THE Editorial Secretary of the Church Missionary Society was good enough to place in my hands a Manuscript Biography of CHARLES ISENBERG, one of the Missionaries for whom our Society is indebted to Germany, as regards their birth, and true Protestant principles, and to Switzerland as regards their training. He was previously known to me as the compiler of a Dictionary and Grammar of the Amharic language, but beyond that fact I knew little of him, except that he was the friend and fellow labourer of Gobat and Krapf.
The perusal of these pages has supplied an interest, and inspired an admiration, which I little anticipated. The whole life of an honest, holy, plodding and devoted German Missionary, is presented to our view; a man, who from his youth to his death-bed had but one idea, one desire, to save souls; who was ready to bear hardships like a good soldier, to spend and be spent; a man who was not to be daunted by disappointments, humiliations and afflictions, who cheerfully and patiently underwent perils by land and by sea, uncongenial climates, and, in the early part of his career, the wayward opposition of evil men.
[iv] Let any modern Missionary who wishes to be too comfortable, too much at his ease, consider the life of this veteran. This is one of the reasons for which I recommended its publication. We have not enough of this kind of literature.
But there is another reason. How wonderfully the Providence of God is marked, providing, as it were, by a succession of circumstances, which seemed, to man's narrow vision, untoward, for the evangelization of Africa! Abyssinia, in spite of the nominal Christianity of its cruel people, rejected Krapf and Isenberg, as the Jews rejected our Lord; but Krapf was led by the Holy Spirit to settle at Mombasa, lower down the Eastern Coast of Africa, amidst a gentle, though Heathen people, and founded what promises to be one of the greatest of Protestant Missions; while his colleague, Isenberg, was led by the same Spirit across the Indian Ocean to Bombay, where his kindly sympathy for the African released slaves enabled him to prepare indigenous material for the building up of a Native African Church in a region which he himself was never destined to see. Krapf and Gobat attended the dying bed of Isenberg at Stuttgart, in Germany, while Rebman shed tears of joy in his solitary Mission-House at Rabai, in East Africa, when he heard two young men of the Yao Tribe who had been trained at Sharanpur, in the Bombay Presidency, and sent over to him to work among his Wa-Nika adherents, singing Christian hymns at their family devotions. To myself, to whom the interests of the Indian and African peoples are so inexpressibly dear and near to my heart, these facts cause unbounded thankfulness, and surpassing interest. Honour to those good and wise men who directed the affairs of the Society in Salisbury Square at that distant period, whose prayerful counsels were permitted thus, in spite of their own ignorance and weakness, to work out the inscrutable plan of an all-wise Providence!
[v] Isenberg was not one of the great Missionaries of modern times who tower up above their follow-labourers, like Xavier or Livingstone, like Schwartz or Duff, like Martyn or Ragland; he has left no indelible mark of his personal work, either in India or Africa; but he was the useful man, ready to assist every body in everything; the kind-hearted man, anxious to conciliate affection from Christians of other denominations, free from every kind of intolerance, and carrying the precepts of the religion which he preached into the words and actions of his daily life, doing Christian things in a Christian manner--a method which some otherwise excellent Christians seem sometimes to forget.
As every Christian man and woman is in one sense a Missionary, though all are not privileged to spread the Gospel in foreign lands, there are features in the life of this holy man which all must appreciate and might imitate with advantage. The youthful consecration of his talents and life to the service of his Master; the total abnegation of self in this work; the obedience to his superiors; the fortitude under disappointments; the steady clinging to his life-work; the adaptation of his talents to every kind of duty; the simplicity of his daily life; the tender love which he displayed towards Indians and Africans, however low might be their degree, or degraded their moral status; the orderly mind; the trained scholarly habits, which conquered Amharic and Maráthi, and many other languages; these are no ordinary characteristics. A man endowed with such gifts might have acquired sufficiency and comfort in a German Pastorate, or a German University. But at the age of seventeen he had given himself unreservedly, and to his last hour, to the service of his Master; and his last words, at the age of fifty-eight, were to praise God that his sins were all washed away in the blood of Jesus Christ.
Let the young Missionary reflect upon the features of this life, [v/vi] and recognise the surpassing grandeur of his holy calling. The heart must be given as well as the body; a profession may be a hollow exterior; the Lord requires in his servant an unconditional consecration of the soul, and a deep humility, which forgets the existence of self in a sense of the greatness of the office.
London, June 10th, 1885.
This Biography was sent to Mr. VENN nearly twenty years ago but was mislaid and forgotten till, by a mere chance, it came into the hands of the Editorial Secretary, who submitted it to Mr. R. N. CUST, a Member of the Committee, for his opinion, and he not only recommended its publication, but undertook to bear the whole expense, that the Society's funds might not be drawn upon.
IT was in the year 1822-23, after a Missionary Association had been established in Wesel on the Rhine, that two young men, wishing to become Missionaries, presented themselves to Pastor Kloenne, one of the Ministers of that town. The friends of the Mission resolved to have them examined by a commission of four clergymen and five directors of public schools, and to send the better qualified of the two to Basel, there to be trained for Missionary Service. On the 10th of November, 1823, the examination took place, after having been opened by prayer. The gentlemen found that the elder of the two candidates excelled in accurate knowledge of the Scriptures, and was pretty well acquainted with the history of religion in general, and especially Christian antiquity; further, that he was well versed in geography, which he had studied in Missionary periodicals, and finally that he did not leave unanswered any question concerning the more important facts of general history. They confessed that Isenberg, then a youth of seventeen, had exceeded their expectations, and therefore unanimously proposed to accept him as a candidate for Missionary work.
The following is the abbreviated form of an essay which he had to write for his examiners, containing a short sketch of his life up to that time:--
 "I was born at Barmen on the 5th September, i8o6. My parents, though not well-to-do in this world, were God-fearing people, and brought up their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. My mind was early taught to seek those things which are above. I learnt to read already in my fourth year. At school I was rather a naughty boy, but in my tenth year I was raised by the Spirit of the Lord to seek for eternal life and to forsake the vanities of the world. Oftentimes at that season I prayed to God on my knees to take me out of this world, and to transfer me to His everlasting joy, and I resolved by His grace to lead a new life. I now conversed much with the true Christians, who pointed me to the fountain of life; but the Lord Himself showed me my sins one by one. Pastor Doering, to whom I complained about the state of my heart, advised me to pray for forgiveness of my sins. But the Lord, on the contrary, gave me such an insight into my own sinfulness that I cried out 'I am lost!' On opening my Bible I met with the passage (z John iii., i), "Behold what manner of love the Father has shewn unto us that we should be called the sons of God." I could not trust mine eyes, and opened again and found the passage (Rom. viii., 16), "The same Spirit beareth witness with our spirit that we are the sons of God." This filled me with joy unspeakable; I thought I must tell all men what the Lord had done to my soul. This deep-felt joy did not last long; it did not cease entirely, but often gave way to hours of darkness; now I thanked and praised; now sighed and groaned; and thus there was within me a constant struggle between the flesh and the Spirit. Not long after the Lord visited me likewise with bodily ailments. I was so weakened by constant and violent throwing up of food that I despaired of my recovery."
He then describes how, after having suffered of this illness for a whole year, he was for months subject [10/11] to convulsions, so that he was often expected to breathe his last.
"During that time my parents got a great many books together for me, amongst which I valued especially the Basel "Collections for lovers of Christian Truth and Godliness." As this periodical contains much information respecting Missions, my early love for study engendered in me the wish of becoming an instrument, though ever so mean, for the conversion of heathens, if it were the Lord's will that I should entirely recover. It was therefore proposed that I should be trained as a schoolmaster, and for nearly a year I studied many different subjects, also French. But alas! during these studies I was again drawn away from the one thing needful. The love to God's children decreased, and the love of the world grew stronger.
"But eventually our reduced circumstances put a stop to all this, and I was obliged to be apprenticed to a tinman (1st June, 1820). The first nine months proved rather a hard time for me, and I did not think that I would be able to bear it; but this was God's way to draw me again to Himself away from the world. In consequence of a severe cold I became ill again, but soon recovered, as the Lord granted me sincere repentance and graciously accepted me. My first love to Jesus revived, and at the same time my former desire of becoming a Missionary. I communicated the latter to Pastor Krall, who shortly afterwards confirmed me; he approved of it and advised me to read the Missionary Magazine. It was not till then that I became acquainted with the difficulties of this calling, but at the same time received a full assurance that the Lord would not forsake his messengers. I wrote to my friends in Barmen, who were ready to comply with my wish, but had not yet taken any steps in this matter. Pastors Graeber and Leipold wrote to Berlin and requested the Committee there to receive me into [11/12] the Mission house; but they thought me too young; on account of my military obligations. I now requested God to let me know His will, and, if I should prove unfit for the work, to take away my desire and to put obstacles in the way to frustrate it. Again and again have the words, ` He that putteth his hand to the plough and looks back, etc.,' been sounding in my ears like words of thunder, but they acted only as a stimulus on me. True, sometimes it has occurred to me that then my name would appear in the news of the Missions, and I prayed to God for the proper humility. With a view to keep me humble He often suffered me to stumble, or even to fall. Now I have given myself to Him with body and soul. If it be His will to make me an instrument for the salvation of even one soul only, He will give me every gift needed for furthering, in a small degree, the spread of His kingdom. O Lord, help; O Lord, give Thou success!"
The friends who examined him recognized in this youth a pious mind, a stern and resolute will, a strong bodily frame, and an agreeable winning countenance, which recommended him at first sight. Pastor Graeber, who knew him best, testified that his behaviour was blameless, and his knowledge and sound Biblical convictions had been acquired under the most unfavourable circumstances. He had faithfully persevered during his three years of apprenticeship with a godless Roman Catholic tinman, who maltreated the poor boy as soon as he observed that he wanted to be religious. To him, of course, Isenberg could not have dared to breathe about his wish to enter the Mission; notwithstanding which he had gathered a really astonishing amount of information respecting all that happened on the Mission field. He would be quite willing to live in Basel upon his trade, if thereby he could gain opportunities for availing himself for several hours a day of the instructions given in the Missionary Institution. His talents [12/13] were not brilliant but good, and his happy memory especially for languages had already been put to the test. Besides, he possessed a persevering diligence and love of study, as well as a gentle disposition. But there was a sort of depression in his nature, a certain want of cheerfulness, on account of which the Pastor could not help thinking him rather too quiet and reflective. It was true that he looked upon the service in the Mission not without a little ambition; he was somewhat self-complacent and would therefore have some difficulty in putting up with affronts. Still he had gone through a good school, considering the perverse character of his master, and there learnt and practised much patience, just as if he had set it before him as his task to give this unbeliever a practical knowledge of Christianity. His parents with pleasure gave him up to the Missionary service. He was not all wanting in circumspection and good sense, nor in ability to teach others, but all this had, of course, still to be developed.
In answer to this Inspector Blumhardt wrote back from Basel that he was quite willing to take the new candidate. When this decision was communicated to Isenberg on November 29th, in solemn assembly, he expressed, with deep emotion, his heartfelt thanks to God and to his fatherly friends. Pastor Kloenne writes of that time, "All of us received a deep impression that the Lord would use this youth as a choice instrument in His hand."
But when the candidate was just about to depart for Basel, the friends were informed that there was no hurry about his entering the Institution, as he was not yet eighteen. They should direct him to improve his general knowledge, and also take the necessary steps to have him freed from military obligations. Isenberg faithfully improved this interim by studying the rudiments of Latin, and, after some time, also of Greek, and English. In this he [13/14] was first aided by a venerable Rector of a Gymnasium, and afterwards by a young theologian, to whom he had gone to buy dictionaries and grammars. As soon as the latter heard what was his object with the books, he made him a present of them and offered to help him on by lessons. What a joy that was to him when the Lord thus opened one door after another! only the exemption from service in the army could not be obtained: the King's Minister, Altenstein, declared that students of the Basel Mission could not expect any such privilege in Prussia; but Bishop Eilert promised to do his best in this matter. Meanwhile Isenberg vigorously prosecuted his studies, visited the sick, and attended sermons and lectures, which he took great pains to impress upon his memory. He thus gathered rich stores of sound divinity from the lips of such men as Sander, Krummacher, Snethlage, Graeber, Doering, Ranschenbusch, de Valenti, etc. In September, 1824, he made a little tour in the Rhineland, on which he lost his way for the first time in his life, and had once to put up for the night in the open air. Unhappily, too, his money was spent long ere he reached his home, but, to his great astonishment, he always met with help just when most needed, although he never told his wants to anyone. On this trip he visited a youth in Calcar, who likewise was an aspirant to the Missionary career: his name was Wolters. Their ways in after life turned in rather different directions, but they both retained the liveliest remembrance of that first meeting, even after a generation had passed away. In order to get a passport for Switzerland, Isenberg was obliged to pass an examination at Cologne; he had to write a sketch of his life in Latin, which, I suppose, at that time he must have found a task somewhat beyond his powers. Still he passed "pretty well," and was allowed to leave the country. In several solemn meetings he took leave of his friends in Wesel and [14/15] Barmen, and in one of these meetings even consented to, make a speech, which deeply affected all present. Then his good father gave him a little MS. on his way, containing his parting advices and admonitions, and on the first of December, 1824, he left his home.
One cannot help feeling singularly affected in perusing the papers of this lad; diaries dating from his 11th year, with meditations, poetry, and letters. It is striking how, even at a tender age, he was in right earnest to follow Christ and bear His cross. By means of that wearisome illness which so early put a stop to his studies and his games, his mind was made uncommonly sensitive and susceptible for the sublime and eternal realities. Still one misses something very important in these affecting utterances of the youthful mind. It is quite exceptional when he writes, as in May, 1818, "To God's praise the vomiting has ceased a little. I helped to-day in putting potatoes into the ground. It was such a pleasant morning, the birds sang so sweetly, the sun shone so warm, and all nature seemed to rejoice over the unspeakable beauties of her Creator. Oh, should we then remain dumb; should we not rather join in the praise of our Father?" Generally he only meditates on his poor heart; bewails its lukewarmness and slothfulness; weeps tears of repentance; and prays on his knees, until this or that verse fills him with light and joy, "that I fain would have shouted so loud as to be heard at a mile's distance!" Then he thanks and praises, and refreshes himself in Terstegen's "spiritual bread-crumbs," or by going to hear a powerful sermon, or attending the meetings in Wupperfeld. Still in all this there is undoubtedly an unnatural and one-sided prematurity; the child had become a man before the time, and was perhaps too soon thought by others, as well as by himself, to be something extraordinary. Every clear-sighted man would, with Mr. Groeber, have wished him a little more cheerfulness, a little more self-forgetting [15/16] simplicity. And that "sort of depression in his nature" never lost itself entirely during his whole life. True, with the years his views expanded and the ability for his work increased; yet he never had sufficient boldness and briskness of mind to lay hold of outsiders and to break up new ground. But this deficiency was amply supplied by a not less valuable endowment of circumspection and considerateness, of perseverance in carrying out every work he had commenced, in fact every duty, and of unshaken constancy and patience in sufferings.
At Basle, where Isenberg arrived on the 8th of December, 1824, he felt somewhat confined by the strict discipline of the Institution, by which especially juniors were obliged to live rather retired. His fellow students, "the brethren," seemed to him much less hearty and sociable than the friends from whom he had just taken leave. At first, therefore, he followed his own inclinations more than was compatible with the rules of the establishment, by constantly holding free intercourse with young men in the town, where he also met with Rhinelanders, and established amongst them a Young Men's Christian Association, according to the mode of the Association of his home. The Verein at Barmen had been founded on New Year's Day, 1823, and two years afterwards, exactly on the same day, the Basle Verein was called into life. But, after some free-spoken and sometimes a little too animated discussions with his fellow-students, he soon recognized his proper position amongst them, and learned to put up with his new circumstances. He had been too much wont to [16/17] consult only his own wishes, and it took him some time to get accustomed to live constantly in the same room with a number of other students. But when he once had made himself at home in that narrow sphere, he acknowledged every day more thankfully the benefit of the change. Especially, he enjoyed the Bible expositions of Rudolph Stier, and his teachers, on their part, placed in him their fullest confidence, on account of his "pious life and faithful diligence in his studies."
Unusual opportunities for self improvement were offered by the Anniversary meetings and the holiday tours following these, on which he was introduced into various new circles of society. In July, 1825, e. g., his friend Schaffter took him to Montiers, Neuchatel, and Berne, where he met with religious people and "Momiers" (French nickname for the quiet in the land) of all colours--Dissenters, Baptists, Mystics, and others--and derived some profit from every one of these parties.
On another tour, in 1827, he visited Wartemburg, and became acquainted with that highly interesting society which gathered round Dr. Barth (in Calw), and Osiander, with Ludwig Hoffacher, and his young friend Knapp, the well known Christian poet in Stuttgart; as well as with eminent Christian men in Komthal, Koenigsfeld, and Schaffhausen. In every one of these places he found, under different forms, one and the same Gospel, and, although he himself strictly retained that type of Christianity which he had brought with him from the Wupperthal, yet he knew how to esteem and love the Spirit of Christ even in forms quite new and unexpected to him.
The tour he most enjoyed was that which he made during the summer holidays in 1826, when he visited his dear home again, and for the last time had the privilege of being in the company of his beloved father, who had now arrived at those days (Eccl. xii. 1-4), which are full of heaviness; when the strong [17/18] men bow themselves down, and the sight is darkened, and clouds ever follow after the rain; and therefore gladly availed himself of the opportunity of asking his son's prayers for this trying season. The latter was detained in Barmen until autumn on account of his military affairs, but these were at last happily settled, by his being declared unfit for the service because of a little deformity of the left side. Just at that time he had the joy of witnessing the foundation of the Barmen Missionary Institution, which, through the active interest taken by all parties, soon rose to a flourishing state.
After his return to Basle he diligently practised preaching, first in the institutions, afterward in the pulpits of friends in the neighbourhood of Basel; his abstracts of these sermons show a considerable amount of thought, and a rich choice of language. A cause of great sorrow--though it came not unexpectedly--was to him the news of the death of his noble-hearted father in March, 1827. He had given his dying blessing to the children that were still with him, and then called out: "Oh Lord Jesus, here I stretch out my hand to Thee, join thou Thine hand in mine and take me up into Thy eternal kingdom!" and when they asked him whether he had any wishes for Charles on his heart, he said, stammering, "Oh, our Charles is well," and gave up his spirit.
The close of our young student's life at Basle was now fast approaching. He had well profited by the lectures held in the University of that town, and now the prospect was opened to him of finishing his theological education at Berlin. He was sent thither in October, 1827, with the special injunction to make himself well acquainted with Biblical interpretation, in order to become qualified for the translation of the Scriptures into other languages. During the two years he spent at Berlin he went thoroughly into exegetical studies, and drew especial [18/19] benefit from Neander's and Hengstenberg's lectures. Schleiermacher and Lachmann, as well as Ritter, by his, "History of Philosophy," contributed to enlarge his views, whilst the intimate friendship with a number of likeminded young men compensated him for the separation from his brethren at Basle. He became likewise well acquainted with the Berlin Missionary Society, but the circumstances of that Society during those years were very discouraging. There were still connected with it some powerful men of a noble stamp, as Riedel and Schwarz, who, joyfully following the Lord's call, went out as Missionaries to Celebes. But Jaenike's Institution, not being under a proper management, had evidently outlived itself. Amidst many painful occurrences which Isenberg from time to time witnessed in those circles, he joyfully hailed the signs of a new time, such as the ordination of that blessed man of God, Gossner. But on the whole he found sufficient cause to pronounce a severe sentence on his life in Berlin. Perhaps he had been overmuch influenced by the prevailing currents of free thought; when he examined his heart conscientiously he found himself faint and lukewarm, and, although he did bear witness to Christ before the world, he had inwardly become attached to it, and grown indifferent to his Missionary calling. He was taken out of this unbearable position by the sad intelligence of the dangerous illness of his brother Frederic, to whose assistance he was speedily called, not anticipating that the painful circumstances connected with this illness would keep him in Barmen for several months. It was a time of sore trial, but it helped him to find again the peace he had lost, though it was by much prayer, supplication, and exercise of patience.
As soon as he was able to leave his brother, he was, in February, 1830, called back for a time to Basle by the Committee of his Society as a teacher of Greek for the Institution. He liked that post [19/20] exceedingly; but he was not to enjoy it very long, for shortly afterwards the Church Missionary Society inquired for a man who would be suitable as a translator in Malta, their Mediterranean station, and Isenberg was proposed as the best qualified for this post. Some slight scruples he entertained about entering the Anglican Church were easily removed; and he never repented of this step. In December, 1830, he sailed down the Rhine to London, with a view there to prepare himself for his new calling by the study of Arabic and Ethiopic, and at the same time to acquire some knowledge of medicine. But when Kugler, the Church Missionary Society's Missionary in Abyssinia, had unexpectedly been taken away by an accident, the Committee decided in May, 1832, that Isenberg, as soon as he should have received episcopal ordination, should be sent there as a fellow-labourer to Samuel Gobat, who had been left quite alone.
After nine long years of preparation Isenberg landed in Alexandria in January, 1833, in order to enter upon his long-expected actual labour. Many a time those nine years had seemed to him too long, but on his onward course he was to be led through still greater trials of patience. Hitherto his particular lot had appeared to be again and again to prepare for a settled activity, and just when he was about to enter upon it to be thrown back into uncertainty. Thus he was now in Cairo learning Arabic and Amharic, for the purpose of coming as soon as possible to his much tried brother Gobat's assistance. But the latter had already left Abyssinia [20/21] for Europe, and Isenberg could do nothing but quietly wait for his return. Still this time was not thrown away. When Gobat passed through he saw him and received from him the most essential information concerning the hard ground which they were called to break up by their united efforts. Well did such intelligence make his heart heavy; but at the same time he hailed the forerunners of a regenerate Abyssinia, as which he regarded Gobat's two young Abyssinian companions, Hadara and Kiddana Maryam, who manifested a sincere love to God's word.
By devoting all his strength to these two youths Isenberg entered upon his first actual mission work. On Gobat's advice he set out with them in July, 1833, on a journey to Jerusalem: for how could an Abyssinian dare to visit Egypt and return to his country without having seen the holy city? And for a missionary likewise the best recommendation to Abyssinians was to have seen Jerusalem. The necessity of the pilgrimage, then, was beyond question; and it was no longer dangerous on account of Ibrahim Pasha's conquest; the two Abyssinians highly enjoyed it, and their mentor derived from it much instruction, for everywhere in Egypt and in Jerusalem, in Galilee and Beirout, opportunities were offered of penetrating deeper into the spirit and life of Eastern nations, and frequently also of sowing the precious seed of God's word under unexpected circumstances. The sight of poor Jerusalem moved him to tears. He there became acquainted with an American missionary, and entered into intimate relations with the Abyssinian monastery. He visited Bethlehem and the Jordan, and then returned by the way of Nazareth, Tiberias and the Carmel, through the towns of Phoenicia. There Isenberg met with an enthusiastic fellow countryman, who was just setting out on the same pilgrimage which the young missionary had completed. When that layman afterwards spoke of this [21/22] meeting, he expressed his astonishment at the quiet manner of the clergyman, who had freely confessed that on Golgotha, and near the Holy Sepulchre, he had in reality not felt more excited than elsewhere, and had advised him to be more sober-minded. "The wicked heart is the same everywhere," he had said; and "it is in greater danger on journeys than in the ordinary routine of labour." This is a feature which sufficiently characterises the sterling man even at the outset of his many wanderings.
On this first longer journey Isenberg found here and there a welcome reception, and a willing ear through his medical practice; occasionally too, he learned how to handle other than spiritual weapons, an accomplishment indispensable to a traveller in Africa. To his great satisfaction he found that his pupils were gradually getting rid of many remnants of their traditional superstitions, and knew better how to discern between the true essence of Christianity and its human additions. Hadara, who acquired a very creditable knowledge of German, afterwards went to Germany, where he died exceedingly happy at Bingen, on the Rhine, in 1838.
In other respects, too, the waiting time at Cairo was not lost. Besides taking an active part in the English services held in the Mission house, he commenced a German service, in which he explained the Epistle to the Romans to a small but very willing audience of Germans, mostly Roman Catholics. He became acquainted with travellers of many nations, amongst whom were not a few vagrant cheats and adventurers, such as one meets with everywhere in the Levant. There was a Prussian Lieutenant, by birth a Pole, who wanted by all means to turn a Protestant; but it became known that he had at the same time taken steps to become a pervert to Islamism. Quite a different character was Dr. K., a thoroughly honest man, who with fiery zeal endeavoured straightway to convert the Mussulmans, [22/23] and formed intimate connections with the Mission, but eventually became deranged and found his grave in the Nile.
The main result was that Isenberg became thoroughly versed in Arabic and Amharic; and now came the time when his knowledge should be turned to practical use, for intelligence arrived from Gobat that he was ready to return to Abyssinia from Bingen, where he had found a partner in life, and that Isenberg's future helpmate should accompany him. The latter, Henrietta Geerling, from Wesel, was a friend of his early youth, who, together with two other young friends, had been awakened by his first Missionary address, delivered not long before he entered the Basel Institution, and who having afterwards become engaged to him, had quietly waited for the time when she should be enabled to follow him without infringing sacred duties that had hitherto retained her at home. Now she had become free, and was permitted to join Mr. and Mrs. Gobat. In May, 1834, Isenberg undertook a journey to Mount Sinai, where he partly saw and partly suspected in the St. Katharine's Monastery the valuable treasures of manuscripts which others after him were destined to recover; then after his return he prepared to receive his betrothed and her companions. On the 1st of August they reached Alexandria; on the 4th their friend Kruse there joined the couple in holy matrimony, at the residence of the British Consul, and after that they made themselves ready to set out on their journey to Abyssinia. It is difficult in our day to represent to one's mind the slow movements of those times, the irksome travels on land, the much interrupted voyages in wretched sailing vessels, and the clumsy ways of the natives, who have no idea of the value of time. But so much must be said in favour of that time, that generally a much greater weight was laid on the proper qualifications for the Missionary's [23/24] calling, on a thorough study of the native languages and on acquaintance with the spirit and manners of the people; and in these points Isenberg, by faithful application, accomplished his utmost.
Slowly the caravan moved to Suez in October, 1834. At Jedda they were detained for nearly a month, until a boat was obtained. There the first visit of an English steamer was a propitious sign of the time when that seemingly endless Red Sea would be traversed with eagle's speed. At last, on the 10th of December, they landed on Massowah, one of the Madrepore islands, where they received intelligence of the position of the country which they were about to visit. Behind that hot sea-shore there rises to a height of 6000 to 7000 feet, the mountain country inhabited by the Abyssinians; nearest to the shore lies the province of Tigré, where Axum hides the ruins of Ethiopia's ancient civilization, and Adowah, not so far inland, is through its commerce at present the most flourishing town. The country, then under the rule of Dedjadj, or Duke Ubié, was infested by so many insurgents that no caravan dared to travel. Gobat fell ill, and when at last the road became free, was with great difficulty conveyed to Halai, the Abyssinian frontier country. At last, in April, 1835, they reached Adowah, but Gobat's illness increased, and the difficulties of negotiations with the government and the priests of the country fell almost entirely on the inexperienced novice. He came into great trouble, for Ubié developed a boundless greediness, took and demanded presents without end, and, in return, gave corn which [24/25] they had forcibly to take from the people, whilst everybody begged from the Missionary, and no one could be trusted, not even the German servant who had accompanied them. The spiritual atmosphere of the country, infested by the indescribable deceitfulness and the reckless lawlessness of its inhabitants, heavily oppressed the minds of the little company who had dared to undertake its purification. Isenberg wound his way through these straits as best he could. He was able to give inoffensive answers to everybody who asked for his opinion on the three births of Christ, and of the important question concerning the knowledge of unborn babes. He had work in plenty. Some aspiring young melt requested him to teach them Greek, many came to beg for medical aid, and all his remaining time was devoted to the study of the Tigré language, into which a Debtera, Matthew by name, began to translate the New Testament under his superintendence. It had been Gobat's plan from the beginning to settle in the small station of locum, and thereby to avoid, as long as possible, collisions with the ever suspicious and malevolent priests. The Missionaries, he thought, should, during the first years occupy themselves more exclusively with the general Christian education, without exhibiting at once the distinct features of their own Church. Had Gobat been able to carry out this scheme, it might, perhaps, have had good results. Isenberg., however, who was by nature inclined to do everything systematically, consulting only his conscience, thought it now his duty at once to act in a straightforward way; accordingly he sent to Ubi& a petition for religious liberty, which was granted (21st October) on the condition that the Missionaries should in all things obey the laws of the country. Thereupon he boldly ventured upon his first clerical duty by blessing, according to Protestant rites, the marriage of an Abyssinian maiden to Kiddana, who had committed [25/26] himself with her. This daring action was never forgiven; for how could a stranger presume to exercise spiritual power over an Abyssinian?
In February, 1836, two Frenchmen, Eamisier and Comber, adventurers of the sect of Saint Simon, visited the country, and were soon followed by two others, whose scandalous immorality surpassed even that of the Abyssinians and brought shame on the European name. They commenced a series of political intrigues which tended to increase the distrust existing between the priests and the missionaries. The latter however took little notice of them. Gobat's health was so shattered that on the at of September, 1836, he had to return to Jedda in the company of Wolff, the well-known missionary to the Jews, and afterwards to Europe, and thus was compelled to quit for ever Abyssinia, the land of his early labours and trials. This was a severe loss to the mission there, for Gobat had in no small degree possessed the confidence of the people, yea, even of the priests, and was endowed with more practical talent and flexibility in critical circumstances than his successors.
To replace him the Rev. C. Blumhardt was sent out in January, 1837, and the two missionaries now began to build their own house on a piece of ground which they bought, not in the least aware that by this step they gave occasion for the grossest calumnies. The young men who were instructed by the missionaries had publicly protested against the worship of images; it was further known that Isenberg was translating into the language of the country the liturgy of the Anglican Church, and was using it in the services held in his house. By these and other things the priests became so enraged, that they raised the cry, "These foreigners intend not only to introduce a new Church into our lands, but moreover they are secretly digging a subterranean passage from the Mission House directly to Massowah to lead the British red-coats into the very' heart of our city, [26/27] and from this devilish house they will come forth to overflood our country."
When Isenberg's three children that were born to him in Adowah all died one after another, the priests declared that as they had not been baptized in their church but in the Mission House, they had no right to a place in the cemetery, and the bereaved father was compelled to bury the little bodies in his own garden. Louder and louder waxed the complaints against the heretic foreigners who neither came to church nor fasted on certain days, but only read their English prayers at home. The very thing which Isenberg thought it his first and most important duty to exhibit to them, viz: a church of God in his own house, was to them a cause of never-ending provocation. Ubié himself could not be brought to understand how any one could partake of the Holy Sacrament in a building where husband and wife were living together; passages like "breaking bread from house to house" and other reasons which they brought forward to vindicate themselves, were of no avail with him. "If you call yourselves Christians," he said, "then conform to our customs; if you are Mussulmans, then build a mosque; or if Falashas, then observe their rites." He was appeased for the moment by the present of a double-barreled gun, but nevertheless would not give his consent to a public discussion of the question how far the Protestant faith was in accordance with Scripture and had a claim to toleration. The more the missionaries gained in influence and found new friends, even amongst the monks, the more the hostile efforts of the priests increased, and they so far prevailed with Ubié that he began to believe their insinuations that the country would be conquered by Europeans, as the number of foreigners was visibly increasing.
The principal enemy of the Missionaries, in their opinion, was the Alaca, or chief priest, of the Madhana Alam Church in Adowah. This man had [27/28] been on such a friendly footing with Gobat, that the latter, when leaving the country for the first time, deposited his property in that church, which was deemed inviolably sacred. But the priest appropriated it to himself, and, on Gobat's return to the country, to hide his dishonest conduct, burnt the church. From such a man, notwithstanding his assumed familiarity, the worst was to be expected, especially as the glittering windows of an European house were constantly dazzling his sight.
Gradually new measures were taken against the foreigners. Schimper, the botanist, Kielmaier, a Würtembergian lieutenant, and L. Krapf, of the C. M. S., arrived in Adowah one after another, the latter in December, 1837. Their luggage had to undergo a severe scrutiny for fear it might contain--cannons! and particular trouble was taken to count their money. In January, 1838, Krapf presented himself to Ubié, who received him apparently kindly. But on Epiphany, the chief priest pronounced the ban against all who would visit the missionaries in their house. Although Ubié cancelled this measure when he required the Missionaries' advice respecting the delegation of an embassy to England and France, their freedom was not to last very long. After the arrival in Adowah, on the 1st of March, of Messrs. d'Abbadie and the Roman Catholic Padre, Giuseppe Sapeto, their influence soon preponderated against the Protestant Mission. The Missionaries, as well as the other six German residents, were summoned before the chief priest, who announced to them Ubié's order to leave the country immediately. "The Dedjady's patience," he said "is exhausted; he can no longer suffer in the country people of a different creed, and religious agitators." Afterwards it became known that, by a present of £15, the chief priest's favour had been purchased by the emissaries of Rome, whilst Ubié declared that he had no personal antipathy against the Missionaries, but was unable to [28/29] protect them any longer from the slanders of their enemies. On the 12th of March, the Missionaries left Adowah, accompanied by a military detachment, and followed by the lamentations of the poor, many of whom had enjoyed, during three years, the liberty and the services of the heretics.
The French Consul, G. Lejean, long afterwards gave, in a widely circulated periodical (Revue des Deux Mondes, November, 1864), an interesting outline of the history of Abyssinia in later years, in which also the efforts of the Protestant Missionaries are mentioned, but in a manner which we cannot leave unnoticed. He characterizes Gobat as a deserving, devoted and able, but also vain and credulous man, who had viewed Abyssinia through the most distorted medium ("Jamais voyageur n'a vu l'Abyssinie a travers un jour plus faux que Mr. Gobat"). Isenberg, on the contrary, in later years pronounced this opinion on Gobat's diary, that it had well deserved the good reception it had found: "Gobat has been accused of exaggeration in favour of the people of Abyssinia, but this accusation is decidedly unfounded, for, where he appears to praise them, he only relates facts which I have so repeatedly witnessed that I can only subscribe them, although my own opinion about the people in general is not so favourable."
M. Lejean continues, "When Gobat had left, Moravian brethren (1) came into the country, respectable people but imprudent sectarians, who at once opened a brutal and barbarous war ('une guerre brutale et grossière') against all the traditions of Abyssinia. On a fast day they killed a cow and distributed the meat to all passers by; a vulgar joke ('un propos cynique') on the Holy Virgin excited the hatred of the Tigréans, and Ubié, by their expulsion, regained the favour of the nation." Very likely M. Lejean may in the circles in which he moved have heard such talk about the Missionaries, who were, as [29/30] everybody knows, Germans in the service of the C. M. S.; but for all that it is untrue. In that superficial observation Lejean confounds the first expulsion of the Missionaries in 1838, with their final banishment in 1843; therefore, we must here confine ourselves to the refutation of the first of those two slanders. Isenberg, in his diary, regrets that some of his servants, in disputing with priests and others, had used unjustifiable expressions, such as "The churches of the country are idol-temples," "Mary is nothing, the saints are nothing," etc. "Such words," Isenberg writes, "are in themselves too strong, and when uttered in a carnal zeal can only excite and do harm. I therefore commenced, in April, 1836, in spite of my deficient knowledge of the language, every evening to read the Scriptures with my people, with a view to turn their minds away from unprofitable polemics, to the fundamental doctrines of Christianity." The legend respecting the cow killed on a fast day is doubtless an invention of later date, for although in the circumstantial transactions concerning the expulsion of the Missionaries in March, 1838, a great many points that offended the Abyssinians were mentioned, they give not the slightest hint at an occurrence like this. Again, we must not leave unnoticed the fact, that in all the disputes with the priests, the main question was not about the lawfulness of introducing this or that doctrine or ceremony, but whether the Missionaries themselves were justified in their freedom from Abyssinian traditions. We must mention the fact that one of the Missionaries, seeing what importance Abyssinians attached to fasting, thought it his duty, for the benefit of the people, to observe the fasts himself; he only took care to explain to them that he was doing this entirely out of his own free choice, not because their ecclesiastical laws prescribed it. The Missionaries did, of course, not act in every respect without fault; but the description which the [30/31] lively Frenchman gave of their proceedings is fundamentally wrong. They were neither sanguine nor diplomatical characters, but stern, honest Germans, who endeavoured, according to their ability, to make themselves familiar with, and serviceable to, that degenerate nation, although they were from the beginning most clearly and even painfully conscious of the difficulty and uncertainty of their position, and remained so till the end. [Very different indeed from these Germans was that strange man, Joseph Wolff, whose short visit to Abyssinia was mentioned above. Isenberg appeared to him not sufficiently active, and too little English, whilst he himself liked everywhere to strike alarm, and frequently owed his impunity only to his deficient knowledge of the language, and to the respect paid by Eastern nations to all deranged and eccentric spirits.]
Isenberg, through his marked predilection for literary occupations, collected in those three years a considerable amount of philological materials, and composed works which have found a favourable reception among the orientalists of Germany, and are a permanent blessing for Abyssinians, though they have as yet only partly been turned to use.
South of Tigré, separated from it by a tract of country, is Shoa, ruled then by Sahela Salassieh. Isenberg had had a correspondence with this Prince, and frankly laid before him the object of the mission. Just at the moment that the Missionaries were consulting about their further steps, and Krapf had resolved to go to Mocha, the others to Cairo, messengers of the Prince of Shoa arrived at Adowah, [31/32] with a number of mules, in order to invite the white teachers to come into his country. One of the Frenchmen availed himself of this opportunity, and found a good reception in Shoa. When Isenberg arrived in Cairo he heard of these movements from wandering Abyssinians, with whom he made acquaintance, who were astonished at his gesticulations, wished to worship him as a saint on their knees, and to kiss his feet because he had been three times in Jerusalem! They told him of the plans of the brothers d'Abbadie; he even met, on their way to Rome, the first Abyssinians that had turned Roman Catholics, and in consequence resolved, ere this new door should be closed again, to try an entrance into Shoa, together with Krapf. This course was decided upon in December, 1838, although the Committee of the Church Missionary Society thought it sufficient if Krapf alone tried the experiment, whilst Isenberg should occupy himself with his literary labours in Cairo, and assist the, mission in that town. Whilst Blumhardt went to Bengal, Isenberg took leave of his wife, and his little daughter, born in July, 1838, and set out for the new journey, together with Krapf and a German servant, Ernest Trilof. They were accompanied, too, by Warkie, an Abyssinian, of half Armenian descent, whose two sons were since 1836 receiving an English education in Bombay.
In the society of Turkish pilgrims they sailed for Jedda, and arrived in April, 1839, at the miserable seaport towns of Zeila and Tadjurra, both under Egyptian governors, who were seriously endeavouring to gain the favour of the English, who had just occupied the opposite port of Aden; they only dreaded lest the latter might seek to put an end to their lucrative slave-trade. Our travellers, on their part, assured them that they would not meddle with this affair. At last they broke up for the interior, and travelled on camels' backs under a scorching sun, along the salt lakes of the Dankali or Afer country, [32/33] passing elephant herds, ostriches, and beasts of prey, and were mercifully preserved from the attacks of Galla robbers. On the 28th of May, they saw distinctly the mountains of Shoa spread out before them on the other side of the Hawash river. A few days more of up hill work, and they arrived at the frontier station of Dinomali, where the first Christians appeared, who at once made friends with the Europeans. The Prince had sent a female slave and other presents for the Missionaries, who, of course, could not accept such a gift.
The beauty of the country, whose climate is like a perpetual spring, and the magnificent aspect of the capital, Ankobar, situated on the top of a mountain resembling in shape a sugar-loaf, filled their heart with delight. The king received them kindly, and showed himself ready to entrust to their charge a number of boys or young men for education, but especially desired to get clever tradesmen "for his people," and for himself guns and various chemicals and charms. The expression "for my people" soon proved an empty phrase: Sahela Salassieh looked in all his plans and undertakings solely to his own interest. Thus he had had a bridge built by a Greek mason across a wild mountain torrent near the capital; but, even in the rainy season, nobody besides himself was allowed to cross it; to him it mattered little that year after year some of his subjects were drowned in trying to cross the stream. The same Greek, Demetrius, had built a mill: but, of course, only the king's corn was allowed to be ground in it. Every year he made war on the Galla in order to get slaves for exportation; and, by immense duties laid upon all merchandise, made trading quite impossible. In spite of all this he was thought to be an able ruler, and Shoa the best governed part of Abyssinia. By-and-by priests and boys who showed some thirst for knowledge came to see the Missionaries; they taught them geography, [33/34] Bible history, and a little of general history. That part of their time which was not devoted to teaching and literary work was occupied by patients and various other visitors.
Isenberg was now directed by the Committee to go to Europe, where he should commit his literary labours to the press, and afterward return to Abyssinia with vernacular school-books and other scientific apparatus. The king permitted his departure, and desired him especially on his return to bring with him a stamp for his mint. In November Isenberg bade farewell to Krapf, who accompanied him to the frontier, and then returned with a heavy heart to his solitary dwelling. Krapf's solitude was somewhat cheered by a merry French traveller, Rochet, who was always concocting vast schemes, and one day promised Krapf to make him his minister of education in his future African kingdom. The same man, after his return to Europe, wrote a book (1841), in which he recommended the establishment of a Roman Catholic Mission in Shoa, which should first endeavour to convert the king, whose example would soon be followed by his subjects. "But the Missionaries would have to avoid showing any jealousy or animosity toward the Methodist Missionaries, whose wise conduct ought, on the contrary, to be followed as a model; for the slightest imprudence, the least rashness, would suffice to destroy for ever in Abyssinia the entrance of Catholicism perhaps of Christianity and civilization." These "Methodist Missionaries" are of course the same whom Rochet's fellow-countryman called "Moravian brethren:" whilst the one blames their blunt mode of proceeding, the other commends their wise moderation; but either of them without sufficient reason; for in Shoa, as well as in Tigré, Isenberg and Krapf openly professed that they were Protestant missionaries, and had mainly this object in view, in a peaceable way to spread biblical [34/35] knowledge, as far as the Lord would be pleased to open the hearts of the people.
Isenberg, on his way to Europe, took his route via Aden, where he took an active interest in the newly-established mission to the Jews. On the 15th of February, 184o, after a separation of more than twelve months, he welcomed his dear wife and daughter in the Malta lazaretto, where he was kept waiting for a few weeks more ere he was allowed to return with them to the fatherland. Via Marseilles and Basle he went to Barmen, where on Good Friday he welcomed his beloved mother, and celebrated with the church of his home a happy Easterday. "Oh what a blessing it is," he writes at that time, "to cherish a vital communion with Christians! It can be sufficiently valued only by him who for years has dwelt among dead bones." Ultimately he reached London, on the 3oth of April. There he was to spend most of his time in arduous labours in his study; but these were much relieved by frequent preaching in English churches, by visits from Missionaries from Barmen and Basle, whom he had to assist by his advice, and by many other intervening circumstances. On the 29th November a son was born to him, who was destined one day to follow his father's calling after the latter should have laid down his weary head to rest. It was in London, too, that he saw his Sovereign, King Frederic William IV., who thanked him in the kindest manner for some Ethiopic manuscripts which Isenberg had sent him, and in two audiences (January and February, 1842,) minutely inquired about the state of missions. The king invited him to dine with him at Bunsen's residence. Many other connections which Isenberg formed in London were of great importance for his work. But a main advantage which accrued to Isenberg from his residence in England was this, that whilst formerly he had felt only as a German--[35/36]and now and then his correspondence had produced a smile on the face of his friends beyond the Channel--he now felt quite at home in British circles, and had better learned to know and love the multifarious activity for God's kingdom which exists in the great metropolis.
VI.--THIRD ATTEMPT IN ABYSSINIA.
Ultimately his Amharic works (Grammar, Dictionary, Reading Book, Heidelberg Catechism, Geography, General History, Church History, and Book of Common Prayer) were printed, and thereby this daughter of the Ethiopic language, Amharic, made accessible to the linguists of Europe. The Tigré translation of the New Testament, the Psalms, &c., could only be handed over to the press when the province would again be made accessible to Missions. But Isenberg did not live to see this. The Tigré Gospels were printed as late as in March, 1866. Followed by the blessings and prayers of his society, Isenberg returned to Germany in May, 1842, in order to see his family settled at Barmen, whilst he himself would go to Shoa. The dangers of the latter journey had only a short time previously become manifest, as the two new Missionaries, Muhleisen and Muller, had, in consequence of a murderous attack at Tadjurra, been forced to return to Aden, without having accomplished anything.
Meanwhile Krapf had many opportunities of spreading in Shoa a better knowledge of God's word; even priests became alarmed about the deep-rooted corruptions of the Abyssinian Church. His little school, consisting of ten boys, proved successful beyond expectation, and many promising connections were [36/37] formed with heathen Galla. The king sent a letter to the Anglo-Indian authorities at Aden in order to establish a friendly intercourse with them, whereupon an English embassy under Major Harris came to Ankobar, and effected--at least on paper--a commercial treaty for the suppression of the slave trade. Krapf was honoured by the King with a silver sword, the mark of a governor, when in March, 1842, he left the country to meet his future wife, who was to accompany Isenberg to Africa. But on his route, he was plundered by the Wollo Galla, and with great trouble begged his way through to Massowah. At last he arrived in Egypt and was for some time kept in great suspense, as Isenberg had unexpectedly been delayed in Malta, where he spent once more some happy days with his first fellow-labourer, Gobat. Isenberg landed in Alexandria on the 15th of September. When Krapf's marriage was over, Dr. Lepsius invited the Germans to the Pyramids to celebrate the birthday of the German King (15th October). A happy day, and auspicious for Isenberg in another respect too, for on that day a daughter was born to him. He received this good news six months afterwards, for the three Missionaries had now speedily to break up for Aden, whence they were conveyed in a boat to Tadjurra in November, but only to tarry there and at Zeila for months together, and to have another lesson in patience. They heard that Rochet had succeeded in blackening the character of the English in the eyes of the King, and in gaining for a time his exclusive favour by presents from the French government, which he gave as coming from himself, and by various artifices by which he promised to heal a disease from which the King suffered. The Missionaries were most strictly forbidden to re-enter Shoa, and every effort to have this order rescinded was fruitless. The British Embassy, too, left Shoa disheartened on account of their blasted hopes. After this gloomy time of waiting, during which Krapf [37/38] and Isenberg occupied their time in learning the Dankali (Saho), and Somali languages, though without any prospect of labouring among these strictly Mohammedan tribes, they turned again to Massowah, thence to penetrate into Northern Abyssinia by some way or another. On the 4th of April they arrived in that harbour, and were kindly received by the worthy French Consul, M. de Gontin.
The unsettled state of the country had not improved since the expulsion of the Protestant Missionaries. The Roman Catholic Bishop, De Jacobis, who in 1840 entered the country, had by his consummate shrewdness and versatility insinuated himself into Ubie's favour to such a degree that this man, before whom the whole of Tigré trembled, alighted from his horse as often as he passed the door of the Romish Bishop's house. Lejean, who relates this fact, adds that De Jacobis' fault was to believe more in the efficiency of diplomatic moves than in the fruitfulness of evangelical instruction. He brought about that Ubie, who had a quarrel with Egypt, requested the Bishop to fetch him a patriarch (Abuna) from Cairo, which task the flattered statesman undertook with remarkable selfsatisfaction. But, however cunningly he set to work, he was outwitted by the Coptic clergy. The Abuna whom they chose was a youth trained by the Rev. Mr. Lieder, Satama by name, who, though sadly destitute of spiritual life, yet was a declared enemy of Romanism. Scarcely had the latter arrived in Adowah (in 1844) when by strict measures he led the Romish perverts back into the bosom of the Abyssinian Church. De Jacobis knew still how to keep up his position by regularly visiting the Madhana Alam church and pretending to be a good Abyssinian, whilst he quietly read mass in his house with a number of initiated persons (among whom was also Mr. Schimper). The poor Abuna, who could hardly cope with his rival in sanctity of morals, [38/39] endeavoured in consequence to maintain his spiritual authority by the interdiction of smoking tobacco upon pain of excommunication; but it was publicly known that he denied himself only the public enjoyment of the offensive weed.
Respecting their prospects of admission into Tigré or Gondar, the Missionaries, Isenberg and Mühleisen, did not deceive themselves, but before turning for ever their back upon poor Abyssinia, they thought it their duty to take another step for the spread of God's word amongst the natives. They had during their former stay in Tigré distributed among the people about 4,000 copies of different parts of the Scriptures, and Krapf had had occasion of disseminating other 2,000 copies, partly far beyond the limits of regions governed by Sahela Salassieh. This time (in April, 1843,) they chose a new route through the province of Seraweh, and everywhere found people who were desirous after God's word, and who offered at least a handful of barley for Gospels in the Amharic language. Wherever Amharic was not understood, there was a considerable demand for Scriptures in the ancient Ethiopic, so much so that their valuable store of books was soon exhausted.
The message which Isenberg sent before him to Ubié did not fulfil its end. The prince replied, that he had been informed how the Missionary had built house upon house (i.e., two stories), fortress upon fortress, and had introduced great stores of implements of war into the country in order to take one day possession of it for the Queen of England; that he had turned his house into a church, and in it had held baptisms, marriages, communions and burial services, which in itself was sufficiently unlawful to justify his expulsion. He would probably have to banish the Roman Catholic De Jacobis, too, who did the same. Meanwhile Isenberg might come to Adowah, where he would find his house in its former state as far as the rain had not damaged it. But he [39/40] should there keep quiet until his whole affair could be examined, when it would be known whether he had changed his nature or not. This did not sound very encouraging; yet the Missionaries were glad of every respite that was granted to them, and prepared with throbbing hearts to enter the town (21st May). On their way they first met the well-known Dabtira Mattheos, who had rendered to Isenberg the 'most important services in the translation, into the Tigré language, of the New Testament, Genesis, acid Psalms. Thereupon the clergy and officers of the town, having been assembled by the ringing of stoneslabs, carrying before them the sacred relics of the Church, and accompanied by the tingling of bells, went in a procession to meet the Missionaries. Various old friends and many of the poor stepped forth from the multitude and welcomed them on the market place. After half-an-hour's rest, the ill-famed chief priest, the Alaka Kiddana Maryam, summoned Isenberg solemnly to declare whether he had changed his faith, whether he was ready to kiss the cross and the church, whether he believed in the mystical change of bread and wine, whether he would use the intercession of Mary and the Saints. As all endeavours to avoid controversy were in vain, Isenberg had no other choice but openly to explain the object of his mission. "We come," said he, "just as Gobat and Kugler, with a message of love from a sister Church, which desires to communicate to you the best treasure of the Church of God, His Holy Word. She does not demand that you should change your customs, but likewise you ought not to demand that we renounce ours. Our faith is not of yesterday, that we might exchange it to-day for another, else it would be spurious. Whether it be genuine or not you may judge from our works, for you know us sufficiently, and have watched us during our three years intercourse with you. If we have lived according to the Gospel in love, [40/41] patience, and purity of morals, give honour to God, and confess that our faith is that of the Bible. We do not presume to judge the faith of your country, for this belongs to God alone, who will judge everyone according to his own, and not according to another's, faith."
When questioned about his views on the Sacrament, whether he believed in the mystical change of the sacred elements, Isenberg replied: "Your teachers use a word which we do not dare to use, as it is not in the Bible, yet their doctrine and ours come to the same in the main point, for they do not say, as the Roman Catholics do, that the bread loses its nature of bread, and the wine its nature of wine; but they only teach ` a change in the power and efficacy;' in the same manner we teach that every true believer partakes in the Lord's Supper of the very body and blood of Christ." "Do you believe in the saving power of the cross? Will you kiss it?" The answer, of course, proved unsatisfactory, although Isenberg was able to state that he too used the sign of the cross in baptism, and did not condemn those who kissed the cross; still he found it necessary to explain why his Church apprehended lest, through the honour shown to the cross, the honour of the Crucified might suffer; the same was also true with regard to the kissing of churches.
The greatest weight, however, the Alaka laid on the intercession of the Virgin Mary. Isenberg regarded her in truth as the greatest and most blessed among women, and even gave her the name of the Mother of God, being an expression allowed by the Council of Ephesus. But he knew naught of her intercession, the Scriptures never mentioning it, and would think it a sin to ask her for it, as his prayer would not proceed from faith. Christ alone was the all-sufficient Mediator, and the invocation of other mediators must offend him.
The Alaka became bitter: "You hear that he [41/42] knows neither Mary nor the Saints," and added some words which perverted Isenberg's speech. The latter turned to the assembly and with great dignity repeated the principal points of his address, upon which he offered them the right hand of Christian fellowship on the basis of the Nicene Creed. He concluded with these words: "If, on this basis, you do not allow us to remain, we shall leave the country to serve other nations."
Demetrius, a Greek tailor, now advised that every man ought to be treated according to his own conduct, and not according to his creed, just as Mohammed Ali in Egypt did not trouble anyone on account of his religion. Many Abyssinians approved of this proposal, but the clergy requested the Alaka instantly to excommunicate the Missionaries, which was done at once by forbidding them, as incorrigible heretics, to enter the town and even the mission-house. They protested and appealed to Ubie, but scarcely had they turned their back on the assembly when the priests solemnly pronounced the ban upon them, in which they committed their souls to Satan, their bodies to the hyenas, and their property to the thieves, and excommunicated every one who would come near them. Yet the people forced the priests to retract the excommunication of those who would serve Isenberg.
At first nobody minded this anathema; a great multitude followed them to their tent, and old friends presented them with quantities of provisions. On the following morning Isenberg took a ride to his house, which he found robbed of doors and windows; the graves of his three children had been destroyed by the Alaka, and a little house built on the spot. The friends of the Missionaries tried their utmost to bring about a reconciliation; there were priests in high positions who willingly acknowledged the uselessness of invoking the saints, but who thought the Missionaries might well, for the sake of their good [42/43] cause, follow De Jacobis' example, and externally conform with the Abyssinians. It would be necessary only for the beginning, and all good things developed themselves only by degrees. They could not understand how Isenberg feared to lose the divine blessing if he took such a course. The Alaka at last gave way so far as to allow Isenberg's staying in the country, on this condition, that he should do as Gobat did, who had not imparted any instruction. Isenberg proved without difficulty that Gobat, during his second visit to the country, had been prevented from teaching only by his illness, and showed himself ready to take Gobat for a pattern in every other respect.
Isenberg had now to look out for lodgings where he might stay until Ubi6's decision would be known, and the governor procured them for him in spite of the ban. Mtihleisen returned to Massowah to fetch additional stores of books. Isenberg's time was usefully laid out in conversation with his numerous friends who came to see him. He also wrote a letter to the Abuna, in which he explained that he claimed no other kind of work but that with which the Abuna's friends in. Cairo (i. e., the Missionaries of the Church Missionary Society there) were occupied among the Copts. He sent him a copy of the liturgy of the Anglican Church, that he might get accurate information about her customs; but at the same time urged that he did not intend establishing an English Church in Abyssinia,--on the contrary he would not administer the sacrament to any Abyssinian, but only requested that the Missionaries should be allowed to observe their own form of service in their own house.
Meanwhile De Jacobis had, by magnificent presents from the Pope and the King of Naples, extorted from Ubie the promise that he would give him a church for the use of his own party. There was, of course, a wide distance between the promise and the [43/44] fulfilment, but De Jacobis took advantage of the Prince's good humour by assuring him that there would soon be an end of the Protestant Church in Europe, as already five millions of apostates had returned into the bosom of the Catholic Church. The Alaka became daily more embittered against Isenberg, and, not content with excommunicating his friends, began even to lay heavy fines upon them. No means remained untried to increase Ubié's antipathy against Isenberg. Therefore he ultimately (20th of June) went himself to the monarch, for whom he with difficulty procured a scanty present, and one evening (on the 22nd) requested an audience from his Majesty, through the best Baal Daraba (one whose business it is to introduce visitors) whom he could find amongst Ubié's people. But the latter, being in a drunken state, roared out in a passion that Isenberg should at once go back to Europe. This answer he repeated on the following morning, giving this reason, that Isenberg had on the market place at Adowah blasphemed the Holy Virgin, as a woman had told him who had been present. He would neither allow Isenberg to go to Gondar, nor offer him any protection on his way to Massowah.
Isenberg was occupied with admiring the charming nature of the country, and especially a remarkable church hewn in a granite rock, when he received this unwelcome decision, by which the door of his beloved Abyssinia was for ever shut upon him. He went back to Adowah, and with a sorrowful heart took leave of his friends, of whom two sons of the aged Warkie, who had received a thorough education under Dr. Wilson in Bombay, were the most hopeful. Gaben and Meretsha--these were their names--had now returned to their country with a considerable store of knowledge and full of the best intentions; they were the only people in Adowah who would receive an Amharic Bible from Isenberg's hands. Yet the [44/45] latter looked more with apprehension than hope upon these tender plants, whom no one could expect at once to feel at home in their country, and who, with all sincerity and good nature, were utterly destitute of that Christian inflexibility, without which even foreigners, and how much more natives, soon get into the sinful ways and habits of the country.
Who was to keep up the cause of the Gospel in Abyssinia? This was for the time a complete mystery. Isenberg pronounced the severest judgment upon himself--for who has ever manifested all the love and patience and heavenly mindedness which was unfolded to him in Christ by faith?--and with a broken heart, yet with confidence, committed his cause into God's hand, and departed from Adowah on the 27th of June.
On his back through Set-awe he met with Mühleisen and Krapf, who had each had their peculiar adventures; after mutual consultation they thought the best thing they could do at present was to spread as many books as possible in this N.E. corner of the country. Whilst taken up with this work they quietly waited for the Abuha's answer from Gondar, which soon arrived, but proved as hollow as possible, and from beginning to end only showed the man's utter perplexity. "It is clear," he wrote, "that the Abyssinians have, once for all, no desire to learn; but if the King shall forbid the country to evangelical Missionaries, I shall urge on him to let the Roman Catholics meet with the same fate. I only fear to be thought a friend of the English: perhaps you will succeed in expelling De Jacobis, &c., &c." They decided upon leaving the country, and bade it farewell on the 19th of July, 1843. Krapf went to Aden, with a view to attempt the execution of a long cherished plan, that of establishing a Mission on the coast of East Africa. The two others went in native boats to Jedda and [45/46] Kosseir in a strangely mixed society of pilgrims, and reached Cairo on the firth October, 1843.
Thus an end was put to Mission work in Abyssinia, at least for several years to come. Isenberg had written to the Abuna a long parting letter, in which he tried, for the last time, to speak to his heart, and especially protested against the idea that he should in the slightest way contribute to the expulsion of the Roman Catholic Missionaries, as every other weapon besides the Word of God, the sword of the Spirit, was as illegal as it was ineffectual. Such expostulations were, however, of no effect with the poor Abuna, whom Lejean describes as a miserable specimen of the Coptic clergy, proud and ignorant, stingy and passionate, who traded in slaves; sold sacred vessels to Egyptian merchants, and kept nine mistresses, amongst whom there were two nuns. Yet he brought about that Ubié expelled the Roman Bishop De Jacobis, though the latter was allowed to reside at Halai, on the border of his territory. Krapf met him there twelve years afterwards, when he introduced the Krischona mechanics into Abyssinia. De Jacobis was just fleeing from Theodorus, and the Abuna appeared delighted with this victory, and glad of the evangelical Missionaries whose arrival Krapf announced. But we know that his friendship was a broken reed of which almost more was to be feared than of Theodorus' favour. Notwithstanding this, in comparing the time of Isenberg's final separation from Abyssinia with the present, we cannot suppress the feeling that, in spite of all the tribulations which interrupt the labours of the present as well as the former Missionaries in Abyssinia, the prospects of that nation have undergone, though not a brilliant, yet a considerable change for the better. From the great long-suffering which God bears towards the people, the friends of Missionaries ought likewise to learn patience.
 Nearly two months passed ere Isenberg reached his home. The quarantines at Syra and Trieste gave him ample leisure to digest all his experiences. At last, on the 8th of December, he was re-united with his family at Barmen. "I must confess," he writes at that time, "I am tired of these constant journeyings to and fro, and long to get a place in the mission-field where I may, with my house, serve the Lord and glorify His name, without interruption, if it were his will." And yet you would be much mistaken if you thought that Isenberg had now once for ever turned his back upon the inhospitable country. He continued to remember Abyssinia with the most fervent love; in addresses, in lectures, he frequently recommended it to the interest of Christians in Germany; and by a book which he wrote, he considerably contributed to extend the knowledge of the country. His "Abyssinia and the Evangelical Mission" (Bonn, 1844), kindly prefaced by Dr. Nitzsch, contains the most valuable results of a ten years' labour of love in behalf of this country. It clearly shows how it had grown upon his heart. Full sixteen years after the separation from the land of his first labours, he confessed that the "home sickness" for Abyssinia had not yet left him, that he felt in India like an exile, and seemed never fully to take root there; if he got leave that day he would fly back to Abyssinia; the longer he was separated from it the more lovely and charming the sounds of the Amharic language fell upon his ear and upon his heart. Nor did the Abyssinians quickly forget their faithful friend. When Krapf went back to Adowah in 1855, the inhabitants spoke of Isenberg as "the only man who had been truly interested in their welfare, and who had without fear told the truth to everybody."
Again and again to die to the things which have grown upon one's heart is undoubtedly the appointed lot of most missionaries. Yet few experienced it so [47/48] repeatedly and in such a painful way as Isenberg did. A friend wrote to him after his return from Abysinnia in 1844, "You have always been to me the picture of a missionary truly called by the Lord, and yet you cannot find the sphere in which you might effect some palpable results. Another, perhaps, goes out with ten times more scanty equipment, but the Lord crowns his work, and gives him, in one place, labour sufficient for his whole lifetime." For such a sphere Isenberg was now longing. At the same time the Church Missionary Society was resolving to devote its services more exclusively to heathen nations. He therefore received with joy the instructions of the Committee to proceed to Bombay.
After a lengthened stay at Barmen, where the children fell from one illness into another, just as if they would not suffer their parents to go, Isenberg prepared to leave the fatherland and to go to India. He found a dear friend at Altwied (near Neuwied, on the Rhine), to whom he could with fullest confidence entrust his two elder children; and then parted from them on the 2nd August, 1844. Only little Mary, not quite two years old, was to accompany her parents; but her suddenly falling ill caused an unwelcome detention in Egypt, in consequence of which the expecting mother was overtaken by the dreaded hour in the harbour of Aden (31st October). They were obliged to leave the steamer. It was a gloomy time that month of November, which the much-tried parents had to spend on that burning rock amongst strangers. Their souls were much refreshed and supported by [48/49] missionary friends passing through, particularly the Weitbrechts, who were returning to Bengal. But within three days the dear children died; first little Mary, quite exhausted by sufferings, and after her their newborn daughter. How soothing was to them at that season the sympathy of those true Christian friends who received the missionary family into their house, and nursed them with such devotedness that they afterwards required a change for their own health's sake. They were able to continue their voyage to Bombay on the 2nd of December; this time in the society of a party of Basle missionaries, who were on their way to Mangalore; and on the 14th of December, they landed in the great city. Isenberg had first to seek lodgings for himself, but even then already assisted his fellowcountrymen in finding their quarters for the short time of their stay. During the whole time of his activity in Bombay, Isenberg made this his special task, which was sometimes not easy, and executed it with the greatest kindness and self-denial. Particularly the Basle Missionaries, those who-came out for the first time as well as those who returned home sick, thenceforth enjoyed a safe shelter during their sometimes lengthened stay in that expensive Bombay. Isenberg knew the heart of the Missionary abroad, and invited every one to his house who belonged to the mission; as he wrote in his first letter to Basle: "the more, the better."
And now he began to make himself acquainted with his new field of labour; for, even before the Society had permanently appointed him to Bombay, he had convinced himself that, on Mrs. Isenberg's account, he would do better not to expose himself again to the hazards which would threaten a mission amongst the Galla, or anywhere on the coast of East Africa. Krapf had already buried there his heroic helpmate, and was himself still in search of a fixed station. But Isenberg felt it his duty now to throw himself with [49/50] his whole soul into a definite work. The Bombay mission required a powerful help. The Rev. Mr. Mellon had lost his wife during the previous rainy season, and was himself so prostrated by sickness that his senior fellow labourer, G. Valentine, had to place him on the mail steamer for England. But the latter, on the fifth day of her voyage, was driven back into the harbour, and when Mellon landed he found the Mission House empty. Valentine had been swept away by the cholera. After a few days Mellon left again and the Mission was desolate.
Isenberg undertook the new task with a deep feeling of his insufficiency. It was quite to his mind when a friend, Sister Barnstein, wrote in those days to Mrs. Isenberg from Borneo, in congratulating her on the change of station; "What different ideas we had formerly at home about Mission work! how little can we accomplish on the whole!" Isenberg, too, had learnt to think less and less of his individual powers. But there was one circumstance which encouraged him. In spite of the wide-spread worldliness of busy Bombay, a good beginning had been made in the spread of God's kingdom in that town.
"It is particularly gratifying that there is so much unity of the Spirit among the friends of God's kingdom in this town, and that the different missions here never come into collision, but endeavour to preserve the consciousness of their higher union. When the Missionaries of the Free Church of Scotland celebrate their anniversary in the American chapel, those connected with other societies take part in it, and a liberal churchman declared on such an occasion concerning his churchmanship, 'I belong to the same army to which you belong, only to another regiment.'" This was one of the first impressions which struck Isenberg on his new field of labour; he was received warmly and heartily by the brethren of the other societies, as it ever was one of his chief desires, by a close union with all Christians, [50/51] to offer a common front to the much divided heathen. When, therefore, in 1846, the Evangelical Alliance was established, he joyfully entered himself as a member, without waiting to see how the majority of the Anglican clergy would be disposed towards this new attempt at a union of Christians. The kind-hearted Bishop of Bombay, Dr. Carr, shook his head at this step, but was satisfied with Isenberg's ample explanation of his views.
True Christians were to be found in Bombay only since a comparatively short time. In the Anglican Church everything seemed dead. Three chaplains represented the whole activity in Western India. Two of these ministered to the garrisons at Surat and Poonah, whilst the clergyman at Bombay restricted his Sunday work to one service. In 182o the Church Missionary Society's operations were begun by Rev. R. Kenney, a minister of experience, who opened schools, and made translations into Marathi, but after six years was obliged to return home, his wife having returned already in the first year on account of ill health. When he had left, the work was much injured by the constant change of labourers and unforeseen interruptions, whilst the Scotch Presbyterians rejoiced in men of excellent powers, such as Dr. Stevenson, Dr. J. Wilson, R. Nesbit, the Mitchells, and others, and inspired the native youths with a love for English education. With the help of devoted laymen the Church Mission made a new advance. Officials in high position, as J. Farish (the Governor of Bombay) and R. Money, exerted all their powers in trying to open to the natives the treasures of Christian education, and freely and frankly to confess the name of Jesus. When R. Money died (in 1835) his friends raised a memorial fund, out of which the Money School was established, which the Rev. G. Valentine conducted for six years with great devotedness. After his death it had for six months very scantily been provided for by [51/52] subordinate teachers. Now Isenberg was to conduct it.
This was, for the first, his chief work. On the 1st of May, 1845, he opened the school with 123 boys and young men, mostly Hindu and Mussulman, but also Israelite, Parsi, and Portuguese Christians. They were divided into five classes, but most of the teachers were rather inferior. He had himself to take the two first classes for six hours a day, a task which certainly was not easy to a man of forty, even if he had been able to devote his leisure hours to the preparation for his lessons; for this was indispensable, as the operations of the Scotch Missionaries in their two institutes had considerably raised the standard of English schools, especially in Mathematics and the science of Nature, subjects to which Isenberg had not paid much attention. But the time remaining from his lessons was much divided; for, beside the Money School, there were six Maratha and two Hebrew schools under non-Christian teachers, which were indeed regularly visited by Mr. Sargon. The Gujerati school was in a similar way cared for by a converted Parsi, but still required a wise superintendence. The girls' schools, conducted in the quietest way by Miss White, a modest and most able teacher, could be looked upon with unmingled joy. There were some converts here and there connected with the Church Mission, but how lost were they in the wide city, how much divided by the many languages, how neglected in consequence of the repeated changes of missionaries! And there was nowhere a centre for all these incongruous elements; there was no mission chapel; a regular Marathi sermon was only now introduced, and at first, of course, only held in the school. The number of regular attendants was about 20 on the average. Again Isenberg felt he ought to begin the preaching in the bazaar; but he had not yet sufficiently mastered Marathi. And when he received visits from Arabs [52/53] or Abyssinians, when he had to prepare for baptism a merchant from Muscat, or an Arabic speaking negro, it often seemed as if our friend would have been crushed under the weight of labour. When after a time he had gained a full view of the station, his impression was that it required not merely arranging, but altogether a new beginning. He urgently begged the Committee of his Society for reinforcement, and explained to them that the Money School alone required two European missionaries, if it was meant to meet its object, and in some degree to stand on a par with the excellent institutions of the Free Church and National Church of Scotland, which were each conducted by three or four experienced schoolmen. Isenberg had to rest satisfied that he himself did what he could, and had to carry alone the whole burden; yea, even to take upon him the secretariat of the Auxiliary Committee, which by his exertions had been newly formed, until, after three arduous years, Mr. Jerrom was sent out to take charge of the Robert Money School.
Then Isenberg's time began to be filled up in a more fruitful and satisfactory manner. He had, it was true, already baptized some Hindus: the 1st January, 1847, was the happy day when he was permitted to receive the first heathens into the Church of Christ. But when (December, 1847,) Jerrom took the heavy burden of daily schoolwork from his shoulders, another door of usefulness seemed to open at the same time, which filled his heart with joyful anticipations. The steamer "Zenobia" had in October taken from Arab slave-vessels in the Persian gulf a number of young Africans, 43 girls and 12 boys from the Galla and Swahiel countries, from Guragut, Fimshero, etc., whose arrival caused a complete embarrassment to the authorities in Bombay. Isenberg was called to interrogate them, and found amongst them a great number of Amharic--speaking children. At once he resolved to provide for them, with the help of [53/54] Christian friends, and to give them a regular Christian training. Was it then possible that even in Bombay something could be done for the furtherance of African Missions? Everything seemed to favour the undertaking; but at the last moment Government refused to leave these slaves in the hands of the Missionaries. The form in. which the offer was declined is characteristic--" What will the Arabs think if they hear that the heathen children, instead of becoming Mohammedan, have been made Christian? The next consequence will be that the slave ships, when they see themselves pursued by a cruiser, will throw their cargo into the sea only to prevent such an end"! Thus the few boys were sent to an industrial school, or to the Indian Flotilla boats as cabin-boys; and the girls were distributed in Mahommedan or Hindu families who required servants, and only exceptionally the offers of some Christian families were accepted. But in process of time it happened that most of those young slaves found reception in Christian families, especially with some Germans. Isenberg regarded it as his sacred duty to search them out, to instruct them and prepare them for baptism, and ultimately, as we shall see, he was permitted to prepare the best among them for Missionary service in Africa. Once, in 1849, he took into his house five Abyssinians from Adowa whom, a French captain had persuaded to come with him on his vessel. At last it seemed quite a matter of course that Africans, who could not find their way in the foreign metropolis, should somehow or other come within his reach, and, although instances of favourable results were very isolated, they always were to him an unspeakable delight. Was it not as though the Lord would, after his many trials and disappointments, give him consoling answers to the anxious question, "of what use then were the apparently vain labours of the first ten years?"
He had, meanwhile, so far acquired Marathi, that [54/55] he was able to proclaim in it the wondrous work of redemption. As soon as he could make free use of it, he began to undertake longer Missionary tours. On the first he set out in August, 1848, and travelled in the highlands behind the Ghats, visiting with the word of life not only isolated Missionary stations, but also a great number of heathen villages. At Poonah, the principal military station of the province, he found occasion to create a warm interest in the Church Mission amongst English people. A considerable collection, of Rs. 326, proved to him that his words found a response in their hearts. He visited the three stations of the society, Malligaum, Nasik, and Junir, and was rejoiced to find more fruit than he expected; not only in the congregations gathered from among the heathens, but also in many inquiring Marithi, whom he met on the way and in villages. He was particularly delighted with Astagaun, a little village near Ahmednagar. The Rev. Mr. Farrar, stationed in Nasik, had kept up a school there, and a spirit of inquiry had been roused, in consequence of the conversion of Godaji, a youth of 16. The school, it is true, was dissolved on account of this movement, but gradually fifteen souls had been baptized, who bore great sacrifices for the sake of their new faith. A teacher was sent to them, who for some time worked amongst them to the greatest satisfaction of the Missionaries. Isenberg spent some very pleasant days amongst those simple peasants, who had for some time been neglected, but showed a great love for the truth as it is in Jesus. Men and women were equally ignorant, and equally desirous for instruction. In every house they conversed about the Gospel. The Missionary felt how easily everything would go here, if he could but quietly settle down in the village. He instructed the inquirers for a week, and was able to baptize four of them on the 27th of August, whilst he had intimate communion with those previously baptized; "that was a [55/56] day," he writes, "on which I really felt as a Missionary." On the 3rd of September he administered to all of them the Holy Communion, and parted from the little flock in the sure hope that it would soon increase in numbers and grow in grace and the knowledge of Christ. But not long after, a dead calm came over the work. The candidates for baptism gradually retired. The letters of the young Christians became monotonous, those of the teacher unsatisfactory. The great distance did not allow of regular visits by the Missionary. At last the Christians came forward with grave complaints against their teacher; the unstable man had in his solitude fallen into various sins, and ultimately a woman exercised a sort of charm over him, so that at last he helped her in persecuting even the most faithful disciples. They were scattered and went to the nearest Mission stations. In 1855 Isenberg stood again on the spot which had become so endeared to him. Now it had become void and dreary: there were neither blossoms nor fruits to be seen, only stubbles. Two of the former Christians were still living there, but both apostates. The one had married a heathen and never showed his face. The other, Govinda, complained that his soul was gone and no peace for him to be found. The poor teacher had suddenly been swept away, ere he could seek the way of repentance for himself, much less repair the offence he had given. How often such first joys of a Missionary are turned into the bitterest sufferings I happy is he if he learns to kiss the hand that does not spare him chastisement.
Besides his superintendence of 17 vernacular schools, Isenberg spent most of his time in the instruction of the inquirers and Christians in the town. When Bishop Wilson, on a tour through India, came to Bombay in 1849, the number of native Christians whom Isenberg presented to him had increased to fifty-nine. A little flock, indeed, and no [56/57] one was less blind to its infirmities than Isenberg himself. It had been gathered out of at least seven different nations, and for the greater part consisted not of Marathi and Gujarati, but of Malabar and Tamil Christians, who had come from the South of India, whilst even Africans, Israelites, and Chinese were not wanting. Every one of these had his particular prejudices and weaknesses. A Chinese shoemaker, for instance, had become a really honest Christian; but on a visit Isenberg found that he had allowed a heathen idol to remain in his house, quite in accordance with the charitable views of a Chinaman. It was difficult to convince him that this was improper for a Christian master. Isenberg found work, too, amongst the German residents in Bombay. He became acquainted e.g. with a young Roman Catholic from the Eiffel, who, in God's good providence, was to be led to the knowledge of the Bible and awakened to spiritual life after her coming out to India. Isenberg received her into the Protestant Church; and some years later she was married to a converted Parsi, Hormazji Pestonji, then a Minister of the Scotch Free Church.
As Secretary of the Church Missionary Society, Isenberg felt a great desire to spread an interest in their Missions among larger circles. The most suitable means for this end seemed to him the editing of a monthly periodical, which during four years (1848-51) made its appearance under the name of The "Bombay Record." Isenberg was in many points better fitted for such a task than many a writer of Indian periodicals; for he carried on an extensive correspondence, especially with England and the three spheres of his German life, Barmen, Basle, and Berlin. But he kept up a lively intercourse likewise with East Africa and the Cape, as well as with Missionaries in India, Borneo, and China. It seemed to him as if the English friends of Missionary work took too little notice of [57/58] German Missions; and therefore he presented in his paper also their results of their labours to the Anglo-Indian public; and friends who had finished their day's work in India, and were now residing in Great Britain or the Colonies, took a great interest in the spread of the "Bombay Record." In whatever way he was able to serve the German Missions, by publishing extracts from and recommending their Annual Reports, by opening subscriptions in special cases of need, by the transmission of contributions, etc., he did it all in the most self-forgetting manner. It affords much pleasure to peruse his correspondence, of which of course only small fragments appeared in his "Records." The spirit which pervades the correspondence between him and his Committee reflects great honour upon both parties. Full of confidence in his experience and wisdom, they entrusted him with carrying out many difficult transactions.
Gradually the quantity of labour had outgrown his strength. By habitual moderation in his way of living, and by composure of mind, he had hitherto, to a remarkable degree, resisted the influence of the climate; but towards the end of 1851, it became clear that he was no longer able to do his work as usual. He therefore gave up the secretariat, and the editing of his periodical, and tried to recruit his health, in the first instance, by a voyage down the coast to Mangalore. He was much pleased by partaking of the Christmas joys of the Mission Schools, and refreshed by the progress of the labours of his fellow country men among the Tulu people, in which he took much interest. He thought that a journey into the interior would completely restore his health. But it affected it so much that he was obliged to retire to the cool heights of Mahabaleshwar, and ultimately to return to Europe before the rains set in. On the 3rd of May, 1852, he embarked for Suez with Mrs. Isenberg and the four children born to him in India, and went, via Trieste, and Basle, to his [58/59] home in the Rhineland, where he intended to spend the time allotted to him for recruiting his strength. In his native town, Barmen, he missed one beloved face, that of his dear mother, who had gone home to the Lord two years previously (in August, 1850). In the same place he became so ill, soon after his arrival, that for some time his end seemed near at hand. But the Lord graciously restored him; he joined his family at Düsseldorf, and devoted himself especially to his children, of whom the two eldest had been separated from their parents for nearly eight years.
As soon as he had somewhat recovered, he found sufficient opportunity for labouring in behalf of God's kingdom in his home. And he was not arbitrary in the choice of his work, but faithfully and wisely performed whatever his hand found to do. He awakened a deep interest for the Mission, by holding meetings and establishing associations, and drawing things new and old from the rich stores of his experience. When the British and Foreign Bible Society made an appeal to raise funds for a million of Chinese Bibles to be spread in the Celestial Empire, it found a hearty response in Isenberg's soul; he went from house to house, and pleaded with unflinching patience in behalf of China's sons. Young Men's Christian Associations, and the various agencies for Home Missions, found in him a true friend, and were much benefited by his advice and active co-operation. He stood in close connection with many of the English residing in the Rhineland, and with some kept up an intimate spiritual intercourse; and be frequently preached in their places of worship. When the indefatigable Spittler planned a renewal of the Mission in Abyssinia by lay brethren, mechanics, to be sent out under the auspices of Bishop Gobat, Isenberg not only assisted him by his counsel, but also spent several months in 1853 in Riehen, near Basle, and instructed some of the Chrischona [59/60] brethren in the Amharic language. But in 1854, his health being considerably strengthened, he felt it his duty again to return to hrs Missionary work in India. He committed his children to the care of friends at Kornthal, near Stuttgart, where he knew that they were bodily and spiritually well provided for, and parted from them on the and November, 1854, little anticipating that, ten years later, his weary body should there be laid down to rest.
VIII.--AGAIN IN BOMBAY.
On December 10th, 1854, Isenberg reached Bombay again, and prepared for a new warfare. Near the Babullah tank, surrounded by a chiefly Mohammedan population, he rented a small house suited for the household of an elderly couple, resolved henceforth to narrow his sphere of activity, and, as much as possible, to concentrate his strength on one work only, but to do that fully and thoroughly. This work was the preaching to the heathens. The Committee readily met his wishes by taking from him the pastoral care of the congregation and the superintendence of the Schools. He could, of course, not entirely avoid other duties, such as unavoidably fall upon a Missionary in the presidency town. He was now, as he had been before, the agent of many brethren, especially of the Basle Mission, and served them by undertaking commissions with merchants and captains of steamers, at the Custom House and in Government offices; and his narrow house was made to expand like india-rubber, whenever there was occasion for the exercise of Eastern hospitality. Neither did he withdraw from the intercourse with the brethren of the station belonging to other [60/61] denominations. Of the Missionary conferences, held on the first Monday of each month in the different Mission-houses by turns, he was one of the most faithful members, always intent upon and able to allay differences, and to keep up a unison of sentiment. He still remained a member of various Committees of the Bible and Tract Societies, and assisted by translating and revising tracts to be printed in different languages. Thus, he had a translation from Persian into Arabic of Pfander's chief work, the "Mizan ul haqq" prepared by a Mohammedan Munshi, which was to be revised by the Missionaries in Egypt or Syria. But his chief work was the preaching of the Word. He took the stated Marathi service in Trinity Church; which his friend G. Candy willingly opened to him for his use. On Sunday afternoons he devoted himself to Young Bombay, viz., his former pupils, who regularly gathered round him. An Arabic service, too, was established, and continued as long as there were hearers. Wherever there was an opportunity for assembling larger audiences he faithfully improved it. Dr. Wilson preached on Sundays in the hospital founded by the rich Parsi, Sir Jamsetji Jejibhoy. Isenberg undertook to go there on Wednesdays, and addressed from 40 to 100 hearers from among the 400 inmates. Youthful criminals, for whom an Industrial School exists in Bombay, were glad to be helped on by him in reading and writing, and at the end of each lesson were pleased to hear a kind address. He brought the glad tidings into schools and streets, now to crowds, now to individuals. Miss White succeeded in getting her schoolmasters and friends together once a week on such occasions. "Almost Christians" of all colours attended to hear the Gospel from Isenberg's lips. A Jewess of Bagdad, Sumaha, was gained for Christ by Miss White's instrumentality, and Isenberg baptised her, with her two children on July 29th, 1835. The eldest son had been enticed [61/62] away from his mother by the ever-watchful Israelites, who had, by a splendid match, so well provided for him that he was quite inaccessible.
From time to time, Isenberg felt the necessity of turning his back upon the bustle of Bombay, and of making longer tours, in order to become better acquainted with the pure Marathi population of the Deccan. He set out on one of these journeys on the 4th December, 1855, accompanied by Mrs. Isenberg. His habit was to travel in a common bullock-cart, and to halt under a group of trees near a village, where he took up a quiet conversation with other travellers and country-people who came near him. Then he sometimes went through the village, and talked to tradesmen in their shops, and assembled larger or smaller groups in the bazaar, to whom he proclaimed the Gospel, wherever possible without dispute. He did not altogether evade discussions, but always took care to keep within the limits of Christian moderation, and preferred breaking off with a friendly joke, or an impressive appeal to their consciences, rather than allowing himself to get excited. He hardly ever gave away any tracts gratuitously.
Sometimes it was long after nightfall when he returned to his cart, in which he slept till daybreak, to continue his journey on the early morning. Often he went long distances on foot, when he happened to meet with a companion, as a Fakir from Hyderabad, who related his life to him, or someone who was on a pilgrimage to a celebrated temple. Here and there he met missionaries and other fellow-labourers in Junir and Nasik; at the latter place, he attended a large Missionary Conference (26-28th December), in which many important questions were raised and freely discussed. The Rev. Mr. Price had in the previous year founded a Christian Colony, Sharanpur, i.e., place of refuge, between the Godavery River and the Western Ghats: and the lights [62/63] and shades of such an undertaking were thoroughly considered. They all agreed in this, that such attempts of forming Christian congregations were to be regarded only as exceptional, at times desirable and even necessary: but, wherever the converts were able to keep their position amongst their heathen brethren without detriment to their faith, a change of residence or position was undesirable. There were four Germans, three English, and three ordained native brethren taking part in these interesting consultations. One of the latter, Appaji, accompanied Isenberg across the British frontier to Aurungabad in the Nizam's territory, where a spirit of enquiry was just being awakened in several villages. Attentive country-people from the poorest classes gathered here and there under gigantic banyan and mango trees to hear the new message, and several of those previously awakened were baptized by Isenberg.
It was about that time, as far as we can gather, that a rider on a light Maratha pony passed Isenberg and the group surrounding him. He alighted, tied his pony to a tree, and joined the listeners. The preacher was just proclaiming a "new way," whilst he was already trying the fifth. In order to get more light on the subject, he afterwards had a long talk with the Missionary, who gave him a New Testament before they parted. Then he mounted his steed and rode on. But, after several months, he found his way to Nasik, where he received Baptismal instruction and was received into the Church of Christ. He was only a Mang of little education, and yet an important link in the chain of ministering Christians which is gradually being extended around the population of India. Being a man of an active mind, he soon showed himself qualified for a Bible-reader, as which he was employed by a pious captain. And when this post was given up he returned to his home in Aurungabad, again bought a pony, and rode from village to village to call the Mangs together, and to [63/64] read or narrate to them the Gospel history. For this they gave him money or provisions, and when Isenberg's son-in-law; the Rev. A. Davidson, followed the simple-hearted man on his wanderings, the Mangs asked, in several places, for instruction, and 50 of them could be baptized at once. Whilst they had formerly been vagabonds, drummers in the service of idols and demons, they now took great trouble to become honest farmers, and to learn to read their Bibles. Isenberg took no direct part in this work, but, as long as he lived, he thankfully looked upon this man as a precious fruit of his preaching-tour, which indemnified him for many hardships and disappointments.
At Jalnah, a military station, Isenberg found a kind reception, especially with Christian officers. The Chaplain was a man who took great interest in the Natives; he had gathered round him a little flock of 17 souls. To many persons such little beginnings would hardly appear worth speaking of; but with what delight do these insignificant cases fill the heart of the Missionary when he quite unexpectedly discovers them in the wild waste of nations through which he wanders with the word of patience and of hope!
Ahmednagar, too, was visited this time. There they were privileged to see not merely a small nucleus of a Church, but the richest harvest of the Maratha Mission reaped by American brethren. As the districts of the two Societies were in some parts running into each other, Isenberg thought it advisable to come with them to an understanding about the mutual limits of their labours. He saw there much that rejoiced his heart. The Maratha congregation, to which he preached once or twice, possessed already two churches in the town. Christians were to be found in more than no of the surrounding villages. One of their pastors, Appaji's father-in-law, Haripunt, in whose thriving family our two travellers spent a pleasant time, being a Brahmin by [64/65] birth, and at the same time a thorough and genuine Christian, appeared to Isenberg as an embodied prophecy of the civilized Christian society of India's future. Christians as well as heathens were still full of the impressions they had received from a recent visit of Nehemiah Nilkanth, the well-known Marathi Brahmin and Shastri, whose unaffected eloquence they considered even more powerful than the addresses they had heard from the mouth of the celebrated Dr. Duff. Even the heathens were proud that they could call this scholar their own.
Coming from Astagaun, where they had endeavoured to infuse new life into the fallen members of the scattered flock, our travellers were much cheered by the hearty welcome they received in the American Mission at Tiroor. When Appaji asked Mr. Bissel, the Missionary of that station, what he considered the limits of his district in the direction of Junir, he replied with a smile: "I know of no limits, and trust that nobody will make any."
On the 7th of February Isenberg returned to Bombay by way of Poonah, full of the heart-cheering conviction that the proclaiming of God's Word was everywhere' beginning to make impression, and that the spirit of the people was gradually being roused out of its indolence and apathy. All sorts of new views were being introduced from every quarter; one man had even asked Isenberg about that new religion resembling Islamism, which made its way in America, and was destined to conquer the world (Mormonism). On reviewing the manifold incidents of his journey, he found it very remarkable how the orthodox Brahmins were supported by "Young Bombay" in their opposition to the Gospel, although, true enough, not without a wholesome reaction. Youths educated in English Schools, and now occupying honourable positions in towns and villages, brought new life into religious controversy. The majority of them were opposing Christianity, not in [65/66] a bigoted manner, but so as to betray the hard struggle that had been excited in their hearts by the great quest after Truth. Some appeared undecided and wavering, but not a small number gave every reason for great hopes, and amongst these some of the best native society--as a certain deputy-collector. Quite lately two of these deists had, after a thorough investigation of the religious controversy, become Christians.
Similar progressive movements were going on in Bombay. Missionaries delivered addresses in English on the freedom of conscience and other highly important subjects, at which many educated Hindoos were present. On the other hand the son of the merchant prince, Sir Jamasetji Jejibhoy, delivered a speech on the "duties of man," which was listened to by about 2000 hearers. It was indeed a good sign that now at last even the Parsi began to moralize. As a less pleasing feature of the time Isenberg regarded the introduction of social refinements amongst the better classes of Parsi and Hindi, of whom many renounced their caste, drank tea with Europeans, etc. Amongst the Mahommedans like wise inquiry, as well as hostility, had been stirred up by a pamphlet of one of their former co-religionists, Abdullah; with some of them Isenberg came into unpleasant contact, which made him feel more than ever that much wisdom was needed to avoid being carried away by an over-great zeal for India's progress.
This was evident from other facts too, e.g., when a Government official took part, in a private capacity, in the solemn ceremony of laying the foundation of the present Robert Money School in November, 1835. This step had been marked by suspicious native observers as a relinquishment of the neutral policy of Government. On many other occasions Isenberg heard discontented remarks against Government. Already the forerunners of the Mutiny appeared. [66/67] Thirty thousand wild Santals had poured from their mountains down into the Bengal plain to defend themselves against their oppressors, the traders; but troops were wanting to put a stop to their devastations; At the same time that bloody fight about an old temple in Faizabad broke out between Hindu and Mahommedans. And in Behar and other places loud murmurings were heard about an innovation in the interest of 'national education, to the effect that in future nobody who was unable to read and write could hope for an appointment in Government Service. Venomous tongues spread everywhere the report of a great revolution which would break out in the tooth year of the Company's rule. Some talked about it as though it had outlived itself; others muttered that in a short time Christianity would be universally enforced by Government. At Calcutta a certain Mr. Edwards, not a Missionary, issued a pamphlet in which he called upon everyone to turn to Christ while it was yet time, and without thinking of the consequences, sent it to many Mohammedan officers. This of course created great animosity; some conjectured that Government had chosen this method to sound their feelings, and they already consulted how such an intimation should be met by force of arms, whilst others held a meeting at Dacca, at which they resolved, if a change of religion should really be enjoined by Government, to regard it as their appointed lot and patiently to submit to baptism. The ensuing proclamation, by which Government thought it advisable to allay the general irritation, was of course interpreted as a sign of weakness. Isenberg followed attentively these and many similar omens of the threatening storm. He lamented the immense distance which, I fear, will always exist between a Government with European organisation and their oriental subjects, and considered it as a special task of the Missionary in every way to contribute to the mutual understanding between the [67/68] governing and the governed race. But by no considerations he suffered himself to be hindered in the bold preaching of the Word; on the contrary, he found more and more delight and encouragement in this work.
In. December, 1856, when the railroad across the Ghats was in course of construction, he felt inclined on Sundays to preach the Gospel to the thousands of natives who settled at Khandalla. He therefore gave the ministry of the native Church into Daji's hands, and thenceforth at the close of each week visited the twenty English residents at Khandalla to celebrate with them the day of the Lord, and to get access to their working-people. He regularly preached at the hospital as well as in the police-office, where he received much encouragement from the genial superintendent of police. Once he endeavoured to prepare four hard-hearted prisoners for their death, who had killed a woman on account of her jewels, but only one of them showed that the Word had made deeper impressions upon him. He also took part with great interest in the public discussions which the Rev. G. Bowen held on the sea shore with the Bawa, the celebrated champion of Hinduism.
We find Isenberg in connection with all sorts of people, with demoralized Europeans, with crafty adventurers, as well as serious inquirers and candidates for baptism from Bengal, Bassorah, and Kabul, East Africans, Poles, Hungarians, and Jews. An especial source of pleasure was to him the baptism of the Israelite, J. David Philipowsky, which took place in the month of the Mutiny (7th May, 1857). Another time he was permitted to baptize a Malagasi. Then, again, he had to instruct a simple-minded boatman, who had by chance eaten pork, and therefore was told that he could no longer remain a Mussulman; and another time, with an Arabian Munshi, to enter into the most circumstantial inquiries about Pfander's writings. His [68/69] landlady, a Mahommedan woman, one day asked for instruction in the Scriptures, as her faith was not sufficient to her; and another time, from heathenish superstition, forbade his groom the use of the well in the compound, because he belonged to the Mahar caste, and well nigh drove the Missionary himself out of her house. Such varied contacts with those around him taught him more and more patiently to sow in hope, and wisely to wait for opportunities. The charge of the native Church, too, was again given into his hands. It would carry us too far if we were to describe how he went after the weak members of the Church, in order to know each one thoroughly, and to advise them according to their need; and how he endeavoured to increase their Bible knowledge by catechetical instruction. His maxim was to suppose in these babes in Christ the slightest possible amount of knowledge, and not to overtask any one, but, if necessary, earnestly to reprove individuals according to their degree of enlightenment. The "innumerable temptations" of a city like Bombay extorted from him many a sigh.
The great Mutiny penetrated even into parts of the presidency of Bombay, but the city was by God's mercy preserved, although there, too, secret machinations of the Mahommedans were discovered. One sad incident affected Isenberg deeply. His old and faithful friend, General Lester, was one morning found dead in his bed, after the Mutiny had been subdued. Isenberg had the joy of welcoming his eldest daughter, Peregrina, on Indian ground; and, ere a year had passed away, one of his fellow-labourers chose her as his companion for life. On the 9th of November, 1858, she was at Sharanpur joined in holy matrimony to the Rev. A. Davidson, who had taken charge of the little village congregations which were being formed in the east of the Presidency. The little colony at Sharanpur had considerably increased and improved since Isenberg had last seen [68/69] it. On the day after the marriage, the anniversary of its foundation was celebrated by social and gymnastic games of the Christian children, in the presence of many English friends; and two days later, the well-known proclamation of the queen was read at Nasik, which declared the dissolution of the Company's rule. The native Christians took part in the ceremony by marching to the place of assembly with an English flag, and arranging themselves near the Europeans.
Many interesting incidents might be mentioned in connection with a longer tour in the highlands, which Isenberg made (from Oct., 1858, to Jan., 1859,) after this visit to Sharanpur; but we must hasten to the conclusion of his labours in the metropolis of Western India. He had begun again to give some instruction to the young men in the Robert Money School; the subjects of his last lectures were the Gospel history and Christian ethics. He had the great pleasure of baptizing on the 11th of March, 1859, one of these hopeful pupils, Dhonde. It was humiliating to him to confess that this was only the third visible fruit of that institution after an existence of nearly 20 years. Sorabji, Balkrishna, Dhondoo: these three only how little appears the harvest to answer the long and toilsome work of sowing! This relative unfruitfulness of the higher schools called forth further reflections. The American Missionaries in Bombay had, in 1854, been induced to establish an institution similar to those of their Anglican and Scotch brethren; but in 1855 a deputation of their Society found it advisable to close it again. Instruction in English, in the first instance, seemed hardly suitable to make a deeper impression upon the hearts of the pupils; and then the keeping up of such an establishment required disproportionate means. A Government which directs its attention to the civilization of its subjects an better afford them than a Missionary Society. Isenberg therefore came to the conclusion that if [70/71] the Money School had not already been founded and its existence secured by funds, the sum spent upon it might easily be laid out in a better way.
More satisfactory was the retrospect upon the growth of the Native Church. On his 53rd birthday, in September 1858, Isenberg celebrated the Holy Communion with 6g communicants, and counted a total of 186 members of the Church. Amongst these the Tamil people was represented by above 50 persons, amongst whom David Raguntha, an able Catechist from the South of India, had been labouring since 1857. There was a good number of Africans too. Alone, in July 1855, thirteen African boys had been baptized. In April, 1860, Isenberg baptized a negro who had a situation on the railway, and in August a number of Galla and Swahili girls, with the former of whom he conversed in Amharic, and quite electrified them by some Galla words. Those dear girls often spoke about Africa with the greatest affection. However much they had suffered in that country from the slave dealers, they constantly longed to go back, Gospel in hand, if it should please the Lord to open a door for them. When the Rev. W. S. Price, the founder of Sharanpur, was obliged by ill-health to leave India, Isenberg took upon him the care of this Christian colony, and received into it all the African boys of the Bombay Mission, whilst the girls remained in Bombay for some time longer.
Ere we accompany Isenberg to this, his last station, we must mention an interesting incident which occupied him in 1859. A former inspector of the opium manufactory in Malwa had decided upon making over a capital of 5000 Rupees to the China Missions, and accordingly transmitted this sum to our friend, Isenberg, to distribute in the way he thought best. This was to Isenberg a welcome opportunity of rendering, by this gift, a service to the three Missionary Societies with which he was most intimately connected, and he therefore distributed it among the stations [71/72] which the Anglican, the Basle and the Rhenish Missionary Societies had founded in China. In a similar manner he thought it his duty to give palpable proof of his sympathy to the brethren of the last named mission, who had been so sorely tried by the horrible massacre in Borneo in May, 1859. He at once circulated a petition, in which he explained to his English friends that the outrage on that island was only a continuation of the same Mohammedan reaction against Christianity from which the Indian Mutiny had drawn its chief strength; and he succeeded in creating such an interest that he was enabled repeatedly to send considerable sums (nearly 2000 rupees) to his dear Brother Barnstein in Banyermassing. Isenberg ever felt deeply that where one member suffers the others suffer with it, and, whenever he could, gave an active expression to this feeling; and therefore always received a corresponding share of others' joys. Although he could count but few fruits of his many years' toil in Bombay, he was withal abundantly comforted and protected against any discouragement by all the victories of the Gospel near and far, for which he had helped to pray, and for which he had helped to praise.
IX. AT SHARANPUR.
On the 8th November, 1860, Isenberg left the capital, to spread his last strength in a narrower circle. Not in Nasik, the proud mother of Brahmins, but in the little Christian village of Sharanpur he was to take up his abode. He was pleased with the change already for this reason, that here the work was more compensating; for in that one year alone up to that time 107 souls had been baptized. He [72/73] felt, indeed, even then that the station, on account of this very increase, required younger and fresher powers for its management; but, notwithstanding, briskly set to work. As the members of the Church were here living together, close round the mission house, his task was in this respect made more easy than in Bombay, where he had had to ride long distances to find out and regularly to visit the scattered members of his flock.
The orphanage, containing 51 children, required a constant supervision. There were, for instance, girls who had been stolen from different quarters by ropedancers. The cruel treatment they received induced one of them to complain at the police office, in consequence of which the other two were set at liberty; but the poor children were no better provided for than hitherto, till at last a Christian officer took pity upon them and sent them to Sharanpur. But what a wild set of vagabonds were these children! Horrible words of abuse, violent quarrels, escapes by night, and other such things were of constant occurrence. Some had lived like brutes; and a large scar on the neck of one of them betrayed that she had once been devoted to death. There was abundant work for the new mother, who now devoted herself to the care of these little ones, and thus found a compensation for the want of her own children, from whom she was separated. In addition to these were the 29 African boys, representing eleven nations, mostly Galla and Yao tribes. Hitherto Government had provided for them in Bombay; now they were given into Isenberg's charge, in order to be trained as mechanics in an industrial school. The older boys were learning the trades of smiths, carpenters, sailors, shoemakers, painters, whilst the younger ones, for whom Government continued to pay certain sums, received a careful elementary instruction. Special care was taken lest they should forget their own. language, in order that they might one day teach [73/74] their brethren in East Africa what they themselves had learned, if God would give them willingness and grace for such a work. The sounds of the Galla, Swahili, and Yao were constantly heard while they were at their work. After some time it was thought advisable to transfer the African girls of Bombay likewise into this quiet country recess.
The Christian village consisted of 30 houses, with 125 inhabitants; the voice of prayer and praise was there heard already in the early morning; during the day every one went about his business, and the work of these Christians was as different as their former castes. There were people living together who had been Brahmin, Dongar, Kumbi, Mahar, and Mang; Parsi and Mahommedan, Telinga, Rajput, and Portuguese. Although caste was abolished, one can imagine how difficult it was to keep men of such different nationalities and grades of society at peace with each other, but this difficulty was considerably increased by the discovery, which he soon made, that his subordinate native agents did not deserve his confidence. Several of them he was obliged to dismiss, and amongst them a catechist, who had been in the service of the Mission already for fourteen years, and who had mixed himself up with intrigues in order to ruin another agent of the mission. An influential Parsi, who had for a long time been persecuted by his family, became an apostate from Christianity. Thus the beginning of Isenberg's labours in that station was in every respect very difficult, and cost him many a hard struggle. Yet many showed themselves grateful for the advice and guidance which they received from him, and his regular instructions amongst the adults, as well as, and particularly, amongst the young, showed pleasing results. The orphans, for example, and the Africans too, as soon as they heard that everybody was able to do something for the Mission, resolved every week to sacrifice a dinner, [74/75] which enabled them to give about five rupees a month for the spread of the Gospel. Some girls even set to grinding corn in leisure hours, in order to be enabled to make over their earnings to the Mission.
The industrial school was especially raised by a visit of the superintendent of a weaving establishment at Mangalore, whom the Basle brethren sent in 1861 to spend some months at Sharanpur, in order to set the new enterprise agoing, until a weaver whom he had brought with him should be able to conduct it alone.' When Isenberg took charge of the school, the institution was considerably in debt; therefore he was anxious to introduce remunerative trades, and he succeeded so well in this that after a few years the debts were paid off and the institution became self-supporting. The Basle brethren, after having so long enjoyed the services of their faithful friend, were glad of being able to show themselves grateful.
Isenberg found particular delight in the weekly services at two neighbouring villages--Wadala, about four miles distant, where the Ramusi and Mahar manifested a really earnest desire for Christianity even after the Brahmin Tahsildar had endeavoured by threats and acts of violence to lead them back, and Pathaydi, where the progress was slower.
When, in January, 1863, he took a retrospect of his activity, he openly confessed that hitherto his work had consisted almost more in purifying than in increasing the little flock. Instead of 78 communicants he now counted only 37, as many of the older Christians, who were dissatisfied with Isenberg's severe discipline, had left the place and gone to other stations. Yet there was no want of hopeful candidates for baptism. One Mohammedan youth especially had endeared himself to him; who, to escape his father's cruel treatment, had become a sailor. He had been at Suez, Ceylon, and Hongkong, but God's Word had followed him everywhere, [75/76] until he ultimately found a refuge at Sharanpur. God's spirit was stirring also among the African youths. Their eventful lives lead us into the interior of East Africa. By war, famine, and man stealers the families had been driven out of their dwellings and scattered about; the orphans had been caught to be sold to merchants or at auctions at Zanzibar, Kilwa, Mascat, and other places; now and then it happened, whilst bathing or playing near the sea shore, that a cruiser got sight of the slaves and delivered them, or that some attentive guard of a British Consul, or some cunning sailor set them free. What various adventures they all must have met with, and what may have become of the dozens and hundreds of their unfortunate companions whose lot they once shared! Repeatedly it happened, too, that the father himself, when fallen into poverty, gave his little ones away for salt or a piece of money. The unspeakable misery of Africa could never be forgotten by its children at Sharanpur. They rejoiced that a refuge had been opened to them, and were thankful for the Christian love which had prepared it; they daily prayed for their brethren across the sea, and began to talk of the time when they would be able to return the services which the Missionaries had rendered to their country. And this was the object their leader had in view, and for which he worked with all his power.
Isenberg was, not one of the so-called "great Missionaries;" he never created anything new and startling, and of his successes none was brought about by any ingenious device. But he laid out faithfully the talent entrusted to him. This talent we find particularly in his natural inclination, which he habitually fostered, to unite and keep together what God has joined.
He was a genuine son of the Wupperthal, and yet on intimate terms with the Christian brotherhood of Suabia and Switzerland; he ever remained a true, [76/77] hearty German, and yet easily accustomed himself to the forms of the Anglican Church. Africa was his first field of labour, and he ever remembered it with undiminished affection, even whilst endeavouring to serve India with fullest devotion. He faithfully performed his part in uniting Europe, Asia, and Africa. Whatever he had gained during one phase of his life he never relinquished when entering upon another, but preserved and cultivated it with careful attention. If, therefore, we miss in his character that wedge-like concentration, that heedless advancing upon a given position, by which men of prompt action obtain their greatest results, we find him, on the other hand, free of that one-sided intolerance by which they so often disregard things that in reality are favourable to their interests, and reject proffered help. Yet he endeavoured only to join those things which ought to be united.
X. THE END.
Isenberg's day's work was now well nigh accomplished. On the 12th of December, 1863, he welcomed in Bombay his second daughter, Elizabeth. She came out in the company of the Rev. W. S. Price, who returned to his former sphere of labour with new health and strength. When the boats crowded round the steamer, his daughter did not recognize him until he was shown to her by a Hindu girl, Rachel, who had been in England. He appeared healthy and happy, but his worn countenance betrayed well his long labours in the Indian climate. After a short stay with the Rev. J. G. Deimler, they proceeded together by rail to Nasik, whence a bullock cart brought the expected daughter into the arms of
[77/78] a longing mother. Now the question was whether Isenberg should continue his labours at Sharanpur together with the founder of that colony, or return to Bombay? After some deliberation, he resolved for the time to stay at Sharanpur, and devote himself to preaching to the heathen in the neighbourhood. At Christmas he gave over the Institution to Mr. Price's charge. In the resplendent lustre of the Christmas-tree he made a fatherly address to the children, whose hearts grew heavy at the thought of the painful separation from their beloved teacher; and encouraged them to have full confidence in their new teacher, who was not less interested in their welfare than he himself. What his own heart felt when he gave away those children, amongst whom the Galla had always appeared to him as a particular gift of the Lord in memory of Abyssinia, he did not express. In order to have one more happy day with the little ones, he went with them and his family (29th December) to an open place in the woods, where merry games were succeeded in turn by songs of the children and addresses from Price, Isenberg, and Sorabji, the Catechist. A good many heathens, too, came to be amused by the mirth of the children, and to witness their simple repast; to their hearts also some words of exhortation were addressed. When all had returned to the village, Mr. Price had another enjoyment ready for them in the exhibition of some fireworks.
After New Year's Day, 1864, Isenberg devoted himself chiefly to preaching to the heathen. About three times a week he went out in his bullock cart at three o'clock in the morning, accompanied by a native assistant, to preach the Gospel in the surrounding villages. On Sundays he at times took the morning service for the Maratha congreation, or the evening service for the English who lived at Nasik and near Sharanpur, mostly civilians and railway officials, who were friendly inclined towards the [78/79] Mission, and by considerable contributions showed their gratitude for the spiritual services they received from the missionaries. As the greater part of the African children received English instruction, most of them attended these services. The daily morning prayers were held in turn by the Missionaries, or by Carapit and Mahadhi, two young men who had finished their education in England. Carapit, an Armenian from Isenberg's congregation in Bombay, had accompanied Mr. Price to England, there to be trained as a teacher; Mahadu, a Hindu from Sharanpur, had thoroughly acquainted himself with the carpenter's trade, with a view to benefit the industrial institution by his acquirements. One part of Isenberg's daily work was to instruct his daughter in Marathi, that she might as soon as possible begin to teach the native females.
But Isenberg soon felt the necessity of a little change. He therefore, with his family, set out on a visit to his son-in-law, who had settled with a number of the Aurungabad Christians and inquirers near Buldana, in a cooler mountain district. They went by rail to Mulkapur, and thence in a bullock cart to the foot of the Ghat, and up the steep mountain road into that new Mission field. It was a happy day, that 21st of January, when the parents saw their daughter and sister; the sister again after years of separation. The joy was increased in the evening by the unexpected arrival of a dear fellow-countryman, the Rev. Mr. Schwarz, who was just on a preaching tour, and wished to see Davidson's new undertaking. The veteran, as well as the younger Missionaries, was delighted with the simple peasant who had quite lately resolved to hear the Gospel and to part with his idols. All praised God unanimously, when, on the 1st of February, the foundation was laid of the Christian village, Isapur (Jesus' town), as well as a gathering-place for such Christians as were expelled from their [79/80] home. Isenberg now often preached for his son-in-law, and assisted him by receiving inquirers or advising native Christians. Yet, on the whole, he was much quieter than formerly; he read much, attended to his large correspondence, and continued the Marathi lessons with his daughter. But his heart's delight were his two little grand-daughters, Julia and Fanny, with whom he used to play, or took them on his knees and related to them about the Saviour.
During this six weeks' recreation which he was permitted to enjoy at Buldana, he was much struck to hear of the death of so many old Missionaries. On the 28th of December died, at Hoobly, the Rev. John Muller, the senior of the Basle Missions, and already, on the 2nd of January, 1864, he was followed by the Rev. I. Ammann, the zealous itinerating preacher of the Tulu country. The devoted Krone had on his way back to China, on the 14th of November, been called away at Aden, in that harbour the very name of which awoke sad remembrances; and a month previously (20th October) his intimate friend, the much-tried Barnstein, the senior of the Borneo Missionaries, and of all Europeans in Banyermassing, had also gone to his heavenly home. Isenberg now began to anticipate his own approaching end. He, too, was senior of the Bombay Mission. Near the spleen he felt a tumour of the size of a pigeon's egg, which was evidently increasing. He did not wish to make his family uneasy, and therefore mentioned the matter only to his son-in-law; but he became anxious to return to Nasik.
On the 1st of March they departed. On the way they were detained by the burning down of a cotton waggon on the railway. At Nasik Isenberg began to preach again, but he could no longer conceal from his wife the constantly increasing pains. The mysterious tumour extended so rapidly that it had [80/81] now attained the size of a fist. On the 14th of April he wrote for the last time in his ever-punctually-kept diary: "Sharanpur; received by Europe mail the news of Theodor's death on the 12th ult. at Komthal." An inflammation of the bowels had, after a few days' illness, taken away this, his youngest son. But it was a great comfort to him that he was permitted, with trembling hands, to add these words: "fell asleep happy in the Lord." Two days before had been the day which English Christians had fixed upon for parents especially to remember their children in prayer. He had then prayed much for his children, but most fervently for Theodor, as the youngest, that God would mightily protect him and preserve him from all temptation. That prayer had been heard even before it was pronounced; the father felt it as an answer, yet he was deeply affected by the grief of separation.
After having preached once more to the English congregation of Nasik on the 15th of May (on Rom. xiv., 7) and with great emotion borne his last public witness, he was obliged to seek for medical advice in Bombay. The Deimlers received him (10th May) with their accustomed hospitality. The doctor at once pronounced the tumour incurable, and advised, as a last expedient, a return to Europe. Isenberg would have preferred to finish his course in the Mission field; the rainy season set in, but he was still wavering. In the beginning of July the doctors declared that, even if he did now leave India, he would not reach Europe. This near prospect of death at last induced him to undertake the voyage in the name of God, and to take wife and daughter home. He bade farewell to his daughter Peregrina by letter; "he hoped for certain one day to meet her and all their dear ones in heaven." He never complained, and was very calm; only when friends came to see him with whom he had to converse about the Mission, he soon became warm and [81/82] communicative, but said as little as possible about his state of health.
They left by the steamer on the 24th of July, and as the monsoon was against them, the passage was rather rough. Already the patient's feet began to swell, so that it became impossible to visit the graves of his two little ones at Aden. To the graves of the three first children, too, he could only bid farewell from afar. Isenberg felt somewhat better on his passage through Egypt; he enjoyed very much the conversations which he had with some Arabs in the train in their own language. As the train did not halt very long at Cairo, he was very sorry not to be able to shake hands once more with his old friend Lieder. At Alexandria, too, a delay of only three hours was allowed; how different from the former snail-paced travelling in this land of his earliest labours! There he embarked in the Austrian steamer.
They landed at Trieste on the 18th of August; but there they were obliged to make a pause. Mrs. Isenberg had become so seriously ill, that for a whole fortnight they could not think of continuing their journey, although they were in the most painful uncertainty whether each day of delay might not cut off the opportunity of once more meeting their eldest son. The latter had been ordained in London on the 25th of July, and directed to sail for Bombay on the first of September, in order to labour as a Missionary in that presidency. His parents were unable to communicate with him even by telegraph. When their daughter, Elizabeth, began to grow uneasy about it, Isenberg gently said to her: "Even the hairs on your head are all numbered: do you believe this?" When his feet began already to secrete water, he still went himself to the dispensary to get medicine for his dear wife. He longed to see some Protestant minister or other Christian friends to receive comfort from them, but in the Roman [82/83] Catholic hotel where they stayed he could get no information. He edified himself, therefore, by reading in the "Family Devotions" by Roos, and in Knapp's "Treasury of Spiritual Hymns." He had made the acquaintance of this Christian poet in the time of his first love, and always loved to refresh his soul by his beautiful hymns. He had heard of his decease when he was still in Bombay, and rejoiced soon to follow him.
At last, on the 1st of September, he was able to continue his journey via Vienna. At Augsburg he kept Sunday as he was wont to do, and so it happened that he arrived at Stuttgart just on the 5th of September, his 59th birthday. At one of the last stations a Christian friend from Stuttgart had entered their carriage, who gave them accurate information about everything that had happened in Isenberg's family during the preceding month. He told them their eldest son, Charles, had come from England; and, after a short visit to his brother and sister in Komthal, had formed a matrimonial engagement with the daughter of his old friend, the writer of this memoir; that he had been waiting for his parents for a long time, but at last had been obliged to return to England lest he should lose his passage. Full of mingled feelings, with tears of joy and grief, the parents arrived at the railway station in Stuttgart; but how great was their astonishment when, on leaving the carriage, they were embraced by their son, Charles. He had returned from England with the Church Missionary Society Committee's kind permission to welcome his father, and to nurse him in his illness, ere they would require him to embark for India.
A place of rest had already been prepared for the wearied pilgrims by the hospitable friends of their future daughter-in-law, and he was thus enabled in all tranquility to make himself ready for his departure. The tumour in his bowels now began to increase very rapidly, so that at last it grew to a [83/84] weight of twenty-five pounds, and in a short time consumed all his strength. He was generally lying in his easy chair, quiet, without a word of complaint. It was a great treat to him to see his children again; yet he spoke little except on subjects bearing upon eternity. Many friends, even his earliest fellow-labourers Gobat and Krapf, came and refreshed his soul, as they were, on their part, refreshed by his sure and certain hope; he was specially benefitted by the prayer of the old Basle Missionary, Hebich. Oftentimes he uttered the words of a favourite hymn--
"Now I shall soon have conquered
Through God's Lamb's blood alone,
Which e'en in darkest hour
The greatest vict'ries won."
He also several times sought spiritual strength in the Lord's Supper, which he took with his family. The rich Christian love by which he was now surrounded drew expressions of wonder from his lips: it appeared to him doubly soothing after the drought and solitude of Trieste. Every morning and evening he held the family prayers, and to the very last sang with a powerful voice hymns of prayer and praise; so on the eve of his death the I47th Psalm. When his children were gathered around him, he exhorted them for the last time to give themselves over to the Lord Jesus entirely and undivided, as His property. His own father had asked the Lord before is death, that "not a claw might remain behind of all he had given him," and this was likewise his last prayer. He asked them further to comfort and support their mother in her affliction when she would be bereaved of him; to keep up amongst each other, and with their eldest sister in India, the bonds of brotherly love, and to preserve a grateful memory to their benefactors and friends. Turning to his eldest son he said: "You, Charles, be valiant, for an exceedingly glorious work has been entrusted to you; [84/85] pray day after day for new strength to execute it. I know not how the Lord will guide you, my younger children, but so much I do know, that He has thoughts of peace towards you." And then he gave them his fatherly blessing. On the morning of the 10th, the doctor declared his end was to be expected towards evening. He accepted only a few more visitors, but was mostly alone with his children, to whom he once said very solemnly: "O children, dying is no child's play." After five o'clock they again sang to him the hymn: "Break then, death, my little hut, etc." Then he sighed several times, "O Lord, help!" His partner, thinking he might have to struggle with doubts, said to him: "Your sins are all washed in the blood of Jesus Christ;" to which he replied: "Yes, praised be God!" But again he sighed: "Oh Lord, help! Amen." Then his breath ceased, exactly at six o'clock. His earthly remains were deposited in the cemetery at Komthal, near those of Theodor.
About the same time the most trustworthy of his African pupils sailed from Bombay to Kisulutini to strengthen the African Mission. They were two young men of the Yao tribe, married to Galla girls, and two Yao girls destined to be the wives of Christian Wa-Nika. The Mohammedans at Mombasa were astonished when these Christian Africans landed. Formerly only poor slaves, they now proved themselves as people who knew what they were about; besides their own language, they spoke English and Hindostani. Rebmann was highly rejoiced to receive such valuable help (Jones, a blacksmith, and Semler, a carpenter), as the young people showed themselves at once willing for any work. And for them, too, it was a great joy, as they had been for years corresponding with the solitary Missionary of East Africa. When Rebmann heard these young people sing Christian hymns at their [85/86] family devotions, he wept tears of joy. Other sons of Africa were afterwards sent after them; and Dr. Livingstone took in 1865, nine of those young Africans with him from Africa to Zanzibar, and had great hopes as to the assistance they would be able to give him on his journeys. All these, and a great many others in Bombay and Sharanpur will not forget Isenberg's name. In a brief sketch of his life ("Church Missionary Intelligencer," June, 1865,) it is said of Isenberg: "He succeeded in implanting in the Bombay Mission a deep solicitude for Africa, a sympathy which, we doubt not, will deepen and strengthen now that Bombay has sent back to Africa some of her own sons, whom she had received and instructed in the Gospel of Christ until they were fitted to go back and help in the evangelization of their countrymen. Thus faithful men, having done their work here, the measure of work which their Lord meted out for them, are transferred to their rest; but their memory is blessed."
One of these Christian Yao youths described in his letters from East Africa what deep sorrow filled all Sharanpur when the news of Papa Isenberg's death arrived in that his last sphere of labour. The people would not be comforted, and especially the Africans felt that no one could bear their future welfare on his heart in such a manner as their revered father. But our faithful High-priest is yet a live and looks Himself to His own cause.