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Ann Hasseltine Judson: the Good are the Great

by W. K. Tweedie

Mrs. Ann JudsonWould men judge impartially, they might easily discover that the spirit of the religion of Jesus is still as mighty as in the days of Paul or of John. Whence those wondrous sufferings, even to death by starvation, of Captain Allen Gardiner and his companions, in the recent mission to Patagonia? Whence the steadfast zeal of the Christians of Madagascar, amid a persecution as hot and as wasting as any that Nero or Diocletian ever waged? Whence the death of Williams, the benefactor of thousands—the martyr of Eromanga? Whence the self-denial and self-sacrifice of the "great crowd," who, in our own day, are hazarding their lives in many lands for the name of Jesus? The whole has flowed from the power of a felt and a realized truth, as distinguished from a theory, or a dream such as men often substitute in its place; and all that proves that the truth which came by Jesus Christ is as mighty now as in the days of old. It is giving life to the dead, when the Spirit blesses it. Hoary superstitions are sapped. Dagons fall. Spiritual heroes win, through grace, a spiritual glory; and the day approaches when all who are appointed to everlasting life shall hear, believe, and live.

Ann Hasseltine will shine brightly among those who have thus turned many to righteousness. She was born at Bradford, in Massachusetts, on the 22d of December 1789, and spent her early years as children and young women of great vivacity commonly do. She was active, resolute, and decided, even from her youth; and such was the force of her character, that all she did bore marks of unusual energy of mind. She loved warmly, but she also hated heartily; and evinced some dispositions which would have made her a pest to others, had they been left to the control of nature. Those who knew her best in youth were most anxious concerning her future; and the overflowings of her energy could not but prompt such anxiety, for in her case, more than in the case of many, it would be difficult to solve the problem—Is eternal misery or eternal joy to be thy lot? Like the

"First notes of some yet struggling harmony,"

men could not predict what Ann Hasseltine would become.

But when she was about seventeen years of age, the follies and frivolities of youth began to grow insipid. That mysterious something, which whispers to the soul as soon as it will listen, that we are born for better things than earth can supply, was stirring in her heart. Why am I here? For what end am I living? How are my days to be spent? or how are they to end? These, or inquiries like these, began to engross her, and the undisputed sway of the world was undisputed no longer. There had been meetings held by some earnest spirits in the town where she lived. If she had not found out the design of man's existence, they had, and they sought to promote it. She felt that she had not been living for God; and the words, "She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth," forced convictions upon her, from which she could never escape. The thoughtless girl became thoughtful. She who had before lived as if it were enough to fascinate and please her fellow-creatures, while forgetful of God and his claims, began to think of the more excellent way; and though she had a testing ordeal to pass through, she did pass through it, and was safe.

Ann Hasseltine's ardent nature was sure to adopt the plan of seeking salvation by reformation and penance, instead of fleeing instantly to the Saviour. She, accordingly, gave up many of the comforts of life. She locked herself up in her own apartment, as if she could lock out sin. She spent many hours in self-inflicted penance, and thus strove to find out another way to God's favour than that to which He himself has pointed. At length, however, the great revolution which the Holy Scriptures demand, and which the Spirit accomplishes through the truth, was wrought in her nature.

From that period, God's righteous claims began to be recognized. Ann Hasseltine's gifts were transformed into graces. What she had formerly cultivated for display was now enlisted in a higher service; and the whole power of a lively, but thoughtful mind, began to be turned in the direction of spiritual realities.

There was a time when religion took on the character only of meditation and seclusion—the earnest hastened away from the world, as if they thought that flight and victory were the same. But not so Ann Hasseltine. While she endeavoured at once to store and to brace her mind by study, she also sought an outlet for her energies, in endeavours to do good. She loved to work, and she wrought. For several years she continued to seek the good of others, caring for those who had few to care for them, and trying to impress upon the thoughtless the truths which had now such charms for her own energetic mind. She was, in short, in training for some important sphere, and the four years which followed her conversion to God were the germ out of which there sprang a greatness rarely equalled in the history of woman.

Her sphere was soon, in providence, pointed out. Adoniram Judson, a man of strong will and large views of the believer's work on earth, had been led, after his conversion, to think much of the Missionary field. In that respect, the churches in America, as elsewhere, were then lethargic, if not dead; but Mr. Judson, and some of his fellow-students, were raised up to disturb the slumber. After many difficulties, he was appointed a missionary to the heathen, in the year 1811; and early in 1812, proceeded to his destination. Ann Hasseltine accompanied him as his wife, and their perils by sea, and trials by land, form an instructive chapter in the history of mortal suffering. They were trained for future endurance by a wise though painful process, which, however, it is not our purpose to describe in detail.

As they had adopted the views of Baptists during their outward voyage, our missionaries resorted to Serampore, the centre of the Baptist missions in the East, as soon as they landed in India. But in 1812, the East India Company would allow no Christian missionary to find a settlement within their territories, and no alteration on their stern decree could be obtained. God, his servants, and his truth were authoritatively excluded from a large portion of His own world; and after waiting some time for a passage homeward, Judson and his wife were peremptorily ordered to quit the country, and proceed to England, since there was no other way of leaving India. They were imprisoned in their own house, where a supervision at once lynx-eyed and ungenerous, was exercised over them. They attempted to escape to the Isle of France, but were pursued like criminals, and prevented; yet, after all, they did sail for that island. From it, they found a ship to Madras: but no sooner had they landed there, than they were again reported to the police as fugitives or offenders against society. No means of flight could be obtained but by a ship to Rangoon; and averse as they were, our hunted missionaries proceeded to that station, compelled, rather than purposing, to go thither.

During that voyage, Mrs. Judson passed through trials such as few have ever encountered. Her husband expected she would die at sea; or if they escaped from that lot, it would be by shipwreck on a coast where they would have been "killed, and eaten by the natives." At length, however, they reached Rangoon, the scene of some of their successes, but, for the present, a spot where they experienced that peace which the Saviour imparts, and which is most highly prized after we have been driven for a season from every other resting-place. As poison may be employed, under the guidance of science, in relieving pain or healing disease, the misery of that terrible voyage made Mrs. Judson exult at her landing, weak and worn out as she was.

Rangoon, then, is now for a time her home. The territory in which it lies is one of those which man has degraded, but which is rich and thoroughly oriental in itself. Silver, gold, sapphires, emeralds and rubies, rank among its productions, but a stern despotism grinds the people; and the cruelty or caprice of one man domineers over the seven millions of the Burman Empire. It was among these degraded and downtrodden millions that the Judsons began their labours. Buddhism, with its atheism or atheistic tendencies, is religion there; and a combination of causes, powerful in detail and deadly in combination, thus unite to crush and to enslave the souls of the Burmese.

But the more crushed, the more do they become objects of love to a Christian missionary. Where Satan has his seat, as he doubtless had among the bloodthirsty and treacherous Burmans, the friends of truth will hasten to spread it; and there an attempt was about to be made to preach the Gospel, or win the dead to Him who is the life. Adoniram Judson and his wife undertook that mission. They were alone, and on their first Communion Sabbath, only the two partook of the privilege. It was an unwonted thing to them; but while they thus began their toils, they found that their Lord was with them, and are not even two weak creatures mighty, when the Saviour is using their weakness for His glory?

But this woman was not allowed to pursue her toils without a cross. Her health soon began to fail, and she was obliged to sail to Madras for medical advice; but she hastened back to renew her endeavours to win the Burmese to Christ. Her convictions were, that God can "make mountains valleys, and dry places streams of water," and her hope was turned into fruition. Her prayer had been, "God grant that we may live and die among the Burmans, though we should never do anything but smooth the way for others;" and it was far more than answered. No darkness in them daunted her indomitable soul; and one who a brief period before had been a thoughtless child of folly, living only for pleasure and for self, now walked amid a crowd of cares, and under a constant cross, to execute her high mission for her Lord.

No one, without experience, can estimate the difficulties of such a position. To the labour of mastering a new language, was added that of preparing a Grammar and a Dictionary; yet, through all that drudgery, the Judsons were triumphantly borne. They were helpmates to each other in all their labours; and though even in that land they encountered the hostility of European priests, "the truth was not bound." In its strength they conquered, and gathered in souls to Christ.

Mr. Judson, in his turn, was obliged to take a voyage for his health, and in his absence, Mrs. Judson carried forward the mission at Rangoon; but it was reduced so low that it seemed as if she would be compelled to abandon it. Indeed, for a time, she had agreed to do so, but, on calmer reflection, returned to her post; and when the set time had come, her works of faith were crowned with a blessing. Of the eventual conversion of Burmah she never entertained a doubt; and she was honoured by Him whose word she believed.

On the 4th of April 1819—that is, about six years after their arrival at Rangoon—public worship was commenced in the Burman language. On the 27th of June, in the same year, the first convert was baptized—in the face of certain persecution and probable death for the step, Moung Nau professed his faith in the only Saviour of sinners. Mrs. Judson exulted in that triumph of grace, and wrote to her distant friends to say—"This event, this single trophy of grace has filled our hearts with sensations hardly to be conceived by Christians in Christian countries;" and who would not rejoice in her joy? Such a measure of success may be unnoticed by men—it may even provoke a smile. But in the high reckoning of eternity, which will stand the highest—he who thus wins a soul to Christ by pains and prayer, or he who wins a kingdom for his king by bloodshed and havoc?

While her husband was busy in his department, Mrs. Judson had opened a female class, and symptoms of spiritual life began to appear also there. "The Religion-making Teachers," as the missionaries were styled in Burmese, were succeeding in their enterprise, and had souls, not a few, for their hire. Amid the massacres which then took place in the palace of the King of Burmah, and competing claims for the crown and the throne, the Prince of Peace was quietly taking possession of the land.

Conversion upon conversion now began to take place, and the converts to hold prayer-meetings by themselves, for the Lord of life was imparting it to the dead. But it became necessary at length to obtain the countenance of the king to these proceedings; and, for that purpose, Judson proceeded to Ava, the capital. No hope, however, could be cherished. A Portuguese priest, who had the ear of the king, reinforced the royal idolatry, and the missionary was dismissed without a single concession made to him. Soul after soul was, however, won: some of the females under Mrs. Judson's care now embraced the truth. Danger or death was sure to follow their decision, but grace is stronger than even the fear of death, and they decided. Sickness might prostrate the teacher—and more than once she skirted the grave—but amid all that appeared to be frowning, grace was at work; and this one and that one were born of the Spirit.

It was at Ava, the capital of Burmah, that those sorrows came upon Mrs. Judson, which signalize her above most of the women of modern times. The details are harrowing; yet they deserve to be pondered, as illustrating the triumphs of grace in choosing weak things to confound the mighty.

A war unexpectedly broke out between the British and the King of Burmah, when all the foreigners in his dominions were at once arrested and thrown into prison. Malice and cruelty combined to heap misery on the prisoners, and for one-and-twenty months Dr. Judson endured the worst and heaviest of trials. It is the share which his wife had in these that has induced us to select her as a model of female power and greatness.

Mrs. Judson was the only English-speaking female at Ava when the war broke out, and she alone of all the foreigners was not imprisoned: she was left at large, as a ministering angel to the sufferers, and she laboured to alleviate sorrow, with a strength which appears more than human. Atrocities, the most revolting, were inflicted on the prisoners. Barbarism and ingenuity combined their efforts to agonize; a horrid cruelty manufactured chains and rivetted them, but affection strove to melt them; and amid all these things, Mrs. Judson put forth an energy which nothing could repress—a heroism which nothing could daunt. Infection, ferocity, insults, a tropical sun by day and tropical dews by night, could not impede her efforts; and if we can present even a meagre outline of what she did, the amazing power which God has placed in the hands of woman will become more and more apparent. Her daily walk was from the prison to the palace. To the former, she went to pour balm into the wounded spirit, and apply liniments to the limbs which their fetters had chafed. To the latter, she went to confront a savage royalty; to appeal to pity, when justice was deaf; and to wring from the oppressor some relief for his victim. Sometimes Mrs. Judson succeeded: at other times, she was treated with coldness, or dismissed from the palace with a cruel contempt, almost as ill to bear as the agonies of her husband.

In May 1824, Rangoon was taken by the British. Without long delay, the foreigners, as we have said, were imprisoned as spies. "Where is the teacher," was the demand of an officer who had come, accompanied by the executioner, to seize Dr. Judson. "The spotted man," the executioner, instantly seized him, and, in the presence of his wife, proceeded to bind him with a cord, used in Burmah as an instrument of torture. She offered money for mercy, but there was none, and her interposition only led to a threat to make her a prisoner also. The hardened executioner, she says, with a kind of hellish joy, tightened the cords, and dragged the missionary to prison. She implored the savage to take the silver and loosen the cords, but all was unavailing, nay, the agonies of the prisoner were increased, and the cup of her sorrow seemed filled to the brim.

The death-prison now became the missionary's home. Mrs. Judson was examined by a magistrate. She was made a prisoner in her own house, and a guard of ten ruffians was stationed to prevent her escape. She was allowed no repose for the night. Her Bengalee servants were made fast in the stocks; while the deep carousings and the revolting language of her guard would have banished rest, had she been otherwise able, to enjoy it.

In the morning, she found that Dr. Judson was confined with three pairs of iron fetters on his limbs, and fastened, along with others, to a long pole, to keep him from moving. His wife was not permitted to go abroad to seek his liberty or relieve his distress, and though she wrote to one of the king's sisters, her note was returned, and nothing but agony and endurance remained. On the third day, she obtained permission to visit her husband, and his keeper promised to render his situation more comfortable, but she soon found from the chief officer, a man signalized by all that could brutify human nature, that all depended upon her liberality to himself. She instantly gave him all that she could—and hoped.

At her first interview with her husband, he crawled to the door of the prison, for she durst not enter, but before any arrangements could be made as to the future, they were again brutally torn asunder. That night, Judson and his companions were removed from the death-prison, and placed in a shed in the prison inclosure. Food and mats were sent to him there, and after performing these offices of mercy, Mrs. Judson proceeded once more to the sister-in-law of the queen. She there pled the cause of the suffering foreigners with the dignity of injured innocence, but no help was found. Next day, all she had on earth was seized by order of the king. Funds raised for the spreading of the Gospel were taken along with the rest; all, in short, that was deemed of value was carried away, and only blighted hopes remained.

No prospect of release for Dr. Judson now appeared, and for ten days his wife was not permitted to see him; she was even driven from the prison gates. Her attempts to communicate with him by writing were discovered, and her messenger was placed in the stocks. Amid all this, Mrs. Judson's steadfast principle was not seldom, apparently, her enemy. Could she have lied, or even equivocated, she might more than once have smoothed her way. But, at other times, her bold proclamation of the truth, whatever might be the peril, procured her friends. Again and again did this Christian heroine, in her sorrow, appeal in person to the queen's sister-in-law, but without success—the load which lay upon her heart was not to be removed. God was to magnify His grace in her, more and more, and for seven months, she visited almost daily some of the functionaries of that wild land, without any practical result; and in her touching narrative of these events, she says, "For nearly a year and a half, so entirely engrossed was every thought with present scenes and sufferings, that I seldom reflected on a single occurrence of my former life, or recollected that I had a friend in existence out of Ava." Death seemed the probable lot of her husband, and something worse than slavery her own. Who, then, will wonder though she was absorbed?

Dr. Judson was next thrust into the inner prison, and loaded with five pairs of fetters. This was occasioned by the progress of the British arms: and so roused was all the woman and the wife in Mrs. Judson now, that she forced her way to the governor of the prison. He wept under her appeal, but told her that thrice had he received orders to put Judson privately to death. He refused, but was obliged to conceal his prisoners, and hence their close confinement. Dr. Judson, at the end of a month, was seized by fever; and after supplications, such as few but his wife could have made, or none but a monster have resisted, the sufferer was placed in a little bamboo hovel, and his wife was permitted to visit him once more.

This respite, however, was brief. The white prisoners were secretly removed to a distance, and Mrs. Judson was kept in ignorance of her husband's destiny or abode. She now hurried, in a paroxysm of grief, from street to street, and from person to person, imploring information regarding him. She learned that the foreigners were sent to another city, and was warned that as she could do no more for them, she should quietly take care of herself. But

"This friend to more than human friendship just,"

was not to be repressed. After an agonizing suspense, she resolved to follow to the city indicated, and proceeded on her journey without loss of time. Under a burning tropical sun, carrying her infant child, and accompanied by some dependents, she arrived agonized and half distracted at Oung-pen-la, the place of her husband's imprisonment. There she found him and the rest of the foreigners, chained in couples, and overpowered by suffering and fatigue. She was without shelter and without food; but, after much solicitation, was allowed to take up her abode in a filthy nook, which was destined to be her home for six agonizing months.

Next morning, Mrs. Judson learned from her husband how it had fared with him since they parted. He had been stripped by his brutal jailers at Ava. His shoes, his hat, and all that could be torn from him were taken away: a rope was tied round his waist; he and the other prisoners were thus coupled, and driven like beasts, a slave holding the end of the rope by which each pair was tied together. They had proceeded only half a mile, under a broiling Eastern sun, and at mid-day, when Dr. Judson's agony became so intense, that he "ardently longed to throw himself into a river which they passed, to be free from misery," and "the sin attached to such an act alone prevented him." They had still eight miles to travel, over sand and gravel, which were like burning coals to Judson's ulcerated feet; yet in that condition the prisoners were goaded on by their savage drivers. Judson was less capable than others to bear the effects, owing to the weakness occasioned by his recent fever. By leaning on the shoulder of his fellow-victim, he was helped forward, but even that poor help could not be long conceded—the assistant was sinking himself. A Bengalee servant now came to Judson's aid, and but for that, it is supposed he would have died, as one of the prisoners did about two hours after their arrival at the place of their destination. The impression was, that they were all to be burned; and under that conviction they were preparing for the terrible doom supposed to be before them.

Mrs. Judson arrived at this crisis, and her former misery had been comfort compared with what awaited her at Oung-pen-la. Small-pox soon broke out. She innoculated those who were not affected: but that did not save her child from the disease; and amid crowds of sorrows, that mother had to watch its progress on the feeble frame of her babe. There was some relief, however, for the prisoners were now separated, and each wore only his own chains. But, as if to counterbalance that, this heroic and intrepid woman was at last prostrated herself. Diseases incident to the country now assailed her, and brought her to the verge of the grave. The tide of her sorrows appear now to be full: will not the ebb commence? Not yet.

The little child was now the greatest sufferer. By presents to the jailers, Dr. Judson was allowed some degree of freedom; and now began a scene which has, perhaps, no parallel in the records of suffering. Mrs. Judson was unable to nurse and nourish her child, and the little one's cries by night were agonizing. By day, however, the father—fettered, and unable to advance his foot more than two or three inches at a step—carried his emaciated child round the village, begging a little nourishment from those heathen mothers who had young children of their own. It was a spectacle, we repeat, such as all history cannot surpass; and had it not been for the consolations of the truth, their hearts must have broken amid such complicated woes.

It was ascertained at length that the foreigners had all been sent to their present prison to be sacrificed; and an officer of the highest rank, who had prompted the measure, designed to be present at the spectacle. It was delayed, however, from time to time, on his account, and he himself was executed in the meantime. He had raised an army of fifty thousand men to fight against the British, but was suspected of treason, and put to death without even an examination. His name long continued a hissing and a bye-word among the Burmese.

Now, it is amid scenes like these that the mission of a Christian woman may be best understood. To cheer the desponding and dry their tears; to hope when others despair; to brighten faith by the example of her own; to manifest the power of the love of Christ amid trials which might depress or deaden: these were some of the triumphs of grace in the life of Mrs. Judson. The furnace had been heated seven times; but the Son of God was with her there, and she came forth just the more purified and refined—a model of devotedness to Him

"Who wore the plaited thorn with bleeding brow."

But deliverance came at length. Dr. Judson was needed in negotiations now opened between the British and the Burmese Government, and he was soon released, and proceeded on his mission, as a translator and interpreter. During his absence, Mrs. Judson was seized with spotted fever. Reason reeled, and her attendants gathered round her to see her die: they actually concluded that she was dead. She recovered, however; and after her husband's return, there were fresh imprisonments, while rumours of renewed sufferings were rife. The feeble, emaciated, and fever-worn wife could help no longer with her own hand. But she could take hold of the Omnipotent arm, and thus triumphed over a combination of difficulties and sorrows, such as find no parallel, except in those of Job.

Dr. Judson was next sent to the English camp, along with an English officer, to propose terms of peace, and peace was at last proclaimed. Dr. and Mrs. Judson now left for ever that "golden city," which had been to them the scene of so many and such exquisite woes. They were received at the quarters of Sir Archibald Campbell, the British commander, and treated with that distinction which their long sufferings demanded, and their high virtues deserved. Amid their joy, Mrs. Judson tells us, their feelings constantly dictated such expressions as this,—"What shall we render to the Lord for all his benefits?" and her conclusion of the whole matter was,—"Pray for us, that these heavy afflictions may not be in vain; but may be blessed to our spiritual good, and the advancement of Christ's cause among the heathen."

Such is a portion of this woman's history. She had stood up amid perils, such as might have daunted the most heroic. She seemed charmed against insult, even from the brutal. She had won the hearts of high and low. She had even melted some Burmese jailers, branded with the name of "Murderer" on their brow. She had penetrated to the foot of the throne. She had extorted tears from the haughty and ferocious nobles of Ava. She had, above all, known that her fettered husband had carried her babe and begged heathen mothers to suckle it, that it might not die! But now she is free. She finds a home once more at Rangoon; her God becomes a "little sanctuary there," and her sorrows are forgotten in the joy that the cause so dear to her heart is at length to prosper.

There are scenes in Mrs. Judson's agony which have not been described, because this is not a biography. For example: some time after the birth of her child, she carried the wan and wailing little stranger to its father's prison, that he might look upon his daughter. But brutality forbade her to enter, and he had to crawl in chains to the door of the prison to see his little one. We hasten on, however, to the closing scene. After their liberation, Mrs. Judson and her husband resided for some time at Amherst, and prosecuted their labours as before, in the work of winning souls. During his absence at Ava, she died at Amherst, on the 24th of October 1826, when only in her thirty-seventh year. Her sufferings and her sorrows had broken her health; and one of the most intrepid and remarkable women of our times thus died among strangers. A few native Christian women were her sole attendants, and they buried her near the spot where she first landed in Burmah. The greedy grave consumed all her fascinations, and left nothing to her husband and the churches but a sweet recollection of what grace had made her upon earth, and a yet more pleasing conviction of what she is in glory.

Now, on glancing over this brief narrative, some may be disposed to ask, what do we find here that can be reckoned success in life? Blossoms and fruit alike are bitter here. Sorrow crowds upon sorrow, agony follows in the wake of agony, until the body sinks into the grave,—and how is this to be regarded as constituting success?

Was it no honour, then, to be the means of winning souls to the Saviour?

Were those sorrows all in vain, which smoothed the way for other labourers in Burmah, and took possession of it for the Redeemer?

Was it little to have aided in translating the Bible into a new language, and opened the wells of salvation to seven millions of souls?

Mrs. Judson's name now stands among the foremost in the roll of those who have been models of patient endurance for the sake of souls and the truth. She evinced a power of suffering, such as the heroes of battlefields have never displayed; and in all this, we read at once her success and her reward. From the time that truth took possession of her soul, and subdued everything there to God, one thought reigned supreme,—how shall Christ be glorified?—and she who acts with that aim, will assuredly be found a benefactress to man—the soother of sorrow—the helper of joy. True: her own sufferings were intense. One child she lost in consequence of the sufferings to which she was exposed, and that little one has been called a "baby martyr." But the mother was a martyr herself: and if the blood of the martyrs be the seed of the church, the time will come, nay, it has come already, when many who love the Lord Jesus are found in that land where Ann Hasseltine reposes with her child beside her, under the hopia-tree.

Do we love to linger over the memory of men whose goodness made them great? Do we rejoice to see grand results accomplished by instruments whose weakness proves that God must have wielded them? Do we exult when the freedom of souls is made sure, and their Saviour glorified? Then, for all these reasons, this missionary must ever rank among the foremost of the world's benefactors.


Copied for WholesomeWords.org from The Early Choice: A Book for Daughters by W. K. Tweedie. London: T. Nelson and Sons, 1855.

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