Adoniram Judson, the renowned missionary to India, Burma, etc., has an interesting story.
At the age of sixteen he formed an intimacy with a young man, E—, a free-thinker, engaged in amusements of a questionable kind; and before deciding on his future course in life, left home with the intention of making a tour through some of the northern states of his native land [United States]. Before setting out he had told his father of his infidel sentiments, and had been severely condemned by him.
His father's arguments he could repel, but his mother's tears and warnings, appealing to a nature, though proud, still tender and susceptible, made an impression which it was impossible to shake off.
"I am in no danger," he thought to himself. "I am only seeing the world — the dark side of it, as well as the bright; and I have too much self-respect to do anything mean or vicious."
Happily for Judson, at this critical period he stopped at a country inn. The landlord mentioned, as he lighted him to his room, that he had been obliged to place him next door to a young man who was exceedingly ill, probably in a dying state, but he hoped that it would occasion him no uneasiness. Judson assured him that, beyond pity for the poor sick man, he should have no feeling whatever, and that now, having heard of the circumstance, his pity would not, of course, be increased by the nearness of the object.
But it was, nevertheless, a very restless night. Sounds came from the sick chamber — sometimes the movements of the watchers, sometimes the groans of the sufferer; but it was not these which disturbed him. He thought of what the landlord had said — the stranger was probably in a dying state; and was he prepared? Alone, and in the dead of night, he felt a blush of shame steal over him at the question, for it proved the shallowness of his philosophy. What would the clear minded intellectual, witty E— (the talented, but deistical young man alluded to before) say to such weakness? But still his thoughts would revert to the sick man. Was he a Christian, calm and strong in the hope of a glorious immortality, or was he shuddering upon the brink of a dark, unknown future?
"Perhaps he was a 'free-thinker,' educated by Christian parents and prayed over by a Christian mother. The landlord had described him as a young man; and in imagination he was forced to place himself upon the dying bed, though he strove with all his might against it. As soon as he had risen he went in search of the landlord, and inquired for his fellow-lodger. 'He is dead,' was the reply. 'Dead!' 'Yes, he is gone, poor fellow!' 'Do you know who he was?' 'Oh, yes; it was a young man from Providence College — a very fine fellow, his name was E—.'"
Judson was completely stunned — it was his atheistic friend! After hours had passed, he knew not how, he attempted to pursue his journey. But one single thought occupied his mind; and the words, "Dead!" "Lost!" "Lost!" were continually ringing in his ears. He knew the religion of the Bible to be true; he felt its truth, and he was in despair. In this state of mind he resolved to abandon his scheme of traveling, and at once turned his horse's head towards Plymouth.
From that hour his life, outwardly and inwardly, became changed. All his plans for the future were reversed. The dreams of literary distinction were renounced, and the one great question which he put to himself now was, "How shall I so order my future being as best to please God?"
The tale of his hardships, shipwrecks, imprisonments, and persecutions would make angels weep. Yet he murmured not. He translated the whole Bible into Burmese. He was buried at sea in 1850.
From Twice-Born Men: True Conversion Records of 100 Well-Known Men in All Ranks of Life compiled by Hy. Pickering. London: Pickering & Inglis, [193-?]
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