Chapter XIII - Posthumous Influence
Mr. Judson did not live to complete the Burmese dictionary. He finished the English and Burmese part, but the Burmese and English was left in an unfinished state. In accordance with his desire, expressed only a few days before his death, Mrs. Judson transmitted his manuscripts to his trusted friend and associate in missionary toil, Mr. Stevens, upon whom accordingly the task of completing the work devolved.
During the long winter of our Northern States sometimes a mass of snow accumulates, little by little, in the corner of the farmer's meadow. Under the warm rays of the spring sun the dazzling bank gradually melts away, but leaves upon the greensward, which it has sheltered, a fertilizing deposit. It now remains for us to ask what stimulating residuum this great life which we have attempted to describe left behind it upon the surface of human society.
Mr. Judson's achievements far transcended the wildest aspirations of his youth. During the early years in Rangoon, when the mighty purpose of evangelizing Burma began to take definite shape in his mind; even before the first convert, Moung Nau, was baptized; when, indeed, the young missionary was almost forgotten by his fellow-Christians at home, or merely pitied as a good-hearted enthusiast, the outermost limit reached by his strong-winged hope was that he might, before he died, build up a church of a hundred converted Burmans, and translate the whole Bible into their language. But far more than this was accomplished during the ten years in Rangoon, the two years in Ava, and the twenty-three years in Moulmein. At the time of his death the native Christians (Burmans and Karens publicly baptized upon the profession of their faith) numbered over seven thousand. Besides this, hundreds throughout Burma had died rejoicing in the Christian faith. He had not only finished, the translation of the Bible, but had accomplished the larger and the more difficult part of the compilation of a Burmese dictionary. At the time of his death there were sixty-three churches established among the Burmans and Karens. These churches were under the oversight of one hundred and sixty-three missionaries, native pastors, and assistants. He had laid the foundations of Christianity deep down in the Burman heart, where they could never be swept away.
This achievement is the more startling when we consider that all divine operations arc slow in the beginning, but rush to the consummation with lightning speed. Many long days elapse while the icy barriers are being slowly loosened beneath the breath of spring. But at last the freshet comes, and the huge frozen masses are broken up and carried rapidly to the sea. The leaves slowly ripen for the grave. Though withered, they still cling to the boughs. But finally a day comes in the autumn when suddenly the air is full of falling foliage. It takes a long time for the apple to reach its growth, but a very brief time suffices for the ripening. Tennyson's lark
Shook his song together as he neared
His happy home, the ground.
Nature is instinct with this law, and we may well believe that though the processes are slow and inconspicuous by which the ancient structures of false religions are being undermined, yet the time will come when they will tumble suddenly into ruins; when a nation shall be converted in a day; when, "As earth bringeth forth her bud and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth, so the Lord will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations." In the baptism of ten thousand Telugus in India within a single year, do we not already see the gray dawn of such an era of culmination?
We are living, we are dwelling
In a grand and awful time;
In an age on ages telling,
To be living is sublime.
Hark! the waking up of nations,
Gog and Magog to the fray.
Hark! what soundeth? 'Tis creation
Groaning for its latter day.
But it was Mr. Judson's lot to labor in the hard and obscure period of the first beginnings. And not only so, but he undertook the task of planting Christianity not among a people like the Sandwich Islanders, without literature and without an elaborate religious system, but rather in a soil already pre-occupied by an ancient classical literature and by a time-honored ritual, which now numbers among its devotees one-third of the population of our globe.
When these considerations are taken into account, the tangible results which Mr. Judson left behind at his death seem simply amazing. But these are only a small part of what he really accomplished. Being dead, he yet speaketh. The Roman Church has preserved an old legend that John, the beloved disciple, "did not die at all, but is only slumbering, and moving the grave mound with his breath until the final return of the Lord." And in a sense it is true that a great man does not die. You cannot bury a saint so deep that he will not move those who walk over his grave. The upheavals of society are mainly due to the breath of those who have vanished from the earth and lie beneath its bosom.
The early action of Mr. Judson and his fellow-students at Andover resulted in the formation of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. This society, representing the Congregationalists of this country, may justly claim to be the mother of American foreign missionary bodies. It was organized for the support of certain young men while they were engaged in the work to which the Lord called them. Institutions, according to Emerson, are the lengthened shadows of individual men. Societies do not call men into being, but men create societies. The society is only a convenient vehicle through which the Christian at home can send bread to the missionary abroad, whose whole time is devoted to feeding the heathen with the bread of life.
In the year 1892, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions received and expended eight hundred and forty-one thousand dollars. It is conducting successful missionary operations in Africa, Turkey, India, China, Japan, Micronesia, the Hawaiian Islands, Mexico, Spain, and Austria. In these different countries it has four hundred and forty-four churches, forty-one thousand five hundred and twenty-two church-members, and three thousand two hundred and ninety-eight missionaries, native pastors, teachers, and assistants.
The change in Mr. Judson's views on the subject of baptism led almost immediately to the formation of a Baptist Missionary Society, now known as the American Baptist Missionary Union. During the year ending May 1, 1893, there passed through the treasury of this Society seven hundred and sixty-six thousand, seven hundred and eighty-two dollars and ninety-five cents, given by the Baptists of the United States for the evangelization of the heathen. This society is at work in Burma, Siam, India, China, Japan, Africa, and also in the countries of Europe, and it reported, in 1893, one thousand five hundred and thirty-one churches, over one hundred and sixty-nine thousand church-members, eighty-five thousand six hundred and eighty-four Sunday-school scholars, as well as two thousand and seventy preachers.
A few years after Mr. Judson's departure from this country, and organization of these two societies, the Episcopalians and also the Methodists of America organized for the work of foreign missions. For many years the Presbyterians joined the Congregationalists, and poured their contributions into the treasury of the American Board. But in 1836 they organized a society, now known as the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church. Its fields of operation are Syria, Persia, Japan, China, Siam, India, Africa, South America, Central America, and Mexico, with an expenditure in 1893 of one million sixty-three thousand six hundred and forty-five dollars and sixty-five cents. It supports two thousand two hundred and seventy missionaries and lay missionaries, and reports three hundred and ninety-eight churches with thirty-one thousand three hundred and twenty-four communicants, and twenty-eight thousand nine hundred and eighty-three scholars in the native schools.
All these vigorous Christian societies, sustained by the missionary conviction of the churches in America, with their vast army of missionaries and native communicants now pressing against the systems of heathenism at a thousand points, when they come to tell the story of their origin do not fail to make mention of the name of Adoniram Judson. His life formed a part of the fountain-head from which flow these beneficent streams which fringe with verdure the wastes of paganism.
And in other lands than America has Mr. Judson's career of heroic action and suffering proved an inspiration to churches of every name.
But not only in the foreign mission enterprise has the power of his example been felt. Work among the heathen is sure to react upon Christians at home, and impel them to work for the heathen at their doors. The missionary spirit is all one, within foreign parts or on Western prairies or in the slums of our great towns. A zeal which is not deaf to the cry of the perishing millions in China and Africa can be relied upon for continuous effort in home mission work. A rifle which can be depended upon at a thousand yards will not fail you when fired point-blank. It is not unfitting that in New York a monument should rise to Adoniram Judson, suggestive of the organic unity of Foreign Missions, Home Missions, and City Missions.
There are very few of those who have gone from this country as missionaries to the heathen who are not indebted to Mr. Judson for methods and inspiration. The writer will not soon forget a scene he witnessed at Saratoga in May, 1880. The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church was in session. Dr. Jessup, an eminent missionary in Syria, then on a visit to this country, had been elected moderator. When the session of the Assembly had ended, he entered the convention which the Baptists were then holding also in Saratoga. As an honored guest he was invited to speak. There was a breathless silence through the house as the veteran missionary arose, and with inspiring words urged the prosecution of the missionary enterprise. He closed by saying that when he should arrive in heaven the first person whose hand he desired to grasp next to the Apostle Paul would be Adoniram Judson.
A life which embodies Christ's idea of complete self-abnegation cannot but become a great object lesson. A man cannot look into the mirror of such a career without becoming at once conscious of his own selfishness and of the triviality of a merely worldly life. A New York merchant in his boyhood read Wayland's "Life of Judson," and laying the book down left his chamber, went out into the green meadow belonging to his father's farm, and consecrated his young life to the service of God.
How many unknown souls have been attracted to Christ by the same magnetism! How many others have been lifted out of their self-love! How many have been drawn toward the serener heights of Christian experience by the example of him whose strong aspirings after holiness are depicted in "The Threefold Cord!" Oh, that some young man might rise from the reading of these memoirs and lay down his life in all its freshness and strength upon the altar of God, so that he might become like Paul of old, a chosen vessel of Christ to bear his name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel!
The memory of Mr. Judson's sufferings in Ava will never cease to nerve missionary endeavor. They appeared at the time unnecessary and fruitless. He himself, upon emerging from them, spoke of them as having been "unavailing to answer any valuable missionary purpose unless so far as they may have been silently blessed to our spiritual improvement and capacity for future usefulness." But the spectacle of our missionary lying in an Oriental prison, his ankles freighted with five pairs of irons, his heroic wife ministering to him like an angel during the long months of agony, has burned itself into the consciousness of Christendom, and has made retreat from the missionary enterprise an impossibility. It is God's law that progress should be along the line of suffering. The world's benefactors have been its sufferers. They "have been from time immemorial crucified and burned." It seems to be a divine law that those who pluck and bestow roses must feel thorns. The sufferings of Mr. Judson's life were as fruitful of blessing as the toils.
The graves of the sainted dead forbid retreat from the ramparts of heathenism. It is said that the heart of the Scottish hero, Bruce, was embalmed after his death and preserved in a silver casket. When his descendants were making a last desperate charge upon the serried columns of the Saracens, their leader threw this casket far out into the ranks of the enemy, crying "Forward, heart of Bruce!" The Scots charged with irresistible fury in order to regain the heart of their dead king. Into the thick of heathenism noble men have penetrated and fallen there. Christianity will never retreat from the graves of its dead heroes. England is pressing into Africa with redoubled energy since she saw placed on the pavement of her own Westminister Abbey the marble tablet bearing the words: "Brought by faithful hands, over land and sea, David Livingstone, missionary, traveler, philanthropist." Until that day shall come when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess the name of Jesus, Christian hearts will not cease to draw inspiration from the memory of those who found their last resting-places under the hopia-tree at Amherst, on the rocky shore of St. Helena, and beneath the stormy breast of the Indian Ocean.
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