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The Growth of the Carey Mission

from The Story of Baptist Missions... Chapt. 3 by G. Winfred Hervey
Success of Carey's Preaching at Serampore—Baptism of the First Hindu, Krisha Pal—Insanity and Death of Dr. Thomas—The Attitude of the East India Company—The Doubtful Course of Claudius Buchanan—The Relations of the Danish Government to the Mission—John Newton's Faith in Carey—Carey appointed Professor of Sanskrit and Bengali in the College of Fort William—Translation of Bengali Bible Completed—The sending out of Missionaries in American Ships—The Vellore Massacre—Captain Weekes, of Philadelphia, brings out Two New Missionaries—Controversies in England—Sydney Smith and Robert Southey.

William CareyThe first year's work of the mission at Serampore was marked by cheering success. Mr. Carey began to preach five or six sermons a week to the natives, besides a Sunday Mission service for Europeans. On Sunday he had a very mixed congregation, consisting of English, Danes, Norwegians, Americans, Armenians, a Greek and a Malabar. His two sons, Felix and William, the one fifteen and the other thirteen years of age, were among the fruits of this year's prayers and exertions.

On the 29th of December he had the great joy of "desecrating" the Ganges by baptizing the first Hindu, Krishna, and his own son Felix. Three or four other candidates were ready; but some circumstances delayed their baptism. They were baptized about one o'clock, just after the English service, in the river in front of the Mission House. The Governor and a considerable number of Europeans were present. Poor Dr. Thomas was permitted to witness the scene.—He had been insane for a week, and was now a confirmed lunatic. He had before been occasionally afflicted with mental disease, but this attack was, as Mr. Carey thought, hastened by the joy he experienced in prospect of seeing the baptism of the first Hindu convert, Krishna, or rather Krishna Pal. He was soon set at liberty, but his health was much broken, and he died a few months after.

The baptism of the first Hindu caused great excitement among the natives. He had broken caste, and was imprisoned because of his love for his Redeemer. Krishna Pal lived to preach the Gospel for more than twenty years, with great simplicity, meekness and acceptation.

It was also in the course of the present year that Mr. Carey and his co-laborers gained some new assurances that no opposition would be made by the Governor-General to the work of the mission. Although the missionaries were under the protection of the Danish Government, yet they were still British subjects, and the issues of the press at Serampore would be circulated throughout British India. One day, as Mr. Carey was leaving the house of a friend in Calcutta, he met the Rev. Claudius Buchanan, since so celebrated, and had a pleasant talk with him about the Governor-General's opinions respecting the mission. It was three years since they had met. Mr. Buchanan assured him that he would be perfectly safe in Calcutta, and might have preached anywhere in the town if he had not proposed to assemble a congregation before the Government House. He said that the Marquis of Wellesley, when he first heard of the printing-press at Serampore, supposed that it was the work of some wild Democrat, a refugee from Calcutta, who had got protection under the Danish Government; but now that the Governor-General understood the design of the mission, he was perfectly well satisfied with it. How far this language could be trusted, Mr. Carey did not then know. But facts since brought to light evince that the Marquis of Wellesley, or some of his friends, had imposed on the credulity of Mr. Buchanan, while the latter had, two or three years before, tried to use his influence in England to the prejudice of Mr. Carey and his fellow-laborers. Thus, from a lately-published Memoir of Rev. John Newton, we learn that Mr. Buchanan had written to Mr. Newton, expressing himself slightingly of the Baptist Mission. This grieved Mr. Newton, who wrote a kind but faithful reply, telling him, in substance, that it was easy for him, in his superior and favored position, to look down upon the devoted men who were bearing the burden and heat of the day, and adding: "I do not look for miracles, but if God were to work one in our day, I would not wonder if it were in favor of Mr. Carey.'' Ultimately, however, the Rev. Dr. Buchanan gave the Baptist missionary his cordial approval, and rendered him very considerable service.

In 1801 Carey was appointed Professor of Sanskrit and Bengali in the new College of Fort William, founded by the then Governor-General, and brother of the famous Duke of Wellington. When he was proposed for the office, Wellesley asked if he were well affected to the State. In undertaking the difficult duties of his chair, he was obliged to prepare his own elementary grammar, and vocabularies for instruction in the Sanskrit and Bengali. The Rev. Claudius Buchanan was at the same time appointed classical tutor. During the same year he saw the whole Bible translated into Bengali, and all the New Testament printed, and the first volume of the Old Testament almost ready to appear. Such was the success of the printing-house that it was almost able to support itself.

About two years later, Carey wrote: "The Lord still smiles upon us. I, some time ago, baptized three natives and my son William. Our number of baptized natives is now twenty-five, and the whole number of church members thirty-nine." In 1805 he writes: "This year God has added to us thirty persons by baptism—twenty-seven of the natives and three Europeans. Several of the natives have gifts for preaching the Gospel." The same year he published the grammar of the Mahratta language and opened a mission church in the Lall bazaar at Calcutta.

The opening of this chapel, and the sending of Baptist missionaries to preach in it, aroused anew the hostility of the Government. What ended to deepen the suspicions of the Government was the practice of sending out the English Baptist missionaries in American ships. As early as 1800, Mr. Carey made the acquaintance of Captain Hague, of the ship Amelia, of New York, and in 1803, John Chamberlain, afterward a Baptist missionary of no small distinction, went out to India by way of America. The Marquis of Wellesley winked at these evasions of the rules of the East India Company, but during his absence in England, while Sir George Barlow was in temporary authority, two British missionaries, Chater and Robinson, arrived in an American ship, the Benjamin Franklin, commanded by Captain Weekes, of Philadelphia. They were at first ordered to return, but through the intercession of Mr. Carey they were permitted to settle at Serampore. The Vellore mutiny had just spread general alarm in British India; and hence similar orders were sent out, based on the pretence that this mutiny of the native troops was in part occasioned by attempts to proselyte the Hindus. Dr. Carey and the other Baptist Missionaries were not to preach to the natives nor suffer the Hindu converts to persuade their countrymen to embrace the religion of Christ. Through the auguments of Dr. Carey, the second order was never fully carried into execution.

In no long time tidings of these acts of intolerance went to England, and very lively discussions followed in the Court of Directors, in the Court of Proprietors and in the British Parliament. Meanwhile combats of pamphlets took place, and finally these pamphlets were made the occasion of articles in the leading Reviews. The article by Sydney Smith, in the Edinburgh Review for April, 1808, is notorious. In this, the witty Prebendary of St. Paul's holds up to ridicule and contempt Mr. Carey and his fellow Baptist missionaries, through thirty long pages. On the other hand, the poet Robert Southey, though a zealous Churchman, came to the defence of Carey, Ward and Marshman in the London Quarterly Review for February, 1809. A few of his sentences are worthy of being quoted once more: "These low-born and low-bred mechanics, as they are called, have translated the whole Bible into Bengali, and have by this time printed it. They are printing the New Testament in the Sanskrit, the Orissa, Mahratta, Hindustani and Guzarat; they are translating it into Persic, Telinga, Karnata, Chinese, the language of the Sikhs and of the Burmans: and with four of these languages they are going on with the Bible. Extraordinary as this is, it will appear more so, when it is remembered that of these men, one was originally a shoemaker, another a printer at Hull, and the third the master of a charity school at Bristol. Only fourteen years have elapsed since Thomas and Carey set foot in India; in fourteen years these low-born and low-bred mechanics have done more towards spreading the knowledge of the Scriptures among the heathen, than has been accomplished by all the world besides."


Copied for WholesomeWords.org from The Story of Baptist Missions in Foreign Lands... by G. Winfred Hervey. St. Louis: Chancy R. Barns, 1885.

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