A History of the Baptists
The Rise of Foreign Missions Among American Baptists.
The Deplorable Conditions of the Country?Low State of Morals?Terrible Practices?Deistical Opinions of the French and Indian Wars?Alliance of America and France?The Effects of French Infidelity?Thomas Paine?Infidel Clubs?Illuminism?Want of Religious Instruction?Baptist and Presbyterian Ministers?Dull Preaching?Conditions in the Colleges?Kentucky and Tennessee?Logan County?The Great Revival?James McGready?His Sermons?The Camp Meeting at Casper River?The Account of McGready?The Meeting Described?Barton W. Stone?Other Meetings?Extravagance?Lorenzo Dow?The Jerks and Other Violent Exercises?Disorders?Such Meetings Continued for Years?The Revival Did Great Good?Testimonies?Results Among the Baptists?Effects Felt Throughout the United States.
The rise and progress of the missionary spirit," says the celebrated Dr. Southey, "which is at this time prevailing throughout the Protestant world, will be one of the most remarkable features in the history of the present age. It has not been sudden and violent, like that of the Crusades; and yet it may be doubted whether the impulse whereby that great movement was produced extended so widely through all classes of society, or was felt with equal force. Its rise was so obscure as hardly to be noticed. Little attention had been excited by the Danish missionaries; scarcely any by what the Dutch had effected in their Asiatic possessions; and the labors of the Moravians would hardly have been known beyond the bounds of their own little community, if it had not been for Crantz?s account of their extraordinary exertions in Greenland, and the entire success of that painful mission. By that book this singular labor of love was made known to a few general readers, and to what was then the still smaller number of persons who felt a religious interest in such subjects. But no general feeling was excited. The honor of giving the first impulse to public feeling belongs to the English Baptists" (London Eclectic Review, January, 1830). This impulse was felt by the Baptists of the United States.
The Baptists of the United States had always been missionary in their tendencies and practices. The old Philadelphia Association, and other associations in all sections of the country, had sent out missionaries: The moral purpose of the denomination was behind missionary operations and frequently money had been collected for such purposes. Missionaries duly accredited had traveled hundreds of miles, and in their long journeys had remained for months from home.
As yet the Baptists of America had not undertaken, on their own account, any foreign mission tasks. They had no general organization, for the district association was their only unit of procedure. They had been a scattered and feeble folk, just emerging from dire persecutions, and hence had not mobilized for foreign service. But when William Carey entered India from England as a missionary there was an intense response from many Baptists in America (S. Pearce Carey, William Carey, New York, 1923). Some of his best friends and most ardent supporters were in this nation.
The letters and appeals of Carey, Ward, and Marshman were widely circulated, and read with deepening interest in this country. "The Star of the East," preached and published in England, in 1808, by Claudius Buchanan, the Scottish chaplain of the East India Company, who gave to the world, in 1804, the first translation of the New Testament in Persian and Hindostanese, had also stirred the souls of the lovers of Jesus all over the land. As early as 1802, the Massachusetts Missionary Society was organized to preach the gospel in new settlements of the United States, "and further if circumstances ?should render it proper." "Mite Societies" for missions were formed in many of the larger churches. In November, 1811, the Boston Association of Baptist ministers recommended contributions to the "Eastern Translations"; and offered to transmit funds contributed for the object. In 1812, $4,650 was given for this purpose in Boston and Salem alone (Tupper, Foreign Missions of the Southern Baptist Convention).
Some of the associations immediately responded to the Foreign Mission call. The Cayuga Association, New York, in 1814, is an example. Says Belden:
At an earlier date, a strong and heartfelt sympathy for the perishing heathen had been awakened by the news which had reached this country, of the success which had crowned the efforts of "The English Baptist Missionary Society" in Bengal. In their circular addressed to the churches in 1813, one year previous to the formation of the American Board of Foreign Missions, they say, ?"A flame of love seems to have been enkindled among our brethren in England, for the souls of the poor benighted Hindoos; and God in his boundless mercy, hath crowned their labors with astonishing success; hundreds, yea thousands of those poor pagans, have, through their instrumentality, become the hopeful heirs of salvation. These will eternally sing the triumphs of sovereign grace, and adore God for sending the gospel among them. These things animate us, and we wish to enquire what we have done to send the gospel among our destitute brethren." Thus God was preparing the hearts of his people to receive the news of those singular providences which established an American Baptist Mission in Burmah, and furnished the means which have been so successfully employed and so signally blessed in the salvation of heathen souls. And when that news arrived, Cayuga Association was among the first to offer to the Board of the General Convention, her cooperation in the great and glorious work of sending to the heathen the preached gospel (Belden, History of the Cayuga Association).
Robert Rallston, Esq., of Philadelphia, at one time remitted to the Baptist mission at Serampore, for himself and others, three thousand three hundred and fifty-seven dollars and sixty-three cents. Dr. Carey acknowledged the receipt of six thousand dollars from American Christians during the years of 1806 and 1807. The interest of the churches in missions to the East was also, from time to time, quickened by the arrival of missionaries from England, on their way to India, or on their return home.
Dr. Francis Wayland has given a fine summary of this period in Baptist missions. "The same spirit," says he, "to a considerable degree, animated the Baptist churches, though their numbers were small, and their means but feeble. The Baptist Missionary Society of Massachusetts was formed in 1802. The next year, Dr. Baldwin, at the request of the society, commenced the publication of the Massachusetts Baptist Missionary Magazine. This periodical had an extensive circulation throughout the Northern States. It was principally occupied by the journals of missionaries in our frontier settlements, narratives of revivals in our churches, and missionary intelligence from abroad. Dr. Baldwin was a correspondent of Dr. Carey, of Fuller, and of Ryland; and, being imbued with their spirit, he delighted to cooperate with them in spreading before his brethren the accounts which they furnished of the triumphs of the cross.
"In the year 1812, the Salem Bible Translation and Foreign Mission Society was formed, under the fostering care of the late Dr. Bolles. This society, until the establishment of the Baptist General Convention, contributed its collections in aid of the Baptist missions in the East Indies. Nor would it be just to omit, in this place, the name of Rev. William Stoughton, D. D., pastor of the Samson Street Church, Philadelphia, and afterwards secretary of the Baptist General Convention. He had been, when in England, the friend and associate of the most efficient friends of missions there. He was in frequent correspondence with all of them and was, perhaps, the most direct channel by which their spirit was diffused among our churches. Distinguished for eloquence, varied accomplishments, and most animating views of the progress of the gospel, the triumph of the cross was always a favorite theme in his discourses. Many of our most successful ministers were his students in theology; and they imbibed in a happy degree his characteristic sentiments.
"Of course, I do not assume that the missionary spirit was at this time universal. Far from it. It is by no means universal now. Men of enlarged views, steadfast faith, and ardent piety, in various denominations, had become, to a good degree, interested in the subject of missions, and their influence was diffusing itself among the less favored brethren. The beams of the sun had only fallen upon the top of the mountains; they had not as yet rested upon the hillsides; much less had they penetrated into the valleys. But the mountain tops testified that the sun had risen.
"As yet, no general organization had been formed for carrying the gospel to the heathen. Nor is this to be wondered at. It was much less easy to form general organizations then than at present. That was not the age of steamboats, railroads, or telegraphs. Besides this, our national character has greatly changed in the course of forty or fifty years. We were then by no means conscious of our strength. There were then comparatively few things in which we had tried what we could do. This want of national confidence affected all of our public decisions, and it, of course, had its effect on our views of what was practicable in the missionary enterprise.
"In this state of public feeling, all that was wanted was the occurrence of some event which would impose the necessity of immediate action. Such an event was found in the application of the young men at Andover, to the General Association of Massachusetts, for an appointment as missionaries to the heathen" (Wayland, Memoir of the Life and Labors of Adoniram Judson, I. 46-48. New York, 1860).
God was preparing in a wonderful way an opening for Baptist missions in foreign lands. The conversion of Adoniram Judson and Luther Rice to Baptist doctrines and practices was one of the most phenomenal events in all the history of missions. This foreign mission enterprise, in the United States, did not originate with the Baptists, but with the Congregationalists. How this work began in a prayer meeting of young men, how a missionary society was organized to send them out, how the money was secured for their equipment, how they were ordained, how they were called to India, and how Judson and Rice became Baptists, is one of the most thrilling stories ever told.
A part of this history has been recorded by the Congregational Board and is as follows: "The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions had its origin in a desire of several young men in the Andover Theological Seminary to preach the gospel to a heathen world. The four names appended to the memorial to the General Association of Massachusetts, which was the immediate occasion of forming the Board, were Adoniram Judson, Samuel Nott, Samuel J. Mills, and Samuel Newell. Mills is known to have come under a written pledge to engage in a mission to the heathen as early as September, 1808. He was a member of Williams College; and then and there a society was formed, through his agency, called ?The Brethren,? which had for its object ?to effect, in the person of it members, a mission or missions to the heathen.? This society was transferred, with its constitution and records, to the Seminary at Andover, in the year 1809, or early in 1810, and has continued to the present time. It is distinct from the ?Society of Inquiry respecting Missions,? though its members are of course connected with that well known and useful body. The memorialists were each from a different college; Judson being a graduate of Brown, Nott of Union, Newell of Harvard, and Mills of Williams. There is good reason for the belief that the hallowed flame in each of these brethren had not its origin in man. Mr. Nott distinctly avers that the ?starting point and early progress? of the movement in his mind, was ?without any knowledge of the existence? of those who were so soon to be his associates. He spent only one year at Andover, going thither in November, 1809. Hall, Judson, Newell, and Nott were of the class that finished its course in 1810, which was the earliest class except one in the institution. Mills was in the class of 1812. Hall was there during only a part of the last year, coming about the time of the General Association; which is presumed to be the reason his name was not on the memorial. When Judson came to Andover in 1808, he had not attained even to a confirmed belief in Christianity; but his mind was in an inquiring state, and he soon united himself heartily with the people of God. The reading of Buchanan?s ?Star of the East,? in 1809, led him to reflect upon his duty to the heathen, and in February of the next year he resolved to devote his life to a foreign mission; not then knowing that there were others in the Seminary, or even in the country, who had come to the same resolution. The memorial to the General Association was drawn up by Mr. Judson; and his standing as a scholar and great energy of character made it quite certain that he exerted a leading influence in the measures which gave occasion to the formation of the Board at this time. But the fact that the name of Mills was attached to the memorial, though he was then in the Junior class, shows that he also was acknowledged by his brethren as a leader in this movement. Such was his shrinking from the public eye, that we may believe his name was there, and third on the list, only at the earnest solicitation of all of his associates. The names of Luther Rice and James Richards were appended to the paper, but happening to stand last, ?they were struck off,? as we learn from Dr. Judson ?at the suggestion of Dr. Spring, for fear of alarming the Association with too large a number.? Rice was in the class of 1811. Richards had subscribed the pledge in Williams College as early as 1808, and was in the class of Mills both at college and at Andover. Hall was one of the ablest missionaries from the American churches. His graduation at Williams College?as was Judson?s at Brown?was with the highest honors of his class. Mills was two years the junior of Hall in college; but, upon the conversion of the latter, in the third year of his course, the sagacity of that remarkable man singled him out for a ,foreign missionary; and so strong were Mills? convictions, that he declared Hall to be ?ordained and stamped a missionary by the sovereign hand of God.?
"In the autumn of 1809, Hall received a call to become pastor of a church in Connecticut. ?Then,? says Dr. Ebenezer Porter, who was his theological teacher in Connecticut, ?then the heart of the missionary came out. Then was revealed the secret so long cherished between himself and his beloved brother Samuel J. Mills. These kindred spirits, associated in college, often interchanged visits afterward, mutually enkindled that holy flame which nothing but death could extinguish in their own bosoms, and which has since extended its sacred influences to so many thousands of other hearts. The general purpose of these devoted young men was fixed. Sometimes they talked of ?cutting a path through the moral wilderness of the West to the Pacific.? Sometimes they thought of South America; then of Africa. Their object was the salvation of the heathen; but no specific shape was given to their plans till the formation of the American Board of Foreign Missions. Before this period the churches were asleep. Even ministers were but half-awake. To many it seemed a visionary thing in Mr. Hall, that he should decline an invitation to settle, attended by so many attractive circumstances, and so much prospect of usefulness. But I can never forget with what a glistening eye and firm accent this youthful pioneer of foreign missions, full of faith in the Holy Ghost, said, ?No, I must not settle in any parish in Christendom. Others will be left, whose health or engagements require them to stay at home; but I can sleep on the ground; can endure hunger and hardship; God calls me to the heathen; woe to me if I preach not the gospel to the heathen.? He went; and the day of judgment, while it tells the results of his labors, will rebuke the apathy with which others have slumbered over the miseries of dying pagans.
"The institution of the Andover Seminary, at the time the Holy Spirit was interesting the minds of graduates from different colleges in the work of foreign missions, is worthy of grateful notice. It was the only way in which they could be brought into circumstances favorable to personal acquaintance, and for associating and acting together. Nor should we omit to notice the important fact, that the missionary spirit should have been enkindled in the hearts of such men as Worcester, Spring, Evarts, and the Professors of Andover. The Seminary brought the young men where they could combine their action; and these fathers?for such they now seem, though most of them were then in the very prime of life?responded at once and cordially to their appeals. Hence the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions was instituted at Bradford, by the General Association of Massachusetts, on the 29th of June, 1810. These young men and their memorial were the occasion that gave rise to the Board, but the idea and plan of it arose in other minds. The idea would seem first to have occurred to Dr. Worcester, on Wednesday morning, June 27, as he and Dr. Spring rode together in a chaise from Andover to Bradford; and the plan of it was discussed between them as they rode along. But the whole was of God, and to him be the glory.
"The Rev. Kiah Bayley, writing to the Secretaries of the Board from Vermont in the year 185, being then eighty-five years old, communicated the following incidents, which are worthy of preservation. He says: ?A short time before my ordination at Newcastle, Maine, in 1797, the Rev. Alexander McLain of Bristol, had received from his friends in Scotland the sermons delivered in London by Dr. Hawies and others at the formation of the London Missionary Society. He was charmed with them, and lent them to me. I took the pamphlet to my wife, who was then at Newburyport, and she lent it to her friends, who read it with great avidity. A subscription paper was immediately issued, and a printer engaged. The work was soon in circulation. Dr. Samuel Spring And others in Newburyport caught the sacred flame. I know not that there was any other reprint of those sermons in America. Thus I have pointed out one little rill from which your society rose. There were others, no doubt, but I believe this was the leader. The sermons preached in London were sent to Scotland, and from Scotland to Maine, and from Maine to Newburyport. There the seed germinated, and the fruit will yet shake Lebanon.?"
"Messrs. Hall, Judson, Newell, and Nott completed their theological course in September, 1810, but were not able to proceed on their mission until 1812. Meanwhile, it is well known, Mr. Judson visited England to see if the London Missionary Society would arrange with the Board for a joint support of the mission; an embassy which happily failed of success. The London Directors rightly judged that two controlling powers, so widely separated, could not act with unity and decision. They also expressed the hope that as soon as the American churches became properly informed, they would furnish the means of sustaining ?not only four, but forty missionaries.? Those were times of non-intercourse, embargo, and commercial embarrassments in this country, and the terrible Napoleon conflicts shook the civilized world. As a passage to India seemed not likely to occur soon, Messrs. Hall and Newell went to Philadelphia, in the autumn of 1811, to pursue their medical studies. Mr. Nott has shown us two letters from Mr. Hall, setting forth the feelings of himself and associates in view of the contemplated foreign mission. The first was written on the 9th of January, 1812, and contains the following:
All hands upon deck! The Lord seems to be opening the door for us to enter speedily upon the mission. This evening I providentially fell in with Captain Cumming, of the ship Amiable, of this city, who told me that his vessel would be the first to sail for India, and at the middle of April at the furthest. . .It is currently reported that a messenger has arrived in this country from England, with a proposal to rescind the Order in Council on a certain easy condition, to which it is said to be ascertained that our government will readily assent. But if this good news should not prove to be true, it is almost universally believed that, at any rate, the offending order will expire as soon as February, and the intelligent merchants here confidently believe that our commerce will be revived early in the spring. This is Mr. Ralston?s opinion; he thinks we should get away in the spring. The prospect is such that no time should be lost. What will our Commissioners do? We shall immediately communicate this to Mr. Worcester and brother Judson. Let us bless the Lord and rejoice, but with trembling.
On the 13th of January he thus wrote:
I have seen Mr. Ralston today. The good man?s hopes in our favor are strengthened. He has some fears. He will see the owner of the ship Amiable. Under present circumstances, we cannot tell when we shall return to New England. If possible, I shall remain here until the lectures are closed, which will be the last of February. We must continue here till we learn more about a voyage to India. We should not be surprised to find that the Commissioners were not able to support us, and ourselves cast on the London Society. We have too long been in suspense."
"The suspense was relieved sooner than they expected. The Harmony, Captain Brown, proposed sailing on short notice, from Philadelphia to Calcutta, and could take the missionaries as passengers. The narration will be continued from the statement of the Prudential Committee to the Board at its next annual meeting in September."
"?In the latter part of January the resolution was taken. The ordination of the missionaries was appointed to be on the Thursday of the next week?the latest day which would leave time for them to get to Philadelphia in season. Notice was immediately given to the friends of the mission in the vicinity, and means were out in operation with all possible activity, and to as great an extent as the limited time would allow, for raising the requisite funds.?"
"?In the meantime, Mr. Luther Rice, a licentiate preacher from the Theological Institution at Andover, whose heart had long been engaged in the missionary cause, but who had been restrained from offering himself to the Board by particular circumstances, presented himself to the Committee with good recommendations, and with an earnest desire to join the mission. The case was a very trying one. The Committee was not invested with full powers to admit missionaries, and they still felt a very heavy embarrassment from the want of funds. In view of all the circumstances, however, they dared not to reject Mr. Rice, and they came to the conclusion to assume the responsibility, and admit him as a missionary, to be ordained with the four other brethren, and sent out with them.?"
"?While the preparations were making, it came to the knowledge of the Committee, that the brigantine Caravan, of Salem, was to sail to Calcutta in a few days, and could carry three or four passengers; and after attention to the subject, it was deemed advisable that two of the missionaries, with their wives, should take passage in that vessel. This lessened the great risk, and was attended with several advantages.?"
"?According to appointment, on the 6th of February, the missionaries were ordained at the Tabernacle in Salem. A season of more impressive solemnity has scarcely been witnessed in our country. The sight of five young men, of highly respectable talents and attainments, and who might reasonably have promised themselves very eligible situations in our churches, forsaking parents, and friends, and country, and every alluring prospect, and devoting themselves to the privations, hardships, and perils of a mission for life, to people sitting in darkness and in the region and shadow of death, in a far-distant land and unpropitious clime, could not fail deeply to affect every heart not utterly destitute of feeling. Nor less affecting were the views which the whole scene was calculated to impress of the deplorable condition of the pagan world, of the riches of divine grace displayed in the gospel, and of the obligations on all on whom this grace is conferred, to use their utmost endeavors in making the gospel universally known. God was manifestly present; a crowded and attentive assembly testified, with many tears, the deep interest which they felt in the occasion; and not a few remembered the scene with fervent gratitude, and can say, it was good to be there?" (Memorial Volume of the First Fifty Years o f the American Board o f Commissioners for Foreign Missions, 39-44. Boston, 1862).
Such was the genesis of the foreign mission movement in the United States. Up to this date the Baptists were not connected with the affair. But on the passage Judson availed himself of this period of leisure to investigate the scriptural authority for infant baptism. He was prompted to this course by two considerations. In the first place, he looked forward to the time when he should be surrounded by converts from heathenism. How should he treat children and servants, and did he have authority to baptize such persons? Besides this, he was going in the first instance to Serampore, to reside for a time with the Baptist missionaries. He felt the necessity of re-examining the subject, as he expected to be called upon by them to defend his belief. In this latter respect, however, he found himself singularly disappointed; for the missionaries in Serampore made no reference of the subject to their guest.
The result of the investigation was that Judson became a Baptist. Mrs. Ann Hasseltine Judson, wrote, from the Isle of France, February 14, 1813, to her parents, explaining the situation as follows:
I will now, my dear parents and sisters, give you some account of our change of sentiment, relative to the subject of baptism. Mr. Judson?s doubts commenced on our passage from America. While translating the New Testament, in which he was engaged, he used frequently to say that the Baptists were right in their mode of administering the ordinance. Knowing that he should meet the Baptists in Serampore, he felt impelled to attend to it more closely, to be able to defend his sentiments. After our arrival in Serampore, his mind for two or three weeks was much taken up with missionary inquiries and our difficulties with government, as to prevent his attending to the subject of baptism. But as we were awaiting the arrival of our brethren, and having nothing in particular to attend to, he again took up the subject. I tried to have him give it up, and rest satisfied with his old sentiments, and frequently told him, if he became a Baptist, 1 would not. He, however, said he felt it his duty to examine closely a subject on which he had so many doubts. After we removed to Calcutta, he found in the library of our chamber many books on both sides, which he determined to read candidly and prayerfully, and to hold fast, or embrace the truth, however mortifying, however great the sacrifice. I now commenced reading on the subject, with all my prejudices on the Pedobaptist side. We had with us Dr. Worcester?s, Dr. Austin?s, Peter Edward?s, and other Pedobaptist writings. But after closely examining the subject for several weeks, we were constrained to acknowledge that the truth appeared to lie on the Baptists? side. It was extremely trying to reflect on the consequences of our becoming Baptists. We knew that it would wound and grieve our dear friends in America-that we should lose their approbation and esteem. We thought it probable that the commission would refuse to support us; and, what was more distressing than anything, we knew we must be separated from our missionary associates, and go alone to some heathen land. These things were very trying to us, and caused our hearts to bleed for anguish. We felt that we had no home in this world, and no friend but each other. Our friends at Serampore were extremely surprised when we wrote them a letter requesting baptism, as they had known nothing of our having had any doubts on the subject. We were baptized on the 6th of September, in the Baptist chapel in Calcutta. Mr. J. preached a sermon at Calcutta, on that subject, soon after we were baptized which, in compliance with the request of a number who heard it, he has been preparing for the press. Brother Rice was baptized several weeks after we were. It was a very great relief to our minds to have him join. us, as we expected to be entirely alone in a mission.
Nothing remained for Judson to do but to inform the American Board of Foreign Commissioners for Foreign Missions of his change of sentiments. At the same time he addressed letters to some Baptist ministers in Boston and Salem. The following letters will explain his position:
To the Rev. Dr. Baldwin, of Boston.
Calcutta, August 31, 1812.
Rev. and Dear Sir: I write you a line to express my grateful acknowledgments to you for the advantage I have derived from your publications on baptism; particularly from your "Series of Letters"; also to introduce the following copy of a letter which I forwarded last week to the Baptist missionaries at Serampore, and which you are at liberty to use as you think best.
I am, sir, with much affection and respect,
Your obliged friend and servant,
Adoniram Judson, Jr.
Calcutta, August 27, 1812.
To the Rev. Messrs. Carey, Marshman, and Ward:
As you have been ignorant of the late exercises of my mind on the subject of baptism, the communication which I am about to make may occasion you some surprise.
It is about four months since I took the subject into serious and prayerful consideration. My inquiries commenced during my passage from America, and after much laborious research and painful trial, which I shall not now detail, have issued in entire conviction, that the immersion of a professing believer is the only Christian baptism.
In these exercises I have not been alone. Mrs. Judson has been engaged in a similar examination, and has come to the same conclusion. Feeling, therefore, that we are in an unbaptized state, we wish to profess our faith in Christ by being baptized in obedience to his sacred commands.
Adoniram Judson, Jr.
Calcutta, September 1, 1812.
Rev. Sir: After transmitting to the Rev. Dr. Worcester a copy of the above letter to the Baptist missionaries, I have, under date of this day, written him as follows:
Rev. and Dear Sir: My change of sentiments on the subject of baptism is considered by my missionary brethren as incompatible with my continuing their fellow laborer in the mission which they contemplate on the Island of Madagascar; and it will, I presume, be considered by the Board of Commissioners as equally incompatible with their continuing their missionary. The Board, undoubtedly, feel as unwilling to support a Baptist missionary as I feel to comply with their instructions, which particularly direct us to baptize "credible believers with their households."
The dissolution of my connection with the Board of Commissioners, and a separation from my dear missionary brethren, I consider most distressing consequences of my late change of sentiments, and indeed, the most distressing events which have befallen me. I have now the prospect before me of going alone to some distant island, unconnected with any society at present existing from which I might be furnished with assistant laborers or pecuniary support. Whether the Baptist churches in America will compassionate my situation, I know not. I hone. therefore, that while my friends condemn what they deem a departure from the truth, they will at least pity me and pray for me.
With the same sentiments of affection and respect as ever,
I am, sir, your friend and servant,
Adoniram Judson, Jr.
Rev. Dr. Worcester, Corresponding Secretary of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.
You will receive a letter from Dr. Marshman, accompanying thin Should there be formed, in accordance with the ideas therein suggested a Baptist society for the support of a mission in these parts, I shall be ready to consider myself their missionary; and remain, dear sir,
Your obliged friend and servant,
Adoniram Judson, Jr.
To the Rev. Dr. Bolles, Salem, Mass.
Calcutta, September 1, 1812.
Rev. Sir: I recollect that, during a short interview I had with you in Salem, I suggested the formation of a society among the Baptists in America for the support of foreign missions, in imitation of the exertions of your English brethren. Little did I then expect to be personally concerned in such an attempt.
Within a few months, I have experienced an entire change of sentiments on the subject of baptism. My doubts concerning the correctness of my former system of belief commenced during my passage from America to this country; and after many painful trials, which none can know but those who are taught to relinquish a system in which they had been educated, I settled down in the full persuasion that the immersion of a professing believer in Christ is the only Christian baptism.
Mrs. Judson is united with me in this persuasion. We have signified our views and wishes to the Baptist missionaries at Serampore and expect to be baptized in this city next Lord?s day.
A separation from my missionary brethren, and a dissolution of my connection with the Board of Commissioners, seem to be necessary consequences. The missionaries at Serampore are exerted to the utmost of their ability in managing and supporting their extensive and complicated mission.
Under these circumstances I look to you. Alone, in this foreign heathen land, I make my appeal to those whom, with their permission, I will call my Baptist brethren in the United States.
With the advice of the brethren in Serampore, I am contemplating a mission in one of the eastern islands. They have lately sent their brother Chater to Ceylon, and their brother Robinson to Java. At present, Amboya seems to present the most favorable opening. Fifty thousand souls are there perishing without the means of life; and the situation of the island is such that a mission there established might, with the blessing of God, be extended to the neighboring island in those seas.
But should I go thither, it is a most painful reflection that I must go alone, and also uncertain of the means of support. But I trust in God. He has frequently enabled me to praise his divine goodness, and will never forsake those who put their trust in him. I am, dear sir,
Yours, in the Lord Jesus,
Adoniram Judson, Jr.
The following is an extract from a letter of Dr. Marshman, of Serampore, to Dr. Baldwin, of Boston, September 1, 1812:
A note which brother Judson sent to brother Carey last Saturday has occasioned much reflection among us. In it he declares his belief that believers? baptism alone is the doctrine of the Scriptures, and requests to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
This unexpected circumstance seems to suggest many ideas. The change in the young man?s mind, respecting the ordinance of Christ, seems quite the effect of divine truth operating on the mind. It began when no Baptist was near (on board of ship), and when he, in the conscientious discharge of his duty, was examining the subject in order to maintain what he then deemed truth on his arrival in Bengal. And so carefully did he conceal the workings of his mind from us, on his arrival, that he scarcely gave us a hint respecting them before he sent the note to brother Carey. This was not indeed very difficult for him to do, as we make it a point to guard against obtruding on missionary brethren of different sentiments any conversation relative to baptism.
This change then, which I believe few who knew brother Judson will impute to whim, or to. anything besides sincere conviction, seems to point out something relative to the duty of our Baptist brethren with you, as it relates to the cause of missions. It can scarcely be expected that the Board of Commissioners will support a Baptist missionary, who cannot, of course, comply with their instructions, and baptize whole households on the parents? faith; and it is certain that the young man ought not to be left to perish for want, merely because he loved the truth more than father and mother; nor be compelled to give up missionary work for want of support therein. Now, though we should certainly interfere to prevent a circumstance like this happening, particularly as we have given our Pedobaptist brother Newell, gone to the Isle of France, an order to draw upon us should he be in distress, yet, to say nothing of the missionary concerns already lying on us, and constantly enlarging. it seems to us, though Providence itself were raising up this young man, that ydu might at least partake of the zeal of our Congregational missionary brethren around you. I would wish, then, that you should share in the glorious work, by supporting him. Let us do whatsoever things are becoming, and whatsoever things are lovely, and have the reverse of these for others. After God has thus given you a missionary of your own nation, faith, and order, without the help or knowledge of man, let me entreat you, and Dr. Messer, and brethren Bolles and Moriarty, humbly to accept the gift.
To you I am sure I need add no more than to beg you to give my cordial love to all our brethren around you.
I may probably write you again soon, and in the meantime remain yours, in the Lord.
It was in this manner that foreign missions was thrust upon the Baptists of the United States. After many leadings the mission was established under Judson in Burmah. What the celebrated Earl of Shaftesbury said of another mission was equally true of this one. "I do not believe," said he, "that in the whole history of missions, I do not believe in the history of diplomacy, or in the history of any negotiations carried on between man and man, we can find anything to equal the wisdom, the soundness, and the pure evangelical truth of the body of men who constituted the American mission. I have said it twenty times before, and I will say it again, ?that they are a marvelous combination of common sense and piety. . .There they stand, tested by years, tried by their works, and exemplified by their fruits; and I believe that it will be found that those American missionaries have done more toward upholding the truth and spreading the gospel of Christ in the East than any other body of men in this or any other age."
There must be a home base, and there was a man admirably prepared to do this work. Luther Rice had already been severely attacked with disease of the liver, and his health had become quite precarious. The views of the Baptists in this country were unknown to the missionaries, and it seemed desirable that some direct intercourse might be commenced between the parties at present personally unknown to each other. It was probable, however, that the labors of Rice might be eminently useful in awakening a missionary spirit among the churches at home. With the hope of recovering his health, and at the same time accomplishing these objects, it was deemed wise for him to return to this country. He sailed March 15, 1813, for New York by the way of St. Salvador (Wayland, I.).
Books for further reference:
S. Pearce Carey, William Carey. New York, 1923.
Memorial Volume of the first Fifty Years of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Boston, 1862.
Wayland, Francis, Memoir of the Life and Labors? of Rev. Adoniram Judson. Boston, 1853. 2 volumes.
N. M. Williams, Theodore Parker and Adoniram Judson, Bibliotheca Sacra, XXVI. 290-314.
Letters of Dr. John Ryland to Dr. Stephen West, Bibliotheca Sacra XXX. 178-186. Andover, 1873.
Edward Warren Capen, The Significance of the Haystack Centennial,
Bibliotheca Sacra, LIII. 703-721. Oberlin, 1906.