Adoniram And Ann Judson, Pioneer Missionaries To Burma (Part 1)
Adoniram Judson, the eldest son of a devout Congregational pastor, was born in Malden, Massachusetts, on August 9, 1788. He was an unusual child and could almost be called a prodigy. His mother taught him to read at an early age. At one time, upon his return from a trip, Adoniram’s father was surprised to learn that the three-year-old lad could read an entire chapter from the Bible. He was always a most studious young chap, much more interested in study and reading than in playing with his young chums.
He entered Providence College, now known as Brown University, at the age of sixteen. He was a brilliant student and made a remarkable record for himself in college. At the close of his final year he received the highest scholastic honor, being named the valedictorian of his class.
Young Adoniram was not sure just what he desired to do with his life upon graduation. His ambitions seemed to lie in two directions, the practice of law and the writing of plays. During his college days Judson imbibed many infidel ideas. The seeds of infidelity were the natural results of the French Revolution, which results had come to the United States and scattered throughout the land. Judson’s best friend, a college friend, was a product of this "New Thinking." His influence upon young Judson was great and the latter soon became as great an unbeliever as his friend. Judson was of a restless nature and often longed to tour the country. Upon his graduation he decided to visit New York City to join some theatrical performers. He did this, as he said, "to familiarize himself with their regulations, should he enter upon his literary career, and partly from curiosity and love of adventure." He remained with this theatrical group but a short time, soon tiring of this type of life.
Shortly after leaving New York City, young Judson was staying in a country inn. In the room next to the one where he spent the night, a man was dying and Judson was forced to listen to the man’s dying groans of agony and despair. The next morning he was shocked to learn that this man who had gone into eternity during the night was his infidel college chum. Judson was dazed as he left this country inn but soon became deeply engrossed in his own thoughts. The words kept ringing in his ears, "Dead! Lost! Lost!" He realized that he had been led astray in his thinking and that in reality all this infidelic teaching was utterly wrong.
This particular event in Judson’s life led him to enter Andover Seminary. Within six weeks after his entrance into the school, as he delved into the Word of God, he understood and experienced the incoming of the Lord Jesus Christ into his life and could say that he was no longer a stranger or foreigner, but a fellow citizen with the saints and of the household of God (Eph. 2:19). A great change came into Judson’s life after he had sought God for the pardon of his sins and had dedicated his life to the Master’s service. He now no longer dreamed of fame and honor for himself, but his one ambition was to plan his life in accordance with the will of God. He began to think of missionary service after learning of William Carey and associates who were opening up India to the Gospel. He sensed the Lord was calling him to be one who would help carry the Gospel "…unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
At this time there were no missionary boards in existence in America that were sending missionaries from our shores to give the Gospel of Christ to the heathen. At about the same time that God was speaking to Judson, He was also speaking to the hearts of three young men in Williams College. These three young men, Samuel J. Mills, James Richards and Luther Rice, formed a missionary society at this school. A short time later these three young men came to Andover College, where Judson was a student, to finish their theological training. It was through the zeal of these four young men that the American Board of Missions was organized.
It was a great disappointment to Adoniram Judson’s parents to learn of his decision to be a missionary. They thought this was an impossible and useless task and to have their own brilliant son enter into such a vocation was almost more than they could bear. However, young Judson knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that he had received his call from God and was determined to do the will of the Lord whatever the cost.
These four young men, and others who had now joined the group, decided to appeal to the various churches of New England, presenting the need of such a group as theirs in the missionary program. They went everywhere raising funds to send out the laborers to the harvest field, under American auspices. Whenever they were asked to fill pulpits they would do so and speak of this work that was so dear to their own hearts. On one particular Sunday, Mr. Judson went to Bradford with his companions to present the cause of the American Board of Missions. While there they were entertained at the home of a Mr. Hasseltine, at which time a God-ordained meeting of great consequence took place.
Mr. Hasseltine had two daughters, one of whom was a charming, black-eyed, curly-haired young lady who captivated Adoniram at once. Ann, was her name and she was a high-spirited young lady full of life and desire for adventure. Ann was born in Bradford, Massachusetts, on December 23, 1789. She was a gifted and brilliant student and received her earliest training at the academy at Bradford. When Ann was not yet seventeen years of age she became deeply interested in spiritual things. For some time she thought that by performing good works she could prepare herself for the kingdom of heaven. It was during a religious revival in her home town of Bradford at about this time that Ann came to realize that she could never be saved by her own good works but only by the grace of God. At the close of this series of special meetings Ann gave her heart and life to Christ and made her decision to do all in her power for the spreading of the Gospel.
When Ann was eighteen years of age she began to teach in schools in Salem, Haverhill and Newberry. It was during this period while she was teaching that she secured a copy of the book, The Life of David Brainerd. After reading this she became more aware of God’s purposes in her own life and felt that God desired to use her in some type of missionary endeavor. And it was about this time that the meeting of Adoniram and Ann took place. The initial meeting was followed by many subsequent visits of Adoniram to Bradford to visit Ann.
(To be continued)
– Adapted and used with permission from An Hour With Adoniram and Ann Judson by T. W. Engstrom, and supplemented with information from the book Ann Judson by Basil Miller.