missionary biographies & adventures
William Carey
by Percy Jones; edited by Stephen Ross

Chapter 1 — God's School

William CareyOur story is about one of the greatest Englishman who ever went to India, William Carey. Today [early 1900's] boys and girls in Sunday School are giving and collecting money for Missions, and Carey has played an important part and has been called the "father of modern missions." Today in all parts of the world missionaries are at work telling people about Jesus, and every year thousands of people believe the good news of salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and are baptized. Now let us see how it came about.

William Carey was born in a little village in Northamptonshire called Paulerspury, in 1761, and his birthday was 17th August. His younger sister, Mary, has told us something about him when he was a boy. He used to keep numbers of birds, and always had his room full of insects so that he might watch them grow. When he went away at any time he would leave the birds in Mary's care, and sometimes she killed them with kindness. When William came back and saw his dead pets he would be very sorry, but seeing Mary's grief he always forgave her, and let her look after them again. William used to take Mary with him when he went out nutting, or picking wild flowers, and he often took her over the dirtiest roads to get some plant or insect. He never went for a walk, even when quite young, without looking carefully at the hedges as he passed, and he was so fond of flowers that he never left a corner of his father's garden uncultivated.

When he was old enough, Carey went to the village school, and it may well be that he learned more than the other boys, for his father was the schoolmaster. It must have been very different from the school you go to, for the benches were made of small trees sawn in two, with legs that were equally rough. Carey used to draw the flowers and insects that he collected, and even tried to paint them; but of all his lessons he liked arithmetic best, and his mother used to hear him adding up figures at night when everyone else was asleep. He was fond of reading, too, especially books of science, history, and adventure ; indeed, later on it was the adventures of Captain Cook that led him to think about missionary work.

Carey was equally fond of games, and was a great favourite with the other boys. This was because he always had the spirit of adventure in him, and whenever he started anything he would never give up until he had finished it. He always climbed the hardest trees, and once trying to get a bird's nest he fell and hurt himself badly, but as soon as he was well enough to go out again he went and climbed that tree.

We see from all this that Carey was in God's school. God was keeping his heart pure by his love of birds and flowers, and teaching him the great lesson of overcoming all difficulties by patience and courage, thus preparing him for his great life's work. Carey knew nothing of that work then; but God knew about it. Indeed Carey knew little of God then; he had read the Bible from his earliest years, and liked the Pilgrim's Progress because of its adventures, but he did not know that God wanted his heart and life.

Someone else wanted Carey's life, too, and that was Satan. Carey sometimes disobeyed his father, and went with bad companions who lied and swore. These were the bell-ringers, the football players, and the lads who gathered at the blacksmith's shop.

When the time came for Carey to leave school he was suffering from a skin disease, which gave him terrible pain at night if he stayed long in the sun during the day. This made it impossible for him to work in the fields, so he was apprenticed to the work of shoemaking.

It is strange that one who afterwards endured the Indian sun for many years could not bear the sun in England. But in this we see the hand of God. As a shoemaker Carey was able to continue his studies in a way that he could never have done in the fields; shoemakers and weavers have often been great thinkers, and afterwards, when this disease caused by the sun would have hindered his work, God cured him.

Carey seems to have been a very good workman, for one of his masters, Mr. Old, kept in his shop a pair of shoes which Carey had made as a model of what a pair of shoes should be.

At this time William Carey used to go to the Church of England, and he very much despised Chapel people, who in those days were called Dissenters. His father, however, would never let him say anything against these people, as he believed in respecting all good men equally.

The other apprentice in Mr. Old's shop was a Dissenter, and he talked very earnestly to Carey about the need of conversion. Carey used to argue the point, and usually was victorious in words, but afterwards, when alone, he began to doubt whether he was right after all!

About this time he was guilty of a very grave fault. At Christmas time he went round collecting Christmas-boxes, and the ironmonger [somebody who deals in tools and other articles made chiefly of metal] asked him whether he would have a sixpence or a shilling. Carey chose the shilling, but later, when he was buying some things with the money, he found that it was brass. At the moment he paid the bill with a shilling of his master's, but upon reckoning up his accounts found that he was a few pence short of the money needed to make this good. Much frightened, he decided that he would put the brass shilling in with his master's money, and say that it was his. All the way home across the fields he prayed that if God would only get him clearly out of his difficulty he would give up all evil in the future; but this theft and lying seemed so necessary that he did not see how he could do without them.

Many others, besides Carey, strange to say, have prayed to God to help them in sin, but God cared a good deal too much for young Carey to answer his prayer in the way he desired. We think that shame and punishment are the chief things, but with God these are small compared with the guilt of sin itself. It was from this that God wished to save Carey. So it all came out; the master sent the other apprentice to investigate the matter; the ironmonger acknowledged giving the brass shilling, and William Carey was filled with shame. He did not like to go to church, because he thought that everyone would be looking at him, and calling him thief; but at last his master assured him that no one else knew about it, and we should not know today, but for the fact that Carey himself told the story in later years.

This sin led him to realize his weakness, and the need of salvation, and soon after he joined the despised Dissenters.

When Mr. Old died, Carey, who had married Mrs. Old's sister, took over the business, although he was not yet twenty years of age. About this time a large order of boots, which Mr. Old had been preparing, was refused by the people who had ordered them, and had to be sold at a loss. The result was that Carey and his wife were very poor.

One day he was asked to preach at a little country chapel, and he afterwards said that he consented to do so only because he was too shy to refuse. At any rate he did so well, that he was often invited to preach at little chapels where the people were too poor to keep a minister. Then when he had thus gained some experience of preaching, he became the regular minister of the Baptist Church at Moulton.

This church paid him such a small salary that his family was sometimes unable to buy meat for a month at a time. To get enough money to live on, Carey was obliged to continue his work of making shoes, and he also kept a small school.

But although he had such a hard life at this time, he still went on reading every book he could borrow, and even learned several foreign languages, and Mary, his sister, tells us that wherever he went he had a neat garden.

It was while teaching geography in his school, by the aid of a globe which he himself had made out of leather, that Carey first thought of the religious condition of the tribes and peoples living in the different countries he was teaching about. He became more and more interested in this, until it became his great hobby. He drew a large map and hung it on the wall, marking in every country in the known world, and then he entered in everything he could learn about each country.

One day at a meeting of ministers at Northampton, Mr. Ryland called upon the young ministers to propose a subject for them to talk about. As no one else said anything, after some waiting, Carey proposed: "The duty of Christians to attempt to spread the Gospel among heathen nations."

This idea was then so strange that Mr. Ryland exclaimed: "Sit down, young man! When God pleases to convert the heathen, He will do it without your aid or mine."

Not discouraged, Carey wrote a tract containing all the facts that he had gathered on his map. Slowly he got other ministers interested, and at another meeting he preached his great sermon—

"Expect Great Things from God.
Attempt Great Things for God."

At last, in 1792, in Kettering, a missionary society was formed. The collection was £13, 2s. 6d., and Carey offered to go himself as the first missionary.

Chapter 2 — Starting Work

The new Society set to work at once to make the necessary preparations for sending out missionaries. India was selected as the best country to begin with. Collections were made in the churches around, and Samuel Pearce's church, Birmingham, sent the large sum of £70.

Just at this time, another man applied to the Society for service. His name was John Thomas. He had been to India as a ship's doctor, and while there had preached to the Hindus. He now wished to give up his work as a doctor, and go with Carey as a missionary.

As yet there was not enough money to pay their fares, so the new missionaries were sent out to plead the cause of Missions, just as missionaries today go on deputation. Thomas went as far as Bristol, while Carey went up north. While on this journey, Carey met a young printer named William Ward. "We shall want you by-and-by," he said, "to print the Bengali Bible for us." Ward never forgot this, and six years afterwards he went out to India to do this very work.

When at last enough money had been collected, Carey and Thomas found it impossible to get a passage on an English ship. At that time India was ruled by the East India Company, and this Company was unwilling to let any missionaries go to India, fearing that it would upset the Indians, and spoil their trade.

Just when their case seemed hopeless, they managed to get passages on a Danish ship, the Kron Princess Maria, manned by Danes and Norwegians, but commanded by Captain Christmas, an Englishman, who did everything in his power to make the missionary party comfortable, although they had paid far less for their fare than the other passengers.

The party consisted of Dr. Thomas, Mr. and Mrs. Carey, their four children, and Mrs. Carey's sister.

The voyage lasted five months, and Carey spent the time busily engaged in learning Bengali from Thomas. The little ship with her snow-white sails must have been a pretty sight dancing on the blue waters; but Mrs. Carey and the children grew weary of the blue waters and blue sky, weary of the lack of room on board, weary of the salt beef and biscuits, and most weary of all of the continual rolling and tossing.

We get a vivid account of their life on board from the account of a storm in one of Carey's letters:

"I was awakened by the violent rolling of the ship, and found stools, tables, etc., rolling about the cabin, and presently pots, glasses, and everything in the ship not secured were crashing at once. I arose and put all to rights in our cabin, and was just got into bed again, when Mr. Thomas came to the door and told me we had carried away our main and fore-top masts. I begged my wife and children to keep in bed, for fear of having their bones broken, and went up on deck where the scene was shocking indeed. In the night the sea rose like mountains, beating the ship in all directions, the masts, yards, sails, and rigging hanging over the sides, and beating against the ship, and the men upon them in every part to unrig them and let them loose.

"All on board have uniformly declared they never saw anything like it, and at one time we concluded she was going to the bottom. Our ship is about 130 feet long in the keel, burthen [burden, weight of] about 6oo ton; she was mounted on the top of a sea which could not be less than fifty or sixty feet in height, from which she descended headforemost, almost perpendicular, or quite as nearly so as the roof of a house. I saw her going, and with others concluded she could not recover it. I had but a moment to reflect. I felt resigned to the will of God; and, to prevent being tossed overboard by the motion, caught hold of what was nearest to me. The plunge was dreadful. Her bowsprit [spar projecting from front of ship to which the stays of the foremast are fastened] was under water, and the jib-boom, which is fastened to the bowsprit, was carried away. But in a moment she recovered the plunge, and mounted upon another sea, without shipping a hogshead of water."

The gale lasted four days. It took them eleven days to fit up a new topmast, and this was carried away again by a violent squall only two days later.

When at last they really did get to India, they found that their difficulties were only just beginning. Living was so expensive in Calcutta that in a short time all their money came to an end. Thomas went back to his work as a doctor; but Carey had no such means of earning a living.

In those days the streets of Calcutta were brightly colored with Indian Rajas and Nabobs riding on elephants, the brilliant uniforms of British officers, and the grand carriages of the officials of the East India Company, with servants in scarlet liveries and bodyguards on prancing horses. But Carey wrote: "I am in a strange land alone, with no Christian friend, a large family, and nothing to supply their wants."

Calcutta was called the City of Palaces, for many Rajas had their town houses there, and the officials of the Company built themselves mansions, with wide verandas and large rooms to keep out the heat, and get all the air possible. But Carey would have been homeless had it not been for the kindness of a rich Indian, who let him live in a small garden house. Carey was grateful for this, and twenty years afterwards when he had money, and the Indian had become poor, he richly repaid him; but, nevertheless, it was a very poor place to live in.

The brilliant sun which glittered on the gold trappings of elephants, the silver chains of the horses, the gilt epaulettes and polished swords of the officers — this same sun beat down pitilessly on Carey's small, ill-ventilated hut, making it like an oven by day, and leaving it so hot and close at night that sleep was often impossible.

He was kept ever busy, going hither and thither trying to get some help in starting the Mission, working hard at learning the Bengali language, and tenderly caring for his family; but things grew steadily worse, and Mrs. Carey and two of the children became seriously ill.

At last Carey decided that he would leave Calcutta, and build a house for himself in the jungle. If you look at a map of Bengal you will see that the Ganges, instead of flowing into the Bay of Bengal as a single river, breaks up into a hundred streams. This region of streams and swamps and scrub is called the Sunderbunds. Even today people can get land there, free of rent, for a number of years, if they like to go to the trouble of reclaiming the ground, putting up banks to keep out the salt water, and clearing the jungle — and Carey heard of this method of getting land in his time. He at once got a boat and set off there with his family, like Abraham of old, "not knowing whither he went."

When they had only one day's food left, they met an Englishman out shooting. This was Mr. Short, an assistant under Government in the Salt Department. In India Englishmen are so kind to strangers that "Indian hospitality" has become a proverb. If a missionary or other Englishman traveling in the country puts up a tent within sight of a house, the owner comes out and says: "What have you put up a tent for? Did you not happen to notice that there was a house here?" Many such Englishmen, tea-planters and others, living alone, have their tables laid every day for four, so that if anyone happens to call, he will not feel that he is causing inconvenience, seeing the table laid all ready for him. This hospitality arises partly from kindness of heart, and partly because men living in the jungle are only too glad to see another English face, and have someone to talk to. It was in this spirit that Mr. Short met Carey. He was not a religious man, and could not understand at all why Carey should wish to convert the Indians, but he said: "Come in and stay at my house for six months or for a longer period, until you have been able to provide for your family." Carey began at once to build huts for the Mission; but the plan was given up long before they were finished. Dr. Thomas had obtained a post as manager in an indigo factory, and a short while after he was able to get a similar position for Carey. Here, again, we see the hand of God interposing in Carey's life; for in the fever swamps not only would he and his family most likely have died of fever, but there would have been few opportunities for preaching the Gospel.

Now for five years Carey was able to go on quietly with his work, free from all trouble about money. He at once wrote home to the Society, saying that he no longer had any need of its support, and suggesting that the funds collected should be used to send out more missionaries. Of the money he got as manager of the factory he gave a quarter, and sometimes as much as a third, for the mission work. Nor did he forget his old hobby, for he sent also to Fuller asking for scythes, sickles, plough wheels, and such things, and a yearly assortment of all garden and flowering seeds, and the seeds of fruit and forest trees.

Carey worked on a regular plan, giving a certain fixed amount of time to the factory, the study of Bengali, the translation of the New Testament, and preaching. In this way he was able to go from end to end of the district preaching once every day, and twice on Sundays.

Chapter 3 — What Carey Saw in India

Carey wrote some very interesting letters home, telling of what he saw in India, and how he carried on his work. I am going to give you some extracts from these letters, just altering a few hard words. But before I do, I should mention that the majority of the people in India in Carey's day as well as today are Hindus (81% in 2005). The Hindu religion is the third largest religion in the world, after Christianity and Islam. Hinduism encompasses a wide variety of beliefs and practices, that includes a caste system, which divides society by social class and occupations, reverence for Brahmans (the highest caste) and cows; abstention from meat (especially beef), and belief in reincarnation. Most Hindus worship Shiva, Vishnu, or the Goddess (Devi), but they also worship hundreds of additional minor gods.

Referring to the caste system, Carey said:

"Perhaps this is one of the strongest chains with which the devil ever bound the children of men. This is my comfort — that God can break it."

In one of his earliest letters Carey says:

"The country is filled with people, and they are very ready to listen. It is astonishing to see the different kinds of business carried on, and the diligence of the people. They are remarkably talkative and curious; but go where you will you are sure to see something that has to do with the worship of idols, flowers, trees, or little temples by the wayside; and I have seen one or two men, with the marks on their backs, who have been swung by having hooks stuck in their flesh. Yet they are very willing to hear, and you are sure of a crowd to listen, go where you will.

"In short, everything encourages us, and to see such people so ignorant and degraded is enough to stir up anyone who has any love for Christ in his heart.

"The country is very fruitful, but more than half uncultivated. We have now many sorts of fruits unknown in England. Pine-apples grow under the hedges. It is the height of harvest with us (4th Dec.). The days are as hot as June in England, but the nights as cold as September.

"All Bengal [former province of northeastern India] is a flat country, with not a hill in it, and scarcely a stone. Wild beasts are plentiful, jackals are everywhere. Mrs. Thomas had a favourite little dog, for which she had been offered 200 rupees (£20), carried off from the door by one, while we were at prayer one evening, and the door open. Yet they never attack man. Serpents abound. Today I found the skin of one, about six feet long, which was just cast off in my garden. We have no tigers nearer than eight or ten miles, and indeed have no more fear of them than you have in England. Upon the whole it is a charming country."

Carey felt a little different about tigers when traveling in the Sunderbunds. He wrote:

"These forests are some hundreds of miles in extent, and entirely uninhabited by man; they swarm with tigers, leopards, rhinoceros, deer, buffaloes, etc. I thought I heard the roar of a tiger in the night, but am uncertain. No one dares go on shore, so as to venture a hundred yards from the boat."

Chapter 4 — Some Picture of Carey

In this chapter we will look at a few more letters in order to get some pictures of Carey at work. In one he writes:

"Was very weary, having walked in the sun about fifteen or sixteen miles yet had the joy of talking with some money-changers, who could speak English, about faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

"One of them was a very crafty man, and tried to catch me by hard questions; but when he found that he was caught himself he stopped, and went back to his work of changing money again."

In another letter we read:

"In the afternoon I saw an offering made to the Goddess of Learning. The idol was placed under a shed, and all around her were placed large dishes of rice, fruit, etc., which the people had brought. The Brahman was employed in laying the whole in order, after which a little was given to the helpers, and the Brahman had the rest for himself. The whole was attended with horrid music, and the next day the idol was thrown into the river."

Then Carey gives a picture of an Indian holiday:

"This is one of the Bengal holidays, and in the afternoon a number of people, who had been to celebrate the coming of the god Krishna to this world, returned with their heads covered with red powder, and danced and played their idolatrous tricks before the door. Oh, how much more zealous are idolaters than Christians! I suppose that not less then ten thousand people met at the temple of Krishna, many of whom had traveled twenty or thirty miles to worship. This is the case all over the country, and on one of these holidays the rich spend as much as 100,000 rupees (£10,000); and they would rather suffer the greatest distress than work on these days."

Again we get some idea of Carey's Sunday:

"This day kept Sabbath, and had a pleasant day. In the morning and afternoon I gave an address to my family, and in the evening began my work of preaching the Word of God to the heathen.

"Though imperfect in the knowledge of the language yet, with the help of Munshi I talked with two Brahmans, in the presence of about two hundred people, about the things of God. I had been to see a temple in which were the images of the God of the Woods, riding on a tiger; the Goddess of Smallpox, without a head, riding on a horse without a head; a god with very large ears, and so on. In another room was Siva, which was only a smooth post of wood.

"I therefore talked with them on the evil of idols, and the folly and sin of worshipping them, the true nature of God, and the way of salvation by Christ.

"One Brahman was confounded: a number of people were all at once crying out to him: 'Why do you not answer him? Why do you not answer him?' To which he replied: 'I have no words.'

"Just at this time a very learned Brahman came up who was asked to talk with me, which he did; and so agreed to all I said that at last he confessed that images had only been used of late years, but were not from the beginning.

"I asked him what a man must do to be saved. He said, 'He must repeat the name of God a number of times.' I replied: 'Would you, if your son had offended you, be so pleased as to forgive him if he were to repeat the name "father" a thousand times? This might please children or fools, but God is wise.'"

In this letter Carey speaks about his imperfect knowledge of Bengali, and in another letter he explains that, while he found it so hard to learn the language, his children had picked it up so well that they spoke it as if they were Indians.

Besides the Hindus, Carey preached to people of another religion called Mohammedans [followers of Mohammad, founder of Islam]. These do not worship idols, indeed they hate images so much that they will not let their children draw even the picture of a man. They believe in one god [Allah], but they only know him as a god of power, and not of love.

In one of his letters Carey says:

"On the two last of these days the Mohammedans were celebrating their great festival. They were going about continually with pipes, drums, etc., for two days and nights, and on the last day upwards of a thousand people of all ages came just before our door, the house being built on the bank of a tank [pond?] near which a Mohammedan saint was buried.

"They wished much to show us the whole scene (fireworks, sham fighting, etc.); though perhaps half of them came out of curiosity, having never seen a white woman before, and many not a white man either; and it was curious to hear them asking of one another, which was Sahib, and which was Bibi Sahib? — that is, which was I, and which was my wife."

These men carried on their shoulders four or five ornamented towers made of coloured paper, on a light framework of bamboo. Each tower had a window on one side for the people to look in. Really there was nothing to see as the towers were quite empty, but the people believed that by faith it was possible to see the body of the Mohammedan hero, in whose honour the festival was held. As no one liked to admit that he had not faith to see this, the people would look in, and then go away weeping at the sad sight. At the end these towers were thrown into the tank [pond?].

Besides all these strange festivals, Carey saw many things in India too dreadful to write about — little children who were thrown into the Ganges as a sacrifice to the goddess, and widows who were burnt alive or buried with their husbands.

Carey spoke so strongly against these two cruel customs, that they have long ago been stopped, and we only know of them from the writings of the early missionaries.

Chapter 5 — The First Converts

When Carey had worked in India for six years, and had preached the gospel from one end of Malda to the other, he had not made a single convert. In describing his own feelings, he said:

"I feel as a farmer does about his crop; sometimes I think the seed is springing up, and then I hope; a little time blasts all, and my hopes are gone like a cloud. They were only weeds which appeared, or if a little corn sprang up it quickly died, being either choked with weeds or scorched with the sun of persecution. Yet I still hope in God."

Instead of losing heart, the missionaries were ready to increase their efforts. Carey bought a printing press for £40 to print the Bengali Testament, and four new missionaries arrived from England. Among these were Marshman and Ward. You will remember Ward as the young printer, and the three are always known as the Serampore missionaries — Carey, Marshman, and Ward.

It was their plan to go to Malda, and Carey had built some houses ready to receive them; but when the ship arrived the East India Company would not allow them to enter British India, and but for the kindness of the Danish Governor, who allowed them to settle at Serampore, they would have been obliged to return to England. As they could not go to work with Carey, he left Malda and joined them at Serampore. He was sorry to give up the houses he had prepared, which meant a loss of £500; but in this hindrance to their plans we can now see the wisdom of God working through the very men who were trying to hinder Missions. At Serampore, close to Calcutta, they were able to do a work such as could never have been done away in a country district like Malda.

The first man to declare himself a Christian, and ask for baptism, was a workman named Fakir. The missionaries were so joyful that they all stood up in the Church meeting and sang with new feelings: "Praise God from whom all blessings flow." Then each shook Fakir by the hand. Before being baptized Fakir wanted to go to Birbhum to wish his friends good-bye. Dr. Thomas, who feared their influence on his mind, determined to go with him. When they got there, Fakir asked if he might go to the house of a friend, and promised to return in three days; but he never came back, nor was he ever heard of again.

It may be that his friends persuaded him to give up the faith; but, from what has happened again and again in India since, it is most likely that his friends either imprisoned or even killed him, rather than let him become a Christian.

This disappointment, coming when they were all full of joy, cast a deep gloom over the missionaries; but they were soon cheered by another convert. The very day when the Church had welcomed Fakir so joyfully, Dr. Thomas was called to set a dislocated arm. The patient was a Hindu carpenter named Krishna Pal, and after the operation was over Thomas talked to him about Jesus, so that he was moved to tears by what he heard.

The story of the way in which Krishna Pal, his wife and daughter, and his brother, Goluk, became Christians is beautifully told in the Mission Journal written by Ward:

"November 27.—Krishna, the man whose arm was set, overtook Felix (Carey's son) and me, and said he would come to our house daily for instruction, for that we had not only cured his arm, but brought him the news of salvation...

"December 5.—Yesterday Gokul and Krishna prayed in my room. This morning Gokul called upon us, and told us that his wife, and two or three more of his family, had left him on account of the Gospel. ... Krishna, his wife, and family are all desirous of becoming Christians. Gokul and his wife had a long talk, but she remained firm, and is gone to her relations.

"December 6.—This morning Brother Carey and I went to Krishna's house. Everything was made very clean. The women sat within the house, the children at the door, and Krishna and Gokul, with Brother Carey and me, in the court. The houses of the poor are only made to sleep in. Brother Carey talked; and the women appeared to have learned more of the Gospel than we expected. They declared for Christ at once. This work was new — even to Brother Carey, — a whole family desiring to hear the Gospel, and declaring in favour of it. Krishna's wife said that she had received great joy from it.

"Lord's Day, December 7.—This morning Brother Carey went to Krishna's house and spoke to a yard full of people, who heard with great attention, though shivering with the cold. Krishna's wife and sister were to have been with us in the evening; but the women do not like to sit with Europeans. Some of them scarcely ever go out but to the river to bathe and draw water; and if they meet a European they run away. Sometimes when we have begun to speak in a street, someone desires us to go a little farther off; for the women dare not come by us to fill their jars at the river. We always obey...

December 22.—This day Gokul and Krishna came to eat tiffin (what in England is called luncheon) with us, and thus publicly threw away their caste. All our servants were astonished — so many had said that nobody would ever mind Christ and lose caste. Brother Thomas has waited fifteen years, and thrown away much on people who have deceived him; Brother Carey has waited till hope of his own success has almost expired — and, after all, God has done it with perfect ease! Thus the door of faith is open to the Gentiles; who shall shut it? The chain of caste is broken who shall mend it?"

The news soon spread through the town that two Hindus had broken caste, and the next morning a crowd of two thousand people collected at Krishna's door, and dragged him and his brother before the Danish magistrate. As, however, they had no charge to bring against them, the magistrate dispersed the crowd, and guarded the converts from violence.

The baptism of Gokul and the women was delayed; but both Krishna Pal and Carey's eldest son, Felix, were baptized in the river on the following Sunday.

On the river bank the Governor and several Europeans, a large body of Portuguese, and a dense crowd of Hindus and Mohammedans, gathered to see this strange sight. There was the most perfect silence, and a deep feeling of solemnity, and the Governor was melted to tears. In the afternoon the Lord's Supper was administered for the first time in the Bengali language.

The first Bengali woman to be baptized was Joymuni, Krishna's wife's sister, and Rasu, his wife, soon followed; both were about thirty-five years of age. Gokul was kept back for a time by his wife, Komal, who fled to her father's house, but Krishna and his family brought in first the husband, and last of all the wife.

These converts now became a great help in the work. Krishna Pal at once built a chapel opposite his own house, and the women spoke of the gospel of Christ to other Hindu women.

Krishna Pal also wrote the first Bengali hymn, which in Marshman's translation reads:

"O thou, my soul, forget no more
The Friend who all thy misery bore.
Let every idol be forgot,
But, O my soul, forget Him not."

Both Europeans and Indians had laughed at the idea of breaking the bonds of the Hindu caste by preaching the Gospel. When Krishna and Gokul rejected their caste many wondered, but others said: "They are only low-caste people; have any of the high-caste people believed on Christ?" This question did not remain long unanswered. The next year a man of the writer caste was baptized, and afterwards a Brahman — not only a man of the highest caste, but the highest division of that caste, what is called a Kulin Brahman.

From this time the work grew steadily, so that in ten years' time there were three hundred converts, and new ones were being baptized at the rate of a hundred a year.

"Did you expect this eighteen years ago?" wrote Marshman to the Society.

If they did not expect so much as that, how surprised the members of that first Missionary Society would have been if they could have had a vision of the size to which the work has grown today.

Chapter 6 — Schools and Colleges

Carey had said that he was like a farmer watching his crop, and this was very true. The years of waiting were not wasted; it was then that the seed was sown which afterwards yielded such a rich harvest. This harvest began in 1800. It was in that year that the first convert was baptized, and it was in that year that Carey had the great joy of receiving from the press the last sheet of the Bengali New Testament. The greater portion of the type of this book had been set up by Ward, helped by Felix Carey, whom you will remember was Carey's eldest son.

As soon as the first copy was bound, it was placed on the Communion table in the chapel, and a meeting was held of the whole mission family to thank God for the completion of this important work.

With the New Testament ready, the next thing was to teach the people to read it. The missionaries set to work to do this with their usual zeal, and in a short time they had no less than a hundred Bengali schools.

But perhaps the strangest thing of all in this wonderful story, is the way in which the East India Company, which had been the greatest enemy of Missions, became, though perhaps without intending it, their chief supporter.

In this same year, 1800, Lord Wellesley started a college at Fort William in Calcutta, so that young men who came out from England in the Civil Service might learn the Indian languages. There was only one Englishman in India who could teach Bengali, and that was Carey; and so it came about that the despised missionary, who at first was not allowed to work in Calcutta at all, was now invited to do so at a salary of £600 a year, paid by Government.

This helped Carey in many ways. It provided him with money to carry on the Serampore work, especially when his salary was raised to £1200, and it gave him a position of great influence in Calcutta for work among both Indians and Europeans. For a whole generation of thirty years the young Civil Servants came under his gentle spell, and these men afterwards became India's greatest rulers. They had learned from Carey not only to be scholars, but to treat the Indian people kindly, and — some of them — even as brethren in Christ. In this way, through these young Englishmen, Carey was able in time to change the whole government of India.

This position at Fort William also enabled him to do his great work of translating the Bible. In Fort William College fifty of the best scholars in the East were gathered together, and by working with them daily Carey learned the languages of India, as perhaps no other Englishman has ever known them. He was thus able to translate the Bible into all the principal Indian languages.

Carey was generally rowed down the eighteen miles of the winding river from Serampore to Calcutta at sunset on Monday evenings, and returned on Friday night, working always on the journey. Thus he had four days a week in Calcutta, and three at Serampore. In Calcutta he was at work in the College all day; but as soon as the sun was set he went out preaching to the people, especially the poor, the maimed, the halt, the blind, and the lepers.

While Carey was thus happily engaged (for there is no life so happy as that which is filled from morning to night with loving service for the Saviour), a great calamity befell the Mission — this was the burning of the printing shop at Serampore.

All the workmen had left one evening, and only Ward remained at his desk, when suddenly clouds of smoke burst from the type room into the office. Joined by others, Ward closed all the windows and had water poured in through the roof for four hours, with every hope of being able to put the fire out. At the end of this time a friend, who had come to help, foolishly opened a window, and the air rushing in set the whole building in flames. By midnight the roof fell in, and the column of fire leapt up towards heaven, while the members of the mission family sat silent in front.

The work of ten years was gone in a few hours, the types for fourteen Eastern languages melted into lumps of lead, ten printed versions of the Bible, and Carey's priceless translations burnt together with twelve hundred reams of paper.

Marshman went himself to Calcutta the next morning to break the news to Carey, and he was so stunned by it that for some time he could not utter a word.

When in the evening they got back to the smoking ruins, they found to their great delight that Ward who was busy clearing up, had found uninjured many of the punches and moulds used in making type.

We understand what stuff Carey was made of, when we learn that without wasting a day he set to work to make new translations and to cast fresh type; and within a month the press was busy once more turning out Bibles.

It was hard to begin all over again the books that had taken him years to translate; but Carey found that he could do the work much better the second time. Other good also came out of this trouble. The fire made Carey famous through Europe, and men all over the world wished to help as far as possible to replace the loss. The actual loss in money, which was £10,000, was made up in England in fifty days, and £800 was given by one congregation in India.

It is easy to read in a book that the Serampore missionaries produced the first edition of the New Testament in more than thirty of the Indian languages; but, when you see the books standing in rows in their cases in the Serampore College library, you are filled with amazement that such a great work could be done in one short lifetime.

Chapter 7 — Gardening

In the midst of his busy life, Carey still found time for his old hobby of gardening. Indeed it may well be that the exercise, the rest for his mind, the prayer and meditation of the hours spent in his garden, helped him to do the great work he did.

When Carey went to Serampore he had two acres of ground carefully walled around to keep out cows and goats. In India these creatures are allowed to stray along the roads, where they eat up every flower and plant that they can find, and so are the enemy of all garden-lovers.

This land was afterwards increased to five acres, and here Carey collected the rarest tropical trees and plants, and made the finest botanical garden in the East. The very schoolboys, when they left Serampore and went out into the world, and the young civilians from Fort William College, knowing of Carey's hobby, used to send him specimens from all parts of India.

Carey also tried to introduce English fruit, flowers, and vegetables. He was always sending home interesting things from India, and asking for seeds in return. Thus to his sisters he wrote:

"Do send a few tulips, daffodils, snowdrops, lilies, and seeds of other kinds. You need not be at any expense; any friend will supply those things. The cowslips and daisies of your field would be great treasures here."

Again:

"Were you to give a penny a day to some boy to gather seeds of cowslips, violets, daisies, crowfoots, and to dig up the roots of bluebells, after they have done flowering, you might fill me a box every quarter of a year; and surely some neighbour would send a few snowdrops, crocuses, and other trifles."

Replying to Mr. Cooper, an English gardener, who had sent him a package of English seeds, Carey wrote:

"That I might be sure not to lose any part of your valuable present, I shook the bag over a patch of earth in a shady place, on visiting which, a few days afterwards, I found springing up, to my inexpressible joy, the common daisy of our English meadows. I know not that I ever enjoyed, since leaving Europe, a simple pleasure so exquisite as the sight this English daisy afforded me, not having seen one for thirty years, and never expecting to see one again."

On hearing of this, the poet, James Montgomery, wrote:

"Thrice welcome, little English flower!
  My mother-country's white and red;
In rose or lily, till this hour,
  Never to me such beauty spread:
Transplanted from thy island-bed,
  A treasure in a grain of earth,
Strange as a spirit from the dead,
  Thine embryo sprang to birth.

Thrice welcome, little English flower!
  Of early scenes beloved by me,
While happy in my father's bower,
  Thou shalt the blithe memorial be.
The fairy sports of infancy,
  Youth's golden age, and manhood's prime,
Home, country, kindred, friends—with thee
  Are mine in this far clime.

Thrice welcome, little English flower!
  To me the pledge of hope unseen;
When sorrow would my soul o'er power,
  For joys that were or might have been,
I'd call to mind how, fresh and green,
  I saw thee waking from the dust;
Then turn to heaven with brow serene,
  And place in God my trust."

The first potatoes ever seen in Bengal were planted by Carey. We also read of his grapes being presented to the Governor-General. He tried in vain to get the English oak to grow; but obtained a fine grove of mahogany, eucalyptus, tamarind, and other trees.

Of the fruits of Bengal it may be said that he found them poor and sour, and so cultivated them as to leave them rich and sweet.

Able in this way to do so much in his own little plot, Carey wished to improve the cultivation of the whole country. At that time the cultivators were miserably poor. The soil of the fields, the farming utensils they used, and their methods of ploughing were all equally poor. At the same time they had to pay high rents to the landlords.

Carey thought that an Agriculture Society for India might improve matters, and called a meeting for that purpose. Only three people attended besides the missionaries; but he went on with the work, and two months later fifty members joined, some of them wealthy Indians, with Lord Hastings, the Governor-General, as patron. This Society is still working, and is every year doing more to improve Indian crops.

About the same time, Carey introduced into Serampore for his paper-mill the first steam engine ever taken to India. People went from far and near to see it, and the Indians called it the "fire-machine," many of them thinking that it was a "fire-child of the devil."

When Carey in old age was too weak to wander any longer in his garden, as he had been used to do, he had a chair fixed on a small platform, made according to his own directions, that he might be wheeled there.

At this time the work was carried on by peasants whom Carey had trained as gardeners. With the Bengali power of imitation these men had learned the Latin names of all the plants, and used to pronounce them with just his accent.

At last Carey was too weak even to go out in the chair; but he used to send for the chief gardener to come and talk with him about the plants.

In spite of his weakness, Carey was so bright that Lord Hastings spoke of him as "the cheerful old man." Only once was he seen to be sad; and surprised at this Dr. Marshman asked why it was. With deep feeling the dying scholar looked to the others and said: "After I am gone, Brother Marshman will let the cows into my garden!"

Brother Marshman promised that not only should the cows be kept out, but that every care should be taken of the garden. Soon after this Carey died.

He was buried early the next morning in the Mission burying-ground, followed to the grave by his brother missionaries, the Indian Christians, men and women, the Danish Governor and his wife, besides many representative men from Calcutta. As the procession moved slowly along, the road was lined with a throng of Indians, Hindus, and Mohammedans, while the Danish flag was hoisted half-mast high.

In his will he left to the College his museum, consisting of minerals, shells, corals, insects, and other natural curiosities; also a collection of rare Bibles.

Although he had received £45,000 from the Government for teaching at Fort William College, Carey had spent it all on mission work, and died so poor that his books had to be sold to provide £187 10s. for one of his sons. The Indian journals rang with his praises, for every one loved and honoured him.

Perhaps the best estimate of Carey's life is his own. He claimed no other power than that of being a plodder. Some men's lives seem easy. We say that they are born poets, painters, or musicians, and their lives do not help us much because we were not born so.

Nothing came easy to Carey. He only learned languages by toiling at them for years; he only accomplished anything by toiling at it.

Here, then, is a noble example for us, a record of what can be done by hard work, by a life consecrated to God and Saviour whom he loved and served.


Edited by Stephen Ross for WholesomeWords.org from William Carey by Percy Jones. London and Edinburgh: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, [n.d.]

William Carey Information


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