Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Lent in Whitnash, 1863

Whitnash Parish Magazine, which I peruse occasionally, has details of the Lent Talks in their 1863 edition. As we approach Easter, I thought this extract would be seasonal.

Services in our Church have been commenced, and will be continued the same as in former years, namely, Morning Prayers and Litany every Wednesday at 10.30, and Evening. Prayers with a Lecture or Sermon at 7.30. The subjects of the Lectures during the present year will be the Types of our Lord Jesus, in the Old Testament ; Adam, Noah, Melchizedec, Isaac, Joseph, Aaron, Joshua, Jonah, and the Paschal Lamb. It is earnestly hoped that a meditation on these Scriptural Types will be blessed to the spiritual welfare of many among us. It has been desired in each succeeding Lent to bring some one subject, or series of connected subjects, before the congregation in these Lenten Lectures, and it may be a matter of interest to our readers to peruse a list of the subjects so treated in successive years since 1846, when they were first established.

1846. The Holy Communion under different names and aspects.
1847. The various parts of the Liturgy.
1848. The Services, as Baptism, Confirmation, Visitation of the Sick, &c.
1849. The Writers of the New Testament.
1850. The occurrences of the Holy Week-the betrayal, apprehension, judgment, &c., of our blessed Lord.
1851. The Gospels for the succeeding Sundays.
1852. The Christian Church, its history and development.
1853. Lenten Sermons by seven different Clergymen.
1854. The next Sunday's Epistles.
1855. The Seven Churches, by Rev. T. R. I. Laugharne.
1856. The Means of Grace.
1857. The Words from the Cross.
1858. The Patriarchs, by the Rev. Dr. Joseph Wolff, traveller and missionary.
1859. The Seven Penitential Psalms.
1860. Repentance exemplified by the words "I have sinned," uttered by different persons.
1861. The Word of God, or History of Revelation.
1862. The Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount.
1863. Types of our Lord Jesus in the Old Testament.

One individual mentioned in the Whitnash talks is Rev. T. R. I. Laugharne, of which there is far less known. Thomas Robert John Laugharne was curate of Calverton in 1863, and published a selection of poems of various authors which was called "A Bundle of Reeds". The Whitnash Press had also published in 1854, a 23 page booklet which was "The Advent Collects, paraphrased in verse". Sadly this is all that is known of him.

The other named individual is an interesting name, lost to history, largely forgotten. Dr. Joseph Wolff (1795-1862) was a Jewish Christian missionary, originally from Germany, who adopted the name Joseph when he converted to Roman Catholicism at 17. He visited Rome, but became appalled by the emphasis on the papal claim to infallibility, among other matters:

He began arguing openly "and not always politely" in class. His teachers, who were not amused, eventually secured an order for him to leave the city. He was not compelled to leave, however, until in God's providence, the wealthy English banker, Henry Drummond, in Rome apparently on business, heard about this courageous student and got in touch with him. He invited Joseph to England, where, he promised, fellow Christians would sponsor his further studies. A year later Joseph left for England. (2)

In England, Joseph was warmly welcomed by Henry Drummond, who helped him continue his education, now under Protestant teachers, and as a member of the Church of England. He went off on three missionary journeys, 1821-1826, 1828-1834, and 1836-1838, in addition to a trip to Bokhara (1843-1845) in search of two British soldiers. In the process he visited Greece, Malta, the Crimea, Palestine, Turkey, Egypt, Central Asia, Abyssinia, Yemen, India, and other lands, including even the United States of America. He  was known as "The Eccentric Missionary". An account of him in the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia reveals why - in particular, walking 600 hundred miles through central Asia and Afghanistan!

About 1828 Wolff commenced an expedition in search of the Lost Ten Tribes. After suffering shipwreck at Cephalonia and being rescued by Sir Charles Napier, whose friendship he retained through life, he passed through Anatolia, Armenia, and Khorassan, where he was made a slave, but ultimately set free. Undaunted, he traversed Bokhara and Balkh, and reached Cabul in a state of nudity, having walked six hundred miles through Central Asia without clothing.

In 1836 he went to Abyssinia, and afterward to Sana in Yemen, where he preached to the Wahabites. His next journey was to the United States. He preached before Congress and received the degree of D.D. at Annapolis, Md., in 1836. He was ordained deacon by the Bishop of New Jersey, and in 1838 priest by the Bishop of Dromore. (4)

A few geographical notes: The island of Cephalonia is the largest of the Ionian Isles in Western Greece. Anatolia is in what is now West Turkey. Armenia is now in Turkey. Greater Khorasan, a historic region that covered parts of modern day Afghanistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Bokhara is the capital of Uzbekistan, on the Silk Road. Balkh is now just a small town, but was was an ancient city and centre of Zoroastrianism in what is now northern Afghanistan. Cabul (usually spelt Kabul) is the capital and largest city of Afghanistan.

In 1843 he made another journey to Bokhara to ascertain the fate of Lieut.-Col. Charles Stoddart and Captain Connolly, a committee formed in London having raised the sum of £500 for his expenses. The men for whom he searched had been executed, and the same fate threatened Wolff. According to his own story he confronted the sovereigns of Central Asia with imperturbable audacity, refusing to conform to their court etiquette or to observe any ceremony in his speech; on being asked to become a Moslem he returned a defiant reply. The threat of execution was, however, a pretense, and he was ultimately rescued through the efforts of the Persian ambassador. In 1845 he was presented with the vicarage of Ile Brewers in Somerset, where he resided until his death. (4)

He published several journals of his expeditions, notably Travels and Adventures of Joseph Wolff (2 vols, London, 1860), which is singular in that it is written in the third person, which is unusual, but not unknown, for an autobiographical account ( - the actor Matthew Waterhouse did the same). Alternatively, the book may well have been ghost-written from his journals.

 In this book he says:

I, Joseph Wolff also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham of the tribe of LEVI, and I have preached the Gospel, not only from Jerusalem, round about unto Illyricum, but also from the Thames to the Oxus and the Ganges and the New World!

The book is dedicated to Benjamin Disraeli, who at the time was Chancellor of the Exchequer under Lord Derby. Disraeli has previously written a warm letter to Wolff, saying that it is more than weak for a man to be ashamed of being of the Semitic race, and having Semitic blood "which is the root of all blood" in his veins.

The chapter summaries give an indication of his travels - here are a few:

The Desert ; Gaza ; Jaffa ; the Samaritans ; Mount Carmel ; Acre ; Sidon ; Argument with a Roman Catholic ; Mount Lebanon ; robbed by Bedouins; arrives at Jerusalem . Jerusalem, its Inhabitants and Neighbourhood ; Controversies with Rabbis Mendel and Markowiz . . Lady Hester Stanhope and her Prophet ; Earthquake at Aleppo ;Massacre of Christians at Nicosia ; Mediterranean ; Stay at Alexandria ; Holy Land . . .

This is an extract from the time when he went from Lebanon to Jerusalem. It is a fascinating record, and shows how amazingly gifted linguists were around at that time. It is also an entertaining travel narrative, and one can understand his popularity as a writer:

Wolff also met in Mount Lebanon two Italian adventurers, who had left their country on account of their political opinions. It was rather amusing to hear them laugh at their own follies, and those of their compatriots, in leaving their native land for the sake of liberty, only to find a scanty and needy livelihood by becoming the slaves of Muhammadan tyrants. However, it was refreshing to be on Mount Lebanon, and to hear, all over the mountain, the sound of the bell, and the Kyrie Eleison, Christe Eleison, resounding from all the Christian churches. Years afterwards, Wolff, to his great astonishment, discovered that his residence in Mount Lebanon had created a great excitement in all that neighbourhood.

He now returned to Acre, and preached again to crowds of Jews ; and, when he was again not far from Jaffa (the ancient Joppa), he was robbed by the Bedouins, and stripped of his clothes, after which they let him go. Arriving in Jaffa, he met with Major Mackworth, in the house of Damiani, the Consul ; and he furnished him with clothes. The next day he started on a mule for Ramlah (the ancient Arimathea), and slept in the Armenian monastery ; and thence proceeded forwards through the camp of Aboo-goosh, who, with his band of robbers, stopped him for a short time ; but, after a present of a small sum of money, allowed him to go on. Aboo-goosh possessed and showed him the portrait of Sir Sydney Smith. After this Wolff had to travel over vast heaps of stones, which were strewed alone the highways to Jerusalem.

However to come back to Jerusalem ; Wolff was thus comfortably placed in the Armenian monastery, where the Patriarch Gabriel received him with the greatest delight, and sent a live sheep to his room, as a mark of respect, and good Jerusalem wine, made by the Armenians. Gethin and Carne came to him, and partook of his dinner, and two of the Friars joined the party, and a German, Leutzen by name. And very soon Wolff's room was crowded by Jews, Armenians, Roman Catholics, and Turks, to whom he proclaimed the Gospel of Christ in Italian, Hebrew, Arabic, German, and English.

He went with Gethin and Carne to the Greek monastery to pay a visit to the Bishop Daniel Nazareth, Vicar -General to the Patriarch, because the Patriarch himself resided in Constantinople, on account of the persecution which the Greeks had to suffer from the Turks. And surprised, indeed, was Dr. Wolff to find in this Greek monastery, that Procopius, one of the monks, was furnished with Arabic, Greek, and Hebrew Bibles and Testaments, which had been left to him by a missionary of the Church Missionary Society, Connor by name, and by Levi Parsons, the American missionary.

Procopius circulated these among the inhabitants of Jerusalem. There also came to Joseph Wolff, at the Armenian monastery, Papas Isa Petrus, a man of great talents, who spoke Arabic, Greek, Persian, Turkish, Italian, and French with the greatest facility. Gethin observed that such an interesting sight had never been seen at Jerusalem before, and the Armenians themselves said the same thing, for there had never been so many persons of different nations assembled in their monastery since the monastery of Mar- Yakoob (which means " the Holy James ;" namely, the Apostle, who was the first Bishop of Jerusalem) existed, as Joseph Wolff had now brought together there.


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