Project Canterbury

Forty Years in Burma

By John Ebenezer Marks

London: Hutchinson and Co., 1917.

Chapter XVII. The First Bishop of Rangoon

FOR a few weeks I resumed charge of St. John's College, and then, leaving it under the care of the Rev. J. A. Colbeck and Mr. H. W. Wootton, I took my much-needed second furlough to England via Calcutta. There I dined with Bishop Milman, who gave me a kind letter to his relative, the Marquis of Salisbury, then Minister of State for India. It was my last meeting with the dear good Bishop, whose noble work for God's Church in India was drawing to a close. He was, as ever, exceedingly kind to me, and spoke of his contemplated retirement and of the need for a Bishop for Burma. I never saw him again. He died at Rawal Pindi just before I returned to Calcutta, March 15th, 1876.

I greatly enjoyed my furlough in England, and the deputation work for the S.P.G. Everyone was exceedingly kind to me. I had long and pleasant interviews with Lord Salisbury, and I preached in the Oxford University pulpit, and in many other cathedrals and churches. Archbishop Tait gave me a Bible for our College chapel, Brighton College gave the Service books, Liverpool College the organ, and St. Margaret's, Liverpool, the Altar vessels. I was saddened by the news of the death of the Rev. Charles Warren, the devoted missionary to the Karens. He died of over-work at Toungoo, and his wife soon followed him to the grave. The Rev. T. W. Windley then offered himself, and was accepted, for the work as his successor, remaining at his post till 1882, when illness compelled his retirement, to the deep regret of all who knew his devoted and efficient labours.

I returned to Burma early in 1876, taking with me a student from St. Augustine's, who, however, did not stay long in Burma, but has done useful work in New Zealand.

On my return to Rangoon I found the Mission work greatly extended. I resumed charge of the College and Mission--which under the zealous care of Mr. Colbeck had grown considerably.

Boys flocked into the school, which was soon filled to overflowing, and our chapel was too small for our congregation. Although the Government Secular School had been established as "a rival institution," we could not find room for the many applicants for admission. By the help of Government, Sir Rivers Thompson having succeeded as Chief Commissioner, and that of many other friends, I built a tectum, or covered play-room, eighty feet by forty feet. But before it was half finished I resolved to add ten feet by forty feet, and join it on to our school hall, and to make more dormitories and class-rooms. This we did, and we had a grand opening day at which the Chief Commissioner and all the great people of Rangoon were present. Soon we found the hall inconveniently large, and the chapel far too small. So we shut off the new part, and turned the old hall into a very beautiful chapel, which was duly licensed, and in which we put the handsome font which friends in Buckingham, led by the Rev. C. P. Trevelyan, had given to us. This chapel has now again become very much too small for our native Christian congregation, and we are making great efforts to build a proper church or college chapel on land which the Government has given us, as I have before mentioned.

The Right Reverend Dr. Johnson (whom, as Archdeacon of Chester I had met a few months before in Liverpool), the newly-appointed Metropolitan, very shortly after his arrival in India paid a visit to Burma, examined the College, and held a confirmation in our chapel. He also made new arrangements, some of which I ventured to think were premature though well intended, in the Mission work.

Shortly after his departure we were gladdened by the news that Burma had been created into a separate see, and that a well-known clergyman of the Diocese of Winchester, which had been foremost in aiding the S.P.G. and S.P.C.K. in providing funds for the endowment, had been consecrated as the first Bishop of Rangoon, and was on his way out. It was, indeed, joyful news. Bishop Cotton, in his primary Charge, had urged the necessity for a Bishop of Burma. Bishop Milman, with all his love for the Burmese and the missionaries, had tried in vain to get Madras to take our spiritual oversight, and almost his last words to me were, "Do your best to get a real Bishop for Burma." Whatever fears we may have entertained with regard to the prelate first selected, on account of his age and his previous work, all vanished when he came among us.

Though sixty years of age, Bishop Jonathan Holt Titcomb was full of energy and zeal, a real hard and diligent worker, an excellent administrator, and one of the kindest and most lovable of men. I very soon became his private chaplain, and remained so during the whole of his episcopate in Burma. His house was next door to St. John's College, and he visited us daily. He had a class twice a week of our elder students for Bible study. Whenever we had baptisms of converts he loved to be present. He preached regularly in our chapel, and always had private intercession with our boys before their confirmation.

We had then a large number of Chinese who desired admission into our Church by Holy Baptism. The work amongst them began whilst I was in England, and Mr. Colbeck very earnestly prepared them. I took up the work with them on my return. On most careful inquiry I could discover no base or unworthy motive amongst them. Not only did they not ask for money or other such help, but they regularly subscribed to the chapel, schools and orphanage--all were well-to-do tradesmen or artisans. But we felt it our duty to be cautious, and when we heard of the Bishop's appointment we resolved to await his arrival, and, in accordance with the rubric before the Service for the Baptism of Adults, to seek his lordship's guidance and sanction. Nor was the Bishop less guarded and cautious. He had several private interviews with each individual candidate and frequent services of preparation, all with a thoroughly qualified interpreter.

At length, having fully satisfied himself and us, and the members of our other Christian native congregations, of the sincerity of the candidates, the Bishop publicly baptized over forty Chinamen on Sunday morning, in the presence of a large congregation of all nationalities in the pro-cathedral, the Chief Commissioner and several other high officials being amongst the witnesses. Neither then, nor ever since, by those Chinese Christians, nor by any others whom we missionaries have baptized, has a single case occurred where a convert has asked for pecuniary assistance. On the contrary, they have been our liberal supporters. If the work amongst them so happily begun has not made commensurate progress, the delay must be attributed to lack of missionaries and to other causes of which I may not now speak particularly. We loved our Bishop, and felt that in him we had a zealous colleague, a firm supporter and a kind friend.

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