"It was during a solitary walk in the woods," wrote Judson of his call to be a missionary, "while meditating and praying upon the subject, and feeling half inclined to give it up, that the command of Christ, 'Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,' was presented to my mind with such clearness and power, that I came to a full decision, and, though great difficulties appeared in my way, resolved to obey the command at all events."' This was in February, 1810, six months after he had read Dr. Buchanan's "Star in the East," on Matt. 2:2, which so profoundly impressed him that for several days he was unable to attend his classes in college.
Some of the earlier scenes in a life so responsive to holy influences are worth gazing upon for a few moments. In an old wooden house in a grove at Malden, Massachusetts, Adoniram Judson was born, August 9, 1788. With his mother as teacher, at the age of three he surprised his father by reading a chapter from the Bible. At four he would gather neighboring children together to preach to them. Even then his favorite hymn was, "Go, preach My gospel, saith the Lord." "As a boy, he was spirited, self-confident, and exceedingly enthusiastic; very active and energetic, but fonder of his books than of play."
Of all the books in the Bible, he delighted most in the Revelation — that book which bears a special blessing for those who read, or perchance may hear, "and keep those things which are written therein."
When Adoniram was fourteen, his family moved to Plymouth. At sixteen he entered Providence College — later called Brown University. His father was a Congregational minister. Young Judson intended to be "a great man," an eminent man, — an orator, a poet, a lawyer, a statesman, or perhaps a play-writer. Before the important question of a life-calling was settled, he had finished his course at the university. His delight was unbounded on receiving the highest honors of his class as valedictorian.
But beneath the exterior of high honors, there had fastened to the vitals of his soul a stain which intellectual culture could not remove. French infidelity was spreading its loathsome virus over the land. A young man who was "amiable, talented, witty," but a deist, had attracted young Judson as the brightest and best are apt to be attracted. A friendship sprang up between them, and soon Adoniram was a deist too.
On leaving college he opened a private academy; issued a text-book on grammar, another on arithmetic. In the summer of 1808, he set out on horseback for a tour of sight-seeing. At Sheffield he left his horse at his uncle's, and proceeded to Albany to see Fulton's new steamboat and became a passenger on its second trip to New York. In that wicked city he joined a theatrical troupe for a time, and as he afterwards expressed it, "lived a reckless, vagabond life."
Soon tiring of this, he returned to Sheffield for his horse. Here he met a young minister whose "conversation was characterized by a godly sincerity, a solemn but gentle earnestness, which addressed itself to the heart."
The night following, his room at a tavern was next to that of another young man, who the landlord said was "probably in a dying state." Judson retired, but not to sleep. A young man "probably in a dying state!" Dismiss the thought as fully as his infidelity would enable him to do, he could but question, Is he prepared? or has he no hope beyond? Is he a Christian, "calm and strong in the hope of a glorious immortality"? or is he a deist, prayed and wept over by Christian parents? Infidelity offered nothing but a future as dark as the night about him. While at home, he had met his stern father with hard arguments; but now he remembers the prayers and tears of a tender mother. Against these he has naught to plead.
In the morning he sought the landlord and inquired about the man.
"He is dead."
"Yes, he is gone, poor fellow!"
"Do you know who he was?"
"O, yes; it was a young man from Providence College, a very fine fellow. His name was E—."
It was his bright young infidel friend! Judson was overwhelmed. He abandoned at once his pleasure trip, and when sufficiently recovered from his shock, turned his horse toward home.
In October of the same year, 1808, he entered Andover Theological Seminary. December 2 he solemnly dedicated himself to God. The following September he read the sermon by Buchanan already referred to, which thrilled his being with a burden for missions.
What a kind providence it was that brought to this same seminary early in 1810 such young men as Samuel Nott, Samuel Mills, Luther Rice, and Gordon Hall! They felt that the ark of God must be borne by holy hands; that His message upon which hangs the destiny of the world, must not languish nor turn to ashes upon their lips.
Not without difficulties and opposition did Judson become a missionary. How often at the critical hour, when convictions of duty call, more pleasing appointments press in to rob the soul of true service, and lead it to offer to God a substitute sacrifice to fill out His plan! The offer of a tutorship in Brown University and of associate pastorate with Dr. Griffin in the largest church in Boston, tempted him not. Neither did the tears of mother and sister turn him aside. "You will be so near home!" his mother urged. "No," said he, "I shall never live in Boston. I have much farther than that to go." Ah, what loss to God, to himself, and to the world, had he listened at this time to any other than the voice of God in his soul!
When, in June, 1810, young Judson attended the session of the Congregational Association held at Bradford, to interest them in missions, the ministers were invited to dine at the home of John and Rebecca Hasseltine; and the student "whose bold missionary projects were making such a stir," was with them. Miss Ann Hasseltine, a young lady of twenty, observed that said student "seemed completely absorbed in his plate." He had noticed her, however.
She was a beautiful girl and had been "intensely fond of society," even "reckless in her gaiety." But a marked though not a tragic incident had turned her thoughts heavenward. One morning, at the age of sixteen, when about to leave her room, she picked up a book by Hannah Moore, and the Spirit-filled words that greeted her were, "She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth." Of these words she later said: "They struck me to the heart. I stood for a few moments amazed at the incident, and half inclined to think that some invisible agency had directed my eye to those words."
Then came a struggle between the old life and complete surrender. At last the agencies of heaven prevailed. That brilliant life, once given to gaiety, was thrown into sweet service for God. She taught school for several years and earnestly endeavored to lead her pupils to the Saviour. At the time of meeting Mr. Judson she was a Christian teacher of experience.
The following is from a letter he wrote to her while still at the seminary: "I have some hope that I shall be enabled to keep this in mind, in whatever I do —IS IT PLEASING TO GOD? ... Let us each morning resolve to send the day into eternity in such garb as we shall wish it to wear forever."
The new board sent Judson to England to solicit the cooperation of the London Missionary Society. They received the youthful American kindly, but thought cooperation impracticable.
Mr. Judson was "small and exceedingly delicate in figure, with a round, rosy face, which gave him the appearance of extreme youthfulness." His voice, however usually surprised his listeners. He having been called upon to read a hymn, the clergyman, Rowland Hill, introduced him as the young man who was going to seek the conversion of the heathen, and added, "If his faith is proportioned to his voice, he will drive the devil from all India."
Returning to America, Judson was united in marriage to Ann Hasseltine February 5, 1812, and was ordained the following day. He had counted the cost of being a missionary. When asking Mr. Hasseltine for the hand of his daughter, he had written: "I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure to a heathen land and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life; whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean, to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India, to every kind of want and distress, to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death. Can you consent to all this, for the sake of Him who left His heavenly home and died for her and for you?"
But he was writing of one as brave as himself and she was nothing daunted at the prospect. On February 19, 1812, in company with their young friends Mr. and Mrs. Newell, they sailed from Salem for India. On February 28, Mr. and Mrs. Nott and Messrs. Hall and Rice set sail from Philadelphia for the same land.
Adoniram Judson, born of Congregational parents, was on his way to India to found a Congregational Church; but he expected to meet at Serampur the eminent English Baptists, Carey, Marshman, and Ward. With scholarly yet prayerful mind, he set to studying to be able to meet these champions of immersion. The expected battle he fought out alone. He became convinced from his study of the Scriptures, that "faith should always precede baptism, and that baptism is immersion."
At that time the Baptists were far from being popular. But further investigation fastened upon these young disciples the conviction that to be baptized, one must be immersed. Imagine their situation. Mrs. Judson writes of their feelings: "We knew it would wound and grieve our dear Christian friends in America — that we should lose their approbation and esteem. We thought it probable the commissioners would refuse to support us; and, what was more distressing than anything, we knew we must be separated from our missionary associates and go alone to some heathen land. These things were very trying to us, and caused our hearts to bleed for anguish. We felt we had no home in this world, and no friend but each other."
Edward Judson thus writes of this crisis in his father's experience: "Prompt and straightforward obedience to Christ was the key-note of his life. His was too positive a character to try to effect a compromise between conviction and action. He had one of those great natures that can not afford to move along with the crowd."
Neither did he. To a Baptist minister at Salem, Massachusetts, he wrote: "After many painful trials, which none can know but those who are taught to relinquish a system in which they had been educated, I settled down in the full persuasion that the immersion of a professing believer in Christ is the only Christian baptism." Accordingly in September, they were baptized at Calcutta.
An equally surprising occurrence took place upon the other vessel. "Mr. Rice was thought," says Dr. Carey, "to be the most obstinate friend of pedobaptism of any of the missionaries." But strangely enough he had an experience similar to Mr. Judson's, and was baptized at Calcutta.
Becoming Baptists was only the beginning of sorrows. The missionaries were sternly ordered to America by the East India Company. In answer to many entreaties, Mr. and Mrs. Newell were finally allowed to go to the island of Mauritius. A little later the Judsons and Mr. Rice followed, only to find that their devoted friend Harriet Newell had died and was buried there.
Mr. Newell soon sailed for Ceylon, and Mr. Rice returned to America to stir up the Baptists to foreign mission effort. When the news reached America that three of the late missionaries to India had become Baptists, it sent an impulse of new life over that slumbering flock. "The summons to the foreign field shook them together," says Edward Judson. In 1814 what is now the American Baptist Union was formed.
After a few months' labor on the island of Mauritius, and two tedious voyages, the Judsons landed in Rangun, Burma. Later history has shown that He who plans for His missions had guided them. Dr. Carey's son Felix had been in mission work there, but was away at the time of their arrival, and soon resigned in their favor. Of their location, Judson wrote, "It is a most filthy, wretched place."
The language was the first hard problem. Mr. Judson had studied French two months; and after over two years' study of the Burmese, he stated that he would prefer to take an examination in French rather than in Burmese.
In September, 1815, an infant son was born to the lone missionaries. The little stranger in a strange land was named Roger Williams, in memory of the great Baptist who was the first in America to teach and practice the principles of civil and religious freedom, which from his embryo republic of Rhode Island became the glory of the American republic, but for the holding of which he had been driven from pulpit and parish and home, and for fourteen weeks "was sorely tossed in a bitter season, not knowing what bread or bed did mean." A pathetic cord bound the hearts of these parents to the memory of the lonely exile of their native land.
In the midst of exacting labors, Mr. Judson fell sick, and almost despaired of life. Lest his work be lost, he gathered materials for a grammar of the yet unconquered tongue, completing it July 13, 1816, exactly three years after their arrival. Of this little book the Calcutta Review said, "We have seen no work of any tongue which we should compare with it for brevity and completeness."
His first tract, "A Summary of the Christian Religion," the first printed statement of Christian truth offered the Burmese, was completed the same month. The Burmese are a reading people and the first serious inquirer was drawn by a tract and a catechism. A printing-press was the gift of the Serampur brethren. A printer, Mr. George A. Hough, and wife, came to them from America.
These workers found themselves in the dominions of a monarch "upon whose slightest nod depended the life of each subject." The people knew that to accept this new religion meant risk of property, and perhaps imprisonment, torture, and death. Judson was looked upon as an "obstinate and chimerical fanatic" for laboring in such a place, but he was upheld by the faith that years afterward inspired his famous reply, when asked of the prospects of the conversion of the heathen, — "As bright as the promises of God."
In December, 1817, Judson embarked for Chittagong to visit an abandoned mission, gather the scattered converts, and secure a native helper. He expected to return in about twelve weeks. After a month of unfavorable winds, they were so out of their course that they never reached Chittagong. Provisions ran so short that "moldy, broken rice, which they picked up from native vessels, was their sole sustenance for three or four weeks. ... At last he was attacked by slow fever, and turning in disgust from his little mess of dirty rice, he begged continually for water! water! water!" Of this enough was never given to quench his burning thirst. Without a nurse and unable to crawl out of his berth, he lay in such pain, hunger, and discouragement, that when they drew near to shore at Masulipatam, he was so near dead he penciled a note addressed to "Any English resident," begging only a place where he might be taken ashore to die. English residents came to his rescue, and never to him did the faces of men seem so like angels. They gave him careful nursing and brought him back again to life and health.
At this place he could find no vessel by which to return; and there was no other way only to make the journey of three hundred miles overland, to obtain a ship for Rangun. Utterly foiled in the purposes of his journey, and having passed through such sickness, starvation, and filth, what was his testimony? Even of his experience while on shipboard he could say, "I found more consolation and happiness in communion with God, and in the enjoyments of religion, than I had ever found in more prosperous circumstances."
But what was the anxiety of the faithful woman he had left at the mission! From December 25 until the next July she received not a word from her husband. She had expected him home in three months; more than twice that had passed. She did not know but he was dead. One disaster after another swept over the little mission. Cholera raged in the city; the government persecuted the missionaries; it was said the foreigners were to be banished; war's alarm floated in the air. One by one the English ships weighed anchor and hastily left the harbor. Only one remained. Mr. Hough and wife prepared to escape on it and urged Mrs. Judson to accompany them. Much against her will she finally went with them; but after going on board, she could not be content to remain, and finally went ashore, and back to the mission house alone. If her husband were still alive and returned, he should find her at her post. Her sublime faith arose to meet every emergency. Just before embarking, she wrote: "How dark, how intricate the providence which now surrounds us! Yet it becomes us to be still and know that He is God who has thus ordered our circumstances."
As Mr. Judson reached the city, he was overwhelmed with the intelligence that the mission had been broken up and the missionaries had taken passage for Bengal. But he, too, had written words while away, that were very like hers: "It is wise, though blindness can not comprehend. It is best, though unbelief is disposed to murmur. Be still, my soul, and know that He is God." What was his joy, then, to find his courageous companion at the mission home! And what joy was hers at his return!
To labor in the midst of friends, when seeing ripening fruit of one's sowing, requires no great exercise of faith, brings no strong test of courage; but to struggle year after year in seemingly unavailing effort, finding not a single seriously interested soul, — this experience has tried the sinews of God's sincerest servants.
Two, three, four, five years passed away, and the Judsons had not yet one convert. But they labored on. Other workers came, and the Houghs returned. In 1819 a chapel was built.
May 5 of that year the following appears in Judson's journal: "Moung Nau has been with me several hours. ... It seems almost too much to believe that God has begun to manifest His grace to the Burmans; but this day I could not resist the delightful conviction that this is really the case. Praise and glory be to His name forevermore. Amen." On the 27th of June, over seven years after leaving America, and almost six after arriving at Rangun, Mr. Judson had the joy of baptizing Moung Nau. Mrs. Judson wrote, "This event, this single trophy of victorious grace, has filled our hearts with sensations hardly to be conceived by Christians in Christian countries."
The viceroy of Rangun began to look upon the proselytizers with jealous eyes. The ominous words, "Inquire further," falling from his lips to his officers, "scattered the group of inquirers that had gathered about Mr. Judson." "In these circumstances the boldest measure seemed to Mr. Judson the wisest. ... He resolved to go directly to Ava, the capital of Burma, and lay the whole matter at the feet of the emperor."
The journey was made, but the brave effort was unsuccessful. Though he was admitted into the golden palace, and the petition to teach the new religion was heard, the tract placed in the emperor's hands was dashed to the floor, and the gold-sheathed volumes of the Scriptures intended for his imperial majesty were contemptuously spurned.
Sad at heart, the missionary returned to Rangun, gathered his little band of converts, told them the danger, and proposed that they go to Chittagong to be under the protection of the English. To his surprise they stood firm, to suffer death if need be, and begged him to remain till there was a church of ten members.
In this dark hour the Spirit of God moved in power. Within five months seven more were added, including Mah-men-la, the first Burman Christian woman. After receiving baptism, she said, "Now I have taken the oath of allegiance to Jesus Christ and I have nothing to do but to commit myself, soul and body, into the hands of my Lord, assured that He will never suffer me to fall away."
In 1821 Mrs. Judson's failing health compelled her return to America. In December of the same year, Dr. J. Price joined the mission; and such was his medical skill, that he was invited to the capital by the emperor. Dr. Judson accompanied him. This time he was received with favor, and pressed his case until an opening was made and a site appointed for a mission "in the very heart of the empire, under the shelter of the throne."
Mrs. Judson was still in America, and he decided to wait for her, going forward with his work of Scripture translation. Her visit in America roused much missionary enthusiasm. Dr. Wayland said of her, "I do not remember ever to have met a more remarkable woman."
In December, 1823, Mrs. Judson returned, and they soon afterward went to Ava, leaving at Rangun a church of eighteen converted Burmans under the care of Mr. and Mrs. Hough and Mr. and Mrs. Wade. Having been invited to residence in the capital by the king, they looked forward to their work with bright prospects. But great changes had taken place. Dr. Price had not been able to perform miracles for the king, former friends had been dismissed from court, and the king had little to say to the missionary. War broke out between England and Burma, and for two years the friends in America heard nothing from the missionaries.
In June, 1824, Mr. Judson, Dr. Price, and five other foreigners were seized and thrown into the death-prison at Ava, where for nine months they lay bound with three pairs, and two months more with five pairs, of iron bands about the ankles, chained together by chains only a few inches in length, the weight being about fourteen pounds. Mr. Judson bore the marks of the irons to his dying day. Left in filth like pigs in a sty, to starve and die, the missionaries were ministered to by the brave Mrs. Judson. At night, lest they should escape, they were hung by a pole run between their legs and elevated till only their shoulders and head rested on the floor. They were thrown with the vilest criminals of the Burman capital. Their reluctant ears were filled with vulgarity and blasphemy.
But above the torture of the prison was the anxiety of Judson for his wife, exposed to the insults of the rude rabble, and the scorching sun of the heated season. But her deepest concern was for her husband, for whom she pleaded wherever there seemed a ray of hope, and with such earnestness that even the rough old governor of the prison was moved to tears.
Late in January, 1825, the visitor at the prison did not come. A week passed, a second, almost a third, without her coming. When she again appeared, a tiny babe nestled in her arms, borne to the prison door to receive, from the midst of felons' chains, a father's kiss — unconscious of his misery.
But Judson's faith did not fail. For a man of such intensely active temperament, his patience was wonderful. "Here have I been," said he to one of his fellow prisoners, "ten years preaching the gospel to timid listeners who wished to embrace the truth, but dared not; beseeching the emperor to grant liberty of conscience to his people, but without success; and now, when all human means seemed at an end, God opens the way by leading a Christian nation to subdue the country. It is possible that my life may be spared. If so, with what ardor and gratitude shall I pursue my work! And if not, His will be done; the door will be opened for others who will do the work better."
Add to the horrors of imprisonment the daily and even hourly anticipation of torture and death, and "it will be difficult to conceive of a denser cloud of miseries than that which settled down on his devoted head. ... Rumors of a frightful doom were constantly sounding in their ears. Now they heard their keepers during the night sharpening the knives to decapitate the prisoners the next morning; now the roar of their mysterious fellow prisoner, a huge, starving lioness, convinced them that they were to be executed by being thrown into her cage; now it was reported that they were to be burned up together with their prison as a sacrifice; now that they were to be buried alive at the head of the Burman army in order to insure its victory over the English."
Had not Judson previously given excellent care to his physical powers, he must have utterly broken down. In America he had adopted three most helpful rules: deep breathing "so as to expand the lungs to the utmost;" daily bathing; and above all, systematic exercise in walking. But all these blessings were far from the filth and terrible stench of the prison. He fell sick. Mrs. Judson built him a little room outside the prison wall, and prevailed on the governor to allow her to take him to it, sick and wasted as he was.
This favor was granted for only a short time, when there was a disturbance and a rush, and Mr. Judson was seized, dragged forth, and hurried away, — Mrs. Judson knew not where. At last she found he had been taken with other prisoners and driven by slaves from the place. It was one of the hottest months of the year, and the heat was terrible. Mr. Judson's bare feet became blistered the first half mile, and his sufferings were so great he ardently longed to die; yet they had eight miles more to walk, and were goaded on by their unfeeling drivers. One prisoner died on the way. That evening the sheriff's wife came to gaze upon the prisoners and was so moved by their sufferings that she had a little food given them.
When they reached the miserable old shell of a prison at Oung-pen-la they at once concluded that they were to be burned to death, as had been reported at Ava. That night their feet were made fast in the stocks, which were raised till only their shoulders lay on the ground. Swarms of mosquitoes pierced their raw and bleeding feet. They were so tortured that even the guard was moved to lower the stocks before midnight.
Mrs. Judson, on getting a trace of the prisoners, followed them, carrying her babe, with an adopted native child by her side. The very next morning, this child was taken with smallpox. Mr. Judson's fever continued, and his feet were so mangled that for some time he was unable to move. Worn with constant care and watching, Mrs. Judson was attacked with smallpox, then with a disease of the country, which is usually fatal to foreigners. Unable to give nourishment to her child, its cries, she writes, "were heartrending. ... I now began to think the very afflictions of Job had come upon me. When in health, I could bear the various trials and vicissitudes through which I was called to pass. But to be confined with sickness, and unable to assist those who were so dear to me, when in distress, was almost too much for me to bear; and had it not been for the consolations of religion, and an assured conviction that every additional trial was ordered by infinite love and mercy, I must have sunk under my accumulated sufferings."
She had crawled to a mat in their little room, to which she was confined for two months, and both she and Mr. Judson were ministered to by their faithful converted cook, Moung Ing. "We must both have died," she wrote, "had it not been for the faithful and affectionate care of our Bengali cook. ... He never complained, never asked for his wages, and never for a moment hesitated to go anywhere, or perform any act we required." In finding such jewels was their reward.
A turn in affairs came at last. Mr. Judson was released from prison, but retained as translator for the government at the scenes of war, and subjected to such treatment that he was thrown into violent fever, which all but ended his life. Mrs. Judson escaped from Oung-pen-la, but her constitution was so shattered she soon fell a victim to spotted fever. She lingered between life and death for seventeen days, when Dr. Price, having been released, came and found her in the most distressing condition he had ever witnessed. "She is dead," said the Burmese neighbors. "If the King of angels should come in, He could not recover her." But a kind Providence spared her. When still "too weak to bear ill tidings of any kind," the report reached her that Mr. Judson was to be returned to Oung-pen-la. "A shock so dreadful as this," she said, "almost annihilated me."
O reader, do not fail to note the method by which at this hour of supreme weakness the tide was turned: "If ever I felt the value and efficacy of prayer, I did at this time. I could not rise from my couch; I could make no effort to secure my husband; I could only plead with the great and powerful Being who has said, 'Call upon Me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me,' and who made me at this time feel so powerfully this promise that I became quite composed, feeling assured that my prayers would be answered." "The governor of the north gate presented a petition to the high court of the empire, offered himself as Mr. Judson's security," and obtained his release.
Meantime the successful English army was advancing toward the capital. Protective measures for the golden city were immediately hastened. The missionary's house was torn down, and the beautiful little site turned into a place for the erection of cannon. Dr. Price and an English prisoner of war were sent to negotiate terms of peace. Sir Archibald Campbell returned a reply, demanding the release of Mr. and Mrs. Judson and little Maria. To this the king replied, "They are not English; they are my people, and shall not go;" and both the missionaries lost hope of release. The English general, however, was inflexible, and the prisoners made good their escape to the English boats.
Sir Archibald received and treated the missionaries with exceeding kindness. A banquet was held at which the Burmese government commissioners were present; and they were greatly surprised to see the missionaries, whom they had treated so cruelly, the guests of honor.
"'I fancy these gentlemen must be old acquaintances of yours, Mrs. Judson,' General Campbell remarked, amused by what he began to suspect, though he did not fully understand it; 'and, judging from their appearance, you must have treated them very ill.' Mrs. Judson smiled. The Burmans could not understand the remark, but they evidently considered themselves the subject of it, and their faces were blank with consternation.
"'What is the matter with yonder owner of the pointed beard?' pursued Sir Archibald; 'he seems to be seized with an ague fit.'
"'I don't know,' answered Mrs. Judson, fixing her eyes on the trembler, ... 'unless his memory may be too busy. He is an old acquaintance of mine, and may probably infer danger to himself from seeing me under your protection.'
"She then proceeded to relate how, when her husband was suffering from fever in the stifled air of the inner prison, with five pairs of fetters about his ankles, she had walked several miles to this man's house to ask a favor. She had left home early in the morning, but was kept waiting so long that it was noonday before she proffered her request, and received a rough refusal. She was turning sorrowfully away, when his attention was attracted by the silk umbrella she carried in her hand, and he instantly seized it. It was in vain that she represented the danger of her walking home without it; told him that she had brought no money, and could not buy anything to shelter her from the sun; and begged that, if he took that, he would at least furnish her with a paper one, to protect her from the scorching heat. He laughed, and, turning the very suffering that had wasted her, into a jest, told her it was only stout people who were in danger of sunstroke — the sun could not find such as she; and so turned her from the door."
The terror-smitten Burman seemed to understand all; but a few soft words in Burmese from the lips that once had pleaded with him in vain, gave assurance that no harm would come to him.
Speaking of his sensations of enjoyment when really at liberty, with wife by his side and babe in his arms "free — all free! " — Mr. Judson said: "But you can not understand it, either; it needs a twenty-one months' qualification. ... I think I have had a better appreciation of what heaven may be, ever since."
The missionaries arrived at Rangun March 21, 1826. The little mission was completely broken up. Ten years of hard labor seemed nearly lost. Only four of the converts could be found. At the beginning of the war, Messrs. Hough and Wade had been arrested, imprisoned, put in irons, and sentenced to death. "The executioners sharpened the instruments of death, and brandished them about the heads of the missionaries, to show with what dexterity and pleasure they would execute the fatal orders. The floor was strewn with sand to receive their blood. At this moment the foundations of the prison were shaken by a heavy broadside from her majesty's ship Liffey." The executioners fled in terror. Others came, however, and dragged the prisoners to the place of execution; but another broadside stopped the proceedings, and at last the British troops found and rescued the missionaries.
The unsettled state of affairs made a change of location necessary; and a place under British protection, which they named Amherst, was chosen. But before they were settled, Mr. Judson, with a hope of securing religious liberty, accepted a call to go with the English commissioner to obtain a treaty with the king at Ava. Mrs. Judson was favorable to his going, and he departed with good courage and high hopes.
She set to work, and built a little bamboo dwelling and two schoolhouses. In one of the school buildings Moung Ing taught ten native children; in the other she intended to hold a school for girls. But at that juncture she was smitten with fever. The vigor that had carried her through so many vicissitudes was now no longer hers; and October 24, 1826, the hands that had been so full of sacred ministry had ended their task.
Only six months separated the death of Mrs. Judson and that of little Maria. Under the hope-tree at Amherst, beside them, soon was laid Ma-men-la, who had tenderly ministered to them in their last hours. Within three months more, Mr. Judson heard of the death of his father. "I am left alone in this wide wilderness," moaned the sad missionary.
Yet, in the name of Him who, over Joseph's rent sepulcher, proclaimed victory over death, our hero went forth once more to almost quarter of a century in soul-saving service. Refusing an offer of three thousand dollars a year from the English government, he went on with his Master's work. Mr. and Mrs. Wade came to Amherst, and Mr. George D. Boardman and wife united in the work. Mr. Judson completed two catechisms, and his sorrowful heart found comfort in translating the Psalms. Soon the mission was moved to Maulmain, where schools were opened and converts gathered in.
Mr. Judson received several thousand dollars for his public services, but turned all over to the mission, with a gift of six thousand dollars of his personal funds, at the same time making a reduction in his salary. Not only was the love of money crucified, but of fame. His overweening ambition," he said, "received its first mortal wound" when he became a Baptist; and he resigned the honorary title of doctor of divinity from Brown University.
The little band at Maulmain was soon again broken. Feeling strong enough to spread out a little, the Boardmans sailed for Tavoi, accompanied by helpers, including Ko, who became the renowned apostle to the Karens. With these Mr. Boardman began the campaign that made his name so illustrious.
After a blessed awakening among the Karens, in which precious groups of them were gathered, he fell in the field with the harness on, being carried in a litter during his last journey, and dying before reaching home, with weeping converts around him.
Mrs. Boardman continued to carry on her schools with great tact and ability. "She even made long missionary tours into the Karen jungles. With her little boy carried by her side, she climbed the mountains, forded the streams, and threaded the forests."
Nearly eight years of labor and loneliness for Mr. Judson passed after his wife was laid to rest. In 1834 he was united in marriage to this same teacher, who had proved her devotion to the cause of missions.
It was about this time that Judson completed his Burman translation of the Bible, the great task to which for so many years he had addressed himself, and from which he did not now rest until in 1840 a thorough revision was made. In 1842 he began a dictionary, without hope, however, of living to complete it. "I feel it my duty," he said, "to plod on while daylight lasts."
During his long sojourn in that debilitating climate, with confining studies, he was careful of his health. He ate two meals a day, and took brisk walks or other exercise before sunrise and in the evening. But at fifty, after twenty-five years in Burma, disease fastened upon his lungs, then his throat, causing loss of voice.
A number of children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Judson. After the birth of the last one, Edward, his father's able biographer, the mother's health gave way. In a voyage lay the only hope of her recovery. Even this was not to be realized. As the vessel lay at St. Helena, September 1, 1845, release from her sufferings came, and she was buried there.
The second evening after Mr. Judson's arrival at Boston, a most enthusiastic meeting of welcome was held. Near its close, a strange interruption occurred. A man pressed his way through the throng, ascended the pulpit, and he and Mr. Judson embraced each other with tears of joy. It was Samuel Nott, the sole survivor, save Mr. Judson, of the seminary group who had conceived the idea of American missions.
Long had it been Mr. Judson's desire in a strange land to know only Christ and Him crucified. He knew naught higher, better, or nobler in the land of his nativity. To a lady who ventured to suggest that "they wanted something new of a man who had just come from the antipodes," he replied: "Then I am glad to have it to say, that a man coming from the antipodes had nothing better to tell than the wondrous story of Jesus' dying love. My business is to preach the gospel of Christ; and when I can speak at all, I dare not trifle with my commission."
At Philadelphia Mr. Judson met a lady who, in her childhood, had been a poor factory girl. "I have felt," she acknowledged to a friend, "ever since I read the memoir of Mrs. Ann H. Judson when I was a child, that I must become a missionary."
Mr. Judson's meeting with this lady was on this wise: Dr. Gillette was taking him from Boston to Philadelphia for a visit. During a delay of a few hours Dr. Gillette procured a book and handed it to Mr. Judson to read. He quickly saw the capabilities of the writer, and said: "The lady who writes so well ought to write better. It's a pity that such fine talents should be employed on such subjects." The doctor replied that she was a guest at his home. There Mr. Judson was introduced to "Fanny Forrester," her real name being Emily Chubbuck.
Mr. Judson did not hesitate to inquire how she could give her talents to "a species of writing so little useful or spiritual as the sketches he had read." She replied that it was to provide for her parents. Mr. Judson softened. The hand that wounds to heal is the hand most sure to help. He had desired to secure some one to prepare a memoir of the late Mrs. Judson; and Miss Chubbuck's practiced pen was soon lent to the task. This led to the fulfilling of the smoldering missionary prophecy in the heart of the accomplished writer; for in June, 1846, she became the wife of the missionary; and in July they embarked for Burma.
Mr. Judson, with his wife and two youngest children, located once more in Rangun, in a house Mrs. Judson named "Bat Castle." A new king was on the throne, the "most bloodthirsty monster" Mr. Judson had ever known. Fear of the British alone kept his emissaries "from the throat of the missionary;" therefore Mr. Judson must labor with utmost secrecy. Under these trying circumstances he proceeded with his dictionary, while Mrs. Judson wrote the memoir. But he and the children fell sick, and she lost health and appetite. With tears the poor man declared he had never looked upon so discouraging a prospect.
Still his spirits rose to meet the situation. When, a little later, secret spies were set to watch his premises, Mrs. Judson said, "I shall never forget the expression of my husband's face, as though really piercing into the invisible, when he exclaimed, 'I tell you, if we had but the power to see them, the air above us is thick with contending spirits — the good and the bad — striving for the mastery. I know where the final victory lies.'"
He worked steadily, completing the English-Burmese part in 1849, at which time the Christian Burmans and Karens numbered over seven thousand.
"'The good man' works like a galley-slave," wrote his wife; "and it quite distresses me sometimes. ... He walks — or rather runs— like a boy over the hills, a mile or two every morning; then down to his books, scratch-scratch, puzzle-puzzle. ... and so on till ten o'clock in the evening. It is this walking which keeps him out of the grave."
But a severe cold settled on his lungs, followed by cough and fever. He was put on shipboard and borne out to sea; but the ocean air did not bring restoration. April 12, 1850, he whispered in the Burman tongue, "It is done, I am going;" then, as if falling asleep, he ceased to breathe.
Almost four months Mrs. Judson waited in deep suspense, to learn at last of the burial of her husband, "scarcely three days out of sight of the mountains of Burma." "And there they left him in his unquiet sepulcher," she wrote as she sat in a lonely land, with a fatherless babe in her arms, "neither could he have a more fitting monument than the blue waves which visit every coast; for his warm sympathies went forth to the ends of the earth, and included the whole family of man."
In words that speak from the ocean's depths, made audible by Dr. Judson's son Edward, we close this sketch, voicing the desires of the living and the dead:
"O 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!"
Copied for WholesomeWords.org from The Advanced Guard of Missions by Clifford G. Howell. Mountain View, Calif: Pacific Press Publishing, ©1912.
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