May Christ be magnified in me

Daily Reading for October 19 • Henry Martyn, Priest, and Missionary to India and Persia, 1812, and William Carey, Missionary to India, 1834

January 1-8, 1812. Spared by mercy to see the beginning of another year. The last has been in some respects a memorable year; transported in safety to Shiraz, I have been led by the particular providence of God to undertake a work, the idea of which never entered my mind till my arrival here, but which has gone on without material interruption, and is now nearly finished. To all appearance the present year will be more perilous than any I have seen, but if I live to complete the Persian New Testament, my life after that will be of less importance. But whether life or death be mine, may Christ be magnified in me. If he has work for me to do, I cannot die. . . .

January 24. Found Seid Ali rather serious this evening. He said he did not know what to do to have his mind made up about religion. Of all the religions Christ’s was the best, but whether to prefer this to Sufism he could not tell. In these doubts he is tossed to and fro, and is often kept awake the whole night in tears. He and his brother talk together on these things till they are almost crazed. Before he was engaged in this work of translation, he says he used to read about two or three hours a day, now he can do nothing else; has no inclination for anything else, and feels unhappy if he does not correct his daily portion. His late employment has given a new turn to his thoughts as well as to those of his friends; they had not the most distant conception of the contents of the New Testament. He says his Sufi friends are exceedingly anxious to see the Epistles, from the accounts he gives of them, and also he is sure that almost the whole of Shiraz are so sensible of the load of unmeaning ceremonies in which their religion consists, that they will rejoice to see or hear of anything like freedom, and that they would be more willing to embrace Christ than the Sufis who after taking so much pains to be independent of all law, would think it degrading to submit themselves to any law again, however light. We had some more conversation about Sufism, but as usual I came to nothing like a clear understanding of the nature of it. . . .

March 18. Sat a good part of the day with Abulcasim the Sufi sage, Mirza Seid Ali, and Aga Mahommed Hasan, who begins to be a disciple of the old man’s. On my expressing a wish to see the Indian book, it was proposed to send for it, which they did, and then read it aloud. The stoicism of it I controverted, and said that the entire annihilation of the passions, which the stupid Brahmin described as perfection, was absurd. On my continuing to treat other parts of the book with contempt, the old man was a little roused, and said that this was the way that pleased them, and my way pleased me. That thus God provided something for the tastes of all, and as the master of a feast provides a great variety—some eat pilaw, others prefer kubab, &c. On my again remarking afterwards, how useless all these descriptions of perfection were, since no rules were given for attaining it, the old man asked what in my opinion was the way. I said we all agreed in one point, namely, that union with God was perfection; that in order to that we must receive the Spirit of God, which Spirit was promised on condition of believing in Jesus, There was a good deal of disputing about Jesus, his being exclusively the visible God. Nothing came of it apparently, but that Mirza Seid Ali afterwards said, there is no getting at anything like truth or certainty. We know nothing at all; you are in the right, who simply believe because Jesus had said so.

From Journals and Letters of the Rev. Henry Martyn, B.D., edited by the Rev. S. Wilberforce (London: Seeley and Burnside, 1837).

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