A Short History of the Reformed Episcopal Churches of Spain and Portugal, from 1868 to the Present Time.
Chapter VI. The First Visitation of Bishop Cabrera.
I KNOW not how I can more fitly close this short summary of Reformation work in Spain and Portugal than by quoting at length the deeply interesting report which Bishop Cabrera has lately furnished of his first visitation tour. Considering that the English is the Bishop's own, it will, I think, be admitted that as a Spaniard he has expressed himself remarkably well in a foreign tongue.
Monistrol.--At the beginning of February, 1895, I went to Monistrol. There on the Feast of the Epiphany (Sunday, the 6th) I had a devotional meeting in the morning and a service in the evening. This service was so well attended that I counted more than too people--in fact, the little church was packed. After the service I held the rite of Confirmation, and confirmed two girls of about fourteen years of age. This was my first episcopal function performed in the Spanish Church. There, on March 2nd, 1884, Lord Plunket held his first Confirmation in Spain, and among the young people confirmed was a son of Estruch, the young man who is with me in Madrid, and there now. Of the two girls confirmed by me one was a daughter of Estruch. This is a godly family, giving always and everywhere a good testimony of their sincere faith and Christian life! Oh that we had many Estruchs in this country! The Ultramontanes, who succeeded in disbanding the little Church of San Vicente, are doing [100/101] now all they can to disperse and trouble the Church of Monistrol, specially since they have learned that we intend to build a chapel there, Our boys' school has been for years a good help for the work. There was only another school in the town, conducted by an ignorant teacher, and so the boys came freely and gladly to our school. Now there are four schools for boys in the town, two of them with very good masters; and consequently very few boys were coming to our school. I found only five boys in attendance. I thought it convenient to close the school, because there was no prospect of increasing the number. My plan is to open a school for girls as soon as we have a good mistress. There is only one girls' school in the town, and we have every reason to believe that many will come to our school--at least, until the Ultramontanes make us a competition by establishing other schools. The late boys' teacher dismissed has gone to the Romish Church, and this has created a little noise in the town, which will soon vanish away. The teacher himself is actually wishing to be received into our Church again. Señor Rial conducts now a nice school for women, and I understand some eight or ten are attending.
Barcelona.--I hastened on to Barcelona, where I stayed for two days, attending in the evenings to the united prayer meetings, that being the week of prayer. I was rather anxious to attend those meetings, because they would give me an opportunity of seeing the numbers of the evangelicals gathered together in Barcelona. Our Spanish movement seems to be well regarded in Barcelona, and, judging by what I heard, our work will probably have a success in that town. I feel convinced that when we have a man fit for the place [101/102] we must commence work in Barcelona. You surely know that it is the second town in Spain, and even in some respects the first. So we ought to take hold of it.
Valencia.--On my return from Barcelona I passed through Valencia, where I stopped for. two days. One of these being a Sunday, I went to a little Baptist chapel, the only Gospel work existent in that town. At the invitation of the evangelist presiding, I addressed the congregation, composed of about thirty persons. I left Valencia on the Monday, accompanied by many friends to the station, and reached Madrid the next Tuesday. The public papers of Valencia, both Liberal and Ultramontane, gave the notice this same day that I had been there for a short visit, adding that I would go again to give some conferencias. God willing, I intend to keep my promise at the first opportunity, for Valencia is the third town in the country, and there is plenty of room for our work there.
Seville.--On February 8th I left Madrid for Seville. On the Sunday we had a morning service in San Basilio, which was followed by the office for Confirmation. Twenty-four persons were confirmedseventeen from San Basilio and seven from the Ascension. In the evening I preached at the Ascension. We had also evening services--Wednesday in San Basilio, and Thursday in the Ascension. I took the preaching in all these services. Although the weather was very wet, raining every day and every hour, we had the churches pretty well filled at all the services. On Tuesday and Wednesday I visited the schools. In San Basilio I counted 144 children present. Many of them were examined by me, and I was quite satisfied with their progress. In the High School, conducted by [102/103] Señor Baquero in his own rooms at the Ascension there were only thirteen pupils present that wet morning; and in Triana School I was told the average of boys was about forty. I was not able to visit Triana on account of the continuous heavy rain. The work in Seville is sound and in good order, especially at San Basilio. But I must make an observation about this building. San Basilio is part of an old fabric, too old and not very safe. Repairs have to be made in it continually, but to no permanent effect. The portion containing the apartment for Señor Palomares is so ruinous, and it is in so imminent danger of falling down, that any day a catastrophe may happen. I give this sound of alarm for the knowledge of the Society, and to free myself of all responsibility. Palomares seems blind to the danger, and in my opinion he trusts too much in Providence! While at Seville I was visited and congratulated by several of my old acquaintances, and for three times small music bands came to honour me with a serenata. The papers wrote in favour of and against my presence and work in Seville, and telegrams went to Madrid daily, and were published by some of the Madrid papers. It was my intention to visit Osuna, but as the meetings there are held in private houses, and my presence would have caused large gatherings, which is against the Spanish law if a permission is not given beforehand by the civil authorities, I felt compelled to abstain from the visit until we have there a permanent hall devoted exclusively to the mission work. The eyes of the Ultramontanes are constantly vigilant over me, and I must avoid even the appearance of a transgression of the law. They would be too glad if they could take me in any fault, and put [103/104] me in prison. It was with deep emotion that I left Seville for Malaga on Friday, February 15th. Seville was the first field of my labour, and I find there still faithful friends who accepted the Gospel through my instrumentality; and this brings to my mind recollections of twenty-six years ago.
Malaga.--On reaching Malaga I was received at the station by a commission of members of our Church, presided over by the pastor, Señor Vila, and by another group of private friends, who had come to welcome my arrival. The morning papers of that day had given the news of my going. Sunday morning, the 17th, we had the Confirmation service, when fifty-three persons were confirmed: I preached also in the evening service to a congregation which filled the chapel, the vestry, the corridor, the staircase, and the entrance of the house. In the cathedral one of the canons had been preaching against our Church and against me, just at the time I was administering the rite of Confirmation in the morning. Probably this was a good advertisement of our services, and it may account for the multitude Hocking to our chapel. On Tuesday we had an extraordinary evening service, and the attendance was more packed even than on Sunday. I also preached that evening, for in these visitations I preach at all the services. When the service was over, and the congregation still remaining, I baptised a girl of ten years old. This girl has been brought up in our school. Her father, being a Freethinker, left her unbaptised. She, learning the Catechism and receiving Bible instruction, urged her mother to attend the church, and lately asked her father's permission to be baptised. Señor Vila refused to perform the ceremony, and referred them to me, on [104/105] the ground that her father was not Christian and the girl was not of age. The man came and had an interview with me. He is one of those many Roman Catholics who in this country have become first indifferent and then infidels. He told me that, although he did not care personally about religion, he was convinced that his conscientious duty was not to oppose his wife's desire of being a member of our Church, nor his daughter's wish of being baptised. The result was that the wife was received in the Church, and the daughter was baptised in the presence and with the express wish of the father before the congregation filling the chapel. The baptism service ended, I was invited by the man to go with some friends to his house, where we had a cup of coffee and some biscuits, and enjoyed the happiness of that family. At the end of that short visit the man said to me, "When my other two children know the Christian doctrine, and wish to be baptised, I will readily consent." And the wife said, "I will see to that." I believe the man is not far from the kingdom of God. The schools, it being such a wet time, were not much crowded. I only counted fifty-four boys and girls present; but on examining them I found them well taught and trained. Two things are sorely needed in Malaga--a larger place for church and schools and an assistant evangelist for Señor Vila.
Madrid.--On my returning to Madrid I had the intention of going to Salamanca, Villaescusa, and Valladolid; but the season was so rainy that I thought it best to delay the visitation for after Easter. Here, in Madrid, and during the Passion Week, we had so crowded services that the church was too small. In the [105/106] evenings specially more than Soo people were present. Of course many were standing, for there are only seats for about 400. On Easter Sunday, after morning service, we had the rite of Confirmation, and fortyfour persons were confirmed, some being members of this Church and some of the Trinity Mission.
Villaescusa.--On May 10th I left Madrid for Villaescusa, where I arrived next day, Saturday. On arriving to I'aradas, the nearest village in the way to Villaescusa, we found Señor Regaliza, who had come riding to meet us. There we met a number of boys and girls, the new generation in the Church, who were granted a holiday by the schoolmaster (a Roman Catholic), who advised them to go out and meet their Bishop. Then we found a group of people, men and women, in the number of about thirty; and, lastly, near Villaescusa, we were welcomed by the old people, some of them eighty years of age. Thus we entered the town surrounded by more than too people, which was a sufficiently public manifestation of my arrival. We were lodged at Don Francisco's, the father-in-law of Señor Regaliza. That afternoon I spent in receiving and paying some visits, and in the evening I had an examination class and a short prayer meeting with the young people who were to be confirmed on the next day. Sunday, the Izth, was unfortunately the day for the municipal elections, which always take place on a Sunday, according to Spanish law. Our people were much concerned in those elections, as you may well suppose. The municipal council there consists of nine members, and the result was that five Protestants and four Roman Catholics were elected. By common agreement the new Alcalde is one from the Roman Catholics, our [106/107] people believing it prudent to consent to that, as the two late Alcaldes had been from the Protestants; still our friends have a majority in the Council. For this reason the morning service was not so fully attended as it would have been otherwise. We had plenty of women, few men, and many children; but still we had a very nice short service, and after it I administered the rite of Confirmation to seven young people. In the evening the scene changed; half an hour before the appointed time the church was full. Not only our people, but a great many of the Roman Catholics of the place, and some strangers from the surrounding villages, attended. Señor Regaliza conducted the prayers, and I read the lesson and preached. My sermon lasted more than one hour, and I think I was more tired in preaching than the people were in hearing, although the greatest part of them were standing during the whole service. You know how loudly do these people say the responses of the Prayer-book, and how heartily, though not very harmoniously, they sing the hymns. It is always refreshing to be amongst these simple and faithful worshippers. After the service was over I was accompanied by half the congregation, many of them remaining with me until midnight, talking about Church matters. The whole Monday and the morning of Tuesday I devoted to paying some special visits to sick persons, to confer with the pastor and the vestry about some affairs of the congregation, and to give friendly advice as to Sunday school and Mission work. The state of the Church was good in general, although there were some little things which are being improved. The thing which is sorely wanted there is a day school, for many children of our congregation are obliged to attend to [107/108] the only school in the place, which is Roman Catholic and under the control of the parish priest. This is not good for our young people.
Salamanca.--On Tuesday afternoon I journeyed to Salamanca. The new building, which I saw then for the first time, is a nice, small house in a corner of two streets, outside the old town, in a district where new houses are being built, and the people will surely increase, although at present rather scanty. The building has not a very churchy appearance, and contains only rooms on the ground floor; one side of the house is a hall, which is used as a chapel. The hall is plain, painted with one colour, without any ornamentation, inscription, or even a single line. In one end of the hall there is a wooden platform about one foot high, and over it there are a table and a chair, a lectern, and a pulpit. These and the pews constitute the furniture of the chapel. It is my opinion that, with a little more money and a little more taste, the hall could have been more properly arranged for a nice church. Yet, with all its want of ecclesiastical appearance, it can contain about 200 people, and we must be thankful for having this property. At the side of the house there is plenty of ground where a church can be erected in case it is needed at some future time, and then the present chapel can be used as a magnificent room for a school. As it is very difficult to have week services in Salamanca, for all the members are working in the fields, we arranged for only one service on the evening of Thursday, the 16th. The Rev. Señor Regaliza baptised a child, and I preached and confirmed four young people. About 100 persons attended the service. Miss Forrest played at the harmonium for the singing of hymns. Mr. Forrest, [108/109] who was also present, seemed much delighted with the service, and he told me so on the next day when I was invited for tea at his house. Whilst I was in Salamanca the public papers gave notice of my visits, the Liberal ones with seriousness, and the Ultramontanes with angry bitterness. This is the case everywhere. The clericals cannot forget the offence (they say) that was made to the Holy Church with my consecration.
Valladolid.--On Friday night I started for Valladolid, where I arrived at two in the morning. A prayer meeting was held on Saturday evening, when I addressed the congregation, and spoke some kind and instructive words to the Confirmation candidates. On Sunday, the 19th, after the morning service, I confirmed four young people, in the presence of about fifty persons. In the evening service the congregation increased to about eighty. As the chapel is small, it was nearly full. I preached morning and evening. The congregation was very attentive; they all took part in the responses, and sang the hymns with fervour, although not very masterly. Some members of the mission at Cigales came to attend the morning service, and invited me to pay them a visit. This I did on the following Monday. On Tuesday I visited the school;, there I counted thirty-eight boys and girls. I examined them in reading, writing, grammar, arithmetic, and a little of geography, and particularly in Catechism and Bible instruction, and found them sufficiently well taught for their age. I think the work in Valladolid would improve. very much if we had a better and more central house.
Cigales.--On Monday, the 10th, I went to Cigales, about eight miles from Valladolid--a nice village, where there are a group of Christians, under the care of Señor [109/110] Martinez, who visits them twice a month. This mission was represented in the last Synod by Don Mariano Simon. He and Don Francisco Velasco are the principal men in the group. Señor Simon is a large proprietor in the place, and Señor Velasco is the Secretary of the Municipal Council, or Ayuntamiento. But the really spiritual man, who conducts the religious services in his own house, and is considered by all as the head of the group, is Señor Velasco. Among the properties of Señor Simon there is a house with a site at its side. Simon desired to give this site to our Church, in order that a chapel might be built on it for the mission services. So he made his brethren aware of his desire, and wrote me about the subject. On hearing this, Señor Velasco consulted with his own wife, and then went to Simon and made him the following proposition.:--"I also want to give something to the Church. Consequently, if you hand over to the Church not only the site, but also the house adjoining to it, I will give you my own house." Simon accepted, and the bargain was prepared. During my visit we went to the public notary, and the deeds of the property were legally made. Simon transferred the house and the site to the society as a freehold property, and Velasco transferred his house to Simon. Thus we have at Cigales a house which can be used at some future time for a pastor's residence and school, and adjoining it a site to build chapel on. But as I saw that Velasco was not a well-off man, and his house was the only property he had, I thought it right and charitable that he should have the use of the Society's house during his own and his wife's life. They are advanced in years, have no children, and have made this offering of love [110/111] to their Master; so I think the Society will fully approve of my granting them the use of the house. The brethren have already gathered a sum of £20 towards the building of the chapel. This tells very much in favour of the faith and self-sacrifice of the members of the mission in Cigales, and I hope that, with God's help, we will soon have there a nice little church and a good congregation. When we had finished our business with the notary, we had a family service at Velasco's, where about thirty persons were gathered. One feature of the service was that the singing of the hymns was accompanied by two guitars, and very nicely indeed. We gave thanks to the Lord for all things done at Cigales, and asked His blessing upon the new enterprise. The thing has been done in faith, and I am sure the Lord will prosper it in His own cause. Early in the morning of Wednesday I returned to Madrid.
The persons confirmed by me in Spain during my first visitation have numbered 138--viz., two in Monistrol, twenty-four in Seville, fifty-three in Malaga, forty four in Madrid, seven in Villaescusa, four in Salamanca and four in Valladolid.
Portugal.--Now about Portugal. At the end of May I received a communication from the Standing Committee of the Lusitanian Church inviting me to go to Portugal to confer holy orders and administer the rite of Confirmation in that sister Church, whereupon I started for Lisbon on Friday, June 7th, reaching the town next morning, and being the guest of Canon Pope. On Sunday, the 9th, I preached at the Church of San Paolo in the morning, at the Church of Jesus in the afternoon, and at the Church of San Pedro in the evening. The services were well attended, especially [111/112] at San Pedro's, where the church was crowded. Of course I always spoke in Spanish. On Monday, accompanied by the Rev. Señor Torres, I went to Rio de Mouro to visit the old pastor--the Rev. Señor Costa. I lunched there, saw the school, and enjoyed a few pleasant hours with that good family. Señor Costa is now in his seventieth year, but is full of spirits, and cheerful. On Tuesday evening I started with Canon Pope for Villa Nova de Gaya, where we reached Wednesday morning. We were met at the station by the brothers Cassels, and I went to be the guest of the Rev. Andrew B. Cassels. Wednesday evening I preached in the Church of Bom Pastor, under the ministry of Andrew Cassels. Thursday, the 13th, in the same church at Bom Pastor, we had in the morning the ordination service, in which the deacon, Andrew B. Cassels, was ordained a presbyter. In the performance of the sacred rite I was accompanied by the presbyters Pope, James Cassels, and Torres. This last delivered the sermon on the occasion. In the evening of the same day we held a Confirmation service in the Church of St. John the Evangelist, where the Rev. James Cassels is the minister. I preached and confirmed thirteen young people. Friday was for me a free day. Saturday, at midday, I went with Andrew Cassels to a factory, where we had a Gospel meeting with about 100 women and girls. They heard the Bible reading, sang some hymns, and I made a short and simple address. In the evening we had a cottage service in a mission hall for working men. They were a set of rough people, but all were very attentive at the preaching, and took part very heartily in the singing. Sunday, the 16th, after the morning service, we had the Confirmation service in the [112/113] Church of Bom Pastor, when I preached and confirmed eleven young people. In the afternoon I preached at St. John the Evangelist's, where we celebrated the Holy Communion, and in the evening I went to Oporto, and preached in the Church of the Redeemer. On Monday evening the Christian Young Men's Association of Oporto prepared a public meeting in the Wesleyan chapel, where I was invited by Mr. Herbert Cassels to attend and give an address. All the services in Lisbon, Villa Nova, and Oporto were very well attended, and the people seemed to understand me quite well in my Spanish tongue. I had also the opportunity of seeing the schools at all the stations, and was completely satisfied with my visit.
This is a bare index of my work done in Portugal during my short visit, and I omit all kinds of commentaries, for it would be a long task for me to relate them. I feel very glad for having seen once more the Lord's work in the sister country, and pray and hope that He will bless and prosper the little help I have been enabled to give in His name and for his glory. On Tuesday morning, the 18th, I left Oporto on my way back to Madrid via Salamanca and Medina, and reached home on Wednesday in perfect health, although somewhat tired.
Ordination in Madrid.--On the 22nd of the present month, December, 1895, the fourth Sunday in Advent, I held my first ordination in our church. The candidates were Don Romualdo Jimenez and Don Antonio Estruch. Señor Jimenez has been for several years labouring in the Church of Salamanca as lay pastor in charge, under the immediate supervision and with the help of the Rev. Señor Regaliza, of Villaescusa. He has served [113/114] in the army the ordinary term according to the Spanish law. On his leave he was in San Sebastian, where he married a pious Christian lady, and then came to Salamanca, Señor Garcia being at that time the pastor in this town. When Señor Garcia was removed to Madrid, he, with my consent, appointed Señor Jimenez as an evangelist, to lead the congregation and preach. Señor Estruch, a native of Monistrol, has been brought up in our Church there. He was confirmed by Lord Plunket, when Bishop of Meath, on his first visit to Spain. He helped in the day and Sunday school until he was called to the army. At the expiration of his military service I summoned him to Madrid, and he has been there three years, constantly under my supervision and teaching, so much sa that I consider him as one of my sons and part of my family. The Standing Committee of our Synod was consulted about the matter, and they agreed unanimously to the intended ordination. Public notice was given for two weeks in the churches of Salamanca and Madrid, and the written answers of both vestries were favourable to the candidates. Señor Garcia and Regaliza formed with myself the Examining Committee, where Jimenez and Estruch were examined and approved. Then they signed a declaration. All things ready, on Sunday morning, the 22nd, we had the ordination service, when the R.ev. Señor Regaliza presented the candidates, the Rev. Señor Garcia preached the sermon for the occasion, and I laid on them my hands, receiving them in the ministry of our Church with the order of deacon. There was a large congregation for that service, amongst whom I saw the Rev. R. Stewart, a Presbyterian minister, the agent here of the British and Foreign [114/115] Bible Society. Those who approached the Lord's Table to partake of the Holy Communion were more than sixty. That was a day of special joy and thanksgiving in our Madrid Church, more so because Señor Estruch is the first young man born and baptised in our Church that has entered the sacred ministry. May he be, as the first-fruit, followed by many more. Señor Jimenez went back next day to his post in Salamanca, to continue under the supervision of the Rev. Señor Regaliza; and Señor Estruch still remains with me. My plans about Estruch are to send him to Monistrol, if possible, next month. He, being a young man of common-sense, of good conduct, with the Lord's work at heart, knowing the country dialect as a native of the place, and aware of every circumstance regarding that Church, can be a good help to Señor Rial, taking part in the pastoral work, and especially in the house-to-house visitation. At the same time Señor Rial can give to him a course of instruction on the Thirty-nine Articles of doctrine, preparing him for the priest orders; then, in God's providence, he may remain there as a minister of the Church, when Señor Rial can be removed to Andalusia, his own country, probably to Osuna, to work in the mission there, under the counsel and help of Señor Palomares.
Anxious Inquirers.--Our general work at present is increasing slowly, as well in Madrid as the other stations. This is a very bad time for us; clerical reaction is exceedingly strong all over the country; the Cuban War is felt in every town and in every home; distress and poverty are general; and our congregations partake of this sad state of things. Yet, in spite of the present clerical reaction, now and then some priests [115/116] write or come personally to see me, all wishing to join our Church. I cannot say that they are converted men; rather they seem displeased with the Romish things; but they all show some vague ideas and earnest aspirations for something better and more noble and spiritual than what they actually have. The only thing I can do for them is to give them some tracts for their instruction. When I am in a position to put it in their hands my pastoral letter and some Spanish book on divinity, this will do more for their religious instruction and spiritual welfare than the actual tracts which can be got in Spanish. At the present a young priest seems most decided to come to us, and in fact he has come already, for in September last he left the Church of Rome, and having found a humble situation in Madrid to support himself, though with difficulty, he attended our church constantly. I will have him under supervision for a time, and after Estruch's removal to Monistrol I will take him under my supervision and trial, in order to fit him for the work. He has been an Escolapio, and his name is Antonio Torres.
JUAN B. CABRERA, BISHOP.
Madrid, December 31st, 1895.