It is commonly expected that a volume of this kind will close with an estimate of the character and services of him whose life it has recorded. In order to satisfy this expectation, it is, I suppose, necessary for me to attempt a sketch of the character of Dr. Judson. I do it with diffidence, for it is a work in which I am unpracticed, and for which I have but small facilities beyond the record found in the preceding pages. Sensible of the imperfections which must attach to my attempt, I will, nevertheless, present, as clearly as possible, the impression which, at the close of my labor, abides upon my own mind.
The intellectual endowments of Dr. Judson were unquestionably of a very high order. In boyhood he astonished his teachers by the rapidity of his acquisitions. In youth, during his residence at the university, he left behind him every competitor. In early manhood he never seems to have held a second place among his contemporaries; and when, in maturer years, he was called to associate with military commanders, civilians, and diplomatists in India, that cradle of great men, his talents placed him on a level with the ablest of them. I cannot recall the name of any modern missionary, the noble old Schwartz only excepted, who has occupied so great a variety of prominent positions, and has occupied them all, not merely with honor to himself, but in such a manner as to give to others the assurance that he was capable of much greater things.
The intellect of Dr. Judson was eminently clear and discriminating. It instinctively sought for precision in all that it attempted to know. He could not believe unless the reasons of his belief had been thoroughly examined; and hence he was a diligent and earnest student; but when he did believe, it was with his whole heart. His power of acquisition was great, and his memory unusually retentive. His mind, however, was as far as possible from being a mere receptacle, a storehouse of knowledge. It instinctively formed its own judgments on the opinions and reasonings of others, and carried out the truth thus purified to its generalized results. It never allowed knowledge to rest as an end, but made it ever the seed from which other and richer knowledge might be produced. It is, I think, this type of mind, which, having within itself the element of self-expansion, men have generally honored with the name of genius.
The powers of Dr. Judson seem rather to have belonged to the logical than the imaginative. His style is a model of exact and perspicuous English. I do not remember an ambiguous sentence, or one that does not express precisely what he evidently intended in all that he has written. The almost entire absence of figurative language is remarkable, especially in a man of so strong and various impulses. It is probable that his power of imagination was more vigorous in youth, but that his labor in translation, fixing his mind exclusively on absolute distinctness of thought and perfect clearness of expression, tended to disincline him from frequent exercise of the fancy. Yet his friends describe his conversation as unusually graphic and playful, and at times poetic. In his preaching he seems to have been eminently successful, at the same time convincing the intellect by the most condensed argument, arousing the conscience by irresistible appeal, and entrancing the attention by aptness of illustration, and sometimes by splendor of imagery. A few specimens of poetry are found among his papers, which display a talent for versification, sometimes called into action by the humorous, and at other times by the devout or the pathetic. The verses written in the prison at Ava, and addressed to his babe, are exceedingly affecting.
Highly as I estimate the intellectual elements of the character of Dr. Judson, I think that its motive forces,—if I may use the expression,—were yet more remarkable. Of these, the most conspicuous in the early part of his life was the intense love of superiority. He was ever striving to do what others had not done, or could not do. Every where it was his aim, though always by honorable means, to be first. This disposition, instead of being checked, was cultivated by his father. Hence the excessive exultation which both of them felt when he received the first appointment in his class. This element of character, though modified and purified by religion, remained with him to the last. Hence his preference to preach Christ where he had never been named. Hence his desire to give to a nation that had never known of an eternal God their first version of his revealed will. Hence, too, his extreme care in the translation, and his ceaseless labor in revision. No pains seemed to him too great, if they only tended to realize his idea of a perfect version; that is, a version that conveyed, in language clearly intelligible to the people, the precise mind of the Spirit. Thus we see how those tempers of mind, which, if left ungoverned by Christian principle, tend to nothing but strife and selfish aggrandizement, when sanctified and refined by the love of God, work powerfully in promoting the interests of the most elevated Christian benevolence.
But this inherent love of excellence reposed on the basis of indomitable perseverance. When once he had deliberately resolved upon a course of action, it was a part of his nature to pursue it to the death. His spirit clung to it with a grasp that nothing seemed to relax. Difficulties did not discourage him. Obstacles did not embarrass him. Hence, when he observed that the friends of missions began to be disheartened because no converts had been made, after his residence of several years in Rangoon, the idea of failure never once occurred to him. Instead of sympathizing in the despondency of those who were merely giving of their abundance, without making a single personal sacrifice for the mission, he replied by sending back words of lofty cheer, which struck upon the ear of the churches at home like the sound of a trumpet; adding the memorable request to be permitted to labor on in the name of the Lord of Hosts, and then, perhaps, said he, "at the end of some twenty years you may hear of us again."
But it sometimes happens that great talents, even when united with a considerable measure of perseverance, fail from the want of power in other elements of character. Such men have large ideals, and they strive to realize them; but they break down before the course is completed, and arrive at the goal only to confess that they have been distanced. They are unable to concentrate their efforts on a prolonged and agonizing struggle. They never come to the full and unreserved resolution to do or die. Their will fails at the critical point, and they fall back disheartened and beaten in the warfare of life. In this respect, Dr. Judson was peculiarly favored. He was endowed with a will of the very highest order. It was capable of controlling his physical nature, so that his body would do or suffer whatever it was commanded. It subjected the material to the spiritual in a degree very rarely attained. Its power over his spiritual faculties was equally worthy of observation. It held them steadily to their work, without cessation, under every mode of discouragement, and most of all at the very moment when inferior natures would most readily yield to the pressure of difficulty. Nor was this all: it was capable of molding the faculties themselves into any form which the exigency of the case demanded. He could have made himself a mathematician, a philologist, a diplomatist, a statesman, an impassioned orator, and perhaps a poet, by the strenuous exertion of his will. This is, I think, one of the rarest of human endowments, and it is bestowed only upon men who are eminently gifted. It has seemed to me that the highest range of human talent is distinguished, not by the power of doing well any one particular thing, but by the power of doing well any thing which we resolutely determine to do.
To this we may add, that, in common with other men of a similar character, he was capable of relying with great confidence upon the decisions of his own judgment. Satisfied that be was acting from motives with which selfishness did not intermingle, and conscious that with pure intentions he had sought for truth wherever it was within his reach, he came to his conclusions with remarkable distinctness, and he was always ready to carry them into practice at the cost of any personal sacrifice. From this element of his character it resulted that he rarely asked advice, and that he as rarely proffered it. Acting from the dictates of his own judgment, and taking it for granted that other men did, or ought to do the same, he was not forward in obtruding his opinions upon others, though perfectly willing to give to others the benefit of his counsel whenever it was desired. On this account, perhaps, it was frequently said, that he was peculiarly secretive, never revealing his plans or his counsels to his brethren. In how far this was the case I know not; but I can readily conceive that a man who was so prone to act on the decisions of his own judgment would not be forward in soliciting the opinions of others.
Such seem to me to have been some of the prominent elements of Dr. Judson's natural character. When he yielded himself, with his whole heart, as a servant of God, he became a new creature in Christ. He renounced the dominion of selfishness, and became the disciple of Him who went about doing good. The change in his character was marked, and, with Saul, his language at once became, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" The answer to this question was received in the grove at Andover, where, as though an audible voice addressed him, the command reached his inmost soul, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." He "was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision," but at once consecrated himself, with all his powers, to the missionary service.
His piety was in some respects peculiar. The change that was wrought in him was so great that through life he never doubted either of its reality or of his title to a heavenly inheritance. This at all times cheered and animated him in the hours of most depressing loneliness. Never after his conversion did he look upon God as any other than a reconciled Father in Christ. Every thing that happened to him was sent in parental love, and he was content. Thus, emphatically, "the joy of the Lord was his strength."
While this, however, was true of the relation which his religion bore to the outward circumstances of his life, it was by no means true that his inner life was destitute of wars and fightings. He seems from the beginning to have labored, with a rare earnestness, to subdue every thing within him to the obedience of Christ. It was not enough that he abstained from outward transgression, and felt assurance of his adoption into the family of Christ. He labored incessantly to achieve more and more signal victories over sin and selfishness, so that neither love of ease, nor ambition, nor social affection, nor dread of pain, or persecution, or death, could, in any manner, interfere with his love to God, and his cheerful obedience to the divine will. He seemed to have ever in his mind's eye the saying of Christ, "If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother, and wife and children, and brethren and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple;" "And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple." His inner life seems to have witnessed a struggle, in simple earnest, to realize in his moral affections an habitual obedience to this precept. And he carried on this warfare in a remarkably practical manner. If he found that any desire or appetite was usurping an undue place in his affections, he proceeded at once to effect its entire subjugation. If the love of ease and comfort was creeping over him, he would spend weeks in a cabin in the jungle. If friends were becoming so dear as to becloud his consciousness of the love of Christ, he would live for weeks alone. If the dissolution of the body distressed him, he would sit for hours by the side of a grave, in order to overcome it. Nor were his labors unsuccessful. His dearest affections seem to have been subordinated in an uncommon degree to his views of religions duty. When his first wife, whom he loved so intensely, was obliged to return home for a season, he parted with her at Rangoon, leaving her to pursue her voyage alone, because he did not dare to leave the work which God had assigned to him, so long as he was able to perform it. When the second Mrs. Judson was obliged to flee to a northern climate, he would not have accompanied her, much as he longed to see his native land once more, had she been able to go without him. And when she had apparently so far recovered as to be able to proceed without him, they had both resolved to separate, he to return to Maulmain and resume his labor; she, with the children, to pursue the voyage to America. That must surely have been successful and vigorous training which enabled a soul to achieve such moral victories as these, and attain the habit of so athletic Christian virtue.
It may be supposed that the faith of such a man was in a high degree simple and confiding. In this respect I have rarely seen it equalled. It seemed to place him in direct communication with God. It never appeared to him possible, for a moment, that God could fail to do precisely as he had said; and he therefore relied on the divine assurance with a confidence that excluded all wavering. He believed that Burmah was to be converted to Christ, just as much as he believed that Burmah existed. He believed that he had been sent there to preach the gospel, and he as much believed that the Holy Ghost would make his labors, in some way, or at some time, the means of the salvation of the nation, as he believed that there was a Holy Ghost. During his visit to Boston, the late venerable James Loring asked him, "Do you think the prospects bright for the speedy conversion of the heathen?" "As bright," was his prompt reply, "as the promises of God." And this same spirit of unshaken confidence in God was manifested in all the affairs of life. In prayer he asked not as a duty, nor even as a pleasure, but he asked that he might receive. He acted on the assurance that his heavenly Father delighted to bestow upon him whatever was for his best good. It was a common thing for him to ask until he received in his own consciousness an assurance that his requests would be granted. Thus he prayed that he might be useful to the crew of the ship in which he sailed to the Isle of France and to Maulmain; thus he prayed and labored for the conversion of the Jews, and his prayers were, in a remarkable manner, answered. Thus he ever prayed for the early conversion of his children; and it is worthy of remark that, since his death, three of them have, as we hope, become heirs of eternal life.
In treating of his religious character, it would be an omission not to refer to his habitual heavenly mindedness. In his letters, I know of no topic that is so frequently referred to as the nearness of the heavenly glory. If his loved ones died, his consolation was, that they should all so soon meet in paradise. If an untoward event occurred, it was of no great consequence, for soon we should be in heaven, where all such trials would either be forgotten, or where the recollection of them would render our bliss the more intense. Thither his social feelings pointed, and he was ever thinking of the meeting that awaited him with those who with him had fought the good fight, and were now wearing the crown of victory. So habitual were these trains of thought, that a person well acquainted with him remarks, that "meditation on death was his common solace in all the troubles of life." I do not know that the habitual temper of his mind can in any words be so well expressed as in the following lines, which he wrote in pencil on the inner cover of a book that he was using in the compilation of his dictionary:—
"In joy or sorrow, health or pain,
Our course be onward still;
We sow on Burmah's barren plain,
We reap on Zion's hill."
But while I thus speak of his high attainments in Christian character, it is proper to remark, that they were not made without great and long-continued moral effort. The Judson of maturer life was a very different character from the Judson of youth and early manhood. At first, religion had but imperfectly conquered his fiery ambition, his love of precedence, and that confidence in his own opinions which was unbecoming a man of his limited experience. From the imperfection of his character at this period arose his unfortunate difference with the Board of Commissioners, to which I have already referred. He did not obey their instructions in his visit to England, doubtless believing that he was better acquainted with the subject of missions than they. When they justly admonished him, he thought so little of the occurrence, in the joy of accomplished purpose, that for a long time he could recall nothing which indicated any displeasure at the course he had pursued. As he advanced in years and improved in piety, these imperfections were so thoroughly subdued, that, by the testimony of the officers of the Baptist board, they have sent no missionary from this country who has yielded more implicit compliance to all their regulations.
I am aware that when I present the character of Dr. Judson in this light, some abatements on specific grounds will be suggested. I will not pass them over, but will meet them here, lest it should be said that my object has been to write a panegyric, and not a biography. I have heard it said, by way of depreciation, that Dr. Judson was eccentric. As instances of this, his modes of self-mortification above alluded to are mentioned. It is also said that at one time he wore at Rangoon a yellow robe, in apparent imitation of the Burmese priesthood, and that when he, for the first time, appeared before the emperor at Ava, he was arrayed in a white garment, like a surplice. Let us examine this subject carefully.
A man is eccentric who deviates from the ordinary or established course of conduct of those who are around him. In this sense every Christian is bound to be eccentric in his relations to the world which lieth in wickedness. "Ye are a chosen generation, a peculiar people." "Be ye not conformed to the world, but be ye transformed." "Because ye are not of the world, therefore the world hateth you."
Or, again: a Christian who aims at higher attainments in piety, at sterner self-denial, or at more perfect conformity to Christ than his brethren, must be, by so much, eccentric. How often is such eccentricity urged upon the members of the Jewish church by the prophets, and upon professors of religion in the later epistles by the apostles! If this be so, eccentricity is not by necessity either a fault or a failing. It only becomes either when it is assumed for the sake of oddity, or love of singularity, or a desire to attract notice.
Now, in the cases before us, I can see nothing that marks either a weak or a fanatical mind. Abstract from Dr. Judson's self-mortification what properly belongs to a nervous system shattered by nearly two years of horrible and incessant suffering in the death prisons of Ava, and then by a bereavement rendered more intensely painful by these agonizing reminiscences, and what remains but the earnest striving of a resolute soul after perfect victory over every sin of the flesh and of the spirit? What shall we discover that will not find its parallel in the lives of Edwards, Brainerd, Payson, Schwartz and Henry Martyn? It is also the fact that for a short time Dr. Judson wore a robe of the color, though not in the form, of that worn by the Buddhist priesthood, and that he appeared before the emperor in a white garment. But let us consider, in the first place, that he was a pioneer in an untrodden field, where he had no precedents to guide him. To expect that a man who is feeling his way in the dark will make no movement in a wrong direction, is a demand so unreasonable, that simply to mention it is to exhibit its absurdity.
But let us hear Dr. Judson's own account of this matter. He said, in conversation on this subject, that he had reason to doubt if the character of previous missionaries, as public teachers of religion, had ever been known to the Burmans, and specially he believed that Mr. Carey had never been known in this character at Ava. He desired to remove all doubt on this subject, and to make himself to be distinctly recognized as a "religion-propagating teacher." For this purpose he put on in one case a distinctive dress, and at another a garment of the color peculiar to the priesthood. He found, however, no advantage resulting from the experiment; and he at once laid aside every distinction of this kind, never to resume it. The eccentricity in this case is certainly very pardonable.
But it has been said by some persons that Dr. Judson was a manager, accomplishing his purposes by indirect and tortuous measures. A word or two on this subject may not be out of place.
The accusation of management and intrigue is often and very naturally brought against far-seeing men. He who judges by general principles will, of course, anticipate coming events much sooner than his brethren. If he shapes his conduct and forms his plans with reference to what he sees must soon occur, it will be easy to imagine that the occurrences, as they transpire, were the work of his hands and the product of his contrivance. Napoleon has a remark which bears somewhat on this subject. He says that people frequently puzzled themselves to no purpose in endearing to ascertain his plans, and divine the hidden motive for his combinations, always supposing that he had some deep-laid scheme which governed his conduct, when, in fact, he had no plan at all. "I had," said he, "some general principles by which I was guided, some general objects which I desired to accomplish. Whenever I saw any opportunity for advancing them, I availed myself of it in any direction." I have no doubt the same may be said of men in less prominent situations.
But while it is easy to be misunderstood in a matter of this kind, I apply myself to the facts which come within my knowledge. I have read every thing that could be collected of Dr. Judson's writings, both in print and in manuscript. I have never read any record of acts and opinions more distinctly marked by directness of aim and entire simplicity of purpose. I have withheld nothing of any importance which I have found among his papers. The evidence is therefore before the world, and let the world judge of it.
With these elements of character, intellectual and moral, cultivated by internal discipline and external affliction, it might well be anticipated that Dr. Judson's career as a missionary would be worthy of observation. It has been necessary for me, in the preparation of the preceding pages, to consider this subject with attention. The impression which it has made upon me is, I will confess, somewhat unlike that which many men would expect to find in the history of one of the most able and original of modern missionaries. I perceive in his missionary life, from beginning to end, no bold strokes of policy, no train of masterly combinations, nothing that would liken a man to the statesmen and soldiers who have filled the world with their renown; but I behold something far greater—a man of decided ability, and probably capable of doing what soldiers and statesmen have done, planting the standard of the cross on a heathen shore, and esteeming his own wisdom foolishness, meekly laboring precisely as Christ and his apostles had given him an example. Though able to have struck out magnificent schemes of missionary labor, he never suggested one. Though he might have claimed the least laborious position, he always placed himself in the most laborious. Being the senior missionary of the Baptist churches, and by far the most conspicuous, he illustrated the conception he had formed by setting an example which all subsequent missionaries might most profitably follow. Old John Leland used to say, "There are many men little enough to be great—there are few men great enough to be little."
His first effort was, of course, to acquire a knowledge of the Burmese language. In this he was eminently successful. He wrote it and spoke it so much, that, in the later years of his life, he was more at home before an audience in Burman than in English. As soon as he had acquired any competent knowledge of the language, he commenced his labor as a preacher of the gospel. The view which he took of his work was that which had long before been taken by Christ and the apostles. He began by telling every one whom he met, that Christ had died for him, and now offered to him eternal life. He built a zayat by the wayside, and proclaimed these truths to every passer by. No one paid any attention to his message; but Christ had commanded him to preach the gospel to every creature, and therefore he continued preaching. The more discouraging his prospects became, the more earnestly he fasted and prayed for the coming of the Holy Spirit. He did not faint, and in due season he reaped. One and another was spiritually renewed, and thus a church of believers was formed. These he employed, according to their several gifts, in proclaiming the truth; and thus this church embraced within itself the elements of self-extension.
This was his chosen employment, and that which he considered preeminently missionary. Until the disease in his throat laid him aside from out-door labor, he steadfastly continued it, unless interrupted by the express directions of the board. When compelled to leave it for the work of translation, he did it with regret, and always returned to it with alacrity as soon as his circumstances would permit. It is true that early in the history of the mission he translated the Gospels, a few of the Epistles, and wrote one or two tracts in Burman; but he states that he always had hoped that the completion of the translation might fall into other hands. He seems to have believed most fully that the world was to be converted by the simple process of telling man after man "that God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life;" always relying with earnest prayer on the power of the Holy Spirit to make the truth effectual for the regeneration of men. Such was his labor in the zayat and in the jungle; and to the success which attended it the preceding pages bear ample testimony.
It is, however, only stating the truth very imperfectly to speak of Dr. Judson's ability to use the Burman language with remarkable skill. He went vastly farther, and became in that language a most eloquent preacher. Those who knew him only in this country can have, it is said, no conception of his power over a Burmese assembly. The following extract from a letter of Mr. Vinton, on his arrival in Maulmain, is said to convey a correct idea of Dr. Judson's Burman preaching: "The first Sabbath after our arrival, we were privileged to hear the man whose praise is in all our American churches. True, he preached in Burman; but though I did not know the meaning of a single sentence he uttered, still my attention was never more closely riveted on any sermon I ever heard. Were I to fix upon any one characteristic of the preacher which, perhaps, more than any other, rendered his discourse interesting and impressive, I should say it was earnestness of manner. It was impossible for any one to escape the conviction that his whole soul was in the work. Every tone, every look, every sentence, spoke out in the most emphatic language, to tell us that the man was seriously in earnest, and himself believed the truths he uttered. But what contributed not a little to the interest of the occasion, was the appearance of the assembly. Every bearer sat motionless, every eye was fixed immovably upon the preacher, and every countenance seemed to change with every varied expression of sentiment; now beaming forth joy, as though some joyous news from the other world had just reached them, which before had never gladdened their hearts; now depicting a feeling of anxiety, as though their immortal all, or that of their friends, was at stake; and next of deep solemnity, as though standing before their final judge."
A missionary, who knew him intimately, remarks in a private letter, "I fear that no one at home will be able to do him justice, in the biography, on the point of pulpit eloquence. People at home had no opportunity of judging, as Dr. Judson's health was so poor, and moreover his thoughts had so long run in Burman channels, that it required a Burman pulpit in which to exhibit them."
Mrs. Judson gives the following account of the manner in which he prepared for the pulpit: "He used to rise somewhat earlier on Sunday mornings than on other days,—I speak now of the time when he was able to preach only once a day,—and take his usual walk over the hill. He occupied his walking time generally in devotion, and after his return, spent some time in prayer in his study. He would then call me, and we would walk up and down the veranda together until breakfast, occupying in this manner from an hour to an hour and a half. His text was sometimes selected on the previous evening, and sometimes in the morning before he went out; but oftener several texts occurred to him while walking, and the first business on the veranda was to choose between them. Then arose quite an animated discussion, if that can be called a discussion which has the wisdom all on one side. These Sunday morning walks in the veranda were very profitable to me, for there was always matter for a dozen sermons in the suggestions of the hour. He was rather fond of speculation on these occasions, but never introduced any thing of this kind into the pulpit. He did not plan his sermon during the morning walks, but disentangled and sifted the text, making himself familiar with all its bearings, and possible as well as obvious applications. Afterwards the topics chosen were adapted to the congregation before him; and before I understood the language, I used to take great interest in ascertaining, by his manner and the faces of his auditors, the peculiar train of thought which he had followed out. He preached with great fervor and earnestness; but besides this, there was a touching simplicity in the matter and language, which it was long before I could appreciate. His figures, which I understood sooner, were drawn from immediately surrounding objects. Of these, in accordance with eastern taste, he made great use. He often remarked that 'Christ was the model preacher, and that he never preached great sermons.' Whether Dr. Judson preached great sermons or not, his preaching was peculiarly effective there, and I think would have been so any where."
Such was Dr. Judson as a preacher. As to his success as a translator, I have already spoken. I cannot, however, feel satisfied without quoting the following passage from the Calcutta Review; since it so well exhibits the difficulties which were to be encountered in the accomplishment of this great work.
"Some languages, however,—and the Burman is one,—seem to mould themselves with great difficulty to the elimination of thought, in the intermediate stages of a continued chain of close argument. In such languages an argument, or train of reasoning, appears to advance with abrupt steps, the mind being left to trace and fill up their connection. The resulting formula has to be reached, dropping out, as it were, some of the intermediate equations. Let our readers dwell for a moment upon the difficulty, in their own powerful Saxon tongue, of discoursing upon free will, predestination, and many other such subjects, and then endeavor to realize to themselves how infinitely more difficult the attempt must be in a language of monosyllabic formation and structure; its very polysyllables being the roughest possible mosaic of monosyllables, and the genius and construction of the tongue such, that even the simple language of the Gospels—the sentences of which are in general so remarkably plain and free from complication,—is beyond its flexibility, the simplest sentences in the Gospels of Mark or John having to be chopped up and decomposed, in order to adapt them to this peculiar language. Let our readers imagine, if they can, the wonderful command requisite of so awkward an instrument, in order to be enabled to answer an Oo Yan—'How are sin and eternal misery reconcilable with the character of an infinitely holy, wise, and powerful God?' or to meet the subtleties of a Moung Shwa-gnong, arguing on his fundamental doctrine, that divine wisdom, not concentrated in any existing spirit, or embodied in any form, but diffused throughout the universe, and partaken in different degrees by various intelligences, and in a very high degree by the Buddhs, is the true and only God. Yet so completely was Judson master of this very difficult tongue, and of the modes of thought of its people, that he could, by his replies and arguments, impart to an Oo Yan intense satisfaction, and a joy which exhibited itself by the ebullitions natural to a susceptible temperament; and, in the end, could force a subtle Moung Shwa-gnong to yield to the skill of a foreign disputant." [Calcutta Review for December, 1850].
Such were the difficulties to be encountered in the translation of the Scriptures into Burman; and yet so completely were they overcome, that not only the natives read the version with delight, but even Americans have affirmed that they studied it with a clearer understanding, and a greater pleasure, than that in their own vernacular.
Such was Dr. Judson's success in the great work to which he had consecrated his life—the founding of a Burman church, and the translation of the Scriptures into the language of that people. To this he had sacrificed every other pursuit, with a simplicity of purpose which was worthy of an apostle. He abjured English preaching, English reading, English society, and, by devoting every energy to this great purpose, accomplished a work which has few parallel in the history of modern missions. So exclusively did he consider Burmah his field of labor, that he for a long time refused to give religious instruction even to the British soldiers at Maulmain. It was not until they were really seeking the salvation of their soul that he felt at liberty to devote to them any portion of his time. Then he so far deviated from his rule as to receive them at his study for conversation; and he had the pleasure of introducing many of them into the Christian church by baptism. He, however, considered this to be aside from his legitimate work, and relinquished it at the earliest opportunity. He esteemed missionary service to be in its nature peculiar,—unlike the labor of a pastor at home, a teacher, or a general philanthropist; and with this high view he consecrated himself exclusively to it.
From the preceding pages, the views of Dr. Judson respecting the present aspect of the missionary enterprise may be pretty distinctly learned. It may be observed that there were many views which have been gradually gaining favor with which he did not cordially sympathize. "He thought that greater boldness of effort, sustained by a simple trust in God, was demanded of those who direct the missionary enterprise, rather than the study of perfect immunity from danger. It seemed to him that, in the Christian world at large, there was a lack of a proper appreciation of the missionary work as instituted by the Saviour, but that a higher view could be obtained only through the teachings of the Spirit, and was incompatible with a low state of piety. In the conduct of missions there seemed to him too strong a tendency to rely on human contrivances, and to waste time, and strength, and money, on inferior interests—too much whetting of the scythe and building of the granary, while the ground was yet fallow, and the seed lying useless for want of a scatterer. He used to remark that missionaries had forgotten that the earth was to help the woman, and that they kept the woman so long helping the earth, that she could not look after her own children."
These views, however, in no degree affected his appreciation of the glory of the enterprise in which he was engaged. Only let the work go on, he would say, and in time it will rectify itself. He used to speak in a tone of exultation of the wonders that had been accomplished in the midst of weakness and errors—errors that exist in every department of modern missions and under every society, and he seemed to glorify God the more that there was so much to be ashamed of in the conduct of his instruments, never failing to class himself among the most erring of all. When the Spirit of God should come down as on the day of Pentecost, men would not contrive machines, or lay wise plans for extensive school operations, or labor to Anglicize eastern nations, either in habits or language, or gather together in large stations; but they would go forth as the apostles did, and the renovation of the world would follow.
In the social relations of life, the character of Dr. Judson was eminently worthy of imitation. His letters to his family all breathe the spirit of impassioned affection. While he made every personal sacrifice to the work which occupied his whole energies, he was ever ready, at any expense of time and labor, to promote the happiness of his wife and children. In sickness he was their ever-vigilant and tender nurse, and in health their associate and playmate. A lady exceedingly well qualified to form an opinion on this subject, both from her intimate knowledge of Dr. Judson and her familiarity with the best society in India, remarks, respecting his domestic character, as follows: "I have seen something of married life, and I never saw a husband so entirely devoted to a wife as dear Judson. I speak from personal acquaintance. Many are loving enough in their way, who would not sacrifice an hour's ease to relieve a wife of care, or attend her in sickness. Judson would allow nobody but himself to relieve his wife in any way, and I have felt hurt at his refusing my aid, as it looked as though he thought me unequal to the duty."
There was a feature in Dr. Judson's affection as a husband, which was, I think, peculiar. He was, as it is well known, married three times, and no man was ever more tenderly attached to each of his wives. The present affection, however, seemed in no respect to lessen his affection for those for whom he mourned. He ever spoke of those that had gone before with undiminished interest. In one of his letters to his daughter, after saying that he did not believe there existed on earth so happy a family as his, he soon after adds, "My tears frequently fall for her who lies in her lone bed in St. Helena." It was at his suggestion that Mrs. Emily Judson wrote the life of her predecessor. He frequently refers with delight to the time when he, and all those whom he so much loved, shall meet in paradise, no more to part, but to spend an eternity together in the presence of Christ. Those that were once loved were loved to the end; but this did not prevent the bestowment of an equal amount of affection on a successor.
In a letter to Mrs. E. Judson he writes as follows: "Heaven will be brighter to me for thy presence. Thou wilt be with Ann and Sarah. We shall join in the same song of love and praise; and how happy shall we be in beholding each other's faces glow with heavenly rapture, as we drink in the life-giving, joy-inspiring smiles of Him whom we shall all love above all!"
As might be expected, Dr. Judson spent but little of his time in social intercourse, beyond the limits of his own home. He had no time for it, and he considered his work of far too engrossing a nature to allow of it. He was always ready to go abroad to attend a meeting for prayer among the Burmans of his church, or to visit any family in the mission that happened to be in affliction. But beyond this he did not go. Hence he was, I believe, sometimes considered unsocial. When, however, he could alleviate sorrow, or bind up the broken in heart, no one in the mission was more prompt in his attentions, or more acceptable in his sympathy. That this should have been the case, is perfectly in harmony with his character. He felt that he was doing a great work, which allowed no time for trifling or ceremony. To do good to all men, especially to the disciples of Christ, was, however, a part of that work which he above all delighted to accomplish.
His conduct while in this country was governed by the same principles. While he showed himself exceedingly indifferent to what he considered merely visits of ceremony or curiosity, he was ever ready to devote his time and attention to any person whom he could serve by his advice, counsel, or sympathy. Instances of this kind, in any number, might be mentioned, were it desirable; and although in Burmah he avoided English society, whenever it would interfere with the great object of his life, he was always ready to render to the officers of government any service in his power, when, by so doing, he could advance the best interests of the people. Says the writer above alluded to, "We have made no allusion to the very important services which he rendered to the British government, our attention being engaged by other and higher considerations; yet we should fail to convey even a faint sketch of the character and qualities of the man, were we to omit all notice of the aid he afforded, first to Sir Archibald Campbell, afterwards to Mr. Crawfurd, and subsequently to every commissioner on the Tenasserim coast who had occasion to solicit either information or advice. To the last he clung to the hope that, through the instrumentality of our influence and power, Burmah would, sooner or later, be opened as a field for the exertion of missionary labor; and to a commissioner who was leaving Maulmain, and bidding farewell to Judson, his last words were, 'In case of difficulties, or of war, arising between the British government and Burmah, I expect to see you again on this field; and mind, if ever you are sent, and you think I can be of any use to your mission to Ava, if alive I shall be happy to join you, and be of every assistance in my power.' That which had induced him to accompany Crawfurd, and to afford him invaluable aid,—the hope of securing in the treaty concluded with Burmah a proviso favorable to religious toleration,—would, to the close of his career, have led Judson again to come forward as a powerful auxiliary to a diplomatic mission, and to devote his great abilities, and thorough acquaintance with Burmah, its princes and its people, to aid in the conduct of negotiations, which, if successful on the one point he had at heart, would, he felt assured, prove for the enduring advantage of Burmah, and therefore would richly recompense him for the sacrifices which such a journey and occupation must inevitably entail. Other reward, it is needless to add, found no place in his thought. The sum of money presented to him by the British government after Crawfurd's embassy went, every farthing, into the American Baptist mission fund, but swollen in amount by the addition of what constituted the whole of Judson's private property." [ Calcutta Review, Dec., 1850, p. 454].
In person, Dr. Judson was of about the medium height, slenderly built, but compactly knitted together. His complexion was in youth fair; but residence in India had given him the sallow hue common to that climate. His hair, when in this country, was yet of a fine chestnut, with scarcely a trace of gray. The elasticity of his movement indicated a man of thirty, rather than of nearly sixty years of age. His deportment was, in a remarkable degree, quiet and self-possessed, and his manner was pointed out as perfectly well bred, by those who consider the cultivation of social accomplishments the serious business of life. The reviewer alluded to writes on this subject as follows: "A person overtaking Judson in one of his early morning walks, as he strode along the pagoda-capped hills of Maulmain, would have thought the pedestrian before him rather under-sized, and of a build showing no great muscular development; although the pace was good and the step firm, yet there was nothing to indicate great powers of physical endurance, in the somewhat slight and spare frame tramping steadily in front of the observer. The latter would scarcely suppose that he had before him the man who, on the 25th of March, 1826, wrote, 'Through the kind interposition of our heavenly Father, our lives have been preserved in the most imminent danger from the hand of the executioner, and in repeated instances of most alarming illness during my protracted imprisonment of one year and seven months; nine months in three pairs of fetters, two months in five, six months in one, and two months a prisoner at large.' Illness nigh unto death, and three or five pairs of fetters to aid in weighing down the shattered and exhausted frame, seemed a dispensation calculated for the endurance of a far more muscular build. But meet the man, instead of overtaking him, or, better still, see him enter a room and bare his head, and the observer at once caught an eye beaming with intelligence, a countenance full of life and expression. Attention could scarce fail of being riveted on that head and face, which told at once that the spiritual and intellectual formed the man; the physical was wholly subordinate, and must have been borne through its trials by the more essential elements of the individual, by the feu sacre which predominated in his disposition. Nor was this impression weakened by his conversation. Wisdom and piety were, as might be expected in such a man, its general tone; but there was a vivacity pervading it which indicated strong, buoyant, though well, it may be said very severely, disciplined animal spirits. Wit, too, was there, playful, pure, free from malice, and a certain quiet Cervantic humor, full of benignity, would often enliven and illustrate what he had to say on purely temporal affairs. His conversation was thus both very able and remarkably pleasing."
Of his personal habits, Mrs. Judson gives the following account: "His predilection for neatness, uniformity, and order, amounted, indeed, to a passion. Then he had an innate sort of refinement about him, which would subject him to annoyance when a less sensitive person would only be amused—a most inconvenient qualification for a missionary. This passion for order—which I should rather consider an unconquerable love for the beautiful and elegant, studiously perverted—displayed itself rather oddly after the means for its natural gratification and development were cut off. Nobody ever luxuriated more in perfectly spotless linen, though, partly from necessity, and partly because there was a suspicion among his friends that he would wear no other, it was always coarse. The tie of the narrow black ribbon, which he wore instead of a neckcloth, was perfect, and the ribbon itself would not have soiled the purest snow, though it was often limp and rusty from frequent washing. His general dress was always clean, and adjusted with scrupulous exactness, though it often looked as if it might have belonged to some rustic of the last century; being of the plainest material, and in fashion the American idea of what was proper for a missionary, perpetuated in broad caricature by a bungling Bengalee tailor. Most people thought that he dressed oddly from a love of eccentricity; but the truth is, he was not in the least aware of any thing peculiar in his costume, never seeing himself in a mirror larger than his pocket toilet glass. He could see his feet, however; and his shoes never had a spot on their polish, nor the long, white, carefully-gartered stockings a wrinkle, much less a stain. In the construction and arrangement of his unique studying apparatus, which was composed of two long, narrow boxes mounted on a teak table, there was the same mixture of plainness with neatness and order, and, what was rather conspicuous in all his arrangements, a wonderful capacity for convenience. No one ever thought of invading his study corner; for he dusted his books and papers himself, and knew so well where every thing was placed, that he could have laid his hand upon the smallest article, in the darkest night."
[Footnote: One little circumstance in his personal habits is perhaps worth recording, as it may be useful to young men. It was a great wonder to him that men should be willing to suffer inconvenience all their lives, rather than spend half an hour in mastering the simplest art in the world. He made no secret of the fact that, from the time when his mother first fitted him out with a needle book and its accessories, when he went to college, he had been independent of womankind in the matter of tapes and buttons; and he used somewhat boastingly to affirm that he could achieve a patch or darn with lady-like neatness, if circumstances should ever warrant the draught on his time.]
I do not know that I can close these remarks, already I fear too far protracted, more appropriately than by introducing a paragraph from the review of his life and labors, to which I have already been so largely indebted. "He, [Dr. Judson,] from the dawn to the close of his eventful career, could contemplate the millions still under the yoke of Buddhist error, with the hope and assurance of ultimate victory for the cause of truth. Strong in this hope, like a good soldier of the cross, he unfurled his standard on the enemy's ground, and, though in the contest it was at times struck down, yet the standard bearer's heart and courage were proof, and the banner, triumphing in such hands over every struggle, soon rose and floated again in the breath of heaven. We may well say with the Psalmist, 'How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle!' But in this instance, though the mighty are fallen, the weapons of war are not perished. A champion of the cross, and a notable one too, has, indeed, after waging a severe and thirty years' conflict with the powers of darkness, fallen at his post; but he has fallen gloriously, leaving a well-furnished armory to his seconds and successors in the fight—weapons sound of temper, sharp of edge, and gleaming brightly with the light of heaven. He was, indeed, a mighty champion; mighty in word, mighty in thought, mighty in suffering, mighty in the elasticity of an unconquerable spirit; mighty in the entire absence of selfishness, avarice, and of all the meaner passions of the unregenerate soul; mighty in the yearning spirit of love and affection; above all, mighty in real humility, in the knowledge and confession of the natural evil and corruption of his own heart, in the weakness which brings forth strength; mighty in fulfilling the apostolic injunction, 'Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;' mighty in the entire devotion of means, time, strength, and great intellect to his Master, Christ."
Such was the man who is known throughout the East as the Apostle of Burmah...
Copied for WholesomeWords.org from A Memoir of the Life and Labors of the Rev. Adoniram Judson, D.D. by Frances Wayland. Boston: Phillips Sampson, and Company, 1853. Vol. 2.
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