Among the great beginnings of modern Christian progress was the meeting of two obscure men in a shoe-shop in the little village of Moulton, England. Andrew Fuller had stepped in, perhaps, to ask William Carey to fasten a shoebuckle, when, to his astonishment, he saw hanging up against the wall a very large map, of primitive make, consisting of several sheets of paper which Carey had pasted together, and on which he had traced with a pen, the boundaries of all the nations of the known world, and had entered on the vacant spaces such items as he had found in his reading relative to their religion and their population.
There sat young Carey on his bench at work, with a book placed before him. In person he is a man of small pattern, with a head prematurely bald. He is bashful and awkward, of few words; very much of a silent reader. There he sat, although he then knew it not, in training for great service, on the other side of the terraqueous globe, among millions of his fellow worms, "blind and in love with darkness" and led by blind guides, who, in their pride and tyranny, had raised themselves three or four grades or "castes" above them. There sat the little rustic cordwainer, learning, by all sorts of humiliation, to go down into full sympathy with every sad, hard-working and scantily-fed Hindu "chuckler"—which is by interpretation, shoemaker, or, if you please, maker of sandals.
And who is this Andrew Fuller? A man of commanding presence, massive head and large eyes, over which heavy brows hang, like grape-vines over two cottage windows. He is now only a very obscure Baptist pastor, but destined to be one of the greatest of theologians, the morning-star of modern Calvinism, the easy vanquisher of the great Unitarian philosopher Priestly, the exploder of the eloquent Robert Hall's beautiful theory of overfree Communion, the real author of the principal subject-matter of Chalmers' grandiloquent discourses on Astronomy. And yet this man of great thoughts has room in his soul for a world-embracing benevolence. It needs but a live coal to set all ablaze; and young Carey is to be the tongs to take it from the altar of God and convey it to his lips. The bashful little shoemaker is even now collecting matter for a pamphlet on Missions, in which, among other things, he is to prove that it is not necessary for the Two Witnesses in Revelation to be slain before the heathen can be converted...
It was likewise to the credit of this Christian shoemaker that he had a great liking for flowers, and a little garden of his own. More than once was he compelled to remove his "kit and boodle" from village to village: but no sooner had he established his bench again than he would go out in search of some little patch of ground, covered with weeds and briers, where he would dig early and late, until in a few months, with the help of the Almighty, he would show you a small section of Eden coming back again. It was while thus at work on a marshy piece of land that he caught the fever which caused the hair to fall off the top of his head. His lamentation was that whenever he had got a garden into a high state of cultivation, he was generally called to leave it.
But this busy and much-enduring young man was already at work in a garden of another description. At this time he was laboring as pastor of a little Baptist church at Moulton, receiving a salary not exceeding seventy-five dollars a year. With a wife and two children, he and his family were compelled to live for a great while together without tasting meat, and of vegetable food they often had but a scanty supply.
But it is high time to go back and learn something about the younger years of this shoemaker, pastor and explorer of the natural and religious condition of the human family. William Carey was born at Paulerspury, a few miles from Northampton, August 17, 1761. His father, being parish school master, gave his eldest child a better training, in the rudiments of knowledge than most other children of his age enjoyed. He was always bending over books, during school hours and after. He liked exceedingly books of science, history and voyages. He was disgusted with novels and plays, but found amusement in romances and the Pilgrim's Progress. While yet a boy, he was fond of studying scientifically flowers, insects and birds. Such was his manifest love of knowledge while young, that a sensible neighbor said of him that were William to live ever so long, he would never cease to be a learner, and would always be in pursuit of something farther. At the age of fourteen he was bound apprentice to a shoemaker. The exact time of his conversion is not known.
We follow him from Hackelton to Olney, where we now find him, being of age and without a penny in his pocket, attending a Baptist Association. He fasts all day because he cannot purchase a dinner, and at night receives the gift of a glass of wine. Dr. Ryland baptized him in the river Nen, not far from Dr. Doddridge's meeting-house, at Northampton, October 5, 1783; little thinking what the poor journeyman shoemaker was yet to be, to dare and to do. When first asked to preach, he complied "because," said he "I had not a sufficient degree of confidence to refuse." In August, 1787, he was ordained pastor of the Baptist Church at Moulton.
At the time of Mr. Fuller's calling at his shop, Mr. Carey was preparing a pamphlet, which was afterwards entitled, "An Inquiry into the Obligation of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens." He always sat at the bench with a book under his eye, and his compassion for men benighted was first awakened by the reading of the voyages of Captain Cook. After composing his pamphlet, Mr. Carey found that he had not the money necessary to print it. A good deacon, incidentally discovering that he had written the "An Inquiry," and had not the means to publish it, cheerfully contributed ten pounds (about fifty dollars), and in the following year the now scarce production came into the Christian world.
At the Association held at Nottingham, in May, 1792, Mr. Carey preached a sermon founded on Isaiah 54:2-3. He took up the spirit of the passage in two exhortations, namely, "EXPECT GREAT THINGS FROM GOD; ATTEMPT GREAT THINGS FOR GOD." Speaking of the effect of this sermon, Dr. Ryland says: "If all the people had lifted up their voice and wept, as the children of Israel did at Bochim (Judges 2), I should not have wondered at the effect; it would have only seemed proportionate to the cause; so clearly did he prove the criminality of our supineness in the cause of God." The result was that it was resolved to prepare a plan, to be laid before the next meeting, for forming a "Baptist Society for propagating the Gospel among the Heathens." And accordingly, at the ministers' meeting at Kettering, October 2, 1792, the society was organized and subscriptions made, amounting in all to £13: 2s: 6d—a memorable sum of money, which we shall never hear the last of!
From The Story of Baptist Missions in Foreign Lands... by G. Winfred Hervey. St. Louis: Chancy R. Barns, 1885.
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