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Last Days in Ceylon

From Mission Life, Vol. III [1872], pages 67-72.

Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Bishop of Malaita, Church of Melanesia, 2006




JANUARY 3rd. [1871]--I set off in the early morning for a day of confirmations, accompanied by Mr. Silva, my Singhalese chaplain. We arrived at Wellicadde, where Mr. Dowbiggin, of the Church Missionary Society, was waiting with the native deacon. We entered the pretty little church, which was quite full, and after the Litany I confirmed nineteen candidates. They were very devout, and listened with great attention to my Charge. The beauty of the morning had not entirely disappeared when we drove away, though the heat was somewhat severe. We breakfasted at Cotta with Mr. Dowbiggin, and drove on to another of his Mission churches, Nugagode, where I confirmed fourteen, and went on to Boralasgamma for a similar service. Here I confirmed seven, and returning to Cotta, where I rested for a short time with my friends, we left for Colombo, after a trying but most satisfactory day. It had been my wish to confirm in the scattered little churches, rather than collect the candidates, as heretofore, in the central church of the Mission at Cotta. I had also the satisfaction of seeing each of the native deacons I lately ordained at his own station. Mr. Dowbiggin overlooks their work, and nothing can be more gratifying than the state of things to the Society.

January 11th.--This was my Visitation in Colombo. At 9 A.M. we had the Holy Communion, after which all the clergy present breakfasted with me in the College Hall. My heart was full, knowing it was the last of such meetings, but we said little; and at 11 A.M. we assembled again in the cathedral. After the Litany the clergy were called over, and I delivered my Charge. It took a little more than the hour, but I [67/68] think I touched on all the points of interest but one. I felt I could not enter into the subject of my impending departure, to which I alluded before the conclusion. Many friends came in when I had returned to the house, and were as full of grief as myself at the thought of separation.

January 13th.--I came up to Kandy yesterday, and this morning delivered my Charge in St. Paul's Church. The attendance of clergy was small, the Church Missionary Society's Missionaries having been present in Colombo; but there were more of the laity than I expected. I talked with them afterwards of my departure from Ceylon, receiving every assurance of their kind wishes. I have promised to return to Kandy before I leave.

January 15th (Sunday).--I confirmed, at an early service, in Mr. Silva's pretty little chapel at Mattacooly. There were only seven candidates, but in that little congregation they were in right proportion. His work in this outlying station is excellent. The service was in Singhalese. At eleven I preached in the cathedral at the English service. I held my confirmations in the afternoon at All Saints'. The service was entirely in Singhalese, and I read my Charge to the candidates, of whom there were eighteen in number. This church (which I consecrated in 1865) is really a beautiful one, and worthy of its congregation, which consists of the leading Singhalese families in Colombo. It was built at the joint expense of themselves and the Government, but, owing to some failure in the construction, was not completed during my predecessor's episcopate. Mr. Bailey officiated as chaplain. He is one of the best Singhalese scholars of our English clergy. I was rather nervous in my reading in the presence of the most educated native congregation we have. Their minister, too, Mr. Dias, is a leading scholar, and the translator of our Prayer-book into Singhalese.

January 18th.--This day I consecrated the new church at Maravila. Mr. Bacon and I went together by Negombo, and were received at the spot by Mr. de Soysa, Modliar, and his friends (the church is built almost entirely at his expense), and proceeded at once into the building, a very pretty edifice, and whilst suited to the climate, ecclesiastical in its style. I preached from Psalm lxxxiv. 1, and afterwards confirmed twelve persons. In the afternoon I baptized an adult, and addressed the people. This is now a Christian village.

We afterwards dined at the Modliar's, and sat down, sixty people, in a temporary room, which, with sleeping accommodation to correspond, he had constructed by mats and bamboo poles for his guests. It was a striking scene. One incident was amusing. One of his guests sat down (according to native custom within doors) without any jacket, with back and shoulders bare, our host sternly rebuking him for the impropriety in the presence of English guests. The house is simply a bungalow in the midst of large coco-nut plantations, which had been for some time [68/69] suffering from drought, and a heavy storm of rain occurring during our banquet, which prevented us from hearing one another speak, I created some amusement amongst our Singhalese friends as I was returning thanks for my health, by simply shouting out the words, "Good for the cocoa-nuts!" Mr. Bacon and I returned next morning to Colombo.

January 22nd (Sunday).--This day I held my Ordination in the cathedral at eleven. Archdeacon Glenie preached the sermon, and Mr. Bailey presented the candidates. I admitted F. Edrasinhe and W. Herat to Priest's Orders, after a Diaconate of four years--a "degree" in each case fairly earned. The service was very effective; our choir, thanks to Mr. Bacon, never was so good as now.

January 23rd.--I went with W. E. Gomes to Ratnapura (the City of Rubies), sixty miles from Colombo, arriving in time to hold my confirmation in the evening. Mr. Helps, our new Inspector of Schools, accompanied me. He is a great acquisition to the colony.

January 26th.--Mr. Silva accompanied me to Kohilawatte, where I was to have a farewell service, with Holy Communion, the congregation consisting of a small cluster of native Christians. They were most attentive to my sermon, and at its close it was most touching to receive their simple farewells as I left them.

January 29th (Sunday).--This was my last Sunday in Kandy. I shall not forget this beautiful town, with its pretty lake, nestling at the foot of the mountains, the church, more English in its character than most in Ceylon. I preached to a large congregation at the morning service, and in the afternoon confirmed thirty-eight persons. In the evening I preached to the Portuguese congregation at their little church. It was a most trying day, but gave much cause for thankful memories. The remaining portion of my time will be but a repetition of such scenes.

February 15th.--My last week in Ceylon. Mr. Silva and I set off early to Kurune, where I was to lay the stone of Mr. Christian's new church. Few of our native Missionaries have been more faithful than he has been, in the district where Bishop Chapman placed him as a Catechist twenty years ago, and ordained him deacon before my arrival. I found him labouring almost alone in a wide district, and ordained him priest, giving him a deacon, and catechists at the more distant stations. We found the congregation ready for us, with my faithful friend the Modliar waiting to welcome us. After a short service and a hymn, I laid the stone, and addressed the people on the occasion, and as I alluded to my approaching departure they were much moved. One aged women, as I was leaving, seized my hand and cried bitterly. It is very touching to see the tenderness of these people. After breakfast, which Mr. Christian had kindly prepared for us, I left with the Modliar for a house he has about two miles off. Here he had collected a congregation of some forty or fifty people, and I addressed them after Mr. Silva had [69/70] read a short service. He drove us back to Colombo, which we reached by seven o'clock.

February 16th.--This morning I went to Charles de Soysa's, to see him, with his wife and children (all of whom I had baptized), for the last time. His mother was present, whose late husband had built the beautiful church at Morotto. Before I left I gave them all my blessing, in Singhalese. I shall not forget my friends the de Soysas: they have obtained wealth, and they use it to a large extent in doing good. The evil is, people will think it is only needful that the wealthy should give, and forget that all should in their proportion be liberal, and so a good example like the de Soysas' does not produce the effect it ought. I shall always regard this family with feelings of cordial friendship.

February 17th.--At nine this morning I preached to the choir and the boys of St. Thomas' College, who filled the cathedral. I took the words of St. Paul, 1 Tim. i. 18, trying to make each boy feel I was addressing him in particular. I felt much at the service. In the afternoon I had a very different parting scene. A number of Buddhist priests came to visit me, hearing that I was on the eve of departure. They sat some time with me, and said much that was very satisfactory to hear. I do not think they will come over to Christianity; but they entertain very different views of it from those which once prevailed amongst them, and they do not deny that it is commanding attention amongst their people. Here I think the toleration, which is one of their best characteristics, is in favour of the success of Christianity in Ceylon. I was much pleased with their visit, which was made in the most public manner.

It was not inappropriate that my next duty was to preside for the last time at the S. P. G. annual meeting in Colombo. Our report was very gloomy, and I did my utmost to stir up those present to a sustained effort to place the Society on its proper footing in the island. As my last words, I trust they will have effect. The College choir dined with me this evening.

February 18th.--At six this morning, as I was sitting in the verandah, my friend the Modliar drove up quite unexpectedly, bent on my seeing the new model farm which they are establishing. I enjoyed the early drive, and inspected the farm, which will be a very useful institution, as improvement is the very want of the Singhalese. I planted a vine and a cocoa-nut tree, and was in my house again in little more than an hour.

In the course of the morning the Chief Justice came, with other gentlemen, as a deputation to present a farewell address, to which I read a written reply. It bore more than three thousand signatures, and they told me that more were coming in. I could only thank them all most imperfectly, and assure them that I could not leave Ceylon without deep regret, and from the conviction that my duty now took me back to England, as once it brought me here.

[71] In the evening I met all my friends at a dinner given by the Modliar. It was a large assemblage, and of course we had speeches after it. It was not difficult to speak when so many kind faces were gathered round--the difficulty is to leave them all: and the one thing amongst many for which I am grateful is, that they do not seem to blame me for going, but admit that my reasons are good and sufficient. I shall not forget their many words of kindness and regard.

February 19th (Sunday).--This was the last day in Colombo. I went to the early Communion at 8 A.M. At 11 I preached my farewell sermon to a large congregation at the English service (I had done the same to the Sinhalese congregation the previous Sunday), taking for my text the words I used with the same application twelve years ago, when I left Elton for St. Helena--Acts xvi. 10. I spoke from a full heart, to hearts, I believe, as full. At the conclusion, the poor choristers nearly broke down in singing their part; and so ended my last service in the little cathedral.

In the evening I had a small Confirmation, and preached at St. Peter's. The church was very full, and many came afterwards into the vestry to say good-bye.

February 20th.--On Monday we set off early for Galle. Mr. Bacon accompanied us. I felt very sorrowful at seeing the last of the place which has been my home for the last eight years. The servants, too, were all very sorrowful, and I may well believe them to have been sincere, since they have nearly all of them lived with me since my arrival. Two of them go to Galle with me. At Morottoo, we stopped at the church, and I went in with Mr. Bacon to hold a short farewell service. There was a large congregation waiting, and amongst them the de Soysas. I afterwards wished them all good-bye, and we went on our way. At several places there were little gatherings of the people to see the coach pass by, and at Horetoodua Mr. de Mel came up as we changed horses, and had some last words, his people all round him. We arrived late at Galle, but found all preparations made for us, and Dr. Schrader waiting to receive us.

February 21st.--At eight this morning we held the Consecration service in the new church. It is really very beautiful, and will be a great ornament to Galle. My Registrar had arrived by the night coach, and we entered the church in procession, the choir chanting the 24th Psalm. I signed the Consecration Deed, and began the service, preaching from Rev. xxi. 22. The singing was really good. Mr. Maine (from Madras Cathedral) played the organ (which they have just got out from England), and the choir took their part very well. The church was crowded.

After this part of the service was concluded, I held my formal Visitation of the few clergy of this portion of the diocese, and instituted Dr. Schrader to the new church. The Communion Service followed. The [71/72] offertory was upwards of £90. I had asked the clergy to breakfast, with Mr. Maine and my friend Mr. Nicholson, to whose exertions the efficient state of the choir is mainly owing. When this was over, I set off with Mr. Marks and Mr. Allcock for Buona Vista, where I was to hold a Singhalese Confirmation. Here I baptized two adults, one a very remarkable case of late conversion from sin.

We returned to Galle after tiffin, to be in time for the evening service. This was at seven, when the church again was full. I preached (my last sermon in Ceylon) from Acts xxiii. 11, applying St. Luke's words to the general case of pastor and flock, and showing how the Apostle's comparatively short ministry brought its responsibilities, alluding too, to my own episcopate. I concluded with especial reference to the congregation beginning their use of a new church with their own pastor. The collection was again over £90.

February 22nd (Ash Wednesday).--We had service at eight, when I baptized a child (the first baptism in the new church). Not long after this we were summoned to our steamer, the "Deccan." Several of our friends accompanied us to the ship, of whom I took leave with much regret. My two servants, Juan and Carolis, were in great grief at parting with the master with whom they have travelled so many miles; and I need not say my own feeling towards them was one of sincere gratitude and regard.

We steamed out of harbour after dark, the buoys being lit up to guide us out to sea; and in the morning the shores of Ceylon were no longer visible. I shall never forget the eight years I have passed in the island with their many trials and cares, but far more and greater mercies and blessings.

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