William Carey, Pioneer Missionary To India (Part 2)
At the time William Carey was ordained a minister of the Baptist church in England, the nation was astir with interest in the voyages of Captain Cook, who was exploring the lands of the Pacific. After Cook’s murder by some natives in the Pacific, the Journal of Captain Cook’s Last Voyage was published. Carey’s reading of it marked a turning point in his life.
While to most people Cook’s Journal was a thrilling story of adventure, to William Carey it was a revelation of the need of all people of the world for the Gospel. To him the savages told of in the journal were men and women who were God’s creatures, needing to know about God’s love. In his heart there arose the thought: “These South Sea islanders need the Gospel!”
“The idea took possession of him, and he set to work to pursue that line of thought. He devoured every book he could lay his hands upon that had any bearing on the subject. He read of India and China, of Africa and America, and of the many countries of Europe. And as he pursued his studies, the idea grew yet clearer in his soul: ‘The people of the world need Christ.’
“With that thoroughness that always characterized him, Carey made careful notes from the books he read. His large, homemade map of the world, which hung upon the wall of his schoolroom, now began to serve a new purpose. On this map…‘he had drawn with a pen a place for every nation in the known world, and entered into it whatever he met with in reading, relative to its population, religion, etc….’
“Day by day as one volume after another was studied, new facts were added to that first missionary map of the world. Day by day, as Carey acquired new information about world conditions, he mused over world problems, and ‘while he mused the fire burned’ in his soul. Can we doubt that that wonderful map of human need became also his prayer chart? Often in the silence of the night, when the day’s toil was over and the casement cloths were drawn across the little window of his cottage, by the dim, feeble light he would scan that map, and then kneeling before it pour out his soul to God.
“Along with this ever-increasing vision of human need there grew in Carey’s soul an ever-deepening sense of his own riches in Christ. It came to him no doubt largely through his reading of the Scriptures and his experience of the Christian life, and also as a reflex influence of his preaching to his congregations.”
The writings of a friend also deeply impressed him. From these writings he concluded: “If it be the duty of all men to believe the Gospel…then it is the duty of those who are entrusted with the Gospel to endeavor to make it known among all nations.”
“Christ’s last great command rang in his listening ear, and in his responsible heart there arose the answer, ‘Here am I; send me!’ To William Carey the call came not in an enthusiastic missionary meeting – he never had the opportunity of attending one – but in the quiet of his own workshop. The call came to him as it came to the Prophet Amos – through a realization of human need. In Cook’s Journal and other books, he saw the needs of men, and in those deep needs he heard the voice of God. Changing the words (but not the meaning) of Amos, Carey might have said with truth: ‘I was no prophet, neither was I the son of a prophet…but the Lord took me as I made the shoes, and the Lord said unto me, “Go, prophesy unto My people Israel.’”
“And in truth, his first message was ‘to Israel’ – to the people of God slumbering in the churches of England. He had to arouse them first.”
Sharing the Vision
At first Carey was met by ministerial colleagues with the thought, “When God pleases to convert the heathen, He will do it without your aid or mine.” Carey was disappointed but not discouraged. The facts that had stirred his heart must be passed on to stir others.
“He began to talk about it to all with whom he came into contact; he preached about it to his little flock at Moulton; it echoed in his prayers.
“At first he was alone. The leaders of the church were against him, and he had no one to encourage him or with whom he could take counsel. With very little formal education, without status or influence, he had, humanly speaking, everything against him. An ordinary man would have yielded to the inevitable; a ‘miserable enthusiast’ would have degenerated into an ill-tempered fanatic. Carey was neither, and he quietly applied himself to his task, confident in this – that God had called him.
“In order to reach a wider public than would ever hear his voice, he resolved to write a book – his famous Enquiry. And now his map became a weapon in the hand of a mighty man; the facts he had laboriously collected and written upon it were barbed arrows in his quiver. Slowly he marshaled his information, developed his arguments, set forth his conclusions, and with heart aflame wrote his amazing appeal. Every sentence was an arrow winged with conviction based on knowledge.”
(To be continued)
– Arranged from the book, William Carey, Missionary Pioneer and Statesman (1761-1824) by F. Deaville Walker, published by Moody Press, Chicago, Illinois.