committed to historic Baptist & Reformed beliefs

 

LIFE OF WILLIAM CAREY

Shoemaker & Missionary

BY GEORGE SMITH C.I.E., LL.D.

FIRST ISSUE OF THIS EDITION 1909

REPRINTED...1913, 1922

 

CHAPTER 16

CAREY’S LAST DAYS

1830-1834

 

The college and mission stripped of all their funds--Failure of the six firms for sixteen millions--Carey’s official income reduced from ?1560 to ?600--His Thoughts and Appeal published in England--His vigour at seventy--Last revision of the Bengali Bible--Final edition of the Bengali New Testament--Carey rejoices in the reforms of Lord William Bentinck’s Government--In the emancipation of the slaves--Carey sketched by his younger contemporaries--His latest letters and last message to Christendom--Visits of Lady William Bentinck and Bishop Daniel Wilson--Marshman’s affection and promise as to the garden--The English mail brings glad news a fortnight before his death--His last Sabbath--He dies--Is buried--His tomb among his converts--His will--The Indian press on his poverty and disinterestedness--Dr. Marshman and Mack, Christopher Anderson and John Wilson of Bombay on his character--His influence still as the founder of missions--Dr. Cox and Robert Hall on Carey as a man--Scotland’s estimate of the father of the Evangelical Revival and its foreign missions.

THE last days of William Carey were the best. His sun went down in all the splendour of a glowing faith and a burning self-sacrifice. Not in the penury of Hackleton and Moulton, not in the hardships of Calcutta and the Soondarbans, not in the fevers of the swamps of Dinapoor, not in the apprehensions twice excited by official intolerance, not in the most bitter sorrow of all--the sixteen years’ persecution by English brethren after Fuller’s death, had the father of modern missions been so tried as in the years 1830-1833. Blow succeeded blow, but only that the fine gold of his trust, his humility, and his love might be seen to be the purer.

The Serampore College and Mission lost all the funds it had in India. By 1830 the financial revolution which had laid many houses low in Europe five years before, began to tell upon the merchant princes of Calcutta. The six firms, which had developed the trade of Northern India so far as the Company’s monopolies allowed, had been the bankers of the Government itself, of states like Haidarabad, and of all the civil and military officials, and had enriched a succession of partners for half a century, fell one by one--fell for sixteen millions sterling among them. Palmer and Co. was the greatest; the house at one time played a large part in the history of India, and in the debates and papers of Parliament. Mr. John Palmer, a personal friend of the Serampore men, had advanced them money at ten per cent. four years previously, when the Society’s misrepresentation had done its worst. The children in the Eurasian schools, which Dr. and Mrs. Marshman conducted with such profit to the mission, depended chiefly on funds deposited with this firm. It suddenly failed for more than two millions sterling. Although the catastrophe exposed the rottenness of the system of credit on which commerce and banking were at that time conducted, in the absence of a free press and an intelligent public opinion, the alarm soon subsided, and only the more business fell to the other firms. But the year 1833 had hardly opened when first the house of Alexander and Co., then that of Mackintosh and Co., and then the three others, collapsed without warning. The English in India, officials and merchants, were reduced to universal poverty. Capital disappeared and credit ceased at the very time that Parliament was about to complete the partial concession of freedom of trade made by the charter of 1813, by granting all Carey had argued for, and allowing Europeans to hold land. 

The funds invested for Jessor and Delhi; the legacy of Fernandez, Carey’s first convert and missionary; his own tenths with which he supported three aged relatives in England; the property of the partner of his third marriage, on whom the money was settled, and who survived him by a year; the little possessed by Dr. Marshman, who had paid all his expenses in England even while working for the Society--all was swept away. Not only was the small balance in hand towards meeting the college and mission expenditure gone, but it was impossible to borrow even for a short time. Again one of Dr. Carey’s old civilian students came to the rescue. Mr. Garrett, grandson of Robert Raikes who first began Sunday schools, pledged his own credit with the Bank of Bengal, until Samuel Hope of Liverpool, treasurer of the Serampore Mission there, could be communicated with. Meanwhile the question of giving up any of the stations or shutting the college was not once favoured. "I have seen the tears run down the face of the venerable Dr. Carey at the thought of such a calamity," wrote Leechman; "were it to arrive we should soon have to lay him in his grave." When the interest of the funds raised by Ward in America ceased for a time because of the malicious report from England that it might be applied by Dr. Marshman to the purposes of family aggrandisement, Carey replied in a spirit like that of Paul under a similar charge: "Dr. Marshman is as poor as I am, and I can scarcely lay by a sum monthly to relieve three or four indigent relatives in Europe. I might have had large possessions, but I have given my all, except what I ate, drank, and wore, to the cause of missions, and Dr. Marshman has done the same, and so did Mr. Ward. 

Carey’s trust in God, for the mission and for himself, was to be still further tried. On 12th July 1828 we find him thus writing from Calcutta to Jabez:--"I came down this morning to attend Lord W. Bentinck’s first lev?. It was numerously attended, and I had the pleasure of seeing there a great number of gentlemen who had formerly studied under me, and for whom I felt a very sincere regard. I hear Lady Bentinck is a pious woman, but have not yet seen her. I have a card to attend at her drawing-room this evening, but I shall not go, as I must be at home for the Sabbath, which is to-morrow." It soon fell to Lord William Bentinck to meet the financial consequences of his weak predecessor’s administration. The College of Fort William had to be sacrificed. Metcalfe and Bayley, Carey’s old students whom he had permanently influenced in the higher life, were the members of council, and he appealed to them. They sent him to the good Governor-General, to whose sympathy he laid bare all the past and present of the mission’s finance. He was told to have no fear, and indeed the Council held a long sitting on this one matter. But from June 1830 the college ceased to be a teaching, and became an examining body. When the salary was reduced one-half, from Rs. 1000 a month, the Brotherhood met to pray for light and strength. Mr. Robinson, the Java missionary who had attached himself to Serampore, and whose son long did good service as a Bengali scholar and preacher, gives us this glimpse of its inner life at this time:--

"The two old men were dissolved in tears while they were engaged in prayer, and Dr. Marshman in particular could not give expressions to his feelings. It was indeed affecting to see these good old men, the fathers of the mission, entreating with tears that God would not forsake them now grey hairs were come upon them, but that He would silence the tongue of calumny, and furnish them with the means of carrying on His own cause."

They sent home an appeal to England, and Carey himself published what is perhaps the most chivalrous, just, and weighty of all his utterances on the disagreeable subject--Thoughts upon the Discussions which have arisen from the Separation between the Baptist Missionary Society and the Serampore Missions. "From our age and other circumstances our contributions may soon cease. We have seen a great work wrought in India, and much of it, either directly or indirectly, has been done by ourselves. I cannot, I ought not to be indifferent about the permanency of this work, and cannot therefore view the exultation expressed at the prospect of our resources being crippled otherwise than being of a character too satanic to be long persisted in by any man who has the love of God in his heart."

The appeal to all Christians for "a few hundred pounds per annum" for the mission station closed thus: "But a few years have passed away since the Protestant world was awakened to missionary effort. Since that time the annual revenues collected for this object have grown to the then unthought-of sum of ?400,000. And is it unreasonable to expect that some unnoticeable portion of this should be intrusted to him who was amongst the first to move in this enterprise and to his colleagues?" The Brotherhood had hardly despatched this appeal to England with the sentence, "Our present incomes even are uncertain," when the shears of financial reduction cut off Dr. Carey’s office of Bengali translator to Government, which for eight years had yielded him Rs. 300 a month. But such was his faith this final stroke called forth only an expression of regret that he must reduce his contributions to the missionary cause by so much. He was a wonder to his colleagues, who wrote of him: "Though thus reduced in his circumstances the good man, about to enter on his seventieth year, is as cheerful and as happy as the day is long. He rides out four or five miles every morning, returning home by sunrise; goes on with the work of translation day by day; gives two lectures on divinity and one on natural history every week in the college, and takes his turn of preaching both in Bengali and in English."

When the Christian public responded heartily to his appeal Carey was loud and frequent in his expressions of gratitude to God, who, "in the time of our great extremity, appeared and stirred up His people thus willingly to offer their substance for His cause." With respect to myself, I consider my race as nearly run. The days of our years are three score years and ten, and I am now only three months short of that age, and repeated bilious attacks have weakened my constitution. But I do not look forward to death with any painful anticipations. I cast myself on and plead the efficacy of that atonement which will not fail me when I need it." 

Dr. Marshman gives us a brighter picture of him. "I met with very few friends in England in their seventieth year so lively, as free from the infirmities of age, so interesting in the pulpit, so completely conversible as he is now." The reason is found in the fact that he was still useful, still busy at the work he loved most of all. He completed his last revision of the entire Bible in Bengali--the fifth edition of the Old Testament and the eighth edition of the New--in June 1832. Immediately thereafter, when presiding at the ordination of Mr. Mack as co-pastor with Dr. Marshman and himself over the church at Serampore, he took with him into the pulpit the first copy of the sacred volume which came from the binder’s hands, and addressed the converts and their children from the words of Simeon--"Lord now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation." As the months went on he carried through the press still another and improved edition of the New Testament, and only then he felt and often said that the work of his heart was done.

 He had other sources of saintly pleasure as he lay meditating on the Word, and praising God for His goodness to the college and the mission stations increased to nineteen by young Sir Henry Havelock, who founded the church at Agra. Lord William Bentinck, having begun his reign with the abolition of the crime of suttee, was, with the help of Carey’s old students, steadily carrying out the other reforms for which in all his Indian career the missionary had prayed and preached and published. The judicial service was reorganised so as to include native judges. The uncovenanted civil service was opened to all British subjects of every creed. The first act of justice to native Christians was thus done, so that he wrote of the college:--"The students are now eligible to every legal appointment in India which a native can hold; those who may possess no love for the Christian ministry have the prospect of a profitable profession as advocates in the judicial courts, and the hope of rising to posts of honourable distinction in their native land." The Hindoo law of inheritance which the Regulating Act of Parliament had so covered that it was used to deprive converts to Christianity of all civil rights, was dealt with so far as a local regulation could do so, and Carey, advised by such an authority as Harington, laid it on his successor in the apostolate, the young Alexander Duff, to carry the act of justice out fully, which was done under the Marquis of Dalhousie. The orders drawn up by Charles Grant’s sons at last, in February 1833, freed Great Britain from responsibility for the connection of the East India Company with Temple and mosque endowments and the pilgrim tax.

His son Jonathan wrote this of him two years after his death:--

"In principle my father was resolute and firm, never shrinking from avowing and maintaining his sentiments. He had conscientious scruples against taking an oath; and condemned severely the manner in which oaths were administered, and urged vehemently the propriety of altogether dispensing with them. I remember three instances in which he took a conspicuous part in regard to oaths, such as was characteristic of the man. On one occasion, when a respectable Hindoo servant of the college of Fort William, attached to Dr. Carey’s department, was early one morning proceeding to the Ganges to bathe, he perceived a dead body lying near the road; but it being dark, and no person being present, he passed on, taking no further notice of the circumstance. As he returned from the Ganges after sunrise, he saw a crowd near the body, and then happened to say to one of the watchmen present that in the morning he saw the body on the other side of the road. The watchman took him in custody, as a witness before the coroner; but, when brought before the coroner, he refused to take an oath, and was, consequently, committed to prison for contempt. The Hindoo being a respectable person, and never having taken an oath, refused to take any nourishment in the prison. In this state he continued a day and a half, my father being then at Serampore; but upon his coming to Calcutta, the circumstances were mentioned to him. The fact of the man having refused to take an oath was enough to make him interest himself in his behalf. He was delighted with the resolution the man took--rather to go to prison than take an oath; and was determined to do all he could to procure his liberation. He first applied to the coroner, but was directed by him to the sheriff. To that functionary he proceeded, but was informed by him that he could make no order on the subject. He then had an interview with the then chief judge, by whose interference the man was set at liberty.

"Another instance relates to him personally. On the occasion of his last marriage, the day was fixed on which the ceremony was to take place--friends were invited--and all necessary arrangements made; but, three or four days prior to the day fixed, he was informed that it would be necessary for him to obtain a licence, in doing which, he must either take an oath or have banns published. To taking an oath he at once objected, and applied to the then senior judge, who informed him that, as he was not a quaker, his oath was indispensable; but, rather than take an oath, he applied to have the banns published, and postponed the arrangements for his marriage for another three weeks.

 "The third instance was as follows:--It was necessary, in a certain case, to prove a will in court, in which the name of Dr. Carey was mentioned, in connection with the Serampore missionaries as executors. An application was made by one of his colleagues, which was refused by the court, on account of the vagueness of the terms, ‘Serampore missionaries;’ but as Dr. Carey’s name was specifically mentioned, the court intimated that they would grant the application if made by him. The communication was made: but when he was informed that an oath was necessary, he shrunk with abhorrence from the idea; but after much persuasion, he consented to make the application, if taking an oath would be dispensed with. He did attend, and stated his objections to the then chief judge, which being allowed, his affirmation was received and recorded by the court.

 "The duties connected with the College of Fort William afforded him a change of scene, which relieved his mind, and gave him opportunities of taking exercise, and conduced much to his health. During the several years he held the situation of professor to the college, no consideration would allow him to neglect his attendance; and though he had to encounter boisterous weather in crossing the river at unseasonable hours, he was punctual in his attendance, and never applied for leave of absence. And when he was qualified by the rules of the service to retire on a handsome pension, he preferred being actively employed in promoting the interests of the college, and remained, assiduously discharging his duties, till his department was abolished by Government. The business of the college requiring his attendance in Calcutta, he became so habituated to his journeys to and fro, that at his age he painfully felt the retirement he was subjected to when his office ceased. After this circumstance his health rapidly declined; and though he occasionally visited Calcutta, he complained of extreme debility. This increased daily, and made him a constant sufferer; until at length he was not able to leave his house."

 Nor was it in India alone that the venerable saint found such causes of satisfaction. He lived long enough to thank God for the emancipation of the slaves by the English people, for which he had prayed daily for fifty years.

We have many sketches of the Father of English Missions in his later years by young contemporaries who, on their first arrival in Bengal, sought him out. In 1824 Mr. Leslie, an Edinburgh student, who became in India the first of Baptist preachers, and was the means of the conversion of Henry Havelock who married Dr. Marshman’s youngest daughter, wrote thus of Carey after the third great illness of his Indian life:--

 "Dr. Carey, who has been very ill, is quite recovered, and bids fair to live many years; and as for Dr. Marshman, he has never known ill-health is, during the whole period of his residence in India. They are both active to a degree which you would think impossible in such a country. Dr. Carey is a very equable and cheerful old man, in countenance very like the engraving of him with his pundit, though not so robust as he appears to be there. Next to his translations Botany is his grand study. He has collected every plant and tree in his garden that will possibly grow in India, and is so scientific withal that he calls everything by its classical name. If, therefore, I should at any time blunder out the word Geranium, he would say Pelargonium, and perhaps accuse me of ignorance, or blame me for vulgarity. We had the pleasure of hearing him preach from Rom. vii. 13, when he gave us an excellent sermon. In manner he is very animated, and in style very methodical. Indeed he carries method into everything he does; classification is his grand hobby, and wherever anything can be classified, there you find Dr. Carey; not only does he classify and arrange the roots of plants and words, but visit his dwelling and you find he has fitted up and classified shelves full of minerals, stones, shells, etc., and cages full of birds. He is of very easy access, and great familiarity. His attachments are strong, and extend not merely to persons but places. About a year ago, so much of the house in which he had lived ever since he had been at Serampore, fell down so that he had to leave it, at which he wept bitterly. One morning at breakfast, he was relating to us an anecdote of the generosity of the late excellent John Thornton, at the remembrance of whom the big tear filled his eye. Though it is an affecting sight to see the venerable man weep; yet it is a sight which greatly interests you, as there is a manliness in his tears--something far removed from the crying of a child."

 The house in which for the last ten years he lived, and where he died, was the only one of two or three, planned for the new professors of the college, that was completed. Compared with the adjoining college it was erected with such severe simplicity that it was said to have been designed for angels rather than for men. Carey’s room and library looked towards the river with the breadth of the college garden between. On the other side, in the upper verandah, in the morning he worked at his desk almost to the last, and in the evening towards sunset he talked with his visitors. In 1826 the London Missionary Society sent out to Calcutta the first of its deputations. Dr. Carey sent his boat for them, and in the absence of her husband in England, Mrs. Marshman entertained the guests. They wrote:--

 "We found Dr. Carey in his study, and we were both pleased and struck with his primitive, and we may say, apostolical appearance. He is short of stature, his hair white, his countenance equally bland and benevolent in feature and expression. Two Hindoo men were sitting by, engaged in painting some small subjects in natural history, of which the doctor, a man of pure taste and highly intellectual cast of feeling, irrespective of his more learned pursuits, has a choice collection, both in specimens and pictorial representations. Botany is a favourite study with him, and his garden is curiously enriched with rarities."

 Of all the visits paid to Carey none are now so interesting to the historian of the Church of India, as those of the youth who succeeded him as he had succeeded Schwartz. Alexander Duff was twenty-four years of age when, in 1830, full of hesitation as to carrying out his own plans in opposition to the experience of all the missionaries he had consulted, he received from Carey alone the most earnest encouragement to pursue in Calcutta the Christian college policy so well begun in the less central settlement of Serampore. We have elsewhere32 told the story:--

"Landing at the college ghaut one sweltering July day, the still ruddy highlander strode up to the flight of steps that leads to the finest modern building in Asia. Turning to the justify, he sought the study of Carey in the house--‘built for angels,’ said one, so simple is it--where the greatest of missionary scholars was still working for India. There he beheld what seemed to be a little yellow old man in a white jacket, who tottered up to the visitor of whom he had already often heard, and with outstretched hands solemnly blessed him. A contemporary soon after wrote thus of the childlike saint--

"‘Thou’rt in our heart--with tresses thin and grey,

    And eye that knew the Book of Life so well,

  And brow serene, as thou wert wont to stray

    Amidst thy flowers--like Adam ere he fell.’

 

"The result of the conference was a double blessing; for Carey could speak with the influence at once of a scholar who had created the best college at that time in the country, and of a vernacularist who had preached to the people for half a century. The young Scotsman justify his presence with the approval of the one authority whose opinion was best worth having...

"Among those who visited him in his last illness was Alexander Duff, the Scots missionary. On one of the last occasions on which he saw him--if not the very last--he spent some time talking chiefly about Carey’s missionary life, till at length the dying man whispered, Pray. Duff knelt down and prayed, and then said Good-bye. As he passed from the room, he thought he heard a feeble voice pronouncing his name, and, turning, he found that he was recalled. He stepped back accordingly, and this is what he heard, spoken with a gracious solemnity: ‘Mr. Duff, you have been speaking about Dr. Carey, Dr. Carey; When I am gone, say nothing about Dr. Carey--speak about Dr. Carey’s Saviour.’ Duff went away rebuked and awed, with a lesson in his heart that he never forgot."33

When with his old friends he dwelt much on the past. Writing of May 1832, Dr. Marshman mentioned: "I spent an hour at tea with dear Brother Carey last night, now seventy and nine months. He was in the most comfortable state of health, talking over his first feelings respecting India and the heathen, and the manner in which God kept them alive, when even Fuller could not yet enter into them, and good old John Ryland (the doctor’s father) denounced them as unscriptural. Had these feelings died away, in what a different state might India now have been!" In September of that year, when burying Mrs. Ward, he seemed, in his address at the grave, to long for renewed intercourse with the friends who had preceded him in entering into the joy of the Lord.

On Mr. Leechman’s arrival from Scotland to be his colleague, he found the old man thus vigorous even in April 1833, or if "faint, yet pursuing":--

"Our venerable Dr. Carey is in excellent health, and takes his turn in all our public exercises. Just forty years ago, the first of this month, he administered the Lord’s Supper to the church at Leicester, and started on the morrow to embark for India. Through this long period of honourable toil the Lord has mercifully preserved him; and at our missionary prayer meeting, held on the first of this month, he delivered an interesting address to encourage us to persevere in the work of the Lord. We have also a private monthly prayer meeting held in Dr. Carey’s study, which is to me a meeting of uncommon interest. On these occasions we particularly spread before the Lord our public and private trials, both those which come upon us from the cause of Christ, with which it is our honour and privilege to be connected, and those also which we as individuals are called to bear. At our last meeting Dr. Carey read part of the history of Gideon, and commented with deep feeling on the encouragement which that history affords, that the cause of God can be carried on to victory and triumph, by feeble and apparently inefficient means."

Carey’s successor, Mack, wrote thus to Christopher Anderson ten months later:-- 

"SERAMPORE, 31st January 1834.--Our venerable father, Dr. Carey, is yet continued to us, but in the same state in which he has been for the last three months or so. He is quite incapable of work, and very weak. He can walk but a few yards at a time, and spends the day in reading for profit and entertainment, and in occasionally nodding and sleeping. He is perfectly tranquil in mind. His imagination does not soar much in vivid anticipations of glory; and it never disquiets him with restless misgivings respecting his inheritance in God. To him it is everything that the gospel is true, and he believes it; and, as he says, if he can say he knows anything, he knows that he believes it. When his attention is turned to his dismissal from earth, or his hope of glory, his emotions are tender and sweet. They are also very simple, and express themselves in a few brief and pithy sentences. His interest in all the affairs of the mission is unabated, and although he can no longer join us either in deliberation or associated prayer, he must be informed of all that occurs, and his heart is wholly with us in whatever we do. I do not conceive it possible that he can survive the ensuing hot season, but he may, and the Lord will do in this as in all other things what is best.

"When our necessities were coming to their climax I concluded that I must leave Serampore in order to find food to eat, and I fixed upon Cherra-poonjee as my future residence. I proposed establishing a first-class school there, and then with some warmth of imagination I began anticipating a sort of second edition of Serampore up in the Khasia hills, to be a centre of diffusing light in the western provinces. I became really somewhat enamoured of the phantom of my imagination, but it was not to be. The brethren here would not see it as I did."

This last sketch, by Mr. Gogerly, whom the London Missionary Society had sent out in 1819, brings us still nearer the end:--

"At this time I paid him my last visit. He was seated near his desk, in the study, dressed in his usual neat attire; his eyes were closed, and his hands clasped together. On his desk was the proof-sheet of the last chapter of the New Testament, which he had revised a few days before. His appearance, as he sat there, with the few white locks which adorned his venerable brow, and his placid colourless face, filled me with a kind of awe; for he appeared as then listening to the Master’s summons, and as waiting to depart. I sat, in his presence, for about half an hour, and not one word was uttered; for I feared to break that solemn silence, and call back to earth the soul that seemed almost in heaven. At last, however, I spoke; and well do I remember the identical words that passed between us, though more than thirty-six years have elapsed since then. I said, ‘My dear friend, you evidently are standing on the borders of the eternal world; do not think it wrong, then, if I ask, What are your feelings in the immediate prospect of death?’ The question roused him from his apparent stupor, and opening his languid eyes, he earnestly replied, ‘As far as my personal salvation is concerned, I have not the shadow of a doubt; I know in Whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day; but when I think that I am about to appear in the presence of a holy God, and remember all my sins and manifold imperfections--I tremble.’ He could say no more. The tears trickled down his cheeks, and after a while he relapsed into the same state of silence from which I had aroused him.

"Deeply solemn was that interview, and important the lesson I then received. Here was one of the most holy and harmless men whom I ever knew--who had lived above the breath of calumny for upwards of forty years, surrounded by and in close intimacy with many, both Europeans and natives, who would have rejoiced to have witnessed any inconsistency in his conduct, but who were constrained to admire his integrity and Christian character--whilst thus convinced of the certainty of his salvation, through the merits of that Saviour whom he had preached, yet so impressed with the exceeding sinfulness of sin, that he trembled at the thought of appearing before a holy God! A few days after this event, Dr. Carey retired to his bed, from which he never rose."

So long before this as 17th March 1802, Carey had thus described himself to Dr. Ryland:--"A year or more ago you, or some other of my dear friends, mentioned an intention of publishing a volume of sermons as a testimony of mutual Christian love, and wished me to send a sermon or two for that purpose. I have seriously intended it, and more than once sat down to accomplish it, but have as constantly been broken off from it. Indolence is my prevailing sin, and to that are now added a number of avocations which I never thought of; I have also so continual a fear that I may at last fall some way or other so as to dishonour the Gospel that I have often desired that my name may be buried in oblivion; and indeed I have reason for those fears, for I am so prone to sin that I wonder every night that I have been preserved from foul crimes through the day, and when I escape a temptation I esteem it to be a miracle of grace which has preserved me. I never was so fully persuaded as I am now that no habit of religion is a security from falling into the foulest crimes, and I need the immediate help of God every moment. The sense of my continual danger has, I confess, operated strongly upon me to induce me to desire that no publication of a religious nature should be published as mine whilst I am alive. Another reason is my sense of incapacity to do justice to any subject, or even to write good sense. I have, it is true, been obliged to publish several things, and I can say that nothing but necessity could have induced me to do it. They are, however, only grammatical works, and certainly the very last things which I should have written if I could have chosen for myself."

On 15th June 1833 the old man was still able to rejoice with others. He addressed to his son Jonathan the only brief letter which the present writer possesses from his pen, in a hand as clear as that of a quarter of a century before:--

"MY DEAR JONATHAN--I congratulate you upon the good news you have received. But am sorry Lucy continues so ill. I am too weak to write more than to say your mother is as well as the weather will permit us to expect. I could scarcely have been worse to live than I have been the last fortnight.--Your affectionate father, W. CAREY."

The hot season had then reached its worst.

His last letters were brief messages of love and hope to his two sisters in England. On 27th July 1833 he wrote to them:--

"About a week ago so great a change took place in me that I concluded it was the immediate stroke of death, and all my children were informed of it and have been here to see me. I have since that revived in an almost miraculous manner, or I could not have written this. But I cannot expect it to continue. The will of the Lord be done. Adieu, till I meet you in a better world.--Your affectionate brother, "W. CAREY."

Two months later he was at his old work, able "now and then to read a proof sheet of the Scriptures."

"SERAMPORE, 25th Sept. 1833.

"MY DEAR SISTERS--My being able to write to you now is quite unexpected by me, and, I believe, by every one else; but it appears to be the will of God that I should continue a little time longer. How long that may be I leave entirely with Him, and can only say, ‘All the days of my appointed time will I wait till my change come.’ I was, two months or more ago, reduced to such a state of weakness that it appeared as if my mind was extinguished; and my weakness of body, and sense of extreme fatigue and exhaustion, were such that I could scarcely speak, and it appeared that death would be no more felt than the removing from one chair to another. I am now able to sit and to lie on my couch, and now and then to read a proof sheet of the Scriptures. I am too weak to walk more than just across the house, nor can I stand even a few minutes without support. I have every comfort that kind friends can yield, and feel, generally, a tranquil mind. I trust the great point is settled, and I am ready to depart; but the time when, I leave with God.

"3rd Oct.--I am not worse than when I began this letter.--I am, your very affectionate brother, WM. CAREY."

His latest message to Christendom was sent on the 30th September, most appropriately to Christopher Anderson:--"As everything connected with the full accomplishment of the divine promises depends on the almighty power of God, pray that I and all the ministers of the Word may take hold of His strength, and go about our work as fully expecting the accomplishment of them all, which, however difficult and improbable it may appear, is certain, as all the promises of God are in Him, yea, and in Him, Amen." Had he not, all his career, therefore expected and attempted great things?

He had had a chair fixed on a small platform, constructed after his own direction, that he might be wheeled through his garden. At other times the chief gardener Hullodhur, reported to him the state of the collection of plants, then numbering about 2000. Dr. Marshman saw his friend daily, sometimes twice a day, and found him always what Lord Hastings had described him to be--"the cheerful old man." On the only occasion on which he seemed sad, Dr. Marshman as he was leaving the room turned and asked why. With deep feeling the dying scholar looked to the others and said, "After I am gone Brother Marshman will turn the cows into my garden." The reply was prompt, "Far be it from me; though I have not your botanical tastes, the care of the garden in which you have taken so much delight, shall be to me a sacred duty."34

Of strangers his most frequent visitor was the Governor-General’s wife, Lady William Bentinck. Her husband was in South India, and she spent most of her time in Barrackpore Park retreat opposite to Carey’s house. From her frequent converse with him, in his life as well as now, she studied the art of dying. Daniel Wilson, Bishop of Calcutta, learned to delight in Serampore almost from the beginning of his long episcopate, and in later years he lived there more than in Calcutta. On the 14th February 1833 he first visited Carey, "his interview with whom, confined as he was to his room, and apparently on the verge of the celestial world, was peculiarly affecting." In the last of subsequent visits the young Bishop asked the dying missionary’s benediction. With all the talk was the same, a humble resignation to the will of God, firm trust in the Redeemer of sinners, a joyful gratitude for the wonderful progress of His Kingdom. What a picture is this that his brethren sent home six weeks before he passed away. "Our aged and venerable brother feels himself growing gradually weaker. He can scarcely rise from his couch, and it is with great difficulty that he is carried out daily to take the air. Yet he is free from all pain as to disease, and his mind is in a most serene and happy state. He is in full possession of his faculties, and, although with difficulty, on account of his weakness, he still converses with his friends from day to day."

The hottest season of the year crept wearily on during the month of May and the first week of June. Each night he slept well, and each day he was moved to his couch in the dining-room for air. There he lay, unable to articulate more than a word or two, but expressing by his joyful features union in prayer and interest in conversation. On the 22nd May the English mail arrived with gladdening intelligence from Mr. Hope--God’s people were praying and giving anew for the mission. Especially was his own latest station of Cherra-poonjee remembered. As he was told that a lady, anonymously, had offered ?500 for that mission, ?500 for the college, ?500 for the translations, and ?100 for the mission generally, he raised his emaciated hands to heaven and murmured praise to God. When the delirium of departure came he strove to reach his desk that he might write a letter of thanks, particularly for Cherra. Then he would recall the fact that the little church he at first formed had branched out into six and twenty churches, in which the ordinances of the Gospel were regularly administered, and he would whisper, "What has God wrought!"

The last Sabbath had come--and the last full day. The constant Marshman was with him. "He was scarcely able to articulate, and after a little conversation I knelt down by the side of his couch and prayed with him. Finding my mind unexpectedly drawn out to bless God for His goodness, in having preserved him and blessed him in India for above forty years, and made him such an instrument of good to His church; and to entreat that on his being taken home, a double portion of his spirit might rest on those who remained behind; though unable to speak, he testified sufficiently by his countenance how cordially he joined in this prayer. I then asked Mrs. Carey whether she thought he could now see me. She said yes, and to convince me, said, ‘Mr. Marshman wishes to know whether you now see him?’ He answered so loudly that I could hear him, ‘Yes, I do,’ and shook me most cordially by the hand. I then justify him, and my other duties did not permit me to reach him again that day. The next morning, as I was returning home before sunrise, I met our Brethren Mack and Leechman out on their morning ride, when Mack told me that our beloved brother had been rather worse all the night, and that he had just justify him very ill. I immediately hastened home, through the college in which he has lived these ten years, and when I reached his room, found that he had just entered into the joy of his Lord--Mrs. Carey, his son Jabez, my son John, and Mrs. Mack being present."

It was Monday the 9th June 1834, at half-past five, as the morning sun was ascending the heavens towards the perfect day. The rain-clouds burst and covered the land with gloom next morning when they carried William Carey to the converts’ burial-ground and made great lamentation. The notice was too short for many to come up from Calcutta in those days. "Mr. Duff, of the Scottish Church, returned a most kind letter." Sir Charles Metcalfe and the Bishop wrote very feelingly in reply. Lady Bentinck sent the Rev. Mr. Fisher to represent the Governor-General and herself, and "a most kind and feeling answer, for she truly loved the venerable man," while she sadly gazed at the mourners as they followed the simple funeral up the right bank of the Hoogli, past the College and the Mission chapel. Mr. Yates, who had taken a loving farewell of the scholar he had been reluctant to succeed, represented the younger brethren; Lacroix, Micaiah Hill, and Gogerly, the London Missionary Society. Corrie and Dealtry do not seem to have reached the spot in time. The Danish Governor, his wife, and the members of council were there, and the flag drooped half-mast high as on the occasion of a Governor’s death. The road was lined by the poor, Hindoo and Mohammedan, for whom he had done so much. When all, walking in the rain, had reached the open grave, the sun shone out, and Leechman led them in the joyous resurrection hymn, "Why do we mourn departing friends?" "I then addressed the audience," wrote Marshman, "and, contrary to Brother Mack’s foretelling that I should never get through it for tears, I did not shed one. Brother Mack was then asked to address the native members, but he, seeing the time so far gone, publicly said he would do so at the village. Brother Robinson then prayed, and weeping--then neither myself nor few besides could refrain." In Jannuggur village chapel in the evening the Bengali burial hymn was sung, Pœritran Christer Morone, "Salvation by the death of Christ," and Pran Krishna, the oldest disciple, led his countrymen in prayer. Then Mack spoke to the weeping converts with all the pathos of their own sweet vernacular from the words, "For David, after he had served his own generation, by the will of God fell on sleep." Had not Carey’s been a royal career, even that of a king and a priest unto God?

"We, as a mission," wrote Dr. Marshman to Christopher Anderson, "took the expense on ourselves, not suffering his family to do so, as we shall that of erecting a monument for him. Long before his death we had, by a letter signed by us all, assured him that the dear relatives, in England and France, should have their pensions continued as though he were living, and that Mrs. Carey, as a widow, should have Rs. 100 monthly, whatever Mackintosh’s house might yield her."

Twenty-two years before, when Chamberlain was complaining because of the absence of stone, or brick, or inscription in the mission burial-ground, Carey had said, "Why should we be remembered? I think when I am dead the sooner I am forgotten the better." Dr. Johns observed that it is not the desire of the persons themselves but of their friends for them, to which Carey replied, "I think of others in that respect as I do of myself." When his second wife was taken from him, his affection so far prevailed that he raised a memorial stone, and in his will justify this "order" to Mack and William Robinson, his executors: "I direct that my funeral be as plain as possible; that I be buried by the side of my second wife, Charlotte Emilia Carey; and that the following inscription and nothing more may be cut on the stone which commemorates her, either above or below, as there may be room, viz.:--

WILLIAM CAREY, BORN AUGUST 17, 1761; DIED

   A wretched, poor, and helpless worm,

   On Thy kind arms I fall."

The surviving brethren seem to have taken the small oblong stone, with the inscription added as directed, and to have placed it on the south side of the domed square block of brick and white plaster--since renewed from time to time--which stands in the justify corner of the God’s-acre, now consecrated by the mingled dust of four generations of missionaries, converts, and Christian people. Ward’s monument stands in the centre, and that of the Marshman family at the right hand. Three and a half years afterwards Joshua Marshman followed Carey; not till 1847 was Hannah Marshman laid beside him, after a noble life of eighty years. Mack had gone the year before, cut off by cholera like Ward. But the brotherhood cannot be said to have ended till John Marshman, C.S.I., died in London in 1877. From first to last the three families contributed to the cause of God from their own earnings, ninety thousand pounds, and the world would never have known it but for the lack of the charity that envieth not on the part of Andrew Fuller’s successors.

Carey’s last will and testament begins: "I utterly disclaim all or any right or title to the premises at Serampore, called the mission premises, and every part and parcel thereof; and do hereby declare that I never had, or supposed myself to have, any such right or title. I give and bequeath to the College of Serampore the whole of my museum, consisting of minerals, shells, corals, insects, and other natural curiosities, and a Hortus Siccus; also the folio edition of Hortus Woburnensis, which was presented to me by Lord Hastings; Taylor’s Hebrew Concordance, my collection of Bibles in foreign languages, and all my books in the Italian and German languages." His widow, Grace, who survived him a short time, had the little capital that was hers before her marriage to him, and he desired that she would choose from his library whatever English books she valued. His youngest son, Jonathan, was not in want of money. He had paid Felix and William Rs. 1500 each in his lifetime. In order to leave a like sum to Jabez, he thus provided: "From the failure of funds to carry my former intentions into effect, I direct that my library be sold." In dying as in living he is the same--just to others because self-devoted to Him to whom he thus formally willed himself, "On Thy kind arms I fall."

The Indian journals rang with the praises of the missionary whose childlike humility and sincerity, patriotism and learning, had long made India proud of him. After giving himself, William Carey had died so poor that his books had to be sold to provide ?187 10s. for one of his sons. One writer asserted that this man had contributed "sixteen lakhs of rupees" to the cause of Christ while connected with the Serampore Mission, and the statement was everywhere repeated. Dr. Marshman thereupon published the actual facts, "as no one would have felt greater abhorrence of such an attempt to impose on the Christian public than Dr. Carey himself, had he been living." At a time when the old Sicca Rupee was worth half a crown, Carey received, in the thirty-four and a half years of his residence at Serampore, from the date of his appointment to the College of Fort William, ?45,000.35 Of this he spent ?7500 on his Botanic Garden in that period. If accuracy is of any value in such a question, which has little more than a curious biographical interest, then we must add the seven years previous to 1801, and we shall find that the shoemaker of Hackleton received in all for himself and his family ?600 from the Society which he called into existence, and which sent him forth, while he spent on the Christianisation and civilisation of India ?1625 received as a manufacturer of indigo; and ?45,000 as Professor of Sanskrit, Bengali, and Marathi, and Bengali Translator to Government, or ?46,625 in all.

"It is possible," wrote Dr. Marshman, "that if, instead of thus living to God and his cause with his brethren at Serampore, Dr. Carey had, like the other professors in the college, lived in Calcutta wholly for himself and his family, he might have laid by for them a lakh of rupees in the thirty years he was employed by Government, and had he been very parsimonious, possibly a lakh and a half. But who that contrasts the pleasures of such a life with those Dr. Carey enjoyed in promoting with his own funds every plan likely to plant Christianity among the natives around him, without having to consult any one in thus doing, but his two brethren of one heart with him, who contributed as much as himself to the Redeemer’s cause, and the fruit of which he saw before his death in Twenty-six Gospel Churches planted in India within a surface of about eight hundred miles, and above Forty labouring brethren raised up on the spot amidst them--would not prefer the latter? What must have been the feelings on a deathbed of a man who had lived wholly to himself, compared with the joyous tranquillity which filled Carey’s soul in the prospect of entering into the joy of his Lord, and above all with what he felt when, a few days before his decease, he said to his companion in labour for thirty-four years: ‘I have no fears; I have no doubts; I have not a wish justify unsatisfied.’"

In the Danish Church of Serampore, and in the Mission Chapel, and afterwards in the Union Chapel of Calcutta, Dr. Marshman and Mr. Mack preached sermons on William Carey. These and the discourse delivered in Charlotte Chapel, Edinburgh, on the 30th of November, by Christopher Anderson, were the only materials from which a just estimate of Carey and his work could be formed for the next quarter of a century. All, and especially the last, were as worthy of their theme as ?oges pronounced in such circumstances could be. Marshman spoke from the text chosen by Carey himself a few weeks before his death as containing the foundation of his hope and the source of his calm and tranquil assurance--"For by grace are ye saved." Mack found his inspiration again, as he had done in the Bengali village, in Paul’s words--"David, after he had served his own generation, by the will of God fell on sleep." The Edinburgh preacher turned to the message of Isaiah wherewith Carey used to comfort himself in his early loneliness, and which the Revised Version renders--"Look unto Abraham your father; for when he was but one I called him and I blessed him and made him many." And in Bombay the young contemporary missionary who most nearly resembled Carey in personal saintliness, scholarship, and self-devotion, John Wilson, thus wrote:--

"Dr. Carey, the first of living missionaries, the most honoured and the most successful since the time of the Apostles, has closed his long and influential career. Indeed his spirit, his life, and his labours, were truly apostolic...The Spirit of God which was in him led him forward from strength to strength, supported him under privation, enabled him to overcome in a fight that seemed without hope. Like the beloved disciple, whom he resembled in simplicity of mind, and in seeking to draw sinners to Christ altogether by the cords of love, he outlived his trials to enjoy a peaceful and honoured old age, to know that his Master’s cause was prospering, and that his own name was named with reverence and blessing in every country where a Christian dwelt. Perhaps no man ever exerted a greater influence for good on a great cause. Who that saw him, poor and in seats of learning uneducated, embark on such an enterprise, could ever dream that, in little more than forty years, Christendom should be animated with the same spirit, thousands forsake all to follow his example, and that the Word of Life should be translated into almost every language and preached in almost every corner of the earth?"

As the Founder and Father of Modern Missions, the character and career of William Carey are being revealed every year in the progress, and as yet, the purity of the expansion of the Church and of the English-speaking races in the two-thirds of the world which are still outside of Christendom. The ?13:2:6 of Kettering became ?400,000 before he died, and is now ?5,000,000 a year. The one ordained English missionary is now a band of 20,000 men and women sent out by 558 agencies of the Reformed Churches. The solitary converts, each with no influence on his people, or country, or generation, are now a community of 3,000,000 in India alone, and in all the lands outside of Christendom 5,000,000, of whom 80,000 are missionaries to their own countrymen, and many are leaders of the native communities. Since the first edition of the Bengali New Testament appeared at the beginning of the century 250,000,000 of copies of the Holy Scriptures have been printed, of which one half are in 370 of the non-English tongues of the world. The Bengali School of Mudnabati, the Christian College of Serampore, have set in motion educational forces that are bringing nations to the birth, are passing under Bible instruction every day more than a million boys and girls, young men and maidens of the dark races of mankind.

The seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, the greatest and most practical Evangelical of the nineteenth century after William Wilberforce, wrote thus in his Journal of the class whom Carey headed in the eighteenth, and whom Wordsworth commemorated as

   "Not sedentary all, there are who roam

    To scatter seeds of Life on barbarous shores."

1847. "Aug. 30th--RYDE.--Reading Missionary Enterprises by Williams...Zeal, devotion, joy, simplicity of heart, faith, love; and we here have barely affection enough to thank God that such deeds have been done. Talk of ‘doing good’ and being ‘useful in one’s generation,’ why, these admirable men performed more in one month than I or many others shall perform in a whole life!"

The eloquent Dr. Richard Winter Hamilton, reflecting that sacrifice to heroes is reserved until after sunset, recalled William Carey, eight years after his death, as "wielding a power to which all difficulties yielded, but that power noiseless as a law of nature; great in conception as well as in performance; profound as those deep combinations of language in which the Indian philosophy and polytheism hide themselves, but gentle as the flower which in his brief recreation he loved to train; awful as the sage, simple as the child; speaking through the Eastern world in as many languages, perhaps, as ‘the cloven tongues of fire’ represented; to be remembered and blessed as long as Ganges rolls!"

The historian of the Baptist Missionary Society, and Robert Hall, whom Sir James Mackintosh pronounced the greatest English orator, have both attempted an estimate of Carey’s genius and influence. Dr. F. A. Cox remarks:--"Had he been born in the sixteenth century he might have been a Luther, to give Protestantism to Europe; had he turned his thought and observations merely to natural philosophy he might have been a Newton; but his faculties, consecrated by religion to a still higher end, have gained for him the sublime distinction of having been the Translator of the Scriptures and the Benefactor of Asia." Robert Hall spoke thus of Carey in his lifetime:--"That extraordinary man who, from the lowest obscurity and poverty, without assistance, rose by dint of unrelenting industry to the highest honours of literature, became one of the first of Orientalists, the first of Missionaries, and the instrument of diffusing more religious knowledge among his contemporaries than has fallen to the lot of any individual since the Reformation; a man who unites with the most profound and varied attainments the fervour of an evangelist, the piety of a saint, and the simplicity of a child."

Except the portrait in London and the bust in Calcutta, no memorial, national, catholic, or sectarian, marks the work of Carey. That work is meanwhile most appropriately embodied in the College for natives at Serampore, in the Lall Bazaar chapel and Benevolent Institution for the poor of Calcutta. The Church of England, which he justify, like John Wesley, has allowed E. S. Robinson, Esq., of Bristol, to place an inscription, on brass, in the porch of the church of his native village, beside the stone which he erected over the remains of his father, Edmund, the parish clerk:--"To the Glory of God and in memory of Dr. Wm. Carey, Missionary and Orientalist. 

Neither Baptist nor Anglican, the present biographer would, in the name of the country which stood firm in its support of Carey and Serampore all through the forty-one years of his apostolate, add this final eulogy, pronounced in St. George’s Free Church, Edinburgh, on the man who, more than any other and before all others, made the civilisation of the modern world by the English-speaking races a Christian force.36 Carey, childlike in his humility, is the most striking illustration in all Hagiology, Protestant or Romanist, of the Lord’s declaration to the Twelve when He had set a little child in the midst of them, "Whosoever shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven." Yet we, nigh a century after he went forth with the Gospel to Hindostan, may venture to place him where the Church History of the future is likely to keep him--amid the uncrowned kings of men who have made Christian England what it is, under God, to its own people and to half the human race. These are Chaucer, the Father of English Verse; Wyclif the Father of the Evangelical Reformation in all lands; Hooker, the Father of English Prose; Shakspere, the Father of English Literature; Milton, the Father of the English Epic; Bunyan, the Father of English Allegory; Newton, the father of English Science; Carey, the Father of the Second Reformation through Foreign Missions.

 
 
The Reformed Reader Home Page 


Copyright 1999, The Reformed Reader, All Rights Reserved