Today in 1843, Natal was proclaimed a British Colony. I had never heard of Natal, but after skimming the Wikipedia article on Natal, it appears to me that colonizing is simply a slow method of conquest.
Today in 1859, Frances Rolleston was writing to a missionary in China. She was very interested in Christian missions to India, China, and Japan, and had thought of how that might be accomplished. Not by conquest or colonization, she looked to Florence Nightingale and the ladies who went with her to the Crimea as a model.
Travelers had told Frances that women in those countries were requesting that Christian women come visit them. At the time, of London's 650,000 women between the ages of fifteen and forty, 450,000 of them were unmarried. Couldn't the mission societies help them go?
It is true that conquest has been carried out in the name of religion, notably an hierarchical form of Christianity. How different was it to send missionaries than to set up colonies? Missionaries, as Frances thought of them, lived a life of kindness and self-sacrifice. They carried a gospel of hope—reconciliation with God and love for mankind—to be received by faith, not forced. Christian missions also brought health and education.
If only this clear difference had always been maintained, Christianity would have had a better name in the years that followed.
This day of the 2017 total solar eclipse may be a good day to write of a total lunar eclipse significant to Frances Rolleston.
Witnesses of the total lunar eclipse of October 13, 1837 reported that the part of the moon in the shadow was invisible, while the part in the penumbra was bright enough to overpower the stars, and that during the total phase, the moon was unusually colorless and faint—a cold gray through which every feature of the moon's surface was distinct.
But it was not the appearance of this phenomena that was significant to Frances. She had returned to Yorkshire, scene of three years of her childhood after her mother's death, and the place where her younger sister had died. She had stayed away for forty years, and upon her return was overcome with grief for all those family and friends who had passed on in the meanwhile. She struggled with regret for not returning sooner, and yet felt the Lord had kept her at her post all those years in the south of England. At last, in a letter dated October 23, 1837, she told the outcome of this mental struggle:
The day I dined at West Ella was that of the eclipse; there was something awful in the force with which a voice within seemed to ask all day, "Which governs the world, thou or I?" and I replied as often, "Thou, Lord." Again the voice seemed to say, "Which shall govern the world?" and again I was enabled to say, "Thou, Lord!" and this not once nor twice, but continually, all day, and coming home in that solemn, gloomy hour of the eclipse. The voice that questioned seemed quite independent of myself, as the reply seemed mine. That eclipse of the moon is never to be forgotten by me, type of the shade cast over the Church when earth and the things of earth hide from her the light of the Sun of Righteousness.
Frances Rolleston: "I am sorry the good man you hear, preaches such blind doctrine about the 'Day of Grace.'"
It gave my husband a thrill to stand in John Newton's pulpit. Actually, it was not the same pulpit John Newton stood in, but it was a pulpit in the same position in the same church. (His actual pulpit has been moved to a back corner.)
It is wonderful to have those in church history, like Newton, whose lives were transformed by God and who afterwards lived what they preached.
Sometimes when we hear a preacher say things that do not line up with the Scripture, we are tempted to confuse the man with his views and condemn both. But Frances' statement above is the more Christian attitude. She recognized the incorrect doctrine (which she went on to explain) but she continued to see the preacher as a "good man." Good example to us moderns.
By her eighties, Frances had lost all her old friends. The void was partially filled by Mr. Joseph Dallow, a young minister who came almost every day to read Hebrew Bible with her. He was dedicated to the needs of the country people and carried the gospel to places almost inaccessible.
On this day 1861, Frances wrote,
Last Sunday Mr. Dallow, expected home, did not come, and a simple Christian young man did the best he could for the people.* To-day Mr. Dallow has been here, and I found he had done what you and I would have anticipated,—in a poor neighborhood in Kendal a child rushed out of a cottage enveloped in flames and screaming 'Mammy!' he saved its life, rolling it on the ground, but burnt his own hand so badly that he could not travel. The pain, he says, has been dreadful, but no worse effects, and he thanks God he saved its life, and goes back tomorrow to evangelize the people, whose hearts no doubt are touched by his kindness.
What stands out to me in this account is that Frances makes no declaration of Mr. Dallow's heroism. What he did she or her correspondent could have "anticipated" just because that was the kind of person he was. It is daily behavior that shows true character.
*That is, filling in at the chapel where Mr. Dallow preached.
Between March 17 and 25, 1863, FR wrote several letters to her friend A. B. Wood, all of which focused on the death of friends and loved ones. The letters give a good view of how evangelical Christians view death. Here are a few excerpts:
"Think of the harmonies of heaven, which I believe our friend is hearing how, as the sound of a waterfall always there, always ready when the attention is called to it, accompanying the glorious vision and exquisite new words,--while our Lord in person will be there."
"O do not doubt it, do not think of her in the dark grave, the temporary hiding-place of the dissolving body, but there beyond that blue sky and brightening sunlight of spring."
"Death came by sin, and sadly we all feel it, not the sin of the individual but of the fallen race,--the redeemed race, of whom our blessed Lord took flesh, the flesh in and by which to suffer; wonderful mystery! but magnificent in its awfulness to us."
"How sweet are His [Christ's] recorded words to us! How increasingly sweet will be those we have yet to hear through a happy eternity; and your dear friend is now hearing them!"
"In her last illness she said with wonderful earnestness, 'Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly,' and, at that moment she was with Him. She seemed to pass through the gate of death, but it was life to her."
"They see Him as He is, oh far more glorious than our brightest imaginings; they will hear Him speak, and say higher and more glorious things than our weak earthly natures could endure or comprehend. To know more of Him will be our employment, we shall need no others; to 'see Him as He is' will sufficiently employ all our faculties."
December 29, 1862
"I am now engaged in circulating my page 129 of 'Mazzaroth,' Part ll, against what I consider a mischievous error."
The error FR refers to has to do with the day of Jesus' birth.
"This time two years our good Baptist teacher unhappily got hold of Adam Clarke's neologian error, that the real day of Christ's birth was 'uncertain,' and many of his poor hearers went home, "If Christmas day is not Christmas day, what are we to believe next?'--disbelieve, they meant. This . . . did not reach me till just in time to circulate among them those pages of 'Mazzaroth' bearing on the subject. Christ was born on the winter solstice, then the 25th of December."
FR's notes on the day of Jesus' birth cover pages 129 through 131 of Mazzaroth. Her main argument is that the census records in Rome were available for inspection in the early years of the church, and that Augustine and Justin Martyr held to December 25 based on that fact. The archives were not destroyed until the Gothic invasion about 535CE, long after December 25 was accepted.
The day and date of Jesus birth is still argued today. (I have done so myself.) The interesting thing here is FR's readiness to combat whatever error or misinformation is in circulation. Was the day really important to defend, or did she consider this error an attack on the church? I'm sure she was familiar with this scripture:
"But sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord: being ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, yet with meekness and fear," 1 Peter 3:15.
November 15, 1840
"I am now here, among my beloved Yorkshire friends and relatives, and enjoying the sea, and far more the society of most highly valued religious friends. I enclose you two of their little tracts."
One of these tracts, "The Gospel," FR delights in because it explains religion as she experiences and by which she has been kept happy, and she wants to share it with her young friend Edith.
FR associated with many writers of tracts and wrote many herself. She carried a satchel of such materials to hand out wherever she walked.
Religious tracts were a phenomenon of Victorian England, looked at negatively by parts of the population and received gladly by others. Novelists, particularly, attacked tracts as harmful. This article from "The Victoria Web" gives some good insights as to why.
August 15, 1836
FR has been requested to stand in as godmother for the baby of a young married woman she has mentored. While appreciating the honor, FR reminds Edith that the purpose of a godmother is to provide someone who in case both father and mother dies can look after the religious education of the child, and at her age it is unlikely she will outlive the parents. If Edith wants her to stand up anyway, she advises her to find some young, pious relative to stand as well.
"During the life of parents, I consider the godmother to have no right and no duty. With these views, will you still wish it? I never stood but for one child, of my brother's, to whom I made the same statement, and I have never interfered about her, nor ever shall during the life of her parents."
However, FR happily provides advice on the care and education of children. Though she never had her own, her Infant Schools supply that lack. At the time of writing this letter, one of her students brings a seven-month-old sibling to her school.
"I hope you will write to me very often, and any question that my infant-school experience can help me to answer I will write upon. I am daily engaged in infant and Sunday-school teaching . . . ."