"It was seven years
...before Carey baptized his first convert in India
...before Judson won his first disciple in Burma
...that Morrison toiled before the first Chinaman was brought to Christ
...declares Moffat, that he waited to see the first evident moving of the Holy Spirit upon his Bechuanas of Africa.
...before Henry Richards wrought the first convert, gained at Banza Manteka.
It took eight years of "plodding" and unwaivering determination to finally bring the Church face to face with its commitment to missions and world-wide evangelism. Now that the time had come, what better man to face the challenge than William Carey. He was better prepared than any other man of his time and since the publication of his pamphlet "an Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens" the heart of the Church was turned toward those "other sheep which are not of this fold" (John 10:16). Even Dr. J. C. Ryland, the minister who just a few years before adamantly rebuked Carey for his stance on missions, finally had to acquiesce, "...so clearly did Mr. Carey prove the criminality of our supineness in the cause of God." It was as one man said, "a groundbreaking missionary manifesto." The pamphlet consisted of five parts. Part one was a theological justification for missions, arguing that the command of Jesus was to make disciples of all the world (Matthew 28:18-20) remains binding to all Christians in all generations. Part two outlined the history of missionary activity, from the early Church and ending with David Brainerd and John Wesley. Part three comprised 26 pages of tables, listing area, population, and religion statistics for every country of the world. The fourth part answered objections to sending missionaries including learning the language and danger of life. Finally, the fifth part was a calling for a formation by the Baptist denomination of a missionary society and describes means of supporting it.
So therefore, in the parlor of Mrs. Beeby Wallis, twelve ministers founded the "Baptist Missionary Society" and agreed to send Carey to India.
"Desirous of making an effort for the propagation of the Gospel among the heathen, agreeably to what is recommended in Brother Carey's late publication on that subject, we whose names appear to the subsequent, do solemnly agree to act in society for that purpose."
A milestone in the history of the Christian Church, it was the first organized missionary society. No doubt heaven rejoiced at the anticipation of souls that were, up to that time, unheard of in the kingdom of God.
Carey would not go to the field alone. The reason India was chosen is because of an acquaintance of Andrew Fuller. In 1783, Dr. John Thomas went to India employed by the East India Company as a surgeon. While there his heart went out to the people of that country who went day by day into an eternity with no knowledge of a Savior. He did what he could but it was to no avail. He returned to England, was baptized and received a license to preach. Dr. Thomas's explanation of the darkness that surrounded India was enough to sway the Missionary Society to focus their efforts on India. Dr. Thomas was then invited to go with Carey and the Society would, "...hold the ropes." Mr. Fuller said afterward, "This we solemnly engaged to do, pledging ourselves never to desert him as long as we live."
On March 20, 1793, at a farewell meeting for Carey and Thomas, Mr. Fuller gave an address and in closing said, "Go then, my dear brethren, stimulated by these prospects. We will meet again. Crowns of glory await you and us. Each of us, I trust, will be addressed at the last day by our Redeemer, ‘Come, ye blessed of My Father: these were hungry, and you fed them; athirst, and you gave them drink; in prison, and you visited them; enter ye into the joys of your Lord.'"
Carey could hardly believe that his ambition to save the heathen was about to come true. Preparations were made for departure for India. The voyage was booked on the ship, "Earl of Oxford" when things started to go wrong. Mrs. Carey, being pregnant with their fourth child and never being away from her home, refused to go. Carey pleaded but to no avail, Mrs. Carey's mind would not be changed. She would stay home and her sister would help with the household chores and children and that was the end of the argument. Carey had learned to obey the voice of God and proceeded to leave without his wife and babies. Before he was about to leave he wrote a letter to her:
"If I had all the world, I would freely give it all to have you and the dear children with me, but the sense of duty is so strong as to overpower all other considerations. I could not turn back without guilt on my soul...Tell my dear children I love them dearly, and pray for them constantly. Be assured I love you most affectionately."
Also, the territory in India was controlled by the East India Company and that organization was completely opposed to any such work, missionary or otherwise, within their realm of influence. As the ship was ready to sail the captain was given information that people were on the ship without cards issued by the company. After an investigation the missionaries and their goods were hastily put on shore and the vessel set sail, without them, for Calcutta.
Carey and Thomas were disheartened. They returned to London, Carey to his home and Thomas to a coffee-house, where the Spirit of the Lord took over. In Mr. Thomas's own words here is what happened:
"to the great joy of a bruised heart, the waiter put a card into my hand, whereon was written these life-giving words, ‘A Danish East Indiaman, No.10, Cannon Street.' No more tears that night. Our courage revived; we fled to No. 10, Cannon Street, and found it was the office of Smith and Co., agents, and that Smith was the brother of the captain; that this ship had sailed, as he supposed, from Copenhagen; was hourly expected in Dover roads; would make no stay there; and the terms were 100 pounds for each passenger, 50 pounds for a child, and 25 pounds for an attendant; all of which was taken care of by the generosity of the agent."
Another blessing was, thanks to the removal of them from the first ship, Mrs. Carey, after a third appeal from her husband, agreed to go. The stipulation was that her children and sister also be taken. This would have been impossible because of funds had not the Lord stirred the heart of a man to supply the tickets.
Mr. Carey and his party set out for Dover; and on the 13th of June, 1793, they set sail on the Danish Ship, "Kron Princessa Maria" where they were treated like royalty by the captain, who admitted them at meals to his own table, and provided them all with special cabins.
When Carey set foot on the soil of India, he would not leave for over forty years. Now thirty-two years of age he set out to conquer a new world for Christ. He went right to work. The Moravian method of mission self-support was well known to Carey, and he wished to put it into effect. After a mission was established it should be self-supporting and he had little difficulty to get his board at home to believe in this method also. Thomas and Carey had little money and the Society gave them 150 pounds worth of goods which were to be disposed of when they arrived. Unexpected demands drained their resources and in two months they were without nothing.
Carey's first impression of India was heart-breaking. He had no idea of the bondage of darkness this country was under. Innumerable shires to false gods were everywhere covered with offerings of food and flowers. The enemy had instilled in the minds of the people to do incredible offerings of suffering to gain spiritual peace. He saw Indian devotees lying on beds of spikes, walking on spiked shoes, swinging themselves on flesh-hooks, and gazing at the sun until they lost their sight. The worst of these tortures was the practice of suttee or widow-burning. A widow was burned to death with the body of her husband so she could continue to serve him in the other life. With all his energy he went against this terrible practice but it still took 36 years to finally abolish it by legal action.
Without any resources to live, Carey soon had to find work. He had to support his family and also have enough left over to support the mission. The mission he founded was a good fifteen mile walk through the sun drenched country-side passing through salt lakes and deserts. The place was called Sunderbund and here he found small scattered villages for his missionary work. At this time, for the support of his endeavors, he was offered the superintendency of an indigo factory at as place called Manbatty. This job also gave him a regular "congregation" of natives who worked at the factory, to whom he could preach and teach. Except for a small amount of money to support his family, the rest of his salary went to the missions. Consequently, this same attitude was in the hearts of every other missionary who was then sent. The Baptist Missionary Society was not too keen on the idea of seeking outside employment. Even though they had very little money to send to the missionaries, Mr. Fuller wrote a letter of caution which contained:
"I offer you serious and affectionate caution... lest you allow the spirit of the missionary to be swallowed up in the pursuits of the merchant."
If the missionaries did not engage in secular pursuits for income they would have perished. Carey's reply shows a magnanimous spirit when he wrote back:
"I can only say that, after my family's obtaining a bare subsistence, my whole income, and some months more, goes for the purpose of the Gospel, in supporting persons to assist the translation of the Bible, in writing copies of it, and in teaching school. I am, indeed, poor, and shall always be so, until the Bible is published in Bengali and Hindustani, and the people want no further instruction."
Carey spent five years laboring at the indigo factory and the fruit of his preaching was absolutely zero. Not one soul for God. In 1799, because of a great flood the factory was closed and since the English authorities still, under no conditions, would allow the work of missions in their territory, Carey moved his family to the town of Serampore, only fourteen miles above Calcutta. This place was under Danish rule and its Governor, Colonel Bie, was a Christian. The Colonel aided Carey and Thomas to buy property for a mission compound. Schools were established and they began preaching the Gospel.
Eugene Myers Morrison, a biographer states:
"Carey's expectations of success in the mission were at first very sanquine. He felt assured that just as soon as he could converse freely in the vernacular, he would be able to lead large numbers ‘out of darkness into His marvelous light.' But months lengthened into years without a single convert. This failure led frequently to tears and bitter self-reproach...He had come to India to win lost, wretched souls to Christ and nothing could compensate for the failure of this endeavor. At times his faith became faint, but it always rallied through the recurrence of ‘the blessed hour of prayer.' Several times his eager hopes were crushed by the dismal failure and lapse into idolatry on the part of some for whose conversion he had labored...(but) he kept on ‘expecting great things.'"
Carey's feelings during this time are expressed in the following segment of a letter to his sisters:
"I know not what to say about the mission. I feel as a farmer does about his crop; sometimes I think the seed is springing, and then I hope; a little time blasts all, and my hopes are gone like a cloud... I preach every day to the natives, and twice on the Lord's Day constantly, besides other itinerant labors; and I try to speak of Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and of Him alone; but my soul is often dejected to see no fruit."
What kept him going most of all was the labor of translating the scriptures to a people who never heard or read a word of them.
"The work of translation is going on, and I hope the whole New Testament and the five books of Moses may be completed before this reaches you. It is a pleasant work and a rich reward, and I trust, whenever it is published, it will soon prevail, and put down all the Shastras of the Hindus...The translation of the Scriptures...has accordingly occupied a considerable part of my time and attention."
After seven long years it happened. The first Hindu convert was baptized. The seven long, trying, dry, unfruitful years were over and the joy was unspeakable. Morrison takes up the story:
"Carey's cup of joy filled up and overflowed that blessed Sunday, December 28, 1800, when he was privileged to baptize his own son, Felix, and then Krishna Pal. Poor Mr. Thomas was so overwhelmed with joy that historic morning, he shouted, ‘Sing, soul, sing! Sing aloud! Unutterable is my gladness!' His (Thomas's) mind temporarily deranged and he was unable to attend the baptismal service."
Dr. Thomas was so overjoyed that his mind for a time gave way, and he had to be confined at the mission at the time of the baptism. On regaining his composure his health was never the same, and he died a few months later.
Krishna Pal proved faithful and most efficient in preaching the Gospel until his death in 1822. Carey would write of Krishna:
"He is now a steady, zealous, well-informed, and I may add eloquent minister of the Gospel, and he preaches on an average twelve or fourteen times every week in Calcutta and its neighborhood."
Persistence and perseverance along with self-denial were the traits that marked Carey's life during those trying times. His daily routine makes one exhausted just reading it. Up at 5:45, he read a chapter in the Hebrew Bible, then "private addresses to God." That was followed by family prayers with the Bengali servants, reading Persian until tea, then, translating Scriptures in Hindustani to Sanskrit followed by teaching at the school from ten until two. Next he spent time correcting proof sheets of the Bengali translating of Jeremiah and translating of Matthew into Sanskrit, and then spend one hour with a pundit on Telinga. Then at seven o'clock he would collect thoughts for a sermon and then preach at seven-thirty to about forty people. He would then translate Bengali until eleven, write a letter home, read a chapter from the Greek New Testament and then commended himself to God as he lay down to sleep for a few hours.
As the work succeeded, more laborers were sent out by the Society to help Carey. Two of them will never be forgotten, Joshua Marshman and William Ward. Ward was a printer and editor, to whom Carey had said before he left England, "If the Lord bless us, we shall want a person of your business to enable us to print the Scriptures. I hope you will come after us." Marshman was an assistant in a book shop and had read over 500 books before he was eighteen. At one time when Marshman was seeking a church membership the objection was, "that he had too much head knowledge of religion to have much heart knowledge of it." Linked in the history of Indian missions the names of Carey, Marshman and Ward will never be separated.
Throughout all of this Carey suffered many sorrows including the death of his five-year old son, Peter. The biggest blow was the condition of his wife, who became insane and continued in this state until her death in 1807. A year later, Carey married Charlotte Rumohr who, in 1801, was the first European lady to be baptized in India. She had the same heart for evangelizing the Indian nation and was a tremendous helpmate for Carey. He called her, "a soul of fire in a shell of pearl." She died in 1821. In 1823 Carey married Grace Hughes, who also was a great helpmate in evangelization. Another let down was his son Felix. At first Felix was thought to be called, like his father, to the missions. While on the mission field in Rangun, Burma, Felix became interested in political affairs and accepted a high ranking civil position. On hearing this Carey said, "My son set out as a minister of Christ; but alas! He has dwindled down to a mere British ambassador."
By 1801, the great task of translating the Bible into Bengali was completed. At the same time Carey was offered the presidency of Fort William College in India. He accepted the challenge and was paid a salary of one thousand five hundred pounds; but he lived on less than fifty, devoting the rest to the mission.
After spending all these years in the country, their work was now just beginning. The three missionaries, Carey, Marshman and Ward were busy in the college, schools and on preaching tours, stirring the hearts of the heathen. They preached the word of God in the streets and in the bazaars even inside the heathen temples. Wherever they went they attracted crowds with the singing of hymns, that Carey wrote, and the preaching of the word. Continuing with the translation of Scriptures, by 1806, the missionaries had issued the Scriptures into fifteen oriental languages for the very first time.
Time did not allow much correspondence with those back in England, raising a concern among the Society. To calm their fears Carey would write:
"I translate from Bengali and from Sanscrit into English. Every proof-sheet of the Bengali and Mahratta Scriptures must go three times at least through my hands. A dictionary of the Sanscrit goes once at least through my hands. I have written and printed a second edition of the Bengali grammer and collected materials for a Mahratta dictionary. Besides this, I preach twice a week, frequently thrice, and attend my college duties. I do not mention this because I think my work a burden-it is a real pleasure-but to show that my not writing many letters is not because I neglect my brethren, or wish them to cease writing to me."
One evening the printing office was discovered to be on fire, and in a short time totally destroyed. Everything was lost. Buildings, types, paper, proofs, and, all the Sanscrit and other translations perished in the flames. A total of ten thousand pounds worth of property was destroyed and covered by no insurance. To the joy of all, the hand of God was strong in His protecting power. A large piece of metal was found to have fallen over on all the punches and matrices saving them all. The types were speedily recast and within two months the printers were back to work. Two more months the sum required to repair everything was collected and the Scriptures were again being translated. Carey's sermon on the next Sunday was, "Be still, and know that I am God."
For more than a fourth of a century the three, Carey, Marshman and Ward, labored, wept, and prayed together. They lived to see much fruit from their labors. Carey translated the Bible into Bengali and other languages and Dr. Marshman translated it into Chinese. Together they printed the Scriptures in forty languages and dialects. They established a college to train ministers, a medical mission, a leper hospital and over thirty large mission stations.
Because of Carey's missionary zeal, missionary societies were sprouting up throughout the world. Before long there were fourteen societies in Britain and soon spread to America. As one biographer noted:
"The light, which Carey kindled, spread from hill to hill like beacon fires, till every Christian church in turn recognized the signal and responded to the call. The consecrated cobbler was indeed "The Father of Modern Missions."
The fruit of Carey and the other missionaries that followed him continues to this day. A few decades after Carey's arrival in India an article was written on the success of the missions:
"There are in the present year not less than 350,000 native Christians, besides 150,000 scholars, who, though not all Christians, are receiving Christian instruction; that is, 500,000 people, or half a million, brought under the influence of Christianity. And the annual rate of increase...has progressed with the advancing years. At first it was reckoned by hundreds yearly, then by thousands, and further on by tens of thousands...They adhere to their faith under social difficulties. Large sacrifices have to be made by them...the number of Apostates may almost be counted on the fingers...there is no such thing as decay in religion, nor any retrogression towards heathenism...I believe...if any attempts were to be made by secular violence to drive the native Christians back from their religion, many of them would attest their faith by martyrdom."
It was in March, 1799, that Mr. Carey saw for the first time a widow burned alive with her dead husband; and from that time on he never ceased to use his influence to get that horrible rite abolished. It took over thirty-five years but on a Sunday morning in December, 1829 his battle over that demonic rite came to an end. It was during his prayer time, early in the morning, when he was interrupted by a messenger from the Chief official of Calcutta. The document was the banishment of the practice of Sattee, the burning alive of widows. He quickly arranged another to preach the morning service and then spent the rest of the day translating the document so it could be read by the native authorities. Every minute counted because in one day he could save over 1000 lives.
During Carey's life he always enjoyed good health. In his seventy-third year he became weak with illness and old age but he never slowed down on his work:
"I am now only able to sit and to lie upon the couch, and now and then to read a proof-sheet of the Scriptures; but I am too weak to walk more than across the house, nor can I stand even a few minutes without support."
As he grew weaker he was visited by a Dr. Wilson, the Metropolitan of India, who was so enamored by the old missionary that he asked for the dying mans blessing. Then he was visited by Alexander Duff, who has been called "the apostolic successor of Carey." Mr. Duff spent some time talking with Carey about his life and achievements, till at length Carey whispered, "Pray with me." Duff knelt down and prayed, and then said good-bye. As he was leaving Carey said to him, "Mr. Duff, you have been speaking a great deal about Dr. Carey, Dr. Carey; when I am gone, say nothing about Dr. Carey-speak only about Dr. Carey's Savior."
On June 9, 1834, the man who opened the door for the Church to reach souls world-wide died. Marchman preceded him in death by eleven years and Ward would outlive him by three.
Psalm 2:8 "Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession."
JJ (Dark) Di Pietro
Cane Creek Church