life of mrs. ann h. judson, late missionary to burmah;
With an Account of the American Baptist Mission to that Empire.
From her arrival at Rangoon, till Mr. Judson commenced
BEFORE Mr. and Mrs. Judson could hold intercourse with the natives, they were of course obliged to learn the language.—They hired a teacher, an able and intelligent man. But as he did not understand English, their only method, at first, of acquiring information concerning the language, was to point to various objects, the names of which the teacher pronounced in Burman. Thus they gradually obtained some knowledge of its vocabulary and its structure; but without a grammar or a dictionary, and with so little aid from their teacher, their progress was slow and discouraging. But they prosecuted their studies cheerfully, animated by the prospect of being able, at no distant period, to communicate to these idolatrous Burmans, in their own language, the tidings of salvation through a crucified Redeemer.
Mrs. Judson describes thus her first visit to the wife of the Viceroy of Rangoon:—
"I was introduced to her by a French lady, who has frequently visited her. When we first arrived at the government house, she was not up, consequently we had to wait some time. But the inferior wives of the Viceroy diverted us much by their curiosity, in minutely examining every thing we had on, and by trying on our gloves, bonnets, &c. At last her Highness made her appearance, dressed richly in the Burman fashion, with a long silver pipe in her mouth, smoking. At her appearance, all the other wives took their seats at a respectful distance, and sat in a crouching posture, without speaking. She received me very politely, took me by the hand, seated me upon a mat, and herself by me. She excused herself for not coming in sooner, saying she was unwell. One of the women brought her a bunch of flowers, of which she took several, and ornamented my cap. She was very inquisitive whether I had a husband and children, whether I was my husband's first wife—meaning by this, whether I was the highest among them, supposing that Mr. Judson, like the Burmans, had many wives; and whether I intended tarrying long in the country.
"When the Viceroy came in, I really trembled; for I never before beheld such a savage looking creature. His long robe, and enormous spear, not a little increased my dread. He spoke to me, however, very condescendingly, and asked if I would drink some rum or wine. When I arose to go, her Highness again took my hand, told me she was happy to see me, that I must come to see her every day. She led me to the door; I made my salam , and departed. My object in visiting her was, that if we should get into any difficulty with the Burmans, I could have access to her, when perhaps it would not be possible for Mr. Judson to have an audience with the Viceroy."
They were soon convinced of the wretched and unsettled state of the country. Several robberies happened near them; and the governor of a neighbouring province was assassinated in open day. The assassin was put to death in a cruel manner, having most of his bones broken, and being left to languish in the prison five or six days, in this dreadful situation.
In August Mr. Carey, his wife and children, embarked in a brig for Ava, having his furniture, medicine, wearing apparel, &c. on board. The brig upset in the river, and Mrs. Carey, two children, all the women servants, and some of the men servants who could not swim, were drowned. Mr. Carey endeavoured to save his little boy, three years old, but finding himself sinking, he was obliged to abandon the child.
Mr. Judson and his wife were thus left without any Christian friends; but they proceeded diligently in their studies, enjoying the presence of God, and feeling an unceasing persuasion that they were in the path of duty. Mrs. Judson wrote thus to a friend:—
"As it respects ourselves, we are busily employed all day long. I can assure you that we find much pleasure in our employment. Could you look into a large open room, which we call a verandah, you would see Mr. Judson bent over his table, covered with Burman books, with his teacher at his side, a venerable-looking man in his sixtieth year, with a cloth wrapped round his middle, and a handkerchief round his head. They talk and chatter all day long, with hardly any cessation.
"My mornings are busily employed in giving directions to the servants—providing food for the family, &c. At ten my teacher comes, when, were you present, you might see me in an inner room, at one side of my study table, and my teacher the other, reading Burman, writing, talking, &c. I have many more interruptions than Mr. Judson, as I have the entire management of the family. This I took upon myself, for the sake of Mr. Judson's attending more closely to the study of the language; yet I have found by a year's experience, that it was the most direct way I could have taken to acquire the language; as I am frequently obliged to speak Burman all day. I can talk and understand others better than Mr. Judson, though he knows more about the nature and construction of the language.
"A new Viceroy has lately arrived, who is much beloved and respected by the people. He visited us soon after his arrival, and told us that we must come to the government house very often. We have been once or twice since, and were treated with much more familiarity and respect than are natives of the country.
"We often converse with our teachers and servants on the subject of coming to this country, and tell them if they die in their present state they will surely be lost. But they say, 'Our religion is good for us, yours for you.' But we are far from being discouraged. We are sensible that the hearts of the heathen, as well as those of Christians, are in the hands of God, and in his own time he will turn them unto him."
"We have no society, no dear Christian friends, and with the exception of two or three sea captains, who now and then call on us, we never see a European face. When we feel a disposition to sigh for the enjoyments of our native country, we turn our eyes on the miserable objects around. We behold some of them labouring hard for a scanty subsistence, oppressed by an avaricious government, which is ever ready to seize what industry has hardly earned. We behold others sick and diseased, daily begging their few grains of rice, which, when obtained, are scarcely sufficient to protract their wretched existence, and with no other habitation to cover them from the burning sun or chilly rains, than that which a small piece of cloth raised on four bamboos, under the shade of a tree, can afford. While we behold these scenes, we feel that we have all the comforts, and, in comparison, even the luxuries of life. We feel that our temporal cup of blessings is full and runneth over. But is our temporal lot so much superior to theirs? O how infinitely superior are our spiritual blessings! While they vainly imagine to purchase promotion in another state of existence, by strictly worshipping their idols, and building pagodas, our hopes of future happiness are fixed on the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world. When we have a realizing sense of these things, we forget our native country and former enjoyments, feel contented and happy with our lot, with but one wish remaining—that of being instrumental of leading these Burmans to partake of the same source of happiness with ourselves.
"Our progress in the language is slow, as it is peculiarly hard of acquisition. We can, however, read, write, and converse with tolerable ease; and frequently spend whole evenings very pleasantly in conversing with our Burman friends. We have been very fortunate in procuring good instructers. Mr. Judson's teacher is a very learned man, was formerly a priest, and resided at court. He has a thorough knowledge of the grammatical construction of the language; likewise of the Pali, the learned language of the Burmans."
After the first six months of their residence in Rangoon, Mrs. Judson's health had been on the decline, and as there was no medical aid in the country, she felt the necessity of going to some foreign port for its restoration. Such was the state of the mission, that she could not consent that Mr. Judson should accompany her. She therefore determined to embark alone for Madras.—Before she left, she went with her husband to the Viceroy, to obtain liberty to take a Burman woman with her, which is not often allowed, as it is against the law of Burmah for females to leave the country. They took a present with them agreeably to the custom when a favour is to be asked, which, when the Viceroy saw, he inquired if they had any business. Upon learning what they wanted, he gave the permission she asked at once, and refused to accept their present.
Mrs. Judson sailed in January, 1814, and returned to Rangoon the April following. Everywhere she met with kindness. The captain of the vessel in which she embarked, would not receive any pay for her passage, although he had provided every thing necessary for one in ill health. At Madras she resided at the house of Mr. Loveless, where every kind attention was paid her. When about leaving there, she sent seventy rupees ($35,) to the physician who had attended her; but this was immediately returned, with a message that he was happy if he had been serviceable to her, and a refusal to receive any compensation.
During her absence, Mr. Judson had no christian with whom he could converse, or unite in prayer. He however pursued his great object, the acquiring of the language; and, during this interval, was much encouraged by accounts from America, of the rapid increase of a missionary spirit.
He thus expresses his feelings on receiving a copy of the proceedings of the Baptist General Convention in the United States, and letters from the Secretary of their Board of Foreign Missions:—
"These accounts from my dear native land were so interesting as to banish from my mind all thoughts of study. This general movement among the Baptist churches in America is particularly encouraging, as it affords an additional indication of God's merciful designs in favour of the poor heathen. It unites with all the Bible Societies in Europe and America, during the last twenty years, in furnishing abundant reason to hope, that the dreadful darkness which has so long enveloped the earth, is about to flee away before the rising sun. Do not the successes which have crowned some missionary exertions, seem like the dawn of morning on the east? O that this region of Egyptian darkness may ere long participate in the vivifying beams of light!"
On the 11th of September, 1815, Mrs. Judson became the mother of a boy, whom the parents named "Roger Williams," and who was, while he lived, a great comfort to them in their lonely situation. Their little son died at the age of about eight months. His mother gave the following account of him, and of his death, in a letter to her parents:—
"He was a remarkably pleasant child,—never cried except when in pain; and, what we often observed to each other was the most singular, he never, during his little existence, manifested the least anger or resentment at any thing. This was not owing to the want of intellect; for his tender feelings of sensibility were very conspicuous. Whenever I or his father passed his cradle without taking him, he would follow us with his eyes to the door, when they would fill with tears, his countenance so expressive of grief, though perfectly silent, that it would force us back to him, which would cause his little heart to be as joyful as it had been before sorrowful. He would lie hours on a mat by his papa's study-table, or by the side of his chair on the floor, if he could only see his face. When we had finished our study, or the business of the day, it was our exercise and amusement to carry him round the house or garden; and though we were alone, we felt not our solitude when he was with us. For two months before he died, I observed, with much anxiety, that he had violent fits of perspiration every night, and a slight degree of fever. But as he appeared well through the day, and had a good appetite for his food, and continued to grow fleshy, I strongly hoped it would wear off, and terminate in the cutting of his teeth. But alas! all our hopes were blasted. Tuesday morning when I took him from his cradle, he appeared as well as usual; but not long after, he was taken with a violent coughing, which continued without cessation for half an hour. This brought on a fever, which continued strong through the day and night; but Wednesday morning it abated, and he slept quietly through the day, and took his food with as good an appetite as usual. Thursday, his cough returned, and with it the fever, which again much alarmed us, and we sent for a Portuguese priest, (the only person who knows any thing about medicine in the place,) who gave him a little rhubarb and gascoign powder. But nothing appeared to affect the distress in his throat, which was the cause of his coughing, and made him breathe so hard, that every breath could be heard some way. Friday night, I sat by him till two o'clock, when, being much fatigued, I retired, and Mr. Judson took him. The little creature drank his milk with much eagerness, (he was weaned,) and Mr. Judson thought he was refreshed, and would go to sleep. He laid him in his cradle—he slept with ease for half an hour, when his breath stopped without a struggle, and he was gone! Thus died our little Roger.
'Short pain, short grief, dear babe, was thine,—
Now, joys eternal and divine:'
We buried him in the afternoon of the same day, in a little enclosure, the other side of the garden. Forty or fifty Burmans and Portuguese followed, with his afflicted parents, the last remains to the silent grave. All the Burmans who were acquainted with us, endeavored to sympathize with us, and console us under our loss. Our little Roger was the only legitimate child of foreign parents in the place; consequently he was quite a curiosity to the Burmans. But what shall I say about the improvement we are to make of this heavy affliction? We do not feel a disposition to murmur, or to inquire of our Sovereign why he has done this. We wish rather, to sit down submissively under the rod and bear the smart, till the end for which the affliction was sent, shall be accomplished. Our hearts were bound up in this child; we felt he was our earthly all, our only source of innocent recreation in this heathen land. But God saw it was necessary to remind us of our error, and to strip us of our only little all. O may it not be in vain that he has done it. May we so improve it, that he will stay his hand, and say, 'It is enough.'"
Some time after this, Mrs. Judson writes respecting the prospect of the mission as follows :—
"You doubtless are expecting to hear by this time of the Burmans inquiring what they must do to be saved, and rejoicing that we have come to tell them how they may escape eternal misery. Alas, you know not the difficulty of communicating the least truth to the dark mind of a heathen, particularly those heathen who have a conceited notion of their own wisdom and knowledge, and the superior excellence of their own religious system. Sometimes when I have been conversing with some of the women, they have replied, 'Your religion is good for you, ours for us. You will be rewarded for your good deeds in your way—we in our way.' At other times, when Mr. Judson had been telling them of the atonement of Christ, they would reply, that their minds were stiff, that they did not yet believe, &c. But these things do not discourage us. We confidently believe that God, in his own time, will make his truth effectual unto salvation. We are endeavouring to convince the Burmans by our conduct, that our religion is different from theirs; and I believe we have succeeded in gaining the confidence and respect of those with whom we have any concern, so that they will tell others who know us not, that they need not be afraid to trust us, for we do not know how to tell falsehoods as the Burmans do. We are very particular to pay, at the appointed time, for whatever we purchase. The Burmans are surprised to see us always employed, particularly me, as the Burman women never think of doing any work, if they can get their rice without.
"Our present teacher is a learned man for a Burman; he was once a priest, and lived at the golden feet, as they call the city of Ava. He makes every exertion possible to please us, lest he, like his predecessors, should lose his place. He is the fourth we have had, and we give him only fifteen tickles a month, which is about seven dollars."
" Rangoon, Dec . 8, 1815. "My dear Sisters,
"In regard to the language, which sister A. wishes 'to hear how it sounds,' we feel quite at home, and can converse with ease on common subjects. We find the subject of religion by far the most difficult, on account of the want of religious terms in their language. They have not the least idea of a God who is eternal—without beginning or end. All their deities have been through the several grades of creatures, from a fowl to a deity. When their deities "take heaven," as they express it, they cease to exist; which, according to their ideas, is the highest state of perfection. It is now two thousand years since Gaudama, their last deity, entered on his state of perfection; and though he now ceases to exist, they still worship a hair of his head, which is enshrined in an enormous pagoda, to which the Burmans go every eighth day. They know of no other atonement for sin, than offerings to their priests and their pagodas. You cannot imagine how very difficult it is to give them any idea of the true God, and the way of salvation by Christ, since their present ideas of deity are so very low.
"Mr. Judson has obtained a tolerable knowledge of the construction of the language, and only needs time and practice to make it perfectly familiar. I can read and write, but am far behind Mr. Judson in this part, though in conversation I am his equal. Doubtless you expect by this time, that some of the Burmans have embraced the Christian religion, or, at least, are seriously inquiring respecting it. Our hopes have frequently been raised by the serious and candid attention of some, but have as frequently sunk again by beholding their almost total indifference. At one time our hopes were quite raised by the serious attention of the son of a Governor, who came to us about a year, to learn English. He at times appeared solemn and inquisitive; but about six months ago his father lost his office; he of course lost his sense of dignity, mixed with his servants, and lost, we fear, most of his seriousness. He came here his last Sabbath to bid us farewell, as his father was called up to Ava. I asked him if he had forgotten the instructions he had formerly received. He said he had not, and repeated to us what we had told him concerning the character of God and of Christ. We gave him a copy of Matthew's Gospel, which has been printed, and which he gladly received, saying, not a day should pass, without his reading it. Mr. Judson told him, every time he read, he must ask God to give him light, and enable him to understand it."
The missionaries continued to study the language. They were not yet able to preach to the natives, but they conversed with some of them, and endeavoured to teach them the christian religion. But they saw no immediate effects of their labours. Mr. Judson's health became impaired by his close application to study, and he was about to sail for Bengal; but the vessel was detained, and he continued in Rangoon. His health was improved by exercise. During the period of his illness, while incapable of reading, from the weakness of his eyes, he employed himself in preparing a grammar of the language, for the benefit of future missionaries.
Mr. Hough and his wife arrived at Rangoon, in October, 1816, with a printing press, types, and other printing apparatus, a present from the missionaries at Serampore. Their arrival was a joyful event to Mr. and Mrs. Judson, who had been labouring, for three years, without the encouraging thought, that they were, the mean while, conferring any direct benefit on the natives. They were, however, preparing themselves for usefulness. They had so far become familiar with the language, that they could converse with considerable facility, and Mr. Judson had prepared two tracts, which were printed by Mr. Hough, soon after his arrival.
The prospects of the mission now became brighter. The language had been acquired by Mr. and Mrs. Judson, a grammar had been prepared, two tracts were printed; the one containing a view of the Christian religion, of which one thousand copies were printed; and the other a catechism, of which three thousand copies were printed. An edition of eight hundred copies of the Gospel by Matthew, translated by Mr. Judson, was commenced.
In March, 1817, they were visited by a man, who seemed to feel some desire to learn the religion of Christ.—This was the first individual on whom any impression seemed to have been made. He had read a copy of one of the printed tracts, and came to inquire for more knowledge. Mr. Judson gave him a part of the Gospel by Matthew, which had been printed.—In a letter dated March, 1817, he writes thus, respecting this person:—
"As I was sitting with my teacher, as usual, a Burman of respectable appearance, and followed by a servant, came up the steps, and sat down by me. I asked him the usual question, 'where he came from:' to which he gave me no explicit reply; and I began to suspect that he had come from the government house, to enforce a trifling request, which in the morning we had declined. He soon, however, undeceived and astonished me, by asking,
'How long a time will it take me to learn the religion of Jesus?'
I replied, that such a question could not be answered. If God gave light and wisdom, the religion of Jesus was soon learnt; but without God, a man might study all his life long, and make no proficiency. But how, continued I, came you to know any thing of Jesus? Have you been here before?
Have you seen any writings concerning Jesus?
'I have seen two little books.'
Who is Jesus?
'He is the Son of God, who, pitying creatures, came into this world, and suffered death in their stead.'
Who is God?
'He is a being without beginning or end, who is not subject to old age or death, but always is.'
"I cannot tell how I felt at this moment. This was the first acknowledgment of an eternal God, that I had ever heard from the lips of a Burman. I handed him a tract and catechism, both of which he instantly recognized, and read here and there, making occasional remarks to his follower, such as 'This is the true God—this is the right way,' &c. I now tried to tell him some things about God and Christ, and himself; but he did not listen with much attention, and seemed anxious only to get another book. I had already told him two or three times, that I had finished no other book; but, that in two or three months, I would give him a larger one which I was now daily employed in translating. 'But,' replied he, 'have you not a little of that book done, which you will graciously give me now?' And I, beginning to think that God's time was better than man's, folded and gave him the two first half sheets, which contain the first five chapters of Matthew; on which he instantly rose, as if his business was all done; and having received an invitation to come again, took leave. Throughout his short stay, he appeared different from any Burman I have met with. He asked no questions about customs and manners, with which the Burmans tease us exceedingly. He had no curiosity, and no desire for any thing, but 'more of this sort of writing.' In fine, his conduct proved that he had something on his mind and I cannot but hope that I shall have to write about him again.
" March 24 . We have not yet seen our inquirer but to-day we met with one of his acquaintances, who says that he reads our books all the day, and shows them to all who call upon him. We told him to ask his friend to come and see us again."
Mrs. Judson formed a society of native females, who met on the Sabbath, and with whom she prayed, and read the Scriptures. No immediate effects, however, were produced.
The following letter describes some of the offerings made by the Burmans at their festivals, and also contains a description of the celebrated pagoda at Rangoon:—
"This is the season for the great feast of Gaudama. It commenced yesterday, and it is to continue for three days. It is observed all over the country; but I presume the multitude collected in this place is much greater than at any other, excepting Ava. Priests and people come in boats from a great distance, to worship at the pagoda in this place, which is supposed to contain a relic of Gaudama. The Viceroy, on these days, goes out in all the pomp and splendor possible, dressed and ornamented with all his insignia of office, attended by the members of government and the common people. After kneeling and worshipping at the pagoda, they generally spend the day in amusements, such as boxing, dancing, singing, theatrical exhibitions, and fire-works. Most of the older people spend the night at the pagoda, and listen to the instructions of the priests.
"Great and expensive offerings are made at this season. One, last year, presented by a member of government, cost three thousand tickals, or twelve hundred dollars. It was a kind of portable pagoda, made of bamboo and paper, richly ornamented with gold leaf and paintings. It was a hundred feet in height, and the circumference of its base about fifty. Half way up its height, was a man ludicrously dressed, with a mask on his face, white wings on his shoulders, and artificial finger nails, two inches in length, in the posture of dancing. This offering was carried by sixty men, preceded by a band of music, and followed by the officer who made it, and his suite. Other offerings presented at this festival, are various kinds of artificial trees, the branches and twigs of which are filled with cups, bowls, handkerchiefs and garments of all descriptions; these are given to the slaves attached to the pagoda, who, the week following, have something like a fair, to dispose of their offerings.
"The pagoda to which such multitudes resort, is one of the largest and most splendid in the empire.1 After having ascended a flight of steps, a large gate opens, when a wild, fairy scene is abruptly presented to view. It resembles more the descriptions we sometimes have in novels, of enchanted castles, than any thing we ever meet in real life. The ground is completely covered with a variety of ludicrous objects, which meet the eye in every direction, interspersed with the banyan, cocoa-nut, and toddy trees. Here and there are large open buildings, containing huge images of Gaudama, some in a sitting, some in a sleeping position, surrounded by images of priests and attendants, in the act of worship, or listening to his instructions. Before the image of Gaudama, are erected small altars, on which offerings of fruit, flowers, &c. are laid. Large images of elephants, lions, angels, and demons, together with a number of indescribable objects, all assist in filling the picturesque scene.
"The ground on which this pagoda is situated, commands a view of the surrounding country, which presents one of the most beautiful land-scapes in nature. The polished spires of the pagodas, glistening among the trees at a distance, appear like the steeples of meeting-houses in our American sea-ports. The verdant appearance of the country, the hills and valleys, ponds and rivers, the banks of which are covered with cattle, and fields of rice; each, in their turn, attract the eye, and cause the beholder to exclaim, 'Was this delightful country made to be the residence of idolaters? Are those glittering spires, which, in consequence of association of ideas, recall to mind so many animating sensations, but the monuments of idolaters?' O my friend! scenes like these, productive of feelings so various and opposite, do, notwithstanding, fire the soul with an unconquerable desire to make an effort to rescue this people from destruction, and lead them to the Rock that is higher than they."
Many of these pagodas or temples are exceedingly imposing in their appearance. A very exact drawing of one of them, said to have been built 600 years before Christ, Shoemado, the great temple of Pegu, about 60 miles from Rangoon, is here presented to our readers.
This edifice is 361 feet high; and near the top of the spire are suspended several bells, which make a continual jingling, as they are moved by the wind. There are here a number of images representing good and evil spirits. On the north side of the temple are three large bells of good workmanship, hung near the ground between pillars: near them several deer-horns lie strewed on the ground, and those who come to pay their devotions first take up one of these horns and strike the bell three times. This is done to let the idol know that a worshipper has come.—There are several low benches near the foot of the temple, on which the person places his offering. When this is given, he does not care what becomes of it, nor does he take the trouble to drive away the crows and dogs who frequently eat it before him.
In November, 1817, Edward W. Wheelock, and James Colman, sailed from Boston, to join the mission. They were young men of talents, and of exemplary piety, who were constrained by the love of Christ to offer themselves as messengers of the Saviour, to bear his unsearchable riches to the heathen.
The following extracts from their letters to the Board, will show with what entire devotion these excellent men surrendered themselves to the cause of their Lord and Master in the work they had undertaken.
Mr. Colman says,—"I pant to proclaim the Gospel to those who are ignorant of it: to present to their minds that firm foundation on which my own hopes of eternal happiness are built. I look to Burmah as my home, and as as the field of my future toils. To the wretched inhabitants of that empire I long to present the Bible, the fountain of knowledge, and to direct their wandering steps to the great Shepherd and Bishop of souls. Nor can I refrain from cherishing the hope, that my feeble labors among them will be crowned with the blessing of Heaven. Some, I trust, will be induced to forsake the worship of idols, and to bow the knee to Him, on whose vesture and thigh is written, King of kings, and Lord of lords . Prompted, as I believe, by a deep sense of the worth of souls, and by the command of our blessed Saviour, who says, ' Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature; ' and encouraged by his promise of constant assistance and direction to his servants, I voluntarily and joyfully offer myself to be your missionary to the Burman empire. May the Lord preside over your deliberations, and grant me, if it can be consistent with his holy will, the unspeakable happiness of proclaiming the love of Jesus to the miserable heathen."
Mr. Wheelock closed his application to the Board with the following lines:—
"To you, honoured fathers, is my mind directed, as to those, who, under God, must decide my case. To you I offer, freely and joyfully offer myself, to become your missionary, to aid those already under your patronage, to turn the poor Burmans from idols, to serve the living and true God . And O! if it is consistent that one so unworthy, and so unqualified as myself, should engage in this glorious work, deny me not, I beseech you, the unspeakable privilege; deny me not the fondest, the most ardent desire of my soul, that can, in this world, be gratified. To deny me this, would be to deprive me of the greatest happiness which, in this world, I can possibly enjoy. I would rather be a missionary of the cross, than a King on a throne. Let the men of this world possess its glittering toys; let the miser grasp his cankered gold; let the voluptuary enjoy his sordid pleasures; let the ambitious ascend to the pinnacle of earthly honour; but let me enjoy the sweet satisfaction of directing the poor pagans to the 'Lamb of God.' I court no greater good; I desire no greater joy; I seek no greater honor. To Burmah would I go; in Burmah would I live; in Burmah would I toil; in Burmah would I die; and in Burmah would I be buried."
In December, 1817, Mr. Judson left Rangoon on a visit to Chittagong, in Arracan, for the purpose
of benefiting his health, and of procuring one of the native Christians, residing there, who spoke the Burman language, to assist him in his first public attempts to preach the Gospel. He designed to be absent but three months: but the vessel was detained by contrary winds, and becoming unmanageable in the difficult navigation along the coast, her direction was changed for Madras, and Mr. Judson had the unspeakable anguish of being borne away from the scene of his missionary labours, to a distant part of India, which he had no wish to visit. The vessel was unable to reach Madras, and Mr. Judson was carried to a place three hundred miles from that city, to which he was obliged to travel by land. Here he endeavoured to obtain a passage to Rangoon, but was unsuccessful; and he was detained at Madras, till July 20th, 1818, when he sailed for Rangoon in an English ship.
About a month after Mr. Judson had left Rangoon, the Burman who has been mentioned as the first serious inquirer, called at the mission house. Nearly a year had elapsed since he had, with much apparent anxiety, asked, "how long a time it would take to learn the religion of Jesus." But little had been heard of him from that time, as he was appointed to an office at a considerable distance, and he had visited Rangoon but once, and was obliged, by order of the Viceroy, to return immediately. Mrs. Judson asked him "if he had become a disciple of Christ?" He replied "he had not yet," but that he was thinking and reading in order to become one. He said "he could not destroy his old mind;" that when he saw a handsome article of dress he still wanted it,—"but tell the great teacher (Mr. J.) when he returns, that I wish to see him, although I am not a disciple of Christ." Mrs. Judson gave him the rest of Matthew's gospel, and a catechism and tracts prepared by her husband.
During his absence, very alarming incidents occurred at Rangoon, which threatened, for a while, to destroy the mission, an account of which Mrs. Judson gives as follows:—
"Mr. Hough received an order, couched in the most menacing language, to appear immediately at the court-house, to give an account of himself. This, so unlike any message we had ever before received from the government, spread consternation and alarm among our teachers, domestics, and adherents; some of whom followed Mr. Hough at a distance, and heard the appalling words, from some of the petty officers, that a royal order had arrived for the banishment of all foreign teachers. As it was late when Mr. Hough arrived at the court-house, he was merely ordered to give security for his appearance at an early hour on the approaching day, when, to use their own unfeeling language, 'If he did not tell all the truth relative to his situation in the country, they would write with his heart's blood.'
"The following days, Friday and Saturday, Mr. Hough was detained at the court-house, and under the necessity of answering, through an interpreter, the most trivial questions; such as, what were the names of his parents, how many suits of clothes he had, &c. all which were written down in the most formal manner imaginable. The court would not allow his retiring for any refreshment; and this, together with several other petty grievances, convinced us that it was their object to harass and distress us as much as possible; feeling safe in the idea that circumstances were such that we could not appeal to the Viceroy."
The object of the Burman officers was, to extort money from Mr. Hough. An order had been received from the King, that the Portuguese priests, three in number, should leave the country. To ascertain who they were, the Viceroy had issued an order that all the foreign priests should appear at the court-house, not intending that any but the Portuguese should be examined, further than to ascertain that they were not Portuguese. Mr. Hough, and Mrs. Judson, resolved to appeal to the Viceroy, and Mrs. Judson's teacher drew up a petition, which she herself presented, with some of the feelings and of the intrepidity of Esther. The Viceroy immediately commanded, that Mr. Hough should receive no further molestation.
About this time that dreadful disorder, the cholera morbus, began to rage among the natives. It was in the hottest season of the year, and Rangoon was soon filled with consternation. The natives attributed the disease to evil spirits, who were traversing the streets; and they endeavoured to expel them, by making a noise. Cannons were accordingly fired, and every one began beating his house with clubs and other instruments of uproar. But the disease continued to make frightful ravages. By the blessing of God, however, not a single individual, on the mission premises, died.
There was, at this time, too, a report of war between England and Burmah, and the English vessels were hastening to depart. Six months had now elapsed since Mr. Judson had been heard from. It was thought necessary, that the missionaries should leave the station. Mr. and Mrs. Hough and Mrs. Judson engaged a passage to Bengal, and had actually embarked. But the vessel being detained, Mrs. Judson resolved to return, and remain at Rangoon alone, and confront all the perils which might beset her; although it was entirely uncertain whether her husband was yet alive. The event justified her courage, and rewarded her constancy.
In a few days, Mr. Judson returned to Rangoon, and the apprehensions of his wife were happily dispelled. The vessel in which Mr. and Mrs. Hough had taken passage, was detained several weeks; but they finally sailed for Bengal, carrying with them the press and other printing apparatus.
In April, 1818, Messrs. Colman and Wheelock, with their wives, arrived at Calcutta, from Boston, after a pleasant voyage, during which their prayers and zealous instructions were made instrumental, by the Holy Spirit, in the conversion of several of the seamen. They sailed from Calcutta, August 19, for Rangoon, where they arrived September 19, a few weeks after the return of Mr. Judson. Thus did the clouds which had recently hung over the mission, disperse; and the missionaries felt the truth and beauty of the sentiment:—
"The Lord can clear the darkest skies,
Can give us day for night;
Make drops of sacred sorrow rise
To rivers of delight."
1 In 1824, this pagoda was occupied by the English troops as a fortress, and was defended by a small force against the attacks of a large Burman army who made several assaults upon it, but who were at last obliged to retire, with the loss of great numbers of men.
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