Wholesome Words Home
Missionary Biographies

The Pioneer's Farewell

by J. Mervin Hall

Adoniram JudsonFamous Missionary Arrives!
Doctor Judson in Boston!
Churches Can't Hold Throngs!

With such phrases as these the newspapers reported the arrival of the pioneer in his native land, and his triumphal progress through the country. And nobody was astonished at this reception but Mr. Judson himself.

When the ship was entering the harbor he was wondering anxiously, "Where can I find a lodging-place for myself and the children?" But the moment his arrival was known the doors of hundreds of homes swung wide to welcome him and to comfort and care for his children.

In fact, Mr. Judson hardly knew how to act under the tremendous enthusiasm which his visit to the United States aroused. "Once I was present," said a gentleman, where a great concourse of people assembled to greet Mr. Judson. One of the speakers addressed him in words of eloquent praise; but as he continued Mr. Judson's head sank lower and lower until his chin seemed to touch his breast."

Again, he had so completely adapted himself to Burma that coming home was in some respects like going to a foreign country. The whole railway system had come into existence since he sailed on the "Caravan." One day he entered a train at Worcester, and had just taken his seat, when the newsboy came along.

"Paper, sir?"

"Yes, thank you," said the missionary, and he took a paper and calmly began to read.

The newsboy waited—and waited, and began to think unutterable things about such a customer. There was a lady in the same seat with Mr. Judson, and at last she spoke:

"The boy expects to be paid for his paper."

Mr. Judson started up in surprise. Why—yes, yes," he stammered; "I have been distributing papers free so long in Burma that I had no idea the boy was expecting any pay."

He even went to extremes in sinking himself out of sight for Burma's sake. He wrote to the Board before he came home that they mustn't expect him to make speeches, because he had practically lost the speaking use of English. "When I crossed the river," he said, "I burned my ships. For thirty-two years I have scarcely entered an English pulpit or made a speech in that language." His increasing throat trouble too made it impossible for him to speak very much.

Still, he did appear before many great congregations, and spoke when he could. There was a thrilling scene at the Bowdoin Square Church, in Boston, two days after his arrival. Doctor Sharp welcomed him, and then Mr. Judson rose to reply. But he could not be heard a few feet from where he stood; the glorious voice that had rung out among the pagodas of Burma was almost silenced.

Doctor Hague stood by the missionary's side and repeated what he said to the multitude, and then went on with a speech of his own.

Suddenly he was interrupted. A man pressed through the crowded aisles, ascended the pulpit, and he and Mr. Judson embraced each other with tears of affection, and there were tears in the eyes of many others as they looked on the scene. For this was Samuel Nott, one of the five young men ordained at Salem thirty-three years before. Newell, Rice, and Hall were dead; Nott had come home because of ill health; and the only one of the five still active in missionary work was Judson—after all his tortures and sufferings.

Another thrilling scene was at the Triennial Convention—the convention that was organized in response to Judson's trumpet call. It was held at New York, November 19, 1845. In the presence of the vast throng Doctor Cone took the missionary by the hand and led him to the platform to introduce him to the president, Doctor Wayland.

The effect upon the multitude was overwhelming. They could not restrain their emotions, for they saw more than the pale, worn missionary; around him they beheld the prison scenes at Ava and Aungbinle; beside him they saw those beautiful, devoted women, who gave their lives joyfully that they might be fellow servants of Christ with him.

At this convention there was some discussion about giving up the Burman mission in Arracan. This was too much for Judson. He sprang up, and for a moment the splendid voice rang out as of old:

"I must protest against the abandonment of the Arracan Mission!"

Then his speech sank to a whisper again; but the words were mighty even though they had to be repeated to the audience by the lips of Doctor Cone:

"If the convention thinks my services can be dispensed with in finishing the dictionary, I will go immediately to Arracan; or I will go there after the dictionary is finished, if God spares my life, and labor there, and die, and be buried there."

The convention was stirred to its depths, and the Arracan Mission was saved.

It was the same in the South as in the North. "We have long and fervently wished to see your face," said Doctor Jeter in welcoming him to a great meeting at Richmond, in February, 1846. "Welcome, thrice welcome are you, my brother, to our city, our churches, our hearts. I speak as a representative of Southern Baptists. We love you for the truth's sake, and for your labors in the cause of Christ. We honor you as the father of American missions." He wished to go farther south, but his strength would not permit.

One thing that Mr. Judson wished to do while in America was to make arrangements for the preparation of a life of Mrs. Sarah B. Judson. A life of Ann Judson had been published, and was eagerly read by thousands.

For this purpose he was introduced to Miss Emily Chubbuck, a brilliant and popular writer, who used the pen-name of Fanny Forester. This acquaintance led to the marriage of Mr. Judson and Miss Chubbuck. June 2, 1846.

Mrs. Emily Judson was only a few years in the mission field, but there is a special reason why all who love and honor the memory of Adoniram Judson must be very grateful to her. He went to extremes in belittling his experiences and achievements, and in destroying all but the most general accounts of them. But he often talked with Emily about the past, and she made notes and recorded incidents that without her help would have remained unknown. One little passage from her writings shows why it was that those who were nearest to Mr. Judson had such a deep affection for him: "He was always planning little surprises for family and neighbors, and kept up through his married life those little lover-like attentions which I believe husbands are apt to forget. There was always a kind of romance about him. If he went out before I was awake in the morning, very likely some pretty message was pinned to my mosquito-curtain. And often when he sat at his study table, some droll, tender, or encouraging message was constantly finding its way to me on a scrap of paper."

And now farewells must be spoken again, to his children, to his sister Abby at Plymouth, to many dear friends everywhere. One of the most touching incidents was his visit to the Tabernacle Church, in Salem, where he had been ordained. Not many years ago there was an elderly man in Salem who remembered that scene. He said:

"I was a boy about sixteen years old when Mr. Judson visited America, and went to Sunday-school in the Tabernacle Church. One day, during the session of the school Mr. Judson came into the room, went to the old Deacons' Seat, where he sat during the ordination in 1812, and remained quietly there for some time. I can remember just how he looked." That's it—there was something about the personality of Judson that made a deep impression on every one who met him.

The missionary party sailed from Boston July 11, 1846. and where do you suppose Judson intended to finish up his work as a missionary?

Back in Rangoon!

Somehow he couldn't seem to give up the idea of establishing a successful mission at Rangoon, and they set up housekeeping there in "Bat Castle," February 15, 1847, coming by way of Moulmein, and bringing the two little boys of Mr. Judson who had been left there.

"Bat Castle" was a big brick house which Mr. Judson hired, and many of the rooms were full of bats. "We have had a grand bat hunt yesterday and to-day," he wrote; "bagged two hundred and fifty, and calculate to make up a round thousand before we have done. In the upper story of this den they flare up through the night with a vengeance, and the sound of their wings is as the sound of many waters, yea, as the sound of many waters; so that sleep departs from our eyes and slumber from our eyelids."

There was illness too in "Bat Castle," and often it was hard to get nourishing food, especially during the Buddhistic Wah, or Lent, which lasts from July to October. One day Mr. Judson said to the Burman purveyor:

"You must contrive to get something the mama can eat; she will starve to death."

"What shall I get?"


Well, there was a capital dinner, but they couldn't find out what it was. Cook said he didn't know—but he grinned a horrible grin. In the evening the bazaar man was called and questioned,

"What did we have for dinner to-day?"

"Were they good?"


Then came an explosion of laughter from the bazaar man, in which the cook joined."

"Now, tell me," demanded the master, "what were they?"


Thus, making light of the seamy side of life, Mr. and Mrs. Judson toiled on. Mrs. Judson learning the language and finishing her life of Mrs. Sarah B. Judson.

But Rangoon was still in Burmese territory, and the government did all it could to hinder and distress the mission, and after a year and a half of toil and suffering there, Mr. Judson was compelled to return to Moulmein, where until his last sickness he worked steadily on the dictionary.

The beginning of the end was in November, 1849. In caring at night for one of the children he caught cold, and the disease which had affected his throat for so many years fastened upon his lungs, and he failed very rapidly.

Then the sea called him once more—and held him. In all his illnesses the ocean breezes had never failed to give him relief, and he was never so happy as when upon the sea. It was hard to leave his wife and children, but there was no other way, and his weeping disciples carried him aboard the French bark "Aristide Marie," April 3, 1850.

Mr. Ranney of the Moulmein Mission went with him to care for him. But the time had come when the spirit of the great missionary was to be set free from his worn-out body. The end came on April 12, 1850. "His death," said Mr. Ranney. "was like falling asleep. A gentle pressure of the hand, growing more and more feeble as life waned, showed the peacefulness of the spirit about to take its flight."

Now the ship was far out at sea, and there must the burial be. A plank coffin was made and heavily weighted. At eight o'clock in the evening the crew assembled, the larboard port was opened, and in perfect silence, broken only by the command of the captain, the body of the Pioneer of Burma was committed to the deep.

The pioneer's alert figure disappeared from human sight forever. His clarion voice will never again waken the echoes among the pagodas of Pagan or Mandalay, nor call out from the wayside, "Ho, every one that thirsteth! Come ye to the waters!"

Yet listen!

It is night in a village among the Burman mountains. The dark summits loom in the distance as the flaring lamps light up a scene in the center of the town. A fine-looking young Karen stands before a group of boys and girls and young people, and around them are gathered, watching, most of the people of the village.

The young evangelist lifts his hand. "Ready; sing!"

At the wave of his hand the sweet, clear young voices break forth:

I sing because I'm happy,
I sing because I'm free!

"Good ! Now, be sure you sing it like that next week when the people are here at the Association. Now, all together, the Psalm!"

And where the name of the true God was so long unknown, out into the night rolls in full volume:

"The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein."

This is Th'ra Soh-Yur, the twentieth-century successor of Ko Tha Byu, for whom the pioneer toiled so earnestly. He has been in the village less than a month; yet the people have already built him a chapel, and the children have learned to sing and repeat many passages from the Bible. Is it not the pioneer's voice yet speaking?

The scene changes to one of the larger towns. Who are these that come from the rice-fields, the valleys, the rivers, the forests, and the mountains? They come in throngs—missionaries and native Christians—to the All-Burma Convention. Missionaries are there, successors to the pioneer, who labor at such distant stations that they have never met before, though they have been in Burma for years. And native Christians—Burmans, Karens, Chins, Shans, Talains. Kachins—all are there. Six days of meetings! How eagerly they talk about the things of the kingdom! How gloriously they sing, in many languages, all blended into one hymn of praise, "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name!" What a marvelous blossoming out of that first prayer-meeting, when there were present the pioneer and the first two Burman converts.

Once more. In the homeland now. Down at the wharf, to watch the sailing of a ship.

No, not the "Caravan," but a big ocean liner, the twentieth-century successor of the "Caravan." On her deck, among the hundreds of passengers, there is a group of missionaries. Some of them are veterans, returning again to the front after a furlough. Many of them are young, almost as young as Adoniram and Ann Judson. They are going out for the first time, and some of them are going to Burma. They are young people of today, but in their eyes is the look that tells that, like the pioneer, they have "farther to go than Boston."

Slowly, surely, the great ship moves. From the throng upon the wharf rises the voice of song, "God be with You till We Meet Again." The ship that towered so grandly grows smaller and smaller in the distance, till it is lost in the multitude of other craft. But the mighty, far-sounding sea. that received to itself the weary frame of the pioneer, shall bear onward the ship to its destination. And as the years go on, another and another shall hear the call, and until the churches of Jesus shall supplant the idolatrous monuments, and the chanting of the devotees of Boodh [Buddha] shall die away before the Christian hymns of praise, there shall not fail in Burma devoted successors to Judson the Pioneer.

From Judson the Pioneer by J. Mervin Hall. Philadelphia, Boston: American Baptist Publication Society, 1913. Chapter 15.

>> More Adoniram Judson

about | contact us | terms of use | store

©1996-2023 WholesomeWords.org
"...to the glory of God."