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William Carey, Pioneer Missionary To India (Part 1)

    Arranged from the book, "William Carey, Missionary Pioneer and Statesman" (1761-1824) by F. Deaville Walker, published by Moody Press, Chicago, Illinois.

    William Carey is often spoken of as "the father of modern missions." There had been Protestant missionary pursuits for some years previous to Carey’s efforts, we are told, but they were mostly concerned with the home country or colonial territories. But William Carey had received from God a vision that the Gospel should go into all the world as Christ commanded: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (Matt. 28:19-20).

    William Carey was born in 1761 into a quiet countryside home in England. His parents were weavers. The family regularly attended the village church, and from early childhood William read the Scriptures.

    When William was six years of age, his father was appointed master of the free school in the village. William had a natural aptitude for learning and with the additional advantage of his father being schoolmaster, he advanced steadily in acquiring an education. He was an avid reader, and at the age of twelve, he began to master Latin. Early in life, he displayed the trait of a determination to carry through to the end the thing on which he had set his heart.

    Young William was a lively, adventuresome boy, popular with the other boys, and in his early teens he fell into company with some whose influence tended to draw him away from the good conduct and conversation he had learned at home. William’s parents were unable to give him an education beyond the village free school and so about the age of fourteen he was apprenticed to a shoemaker. A second apprentice in the workshop was the son of a "dissenter" from the commonly accepted church. There were long discussions between the boys, and sometimes arguments, as the two worked together. A topic doubtlessly frequently discussed was heart religion as against formal observance of one’s religion.

    While William strongly argued against the dissenter, he was becoming troubled at heart over the waywardness of his recent years. Secretly his heart was growing hungry for the personal experience with the Lord which his fellow apprentice urged upon him.

    "Carey’s proud spirit was deeply impressed, and his views were almost imperceptibly undergoing a change. His soul was thirsting for God. To ease his mind, he resolved to go to church three times every Sunday. Moreover, he purposed to attend the dissenting prayer meeting in the evening. In his heart he ‘resolved to leave off lying, swearing and other sins,’ and sometimes when alone, he tried to pray." As time went on, William Carey was converted and joined the dissenters. He became devoted to the Lord Jesus Christ, and he earnestly studied the Scriptures.

    When he was twenty-one years of age, some friends with whom he became acquainted invited him to preach for them in their meeting house. Being pleased with his preaching, they arranged for him to come every other week to preach. He regularly walked the six miles to do so on Sunday mornings and returned in the evening. By this time he had married, and he had taken over the shoemaking business of the former owner, who had died.

    For the responsibility of preparing messages, young William studied diligently. He had learned Greek, and now, to better understand the Old Testament, he took up the study of Hebrew. It is apparent that he had very unusual linguistic abilities. After learning Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Italian, he turned to Dutch and French.

    "The motive that impelled him was that of service for Jesus Christ. Desiring to become an efficient and helpful preacher of the Gospel, he counted no effort too great. He never sat at his work without a book before him; and as he carried his stock of newly made shoes to the neighboring towns or returned with a supply of leather, he went over the subject he was studying.... In all this we can trace the dominant trait of his own character – plod. In old age he said to his nephew:

    "‘Eustache, if after my removal anyone should think it worth his while to write my life, I will give you a criterion by which you may judge of its correctness. If he gives me credit for being a plodder he will describe me justly. Anything beyond this will be too much. I can plod. I can persevere in any definite pursuit. To this I owe everything.’ Those great words, ‘I can plod’ are the master key of his life – and he placed that master key in the hands of Christ."

    To help support his family, he added to his shoemaking the responsibility of village schoolmaster, and he continued his preaching assignments. In 1787 he was ordained a minister of the Baptist church.

    (To be continued)