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William Carey, Pioneer Missionary To India (Part 5)

    After several years of untiring efforts as a new missionary in India, resulting in some remarkable achievements, William Carey’s longing to see yet greater things accomplished for God led him to urge the home board to send more missionaries.  In response, the Baptist Missionary Society in England sent a party of seven missionaries in 1800 to join Carey in giving the Gospel to the people of India.

The Mission Established at Serampore

    The East India Trading Company was still very opposed to missionaries being allowed into the country.  The captain of the ship who had brought the new group of missionaries was aware of this and, being sympathetic to the work of the mission, had brought them to Serampore to disembark instead of Calcutta.  Serampore was a trading settlement under the flag of Denmark.

    The Danish Governor Bie greeted the missionaries cordially and eagerly invited them to set up their mission there.  Carey, however, was established at Mudnabatty, an area within the Company’s territory, and had expected the missionaries to join him there.  It was conveyed to Carey that Governor Bie had assured them that if they established the mission at Serampore they would be able to carry on their mission work without hindrance.  When Carey realized the new recruits were being threatened to be expelled from India should they enter the Company’s territory, he saw the wisdom in accepting the Governor’s invitation.  This proved to be a wonderful provision of the Lord, and for the rest of Carey’s life Serampore remained the permanent home and headquarters of the mission.

The Mission’s Outreach Expands

    What great encouragement it was to Carey to welcome the new group of missionaries and their families to India.  One of the new recruits was William Ward, a printer from Derby who Carey had met seven years earlier.  He had told Ward at that time, “We shall want you in India in a few years to print the Bible; you must come after us.”  Carey had recently bought a second-hand printing press and the first printing project he and Ward undertook was the New Testament in Bengali.  They printed two thousand copies in this initial project.

    A boarding school and a school for Indian boys were also established under the care of another new missionary recruit, Joshua Marshman, a schoolmaster who had left home for India at less than three weeks’ notice.  Carey continued his translation work and his going out to preach the Gospel.  By the end of the year, the mission had baptized their first Indian convert.  What joy this must have been to Carey, who had labored for seven years without leading a single Indian to Christ.  Other conversions followed.

    Several of the new missionaries died in the ensuing years, but for 23 years Carey worked with William Ward and Joshua Marshman in blessed fellowship.  They were pioneers in translation work.  Although aware of the imperfection of their work, they felt that imperfect translations were better than none, and they knew they were laying the groundwork for revisions that would follow.

    Having mastered Sanskrit (the root language of many of the North Indian vernaculars), Carey had a foundation for reading and translating various other languages.  In 1804 the British and Foreign Bible Society was formed in England, and Carey and his colleagues were asked to be a part of the Bengal auxiliary.  This gave the mission resources to do even more translating.  Carey’s team gathered around them a large body of qualified Indians from all over the country and employed them in the translation work.

    Printing was slow work.  The press Carey had acquired was an old-fashioned hand press. Type for the Indian languages was hard to come by or non-existent.  At a moment of great need, the Lord sent to them a man who knew “the art of cutting punches for casting type.”  Through his skill and efforts, they were able to make their own type for the printing press.

From the Fire to Opportunities

    By 1812 they had translated parts of the Bible into twelve languages.  Suddenly calamity struck.  One evening after the Indian employees had gone home, a fire started in the room where the paper supply was stored.  Even though a valiant effort was made to limit the damage to the mission, much precious material was lost, including thousands of pages of manuscript representing untold hours of labor.  Dismayed, but not in despair, the men began at once to rebuild and to replace what was lost.  “At the end of a year, Carey declared that the mission press was in a more efficient state than it had ever been before.  The experience gave Carey the opportunity of improving the translation work that had been destroyed, and all the missionaries were convinced that out of the catastrophe God had brought permanent enrichment.”

    So skilled was Carey in Bengali and Sanskrit that he was asked in 1801 to accept an appointment as professor to teach at Fort William College, newly established by the Governor General of India.  This appointment marked a great positive change in the mission’s relationship with the East India Trading Company.  It also brought Carey into contact with many learned Indians and he was able to increase his literature skills even more.  This in turn led him to an improved revision of the Bengali New Testament.

    At times over the years serious trouble would erupt and there were strong anti-missionary feelings which threatened to overthrow the entire mission.  But always God gave the wisdom and the favor needed to freely carry on.  Attacks against them often ended in strengthening the work instead of hindering it.

    Carey and his colleagues are said to have had a part in translating and printing Scriptures in over thirty languages of India.  Back in England, there were those who asked “How can these men (who previously worked as a shoemaker, a small town printer, and the schoolmaster of a charity school) translate into so great a number of languages?”  Carey’s response was:  “Few people know what may be done till they try, and persevere in what they undertake.”

    Besides the translation work, the missionaries were careful to maintain a constant evangelistic outreach.  The men did open-air preaching as well as personal evangelism.  They traveled, distributing Scripture portions and gospel tracts in various languages.  A great number of village schools were established, and a college was founded within the mission to train Indian young people to win their countrymen to Christ.

William Carey’s Example

    Trials, setbacks, failures and sorrows were all a part of Carey’s life in India.  But one must thank God for the example of this man.  He was without the advantage of higher education, an ordinary shoemaker and a humble country preacher.  But he had an understanding of God’s love for the whole world, and a zeal to fulfill the Great Commission of Christ to go into all the world and preach the Gospel.

    He possessed persevering faith that would not yield to the indifference and opposition of the majority of Christians with whom he associated.  He held to the vision that burned in his soul, placed there by God, until others also began to see the vision.

    Through his abundant and tireless labors in India, William Carey paved the way in many respects for missionaries who would follow after him.  Truly Carey’s life was an embodiment of his famous words:  “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.”

    – Arranged from the book, “William Carey, Missionary Pioneer and Statesman” (1761-1834) by F. Deaville Walker, published by Moody Press, Chicago, IL.