarify his own notion of the ideal British church. As in "The Church Militant," Herbert was deeply critical of what he felt were the many excesses of Roman Catholicism, but he was not sympathetic to Melville's "vain fears of the Vatican She-wolf" and the puritanical drive to purge the church of music, traditional prayers, vestments, and bishops.
For Herbert, Roman Catholics and Puritans are brothers, twin dangers like Scylla and Charybdis between which the British church must navigate: the via media is best, a theme that he returns to in one of the poems in The Temple , " The British Church. It is a witty volume aimed to tease and please, but it is also an integral part of Herbert's lifelong attempt to define his church--no mean feat, since neither Scylla nor Charybdis can or should be banished--and his place within it, as defender and worshiper.
Herbert's two other collections of Latin poems written during the early s are comprised primarily of sacred rather than satiric and controversial epigrams. Lucus a "Sacred Grove" is a somewhat loosely arranged miscellany that includes poems on Christ, the pope, the Bible, and several biblical episodes and figures, including Martha and Mary, and examines an assortment of topics such as love, pride, affliction, and death. Several of the poems, like those in Musae Responsoriae , use irony for satiric purposes. The decrepit fate of Rome is ingeniously discovered in its very name, "Roma," which can be construed as an anagram depicting its decline from the glorious days of Virgil "Maro" to the present day, when hate has banished love "Amor".
But in most of the poems irony and paradox are used to convey the miraculous and mysterious power of Christ. Herbert's emphasis is not on careful, rational argumentation but bold, dramatic astonishment, as in the brief but dazzling lines "On the stoning of Stephen": "How marvelous! Who pounds rock gets fire. But Stephen from stones got heaven. The twenty-one poems of Passio Discerpta are much more unified than those in Lucus , each focusing on some aspect of Christ's Crucifixion. Like Richard Crashaw's sacred epigrams, written some ten years later, these poems are intensely, even grotesquely, visual, but, unlike Crashaw's, Herbert's prevailing emotion is calm wonderment rather than ecstatic excitement.
The description of the Passion of Christ is remarkably dispassionate: the poetic witness is not cold or distant but is moved primarily by the redemptive purpose rather than the melodramatic circumstances of the Crucifixion. But these poems, as baroque and intense as they may seem to be on the surface, are written from the secure perspective of one who feels at every moment that the inimitable sacrifice of Christ "lightens all losses. Thematically, these collections have much in common with the poems of "The Church" and illustrate that these later lyrics are the result of lifelong meditation on certain themes, not spontaneous or occasional poeticizing.
And, stylistically, the Latin poems, relying heavily on compression, paradox, wordplay, and climactic moments of understated surprise, are at least in some ways the foundation of what has been called Herbert's "metaphysical wit. Poetry was not all that was on Herbert's mind at Cambridge. He was worried about money: not for any extravagant purposes, but simply to live on.
His university position paid him modestly, and the yearly portion assigned him in his father's will was administered by his brother Edward and usually sent late and begrudgingly. He sought and probably got help from his stepfather, but, especially for someone who, as Ferrar describes him, valued his "independencie," financial insecurity was a great source of frustration. And he worried about his health. In several of his letters he tells of being sick, restricted to a very careful and expensive diet, and too weak to fulfill his daily duties.
Though he sometimes felt the ravages of "Consuming agues" that left him "thinne and leane" "Affliction" [I] , he turned himself into an emblem confirming that physical sickness need not be an impediment to spiritual health, as seen in "The Size":. The face that appears in Robert White's portrait of Herbert, copied from a lost original and printed in the first edition of Walton's Life , has these qualities: it is thin and spare, long and bony, and radiates both content and care. However, Herbert's primary concern during the s, more than health or money, was choosing his vocation, a recurrent theme in "The Church.
His noble birth, upbringing, and education nurtured "ambitious Desires" for "the painted pleasures of a Court-life" and "the outward Glory of this World," but serious illness coupled with the death of his most influential friends at court led him to brood over his "many Conflicts with himself. Despite Walton's effort to praise Herbert's holiness and enviable commitment to church service, he stops just short of demonstrating that Herbert became a priest largely out of frustration and impatience.
Walton's analysis discounts the fact that well before the mid s Herbert was preparing himself for a career in the church and believed that secular advancement was not necessarily antithetical to holy living. In a letter to John Danvers, dated 18 March , he mentions his plans for a spiritual vocation as a long-acknowledged fact, not an agonizing crisis: "You know, Sir, how I am now setting foot into Divinity, to lay the platform of my future life. These two men bolstered Herbert's hope that secular and sacred interests could be fruitfully reconciled: Bacon was lord chancellor and translator of Certain Psalmes , dedicated to Herbert; and Williams was a holy bishop and a formidable power broker and patron at court and for a time Herbert's greatest benefactor.
Walton is right to note that after many early successes Herbert's chances for advancement began to falter. His highly placed friends died Ludovick Stuart, second Duke of Lennox, in and James Hamilton, second Marquis of Hamilton, in or tumbled as a result of political infighting. Bacon's fall into disgrace after going to trial for accepting bribes may have taught Herbert a great deal about the vagaries of power and the difficulty of reconciling morality and public greatness; and Williams went into retreat after losing battles with first Buckingham and then Laud. His stepfather and his good friend Ferrar struggled in vain to save one of their pet projects and investments, the Virginia Company, formed to both colonize the New World and help spread the Gospel.
After the king dissolved the corporation, Ferrar removed himself to a life of devotion at Little Gidding, while Danvers, much more volatile and angry, intensified both his gardening at his house in Chelsea and his political agitating. Two decades later he was actively fighting against Charles I and ultimately became one of the regicides, directly responsible for the king's execution. The power and reputation of some of Herbert's influential friends and family members were thus certainly being challenged and weakened at this time, but Walton drastically oversimplifies Herbert's character by identifying thwarted ambition as his primary motivation in moving closer to the priesthood.
Although we cannot know for sure, it is just as likely that Herbert was deeply influenced by firsthand experience of the world of business, political intrigue, and court maneuvering and discovered not so much that it did not offer him a place as that it did not suit him. His youthful confidence that the sacred and the secular could be harmonized was not confirmed by the lives of those around him, and his attendance at the particularly tumultuous Parliament of more likely stifled than fanned any desire for a public political career.
Years later, in The Country Parson , he recommended political service as a necessary part of the education of a gentleman: "for there is no School to a Parliament. Doing so would preclude any further service in Parliament and cut him off from many types of secular employment, but would be necessary for him to remain at Cambridge. Fellows and other officials at the universities were required to take holy orders, normally within seven years of obtaining a master's degree, a vestige of the medieval origin of the university as primarily a training ground for church service.
But at this time Herbert was leaving both Parliament and Cambridge behind. He was largely absent from Cambridge and delegated most of his duties to others. He did not return even to deliver the funeral oration commemorating the death of King James on 27 March , and though he was not officially replaced as the university orator until January , he had basically begun his removal from the Cambridge community by late Ordination as a deacon, which Amy M. Charles suggests occurred in late , by no means resolved the major problems of Herbert's life and in fact may have coincided with a heightening of them.
He was presented by Bishop John Williams with several church livings, one at Llandinam in his home county of Montgomeryshire in and another at Lincoln Cathedral in Huntingtonshire near Little Gidding in , and these brought him at least modest income and required only a minimal effort of supervising some church functions and preaching once a year at Lincoln Cathedral. But this was not enough to support him, and between and , with no house of his own, he stayed with a succession of friends and relatives: with "a friend in Kent," his stepfather and mother at Chelsea, his brother Henry at Woodford, and Henry Danvers, Earl of Danby John Danvers's brother , at Dauntesey House in Wiltshire.
His financial condition improved substantially when in July a Crown grant made him part owner with his brother Edward and Thomas Lawley, a cousin of some land in Worcestershire, which was then sold to his brother Henry. The grant, about which little is known, may have assured Herbert that his family was not completely neglected perhaps his estimate of his own current fate nor out of royal favor the frequent state of Edward, whose life as a courtier and diplomat oscillated between royal grace and disgrace , and the money he gained from the sale of the land was certainly welcome.
Charles suggests that it allowed him to resign his position at Cambridge and gave him the wherewithal to turn toward one of the favorite projects of his later life, rebuilding churches, an activity he undertook not only at Leighton Bromswald but also at Bemerton. But the fact remains that at this time Herbert was still without a settled vocation.
Many of the poems of "The Church" focus on the problems of finding a proper vocation. Some, such as "Affliction" I and "Employment" I and II , seem to be early meditations on Herbert's uneven progress toward finding a position that might satisfy both his and God's desires. Others, such as "The Priesthood" and " Aaron ," are undoubtedly later poems reflecting on the specific implications of his decision to become a priest. This "strange and uncouth thing," the Cross, completely disrupts one's normal life, and any potentially heartening illusions about "My power to serve thee" are replaced by an awareness that "I am in all a weak disabled thing.
As in so many of his other poems, Herbert finds himself on receding ground: God takes him up only to throw him down; devotion is not a release from physical and spiritual pain but an introduction to an even more devastating experience of "woe"; and the fulfillment of one's desire is never finally satisfying or peaceful--the speaker can "have my aim, and yet There are various images and patterns of crosses in this poem, not the least of which is the intersection between man's choosing God and God's choosing him.
The pains of life--"these crosse actions" that "cut my heart"--link one inextricably to Christ, particularly as a model of patient suffering and devoted service to man and God. Despite the plea "Ah my deare Father, ease my smart! But the last four words are a sign of devotional assent: a leap from, rather than a culmination of, rational analysis. This sudden imagination of the impossible--a characteristic movement in Herbert's most dynamic poems, such as "Prayer" I and " The Collar "--allows "The Crosse" to end with at least a momentary stay against confusion, as Frost might describe it.
Weaving Scripture into his verses was an integral part of Herbert's attempt to forge a vocation as a servant of the Word of God, as both poet and priest. Here it allows him a sudden intuition into the blending of "mine" and "thine" as not one of the great problems, but one of the great joys, of religious experience. My will and thy will, my words and thy words, my voice and thy voice prove to be, as it were, intersecting beams in this poem about not the adoration, but the cooperative construction, of a cross. Joseph H. Summers describes the years between and as "the blackest of all for Herbert," filled with anxious concern--conveyed in such poems as "The Crosse"--not only about his spiritual duties but also his physical health.
In Walton's words Herbert was "seized with a sharp Quotidian Ague" in that required a full year of careful diet and convalescence. And not long after, in June of , his mother died, an event that affected him in complex, even contradictory ways. The death of a parent--and in Herbert's case, of his one parent--can be an emotional shock that is both devastating and liberating, confusing and clarifying. Herbert indeed moves through this wide range of response in the nineteen Latin and Greek poems that make up Memoriae Matris Sacrum , registered for publication along with Donne's funeral sermon on Magdalen Herbert on 7 July , a month after her death.
Mourning in general is highly ritualized, and such poems are usually formal and traditional rather than spontaneous and directly personal. One should therefore not expect these poems to record Herbert's unmediated feelings about the death of his mother, and one cannot know for sure when the poems are conventional exercises and when they are somewhat more telling autobiographical outbursts.
Even with these cautions in mind, Memoriae Matris Sacrum is an extremely revealing collection, giving important insight into his relationship with his mother and his corresponding sense of himself. Interestingly, it is the only collection of poems he published during his lifetime.
Although Lucus, Passio Discerpta , and the poems of The Temple were carefully copied out in manuscript, no doubt in preparation for eventual publication, they did not appear until after his death. This may be explained by the prevailing norms of poetic practice for nonprofessionals at the time, which allowed for the publication of heroic, historical, and occasional poems, particularly of public celebration and mourning, but discouraged anything more than the circulation of other poems in manuscript, followed perhaps by posthumous publication.
But Herbert's sense of himself as a poet was deeply intertwined with his relationship to his mother--as indicated by the early sonnets announcing to her his fiery poetic devotion--and not only writing but publishing Memoriae Matris Sacrum may have been part of a complex process of poetic self-assertion and self-definition as well as mourning. It is common in elegiac and memorial poems to dwell on the impossibility of satisfactorily praising and mourning the person departed, but far more than this Herbert's poems examine the ways his mother both authorizes and threatens his poetry.
After dismissing traditional medicine and suicide as possible sources of relief, he focuses on the act of writing in terms that are of great psychological interest. It includes many poignant expressions of sorrow and both directly and indirectly presents an interesting character sketch of Magdalen Herbert. It is sometimes difficult to determine what is a coincidence and what is a consequence, but in any event the death of his mother was followed by some decisive changes in Herbert's life.
He separated himself finally from Cambridge another of his mothers, alma mater and went to stay at Dauntesey House in the countryside, where he recovered his health, probably wrote and revised some of the poems that would be gathered in "The Church," and got married. Walton tells a fanciful tale of how Jane Danvers, his stepfather's cousin, wooed by her father's deep respect for Herbert, fell in love with him sight unseen.
They first met only three days before their wedding, he says, "at which time a mutual affection entered into both their hearts, as a Conqueror enters into a surprized City, and made there such Laws and Resolutions, as neither party was able to resist. Several sections in The Country Parson suggest that Herbert put a high value on companionate marriage, based on mutual love and shared work, and such a marriage with Jane Danvers at this time in his life may have served a variety of purposes: besides affording him emotional support, it perhaps also consolidated his relationship with the Danvers family, with whom he seemed to be very attached; eased his transition to life in Wiltshire, where he seemed to be gravitating; and allowed him to make practical plans for setting up his own household and accepting the vocation at which he had long aimed.
Herbert and Jane were married on 5 March , and although they lived for a year with her family at Baynton House, by the end of he was an ordained priest settled in the small parish of Bemerton, where he spent the few remaining years of his life. Even after he had been presented with the living at Bemerton--probably through the influence of his relative William Herbert, third Earl of Pembroke, whose estate in Wilton was close to the tiny country parish of Bemerton--Herbert delayed entering the priesthood. He may have been, as Charles suggests, occupied with wrapping up bits of business of the life he was ready to leave behind: perhaps traveling to Lincoln Cathedral to deliver the last of his yearly sermons and to Little Gidding for a visit with Ferrar, something he might not have the luxury of doing once his full duties commenced at Bemerton.
Or this may have been a final period of spiritual wrestling, with Herbert still needing to argue himself into a final conviction that he was worthy, willing, and able to be God's servant. Walton is frequently melodramatic, but some of the melodrama may be authentic: he describes Herbert on the day of his induction at Bemerton lying "prostrate on the ground before the Altar," devising rules for his own future conduct and making "a vow, to labour to keep them. While at Bemerton, Herbert was extremely busy with a wide range of activities.
The Country Parson documents that for Herbert the priesthood was not only a spiritual vocation but a social commitment, and although this work was intended as an idealized portrait--"a Mark to aim at," he writes in the preface--rather than an autobiographical statement, Herbert undoubtedly was much like the parson he describes: charitable, conversant with his parishioners outside as well as inside the church, an arbiter of local squabbles, and a familiar example rather than a formal sermonizer. Walton tends to describe Herbert's life at Bemerton as a kind of intentional humbling of himself.
He describes Herbert's first sermon as a learned and witty exercise that confounded his parishioners, but he concluded with a promise never to preach that way again: he would from that point on "be more plain and practical in his future Sermons. But while The Country Parson implicitly acknowledges that he had to make strenuous adjustments to enter into the life--and barns and houses--of common country people, there is little indication that he did this grudgingly. The model for condescension literally "stepping down" is Christ, a model Herbert readily accepts.
Throughout The Country Parson and in other poems such as "Whitsunday,"''Sunday," "Lent," and " The Elixir " he shows himself to be a sincere ''Lover of old Customes," common charity, and daily labor quite unlike any he would have done at Cambridge or court. This is not to say that life at Bemerton was a continual round of conversations with farmers and catechizing the uneducated. Among the opponents of Islam the work inspired such awe as prevented any of them from venturing upon a refutation.
To the Muslims it brought such joy that even in the absence of any claim on his part, they recognized him as the Promised Mujaddid Reformer of the age, and many of the eminent theologians of the time acknowledged without any hesitation the superiority of his genius.
One of them, Maulvi Muhammad Hussain of Batala, who was at that time the leader of the Ahl-i-Hadis sect and was held in more than ordinary esteem by that community and who, in consequence, was also respected by Government, wrote a long article in commendation of the book, and went so far as to say that the like of it had not been compiled in support of Islam during the last thirteen hundred years. In this book the Promised Messiah had, among other things, recorded some of the revelations received by him from time to time.
Two or three of them may very appropriately be mentioned here because some of the events mentioned later will bear out their truth. These revelations were published in the Barahin-i-Ahmadiyya in when he was but little known. No sooner, however was the book published than his name spread to the farthest of India and many an eye was fixed upon him in the hope that he would champion the cause of Islam and safeguard it from the attacks of its foes.
These people were justified in this hope, but God had determined to fulfill the hope in a way different from that which they had come to expect and were to show that those very persons who professed that they were ready to lay down their lives for his sake would later on prove most thirsty for his blood and endeavor by all means to bring him to naught. The acceptance of his claim was destined to be brought about not by human means, it was to be effected by mighty attacks of God. In his brother died childless so that he became the heir to his property also.
He, however, refrained from taking possession of it out of regard for the feelings of his brother's widow and at her desire he gave up half of it to Mirza Sultan Ahmad, who she had, according to the custom of the country, adopted as her son. As regards the question of adoption, he adhered to the view that adoption was not permissible in Islam. In reference to the widowed sister-in-law, however, he gladly gave away half the property to please her and to provide for her maintenance. Regarding his own half of the property, he still refrained from entering into possession of it and it remained for a long time in the possession of his relatives.
A year and a half after the death of his brother, under Divine direction, he married for a second time into a very respected Syed family of Delhi. At this time, since the Barahin-i-Ahmadiyya had been published, occasional visitors began to arrive to meet him, and Qadian, situated in a remote comer of the land, began once a month or once in two months to have the honour of receiving a guest. The more widely the book was read the farther his fame began to spread.
It was a study of this book which made that grand personality to the eminence of whose attainments and learning friends and foes have alike borne unanimous testimony and who in whatever company he chanced to be, invariably impressed it with the superiority of his genius, a lover and devotee of its author. Himself the beloved of thousands it was his pride to be among the disciples of Ahmad.
I, of course, mean my honoured teacher, the late Moulana Maulvi Noor-ud-Din, who at the time of the publication of the Barahin-i-Ahmadiyya was special physician of His Highness the Maharaja of Jammu. It was at Jammu that he had occasion to study the book and he was so much captivated by it, that till the moment of his death he held to his allegiance to the Promised Messiah.
As the renown of the book and of its author, began to spread many a person wrote to him praying that he might accept from them the covenant of discipleship. But he replied that in all things he depended upon Divine guidance and that he had not been directed to initiate disciples. In the month of December , the revelation came to him that he should accept from people the covenant of discipleship. Accordingly the first covenant ceremony took place early in the year at Ludhiana, in the house of a sincere follower of his named Mian Ahmed Jan and the first to make the covenant was Maulana Maulvi Noor-ud-Din may God be pleased with him.
Altogether 40 persons made the covenant that day. They were slowly followed by a few others, till in the year a remarkable event occurred. Ahmad was informed by revelation that Jesus of Nazareth, in whose second advent both the Muslims and the Christians believed, had died a natural death and could not return to the earth in person, and that what was meant by his second advent was that a person should appear in the power and spirit of Jesus and that he himself was that person.
When repeated revelations commanded him to publish the same to the world, he had no choice left but to take up the burden. The revelation was received by him at Qadian, and he told the members of his family that the task that had been entrusted to him was sure to arouse fierce opposition. He then proceeded to Ludhiana and issued a manifesto announcing his claims to the Messiahship. No sooner was the announcement made than there was a great stir all over the country and an unprecedented storm of opposition was raised.
Those very theologians who had formerly commended him now stood up to denounce him. Maulvi Muhammad Hussain of Batala, who in his paper lshaat-us-Sunnat had showered very high praise upon him, now moved heaven and earth to thwart him. He wrote: "I was the person who raised this man up and now I will bring him down," meaning that it was through his support that the claimant had attained to some eminence, but that now he would oppose the claimant so bitterly that he would lose his place in public esteem and would be altogether discredited.
The said Maulvi in company with some other theologians came down to Ludhiana and challenged the claimant to a debate. This was accepted, but the opponents in the course of the debate adopted tactics to convert it into futile controversy. When the Deputy Commissioner saw that a serious situation was developing which might lead to a riot, he by a special order directed Maulvi Muhammad Hussain to leave the town the same day.
Then on the advice of certain friends who apprehended that a similar order might also be issued in respect of the Promised Messiah, the latter also left Ludhiana for Amritsar, where he waited for eight days. It was then ascertained from the Deputy Commissioner that no such order had been issued in respect of him.
He thereupon returned to Ludhiana and stayed there for a week and then left for Qadian. After a short stay he went back to Ludhiana for awhile and then proceeded to Delhi and arrived there on the morning of 28th December. Delhi was at that time considered the centre of learning in India and his opponents had taken measures to rouse the people in opposition to him. No sooner did he reach the city than the Ulema [religious clergy] set up a clamour.
They challenged him to an open debate and determined that a discussion should be held between him and Maulvi Nazir Hussain who was the leader of the Ahl-i-Hadis section of Ulema in India. The Juma' Mosque was fixed as the place of discussion. But all these arrangements were settled by the opponents unilaterally, and no notice of them was given to the Promised Messiah.
When the time fixed for the discussion arrived, Hakim Abdul Majid Khan of Delhi came with a carriage and requested the Promised Messiah to proceed to the mosque where the discussion was to be held. The latter answered that in the prevailing state of public excitement there was a likelihood of a breach of the peace, and that, therefore, he could not go to the mosque unless police arrangements were made, and that, moreover, he should have been previously consulted regarding the discussion, and the conditions to be observed by the parties in the debate should have been agreed to.
His non-appearance served to increase the public excitement. He, therefore issued a declaration to the effect that Maulvi Nazir Hussain should state on oath publicly in the Juma' Mosque that Jesus peace be on him , according to the Holy Quran, was alive and had not died and that if within one year of his statement on oath no divine punishment should overtake him, then the Promised Messiah would be proved false and would burn all his publications. He also fixed a date for the statement. The disciples of Maulvi Nazir Hussain were much perturbed at the proposal and began to put forward all sorts of objections to it.
But the people at large were insistent. What harm was there, they asked, if Maulvi Nazir Hussain should hear the proposition of the Promised Messiah and should state on oath that it was false? A great crowd assembled in the Juma Mosque on the day named. People advised the Promised Messiah not to go to the mosque as there was likelihood of a serious riot. Nevertheless he went there, accompanied, as in the case of Jesus, by twelve of his disciples. The spacious edifice of the Juma Mosque was full of men both inside and out, and even the steps were crowded. Through this sea of men who were mad with rage and looked at him with bloodshot eyes, the Promised Messiah and his little band made their way to the Mehrab [prayer hall niche] and took their seats.
For the preservation of order the Superintendent of Police with other police officers and nearly one hundred constables were present. Many in the crowd had collected stones and were prepared at the slightest hint to cast them at him and his party. Thus would the Second Messiah have been a prey to the wickedness of the Pharisees and Scribes like unto his prototype of Nazareth. Instead of crucifying him the people were bent upon stoning the Second Messiah. They failed to carry their point in the verbal discussion which then ensued.
They did not agree to discuss the question of the death of Jesus. None of them were prepared to take the proposed oath, nor would they permit Maulvi Nazir Hussain to do so. Khawaja Muhammad Yousuff, a Pleader of Aligarh, got from the Promised Messiah a written statement of the articles of his faith, and proposed to read it out. But since the Maulvis had falsely given out to the public that he neither believed in the Quran nor in the angels, nor in the Holy Prophet, they apprehended that the recital of his articles would expose their falsehood. They, therefore, again incited the people who created an uproar and Khawaja Muhammad Yousuff was prevented from reading the statement.
The officers of Police, perceiving the gravity of the situation, ordered the constables to disperse the crowd, and announced that no discussion would be held. The gathering thereupon dispersed. The police made a ring round the Promised Messiah and led him out of the mosque. Reaching the gate there was a short delay in getting a carriage. Immediately a crowd gathered and showed signs of excitements. An assault was imminent.
Just then the officers put the Promised Messiah into a carriage, got it moving, and then busied themselves in dispersing the crowd. After this the people of Delhi invited Maulvi Muhammad Basheer of Bhopal and a discussion took place between him and the Promised Messiah, a detailed report of which has been printed and published. Some time later the Promised Messiah returned to Qadian. After staying there for a few months he set out on another journey. From there he proceeded to Sialkot, thence to Jullunder and next to Ludhiana, whence he returned to Qadian.
In a debate was arranged with the Christians. Their spokesman was Abdullah Atham, a retired Extra Commissioner. The debate was held at Amritsar and continued for 15 days. An account of it has been published under the name of Jang-i-Muqaddas Holy War. In this debate, as in all others, victory remained with the Promised Messiah, and a very salutary effect was produced upon the public. The debate was carried on in writing. The parties sat confronting each other and wrote out replies to each other's papers.
The original papers have been published in book form. It was apparent that the powerful arguments of the Promised Messiah frequently pushed the Christian advocate into a comer, and compelled him to shift his ground continually. Sometimes he indulged in unjustifiably strong language. The Promised Messiah put forward the salutary principle that claims made on behalf of a faith and arguments presented in support must be adduced from the scriptures of recognized authority of the faith. A curious episode occurred in the course of the discussion which made friends and foes alike admit the transcendent nature of the Promised Messiah's genius or rather the Divine help which accompanied him.
One day, the Christians, in order to embarrass the Promised Messiah, collected a number of maimed and blind people, and in the middle of the session presented them to him, saying that since he claimed to be the Promised Messiah, and the first Messiah Jesus used to cure the maimed and the blind, his claims to be the Promised Messiah could be accepted only if he would effect a similar cure.
They added that there was no need for him to go far to find the sufferers since they were already at hand. The call took the assembly by surprise and people wondered how the Promised Messiah would deal with the situation. The Christians were elated and thought that a stunning blow had been dealt and that their opponent had suffered a severe defeat in full view of the assembly. But when they heard the reply of the Promised Messiah their joy changed into chagrin and self-reproach, and their fancied victory was turned into an utter defeat, and everyone applauded the readiness and appropriateness of the reply.
The Promised Messiah said that the healing of such sufferers by Jesus was an assertion of the New Testament and formed no part of his own conviction or claims. In fact, for him the miracles of Jesus were susceptible of an altogether different interpretation. It had indeed been claimed by the New Testament that Jesus used to effect the physical cure of such ailments and that simply by a touch of the hand, and not by medicine nor by prayer.
At the same time it is written that if his followers have but a grain of faith they can perform more wonderful miracles than these. Therefore, it did not lie with the Christians to bring those afflicted ones to him; rather it was he who was entitled to present the sufferers to them and, therefore, with due acknowledgment of their kindness in collecting them, he now presented them to the Christians with the request that, agreeably to the statement in the New Testament, if they had in them faith as a grain of mustard seed, they should place their hands on them and command them to be whole.
If they were cured, then he would be convinced that they and their faith were true. If, however, they failed and could not come up to their own pretensions, then no one could possibly believe in their truth. The rejoinder made a great impression and the Christians were altogether dumbfounded and hastened to change the topic. Shortly after this debate he paid a visit to Ferozepur. During these journeys he was everywhere harassed and persecuted. In addition to the written matter published against him, wherever he appeared the people combined to annoy and torment him.
On 1st January the Promised Messiah inaugurated a movement for the general celebration of the Friday prayer service, which is one of the most beneficent institutions of Islam, and a symbol of its greatness. He made arrangements for the submission of memorial to the Government of India for the closing of Government offices on Fridays.
This service was for the Muslims a practical and powerful sign of the advent of the Promised Messiah but unfortunately, misconceptions had begun to prevail among them regarding it and in view of certain conditions attached to the institution, its obligatory nature had begun to be questioned. At many places Muslims had abandoned the celebration of the service. The Promised Messiah wanted to revive the institution and desired that government offices should be closed on Friday. He resolved to approach the Government with a memorial, but before it could be prepared, the Maulvis characteristically set up an opposition and wanted to take the management of the affair into their own hands.
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The object of the Promised Messiah was that somehow the great purpose should be achieved and it did not matter through whom. At the instance of Maulvi Muhammad Hussain of Batala, he made a public announcement that if the said gentleman would undertake the responsibility of moving the Government on the question, he was welcome to do so and the Promised Messiah would leave the matter entirely to him.
It is to be regretted that Maulvi Muhammad Hussain by this means only succeeded in postponing this very useful measure. The proposal of the Promised Messiah had, however, its origin in a Divine source and ultimately found its fulfilment at the hands of his followers. Towards the end of certain gentlemen resolved to convene a Conference of Religions at Lahore.
They invited the advocates of different religions to take part in it. The invitation was cordially accepted. It was laid down as one of the conditions of participation in the proceedings that no attack was to be made on any creed. The following five subjects were specified upon which the exponents of different faiths were invited to present their thesis:. The initiator of the conference had come to Qadian to meet the Promised Messiah himself, who had suggested the idea of the conference to the initiator on a previous occasion, when he happened to be on a visit to Qadian.
The sole purpose of the Promised Messiah was to acquaint the world with the truth of the message with which he had been sent. He was not actuated by any desire for personal advertisement of display. He, therefore, persuaded the gentleman to try and give a practical form to the suggestions and the first notice of the conference was actually printed and published at Qadian.
The Promised Messiah directed one of his disciples to render the gentleman every possible assistance, and himself promised to contribute a paper. When, however, he began to write the paper he suffered a severe attack of diarrhoea. Nevertheless, he completed the paper. While he was engaged in writing it, the revelation came to him, meaning that this paper would excel all others at the conference. Accordingly, he issued a handbill announcing beforehand that in conformity with the revelation his paper would be pronounced the best at the conference.
The sessions of the conference were fixed for the 26th, 27th and 28th of December Six gentlemen were appointed moderators of the conference. They were:. Many of the most eminent exponents of different religions had sent their contributions to the conference, which naturally aroused great public interest. People attended the sessions with great eagerness. In fact, the conference had assumed the aspect of a tournament of religions, and the partisans of different creeds desired to witness the triumph of their respective champions.
In the circumstances, the older faiths which could already count a large following were sure enough of a favourable response, because there were many in the assembly who could champion their cause. But in the case of the Promised Messiah, his paper was to be read in an assembly where friends were few and opponents many.
At that time his followers did not number more than two to three hundred, and of them not more than fifty were present at the conference. His paper was to be read on 27th December between and p. He could not personally attend the conference, but appointed one of his disciples, Maulvi Abdul Karim, to read the paper on his behalf. That gentleman commenced reading the paper and within a few minutes such a spell fell upon the assembly that they sat listening intently utterly unconscious of the passage of time. When the appointed hour came to an end, the audience was greatly agitated because the reading of not even the answer to the first question had yet been completed.
There was, therefore, great joy when Maulvi Mubarak Ali of Sialkot, who was the next speaker, announced that the time fixed for his lecture might be allotted to the Promised Messiah's paper. Maulvi Abdul Karim accordingly continued with the reading of the paper till , which was closing hour for the day's proceedings. But even the first topic had not yet been concluded and the audience desired that portion might be concluded before the close of the sitting. The moderators accordingly directed that the reading might be continued and accordingly it went on till the first topic was concluded an hour later.
Then the audience insisted that the sittings of the conference should be extended by another day beyond the 28th in order to permit the reading of the paper to be completed. Accordingly arrangements were made to continue the sittings on the 29th, and since some of the representatives of other religions had also made requests for additional time. The impression created by the first day's reading of Ahmad's paper could be judged by the fact that while on the first two days of the conference the audience did not assemble fully even at , on the second day of the reading men of all creeds and persuasions were assembled in large numbers by and the proceedings commenced punctually at the appointed time.
On this day also the period of two and a half hours assigned for the paper proved inadequate, and since the audience with one voice demanded that the reading should be completed, the moderators had no choice but to extend the time once more. In short, it took altogether seven and a half hours to finish the reading. The paper created a great stir in Lahore and everyone was agreed that it was the best one read at the conference. The followers of all creeds and sects were unanimous in its praise. Those who compiled the report of the conference estimated that during the time that the essay was being read, the audience had gradually swelled to between seven and eight thousand people.
In short, this lecture was a great triumph for the Promised Messiah and it further impressed the minds of his opponents with the transcendent quality of his genius. Even adverse newspapers were compelled to admit that the Promised Messiah's paper excelled all others which were read at the conference. An English translation of it under the title, 'The Teachings of Islam' has met with a specially warm reception in Europe and America. In the beginning of the Promised Messiah had recourse in another expedient to demonstrate his truth to the Christian world.
With a view to prove that Jesus was only human and to establish the baselessness of the Christian doctrine, he made a public announcement inviting the Christians to a forty days contest. The followers of other religions were also included in the challenge. It was, however the Christians to whom it was specially addressed. The challenge was accompanied by the offer of an award of a thousand rupees to the person who could prove that the prophecies made by Jesus were superior and more sublime than those made by the Promised Messiah.
The challenge was not accepted by anyone. On 6th March , a member of the Arya community, Lekh Ram by name, was killed in accordance with a prophecy made by the Promised Messiah some years earlier. This caused a great outcry among the members of that community. Needless to say, there was great stir against the Promised Messiah and he was openly charged with murder. The authorities carried out a prompt search of his house in the hope that some clue to the murder might be found, but God foiled all the attempts of his enemies and though every effort was made to involve him in the crime, the Promised Messiah's innocence was completely established.
In May there occurred an event which left its mark on history. Hussain Kami, the Turkish Consul, after several requests for an interview, came to Qadian to visit the Promised Messiah and made a request for special case on behalf of the Sultan of Turkey. The Promised Messiah who had been made aware of certain matters by virtue of his own insight and through Divine revelation, let him know frankly that the condition of the Sultan's Empire was not sound and that the attitudes and behaviour of the members of the Sultan's government were unsatisfactory and that in these circumstances the end could hardly be favourable.
These observations caused grave offense to the Consul who left the place in high dudgeon and published a letter in one of the Lahore papers grossly vituperative to the Promised Messiah. The affair created quite a commotion among the Muslims of the Punjab and of India. Subsequent events, however, proved the truth of the Promised Messiah's words when a number of his prophecies in that context were fulfilled.
Hussian Kami himself furnished an illustration of the prophecy: 'I will cause to be humiliated him who seeks thy humiliation. The newspaper which printed his letter and supported it also suffered its share of the punishment. The vicissitudes that afflicted the Sultan's Empire are a matter of common knowledge. On 1st August the same year, a Christian Missionary, Dr. Henry Martin Clarke, brought in the Court of Mr. Martineu, District Magistrate of Amritsar, a charge of abetment of murder against the Promised Messiah.
The complainant stated that the Promised Messiah had sent one Abdul Hamid to murder him. The Magistrate issued a warrant for the arrest of the accused, but then discovered that the offense was alleged to have been committed in another district and that he had, therefore, no jurisdiction to issue the warrant. The case was accordingly transferred to the Courts of the District Magistrate of Gurdaspur.
This office was then held by Captain M. Clarke, by crushing him under a heavy stone. Discrepancies between the story now told by him and that told by him to District Magistrate of Amritsar made Captain Douglas suspicious and he began a thorough and sifting enquiry and the case after four hearings was disposed of within the short space of four weeks. Although the complainant and his party were Christians, Captain Douglas gave his impartial verdict in favour of the Promised Messiah, and not only discharged him honourably, but also gave him leave to prosecute the missionaries who had brought the false charge against him.
The Promised Messiah, however, forgave them and refrained from proceeding against them. In his order the District Magistrate wrote:. Secondly, another thing which struck me in the statement was that the longer he stayed with the employees of the mission, the more his statement grew in elaboration and length. For example, he made one statement on 12th August and another on the 13th, and in the latter he added several details which were missing in the former. This made me suspect that either someone was tutoring him or he knew more than he wished to disclose. I, therefore, asked the Superintendent of Police, who was a European officer, to take him out of the mission compound and to keep him in his own custody, and then to record his statement.
Accordingly, the Superintendent took him out of the mission compound, and when he asked him for his statement, without waiting for a promise of pardon, he fell at his feet weeping and confessed that he had been coerced into saying all that he had said and that he was weary of his life and was ready to kill himself; that whatever he had said against the Mirza Sahib had been said at the instigation of three Christians, Abdur Rahim, Waris-ud-Din and Prem Das; that he was neither sent by the Mirza Sahib nor had anything to do with him; that the defects that were noticed in the statement made by him on one day he was tutored to ratify on the following day; that he did not even know the face of that disciple of the Mirza Sahib about whom he had stated he had promised to shelter him after the deed; that his instigators made him commit his name and address in memory and lest he should forget it they wrote the name on the palm of his hand, so that he might look at it when need arose.
He added that when his instigators had succeeded in persuading him to make his first statement against the Mirza Sahib, they had exultingly exclaimed: We have now got our wish, meaning that they had now caught the Mirza Sahib in a mesh. After recording his reasons in detail the District Magistrate discharged the Promised Messiah.
The case had given such joy to his enemies that an Arya Samajist lawyer undertook to conduct it on behalf of the missionaries free of charge and several Muslim Maulvis volunteered to give evidence against him. In short, in this case the Christians, the Hindus and Muslims united in a combined attack upon the Promised Messiah and had recourse to reprehensible devices. But God had endowed Captain Douglas with fullness and courage in a far larger measure than was the case with Pilate, and to the last he refused to swerve from the path of Justice.
He did not, like Pilate, wash his hands and make the Promised Messiah over to his enemies, but boldly discharged him and thus demonstrated the superiority of British to Roman justice. During these days the Promised Messiah published a notice under the name of 'Peace is better' in which he submitted to the Muslim divines a proposal to the effect that they should desist for a period of ten years from molesting him and should leave him free to fight the enemies of Islam.
As they asserted he was an impostor then he was sure within that period to meet with discomfiture; on the other hand if he was righteous in his claim, they would be spared the divine chastisement which invariably overtakes those who set themselves in opposition to the righteous. The Muslim divines, however, did not choose to agree and preferred that he should rather fight them than the enemies of Islam. In October he went to Multan to appear as a witness in a case. During the return journey he halted for some days at Lahore. Here as he passed through the streets, people abused and reviled him.
I was with him during the journey and being only eight years of age, I could not understand the reason of this popular hostility towards him. I wondered why it was that wherever he passed people jeered and whistled at him. I happen still to recall one remarkable instance. I noticed a man, one of whose forearms was missing and a cloth was wrapped round the stump, standing on the steps of Wazir Khan's mosque. He had also joined the crowd in their shouting with the rest 'Fie! I was so struck with the spectacle that I put my head out of the carriage window and kept looking at him for a considerable time.
From Lahore the Promised Messiah returned to Qadian. The same year the plague appeared in the Punjab and while the other religious leaders opposed the measures which government had adopted for arresting the spread of the epidemic, the Promised Messiah gave them his firm support. He informed his followers that there was no harm in adopting the measures. Rather it was the command of Islam that every means should be adopted which was likely to safeguard public health. By this declaration he rendered a great service to the cause of public peace, for at the time a rumour was current among the people at large that it was the Government which was spreading the plague and that the measures, which were ostensibly aimed at arresting its progress, were actually to spread it and that these measures were also contrary to the tenets of Islam.
As a matter of fact an authoritative pronouncement had already been made by the Ulema to the effect that during the plague it was very sinful to leave one's house. The Ulema had thus been responsible for the death of thousands of ignorant people. When pills were distributed for the destruction of mice, it was said that the pills brought the plague. When rat-traps were distributed they were also objected to.
In short, there was great clamour and at some places public health employees of Government were maltreated. The proclamation by the Promised Messiah at this juncture and the conduct of his followers served to open the eyes of many of the other people. He explained to the Muslims that it was not forbidden in Islam during an epidemic to leave their houses and to dwell outside the affected villages and towns, what was forbidden was to go from one town to another because that tended to carry the infection to those other towns.
This period was one of great excitement on account of religious controversies and the years and were conspicuous in this respect. The opposition to the Promised Messiah was growing and political malcontents were taking advantage of the religious conflicts to excite the people against the Government. It was this state of affairs which led the Government to legislate against sedition in Nevertheless the country continued to drift towards disloyalty. The law, in fact did not mend matters to any great degree, because India is pre-eminently a land of religions and its people are prone to be more easily agitated over religious questions than over questions of politics.
The amending law made no provision for the prevention of religious dispute, as at the time when it was passed, the Government did not perceive the necessity of any such provision. But the point that was missed by the authorities was perceived from his detached vantage point by the Promised Messiah.
Accordingly in he prepared and submitted to his Excellency Lord Elgin, the Viceroy of India, a memorial, which was also printed and publicly circulated, in which he explained to the Viceroy that religious disputes and conflicts were at the root of most disorders and troubles. Religious conflicts created an excitement in the public mind, and mischief mongers took advantage of it and used it against the State.
The Promised Messiah, therefore, suggested that the use of abusive and provocative language in religious controversies and discussions should be brought within the range of the law and proposed three means to that end. If these suggestions had been adopted by the Government at that time the disorder and trouble which occurred in later years could have been forestalled.
But at that time Government did not appreciate the need for any such law and its advisors failed to notice the increasing spread of the germs the early activities of which had caught the attention of the prophet of the time. But after the lapse of a full ten years, in , the Government had to pass a law forbidding the followers of one faith from attacking or using harsh or provocative language concerning other faiths. The penalty attached to breach of the law is that the owner of the newspaper printing or publishing the offensive material is called upon to deposit security for future good behaviour or the security already deposited is forfeited.
But the law was passed so late that it could not be expected to produce the same result as it could have produced at the time it was proposed by the Promised Messiah. In fact, the root of all trouble in India lies in religious differences and conflicts which, by a strange and shrewd process of manipulation are used by mischief-makers as a handle against the State. Whenever a scurrilous attack is made upon any faith which is naturally dear to its followers, it suits the purpose of the mischief-makers, in order to make the ignorant masses disaffected with the Government, and to pretend that it is all the fault of the Government which permits such persecution and oppression.
The masses thereupon, tum away from the real culprits and become disaffected with the Government. In a Muslim convert to Christianity published a scurrilous book slandering the names of the Holy Prophet of Islam peace be on him. This offensive publication greatly agitated the Muslims. The Promised Messiah stated that the agitation would disrupt the peace of the land. A Muslim Association of Lahore prepared a memorial for submission to government demanding that the publication should be banned, but the Promised Messiah advised against the step as it could be construed as an indication of weakness of the Muslim case, and suggested the publication of a strong refutation.
But the Association did not listen to his words, and met with the failure foreseen by the Promised Messiah. The stands taken by the Promised Messiah helped to safeguard the inherent right of the Muslims to defend their faith and Muslim holy personages against all attacks. In the same year, with a view to strengthening the organization of the community and to preserve its distinctive features, he promulgated rules regarding marriage and social relation and forbade marriage of Ahmadi women outside the community.
In the same year he invited the Government to test the truth of his claims by offering to demonstrate it through spiritual signs. This was intended to make his mission fully known to the officials of the State and this purpose was achieved. In he also laid the foundation of a High School for the education of the boys of the community and to safeguard them against the unhealthy influences of ordinary schools.
During the first year, the school taught up to the Primary Standard, but every succeeding year new classes were added, till in it presented candidates for the University Matriculation examination. In at the instance of his opponents, proceedings for binding him to keep the peace were instituted against him. But as always, his opponents met with great embarrassment and he was fully vindicated. In he scored another great success against Christianity. He invited the Anglican Bishop of Lahore, Dr.
Lefroy, who had agitated against the Muslim public by delivering a series of provocative lectures against Islam, to a vindication of their respective faiths through acceptance of prayer. The leading organs of the press supported his invitation, but the Prelate did not choose to enter the lists against him. A census was taken in The Promised Messiah issued a notice to his followers instructing them to record themselves in the census papers under the title of Ahmadi Muslims. Thus he distinguished his followers from the other Muslims by conferring on them the title of Ahmadi.
In the same year some of his relatives who were opposed to him put up a wall in front of his mosque to harass him and his followers. In consequence worshipers were compelled to go to the mosque by a long circuitous route and this caused them considerable trouble and vexation. When persuasion failed to move them from their purpose, the Promised Messiah was left with no choice but to institute proceedings in court in July to obtain relief. The matter was decided in his favour in the following month. The wall was demolished and they were directed to pay the costs of the proceedings.
The Promised Messiah, however, let them off and did not execute that part of the order. In he directed that a magazine should be published for the purpose of propagation of Islam in Europe. It was named The Review of Religions and through God's grace it still carries on the good work. It is published in two editions, in English and Urdu.
It has proved to be a very useful medium for the propagation of Islam in Europe and America and friends and foes alike have extolled the excellence of its articles. In its early years, in addition to articles contributed by the members of the community, the Promised Messiah himself wrote for it. He wrote in Urdu and a translation was published in the English edition. These articles produced a very profound impression upon the readers and gave the magazine considerable prominence even in the first year of its publication.
In the same year on the occasion of the 'Id-ul-Azha' one of the two annual Muslim festivals which is celebrated on the day after the Pilgrimage, the Promised Messiah, under divine direction, delivered a sermon in excellent Arabic. During its delivery he appeared to be altogether withdrawn from his environment.
His face was aglow and awe inspiring to the onlookers. The sermon was superb and its style sublime. The most outstanding Arabic scholars have failed to produce its equal. It is full of the most sublime truths and is replete with profound and exalted ideas. It has been printed and published under the name of 'Khutba-i-Ilhamia'. At this time he invited a very simple method for the teaching of Arabic to his followers. This was to compose for them a few sentences in Arabic in a pure and easy style which they were to master and in this way they were gradually to gain familiarity with language.
These sentences were related to the daily requirements of life and the nouns and verbs used in them were those in common use. A few lessons were composed in this series, but as more important matters claimed his attention, the project had to be postponed. At any rate he blazed the trail for his followers, which may still be pursued by them.
What he desired was that in every land, in addition to the vernacular, Arabic might form, as it were, a second mother tongue for the Muslims and that both men and women might acquire such familiarity with it as to make it easy for future generations to master the tongue, so that children in their infancy might learn it along with their vernacular. So long as this objective remains unfulfilled, it will not be possible for Islam to be firmly established upon its foundations.
People who are not familiar with the language of their religious books can never be fully conversant with their religion, and can never be fully secure against the attacks of the enemies of their faith. People who, for the purpose of acquiring knowledge of their religion, have to depend entirely upon translations gradually cease to possess adequate knowledge of their religion, and their scriptures and to lose their purity.
Translation draws people's attention away from the study of the original, and since translation can never fully replace the original the community drifts away from the true meaning and spirit of the faith. The fulfilment of this wish of the Promised Messiah continues to occupy the attention of his followers and God willing, it one day will be achieved. There is a prophecy of the Holy Prophet sa that the Messiah will descend upon a white minaret to the east of Damascus. The real meaning of the prophecy was that the Promised Messiah would come with the most conspicuous proofs and signs and his glory would shine upon the world and great success would attend him.
In the language of dreams a minar signifies clear proofs which nobody can gainsay, and to stand upon a height signifies to attain an eminence which is perceived by everyone and to come in the east means to attain a success which nobody can resist. Yet, out of a desire to fulfil the prophecy literally, the Promised Messiah laid the foundation of a minaret in the Juma Mosque at Qadian in Towards the end of one Karam Din filed a suit of defamation against the Promised Messiah, who was in consequence summoned to attend the Court at Jhelum.
He went there in January The journey was an augury of the beginning of his success. Although he was proceeding to answer criminal charge, yet there was such a huge concourse of people who came to meet him that they could not be counted, when he alighted at the Railway Station, the gathering was so large that standing room was not available on the station platform. Even outside the station, on the roads huge crowds made it difficult for the carnage to proceed. The authorities were obliged to make special arrangements for the maintenance of order, and Munshi Ghulam Haider, Tahsildar, was put on Special Duty for the purpose.
He remained with the Promised Messiah and with much difficulty cleared a passage for the carnage through the crowds which extended right up to the town. In addition to the people of the town, thousands of people from the villages had also come to have a sight of him. More than a thousand people made the covenant of initiation, and when he went to the court there was such a multitude to witness the proceedings that it became difficult to provide room for them. They extended far into the fields. At the first hearing the Promised Messiah was discharged.
He then returned home.
The Philosophy of Rabindranath Tagore
That year ushered in a marvellous era of success for the mission, for the Promised Messiah. Sometimes as many as letters of initiation came in on a single day, and the number of his followers rose from thousands into hundreds of thousands. Men in every walk of life made the covenant of initiation and the movement began to spread very fast passing from the Punjab into other provinces and countries.
In the same year the community suffered a great bereavement. One of its most prominent members, Sahibzada Abdul Latif, was stoned to death in Kabul on a charge of heresy. Persecution through legal proceedings which had apparently come to an end at Jhelum now commenced again with greater vigour.
Karam Din, who had preferred a charge of defamation against him at Jhelum, now repeated it at Gurdaspur. The case dragged on to a most extraordinary length and one of the magistrates hearing it was transferred while it was still pending. The dates for the hearings were fixed at such brief intervals that the Promised Messiah was at last obliged to take up his residence at Gurdaspur.
The two magistrates who tried the case one after the other were both Hindus and for some incomprehensible reason the proceedings dragged on for too long. The case turned upon only three or four words. Karam Din had uttered a blatant lie concerning the Promised Messiah and the latter had, in one of his books, referred to him as a 'Kazzab' which means both a liar and a hardened liar. He also referred to him as 'laeem', which literally means base, but is sometimes used in the sense of bastard.
The complainant urged that he had been called a hardened liar and a bastard, whereas the only thing proved against him was that he had uttered a simple falsehood. The court thereupon entered into a lengthy investigation of the various connotations of the words. A few other questions of a like intricacy were also raised and such a lengthy discussion was carried on upon them that almost two years were taken up in coming to a decision.
During the course of the trial a rumour gained currency that the magistrate was under pressure from his co-religionists to take advantage of the situation and to send the accused to jail even if it was only for a day. Friends who heard the rumour came to the Promised Messiah in great perturbation and anxiously reported what they had heard.
The Promised Messiah was at that time reclining. As he heard the story a glow came over his face and raising himself slightly on one arm he said with great emphasis: 'What! Would he lay his hand on God's lion? If he does that, he shall see what end he comes to. It is not known whether the report had any basis in fact, but it so happened that just at that time the magistrate was transferred from the station and was deprived of his criminal jurisdiction and a short while later he was reduced in rank.
The magistrate to whose calendar the case was now transferred also spun out the proceedings and though the Promised Messiah was used to being given a chair in the court of the District Magistrate, this magistrate, in spite of the Promised Messiah being seriously indisposed, refused to show him any such consideration. On one occasion, the magistrate would not even allow him to have a drink when he felt thirsty. After a protracted trial he convicted the Promised Messiah and inflicted upon him a fine of Rs.
An appeal was preferred against his finding and was heard by the Sessions Judge of Amritsar, who was a European, Mr. Hurry by name. When he had looked into the record of the case, he expressed his surprise at the magistrate having dragged the frivolous case on to such inordinate length and added that if he had been in the place of the trying magistrate he would have dismissed the case at the first hearing. He held that for a man like Karam Din, a language even stronger than that which had been used by the Promised Messiah would have been appropriate and that the whole proceedings had been highly irregular.
After a brief hearing, he acquitted the Promised Messiah and remitted the fine. Thus for a second time a European Judge proved by his conduct the truth that God grants dominion to those whom He finds worthy of it. The case ended in January and the result fulfilled the revelation made by God some years before to the Promised Messiah regarding the end of the trial.
Two important journeys were made by the Promised Messiah while the case had been in progress. The first one was to Lahore in August On this occasion the Promised Messiah stayed at Lahore for a fortnight. People came from all sides in large numbers to greet him and there was not the smallest space left vacant at the Railway Station.
During his stay the whole city was in an uproar. From morning till evening a great crowd waited outside the house in which he had taken up his quarters. From time to time opponents would come and abuse him and try to create a row. Some of the more turbulent even attempted to forge an entrance into his private apartments and had to be forcibly ejected. At the request of his friends at Lahore a public lecture was arranged. The speech was printed and was read in a large auditorium by Maulvi Abdul Karim, while the Promised Messiah sat by.
There were from nine to ten thousand listeners. When the reading was over the audience desired that the Promised Messiah should address them a few words with his own lips. In response he stood up at once and addressed the gathering for half an hour. Since it had been known that wherever he went people of every religion and sect, especially the Muslims, displayed keen hostility towards him. The police authorities had, on the occasion, made adequate arrangements for his safety. In addition to Indian police, European soldiers had been requisitioned who were stationed, sword in hand, at short intervals.
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