Hugh F. Frame
We are continually challenged by the exploits in space technology. We stand aghast at the amazing achievements in the field of sports and scientific research. For sheer dedication of a selfless sort and for loving labours, even for the outcast beggars of India, there are few to match Henry Martyn. As you read this tiny book, we want you to feel a surge in your soul for higher things and a motivation to truly glorify God in your one life.
From the days of my boyhood the life-stories of men like Henry Martyn have greatly stirred me and helped me to ever aim higher. At a time, when so many are drifting around aimlessly, satiated by selfish pleasures, an honest response to a challenge like this life, could be a Life-Saver. Even so let it be to many of my readers!
There was a tremendous row going on in the school playground.
"Walk in, walk in, and hear the explosion! Admission-six pins from seniors, three from juniors."
Humphry Davy was shouting the words at the pitch of his voice near a corner of the shed which he had fenced off with old boards. He afterwards became a famous inventor of lamps for coal-miners. Already he knew how to make gunpowder that went off with a bang, and he was reaping a fortune in pins.
Henry Martyn was crowding in with the others when a big bully knocked the three pins from his hand, and tried to shove in before him. Martyn lost his temper. He was always losing his temper. Although he was undersized, he hurled himself at the bully, threw him to the ground, and began to punch his nose.
"Let up!" shouted Kempthorne, a senior boy pulling Martyn off. "You are a little terrier, Martyn. Go easy."
Suddenly a loud explosion, louder and sooner than the inventor had expected, sounded within the shed. The boards collapsed on a crowd struggling in a thick pall of smoke. Humphry Davy with singed hair, staggered from the hut, rubbing his eyes, and banged into the master who had hurried out.
"You again, Davy? Take a thousand lines, and go to my study at once. Martyn fighting again? Go to my study. Five hundred lines to every boy who is here. I am surprised at you, Kempthorne."
After a very painful interview with the Head in his study, Martyn was turned over to Kempthorne to be taught how to conduct himself properly.
"Feeling sore?" Kempthorne said to him. "You will find it easier if you dont sit down for a bit."
"I owe that bully something for this."
"Id forget it if I were you. The scraps you get into are all your own fault, you know. The fellows know you will lose your temper, and that is why they tease you so much. If I were you, Id learn to go easy. Keep your temper."
Henry Martyn never forgot these words. The lesson was difficult to learn, for he had lots of spirit. But by the time he went to Cambridge and could shoot and ride and box, he was known as a friendly lad who was not easily ruffled.
At college, one subject he loathed above all others was mathematics. He was impatient at the stupid problems set him, threw aside his books in disgust, and prepared to leave the varsity rather than go on. A senior student was told to see him and have a chat.
"Can I help you in any way, Martyn?", this man asked quietly.
"Thanks, but nobody can help me very much. I am finished with mathematics, and nobody is of any use here without them."
"I felt like that too when I first came up, though it was Latin that floored me. We all have one subject we hate more than the others. The great thing is to keep calm and to keep pegging away."
"Look here, have you been talking to Kempthorne? That is what he always says."
"I do not know Kempthorne very well, and I have not been talking to him. What I am saying is plain common sense. What is the use of losing your temper and getting flustered if a thing is hard? Keep cool, do your best, and let the results look after themselves."
"Mathematics is my fathers favourite subject."
"Let him see he has not all the brains in the family."
Instead of pitching books about, Martyn began to work quietly at the dreaded subject. At the Christmas exam, he was surprised to find he had come out first. His father was surprised too and hastened to send his congratulations.
Unfortunately the journey home to Cornwall by stage coach was too long for winter-time, so Martyn spent Christmas with some friends. He looked forward to going home at Easter. It would be great fun seeing his dad again and seeing the surprise and delight on his face. Henry had come out first in mathematics! His father would shake him by the hand and boast about it in the village. "My boy is doing rather well. Good at mathematics, you know." It would be as great news to the old gentleman as if Admiral Nelson had beat the French.
Early in the New Year, long before Easter, Martyn received word that his father was dead.
It was a bitter blow. What was the use of working hard and gaining prizes now? What was life for when it ended so quickly and so sadly? Martyn now wanted to understand, not mathematics, but life itself. What was it for?
The only book which could tell him anything on that subject was the Bible, he was sure. He began to read it, but found Pauls epistles stiffer than Euclid.
Why not begin with the Gospels?" asked Kempthorne, who had dropped in to see him. "And by the way, do you ever pray?"
Kempthornes face was red, for it was not an easy thing to speak about to a friend. Only Martyns great sorrow for his father made him speak.
"Praying has never been of much use to me," said Martyn with a touch of the old impatience in his voice.
"Go easy, and keep pegging away. I expect that praying needs practice as well as anything else. Thats all I have to say. Good-bye."
Martyn could not understand either the Epistles or the long sermons he heard; but he began to pray. Soon he became aware there was some Person listening to him. He did not understand the long talks about salvation which were very fashionable then; but quickly he understood something better. He discovered that Christ was alive.
Just as before he had worked for his fathers sake and relied upon his father to help him, so now he began to live and to work for Christ. And He helped him. Martyn became the most brilliant scholar of his year at Cambridge.
At this time, when he had become a fellow at St. Johns, he happened to read a story of adventure among the Red Indians of America. David Brainerd was the hero. Martyn discussed it with a friend.
"What a great man Brainerd must have been," he said. "I have just been reading of his work among the Red Indians. Instead of shooting them down like wild beasts, he lied among them as a teacher. They made no attempt to scalp him, though they willingly scalped other white men whenever they had the chance. They knew he was their friend. It must have taken more courage to go among them unarmed than to shoot them from behind a rock. Brainerd was one of Gods heroes, in my opinion."
"You are right," replied the other, who was one of Wesleys men. "Why dont you go and do likewise?"
The brilliant university man paused, then added, his keeness showing in his eyes, "Id go at once, only there has been a revolution in America. It is no longer a British Colony."
"Why not go to India? I know a man, Charles Grant, who wants a man to do in India what Brainerd did in America. There are a few missionaries in India now, but more are wanted. William Carey is there, a great man and a great missionary. Why not join him?"
"I have already offered my services to the Church Missionary Society."
What! Then you are the first Englishman to volunteer for that Society. It has been in existence only three years, and I hear they have been able to get offers of service from only a few foreigners."
"Now I find I cannot go," said Martyn sadly. "Missionaries are paid only ten shillings a week. I knew that quite well, and I was perfectly willing. But my sister has lost the small income she had, and now I shall have to support her."
"You must see Mr. Charles Grant. He is a director of the East India Company. Are you prepared to give up your post at the university?"
"Yes. I am already studying Bengali and Arabic."
"Then you must see Mr. Grant. Do not forget the nameCharles Grant, Director of the East India Company, and one of the biggest men in London. You will like him. He has the strongest character of any man I know."
* * * * * * * * * *
Henry Martyn might have become a university professor and spent his days in peace and security.
He surprised the university by giving up his career in order to prepare to go abroad for such work among the natives as Brainerd had done in America. One day he appeared at the head office of the British East India Company, and asked to see Mr. Charles Grant.
A long-legged, lantern-jawed Scotsman received him. A pair of shrewd eyes summed him up.
"What can I do for you, sir?" the great man asked.
"I want to go abroad as a Christian teacherto India, if possible."
Why not go? William Carey is out there now with half a dozen others. They would be glad of your assistance."
"William Carey is a missionary and as you know, sir, the British Government at present is not in favour of missionaries teaching the natives. He had to go out on a Danish ship. He receives no wages except enough from a missionary society to live on. I cannot afford to do that. I must go as a chaplain of the East India Company."
"You wish to go as a chaplain and have an official salary?"
Martyns face flushed. "I have a sister to keep, sir. I cannot leave her destitute. But before she lost the little money she had, I had already volunteered as a missionary."
"Then why not stay at home? Will you please tell me why you want to go abroad as a Christian teacher?"
"Because I believe that Christ commanded us to preach the Gospel through all the world to every creature," said Martyn simply.
The Scotsmans hand went out and grasped Martyns in a grip like a vice.
"The truth is dawning, Mr. Martyn. I am really glad to hear you say that. I have been pestering both Church and State for years to make them see that our religion is not a little thing we keep to ourselves. It is a joy we must share with others, a way of living we must teach. It is the only way."
"I have learned that."
"It took me a long time to learn it. Forgive me speaking about myself, Mr. Martyn. Years ago, I went out to India to make a fortune. I was only a poor boy in Scotland, but out there I became a little tin god. I had swelled head. Dozens of servants waited on my wife and myself. I never walked anywhere. Four bearers carried my chair. If servants did not please me, I did hesitate to thrash them. I expect the climate tried my temper. India is a most unhealthy place for a white man."
"I have heard so, sir."
"A hundred years ago, a traveller, called Peter Mundy, describing a certain street out there, wrote, Out of the gate of this city go many an Englishman that never returned, it being the way to our place of burial. The same is still true of Calcutta. I lost my two little daughters out there. Small-pox. Both died within a month."
Martyn murmured sympathetically, then the Scotmans voice became firm again. "That made me think, Martyn, and when a man begins to think, he is not far from the Kingdom of God. I had been piling up money, drinking, gambling, using the natives as tools, leading a life of complete selfishness. It was a life of complete misery. When Christ spoke to me, He showed me that we must lead a life of complete love. That is what made me keen upon missions. Instead of ill-treating the natives, I tried to treat them like friends. I tried to learn from them and to teach them all I know. A parson out there, called Brown, was looking after five hundred children who had no parents. White people did not want them, and the natives did not want them. I reckon that Christ wanted us Christians to do something for them. But London would not hear of it. We had not to teach or help the natives in any way whatever. Did you ever hear how we sent a message to the King?"
"I have head only rumours. I would like to hear the story."
"Before I left India for London, I promised Brown I would approach King George III to secure facilities for missionaries to work among all classes. I saw the Archbishop of Canterbury and asked him to speak for me. If it had been only poor Charlie Grant, I would have been kicked out of Lambeth, but the Archbishop did not care to offend the East India Company. His Grace does not care about missions himself, but after a little persuasion, he put on his best wig and purple coat, and drove away to ask an audience. George III has an income of one million pounds a year. He bought Buckingham House for 28,000 pounds, and intends to make it into a Palace. It does not seem very much to ask permission for a few missionaries to be allowed to work for ten shillings per week. We were not asking the King for money. We knew he would never give a farthing. All that we wanted was his gracious permission."
"It does not seem very much to ask," said Henry Martyn.
"Well, the Archbishop went in, knelt down and kissed the royal hand, and made his request. But His Majesty was in a particularly bad mood. The Prince of Wales had run away to marry a common woman, the sweet lass of Richmond Hill."
"Would he not listen to the Archbishop?"
" Who has put this insane idea into your head? he asked. The Archbishop said it was a Scotsman named Charles Grant. The King exploded in anger. Another pestilent Scotsman! Theres one called Robert Burns writing poetry about us. He hits the Prince and you as well, Dr. Moore; and both of you deserve. But this fellow dares to write about our royal self. Now, you come in with another Scotsman. A plague on both of you. That closed the interview. We must get on as well as we can without church or State to help us. But we shall get on. The motto of the clan Grant is Stand Fast! I am standing fast for Christianity to be taught throughout the world. That is why I am particularly glad to see you. You must come and have dinner with me this evening.
In the merchants house, Martyn met several great men: Wilberforce, who was trying to end slavery; Granville Sharp, who had done much for America; and Richard Johnson, who was going to be the first chaplain to the convicts in Botany Bay.
"Those men are all making history," whispered Grant to Martyn as they rose from table. "Let King George be as mad as a March hare, and the Prince of Wales as frivolous as he likes. They are of no importance. Men like those here are doing things. Have you ever read Robert Burnss poetry? You should read it, my boy. The world is crying out for men who can do things."
"I am afraid I shall never be able to do very much."
"I shall get a chaplaincy for you. Someday the world is going to be proud of Henry Martyn, the man who did so much in India."
* * * * * * * * * *
In the year 1805, the year in which the Battle of Trafalgar was fought, Martyn set out with an English fleet on the long voyage to the East. He was to have nine months of adventure at sea before he reached India.
The ships were travelling in convoy for safetys sake, and one hundred and fifty sail gathered together off the English coast, ready to dash south. Four ancient men-of-war acted as guard, the best ships being with Nelson at that time on look-out for the French. The chaplain in charge of the whole convoy was Henry Martyn. Although he was only twenty-four, and all his life had been spent quietly at home, his was now the job to look after all kinds of people: soldiers on their way to foreign stations, their wives and children, sailors, officers, merchants, civil servants, and convicts, both men and women, being sent to Botany Bay. There were no tourists with the convoy. In the days of Nelson, people wishing pleasure very wisely stayed at home.
The unfortunate part of Martyns work at first was that he could not look after himself properly. As soon as the vessels sailed, and the land dropped out of sight, he was seized with the worse form of sickness, which is not sea-sickness but home-sickness.
"Would you like to go below, sir?" the chief mate asked the chaplain.
"Inspection of ship."
"No thanks. I dont want to inspect the ship."
Sea-sickness now laid him low for three days, then, praying God to help him do his duty, he went below, where a strange sight met his eyes.
Two men on the lowest deck of the ship were stripped to the waist for a fight. Seamen, wearing ear-rings and pig-tails, were grouped around, peering in the darkness and shouting encouragement with oaths. The air was foul and smelly.
"What is all the trouble about?" a calm voice asked.
They were silent from surprise, because they had never seen a chaplain on the lowest deck before.
"If you must fight, you might as well do it decently. Get a bucket of water, my lads, and a towel. Go easy, you two men. Remember that if you lose your temper, you stand a good chance of losing the fight."
Navymen of that day were not accustomed to being treated decently. Half-starved, fed on salt junk and weevily biscuits, grossly overworked, and sailors and by choice but by the press-gang, they were flogged for the slightest breach of discipline. Mutiny was held in check by constant threat of hanging. But here was a chaplain who had come down to their deck and was speaking to them as man to men. The quarrel ceased from sheer astonishment:
Next night, Martyn went down three ladders to visit the sick in the cockpit. No light of any description was allowed down there in the bowels of the wooden ship. The chaplain had to grope his way through the foul atmosphere to the mens hammocks.
"Who is it?" One poor fellow asked in the darkness.
"A friend with a little fresh water and some wine," the chaplain said.
"For Gods sake give me a drink, sir."
"I am doing it for the sake of our Lord, but you must not swear."
There was no ventilation below ships. From the crowd of people herded there, battened down in rough weather, the atmosphere was as thick as London fog, and much more offensive. The only method of clearing the air occasionally was to light braziers down below and let the smoke stifle the worse of the smells. Yet the chaplain moved to and fro on his visits of mercy till he became a welcome visitor in all parts of the ship. He had prayed, and asked for help. Did he get an answer? We can judge by what he wrote in his diary at this time in the midst of the smell and the crowd.
"Separated from my friends and country for ever, there is nothing to distract me from hearing the voice of Christ, and walking with Him in love, amid the flowers that perfume the air of Paradise."
Probably Martyn was the only one on board ship who could smell the flowers of Paradise, or whose religion was so real that he lived with God, yet there were others who were attracted, and who wished to share this companionship. The chief mate gave up swearing, even on the gun-deck. The cadets officer and the ships surgeon met together for talk on religion or to read the letter of David Brainerd. All the officers attended divine worship. Strange to say, the only plan to which they all objected strongly was when Martyn offered to teach the men on board how to read.
"We shall never allow that," the officers declared.
"Why should the men know how to read? They are too ignorant to learn."
"You and I would have been ignorant too if we had not been taught to read when children."
"The men are different."
"Given instruction they can think and reason just as well as we can."
"The men are as good as we are?" they cried in surprise. "That is French Revolution nonsense. We will have none of it in HIS Majestys fleet."
"The day will come when every person in England will be able to read. Education will be free and for all."
This idea was greeted with laughter. "Jack will be as good as his master then, Mr. Chaplain."
Martyn did not lose his temper, but kept cool and tried to explain history as he understood it.
"You spoke about the French Revolution which took place only sixteen years ago," he said. "It is only twelve years since they guillotined Louis XVI of France. Now Napoleon is dictator there. All men are conscripts. France is drenched with blood. Why did revolution come? It was because for centuries the people were ground down under the feudal system. The rich were very rich, and the poor remained very poor. A change of some kind was bound to come. Why are we having no revolution in England?"
The officers were silent.
"It is because of John Wesley," said the chaplain.
"A weak tyrant like Louis starves people. A dictator like Napoleon forces them to fight and causes them to die. But a spiritual leader like Wesley teacher them how to live together in love like brothers. A Scottish poet, Robert Burns, who died only a few years ago, says the time will come when men over all the world will be brothers.
"That might be true of some of our own seamen. Some of them are jolly good lads. But would you say that applies to blacks, negroes, natives, and all that sort?"
"Our Lord and Master said so. We have to teach all men, for all men are brothers. That is why missionaries go to India and all over the earth.
The officers had never thought of that before. They did not continue the discussion. But they noticed that their chaplain began to speak much with Indian sailors who were on the ship and to translate bits of the Bible into their language.
While Nelson was beating the French at Trafalgar, this peaceful convoy of ships was cruising westward across the Atlantic to avoid danger of capture by the enemy. In Brazil they heard of Nelsons victory and sailed eastward towards Cape Town. Fresh food ran short. Illness broke out. The captain of the ship died and was buried at sea. A month after leaving Brazil, troops were landed at Cape Town to win the Dutch settlement of Cape Colony back from the French. Henry Martyn went ashore with the troops, was under fire, attended the wounded, buried the dead, and was almost shot as a spy.
Yet more adventures awaited him before the nine months voyage was over. Storms drove the ships from their course. Then they lay becalmed for days in heat of the Indian Ocean. Again fresh food and water ran short. Martyn was kept busy among the sick, and a new job now fell to him. He had to act as peace-maker between officers whose tempers gave way under the trying conditions and as a cheerful friend to men who grumbled. All of them, from the ships captain down to the youngest boy, liked to share their troubles with this chaplain who seemed to have troubles of his own.
During those nine months Martyn, without his knowing it, had been serving an apprenticeship in doing work among one hundred and fifty ships. Now he turned eagerly to the country with three hundred million inhabitants.
* * * * * * * * * *
In Calcutta, Martyn met David Brown, the parson of whom Mr. Grant had spoken, and who had saved thousands of children from starvation and death.
A few weeks later, he was sitting in Browns garden planning what work he himself should do. He had seen a terrible sight that very day. The car of the gods, covered with curious carvings of men and women and beasts, came along the road accompanied by thousands of people, and halted at a wayside shrine. Several gods, wrapped in red cloths, were let down from the high car by ropes held by the attendant priests. Holy water was poured over the images. The people shouted aloud. The car moved on.
"Stop!" The cry was wrung from Henry Martyn.
A boy had fallen in front of the wheels of the Juggernaut. Nobody heeded the cry. Nobody tried to drag the boy out of danger. Indeed, one or two people, carried away by religious frenzy, tried to throw themselves under the wheels. They thought the boy was fortunate. His mangled body was trampled into the dust. He was an offering to the gods.
"How can we ever change these beliefs?" Martyn had asked William Carey, who was with him at the time.
The great missionary, who had been labouring for thirteen years, put his hand on the young mans shoulder. "Always remember three things," he said. "First, it is your duty to preach the Gospel to every creature; second, remember that God has declared that His word shall accomplish that for which it is sent; third, that when He pleases, He can move obstacles as we move particles of dust."
"This is such a vast country."
"Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God."
Martyn was thinking over the words as he sat in the garden with David Brown. Suddenly away on the other side of the river, the flames of a fire shot up to the evening sky.
"That looks like a funeral," Brown commented.
"They are burning the dead body, I suppose."
"If it is a man who is dead, they will be burning his widow alive as well. That is their religion."
"How ghastly to think that while we are sitting here, a woman is being burned alive over yonder."
"We have to teach them that God does not demand the death of any one. We cannot speak to the teeming millions, but we can give them the Bible to read for themselves in Hindustani, Bengali, Arabic, and Persian. Tremendously difficult work has to be done in translating."
"Please give me a share in it," Martyn asked eagerly."
"I am going to Patna as my first chaplaincy, but I can work at translation in the evening. Already I have commenced studying the grammar."
In Patna, Martyn found tremendous work awaiting him as an official chaplain. A military hospital there was crowded with sick, and almost every day a man died. Martyn visited the sick and buried the dead.
It was too hot for church parade to be held out of doors. The chaplain fitted up a big room with double blinds to shut out the stifling heat. There, far from home, the hymns of England recalled memories of home to the men. A major and six soldiers asked for Holy Communion. A new spirit began to move throughout the regiment.
"Sir, I have found there is an old rule of the East India Company that the chaplain should teach the natives."
"Never heard of it."
"It has been forgotten, sir, but it is a rule."
"You will kill yourself if you take on any more work. And by the way, Martyn, I wish you would not walk about so much in Patna. You cannot walk about in this climate. And white men must keep their dignity. Ride in a palanquin. Make your bearers carry you."
"Our Lord always walked, sir, and I am His servant."
"What? All right, you will soon find you cannot stand it. And teach the natives if you like, so long as you are sure about the rule."
So, beside his ordinary work, the chaplain arranged schools for the children and classes for the native women around the barracks.
Then, when the days work was done and all others in the camp were seeking rest or pleasure, the chaplain began his translation of the Bible into Hindustani so that sixty million people might have the chance of reading the Truth for themselves.
It was gruelling work. At first Martyn did not like it any more than he had liked mathematics. But he worked the problems of Euclid. He studied the Bible in English, Greek, and Hebrew, and translated into Hindustani, taking ten hours sometimes for one chapter. Fifty years later, his work was still regarded as a model.
A bigger horizon opened up to him. If he could write Hindustani for sixty million people, why should he not learn Arabic in order to give the Christian message to Arabia, Syria, Persia, India, Tartary, China, half of Africa, and Turkey?
* * * * * * * * * *
It was the hottest season of the year in Cawnpore. The men of the 53rd Regiment lay in their barrack rooms gasping for breath, with the perspiration streaming from their bodies. In a bungalow Captain Sherwood and his wife reclined in deck chairs, the punkah sweeping in draughts of hot air from outside making them only more uncomfortable. This lady afterwards wrote a famous book, very pious indeed, called The History of the Fairchild Family. Perhaps at this moment she was thinking of her writing.
"I hear bearers," her husband said. "Somebody is coming."
He went out to the veranda, taking care to stand in the shade, for the sun was deathdealing. A white man rolled from a palanquin and tottered forward.
"My name is Martyn. I am the chaplain who has been transferred here from Patna."
"Have you travelled three hundred miles at this season?"
They had to carry Martyn in and lay him on the floor. For two days he could not move his head. Then the spirit which had once made him fight bullies brought him to his feet. In a week he reported fit for duty.
At the first church parade two officers and six men fainted from the heat.
"Why dont you rest more? Captain Sherwood asked him.
"Time is pressing me, I am afraid."
"Going home on leave?" Then he saw that the chaplain meant he was ill and yet had much work to do. He was running a race with death. "How long have you been in India, Padre?"
"And already you have mastered Hindustani and translated the whole of the New Testament."
"Now I am working at Persian and Arabic versions. Sabat, that rascal of an Arab who travels with me, helps me a lot; but he will not revise more than one chapter per day. When that is done, he lights his pipe and knocks off work." He laughed, then added, "Sabat has many years before him. He is in no hurry."
Sabat, who was passing at the time, heard his name mentioned, and confronted his master. "I smoke my hookah, yes. You a Christian teacher, no. The Bible says the Gospel is preached to the poor. You do not preach to the beggars."
"Find me the beggars," said Martyn. "I shall preach to them."
The following Sunday the temperature was 92 degrees. The sun beat down fiercely on four hundred beggars. Many were holy men who had never washed or had their hair cut since they became holy. Many were naked and had sat so long in what they called prayer that their legs were shrivelled. Others had held their arms above their heads for years to please the gods so that their arms had become fixed in that position. Others had kept their fists clenched till their finger-nails were growing out through the backs of their hands.
They wanted only cash or rice; but a few young Moslem gentlemen had drawn near to see what was going on. They heard of a new religion. They saw it being practised. They could see that this Englishman was giving not only his money but his life for the poor of India. The beggars had mocked at the preacher, but one of those Moslem sheiks had seen the truth. He afterwards became a Christian.
Martyn was literally giving his life for India. The dust of the plains was choking his lungs. The heat was sapping his strength. Instead of resting in his spare time, he worked, till in eighteen months he had translated the New Testament into both Arabic and Persian.
"You will have to leave India," the doctor told him at last.
"I am ready to leave India."
"That is splendid. You certainly need, and deserve, a holiday."
"I shall go to Persia."
"Impossible. Do you know what the Persian Gulf is like at this season? It is like hell upon earth. The heat bursts the thermometer. A white man can scarcely live there, and much less can he do any work."
"Sabat is not as good at Persian as I thought. I am going to correct my translation in the country where the language is spoken."
When he left Cawnpore, his friends knew they would never see him again.
"You will never be fit to work in Persia," Sherwood said anxiously. "Go home to England."
"No, I have a motto, my friend: Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God."
* * * * * * * * * *
In Bombay there lived at this time a Scotsman, Sir John Malcolm. Long before, when he was a lad and went to London to seek a job in India, one of the directors of the East India Company asked him what he would do with any native who might be troublesome. "Cut aff his heid!" he answered. Experience as a man, however, had taught him that the spirit of friendship is much more powerful than any two-edged sword. He had left native heads alone but had won his way into native hearts. He spoke Persian fluently and had carried the British trade flag through the whole country.
Sir John Malcolm met Henry Martyn. The chaplain was only twenty-nine years of age, yet he was master of Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Sanskrit, and Arabic. Sir John testified that Martyn knew more Arabic than any other white man in India, and gladly gave him letters of introduction to take him on his journey.
In the month of April, Martyn sailed in a tiny vessel through the Indian Ocean, up the narrow funnel of the Persian Gulf, and landed at Bushire. The fierce, steaming heat smote him like a blast from an oven and made him prostrate with headaches. But his indomitable courage urged him on. He showed his Arabic Testament to some Persian gentlemen and asked their opinion of it.
"This is good, very good," they said after reading it.
"And here is also a Persian Testament."
"You have written in our own language!" they exclaimed with delight. "This must be a very sacred Book."
"Please tell me what you think of it."
They read only a few verses, then laughed aloud.
"Bad, very bad. A schoolboy has done this."
"Sabat, an Arab, helped me, and he lived ten years in Persia."
"Even if an Arab lived twenty years here, he could not speak our language."
"Then I shall go on to Shiraz and do all the work over again under the guidance of the learned Persian doctors there."
"This is the hot season, and Shiraz is one hundred and fifty miles over the mountains."
"I must go. I cannot stay."
"It must be a very sacred Book when the English gentleman is ready to risk his life for it."
By night a caravan left Bushire and set out for hills. Thirty mules were carrying baggage to the British Ambassador in Shiraz. At the end of the procession there came one mule laden with books and Bibles and dictionaries. The man riding beside it was no longer a sallow Englishman. Martyn had grown a moustache. He wore blue trousers, red boots, an astrakhan cap, and a flowing cloak.
After travelling through the night they halted at sunrise, and Martyn crept into cover of a tent to sleep. The temperature was already 85 degrees Fahrenheit, which in England would have been the sign of a heat wave. Martyn threw aside his blanket and closed his eyes. The temperature rose to 95. Martyn rolled and tossed. The temperature rose to 112. Every particle of energy was being sucked from his body. He wrapped himself close in his blanket to keep some moisture on his body or the heat would have dried his flesh.
At noon it seemed as if the doors of a blast furnace were open. The man lay as one dead. The thermometer was standing at 126 degrees!
When the sun set, his servant dragged him from the tent and propped him on his mules back. He was half asleep, half unconscious, as he rode along. In the morning they camped by a great river covered with oil. The motor-engine had not yet been discovered, and the Persian oilfields were running to waste. Martyn was almost suffocated by the smell of naphtha. Still the heat was intense. His servant kept him alive by throwing water over his clothes as he lay gasping on the ground.
On the fourth day they reached the mountain range. The mules clattered up stony paths and skirted dizzy precipices. Up on the heights the wind became freezing cold. Martyn rocked in the saddle with fatigue and fever.
On the ninth day they reached Shiraz, a city of gardens and singing birds. The British Ambassador was not in the city. Martyn was alone in the midst of haughty and suspicious people. But the letters of Sir John Malcolm worked magic. Martyn was received into a rich mans house as an honoured guest. A feast was set before him. He sat down on the carpet like any other Persian gentleman, twirled his moustache proudly, and lifted the food to his mouth with his fingers.
Next morning he began work at the first verse of the Gospel according to St. Matthew.
* * * * * * * * * *
Persian friends willingly helped Martyn with his work, yet many were suspicious.
"How can this beardless boy understand the holy Faith?" they demanded. "He is a spy."
People stared at him as he sat hour by hour working. When he went for a walk, small boys followed as if he were a circus, and threw stones till the governor threatened to behead any boy who forgot his manners to a foreigner.
So hard did Martyn work that the whole of the New Testament was translated into pure Persian within nine months. But he had nearly killed himself at the task. He felt that in the race with death he was losing.
Yet one part of the task stilled remained. Before the Book could be successful, a copy had to be laid in the hands of the mighty Shah of Persia for his approval. The Shah was at Teheran, six hundred miles away. Martyn, a sick and tired man by this time, climbed on his mule and rode for thirty days to reach the royal court.
The Shah, clothed in silk and blazing with jewels, sat in a gaily-coloured tent with his attendants bowing to the ground before him. A tired Englishman approached the Vizier and asked to be admitted to the royal Presence.
"Who art thou?" the Vizier asked contemptuously. "Thou art only an infidel beggar and not fit to be admitted to the Presence. Go to the British Ambassador."
The Ambassador was at Tabriz, another four hundred miles farther on. Martyn summoned the last ounce of his strength and set out on another thirty days journey. He was almost dead with fever when at last he reached the goal and handed the translation into safe keeping.
The Ambassador had a gorgeous copy presented to the Shah, whose reply was received in due course.
"The whole of the New Testament is completed in a most excellent manner, a source of pleasure to our enlightened and august mind. If it please the most merciful God we shall command the select servants who are admitted to our Presence to read to us the above-mentioned book from the beginning to the end."
Henry Martyns work was done. Where he had worked in India, a great Indian church with millions of members would arise. His translations of Gods Word would be carried over mountains, seas, and through deserts, and would bring life and light to all believers.
All that he needed to do now was to reach England in order to nurse his health. Fifteen hundred miles of desolate road separated him from Constantinople where he might pick up a ship. The last lap of his race with death had commenced.
He set out on the second of September. He passed Mount Ararat where the ark had rested, but there was no rest for him. By day he was devoured by mosquitoes and at night by lice. A Turk named Hassan was hired to be his guide. This hired servant, in a hurry to get his pay, flogged the horses to death and hurried his sick master through foaming torrents. Often the only lodging to be found was a stable when there was no room in the inn.
On the sixth of October, Martyn wrote these words in his diary:
"No horses to be had, and I had an unexpected rest. I sat and thought with sweet comfort and peace of my God; in solitude my Company, my Friend, and Comforter."
Ten days later he died, and was buried in Tokat.
It was the year 1812. Nelson had died at Trafalgar, and soon many brave men were to die at Waterloo.
Henry Martyn had lived and died for the kingdom of God.