Tuesday, August 17, 2010

On William Carey's Birthday

As I often like to do, I feel compelled to mark the birthday of William Carey (August 17, 1761) by reading some sketches of his life and ministry. For those unaware, Christian missions had fallen upon hard times until Carey's day when he challenged Christians to move out with the gospel to the ends of the earth. He went to India in 1793 and never returned to England. He died in India in 1834 at age 72, following over forty years of missionary service. The two sources I am reading today are Danny Akin's Five Who Changed the World and Archibald McLean's Epoch Makers of Modern Missions (c.1912). Following are some quotes and statements by and about the man.

- "William Carey may have been the greatest missionary since the time of the apostles. He rightly deserves the honor of being known as 'the father of the modern missions movement.'" (Akin)

- Carey was "a lone, little man. His resume would have read: Education - minimal. Degrees - none. Savings - depleted. Political influence - nil. References - a band of country preachers half a world away. What were Carey's resources? Weapon - love? Desire - to bring the light of God into the darkness. Strategy - to proclaim by life, lips, and letters the unsearchable riches of Christ." (Timothy George)

- Before going to India, Carey served several small churches as a pastor. At Barton, he walked six miles one-way to preach to them. "Having no acquaintance with ministers, he said, 'I was obliged to draw all from the Word of God.'" McLean

- "The reading of Cook's Voyages led Carey to think of the nations that are without hope because they are without God. As he worked at his (cobbler's) bench he thought of these nations and resolved to do something for the betterment of their condition. He made a globe of leather to help him in teaching geography. As he would point out the different nations, he would say to his pupils, 'These are Christians; these are Mohammedans; and these are Pagans.' As he uttered the word 'Pagan' his lips quivered and his eyes filled with tears. That humble shoemaker's shop was the birthplace of modern missions. A man without a collegiate education was the agent the Lord selected to lead in this enterprise. Many years afterward, in the English house of parliament, Wilberforce said that he did not know of a finer instance of the moral sublime than that a poor cobbler working in his stall should conceive of the idea of converting the Hindus to Christ." McLean

- Typical of the church climate of Carey's day, when Carey shared his vision for reaching the heathen at the ends of the earth during a minister's conference, the respected John Ryland Sr. famously rebuked Carey, saying, "Young man, sit down. When it will please the Lord to convert the heathen, He will do it without your aid or mine."

- Before leaving for India, someone said to Carey, "There is a gold mine in India, but it seems as deep as the centre of the earth; who will go down and explore it for us?" Carey replied, "I will go, but remember you must hold the ropes." McLean

- "This Commission (Matt 28:16-20) was as extensive as possible, and laid them under obligation to disperse themselves into every country to the habitable globe, and preach to all the inhabitants, without exception or limitation." Carey

- "Multitudes sit at ease, and give themselves no concern about the far greater part of their fellow sinners, who to this day are lost in ignorance and idolatry." Carey

- "I question whether all are justified in staying here, while so many are perishing without means of grace in other lands." Carey

- "O what is there in all this world worth living for but the presence and service of God -- I feel a burning desire that all the world may know this God and serve Him." Carey, Journal, 3/29/1794

- "What a heaven will it be to see the many myriads of poor heathens ... who by their (the missionaries') labors have been brought to the knowledge of God. Surely a 'crown of rejoicing' (1 Thessalonians 2:19) like this is worth aspiring to. Surely it is worth while to lay ourselves out with all our might in promoting the cause and kingdom of Christ." Carey, An Enquiry Into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens

- "A Christian minister is a person who is 'not his own' (1 Corinthians 6:19); he is the servant of God, and therefore ought to be wholly devoted to him. By entering on that sacred office he solemnly undertakes to be always engaged as much as possible in the Lord's work, and not to choose his own pleasure or employment, or pursue the ministry as something that is to subserve his own ends or interest, or as a kind of sideline. He engages to go where God pleases, and to do or endure what He sees fit to command or call him to in the exercise of his function. He virtually bids farewell to friends, pleasures, and comforts, and stands in readiness to endure the greatest sufferings in the work of the Lord, his Master. It is inconsistent for ministers to please themselves with thoughts of numerous congregations, cordial friends, a civilized country, legal protection, affluence, splendor, or even an income that is sufficient. The slights and hatred of men, and even pretended friends, gloomy prisons, and tortures, the society of barbarians and uncouth speech, miserable accommodations in wretched wildernesses, hunger and thirst, nakedness, weariness, and diligence, hard work, and but little worldly encouragement, should rather be the objects of their expectation."

- "Let us never think of our time, our gifts, our families, or even the clothes we wear as our own. Let us sanctify them all to God and His cause. Let us forever shut out the idea of laying up a dowry for ourselves and our children. Let us continually watch against the worldly spirit and cultivate a Christian indifference towards every indulgence. Rather, let us bear burdens as good soldiers of Jesus Christ; and endeavor in every state to be content." Attributed to Carey and his colleagues, Marhman and Ward, in McLean.

- "I see more and more of my own insufficiency for the great work I am called to. The truths of God are amazingly profound, the souls of men infinitely precious, my own ignorance very great and all that I do is for God who knows my motives and my ends, my diligence or negligence. When I (in short) compare myself with my work, I sink into a point, a mere despicable nothing." Carey, in a letter to his father.

* Note in the following three journal entries that were written within the span of 5 days how Carey brings himself from depression and despair into a fresh spiritual commitment to serve and live for the Lord:
*** "Nothing new, my soul is in general barren and unfruitful; Yet I find a pleasure in drawing near to God; and a peculiar sweetness in His Holy Word. I find it more & more to be a very precious treasure." Carey, Journal, 8/27/1794
*** "Nothing of any importance except to my shame, a prevalence of carnality, negligence, and spiritual deadness; no heart for private duties, indeed everything seems to be going to decay in my soul, and I almost despair of being any use to the heathen at all." Carey, Journal, 8/28-30/1794
*** "Was somewhat engaged more than of late in the things of God, felt some new devotedness to God, and desired to live entirely to Him and for His glory; O that I could live always as under His eye, and feel a sense of His immediate presence, this is life and all besides this is death to my soul." Carey, Journal, 8/31/1794

- "There were times when his soul was plunged to the depths of depression. He would bury two wives, with his first, Dorothy, sorrowfully, going insane. He would bury three children, and certain others disappointed him. He lost most of his hair due to illness in his early 20s, served in India for 41 years never taking a furlough, fought back dysentery and malaria, and did not baptize his first Indian convert, Krishna Pal, until his seventh year on the field!" Akin
*** "Krishna-Pal lived for 20 years to preach the gospel with great ability and success. His baptism marked an epoch in the history of the work." McLean

- "He had his trials. His (first) wife was insane for 12 years before her death. He lost a lovely boy five years of age. At first he was denounced by theologians, by traders, by politicians. He was said to be engaged in the maddest, most extravagant, the most unwarrantable project that ever entered the brain of a lunatic enthusiast. He was called a fool, a tinker, a schismatic. In India, he says, he was tolerated like a toad for a time, and then hunted like a beast. His great printing establishment was destroyed by fire. In an hour the labours of many years were consumed. The loss was estimated at 70,000 rupees. Important manuscripts perished. It required 12 months of hard labour to replace what had been destroyed. None of these things moved him. He was distressed, but not in despair. He did not bate a jot of heart of hope, but still bore up and pressed right onward. He turned a deaf ear to ridicule and obloquy." McLean

- "If, like David, I am only an instrument of gathering materials, and another shall build the house, I trust my joy will be none the less." Carey

- Carey, on his own 70th birthday (3 years before his death): "I am this day 70 years old, a monument of Divine mercy and goodness, though on a review of my life I find much, very much, for which I ought to be humbled in the dust; my direct and positive sins are innumerable, my negligence in the Lord's work has been great, I have not promoted His cause, nor sought His glory and honor as I ought, notwithstanding all this, I am spared till now, and am still retained in His Work, and I trust I am received into the divine favor through Him. I wish to be more entirely devoted to His service, more completely sanctified and more habitually exercising all the Christian graces, and bringing forth the fruits of righteousness to the praise and honor of that Savior who gave his life a sacrifice for sin."

- "Before Carey's death 212,000 copies of the Scriptures in 40 different languages were issued. The Word of God was thus brought within the reach of 300,000,000 human beings. He and his associates did more to spread the knowledge of the Scriptures among the heathen than all the world besides." McLean

- "The work that he did as a translator of the Bible was only part of what he accomplished. He prepared grammars and lexicons in several languages. These were elaborate works. He was one of the foremost botanists and horticulturists of his age. ... He preached constantly." McLean

- "One biographer classed him with Chaucer, the father of English verse; with Hooker, the father of English prose; with Shakespeare, the father of English literature; with Bunyan, the father of English allegory; with Newton, the father of English science. He calls him the father of the Second Reformation, that of Foreign Missions." McLean

- "Pray for us, that we may be faithful to the end." Carey, to John Williams, c. 1801.

- "You have been talking much about what Dr. Carey said and about what Dr. Carey did. Let me entreat you to say nothing more about Dr. Carey, but speak only about Dr. Carey's Saviour." Carey, on his deathbed, to Scottish missionary Alexander Duff.

- "A wretched, poor, and helpless wor, on Thy kind arms I fall." Inscription from Carey's grave, ordered by Carey himself, in Serampore, India.

- "This man who was sneered at as a low-born and low-bred made all nations his beneficiaries. He did a work that will tell on ages and that will tell for God." McLean

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