Isa 54:2 "Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes.
Isa 54:3 For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your offspring will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities.
1792 was a year for new beginnings. The Republic of France was established and the guillotine was first used. George Washington was still serving as first president of the USA. The US Postal service and US Mint were started. And Washington used the presidential veto for the first time. But there was another beginning most didn’t notice, which has changed history. The Founding of the Baptist Missionary Society in Kettering England. Actually its name was the “Particular Baptist Society for the Propagation of the Gospel Among the Heathen.” And it was largely started because of the insistence of one man; William Carey, the Father of Modern Missions. He preached a key sermon at a Ministers meeting that year with only two points. #1: Attempt great things for God. #2, Expect great things from God. It came from the Isaiah passage above. And before the year was out, William Carey was on his way to India as the first modern missionary to be sent by a mission organization, to an unreached country.
Meanwhile, over in America, there’s a little 4 y.o. boy who would come to play a role in William Carey’s life. That little boy was Adoniram Judson. He grew up in Massachusetts, graduated from Brown U. in Rhode Island, at the top of his class at 19 years old.
But no story is worth telling unless the hero of the story overcomes great odds and that’s the story of Adoniram Judson. In fact, you could say his life reflected the two point sermon of William Carey. He attempted great things and he expected great things from God.
Even though he was raised in the home of a congregational minister, he turned from his Christian faith during his college years, largely influenced by a friend who was not a Christian and who turned his interests to the French Humanist philosophers. But in 1808 his friend died a horrible death from an illness and it shook Adoniram badly. He returned to Christ and was saved. He was enrolled in Andover Seminary and in his last year there he committed himself to foreign missions. Now that sounds nice but understand this, there were no foreign mission agencies in the USA. He was attempting to do something that he had no idea how to do or how it would get done.
Together with 3 friends from Andover, the year he graduated, 1810, he persuaded the leaders of the Congregational Denomination to start a Foreign Mission board. Can you imagine that? Four 22 y.o. boys got the denomination to start something that no one else was doing anywhere in the US.
However, they knew that similar things were going on in England, so January of 1811 they sent Adoniram to England to visit the London Missionary Society, establish contact with them and learn from them. However his ship was captured by pirates. A pirate/privateer name L’invincible Napoleon captured them, took them to Spain, held them captive in Spain and France then in late February let them go. So young Adoniram finds himself adrift in France. Makes his way to Paris after a month or so, and three months later finally gets to London. He made his visits there and managed to come back to New York in late August.
So having turned from worldly philosophy, having challenged a whole denomination and having survived capture by a French Privateer, he encountered his greatest challenge so far when he met Ann Hasseltine….and fell in love. This ladylike, dainty, frilly, New England society girl becomes a tough, gritty, soldier for Christ and helps Adoniram become the success he was.
In 1812 aAdoniram and Ann set out with two other men who were appointed as missionaries, and one particular friend named Luther Rice. But another little obstacle lay ahead and Adoniram began preparing for it. You see, they were Congregationalists. That is basically a Presbyterian who practices congregational church polity. But they were going to India and then to Burma, to work with the great William Carey of England, who was a Baptist. Baptists believe in Believer’s baptism by immersion. Congregationalists baptize babies by sprinkling. Hmmm. How are they going to resolve this?
Adoniram begins an intensive study of his Greek new testament so that when he gets to Calcutta he can defend his views to Carey and continue to serve as a Congregational missionary.
But there’s a problem, the more he studies, the more he realizes the Baptists are right in their interpretation. Ann didn’t like this. She told him, if you convert to being a Baptist I’m not going to. But before they arrived Adoniram had so proven his new belief that not only did Ann agree with him, so did Luther Rice. And they were all baptized again when they reached the mission field, William Carey's co-worker, William Ward.
But that brought about a New Problem! Being Men of integrity, they believed that they must resign their commissions from the Congregationalists because of their new beliefs and having become Baptists. So Luther Rice, whose health had taken a turn downward, returned home to inform the Society and to find new mission support among the Baptists of America.
Fortunately Rice was really good at this and never returned to the mission field, but became a mission force to be reckoned with the rest of his life. By the end of 1813 he had helped organize 17 local mission societies and in 1814 the first meeting of a general convention of Baptists for world missions. In fact, Rice foresaw a day when there would be a great denomination of Baptists that would join together primarily for the sake of Missions. It didn’t happen in his life, but it did happen.
Back in India, a New Problem. The East India Company didn’t want these Americans here preaching to the heathens and made them leave. So Adoniram and Ann head for Burma. On the way Ann miscarries and loses their first child. The Buddhists of Burma seemed even harder to reach than the Hindu of India but the couple was dauntless. They began to learn Burmese, studying 12 hours a day. He finally began to preach and at his first meeting 15 men came. Their curiosity satisfied they didn’t come back but one man, in 1819 gave his life over to Christ, 7 years after arriving in Burma.
In the meantime he had translated the gospel of Matthew in to Burmese and they had lost another child. A 7 month old son, Roger William Judson. But in the next 3 years they baptized 18 more believers. It would be nice to think that things got better and easier, But that would be wrong. Yes the gospel grew but at a great cost.
He was taken before the King of Burma and denied the right to teach his faith. Later he was handcuffed, tortured and held in irons and led from prison to prison for 17 months as Ann and a daughter followed, living and sleeping in jungles.
Then at 37 years old his wife, Ann, died. She had worked hard, translated scripture, and wrote teaching materials in Burmese. But then in 1933, he baptized the 100th convert.
A couple of years later he married another missionary. Sarah Boardman’s husband had died there in Burma and they were married. But 10 years later her health was failing. Adoniram took her back to the US to recover but she never made it home. He was treated as a hero on his only trip home during his mission career and even attended a meeting of the newly formed Southern Baptist Convention.
After a long furlow he headed back to Burma and served for several years. Then in 1850, he died on a ship in the bay of Bengal after 37 years of Missionary service and only one trip home. He lost two wives and several children and was survived by a third wife who wrote the memoirs of Sarah. His family back home all passed away while he was serving in Burma.
BUT he left much behind. The first Missionary from the USA left behind the Bible in Burmese, 100 churches, and over 8,000 believers. Today Myanmar has over 650,000 baptists and 4000 churches. He was also largely responsible for the founding of the first two major mission agencies in America, Congregationalists and the Baptists, and a Burmese English dictionary that is the basis of dictionaries to this day. His wife Ann had written many letters home and inspired a generation of young women to go to the Mission field. Young ladies like Lottie Moon in China.WHY? Because Adoniram believed we can still attempt Great things for God – and Expect Great things From God.
Matt 24:14 the Gospel is to be preached to the entire world then the end will come. And here is the gospel: 1Co 15:1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you,…2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I received, how Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again according to the scriptures