life of mrs. ann h. judson, late missionary to burmah;
With an Account of the American Baptist Mission to that Empire.
From her Birth, to her Conversion.
MRS ANN H. JUDSON was the daughter of Mr. John and Mrs. Rebecca Hasseltine. She was born December 22, 1789, at Bradford, (Massachusetts,) a pleasant town on the banks of the river Merrimack.
Of the early years of Mrs. Judson, we have learned very little which distinguished her from other persons of her age.—She was gay, fond of amusement, and very active in whatever she undertook, whether business, or pleasure; so that her restless disposition induced her excellent mother to say to her one day, "I hope my daughter, you will one day be satisfied with rambling."
Like most other young persons, her inexperience, her love of company, and her ardent temper, sometimes led her into actions, which required the restraints of parental authority. Every parent has occasion, at times, to curb the natural disposition of children. Youth are apt to think their parents unnecessarily strict, in requiring conduct which appears to be irksome, and refusing indulgences, which seem to be innocent. But children ought to remember, that their parents are wiser than they, and love them too much to deprive them of any thing which would be really beneficial.
Mrs. Judson was grateful to her parents, in her more mature years, for their affectionate restraints; and every child will, if he shall live, see cause to thank his parents for their endeavours to preserve him from folly, and to guide him to virtue, and usefulness.
When Mrs. Judson was a child, there were no Sabbath schools in this country. She did not enjoy the privilege of receiving instruction in these schools, as children now do. There were then but few books, which young persons could read with pleasure and profit. The youth of the present day ought to feel gratitude to God, for the privileges which they enjoy.—Their parents and friends, who are advanced in life, had not these advantages; and they now wish, in vain, that there had been Sabbath schools and Bible classes when they were children.
Nor were there other schools so numerous and excellent, as those which are now to be found in all parts of the country.—Children ought to study with great industry, and endeavour to make a faithful use of their privileges; remembering that their responsibility to God and their parents is far greater than that of those who are deprived of these advantages in early life.
Mrs. Judson was very fond of learning. She was educated, principally, at the academy in Bradford, where Harriet Newell was at the same time a pupil, and where many others have received their education.—Mrs. Judson learned rapidly, and acquired a large amount of useful information. Her perceptions were rapid, her memory retentive, and her perseverance indefatigable. Here she laid the foundations of her knowledge, and here her intellect was stimulated, disciplined, and directed. Her preceptors and associates ever regarded her with respect and esteem; and considered her ardent temperament, her decision and perseverance, and her strength of mind, as ominous of some uncommon destiny.
But while she was thus obtaining knowledge, and enjoying worldly pleasures, she forgot her soul. She did not love God, but disobeyed his laws, and lived without any thought of eternity. Though young, she was a sinner.—Every young person, who is capable of thinking and acting, is guilty of sin and needs to be born again, by the influences of the Holy Spirit, producing repentance for sin, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.—Let every reader of this book, however young, peruse with great attention the following account, written by Mrs. Judson, of her early life, and of the manner in which she became a believer in the Saviour. Let every reader then pray the Lord to bestow on him or her a new heart, that they also may believe and live.
"During the first sixteen years of my life, I very seldom felt any serious impressions, which I think were produced by the Holy Spirit. I was early taught by my mother (though she was then ignorant of the nature of true religion) the importance of abstaining from those vices to which children are liable—as telling falsehoods, disobeying my parents, taking what was not my own, &c. She also taught me, that if I were a good child, I should, at death, escape that dreadful hell, the thought of which sometimes filled me with alarm and terror. I, therefore, made it a matter of conscience to avoid the above-mentioned sins, to say my prayers night and morning; and to abstain from my usual play on the Sabbath, not doubting but that such a course of conduct would insure my salvation.
"At the age of twelve or thirteen, I attended the academy at Bradford, where I was exposed to many more temptations than before, and found it much more difficult to pursue my pharisaical method. I now began to attend balls, and parties of pleasure, and found my mind completely occupied with what I daily heard were "innocent amusements." My conscience reproved me, not for engaging in these amusements, but for neglecting to say my prayers, and read my Bible, on returning from them; but I finally put a stop to its remonstrances, by thinking, that, as I was old enough to attend balls, I was surely too old to say prayers. Thus were my fears quieted; and for two or three years, I scarcely felt an anxious thought relative to the salvation of my soul, though I was rapidly verging towards eternal ruin. My disposition was gay in the extreme; my situation was such as afforded me opportunities for indulging it to the utmost; I was surrounded with associates, wild and volatile like myself, and often thought myself one of the happiest creatures on earth.
"The first circumstance, which in any measure awakened me from this sleep of death, was the following. One Sabbath morning, having prepared myself to attend public worship, just as I was leaving my toilet, I accidentally took up Hannah More's Strictures on Female Education; and the first words that caught my eye were, She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth . They were written in italics, with marks of admiration; and they struck me to the heart. I stood for a few moments, amazed at the incident, and half inclined to think, that some invisible agency had directed my eye to those words. At first, I thought I would live a different life, and be more serious and sedate; but at last I thought, that the words were not so applicable to me, as I first imagined, and resolved to think no more of them.
"In the course of a few months (at the age of fifteen,) I met with Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. I read it as a Sabbath book, and was much interested in the story. I finished the book on a Sabbath, and it left this impression on my mind—that Christian, because he adhered to the narrow path, was carried safely through all his trials, and at last admitted to heaven. I resolved, from that moment, to begin a religious life; and in order to keep my resolutions, I went to my chamber and prayed for divine assistance. When I had done, I felt pleased with myself, and thought I was in a fair way for heaven. But I was perplexed to know what it was to live a religious life, and again had recourse to my system of works. The first step that appeared necessary for me to take, was to refrain from attending parties of pleasure, and to be reserved and serious in the presence of the other scholars. Accordingly, on Monday morning, I went to school, with a determination to keep my resolution, and confident that I should. I had not been long in school, before one of the young ladies, an intimate friend of mine, came with a very animated countenance, and told me that Miss—in a neighboring town, was to have a splendid party on new-year's day, and that she and I were included in the party selected. I coolly replied, that I should not go, though I did receive an invitation. She seemed surprised, and asked me what was the matter. I replied, that I should never again attend such a party. I continued of the same opinion during the day, and felt much pleased with such a good opportunity of trying myself. Monday evening, the daughters of— sent in to invite me and my sisters to spend the evening with them, and make a family visit. I hesitated a little, but considering that it was to be a family party merely, I thought I could go without breaking my resolutions. Accordingly I went, and found that two or three other families of young ladies had been invited. Dancing was soon introduced; I joined with the rest—was one of the gayest of the gay—and thought no more of the new life I had just begun. On my return home, I found an invitation from Miss—in waiting, and accepted it at once. My conscience let me pass quietly through the amusements of that evening also; but when I retired to my chamber, on my return, it accused me of breaking my most solemn resolutions. I thought I should never dare to make others, for I clearly saw, that I was unable to keep them.
"From December, 1805, to April, 1806, I scarcely spent a rational hour. My studies were slightly attended to, and my time was mostly occupied in preparing my dress, and in contriving amusements for the evening, which portion of my time was wholly spent in vanity and trifling. I so far surpassed my friends in gaiety and mirth, that some of them were apprehensive that I had but a short time to continue in my career of folly, and should be suddenly cut off. Thus passed the last winter of my gay life.
"In the spring of 1806, there appeared a little attention to religion in the upper parish of Bradford. Religious conferences had been appointed during the winter, and I now began to attend them regularly. I often used to weep, when hearing the minister, and others, press the importance of improving the present favorable season, to obtain an interest in Christ, lest we should have to say, The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved. I thought I should be one of that number; for though I now deeply felt the importance of being strictly religious, it appeared to me impossible I could be so, while in the midst of my gay associates. I generally sought some retired corner of the room, in which the meetings were held, lest others should observe the emotions I could not restrain; but frequently after being much affected through the evening, I would return home, in company with some of my light companions, and assume an air of gaiety very foreign to my heart. The Spirit of God was now evidently operating on my mind; I lost all relish for amusements; felt melancholy and dejected; and the solemn truth, that I must obtain a new heart, or perish for ever, lay with weight on my mind. My preceptor was a pious man, and used frequently to make serious remarks in the family. One Sabbath evening, speaking of the operations of the Holy Spirit on the hearts of sinners, a subject with which I had been hitherto unacquainted, he observed, that when under these operations, Satan frequently tempted us to conceal our feelings from others, lest our conviction should increase. I could hear him say no more; but rose from my seat, and went into the garden, that I might weep in secret over my deplorable state. I felt, that I was led captive by Satan at his will, and that he had entire control over me. And notwithstanding I knew this to be my situation, I thought I would not have any of my acquaintance know that I was under serious impressions, for the whole world. The ensuing week, I had engaged to be one of a party to visit a young lady in a neighbouring town, who had formerly attended the academy. The state of my mind was such that I earnestly longed to be free from this engagement, but knew not how to gain my end, without telling the real reason. This I could not persuade myself to do; but concluded on the morning of the appointed day, to absent myself from my father's home, and visit an aunt, who lived some distance, and who was, I had heard, under serious impressions. I went accordingly, and found my aunt engaged in reading a religious magazine. I was determined she should not know the state of my mind, though I secretly hoped, that she would tell me something of hers. I had not been with her long, before she asked me to read to her. I began, but could not govern my feelings, and burst into tears. She kindly begged to know what thus affected me. I then, for the first time in my life, communicated feelings which I had determined should be known to none but myself. She urged the importance of my cherishing those feelings, and of devoting myself entirely to seeking an interest in Christ, before it should be for ever too late. She told me, that if I trifled with impressions which were evidently made by the Holy Spirit, I should be left to hardness of heart, and blindness of mind. Her words penetrated my heart, and I felt resolved to give up every thing, and seek to be reconciled to God. That fear, which I had ever felt, that others would know that I was serious, now vanished away, and I was willing that the whole universe should know, that I felt myself to be a lost and perishing sinner. I returned home, with a bursting heart, fearing that I should lose my impressions, when associated with the other scholars, and convinced that if I did, my soul was lost. As I entered my father's house, I perceived a large party of the scholars assembled to spend the evening. It will be the height of rudeness, thought I, to leave the company; but my second thought was, if I lose my soul, I lose my all. I spoke to one or two, passed through the room, and went to my chamber, where I spent the evening, full of anxiety and distress. I felt that if I died in that situation, I must perish; but how to extricate myself I knew not. I had been unaccustomed to discriminating preaching; I had not been in the habit of reading religious books; I could not understand the Bible; and felt myself as perfectly ignorant of the nature of true religion as the very heathen. In this extremity, the next morning, I ventured to ask the preceptor what I should do. He told me to pray for mercy, and submit myself to God. He also put into my hands some religious magazines, in which I read the conviction and conversion of some, who, I perceived had once felt as I now felt. I shut myself up in my chamber, denied myself every innocent gratification; such as eating fruit and other things, not absolutely necessary to support life, and spent my days in reading and crying for mercy.
"But I had seen, as yet, very little of the awful wickedness of my heart. I knew not yet the force of that passage, The carnal mind is enmity against God . I thought myself very penitent, and almost prepared, by voluntary abstinence, to receive the divine favour. After spending two or three weeks in this manner, without obtaining the least comfort, my heart began to rise in rebellion against God. I thought it unjust in him, not to notice my prayers and my repentance.—But my chief distress was occasioned by a view of his perfect purity and holiness. My heart was filled with aversion and hatred towards a holy God; and I felt, that if admitted into heaven, with the feelings I then had, I should be as miserable as I could be in hell. In this state, I longed for annihilation; and if I could have destroyed the existence of my soul, with as much ease as that of my body, I should quickly have done it. But that glorious Being, who is kinder to his creatures, than they are to themselves, did not leave me to remain long in this distressing state. I began to discover a beauty in the way of salvation by Christ. He appeared to be just such a Saviour as I needed. I saw how God could be just, in saving sinners through him. I committed my soul into his hands, and besought him to do with me what seemed good in his sight. When I was thus enabled to commit myself into the hands of Christ, my mind was relieved from that distressing weight which had borne it down for so long a time. I did not think that I had obtained the new heart, which I had been seeking, but felt happy in contemplating the character of Christ, and particularly that disposition, which led him to suffer so much, for the sake of doing the will and promoting the glory of his heavenly Father. A few days after this, as I was reading Bellamy's True Religion, I obtained a new view of the character of God. His justice, displayed in condemning the finally impenitent, which I had before viewed as cruel, now appeared to be an expression of hatred to sin, and regard to the good of beings in general. A view of his purity and holiness filled my soul with wonder and admiration. I felt a disposition to commit myself unreservedly into his hands, and leave it with him to save me or cast me off; for I felt I could not be unhappy, while allowed the privilege of contemplating and loving so glorious a Being.
"I now began to hope, that I had passed from death unto life. When I examined myself, I was constrained to own, that I had feelings and dispositions, to which I was formerly an utter stranger. I had sweet communion with the blessed God, from day to day; my heart was drawn out in love to Christians of whatever denomination; the sacred Scriptures were sweet to my taste; and such was my thirst for religious knowledge, that I frequently spent a great part of the night in reading religious books. O how different were my views of myself and of God, from what they were when I first began to inquire what I should do to be saved. I felt myself to be a poor lost sinner, destitute every thing to recommend myself to the divine favour; that I was, by nature, inclined to every evil way; and that it had been the mere sovereign, restraining mercy of God, not my own goodness, which had kept me from committing the most flagrant crimes. This view of myself humbled me in the dust, melted me into sorrow and contrition for my sins, induced me to lay my soul at the feet of Christ, and plead his merits alone, as the ground of my acceptance. I felt that if Christ had not died, to make an atonement for sin, I could not ask God to dishonor his holy government so far as to save so polluted a creature; and that should he even now condemn me to suffer eternal punishment, it would be so just that my mouth would be stopped, and all holy beings in the universe would acquiesce in the sentence, and praise him as a just and righteous God. My chief happiness now consisted in contemplating the moral perfections of the glorious God. I longed to have all intelligent creatures love him; and felt, that even fallen spirits could never be released from their obligations to love a Being possessed of such glorious perfections. I felt happy in the consideration, that so benevolent a Being governed the world, and ordered every passing event. I lost all disposition to murmur at any providence, assured that such a Being could not err in any dispensation. Sin, in myself and others, appeared as that abominable thing, which a holy God hates—and I earnestly strove to avoid sinning, not merely because I was afraid of hell, but because I feared to displease God, and grieve his Holy Spirit. I attended my studies in school with far different feelings and different motives, from what I had ever done before. I felt my obligation to improve all I had to the glory of God; and since he in his providence had favoured me with advantages for improving my mind, I felt that I should be like the slothful servant, if I neglected them; I, therefore, diligently employed all my hours in school in acquiring useful knowledge, and spent my evenings, and part of the night, in spiritual enjoyments.
"While thus recounting the mercies of God to my soul, I am particularly affected by two considerations; the richness of that grace, which called and stopped me in my dangerous course, and the ungrateful returns I make for so distinguished a blessing. I am prone to forget the voice which called me out of darkness into light, and the hand which drew me from the horrible pit and miry clay. When I first discerned my Deliverer, my grateful heart offered him the services of a whole life, and resolved to acknowledge no other master. But such is the force of my native depravity, that I find myself prone to forsake him, grieve away his influence from my heart, and walk in the dark and dreary path of the backslider. I despair of making great attainments in the divine life, and look forward to death only, to free me from my sins and corruptions. Till that blessed period, that hour of my emancipation, I am resolved, through the grace and strength of my Redeemer, to maintain a constant warfare with my inbred sins, and endeavour to perform the duties incumbent on me, in whatever situation I may be placed.
'Safely guide my wandering feet,
Travelling in this vale of tears;
Dearest Saviour, to thy seat
Lead, and dissipate my fears.'"
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