Inspiration From The Life Of Adoniram Judson

January 31, 2013

Inspiration From The Life Of Adoniram Judson

            It’s inspiring to read of men who did a great work for God.  We can learn from them and be motivated to follow their example.  There is much that we can learn from Adoniram Judson.  This is a brief sketch of his life.

He was born the 8th of August 1788.  His father was a pastor of a congregational church.  His parents and others noted that he had a sharp mind and that he was a good student.  He graduated from Brown University in Massachusetts when he was 19 years old.  After that he took a job as a teacher for one year.  In spite of his good upbringing, he was an agnostic when he graduated from the university.  An agnostic is one who says “You can’t know anything for certain.  Once he was brought under conviction by a sermon his uncle preached, but later he forgot about it.  His godly parents were devastated when he told them that he had become an agnostic.

When he was 21 years old he stopped to spend the night at an inn.  He was told that there was only one room available and that he might hear a disturbance, because a young man was dying in the room next door.  He took the room anyhow, but he couldn’t sleep because of the screams of the dying man.  He thought some about going over to offer consolation to the poor man, but then he thought, “What consolation can I, an agnostic, give to a dying man?”  Along towards morning the screaming stopped and he was able to sleep two or three hours.  The next morning he was told that the man had died.  On inquiring about who he was, he learned that he had been his roommate at the university.  He knew that he also was also an agnostic.  Adoniram thought, “If that’s the way an agnostic dies, then I need Christ.”  After that he applied for enrollment in a seminary to study for the ministry.  He was accepted under observation, because he wasn’t sure of his salvation.  Six months later he was converted.

While he was in seminary he read a little book entitled “The Star in the West.” The book left him thinking seriously about being a missionary.  He yielded himself to God to be a foreign missionary if that was his will.  He couldn’t find any other students with similar interests at the seminary.  Three months later, however, three students enrolled who were interested in being missionaries.  They covenanted together to pray about the possibility of going to India as missionaries.  One of those men was a man by the name of Luther Rice.  He later served with Adoniram in India.

Adoniram learned of a mission board in England.  When he went there he was well received because of his eloquence.  Adoniram, however, wasn’t in agreement with the mission board, so he returned to the States.

Shortly after that he married his first wife, Ann Hassaltine.  Shortly after their marriage they left on a ship to go to India accompanied by Luther Rice.  They went out under a mission board supported by congregational churches.

In route to India Adoniram began thinking about a problem they would face when they arrived in India.  They planned to make the acquaintance of William Carey when they arrived.  He knew that Carey was a Baptist.  He knew they would not be in agreement about baptism and he thought he better study the Bible on the subject  so he could defend his beliefs.  The more he studied, however, the more he realized that Carey was right in his belief that baptism was only for believers and by immersion in water.  It wasn’t easy to convince his wife and Luther Rice about what he found in his studies but, before they arrived, all three were Baptists.  Shortly after they arrived Luther went back to the States to raise support among the Baptists.

They faced a serious problem when they arrived.  They were not welcome in India.  The East India Company had much money invested in business there and they feared that the preaching of the gospel might put in jeopardy their investments.  They were told to take a ship to England.  After going through several days of upheaval, they were finally allowed to take a ship to Burma.  It was there that they carried out their ministry.

In Burma the most prominent religion was Buddhism.  It is a religion that believes in the transmigration of souls.  That means that at death the soul appears again, possibly in an animal or possibly in a higher life.  Where the soul goes depends on the amount of merit one has attained. It is a fatalistic religion.

The Judsons spent the first three years learning the language.  They found the work extremely difficult.  In 1817 Adoniram took a ship to Pakistan to see if he could find someone there to help them.  The ship was carried off course by a storm and finally landed in a port far removed from Pakistan.  It was nearly a year later that he return to his home.  All this time his wife didn’t know where he was.  She finally concluded that he must be dead.

In an effort to reach the people with the gospel, he built a little shelter along a busy road where he preached to those who passed by.  He also started printing literature with a printing press that was sent from the States.  They labored for seven years before they won their first soul to Christ.

They faced serious opposition from the emperor.  He threatened to punish anyone who stopped to hear him preach in the little shelter beside the road.  Adroniram paid a man to represent him before the emperor.  He sent him to the emperor with a petition to tolerate the new religion, along with the gift of a Bible in six volumes.  The man approached the emperor crawling on his hands and knees.  The emperor read two lines of the Bible and threw it on the floor.  A guard ordered the man to get out of there as fast as possible.  Judson learned that it was in vain to seek the favor of the emperor.

The Judsons went through some serious trials.  His wife’s failing health obligated her to go to the States.  She spent two years there.  Adroniram went, at one time, for 10 months without hearing from her.  She returned and gave birth to their daughter, Maria.  Judson spent 17 months in prison.  Ann brought him food every day.  He was released for a time.  After being home for 11 months his wife died.  Six months later his little daughter, Maria, died.  He went through a period of depression from which he later recovered.

Eight years after Ann died he married Sarah Boardman, a missionary widow.  They had eight children, of which five survived.  Sarah was a great help to him because she knew the language better than he did.  After 11 years of marriage she took sick and he took her to the States.  It had been 33 years since he left the States.  Sarah recovered enough for them to take a ship to return to Burma.  As they rounded the tip of Africa Sarah died.  The ship dropped anchor at St. Helena where they dug a grave and buried her.  This time he didn’t go into depression.

He still had a passion to reach Burma for Christ.  This time when he returned he found that God was working in the hearts of the people.  People started coming to him asking for literature he was printing.  He gave out 10,000 tracts.

To everyone’s amazement, he fell in love again and married Emily Chubbuck.  She was only 29 years old and he was 57.  They spent, what both called, the four happiest years of their lives.  They had one child.

Judson fell sick again.  The doctors thought the best remedy would be a sea voyage.  They carried him on board a ship bound for the Isle of France.  For several days he suffered severe pain and vomiting.  On April 12, 1850 he died and was buried at sea.  His wife, Emily, gave birth to their second child who died at birth.  She learned four months later of the death of her husband.  She returned to the States, where she died of tuberculosis three years later.

Judson’s work was not in vain.  He finished his translation of the Bible to the Burmese language.  He also wrote a dictionary.  Hundreds of converts were left leading the churches.  Today there are 3,700 Baptist churches in Myanmar, who trace their origin to Judson’s labor of love.  In Burma, which is now called Myanmar, “the largest Christian force is the  Burma Baptist Convention which owes its origin to the pioneering of Adroniram Judson.” The above quote was taken from:  World Christian Encyclopedia,” David Barrett (New York: Oxford Press 1982), 202

There is still much work to be done.  There are still many large people groups who are waiting to hear the glorious message of salvation through the shed blood of Christ.  The Lord still says, “And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death.   And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake.    But there shall not an hair of your head perish.”  No doubt Adoniram Judson is still enjoying a great reward he received when he arrived in heaven.  Our labors of love are never forgotten by God.


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