William Carey, Pioneer Missionary To India (Part 3)
While William Carey was preparing his booklet Enquiry, strongly setting forth the deep conviction of his heart that the Lord Jesus Christ had entrusted the church with the Gospel and that the church should endeavor to make it known among all nations – God was preparing men’s hearts to receive the booklet and its teaching. Through the writing of Jonathan Edwards of America, Christians were being urged to pray for revivals of religion and the advancement of Christ’s kingdom on earth. Prayer meetings were being formed in response to this exhortation – and when God’s people pray, He works!
Gradually the little handful of Carey’s fellow preachers began to catch his vision. “They no longer opposed the principle of sending the Gospel to the heathen; they now assented to the duty and desirability of doing so, but urged, not without reason, that it was impossible for them for the time being to undertake so vast a work. It seemed to them something too great, and too much like grasping at an object beyond their reach…. ‘The time has not yet come,’ they said. They must pray and wait, and sometime, maybe, God would make it possible. They had begun to catch the world vision, but they shrank from action.”
In 1791 a friend of Carey, Andrew Fuller, dealt with the matter of delay in an effective message. He said in part: “There is something of this procrastinating spirit running through a great part of life, and it is of great detriment to the work of God. We know of many things that should be done, and cannot in conscience directly oppose them, but still we find excuses for our inactivity…. We quiet ourselves with the thought they need not be done just now.
“This…prevents us from undertaking any great or good work for the cause of Christ or the good of mankind…. There are difficulties in the way, and we wait for their removal. We are very apt to indulge in a kind of prudent caution (as we call it) which foresees and magnifies difficulties beyond what they really are…. It becomes us to beware lest we account that impossible which only requires such a degree of exertion as we are not inclined to give it…. Instead of waiting for the removal of difficulties, we ought in many cases to consider them as purposely laid in our way in order to try the sincerity of our religion.
“Let it be considered whether it is not owing to this principle that so few, and so feeble efforts have been made for the propagation of the Gospel in the world…. Are the souls of men of less value than heretofore? No. Is Christianity less true or less important than in former ages? This will not be pretended. Are there no opportunities…to convey the Gospel to the heathen? This cannot be pleaded so long as opportunities are found to trade with them….
“The truth is, we wait for we know not what; we seem to think ‘the time is not come, the time for the Spirit to be poured down from on high’…. We pray for the conversion of the world and yet we neglect the ordinary means by which it can be brought about…. How shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach except they be sent?”
To Carey’s disappointment no missionary society was formed at that time as he urged, but his friends agreed that he revise his booklet and circulate it. Within a year it was published – the most convincing missionary appeal that had ever been written.
In his booklet Enquiry, Carey makes clear that Christ’s Great Commission is still binding on us. He gave a summary of missionary activity from the days of the early church to his day. Then followed 23 pages of statistics in which even little islands of the seas were included, giving size and population of the territory plus the religion then in prominence. Carey dealt with the difficulties of evangelizing the world and then in conclusion he tells how to meet these difficulties – “by prayer and effort.”
“The prayer must be fervent,” Carey said, “it must be definite, and it must be united. But we must not be contented with praying, without exerting ourselves in the use of means for the obtaining of those things we pray for.”
A few months later Carey was chosen to deliver a message to the Baptist Ministers Association. In this message he gave his immortal exhortation: “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.”
Not at once, but through Carey’s persistence, born out of deep conviction, at last the Baptist Missionary Society was formed. India was chosen as the first field of service. Mr. John Thomas, a medical doctor who had already been to India and who wanted to return to evangelize in Bengal State, was selected as the first missionary. When Carey was asked to go with Mr. Thomas to India, his heart must have most gladly and freely supported the answer of his lips, “Yes!”
Carey was convinced and determined to go, however, in spite of all his tender entreaties, his wife could not be persuaded to accompany him on so short a notice. She had two little daughters already in the grave. How could she go into so vast an unknown with her three young sons and the child she was now expecting? Her fears at the thought of going were perhaps matched by her grief as she prepared to part for a time from her husband and her oldest, an 8-year-old son who would accompany his father. Carey’s congregation which God had been greatly blessing through his ministry, was reluctant to let him go, but one expressed their thoughts thus:
“‘For several years we have been praying for the spread of Christ’s kingdom among the heathen; and now God requires us to make the first sacrifice to accomplish it.’ In their church minute book they placed the brief but impressive record that their minister was going to the East Indies to take the Gospel, adding, ‘In this we concurred with him, though it is at the expense of losing one whom we love as our own souls.’”
(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.