The time at length arrived for the release of Mr. Judson from the prison at Oung-pen-la. His attached friend, the Governor of the North Gate of the palace, sent him the first intelligence that a royal order for his release had been given. And accordingly the prisoners were returned to Ava, and Mr. Judson was hurried off to the Burmese camp at Maloun, to act as translator and interpreter in the negotiations with the British government. Exposed for three days to the scorching sun and the chilling dews, and then placed in a small floorless bamboo hovel on the burning sands that border the Irrawaddy, he was so ill of a fever as to be almost helpless. Here he explained the papers that were brought to him, until it brought on insanity and unconsciousness. When he came to himself, he was lying alone in a little room, made by suspending a mat from the projecting eaves of a cook-shop.
The transactions which resulted in a treaty of peace, were too vexatious and numerous to be recounted here. Meanwhile Mrs. Judson was seized with a dangerous fever. Her head was shaved and her feet were covered with blisters. She expected to die, and as she could take no nourishment, she became almost as pale and emaciated as a corpse. Her Burmese neighbors came in to see her expire, and said, "She is dead, and if the king of angels should come in, he could not restore her."
Over and over again were the negotiations broken off. At length, however, the terms of the treaty were fixed. The King promised to pay a large sum of money by way of indemnity, and to cede Arracan and the Tenasserim, two provinces on the sea-coast, to the British government. He was also to restore all the property he had caused to be taken from the missionaries, and permit them to retire in safety to the British provinces. Mr. Judson and Dr. Price had proved indispensable in these negotiations, and the King, having discovered their value, invited them to remain in the capital. Dr. Price considered it his duty to accept the invitation, but Dr. Judson without loss of time prepared to depart.
They are now for a little time gathering up the remainder of their household effects. During the war their house had been levelled to the ground, and all articles of value conveyed out of the city. These were collected, and among them the manuscript of the New Testament, to which we before adverted. The keeper to whose share the old pillow fell, on the day they were thrust into the inner prison, had afterwards exchanged it for another. When, on the morning of his departure for Oung-pen-la, Mr. Judson was again robbed of his clothes and bedding, one of the keepers untied the mat which was used as a cover to the pillow and threw the roll of hard cotton away. Some hours later, the faithful servant of Mr. Judson, stumbling upon this one relic of the vanished captives, carried it to the now empty house of Mr. Judson. The precious manuscript which that cotton concealed now formed a part of those belongings of the family which were to be packed up for the voyage down the Irrawaddy.
"It was on a cool moonlight evening," writes Mrs. Judson, "in the month of March, that, with hearts filled with gratitude to God and overflowing with joy at our prospects, we passed down the Irrawaddy, surrounded by six or eight golden boats and accompanied by all we had on earth... We now, for the first time for more than a year and a half, felt that we were free, and no longer subject to the oppressive yoke of the Burmese. And with what sensations of delight on the next morning did I behold the masts of the steamboat, the sure presage of being within the bounds of civilization." One evening, in later years, several persons were at the mission house repeating anecdotes of what different men in different ages had regarded as the highest type of human enjoyment—that is, enjoyment derived from the conditions and circumstances of life. "Pooh!" said Mr. Judson; "these men were not qualified to judge. I knew of a much higher pleasure than that. What do you think of floating down the Irrawaddy, on a cool moonlight evening, with your wife by your side and your baby in your arms, free—all free? But you, my dear Emily, cannot understand it, either; it needs a twenty-one months' qualification; and I can never regret my twenty-one months of misery, when I recall that one delicious thrill. I think I have had a better appreciation of what heaven may be ever since."
For nearly two long years had the fate of the missionaries at Ava been totally unknown in America. Their relatives and friends, the patrons of the mission and the Christian public, both in England and America, were left to the most painful conjectures. Were they murdered by the Burmans as friends and spies of the British Government? Have they fallen victims to disease and starvation, in a climate unfriendly to Europeans, and in a nation at war with Great Britain? Do they linger in captivity, waiting for us to pay a great ransom for them? To such questions as these, nobody could frame a satisfactory answer.
Let any one read Mrs. Judson's account of these events from beginning to end, as contained in her letter addressed to her brother, dated Rangoon, May 26, 1826, and he cannot fail to understand Mrs. Judson's explanation of her silence. "Sometimes, for a moment or two, my thoughts would glance towards America and my beloved friends there; but 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." Had Mr. Judson attempted to communicate with his fellow missionaries in British India, his letters would probably have been intercepted, and he would inevitably have been executed as a British spy.
When at last the news flew to Europe and America, that Mr. and Mrs. Judson had returned in safety to Rangoon, the whole civilized world gradually shared the general joy; and when a full narrative of their sufferings was published, it called forth the pity and sympathy of all intelligent Christians.
But to return to Mr. and Mrs. Judson. On their arrival at the British camp, they were congratulated by the officers, and shown into a tent which Sir Archibald Campbell had ordered to be pitched near his own. It was larger than his, with the addition of a pleasant veranda.
A few days after they reached the camp, a dinner was given by General Campbell to the Burmese Commissioners, to which Mrs. Judson was invited. The scene, in part, is thus described by Dr. Judson: When the dinner hour arrived, the company marched in couples, to the music of the band, towards the table, led by the General, who walked alone. As they came opposite the tent with the veranda before it, suddenly the music ceased, the whole procession stood still; and, while the wondering Burmans turned their eyes in all directions, the General entered the tent. In a moment he reappeared with a lady on his arm (no stranger to the conscious Commissioners), whom he led to the table and seated at his own right hand. The abashed Commissioners slid into their seats shrinkingly, where they sat as though transfixed by astonishment and fear.
"I fancy these gentlemen must be old acquaintances of yours, Mrs. Judson," remarked General Campbell; "and judging from their appearance, you must have treated them very ill."
Mrs. Judson smiled.
"What is the matter with yonder owner of the pointed beard?" pursued Sir Archibald; "he seems to be seized with an ague fit."
Mrs. Judson, fixing her eyes upon the trembler, answered: "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, while her husband was suffering from fever in the inner prison, she had walked several miles to this man's house to ask a favor. She waited till noon for a hearing, and then her request was roughly refused. As she was turning sorrowfully away, he seized her silk umbrella. It was in vain that she begged he would restore it to her. She represented the danger of walking home at noon without it; and pleaded that if he took that, he would at least furnish her with a paper one to protect her from the scorching heat. The votary of Gautama—the "Light of Asia," the pattern of lovingkindness,—laughed at her, and turned her leanness and paleness into a jest. "It is only stout people," said he, who are in danger of sun-stroke; the sun cannot find such as you!"—and so turned her from his door, to walk several miles in the hottest hours of the day.
With expressions and glances of indignation did the officers listen to this incident. Among those who heard it and witnessed the deathly paleness of the poor Burman, as he suspected that he was the hero of the story, was Henry Havelock, whose military career began in the Burman campaign, and whose connection with British missions in India will hereafter demand our attention.
"I never thought I was over and above vindictive," remarked Mr. Judson, when he told the story, "but really it was one of the richest scenes I ever beheld."
"I presume to say," says Mrs. Judson, "that no persons in the world were ever happier than we were during the fortnight we passed at the English camp. For several days this single idea wholly occupied my mind, that we were out of the power of the Burman government, and once more under the protection of the English. Our feelings continually dictated expressions like this—'What shall we render to the Lord for all his benefits towards us!'"
Upon their return to Rangoon in 1826, after an absence of two years and three months, Mr. and Mrs. Judson found that several of the native converts were dead, and most of the others missing. At the treaty of Yandabo, Mr. Judson's knowledge of the Burman language had made him very serviceable to the British government. He was accordingly invited by Mr. Crawfurd, Commissioner of the East India Company, to accompany him on an excursion to find a suitable site for the new capital of the ceded Burman provinces. They selected a place on the eastern bank of the Salwen, to be called Amherst, in honor of the Governor-General. Mr. Judson fixed on the new capital as a suitable mission station, and removed thither with his family. Meanwhile Mr. Crawfurd, being appointed envoy to Ava, to negotiate a supplementary treaty, requested Mr. Judson to accompany him. For a long time Mr. Judson refused to go. At last he promised to accompany him if he would use every effort to obtain from the King a guaranty, to all his subjects, of the right of religious liberty. Mr. Crawfurd promised to do so. It was expected that the objects of the embassy would be accomplished in about three months, but more than six months wore away before he could return to his missionary work. No provision in favor of religious liberty, or even of toleration, could be secured.
Three months after her husband's departure for Ava, Mrs. Judson was seized with a fever. As her constitution had been enfeebled by previous attacks of severe sickness, she was convinced that this fever would prove fatal. A friend had informed Mr. Judson that she was ill, but not dangerously so. He was therefore astounded when the news reached him at Ava that she had expired at Amherst, on the 24th of October, 1826. On his return to Amherst, in a letter to Mrs. Hasseltine he says: "Amidst the desolations death has made, I take up my pen once more to address the mother of my beloved Ann. I am sitting in the house she built, in the room where she breathed her last, and at the window from which I can see the tree that stands at the head of her grave, and the top of the 'small, rude fence' which they have put up to protect it from incautious intrusion."
Exactly six months later, little Maria also died, and was buried beside her mother under the hope tree—hopia.
"Short grief, short pain, dear babe, were thine;
Now—joys eternal and divine."
Although our missionary's house was now desolate, and he was left to mourn in solitude, he addressed himself anew to his vocation. But his stay at Amherst was brief. Contrary to his expectation, its prosperity was declining; Sir Archibald Campbell having gone twenty-five miles up the Salwen, and made Maulmain the capital of British Burmah. Mr. Judson, therefore, along with Mr. and Mrs. Wade, removed thither; and thenceforward Maulmain became the chief seat of the mission. Here Mr. Judson continued to preach and teach with his usual activity. Schools were established; two houses of worship were opened, and before the close of 1828 more than thirty converts were added to the church. The New Testament was thoroughly revised, and twelve small works in the Burmese were prepared.
But let no one suppose that Mr. Judson hoped by intense toil to cure the wounds that suffering and death had inflicted on his heart. Knowing that communion with God alone would secure the needed balm, he gave his leisure moments to secret prayer, self-denial, and doing good to the sick and the poor; thus reducing to practice the advice he gives in his excellent little tract, "The Three-Fold Cord." When we remember that his health was still suffering from the hardships of his prison life, and that he had been bereft of his admirable wife and only child, we need not wonder that now for a little season he read much the works of the Quietists, and imbibed some of the teachings of Madam Guion, Thomas à Kempis, and others of that class. One morning, as he sought solitary converse with God, he went far away into a thick jungle, overlooked by a forsaken and moss-grown pagoda. Here he found a pathless wild, amidst which he sat down to read his Bible, meditate and pray. The spot was all the more secure from intrusion, because of the belief of the natives that it was a haunt of tigers. Returning next day to his retreat, he found a rude bamboo seat in the place, and over it a canopy made of tile woven branches of the trees. He never knew to whom he was indebted for this, but a native deacon (he afterwards whispered the fact to Mrs. Judson) had so far overcome his fear of tigers, as to go out in the dark to make this hermitage.
Mr. Judson had suffered much from a peculiar dread of death, which took the form of a nervous shrinking from decay and corruption. "This he believed to be the result of pride and self love; and in order to subdue it he had a grave dug, and would sit by the verge of it and look into it, imagining how each feature and limb would appear, days, months and years after it had lain there." In the same spirit of self-denial, he gave to the Missionary Society his whole patrimonial estate, ministered to such persons as were sick of the most revolting diseases, and spent forty days at his hermitage, in prayer and fasting, partaking of no food except a little rice.
In apology for this short period of Mr. Judson's life, (only several months in all), it has been sensibly observed that these extraordinary acts of prayer, mortification and of charity were only temporary, as remedies against certain temptations, and as means of moral improvement; that he never professed to have arrived at the perfection he sought and believed to be attainable. Dr. Wayland, in defense of Mr. Judson, asserts that the latter never advised any one to live in this manner; and yet the doctrines of the "Three-Fold Cord" (written during this season of asceticism), unless qualified and supplemented, are, we fear, liable to lead ignorant but well-meaning persons into dubious if not dangerous paths. We ought to add that Mr. Judson himself, in subsequent life, looked back with trembling on this stage of his pilgrimage.
But this was with him no time of exclusive contemplation. In the midst of these mystic communings, he visited Rangoon again, and made an excursion up the Irrawaddy to Prome. At almost every landing he found groups of natives desirous of tracts, occasionally met with former converts, and was told of the blessing of the Lord on former distributions of tracts and parts of Scriptures. At Prome his labors were at first attended with much success; but after preaching in the zayats about two months, his congregations forsook him. Why this unexpected falling off? The King of Burmah had heard of the commotion caused by the grace and Gospel of God, and sent to the Governor an order for Mr. Judson's expulsion. It appears, however, that this order was intended as a warning to the people, who from that time feared to go to his meetings or have anything to do with him. Certain it is, that the Governor did not dare to execute the royal command. Mr. Judson, however, felt that for the time being the priests of Gautama had prevailed against him, and accordingly he set off to return to Rangoon. As he floated down the Irrawaddy, and while he was yet in sight of the city, he uttered these touching and memorable words: "Farewell to thee, Prome! Willingly would I have spent my last breath in thee and for thee. But thy sons ask me not to stay; and I must preach the gospel to other cities also; for therefore was I sent. Read the five hundred tracts I have left with thee. Pray to the God and Saviour that I have told you of. And if thereafter thou call me, though in the very lowest whisper, and it reach me in the very extremities of this empire, I will joyfully listen and come back to thee."
From The Story of Baptist Missions in Foreign Lands... by G. Winfred Hervey. St. Louis: Chancy R. Barns, 1885. Chapter 16.
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