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William Carey | Pt 1

"This generation of Christians is responsible for this generation of souls on the earth!"  Keith Green

"If you found a cure for cancer, wouldn't it be inconceivable to hide it from the rest of mankind? How much more inconceivable to keep silent the cure from the eternal wages of death."  Dave Davidson

"The world is the field and the field is the world; and henceforth that country shall be my home where I can be most used in winning souls for Christ."  Count Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf

"God is pursuing with omnipotent passion a worldwide purpose of gathering joyful worshipers from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. He has an inexhaustible enthusiasm for the supremacy of His name among the nations. Therefore, let us bring our affections into line with His, and for the sake of His name, let us renounce the quest for worldly comforts and join His global purpose."  John Piper

"Prayer is the mighty engine that is to move the missionary work."  A.B. Simpson

In the fall of 1786, two young soon to be ordained ministers, William Carey and his friend Andrew Fuller, went to a ministers meeting in Northampton, England. Carey, who was now 25 years of age, had a stirring in his heart that was not common among his fellow Christians. His heart was being pulled toward "converting the heathen", a rallying cry that was not prominent within the churches of that day. Up until then an organized system of spreading the Gospel throughout the world was non-existent. The Protestant Churches of that day were so involved in personal theological debates and internal dissention and squabbles that they had no time to consider missions. Overseas evangelism was left mostly to "fanatical" individuals and small groups. While the commission from Jesus was to "Go into all the world" (Mark 16:15) the Church stayed at home.

Carey's heart was set on fire for the lost of the world by a single book. He came upon the published diary of David Brainerd, the buck-skin clad missionary to the American Indian. The evangelist Jonathan Edwards printed the diary for world-wide distribution after Brainerd's death. Carey read how this one man went forth to the savage Indians not knowing there language, with an interpreter who was usually so drunk he had to be held up by two others. Brainerd had no idea whether the man was translating what he was saying or not. One thing for sure was the power of the Holy Spirit would fall on the Indians like a flood. Carey would read where Brainerd would spend hours, out in the snow, praying for the savage, lawless, wicked , immoral and drunken Indians until he was covered in sweat and the snow would be melted for yards around him. The harvest of the souls for Christ was astonishing. Even as Carey read the entries, he would become grief-stricken and broken hearted for those savages. He also heard stories of the famed Moravian missionaries of not many years before. His blood was set on fire with the stories of this small group of Christians that were hit with revival fire, suddenly, at about 11 o'clock on Wednesday morning August 13, 1727. This began the Moravian Revival that birthed a prayer meeting that lasted one hundred years that birthed a missionary movement that reached the ends of the earth. Carey was awakened to the call...the Church still slept.

So there they were, these two young wet behind the ears ministers surrounded by seasoned pastors from around the country. It was a fulfilling meeting and toward the close of the evening, when the public services ended, it was time for the ministers to gather together and share among themselves. The senior pastor in charge was Mr. J. C. Ryland. He was the father of the man who baptized Carey three years earlier. He then asked the two junior ministers, Carey and Fuller, to pose a question for general discussion. Carey gave a few excuses as to why he was not worthy of such an honor. When Mr. Ryland politely commanded the young man to ask a question, Carey then took a deep breath and dropped the bomb:

"My question to you is whether the command given to the apostles to ‘teach all nations,' was not obligatory on all succeeding ministers to the end of the world, seeing that the accompanying promise was of equal extent? Is it not the duty of Christians to attempt the spread of the Gospel amongst heathen nations."

Complete silence fell in the room then shouts and jeers and mass confusion of chatter erupted. Carey was almost shouted down by those who thought such a scheme impracticable and wild. His friend, Andrew Fuller, grabbed his chest and almost shouted, "If the Lord would make windows in heaven, might this thing be?"

Mr. Ryland, who was deeply shocked finally regained command of the room and with a firm and resounding rebuke said to Carey:

"Young man, sit down; when God is pleased to convert the heathen world, He will do it without your help or are a most miserable enthusiast...nothing like that could ever be done before another Pentecost!"

Fuller sympathized with his friend and "offered several encouraging remarks, and recommended to him to pursue his inquiries at a different place and time."

That, Carey would do. Carey was very much embarrassed but the burden was in no way lifted from his heart. Because millions were perishing around the world this steadfast man of God would eventually create the "Baptist Missionary Society" and become known as the "Father of Modern Missions."

Church historians all agree on the legacy left by William Carey.

George Adam Smith wrote:
"It is no exaggeration to call Carey one of the greatest of God's Englishmen."

A.T. Pierson remarks:

"With little teaching, he became learned. Poor himself, he made millions rich. By birth obscure, he rose to unsought eminence. And seeking only to follow the Lord's leading, he led forward the Lord's hosts."

J.D. Freeman writes:

"The Christian Church owes more to William Carey and his mission than to any other man or movement since the days of Paul. He gave her a new horizon, kindled within her a new life and soul. Upon the trellis of the Mission Enterprise, the Church's vine has run over the wall. It has given her a southern exposure, through which she has felt at her heart the thrill of a new vitality, while bearing on her outmost branches a burden of precious fruit for the vintage of the skies."

His good friend Anrew Fuller authored a book called "The Gospel Worthy of all Acceptation" and echoed the heart of Carey, "if it is the duty of all men to believe whenever the Gospel is presented to them, it must be the duty of all who have received the Gospel to endeavor to make it universally known."

Clifford G. Howell wrote:

"William Carey was a strong link in the golden chain let down from heaven to save the world. A fire from heaven fell upon the heart-altar of this man. It consumed the dross through long-continued burning of trial-fires; then sent forth the purified temple, in which the Holy Shekinah dwelt, that before it the god of Dagon might fall on his face, and his captives be set free..."

F. Dealville Walker one of Carey's biographers tells of him:

"He, with a few contemporaries, was almost singlehanded in conguering the prevailing indifference and hostility to missionary effort; Carey developed a plan for missions, and printed his amazing ‘Enquiry'; he influenced timid and hesitating men to take steps to the evangelizing of the world."

On August 17, 1761 in a small cottage in Paulersbury, England, William Carey was born. The small village was just outside of Towcester, in Northhampton, England. His parents were extremely poor with his father working as a weaver, parish-clerk and schoolmaster. Poverty had little effect on young Carey, who hungered for scientific knowledge and anything historical. Of his reading he said:

"I chose to read books of science, history, voyages, etc, more than any others. Novels and plays always disgusted me."

As a young lad he would spend hours wondering through the woods surrounding his home. His room would be crowded with specimens of plant and insect life, and he early showed a determination in completing anything he ever began. His sister Mary would say of him:

"When a boy he was of a studious turn and fully bent on learning, and always resolutely determined never to give up any portion or particle of anything on which his mind was set, till he had arrived at a clear knowledge and sense of his subject. He was not allured or diverted from it; he was firm in his purpose and steady in his endeavor to improve."

That part of his disciplined character would come in to play later when faced with the many trails that lay before him. He was always on the look-out for a new bird or animal or plant that he might discover. He was thrilled with stories of adventure and discovery. He was so enamored with one great explorer, who discovered new worlds in 1492, that his friends nick-named him "Columbus." It was also during this time of reading and searching that he came upon the travels of the Moravian Missionaries. These soul-searchers went where no man had ever gone before spreading the Gospel of salvation and many paid dearly with their lives. He also came upon the dairy of David Brainerd and a dynamo was started in his spirit for the lost heathen.

When Carey was fourteen, his father was intent on setting him up with a trade. He knew a man who would give young Carey work for his support while learning the trade of shoemaking. The man was Clarke Nichols who had a reputation of being a very strict churchman. This was very important in the eyes of Carey's father. Carey was raised in the Church of England and the influence this man would have on his spiritual life was of extreme importance to his father. Reputations are sometimes misleading. Carey was eventually driven away from church because of Nichols's fiery temper, his profane tongue and his Saturday night drinking sprees. Soon a co-apprentice by the name of John Warr played a prominent role in Carey's life. Warr was a devout young Dissenter or non-conformist. The Dissenters were a group of people who refused to conform to the practices of the state church, the Church of England. These Dissenters were often persecuted, hanged or burned at the stake because of their insistence to worship biblically in their own churches. Warr now had his eyes set on Carey's salvation and he would not let him rest until that was achieved. Carey would write about Warr:

"He became persistent with me, lending me books and engaging in conversation with me whenever possible."

By this time Carey was hard-hearted and full of pride. So proud, he would later write:

"I had pride sufficient for a thousand times my knowledge. I always scorned to have the worst in discussion and the last word was assuredly mine. But I was often afterward convinced that my fellow-apprentice had the better of the argument, and I felt a growing uneasiness, but had no idea that nothing but a complete change of heart could do me any good."

The light that shone in Warr's life convinced Carey to attend the services at the Dissenter's Church. The Word of God was preached with a demonstration of the Spirit bringing Carey into deep conviction. There at the age of seventeen he surrendered his life to the Redeemer. He left the Church of England to "follow Christ" and joined the Congregational Church. Later he and Warr would lead Clarke Nichols, their master, back to the Lord on his death bed.

When Nichols died in 1779 Carey went to Hackleton to work for another shoemaker, Thomas Old. There at the age of 19, Carey met and fell in love with Old's sister-in-law Dorothy Plackett in 1781. Unlike Carey, who would teach himself, Latin, Hebrew, Italian, Dutch, and French, Dorothy was illiterate signing the marriage register in a rude cross. She also could not understand his religious fervor and never shared his great missionary passion. Being a faithful and devoted wife their marriage bore six children, four sons and two daughters; both girls died in infancy and a son, Peter died at the age of 5.

While living in Hackleton, Carey would walk five-miles to a town called Olney in search of Spiritual truth. Olney was a stronghold of a group called the Particular Baptists. It was with this group that Carey was baptized by Mr. Ryland on October 5, 1783. Ryland wrote in his diary, "This day baptized a poor journeyman shoemaker." Carey would commit himself to this group of people and would become acquainted with such men as John Ryland, John Sutcliff and Andrew Fuller.

In 1785, Carey was appointed the schoolmaster for the village of Moulton. He was also invited to pastor the local Baptist church. Unfortunately the pay for both could not provide for his growing family so he returned to shoemaking. Carey was always proud of his occupation. Although not looked upon by society as an efficient profession, even though everyone wore shoes, to Carey it was the "staff of provision" for his family. Years later while being honored at a dinner at the Governor-General's palace, one of the quests, asked an aide-de-camp, in a voice loud enough to be heard by Carey, whether the one honored had once been a shoemaker. "No sir," Carey said as he turned toward the man, "only a cobbler." To his last days, Carey kept the sign board that hung over his shop in a Northamptonshire village that read:

Second-hand Shoes Bought and Sold.

During his time at Moulton, Carey found time to read Jonathan Edwards' "Account of the Life of the Late Rev. David Brainerd" and the journals of the explorer James Cook. Through these readings he became extremely concerned with the lack of zeal in the Church for propagating the Christian Gospel throughout the world, "Is not the commission of our Lord still binding upon us? Can we not do more than now we are doing?" He would read of the exploits of the Moravian Missionaries and burn in his spirit, with a growing desperation, to touch heathen tribes and people, "See what the Moravians have done! Cannot we follow their example...and preach the Gospel to the heathen?" It would be eight long years before he would awaken others to the call of world-wide evangelism but the fire had been stoked in his heart and it would never go out, "My attention to missions was first awakened after I was at Moulton..."

One could talk about the great commission of missions but getting to the field was another problem. There were no missionary societies and really no interest in missions at all. The more Carey read the more he was convinced that the heart of the Father was for souls, "the peoples of the world need Christ." His compassion for the lost kept him in constant prayer for lands far away where every day "eight hundred precious souls each hour sink into Christless graves."

In his cobbler shop he fashioned a huge leather globe which was marked over with writings and pins for various tribes and places needing the Gospel, "To know the will of God, we need an open Bible and an open map." Andrew Fuller remembers Carey's map:

"I remember, on going into the room where he employed himself at his business, I saw hanging up against the wall a very large map, consisting of several sheets of paper pasted together by himself, on which he had drawn with a pen a place for every nation in the known world, and entered into it whatever he had met with in reading, relative to population, religion, etc." The map listed in population millions still waiting for the Gospel.

It was during this time that Carey and Fuller attended the ministers' meeting at Northampton that was alluded to at the beginning of this story. Even though Carey was so roundly rebuked by all present it just added fuel to the fire in his heart. The persistence and determination he learned as a child would eventually pay off for the glory of God. Carey would persist. He later said of his ministry, "I can plod!" It took money to form missionary societies. Money was not a common thing in the Carey household. Poverty was their closest companion where meat on the table was a rarity. But he would not waiver, either on the missionary front or his call as a pastor.

IN 1789 he went to Leicester, to serve as pastor of the Harvey Lane Baptist Church. This could be viewed as a prelude of what a mission field was like. Eugene Myers Harrison tells us why:

"He found the church in a state of disunion, dishonor and spiritual impotence, due largely to worldliness and resultant evils among the members. He prayed and preached most fervently, but conversions were impossible in such an atmosphere and the pastor was heartbroken. Eventually, in September of 1790, he determined upon a bold course of procedure-one that many churches in the twentieth century could doubtless follow to great advantage. He proposed that the church membership be dissolved, that a solemn covenant embodying New Testament faith, life and discipline be prepared, and that only those accepting this covenant be accepted as members of the newly constituted church. This was done, the church was revived, worldly nettles gave place to the fruitage of the Spirit, and, in response to the preaching from the pulpit and the witnessing in the homes, there were many blessed conversions. He led his own sisters, then his wife, and many others into the sublime experience of redemption. In his zeal for souls, he frequently made preaching trips to surrounding villages and laid the foundations of a number of churches."

The long frustrating time of training was about to end. The souls of the lost were crying out and God heard their voices. The days of William Carey, that were prepared by God since the beginning of time, were about to be fulfilled. On May 30, 1792, Carey was to preach at a ministerial conference. He preached from the text Isaiah 54:2,3, in which he laid down what would become a missionary motto:


The reaction to those present was staggering. The heart of God fell on this group of ministers and birthed a new day in the Church. One minister who was present wrote:

"If all the people had lifted up their voices and wept, as the children of Israel did at Bochim, I should not have wondered at the effect; it would only have seemed proportionate to the cause, so clearly did he prove the criminality of our supineness in the cause of God."

As a result of this meeting a group of twelve ministers, including Carey, met in a widow's home and created the "Baptist Missionary Society." They could only raise a small amount of money but elected the Rev. Fuller secretary and Reynolds Hogg as treasurer. Is it any surprise that Carey offered himself as the first missionary. Word spread like wild-fire and the ministers of London strongly advised against it. Men and officials of the Church along with men of influence would not join it or be associated with it in any way. But the clergy from the country took hold and before long monies were arriving for support of the mission. There was a lot of preparation that was ahead of them but at a foundational meeting, attended by an ever growing group of people, Andrew Fuller said, "There is a gold mine of souls in India; but it seems as deep as the center of the earth; who will venture to explore it?" A solemn spirit came over the men as the picture, painted by Fuller, of a deep, dark, uncharted well that someone would have to be lowered down into filled their minds. Then a voice loud and enthusiastic filled the room. It was William Carey and his words were to soon become famous as he turned to face the organization:

"I will go down, but remember, that you must hold the rope."

Acts 9:15 "...Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles..."

To be continued...

JJ (Dark) Di Pietro
Cane Creek Church