Throughout centuries, God has continuously raised up and used many godly men in proclaiming the Gospel through the mission field. These great missionaries have come from all walks of life and from the great school of thoughts to only limited education. They have arisen from all points of this society, from obscure isolated places in this sphere to some of the highly populated cities in the world. Such was the case for the man that is known as the “father of modern missions,” William Carey. Over two hundred years ago, William Carey sailed from England to India to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the heathens. There is much to learn about William Carey. With only a grammar-school education behind him, he had no credentials for missionary service except an unquenchable conviction that God Almighty had called him to devote his life to the conversion of the heathens. Though William Carey’s life and work are unknown to many, he was an exceptional missionary. Carey’s name is among the long line of some of the great heroics of the faith and the Protestant missionary movement. It is the purpose of this research to examine both the beliefs and principles that guided William Carey in his mission to India and the methods by which he implemented those beliefs.
A Brief Historical Background of William Carey
Born in 1761, William Carey was the oldest child of a poor family in Northampton England. As a youth, he developed a keen interest in history and science which led him to immerse himself in travel books and people overseas. He read passionately all the books he was able to obtain, including a Latin grammar and dictionary, many of whose words he memorized. Carey had a quick mind and a natural love of learning; particularly in plants and animals. Clearly, as most biographies believe, he was a young man destined to have a life in the outdoors as a scientist and an agriculture laborer. Unfortunately, Carey developed severe allergies and a skin disease that made it painful for him to have exposure to the sun. Knowing the danger of him being exposed to the outdoor elements, his parents seeking a trade which would allow him to work indoors, found a shoemaker, Clarke Nichols, in the nearby town who was looking for an apprentice. Carey learned the craft and quickly mastered the trade of shoemaking but his heart was not in the shoemaking but in learning. It is important to note that Clarke Nichols was known for two things. First, he was a strict churchman and a very moral man who was notorious for his rough discipline on Carey and other apprentice as a cordwainer. Secondly, he was recognized to have a dreadful temper and a serious drinking issue for which he was accustomed to lie under such a condition, a vice to which Carey was awfully addicted to. Though he established a rigorous discipline for his apprentice in his home, Clarke has always been consistent in taking Carey to church and often time discussed many theological argument with William Carey. However, as Mary Drewery emphasized, “The argument would be beyond the appreciation of a sixteen-year old, Carey.”
As a shoemaker in the home of Nichols, Carey soon observed that Nichols owns a small library and that one of the books in Nichol’s library was a New Testament Commentary which contained Greek words and phrases. Carey though limited in education, but a gifted learner, was captivated by the Greek language and began to study it continuously by himself. Carey exhibited tremendous amount of knowledge and comprehension by been able to read all these books with little education. In addition of learning Greek and the New Testament commentary, Carey’s thirst for knowledge continued relentlessly for he studies both Hebrew and Latin in his spare time. As a youth Carey had a discipline for learning that was unwavering. William Carey had been brought up in the church and had a strict moral background. However, worldly influence impacted his life and steadily he lost interest in upholding what was taught to him as a child. In his own eyes and he was sure in the eyes of God, he was a liar, a thief and a sinner. James Culross described Carey’s life at that time the following way:
He was a stranger to the love of Christ. He was well acquainted with the letter of Scripture, particularly the Psalms and the historical books; he attended church and said ‘Amen’ with regularity; but that was all. He had associated with companions whose influence could only be debasing; his lips were too often polluted with profane language; he told lies; and he ran great risk of going down into those depths of gross conduct to be found among the lower classes of neglected villages.
He was deeply ashamed and affected by that to the point where he constantly attended prayer meetings regularly hoping to appease his conscious and according to Mary Drewery the incident had a profound effect on the future pattern of his life.
While at Clarke Nichols’ house, Carey found himself working along another apprentice, John Warr, who came from a dissenter family. Warr was a Christian and during long hours in the workshop he did not hesitate to discuss theological issues with Carey seeking to convert him to his view. He wanted Carey to leave the belief of the Anglican Church to that of Nonconformity. Warr was a determined witness to Carey and eventually the weights of his arguments began to take toll on Carey. In his memoir, Carey says this regarding War, “He became importunate with me, lending me books (there were many such in his home) which gradually wrought a change in my thinking, and my inward uneasiness increased.” This change in Carey causes him to start attending Nonconformist prayer meetings around their region. Some have argued that it was through divine invention that while Carey attending the prayer meeting, God spoke to him through the preaching of Thomas Chater, who made a powerful appeal in his sermon for complete commitment to Christ. Furthermore, Chater clearly explained the need for sinners personally to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior from sin and openly confess Him before others. This message somehow connected with Carey as he saw the wretchedness of his life, the seriousness of his sin and his helplessness to do anything about it. As a youth, he had resolved to stop swearing, lying and having immoral conversation with others, but to no avail. However, through the message of Chater he realized nothing but an entire change of heart could remove his guilt and bring him peace with God. Through much dialog with other believers, studies, reflection, a few months before his eighteen birthday, Carey indicated that he was brought “To depend on a crucified Savior for pardon and salvation, and seek a system of doctrines in the Word of God.” Carey not only made public his profession of faith in Jesus Christ but a few months later he decided that he would join his fellow-apprentice John Warr as a Nonconformist.
Carey’s Missionary Call
No sooner than he was converted, Carey’s life was transformed. He faithfully studied the Bible, read tremendous amount of religious books, engaged in religious discussions with Anglican and Nonconformist thinkers in his community, and he accepted any opportunity to preach the gospel. Throughout his intense reading, Carey became convinced that the people of the world needed Christ. For Carey, evangelism was never an option and through many difficulties, he continued to read and study and preach. The greatest concern in his life was to know more about Jesus and to make him known throughout the world. It is worth noting here that there were books that tremendously impacted Carey’s belief about missions. The first was the Bible which he thought unapologetically taught him that is the duty of the church to preach the Gospel to every creature. The second book that affected his life as a missionary was the Life and Diary of David Brainerd, which amply demonstrated the effectiveness of missions when engaged in by a dedicated missionary. Carey was captivated by Captain Cook’s Voyages, whose vivid portrayal of moral and spiritual conditions in the South Sea Islands made it clear for Carey the need for missionaries are essential on the other side of the world. Finally, Carey was deeply influenced by the Moravian Missions for he was an avid reader of their Periodical Accounts which demonstrated their strengths and courage under the constraint of extreme challenges.
In his pamphlet which is too long to quote in full, An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens, Carey “Wished all Christians to recognize their responsibility for carrying the Gospel to all. Careys concerns for sharing the gospel for the salvation of the heathens was so strong that he propounded this subject for discussion at a Baptists leaders meeting by arguing that the command given to the apostles to teach all nations applied to all Christians at all times, and he reprimanded any ministers who choose to stay silent for such a noble cause. During the Baptist meeting he gave outline of the history of efforts of Christians to fulfill the command and a survey of the population of the entire world with the religious professed by the various peoples, he urged the project, he urged for practicality of doing something towards conveying the Christian message to non-Christians, and he also suggested feasible steps of doing so.
His intense criticism of the Baptist leaders was not received as expected for he was abruptly interrupted by older ministers who said, “Young man, sit down! You are an enthusiast. When God pleases to convert the heathen, he’ll do it without consulting you or me.” Trouble by such a response from a Baptist preacher and the unconcerned attitude of other preachers is that he felt that it was necessary to persist in his quest for missionary and he later wrote, “I can plod, I can persevere to any definite pursuit, always resolutely determined never to give up on any point.” Carey prayed and pled for God to change the life of those that are lackadaisical regarding missions. On May 31, 1792, Carey’s prayer was answered when he delivered one of his greatest sermons at the Baptist Association Meeting. He preached a simple yet dynamic missionary sermon from Isaiah 54: 2-3: “Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitation, spare not lengthen they cords, and strengthen they stakes, for thou shalt break for the on the right hand and on the left, and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited.” This sermon, according to some, was the pivotal moment that enunciated the principles which he felt should characterize the missionary movement. Carey’s sermon reached the climax when he stated his two great principles of motives by calling on his fellow-brethren to “Expect great things from God and attempt great things for God.” His message was genuine; for he besought the people on Christ’s behalf to become His world-ambassadors, and dare an oversea mission. He called them for committal, for action and not to seat by the wayside and let the Gospel go unreached to the heathens. He bade them to pledge themselves there for mission and disobey no more the Great Command of God. Carey’s imploring appeal impressed the association of ministers who was there that they briefly convene under the guide of Andrew Fuller to discuss Carey’s argument and within four months they adopted the Baptist Missionary Society. The purpose of the society was to have an ecumenical vision and more importantly the goal was the preaching of the Gospel to every creature, even to those who are at the uttermost part of the earth. Furthermore, they were seven resolutions that were adopted but it suffice to say that the combination of Carey’s prayer, his passion for geography and his strong religious conviction for the lost led to a growing movement for mission. Amazingly, within a year, Carey was given the opportunity to be a missionary to India and joined by John Thomas (a former Surgeon), and Carey’s family as the Society’s first missionary.
Carey’s Challenges as a Surrender Missionary
The original thought for Carey’s first mission trip was the island of Otaheite (present-day Tahiti); however, when they hear that John Thomas had recently returned from Bengal and was looking for someone to return with him as a missionary, the society turned its attention toward India. Carey’s belief to goes to India as a missionary was exhilarating for he strongly believe that this was God’s will for his life instead of pastoring. Nevertheless, he soon realized a drastic change in lifestyle would not be without challenges for it had overwhelmed some of the most important people in Carey’s life. At first Carey learned that his father was not in favor of him going on the other side of the world as a missionary. In fact, Carey’s father feared for his life and believed that his he had completely gone out of his mind as to do something like this.
In addition, he also discovered that his wife, Dorothy, did not share the same views as he did. She was as James Culross emphasized, “Constitutionally timid for the proposed undertaking appeared to her to be attended with all kinds of danger, if not with absolute ruin to her family. She declared that she would never go with her own consent.” At the time, even to this day, this was undesirable for a missionary man to leave his family behind. In spite of his father’s reservations and his wife’s reluctance, Carey had made his decision and attempted to persuade his wife of coming with him. Dorothy stuck by her decision for many months until the very last minute. She was able to change her mind after a heart conversation with John Thomas who persuaded Dorothy to go by saying, “For six years I have known the loneness of a sundered family. Don’t doom yourselves to such a woe. I did not press you before, but now I feel impelled in love to be severe. If you refuse to go now, you’ll repent it as long as you lie, you’ll repent it as long as you live. Whereat she grew afraid and at last she cried, I’ll go, if my sister here will go with me.” Thomas was convincing and through much discussion, persuasion and fear of staying behind, he was able to win Dorothy’s over into going with Carey to the mission field. Research indicates that Dorothy Carey had multiple reasons for not wanting to go on the mission field. Some point out that she had never traveled beyond the limits of the country in which she was born. Others stipulate that having already lost two daughters prematurely and knowing she was five months pregnant at the time of the voyage caused her to have serious concern for the trip. Presumably she suspected the rough passages at sea might not a pleasant place for a pregnancy. There were even some speculations that she either knew too little or too much and the pressure of it all must have gotten to her. Whatever the reasons that might have caused the hesitation, it was evident that Dorothy had many difficult decisions to make and there was no easy answer on sight.
Financial Support Concerns
Carey’s decision to go to India had faced succession of unexpected difficulty such as raising sufficient funds to launch the undertaking. The raising of funds sufficient enough to cover Carey’s and Thomas’s passage money and their living expenses in India for the first year was a daunting task and not to mention obtaining of the East India Company license required of all persons who wished to reside in the company’s territories, and without which the missionaries would not be able to sail to Bengal neither would be able to settle in Bengal. There was not enough money to pay for the passage and thus John Thomas was sent out to plead for missionary causes while Carey went to the north for the same purpose. Of course, the society had to scramble for funds to pay for the rest of family with the addition of friends, family, and neighbors pitched in for the rest of the funds and securing licenses for the two missionaries with the East India Company. Evidently, all the money was accounted for with the necessary paper work from the East India Company and Carey and his family with John Thomas was able to set sail to India in 1793.
Carey’s Work as a Missionary in India
Carey and the others arrived in India in November 1793 after spending five months at sea. However, upon landing in Calcutta both Thomas and Carey had completely underestimated what it would cost to live in India. Calcutta was an expensive place to live, and the funds that were raised for them were quickly spent. The family was force to move into a small house in Bandel, a Portuguese community not far from Calcutta. Though the cost of living was more affordable Bandel was proving to be unsuitable to Carey because he was “Under extreme distress. The house was small and ill-ventilated; he was a stranger in a strange land, without money or friends; illness was beginning to invade his family.” Dorothy was miserable and sick and Carey’s heavy burden as he described in his Journal entry a day after the funds run out in January 13, 1794, he wrote:
I was much dejected at this. I am in a strange land, alone, no Christian friend, a large family and nothing to supply their wants . . . I am dejected, not for my own sake but my family’s. In the evening poured out my soul to God; but still my burden continued. The next day had a pleasant time in prayer to God in the morning but afterwards the abusive treatment I receive from her who should be a help to me quite overcame my spirits. I was vexed, grieved, and shocked. I am sorry for her who never was hearty in the undertaking, her health has been much impaired, and her fears are great . . . Oh that I may have wisdom from above.
The situation was extremely difficult to a point that both Carey and Thomas were seeking some form of secular employment. Thomas was able to resume medical practice without much difficulty while Carey was having trouble finding any types of employment. Fortunately Carey was able to find a Hindu moneylender who came to his aid by giving him the use, free of charge, of a small house in a suburb of Calcutta where he was able to continue his Bengali studies, his public preaching to Bengalis through an interpreter. He was able to find a job as a factory superintendent which him innumerable opportunities to meet Bengalis in all walks of life and his large salary made it possible for him to provide generously for the needs of his family and also meet the expenses of the missionary work in which he engaged. Though stricken physically, Carey refreshed his spirit by taking time to witness the Gospel of Jesus Christ to money-changers, the poor and anyone who understood a little English. To Carey’s heartfelt pain he never loses sight of the main goal and the true purpose of his calling to become a missionary. Through toils and grief he stands for Christ in the midst of hardship and yearned to see the people of India come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
There were many years of discouragement for Carey in India. For seven years there were no India converts in the field in which he poured out his soul every day. His inability to make any converts from Hinduism and other form of religion that is in India such as Islam causing him to renew his pleas to the missionary committee to send more missionaries into the field to tackle with him such overwhelming task. In addition, they were in debt, they had experienced the effects of disease, his wife’s mind and health had deteriorated for the worst and eventually died, they had suffered the loss of a son who died from malaria, two of his other sons had some serious issues with illness, and he suffered a severe attack of malaria which almost cost him his life. But through it all, Carey was able to say, “I would not renounce my undertaking. I hoped the Society will keep its eye towards Africa and Asia. These lands are not like the wilds of America, where long laboring and scarcely collected sixty to hear the Word. Here it is almost impossible to go out of the way of hundreds, and preachers are needed a thousand times more than people to preach to. Then there are all the lands not a soul that think of God aright.” William Carey’s journey was agonizingly slow and through toils and difficulties he always believed that the God who sent him to India would be faithful to him until the fulfilling of His work. Clearly Carey was a man born for mission and his stalwart faith in God and the Lord Jesus Christ should serve as a primary example to those who are endeavor to follow the life of missionaries.
Carey’s Unshakable Accomplishment in India
Through many studies and dedicated efforts, Carey had mastered three of India’s languages, Bengali, Sanskrit, and Hindustani. In addition of learning the languages John Woodbridge emphasized that “He also planted a church in 1795, set up a school, and successfully lobbied against the Indian custom of sati which is the burning of widow burning assisted suicide on her husband’s pyre which was finally banned in 1829 and fought against child marriages. In 1796, he was able to lead a Portuguese, his first convert, to Christ and baptized that individual himself. Through perhaps what some would call divine intervention, Carey resettled in the Danish enclave of Serampore, where he was joined by the printer William Ward and the educator Joshua Marshman. Together they became the “Serampore Trio” as they were energetically engaged in education by founded the Serampore College and the Agricultural and Horticultural Society of India in 1818, including a school of divinity for the people in India, publishing the New Testament in Sanskrit, Marathi, and Punjabi languages by creating grammars that fit those languages, and translation other work such as the edict that end the sati. Additionally, Carey, Ward, and Marshman among their many achievements were the publishing of the Bible into Bengali and other languages. Moreover, Carey help establish the first newspaper in India, engaging in dialogue with Hindu intellectuals regarding the message and the reason for the Gospel, and opening new mission stations in Bengal and North India and he served as professor of Fort William College in Calcutta from 1801 to 1831 in the languages of Sanskrit, Bengali, and Marathi.
Carey, in 1812, undertook the publication of Gospel tracks in twenty languages and portions of the Bible in eighteen. They also opened new fields of service in Java, Burma, and elsewhere. He was called the “Wycliffe of the East” for his tremendous contributions to the Bible translation. Carey thought himself numerous other languages and dialects in or to make further Bible translations. According to Woodbridge, it has been estimated that in the first three decades of the nineteenth century, 49 percent of all first translations of the Bible into new languages in the world were published at Serampore under Carey’s direction. It is this extreme vision of making God’s Word available to all mankind in its own language that is Carey’s greatest accomplishments. It is truly impossible to measure the results of the work that Carey, Ward, and Marshman have done in Serampore. It was Carey’s faith and conviction that if the Word of God was placed in the hands of the people he serves and others for that matter, The Word of God would be sufficient to effect its work of transformation and salvation. Clearly, Carey was ahead of his time. Even in the midst of many difficulties, Carey never slacks in the tasks he had set as his goal, to reach the heathens for Christ. Though Carey died in June 9, 1834, his vision was fulfilled. Out of his abundant faith, he always expected “great things from God” and his faith was rewarded. He offered his life freely to a world that was unknown, everything he had received, his talents, intelligence, persistent, and a strong faith was given to the Lord on the Mission’s field. Though scholars are able to produce a more accurate Bible to that he had translated, what he had accomplished in 40 years in India provided the necessary tools that help others in the translation of the Bible. He was indeed a man of great faith.
William Carey was a pioneer of the modern missionary movement, reaching out to all parts of the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As a missionary, he demonstrated what it means to possess certain virtues, fortitude in difficult circumstances, courage to follow his earnest conviction in spite of others rejection of him, the ability to live under extreme environments and yet still live for Christ, a genuine soul-winner, and more importantly he demonstrated what it means to have faith in God as Hebrews 11 stated. William Carey marks the beginning of a new era in the eighteen century; for he was the first Anglo-Saxon Protestant either in America and Great Britain to propose that Christians take concrete steps to bring the Gospel to all humanity. He was a fervent preacher who reminds Protestant Christian throughout the World that the Great Commission of Matthew 28: 18-20 must be taken seriously or else the heathens have no hope. He was a remarkable soul-winner who used every available tool to lighten the dark side of the culture of which he lives with the light of truth that is found in the Bible. As a result of his dedication and determination, his works have helped lay a strong foundation of Bible translations and education. As a missionary he had epitomize his own words that one should “Expect great things for God; attempt great things for God.” Carey achieved great things for God and rightfully earned the title of the central character and father of the worldwide missionary movement of the nineteenth century.