A good likeness of a departed friend is justly esteemed a valuable treasure. We may have but little taste for the fine arts, but when we see the image of those features impressed on the canvass which once beamed with joy at our prosperity, and saddened with sorrow at the recital of our griefs, it awakens in our minds many pleasant, and yet melancholy recollections. And although we have had no intimacy with an individual who has rendered eminent services to his country, to the cause of science, or religion, yet we love to gaze on tbe resemblance of one, whose talents and influence were consecrated to the good of mankind. That man is not to be envied who on view with indifference the portraits of those distinguished statesmen, who, under God, secured the independence of our country, and laid tbe foundation of our civil and political institutions. Nor is he to be admired who can look with apathy on those features, which in the persons of the reformers glowed with indignation at the rank abuses of popery, and received a sterner texture from an inflexible determination of soul to oppose those abuses in the face of every danger.
But if the power of forming a distinct conception of the personal appearance of eminent men is gratifying to us, an acquaintance with their moral and religious character will surely afford superior gratification. While we trace the history of their lives, and see the piety which they exercised, the purity of life which they maintained, and the benevolence which habitually influenced their conduct; we feel deeper self-abasement, and are excited to more high and holy attainments. It is difficult to turn away from the contemplation of real excellence, without some rebukes of conscience, and a determinaiion to imitate the example which has been placed before us. It was to produce this salutary influence that the lives of good men are recorded in the scriptures. Their character is drawn, that we might not be "slothful, but followers ol them, who through faith and patience inherit the promises."
With these views of the tendency
of biographical writings, we shall proceed to give an outline of the character of our late missionary brother. While it is believed that the feelings of personal friendship will be gratified by a perusal of this Memoir, a hope is also indulged that it will awaken in some pious youth an ardent desire to be employed in missionary service, and lead to more active and extended efforts in favour of the perishing heathen.
Mr. Colman was born in Boston, Massachusetts, February 19, 1794. Although his parents were in humble circumstances, yet it was his unspeakable privilege to be blessed with a father who feared God. This pious parent, who was much respected for his upright and unblemished deportment, felt a deep concern for the salvation of his only child. He not only caused him to attend on the publick ministry of the word, but exhibited before him in the retirement of domestick life a practical illustration of the pure and holy nature of Christianity. This good man had the happiness of knowing that his prayers were answered, and his efforts successful; for at the early age ef eleven years, the mind of his son was deeply impressed with a sense of the evil of sin, and the importance and necessity of personal religion. What were the immediate means of his conversion to God, are not distinctly known. But having found peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, he made a publirk profession of his faith, and united with the second Baptist Church in Boston, under the pastoral care of Rev. Dr. Baldwin, in Oct. 1804. In 1807, he was one, who, with several others, became organized as the third Baptist Church in Boston. His relation with this church continued, until his decease. Perhaps an account of this part of his life cannot be more satisfactorily given, than in a communication addressed by himself to his Pastor, dated
Danvers, May 16, 1815.
Rev. and dear Sir,
Few and evil, said an ancient patriarch, have been the years of my life; and this evening, in looking back upon the few days which I have sojourned on earth, I have great reason to make the same exclamation. The years of my life have been very few, and much evil has been performed in each. Sometimes when reflecting upon the past, I am ready to call upon my soul, and all that is within me, to bless the name of God for his amazing goodness, in preserving me so long upon his footstool. The first eleven years of my life were spent in the service of sin; I lived without God, and without hope in the world; an alien from the commonwealth of Israel, and a stranger to the covenant of promise. It must be a matter of eternal gratitude and praise, that his rich grace was manifested in bowing my stubborn will, enlightening my dark mind, and raising me, as I have some reason to hope, from a death in sin, to newness of life in Christ Jesus. But how evil have been my days since that propitious period. I have to lament cold and wandering affections, a dark mind, and a very unsanctified heart. How often have I listened to the insinuations of Satan! How frequently have I been allured by a deceptive world! How easily have I been charmed by the "song of the prosperous worldling," and almost transported with the idea, that "celestial flowers were to be gathered on earthly ground." What little progress have I made in the divine life! how feeble are my conceptions of eternal realities! how narrow and contracted are my views of the sacred Scriptures! Surely the years of my life have been very evil. But what have I done to promote the cause of truth,
to advance the declarative glory of God, to awaken poor unfeeling sinners, or comfort and establish the dear saints? Nothing.— I look back and can compare myself to nothing bnt a blank in creation. Sorely then my days have been very evil, and with shame I make the confession; for I am under the greatest obligations to be active in promoting the welfare of immortal souls, and glorifying the holy name of God. Redeemed, as I hope, from the bondage of sin, from the condemnation of the law; introduced into the glorious liberty of the gospel; made an heir of God, and a joint heir with Jesus Christ, to an incorruptible inheritance; surely I am under eternal obligations to live to the honour of my Saviour, God. At seasons I feel that the time past of my life should suffice, and more than suffice, in that I have walked after the vain courses of the world, and wish to spend the remainder of my days in the service of Jesus. But how unfit, how unworthy to be employed in so blessed a cause! It would be an honour for the highest angels in the realms of bliss, to expatiate on the character and work of our great Redeemer. It is said that they rejoice when a sinner is converted to God; and if they conld speak from the skies to the sons of men, how moving would be their expostulations, how fervent their addresses, how heavenly their eloquence! It is a great wonder that I do not feel more of the importance of the Christian ministry. It is a work of vast consequence; and when I look into the oracles of truth, many doubts cloud my mind, as it respects my own personal call to preach the gospel."
His pastor perceiving that he had a mind capable of high improvement and cultivation, frequently urged on him the importance of treasuring up a stock of knowledge while he was young. He was reminded that whether he moved in a private or publick station, knowledge would contribute to his comfort and usefulness. This counsel was not lost upon him, and he availed himself of the facility which was offered to him of reading such books as were calculated to establish him in the great doctrines of the gospel, and furnish his mind with general information. At different times inquiry was made of him, whether he had not serious thoughts, that it might be his duty to preach the gospel. He often replied, "I have great desires to devote myself to the work of the ministry, but a consciousness of my own incapacity, and a persuasion of the greatness of the work discourage me." He was indeed so much perplexed in relation to this subject, that he endeavoured to banish all thoughts of engaging in the Christian ministry. To do this more effectually, he established himself in a business which necessarily occupied his chief attention. It was, however, so ordered by divine Providence, that he was unsuccessful. And although this event was attended with some painful circumstances both to himself and friends, it was no doubt overruled for good.
The account which he gave to the church when he offered himself as a candidate for the ministry, is so interesting, that no apology will be deemed necessary for presenting it to our readers. It shows that his entrance on this work was not the result of a premature and unaccountable resolution; and it exhibits in a forcible manner the various alternations of feeling which he experienced on this subject. In describing the operations of his mind, Mr. Colman remarks:
"When I was quite a child I had desires to be a publick speaker; and when my young friends and relations came to see me, instead of engaging in acts of diversion, with the Bible in my hand, I would name a text, and deliver a lecture to them on the duties which they owed
their parents, and on the mercies which they enjoyed. On one occasion, when my little room was filled with listening friends, I was so much affected that the tears flowed plentifully down my cheeks, and my hearers could not refrain from weeping also. After I entertained a hope in the Saviour, I had great desires to speak to my fellow-creatures about the important realities of a future state; but my fervour soon relaxed, and I grew cold and insensible. It was more than four years ago that impressions relative to the gospel ministry became fixed in my mind. At that time I had a deep and affecting sense of the awful condition of man by nature, as exposed to the vengeance of Almighty God, and utterly unable to help himself. These views continued for some time, and at last produced a desire to do something to promote their welfare. It is impossible for a rational being to have the views which I then entertained without great desires for the salvation of immortal souls. To see men standing on the verge of ruin, without the least conception of danger, is the mast affecting sight which can be presented to a thinking mind. With heart-felt satisfaction, I viewed Jesus able and willing to save the wretched sinner; and it was my desire to urge those around me to flee from the path of destruction to the Lamb of God. For a year I entertained the most pleasing thoughts concerning the gospel ministry. My imagination often placed me in the midst of crowded assemblies, and while the word was dispensed, I saw tears gushing from a hundred eyes, and joy beaming in a hundred faces. But ah! these pleasing phantoms were soon succeeded by darkness and distress. As yet, I had not considered the important duties which devolve on the Christian minister, nor the trials which often attend his progress. I had only looked on the bright side of his experience. I had only viewed him as the successful preacher, and the happy Pastor. But I soon perceived that his station required the most unwearied labour, in consequence of the arduous duties which were his daily employment. By degrees I was led to contemplate the diversified scenes of a preacher's life. I viewed him in the pulpit; from thence I followed him to the closet, and heard him lament the many imperfections which attended his best services; the coldness of his affections, the weakness of his faith, and the dimness of his hope. 1 heard him administering reproof to the froward and to the negligent professor, establishing the weak and wavering, rendering comfort to the distressed, and urging all his brethren to the performance of every Christian duty, I walked by his side when he entered the hovel of penury, and the chamber of sickness. I listened to his kind admonitions, his gentle reproof, his warm expostulations, and his fervent prayers. When I had viewed these duties, I was led with the apostle to exclaim, "Who is sufficient for these things!" At different periods during two years, I was impressed with a sense of the difficult station which a faithful minister occupied. Whenever I was the subject of these impressions, solitude was my delight. Unfit for society, with pleasure I retired to some lonely spot, and with feelings which I cannot describe, would exclaim, "Lord, I am a child, and know nothing. Young in years, and still younger in experience; without education, and possessing but a scanty talent, how can I be suitable to bear the most important tidings to guilty man?" At this time I viewed myself as the least of saints, and thought I was as able to pluck the sun from his station, as to dispense the word of life. With these views, I began to consider it as the extreme of folly for me to indulge the least idea of preaching.
I thought that all my feelings were merely the phantoms of a childish imagination, and should be entirely suppressed; accordingly I set about the work. But now the commandment lay heavy on my mind; it seemed as thongh a wo[e] was pronounced against me, if I did not attempt to preach the gospel. The words of Watts would often sound like a peal of thunder in my ears,
" Go, preach my gospel, saith the Lord,
Bid the whole earth my grace receive."
This situation was very trying; I viewed myself as altogether unqualified to perform the duties of a minister; and yet a solemn command was laid upon me to go forward in the work. In this condition I resolved to stifle all impressions of this kind. With sorrow I look back to the time when I formed this resolution. I believe it has been the cause of trials and difficulties which were unknown to me before. My attempts, however, were all abortive. Reason was all in vain. A single talent, a confined education, a juvenility of years, were feeble arguments. God is all-sufficient: even of stones he can raise up children to Abraham; he can employ the weakest instruments to promote the greatest designs. This was reasoning which overthrew all my resolutions. I tried to attribute these impressions to pride; but my small talent forbid an indulgence of the idea. Notwithstanding these feelings, I only experienced pleasure when engaged either directly or indirectly, in those exercises which might prove beneficial to me, should I ever be engaged in the work of the ministry. During the winter of 1812, I was quite convinced that my feelings were not all imaginary, and made several attempts to unbosom them to the Pastor of the church of which I am a member. But all in vain; — my heart failed; aud now I renewed my former resolution, to erase these impressions from my remembrance. I conceived that if the Lord intended to bring me into the work, he would perform his intentions, whether I opposed or not. This opposition was not produced by a disrelish for the work, but from a view of its importance as it respects duties and consequences.
Although my impressions were long, and often forced me to a sense of duty, yet still my stubborn mind was unwilling to yield entirely to the gentle calls of mercy. Proud in consequence of the favours which I had received, I imagined that God would never frown upon me; that by some means congenial to my feelings, he would bring me into the important work. But I soon learnt many woful lessons from sad and painful experience. But a short time elapsed before the providence of God proved to a demonstration, that none but "the willing and the obedient eat the good of the land." A kind, a tender, and an affectionate parent was removed to the land of silence. In one sad moment I was deprived of the counsel, the advice, the kind admonitions, and the fervent warnings of one, who had always taken the most tender interest in my welfare, and to whom I had looked on all occasions, as a director and friend. The stroke was painful, but not rightly improved. Soon after this event, my mind was deeply impressed with a sense of duty; but some considerations of a worldly kind, and an adherence to a former resolution, induced me to suppress my feelings as much as possible. After the death of my dear parent, my business was so much confined, that 1 had much leisure; and I conceived the idea, that if 1 was absorbed in business, my mind would lose all sense of former impressions. This was one motive which induced me to enter into partnership with a person in trade. But all our efforts were blasted; one disaster followed another, until I was reduced from a pretty comfortable state, to continual apprehensions — to poverty and distress. Previous to this event, however,
I saw that folly had marked my steps; that I had turned a deaf ear to the reproofs of conscience; that I had trifled with the most solemn impressions; and had forgotten the favours of Heaven. I began to have different views of the work. The worth of souls laid heavily on my mind. It appeared a pleasing employ to point the enquiring sinner to Jesus, and to establish the saint in every good word and work. Although I perceived, in some measure, the important duties of ministers, yet Jesus was sufficient for all their wants; he had promised to be with them always, even unto the end of the world. His power is omnipotent, his wisdom is consummate, his knowledge is unbounded, his love and compassion are inexpressible; and all these perfections are engaged to carry the faithful preacher through every trial, to a joyful termination of his course.
I then felt resolved, that whenever the providence of God pointed the way, in his strength I would go forward. And although I have had many trials since, relative to my temporal and spiritual affairs; although my way has been hedged up, and thick darkness has often enveloped me; yet I think it an inexpressible mercy, considering my obstinacy, that greater judgments are not poured upon me. And if I should ever be the happy instrument of turning a sinner to Jesus, of strengthening a dear saint, and of exhibiting in an intelligible manner, the glorious doctrines of the cross, my former trials will vanish from my sight, and I shall be led to exclaim, "Those light afflictions were but for a moment."
Having preached before the church, when several ministers were also present, who expressed much satisfaction, Mr. Colman was licensed to preach on the 25th of February, 1815.
The church of which he was a member, had no sooner expressed their confidence that he was designed by the Lord for publick usefulness, than he was placed under the care of the Rev. Mr. now Dr. Chaplin, of Danvers, (now President of Waterville College) where he pursued his literary and theological studies till he embarked for India. Many of his letters which were written during this period, breathe such a spirit of piety and good sense; and serve so fully to develop his character, that it would be improper not to give them a place in this Memoir.
"Danvers, April 29, 1815.
Rev. and dear Sir,
A recollection of the many happy hours which I have spent at your fire side; of the repeated acts of kindness with which you have favoured me, and the pleasing invitation which you gave to unfold my views and feelings to you by letters, will, I feel convinced, encourage me to write with freedom.
Since I have been in this place, I have enjoyed many happy seasons, both in the sanctuary and closet. Daily experience convinces me, that I can do but little to promote the welfare of immortal souls, to build up the cause of Zion, or honour my Saviour in the world, without constant watchfulness and prayer. It is in the closet that my fears are removed, the darkness of my mind dispersed, and sweet peace communicated to my soul. There I receive fresh strength to perform duty; new views of sacred truth, and of my blessed Lord. On ground so sacred as that devoted to the purpose of communion with God, the tempter but seldom treads. When the Christian is engaged in sweet intercourse with the great Three One, he ascends a holy mount, his closet becomes nothing less than the house of God, and the very gate of heaven. The place is too hallowed for the enemy of holiness, and no doubt he often flees from these consecrated retreats, and leaves the Christian to the undisturbed
enjoyment of sublime devotion. I have some reason to say, that in the closet, very severe temptations have entirely left me. I have gone to the closet, dark and discouraged, but returned with light and hope. You may imagine from my observations, that I am much engaged in the exercise of prayer. — Alas! this is not the case! I am but little engaged in this blessed duty; and when I attempt, my wandering thoughts and unholy feelings often destroy the happiness which might be enjoyed in fellowship with the blessed Saviour. Indeed, I have a very deceitful heart; more deceitful, and more to be feared than our subtle foe. It is this which binds me to earth, robs me of joy, spoils my devotions. I have so much pride and unbelief, that at times I almost fear that the blessed Saviour will not employ me in his service. I often think, can it be possible that one so earthly, so debased, will be permitted to build up the holy cause of Zion; one so sinful, to be instrumental in establishing that kingdom, which is governed by righteous laws and by a righteous King?
* * * * * *
One who is called to this work, may be styled an ambassador of God. He bears the mind and will of the great Jehovah to perishing man; he is sent to beseech men to be reconciled to God; he must stand unmoved by the frowns or allurements of the world, and deliver his message, whether men will hear or forbear. He should speak with all that plainness, and pathos, which will commend himself to every man's conscience in the sight of God. Unless he performs his duty, the blood of souls will be required at his hand, and cry for vengeance on his guilty head. In order to keep his garments attained, what a sternness of soul, what a desire for the conversion of sinners, and for the divine glory, what purity of heart and life, what enlarged conceptions, and exalted views, should possess his mind! He should be a praying man, one who keeps up daily intercourse with heaven: his conduct should bear a great resemblance to his who was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners. And, dear sir, when I contrast myself with the very imperfect description here given, I am almost ready to conclude that the great Lord of the harvest never intended I should be a labourer. However, I feel willing to leave all things in the hands of my heavenly Father; he will do all things well; and I feel satisfied, that he has always led me into a right path. Even now a ray of hope beams into my mind, from the following considerations, — the people of God would never have done so much for me, I should never have been brought to this place, I should never have commenced my present studies, unless the Lord had intended me, in some measure, for usefulness. And when I look around, and see the extensive field, and recollect the great call there is for labourers, I feel rejoiced, the Lord enabling me to go forth, and bear, with my brethren, the heat and burden of the day. At times I feel willing to become all things to all men, if by any means I might save some. Then the work appears very glorious, and souls exceedingly precious; then the fear of man, which often brings a snare, entirely leaves me, and I speak with some freedom to poor sinners. Since I left Boston, I have tried to speak in public several times; but seldom, however, without a great share of diffidence. The last Sabbath I went to the Factory, I felt more confidence than on any former occasion. In the afternoon there was quite a number of people, and I spoke with more freedom than is usual for me. The attention was very good, and I hope that something pleasing may result. O Sir, if one so unworthy can request an interest in your petitions, be so kind, as to bear me upon your mind, when you bow before
the mercy seat. My great desire is, that I may be useful. Permit me to express my gratitude to you, for the tender interest you have taken in my welfare, particularly in opening a way for me to obtain an education. Dear Sir, I can never express my feelings to you, and my other kind friends, for their great liberality in sending me to this place. Their benevolence shall excite me to fresh and more vigorous exertions: it shall prove a stimulus to me in every unfeeling moment.
My studies are increasingly pleasant. The roughness of the way has gradually disappeared, and now I find myself in a pretty smooth path. I long to make greater progress; my wishes and progress are by no means equal. O that I may have grace to improve the little knowledge which I may obtain, in a suitable manner. An increase of knowledge, without an increase of grace, will be attended with little benefit to the Christian minister.
"Danvers, Oct. 14, 1815.
Rev. and dear Sir,
I am frequently surprised, when contrasting the strength of my body now, with what it was two months ago. At that time, I was afflicted with a severe cough, and an expectoration of blood from my lungs; but now my cough has entirely ceased, with its attendant evil. O what reason have I for gratitude! what reason to devote my life to the service of God. Certaiuly, if I should be raised to that degree of health, which would justify my appearance in the pulpit, new obligations would be imposed upon me. At times I have earnestly prayed, that the Lord would prepare me for the delightful service of the sanctuary ; and I trust that the severe dispensation with which I have been visited, will be one means of fitting me for future duties. If it tends to promote humility, to lead me to the throne of grace, and to give me a tense of my entire dependence on God, it will be a sweet affliction; — through life I shall have reason to bless the Lord for it. I never realized that delightful expression so much as of late, "Sanctified afflictions are blessings in disguise." Yes, they are angels of mercy, they are messengers of compassion. Accompanied by the Holy Spirit, they will purify the heart, detach the affections from earth, and set them on God. Sanctified afflictions tend to lessen worldly objects in our esteem, while they attach an importance to those which are beyond the grave. Prosperity intoxicates the mind, afflictions are that happy antidote which reduce it to its proper state. In prosperity we but seldom recollect that this is a fleeting world, that this is not our continuing city, nor abiding place; but visited with affliction, we feel like the traveller overtaken with severe sickness in a crowded and inconvenient inn. Then most he longs for home, then he casts a "wishful eye" to his peaceful habitation, where the noise of strangers is never known. Thus the Christian, when borne down with the trials of life, looks, by tbe eye of faith, to that state "where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest." How delightful is the idea, that there is a rest beyond this troubled scene! that after we have endured the tempests of life, we shall become inhabitants of a world that "knows no storms," and sit in eternal composure "beneath a vault unsullied with a cloud." Surely if we have a hope of such blessedness, we should not be discouraged with present trials, especially when we recollect their beneficial tendency in this world, and that weight of glory which they prepare us to receive in another. But in the midst of afflictions, when its waves and its billows go over us, we should feel like the Psalmist, and adopt his language: "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in
God, for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God."
During the vacation I enjoyed much. The sermon you preached on the Lord's day morning after my arrival in Boston, was very refreshing. It seemed designed for me, and I really think the Holy Spirit applied many of the truths which it contained,to my soul. Seeing my friends and conversing with them also served to enliven my mind. Christian intercourse is delightful. I know there is a sacred cord which binds to my heart the dear people of God; "they are the excellent of the earth " Their joys and sorrows are mine; where they live I wish to live; where they die, I fain would die, and there would I be buried. It seems rational to me, that a person can very easily decide, who are the people of his choice. Can we be doubtful whether we love a person or not? It really appears impossible. A consciousness of love to the brethren has sometimes strengthened me, when assailed by the great adversary. My time is now employed in studying Latin and Greek. The study of the Greek Testament is very pleasanst; but I think it will be more so, when I shall be able to get three or four chapters for a lesson. I think I can never regret employing my time in gaining a knowledge of the languages. All I feel concerned about in this respect, is, that the shortness of my time will not permit me to acquire the knowledge I wish.
"Danvers, Feb. 17, 1816.
Rev. and dear Sir,
Each day has brought its duties; these duties must be discharged. In order to do this, I frequently find that every moment must be improved. When I reflect upon the years which have passed away, without bearing any testimonies of my advancement in knowledge, a new ardour is enkindled in my bosom, to husband the opportunity which I now enjoy. This I esteem as my golden hour; but it is rapidly passing away, and once gone it will never return. I never expect to be favoured with a season like the present. Surely then I can act the part of wisdom, only by a close application to my studies. "Work while the day lasts," is the language of reason as well as of scripture. O that I may ever feel the force of the injunction. It seems to me that there is every thing to excite a youth placed in my situation to diligence and industry. The importance of the objects which he seeks; is sufficient to urge him forward in his course. If he pants for usefulness; if he has ardent desires to sound abroad the fame of Jesus, and to be the instrument of turning many unto righteousness, he will naturally ask himself how these important ends are to be attained.
Extensive usefulness is the mark at which the ministers of Jesus should aim. They do not wish the applause of mortals; they do not seek the empty toys of time, but the approbation of their Judge. And how are they to gain it? Our blessed Lord has told us. In the twenty-fifth of Matthew he compares the kingdom of heaven, or what seems more natural, the Lord of all things, to a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one. The approbation of the Giver depended upon the right improvement of his gifts. Upon his return, we find him commending those who had increased their stock, and exalting them to be rulers over many things. But he that had hid his Lord's talent in the earth, was deprived of it, and cast into outer darkness. No doubt this parable was spoken to stimulate the people of God in the discharge of their duty, to arouse them from inactivity, and to make them faithful stewards of their Master's goods. If then the willing and
the obedient only are to eat the good of the land; if faithful servants only are to share the smiles of their Master, does it not become all the followers of Jesus, and especially the preachers of his gospel, to arise from the bed of sloth, and to do the work which God hath assigned them. O that I may ever feel the importance of these things. I, who am so prone to inactivity, who am so backward to duty, need every incentive to arouse my sluggish soul. I have to mourn the little ardour which I feel in the cause of God. It is a cause which demands all my exertions. Shame should cover my face, and confusion fill my soul, upon a recollection of my stupidity. I can do but little; but that little should be done with all my might. When looking within, I am almost discouraged. The wickedness of my heart, the coldness of my affections, connected with my want of talent, serve, at times, almost to destroy every expectation of my doing good. Forgive, dear sir, my complaints. If I had not struck upon the thoughts which nearly fill my letter, I am apprehensive that you would have been pained with the sad tale of my feeling. But I will forbear.
In the autumn of 1815, and also the ensuing summer, Mr. C. was the subject of much bodily indisposition. His sickness was occasioned by exchanging the scenes of active life for the sedentary habits of a student. The person with whom he passed several weeks, when compelled to relinquish his studies, remembers very distinctly the pleasing and yet painful state of his mind. As to his own personal interest in Christ, and a participation in the final rest which remaineth for the people of God, Mr. Colman had an humble and steady hope. But the expectation that he might live, and yet be unable to preach the gospel, produced at times very gloomy sensations. Death appeared more desirable to him, than the continuance rf life, unless it could be spent in the service of Christ, and in warning sinners to flee from the wrath to come. But although he was occasionally much depressed when he imagined that his prospects of publick usefulness were cut off, yet he manifested a spirit of pious resignation to the will of God.
Some idea may be formed of his views and feelings while he was deprived of health, from the following letters.
"Danvers, August 11, 1815.
Rev. and dear Sir,
The words of Cowper within a few days past, have made a deep impression on my mind:
"God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform;
He plants his foosteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm."
The divine proceedings frequently appear dark and mysterious. No doubt the reason is this, the Lord of heaven and earth works upon a scale too extensive for man to comprehend. All the plans of God are laid in infinite wisdom, and we may rest assured that they will advance the best interests of the universe. How pleasing is the consideration that a Being of infinite wisdom and benevolence directs the affairs of nations and individuals. When we can be suitably impressed with this idea, every dispensation of providence which relates to us, appears calculated for our good; we view the divine dealings, as proceeding from a kind and tender Father, whose compassion is so great, that he will never send us prosperity or affliction, unless they are to answer valuable and important ends. How sweet is Christian submission! It is a plant which does not thrive in nature's garden. The cold and sterile ground of modern philosophy is not calculated to produce it. But it springs up, and grows, and blossoms
in that heart, which is daily wet with the dews of heavenly grace. There it appears in its native beauty, and renders a character far more amiable and attractive than the most accomplished of this world. Christians always stand in need of this grace, but never more than when they are visited with peculiar afflictions. When our hopes and prospects are blasted, how apt are we to repine! When severe dispensations are our lot, we are too much inclined to arraign the divine conduct at the bar of our limited reason, and judge Him in whose sight the wisdom of a Newton is folly. Oh! that I may ever feel resigned to the will of God. I feel peculiar need of that blessed grace at the present time. Since I saw you, the Lord has visited me, I believe, in answer to prayer; "but it has been in such a way, as almost drove me to despair." The all wise Disposer of events has been pleased to send upon me an affliction which I dreaded most of all others. How often have I thought that nothing would so much discourage me, as to discharge blood from my lungs; but I have experienced sweet consolation and strong support when called to endure the trial.
I have much reason to be thankful for the peace of mind which I have enjoyed. I have not, however, been without trials on this occasion. Sometimes I have been afraid that my sickness was a token of the divine displeasure, and that the Lord frowned upon me for daring to undertake the important work of preaching the gospel, without being qualified and sent. At other times, I have been tried with the thought, that if I had a work lo perform, it has been accomplished, and that I should no more be permitted to point sinners to the Lamb of God. This was a severe temptation; I feel its force this moment. But O, Sir, I know not how to part with poor sinners. I have warned them, perhaps in vain. If this world were the bound of human existence, I would not drop a tear. But eternity succeeds time. Soon, very soon, my hearers and myself must appear at the awful bar. Then if they have neglected all warnings, how awful will he their case! I can do but little, but if I could be the means of saving one from ruin, my heart would beat with joy.
"Danvers, July 22, 1816. Rev. and dear Sir,
We should ever feel willing to resign all our concerns into the hand of God. He is the Father of mercies, and will never lay upon us a heavier burden than we are able to bear. During my sickness last fall, the words of Cowper used to afford me much conflation, "But all is in his hand whose praise I seek." How animating is the idea that diseases are at the disposal of our heavenly Father. They are his messengers, frequently sent to promote the work of sanctification in his people, and to ripen them for the world of blessedness. And, indeed, if we seek the praise of God, the very trials we endure may be the means of fitting us for more extensive usefulness. When we have passed through afflictions, we know how to sympathize with the afflicted. The promises which have been made sweet and strengthening to us, we can exhibit to their view, and exhort them to trust all their concerns in the hand of Him who was our present help in time of trouble. Affliction gives us confidence in God. When we have passed through floods and flames, and find him to be unchangeable, we then know by experience, that he is a rock, that his work is perfect, and that he will never disappoint the expectations of those who put their trust in him. We then have faith to say, If the Lord hath protected us thus far, if he hath saved us from the "lion and the bear," if he hath been our support
when we passed through deep waters, and through the furnace of affliction, that he will never, no, never leave us, that he will never, no, never forsake us. These truths I have with pleasure heard you preach, and no doubt they afford you a rich source of consolation at this time. The same truths which you have administered to others, will now fill your own soul with joy and peace.
The gospel bears our spirits up:
A faithful and unchanging God
Lays the foundation for our hope
In oaths, and promises, and blood."
[James Colman - Part 2 — July, 1823]
Having given a brief account of the early life of Mr. Colman, and of his views and feelings in relation to the Christian ministry; we shall now state the exercises of his mind on the subject of preaching the gospel to the heathen. It appears from this part of his history, that an ardent desire to be engaged in missionary service, was associated with his first wishes to become a minister of Christ. When he panted for the salvation of sinners — they were sinners in heathen lands for whom he felt a more than common solicitude. And when he thought of a field of labour, his eyes were directed to regions where the people were sitting in darkness, and the shadow of death.
He was deterred by some weighty considerations from making a full disclosure of these feelings at the time he was licensed to preach. But his being a fellow student with an amiable and pious youth who was under the patronage of the Boston Baptist Foreign Missionary Society, kept alive the sentiments which had been long planted in his breast. As the time drew near, when his young friend was about to offer himself as a missionary, Mr. Colman could suppress his views no longer; and after a season of much anxiety, and disquietude of spirit, he addressed the following letter to his Pastor.
________, September 12, 1816.
Rev. and dear Sir,
The day in which we live is distinguished for remarkable events not only in the political, but the religious world. Wherever we turn our eyes, we behold the triumphs of divine grace. The Lord is pouring out his Spirit on various parts of our own land; sinners are converted, and the boundaries of the Redeemer's kingdom are enlarged. If we look beyond the shores on which we dwell, and examine other sections of the world, are we not constrained to say, that the set time to favour Zion has come? Does not the wilderness already begin to blossom as the rose, and are not streams of water breaking out in the parched desert? Cold and insensible must be that Christian whose bosom is not filled with joy,
when he hears that Pagans are renouncing their idolatry, and directing their adorations and praises to the Prince of Heaven; that heathen priests are burning their idols; that Ethiopia is stretching out her hands unto God, and that a number of Jews are even now gathered unto the spiritual Shiloh. But these remarkable events have not been accomplished by an extraordinary effort of Almighty power. Means have been employed. I cannot mention the names of the British and Foreign Bible Society, and of the Baptist Foreign Missionary Society of England, without a mixture of admiration and awe. What heavenly light have they imparted to a benighted world! What streams of comfort have they sent forth to cheer and animate the islanders of the southern ocean, and the wretched inhabitants of the eastern climes. I rejoice that, at length, my own countrymen have arisen from their lethargy, and joined in the great work of evangelizing the heathen. And I cannot but congratulate myself that I live in a day like this: a day in which, unworthy as I am, I may be permitted to bear the torch of truth amongst the benighted inhabitants of the earth. Permit me, in a very brief manner, to state the feelings which I have had relative to the heathen world. For more than a year after my conversion to God, I lived, if my heart does not deceive me, in the enjoyment of true religion. After that, I fell into a cold, indifferent state of mind. In this state I continued for two or three years. At length I was aroused from my stupidity; and after many painful exercises, on account of my wanderings from God, obtained a peace of mind which I never felt before. It was not long from this period that the memoirs of Samuel Pearce were put into my hands. I read the whole with much interest; but no part made so deep an impression upon my mind as that which related to his feelings concerning the heathen world. At that time, I had no thoughts of preaching; yet my desires to be useful to the heathen were so great, that I actually formed a plan to go amongst them. I was confident that nothing could give me so much satisfaction, as to point tbem to the Lamb of God, who alone taketh away the sin of the world, soon after this, I read Mr. Kicherer's narrative recorded in our Magazine. This added fresh fuel to the flame already kindled in my bosom. I could not bury my feelings any longer, but communicated them to several of my intimate friends. Two years after these impressions were first made, my attention was called to the subject of the Christian ministry. Often did I think, it is impossible for me to preach in this country; here I can never be heard with any attention; but the poor, the heavy ladened East-Indian would listen to the declaration of mercy from my mouth with inexpressible pleasure. At that time, however, no Missionary Society was formed in the United States, and I saw no way open by which my desires would be gratified. This led me to believe that my exercises did not proceed from the Holy Spirit; for he would never give desires which could not be answered. But all my efforts to extinguish the missionary flame in my bosom were ineffectual. My desires continued, and I could not but indulge the hope, that some way would be opened by which I could proceed to the heathen world. But "hope deferred makes the heart sick." I saw no cheering prospect before me. When the divine command came home with force to my mind, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature;" my answer was, "Lord, I am ready to go to the heathen world. And I have no doubt, but if, at that time, providence had provided the means, I should have gone with pleasure. Oceans, however,
rolled between myself and India; and I heard no friendly voice saying, This is the way, walk therein. I was led to suspect my exercises — to imagine they were all the chimeras of my youthful brain. This conclusion plunged my mind into darkness. Month after month passed away, and I enjoyed no communion with God, no satisfaction in the sanctuary, nor in the company of Christians. At times, when reading accounts concerning the conversion of Pagans, a ray of light would dart into my mind. But these momentary rays were like the star, which on a dark and cloudy night, falls near the bewildered traveller, to give him some faint conception of the horrors with which he is surrounded, and to render tbe darkness still more awful. Even at this moment, the recollection of those distressing days causes my heart to bleed. I am unable to conjecture how long I should have continued in this state of mind, had not worldly affairs called off my attention But amidst the bustle of business, this subject, notwithstanding all my wishes to the contrary, would press in upon my mind, and command attention. As I informed the church, the time had come,when I felt willing to stand in any public station to which the providence of God directed me. At that time, my greatest desire was, to preach Christ among the heathen. Indeed, when I had this exercise, I was far from my native town. It was in Bangor, a place situated at tbe head of navigation in the Penobscot river, that I first felt not only a willingness, but an ardent desire to preach the gospel to poor sinners. But by what means was this sudden change in my feelings effected? It was a view of the miserable condition of the Penobscot Indians. Their ignorance, intemperance, and extreme wretchedness, deeply affected my heart. When I recollected that they possessed immortal souls, that Jesus died to save the chief of sinners, that his blood could cleanse them from every pollution, and fit them for the world of blessedness, I felt an ardent desire to be the means of imbuing their minds with the great principles of our holy religion. The flame of missions which for a considerable time had much abated, now burned with new ardour; and I was transported with the idea, that at some future period, I should be the highly favoured instrument of leading Pagans to that fountain which was opened for sin and uncleanness. But at that time, particular circumstances forbade a disclosure of these feelings. When the period drew near, that I was to preach before the church, I determined to relate them. Indeed, I went so far as to fix upon a mode of address relative to the subject. But I was deterred by a sense of my own unworlhiness and insufficiency, and likewise by a strong suspicion that the church would not approbate me to preach even in my own country. I regret my conduct. It has caused me many hours of uncertainty and distress. Soon after my removal to Danvers, I was much tried upon the subject. The difficulties of a missionary life passed before my mind, and frequently I have almost despaired of ever visiting the shores of India. But I can truly say, that a view of the most severe trials attendant on an ambassador of Christ to the heathen world never entirely discouraged me. A desire for the salvation of the heathen always counter balanced the trials. Indeed, I am much deceived, if I have not already given up my friends and native country, and relinquished all idea of worldly enjoyment, for the rich satisfaction of preaching Christ to the Pagans. This sacrifice was not made without many painful feelings. The thought of exchanging my own dear native country, for the land of strangers, and the habitations of cruelty; the friends of
my choice, the guides of my youth, and my dear relations, for the savages of our eastern world, caused me many distressing hours. I took into consideration, that before I could reach the place of my destination, two extensive oceans must be crossed; that if I survived the perils of the deep, I should have to associate with a barbarous people, whose very thoughts run in channels diverse from mine, and whose language "new and uncouth" as it will be, must be studied by me for several years, before I can even preach to them the great object for which I go; and that in Burmah my life would be in constant jeopardy. When I recollected these things, I confess that my heart was pained, and the tears of sorrow bedewed my cheeks. It was with these feelings, and with these prospects before me, that I asked myself the question, Is it possible that all my exercises on this subject are for nothing? I could not answer in the affirmative. When I considered that for six years these impressions had been fastened upon my mind, I was led to the conclusion, that the Lord had work for me to do in India, and I conceived that I should act contrary to duty, unless I represented my desires and feelings to my brethren. Immediately upon making this conclusion, I had an animating view of the sufficiency of God. Said I to myself, He has promised to give strength equal to my day; and shall I distrust him? He has commanded his servants to go into all the world, and has engaged never to forsake them. Why then should difficulties appal me? Why should I not endure them as well as others? Why should I not be permitted to bear them? Paul gloried in tribulations. Oh, that I might have the privilege of suffering for Christ in India.
If I am not greatly deceived, the last string that bound me to my native country, was cut by a consideration of the wretched condition of the heathen world. I am confident that expression is inadequate to describe their misery. Can we "behold them labouring hard for a scanty subsistence, oppressed by an avaricious government, which is ever ready to seize what industry had hardly acquired?" Can we behold the "sick and diseased among them, daily begging the few grains of rice, which when obtained, are scarcely sufficient to protract their wretched existence; and with no other habitation to screen them from the burning sun, or chilling rains, than a small piece of cloth raised on four bamboos under a tree can afford?" Can we, I say, behold these things, without having the feelings of our souls excited? Do we not long to relieve them even of their temporal necessities? And how shall our wishes be gratified but by sending the gospel among them? A few centuries ago our own country was one wide desert. In it the war whoop of the savage was heard, and the effects of his brutal barbarity seen. But what a different appearance is now presented to the eye? Large and thriving towns have arisen upon our sea coasts, and delightful villages throughout the interiour of our country. And to what shall we attribute this change? To nothing but the influence of Christianity. It was this which prompted our forefathers to cross the ocean, and settle in a howling wilderness; this enabled them to endure privations and fatigues, and to overcome the difficulties with which they were surrounded. It is owing to the benign influence of the gospel, that the poor are rendered comfortable; that when unable to provide for themselves, they are generally invited to alms-houses and hospitals. And if the gospel should prevail in Burmah, would not similar institutions arise? Is it reasonable to suppose, if Christianity were embraced by the Burmans, that they would permit their poor to suffer and die
for want of proper habitations, attendance, and food? No; that wretched country would exhibit quite a different appearance. Can the frequency and severity of their punishments fail to excite every feeling of our hearts? It is but seldom that we see a criminal executed; and no doubt the mode of execution adopted in our country is the most easy. But Oh, what cruel, what barbarous punishments are practised in Burmah! That person's heart must be harder than adamant, that does not feel at a recollection of them. I long, I pant to preach the mild gospel of the Prince of Peace in the habitations of cruelty. But the wretchedness of their outward condition appears unworthy of notice, when contrasted with their spiritual. On this subject I cannot speak with indifference. I know
"The Gospel bears my spirits up;
A faithful and unchanging God
Lays the foundation of my hope
In oaths, and promises, and blood."
And shall I not carry this gospel to them? Shall I not present to their minds that firm foundation on which my own hope of eternal happiness is built? In the single empire of Burmah, it is calculated there are seventeen millions of inhabitants; more than twice as many as in the United States. They have no Bibles; they never heard of the cross of Calvary, nor of the Saviour's blood; they are sitting in the region of the shadow of death, and are daily going the way of all the earth, unapprized of the absurdity of their worship, and of their dangerous condition. And shall not we, who know the true God. and have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus, apprize them of their situation, and teach them the way of salvation through the great Redeemer? Some perhaps will say, we have missionary ground enough at home, you had better reserve your strength for your own countrymen. Ah! is this the voice of Christian benevolence? Is this the language of converted Hindoos? Is this the Macedonian cry from the wilderness? Is this following the example of Christ, who himself became a missionary into our sinful world, or of the first disciples who did not confine themselves to the Jews, (although no people needed the gospel more) but went every where preaching the word? Let us ever recollect the language of sacred truth, "He that watereth, shall be watered himself." Have we not the most abundant reason to conclude, that if we send the ministers of Christ abroad, that he will raise up an abundant supply, and thrust them into the gospel vineyard at home? Do not Christians find by happy experience, that it is "more, blessed to give than to receive?" It is according to the very genius of the gospel, that the liberal soul shall be made fat; that he who soweth sparingly, shall reap sparingly; he that soweth liberally, shall reap an abundant harvest. But indeed, if ministers were going by hundreds to India, there might be some reason for alarm. This, however, is not the case. There are only a lew solitary individuals who have any inclination to go. They ardently desire to bear the tidings of salvation to the heathen world. And shall they he hindered? Must they have their hearts in India, and their bodies in America? Must they sigh in secret for a work in which they are not permitted to engage? But does our own country stand in as much need of preachers as the empire of Burmah? In the latter there are only two preachers to seventeen millions; in the former, there are thousands of preachers to only seven millions. How great the contrast! How loud the call for missionary labour!
Perhaps, after what I have written, it will be unnecessary to say, that I have an ardent desire to go to India I pant for missionary work; I long to read the sacrcd oracles,
and explain their cheering contents, to the miserable heathen. How animating the idea, that at some future period, under the covert of some shady tree, and perhaps within sight of a Pagan temple, I shall have the unspeakable privilege of pointing the listening Burmans to the Lamb of God! Oh, that I might have the privilege. I wish to be resigned to the directions of Providence; but I an confident, if I am denied going to the heathen world, it would be the greatest trial of my life. Oh for divine direction.
I was much animated with a sentence in the address of the Board of Foreign Missions: "Burmah shall assuredly bow to the Messiah, as shall the United States, or Europe, or Hindoostan." And do not the signs of the times indicate that the "kingdoms of this world are soon to become the kingdoms of our Lord?" Dr. Carey considers that the present zeal for extending the Redeemer's kingdom, is a new era in the Christian world; and says, that "some of them now entering into life, may, and probably will see the kingdom of our Redeemer set up universally." Oh, that I may be one of the instruments of effecting this glorious work! of advancing the interests of Zion, and of extending the knowledge of Jesus to the remotest bounds of the earth! At times I do adopt the language of the poet, and pray,
"Sovereign of world! display thy power,
Bid the bright morning star arise;
Be this thy Zion's favour'd hour;
And point the nations to the skies."
To the above communication, an answer altogether discouraging was given. For reasons which it is not important to notice here; arguments were employed to induce him to relinquish all thoughts of visiting Burmah. He was reminded of the privations, difficulties, and dangers to which he would be exposed; and of the fair prospect of respectability and usefulness which was opening upon him in his own land. But his feelings were, in some respects, similar to those of the apostle Paul, when he said, "None of these things move me; neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish mj course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God."
The two following letters allude to the discouragements he had received from his brethren, and are expressive of his own severe disappointment.
Danvers, Nov. 1816.
Rev. and dear Sir,
When last in town, I intended to embrace an opportunity of disclosing to you. the state of my mind as it respects the eastern mission. As no opportunity presented, permit me, at this time, to address you on the subject. I am conscious that the bounds of our habitations are appointed by God, and that we can never pass beyond them. There is, undoubtedly, a sphere alloted to every Christian, in which it should be his great aim to move. Out of this sphere he will neither enjoy his own mind, nor advance the interests of Zion. If the bounds of my habitation are fixed on American soil, and if my sphere of usefulness is confined to the American church, here I wish to stay, and draw my latest breath. Were I satisfied of this, never would I cherish a single desire to visit the habitations of cruelty. At times I have felt, and if not greatly deceived, I now feel willing "to stay where the Lord would have me to stay, and to go where He would have me to go." I have a desire to labour in that part of the vineyard of Christ, to which the finger of duty points: and I am sensible that there I shall eventually labour, although there may be, to the eye of reason, insuperable obstacles in the way. With God all things are possible. He can
level the highest mountains, and fill up the lowest vallies, that a way may be prepared for the performance of duty. And although I have no idea that miracles will be wrought on my account, yet there can be no doubt, but that events will be so ordered, as to give me an opportunity of working where the Lord designs. With views like these, I feel much easier as it respects my future life, than I did a few months since. Satisfied that every thing is ordered with infinite wisdom; that no event can take place which does not come under the inspection of the Most High; I wish to surrender all my concerns into the hand of Him who is the Father and Guide of his people. If it is my duty to spend my days in pagan lands, thither, in due time, I shall be directed. The way to the scene of my future labours, may be attended with many difficulties, it may be planted with thorns, and frequently appear to be entirely hedged up; but it will be a right way; it will be the way which infinite wisdom and love mark out; and its ruggedness will only make the future path of duty more pleasant and delightful. If the Israelites had, on their way to Canaan, no trials to endure, no wilderness to traverse, no enemies to conquer, the good land would not have appeared so acceptable. The difficulties through which they passed, gave a zest to all the pleasures which they experienced, on taking possession of the promised inheritance. In like manner, if the believer has many trials to pass through before he obtains the object for which he seeks, it will when granted, be rendered doubly sweet to him. O that these considerations might have a tendency to lessen my anxiety, and to induce me to wait with patience all the appointed time, until my change come.
I hope, by these remarks, it will not be understood, that my desire for missionary work is in the least abated. Nothing could give me higher satisfaction, than to know that a fair opportunity was offered for me to go, eventually, to the heathen world. I must confess that this is the object which I have most at heart. I am willing to spend many years in close application to study, to leave my native land, and to take up my residence, for life, amongst the most degraded of our species. Doubtless I may picture to myself many scenes which I shall never realize; I may anticipate happiness which I shall never experience; and I may be called to endure labours and sufferings which I never expected. I feel willing to forego the former, and to endure the latter, if duty requires. At present, however, I cannot imagine to myself any greater happiness, than to point the poor Burman to the blessed Object of Christian adoration. I am confident that it would give me unspeakable pleasure to sacrifice all that I can enjoy at home, for the privilege of leading the wretched heathen to that fountain in which they can be cleansed from the pollution of sin. Many things, at present, seem to forbid the expression even of a wish to become a missionary. I cannot think of the feelings of many of my brethren on this subject, without the most painful sensations. Why is it my unhappiness to differ from those I love and respect? If I am wrong, I wish to be right. I respect the opinions of my brethren: neither shall I ever go to India, unless they will cordially approbate me. If they finally think it is not my duty to leave this country, I will acquiesce, however painful, severely painful it may be to me. O for divine direction! for a spirit of supplication, that I may be led into the path of duty.
Danvers, March 17, 1817.
Rev. and dear Sir,
Were this the last objection which I had to make, I confess that the call at E_____ is so strong, that
it would not appear very forcible. Before I commenced my letter, I had some conversation with Mr. C. upon the subject. He advised me to write my feelings without the least reserve to you. O Sir! how shall I find language to express myself? I feel an ardent desire to preach the gospel to benighted heathens. True, Providence seems to forbid the attempt. I hear no friendly voice saying to me, This is the way to pagan lands; walk thou in it. Every door appears to be closed against me; nor do I see the most distant prospect of gratifying the dearest wish of my heart. Some perhaps will say, that this is a plain intimation for me to desist from going to a heathen land. I join with them, and say the same. I respect and value the opinions of my brethren. O that my feelings might be similar to theirs; then should I have peace of mind. It is a source of grief for me to differ from those whom I love and revere. But what shall I do? I cannot have a single hearty desire to settle in my own land. And when an invitation is given me, then I must revolt at the thought. Some time ago I came to a determination to sacrifice my feelings upon this subject, and endeavour to make myself contented to remain in my native country. After deliberating several days on the subject, I felt a resolution to dismiss every idea relative to personally engaging in the foreign mission. Said I to myself, Providence frowns upon the attempt, and my beloved brethren are opposed to it. Surely they know belter than myself, an inexperienced youth. Thus I reasoned myself into the determination above mentioned, and recorded it in my diary. Permit me to transcribe it: — "Have felt, for a long time, and still feel nmuch distressed as it respects my duty with reference to the mission in India. I have made known my desires; but my brethren discourage me, — discourage me much, very much. I shall, therefore, attempt to erase these impressions from my mind. How great the sacrifice of feeling! sacrifice of duty! But what can I do? Providence, through my brethren, seems to forbid my going. Oh, what agony of soul I have endured, merely by the prospect of forming the above resolution! My conscience almost tells me that I am wrong. I pause, nearly ready to expunge the words which have been tortured from me. Oh God! if I am wrong, forgive me, for I know not whither to fly. Fain would I visit Burmah's shore; but no voice (human) says, "This is the way, walk ye in it." When I wrote this resolution, I had no idea of showing it to any one. It was my design to keep it secret.
Since I came to the determination which I have written, my mind has had but little peace. I cannot read a missionary account, nor hear the subject conversed upon, without feeling distressed. The tear will often start from my eye, and the sigh heave from my bosom, when only the name of Burmah is mentioned. Notwithstanding the discouragements which I have met with, I still feel the same desire for missionary work. In pointing the poor pagans to the Lamb of God, I fain would spend my latest breath. I long to arrive at a conclusion on the subject. Could I feel contented to remain in my native land, never would I express a wish to the contrary; never would I burthen my brethren with perhaps useless requests; for so I suspect they will be. It is nothing but a sense of duty that impels me to write as I do. Perhaps I am too confident, but I really believe, if any one of the Foreign Mission Society had the exercises upon the subject which I have had, he would consider it to be a very great sacrifice of pleasure and duty to remain in his own land; and he would consider himself highly criminal unless he used every possible means to place himself in the
situation of a foreign missionary. And now, what shall I do? Shall I, or shall I not, make known my feelings to those around me? Shall 1 stifle the fire in my bones until it consumes me? Shall I settle down in my own country with a heavy heart? Shall my soul be in Burmah, and my body in America? I see no prospect but these questions must all be answered in the affirmative. I am afraid that the brethren are determined to keep me at home. If this should be their united resolution, I must abide by it.
When at last his brethren became convinced that it was their duty to encourage his application to the Baptist Board of Foreign Missions, he was almost at a loss to express the joy and gratitude which he experienced. Some idea may he formed of the state of his mind from a letter, dated
Danvers, April 19, 1817.
Rev. and dear Sir,
I cannot but feel animated with the prospect which I have, of becoming a missionary to the miserable heathen. I long to be engaged in proclaiming to them the astonishing love of Jesus to a guilty, ruined world.
"The sultry climes of India then I'd choose;
There would I toil, and sinners bonds unloose;
There would I live, and spend my latest breath,
And in my Jesus' service, meet a stingless death."
Christ, even him crucified, should be the burden of his preaching who goes to the heathen world. A description of his sufferings, will touch the heart, and be the means of reforming the man, more than all the lectures on morality which have ever been spun out by human wisdom. Since I have had a prospect of going to India, my mind has been in a very happy, and, I trust, gracious frame. The work has appeared all important, and Christ, all sufficient. I have not enjoyed so much for years as within three weeks. The trials which I have endured appear less than nothing, when contracted with the privilege which I hope to enjoy. If ever I felt conscious of duly, if ever I felt sweet satisfaction, it has been in writing my address to the Board. I tried to prepare my mind for the solemn work. Several days were spent in meditating upon the subject, taking it, renewedly, into solemn consideration, and imploring the direction of the Holy Spirit. I rose early, and tried to pour out my soul to God; took a walk, and seriously considered the important undertaking; came home, and read the 52d and 60th chapters of Isaiah. The 12th verse of the 52d was peculiarly precious. The whole of both was sweet and animating. I then deliberately sat down, and wrote my communication. To my brethren I commit my case. They, under God, will, I believe, guide me into the path of duty. While I am rejoicing, do not, dear Sir, imagine, that I expect to live an easy life in Burmah. I calculate upon trials; the greatest are yet to come. Unexpected difficulties will arise in a heathen land to try my faith and patience. I have frequently attempted to count the cost; and after prayerfully and solemnly considering the difficulties of a missionary life, I had rather endure them, and have the rich satisfaction of preaching to the heathen, than be exempted from them, and remain in my own country. I do more than choose, I prefer the former to the latter. To deny me the privilege of going to Burmah (by this I mean any heathen land) would blast my fondest hopes, and my most cheering prospects.
[James Colman - Part 3]The most intimate friends of Mr. Colman had indulged a hope, that they should see him occupy an important station in his native country. His talents were peculiarly adapted to a cultivated state of society. Had he remained at home, there is reason to believe, that he would have laboured with much reputation and success in the cause of evangelical religion. Although young, he was a workman who rightly divided the word of truth. He spake forth the words of truth and soberness, and yet there was a brilliancy of imagination, and a fervour of eloquence in his discourses which commanded the attention, and awakened feelings of interest in all who heard him.
Perceiving these traits in his character as a preacher, attempts were made to divert his thoughts from missionary service. But when he made such a full disclosure of his feelings in relation to the heathen, and frequently declared that his future happiness depended on labouring amongst them, his brethren could no longer withhold their consent to his request, He was recommended to the patronage of the Baptist Convention in the United States, for Foreign Missions, during its session in Philadelphia, in 1817.
On the 10th of September in the same year, Mr. Colman, in conjunction with Mr. Wheelock, was solemnly ordained to the work of the ministry as a missionary to Burmah. And on the sixteenth of November following, he embarked with his wife and missionary associates, in the ship Independence, for Calcutta.
It was much to the honour of Messrs. Colman and Wheelock, that they did not forget their character and work while on their passage to India. They were sent to preach the gospel to the heathen. But they knew that the persons on board the Independence had immortal souls, and that repentance and faith were as necessary to their salvation as to the Burmans. Having therefore obtained the consent of the captain, they commenced their pious labours among the sailors. On the Sabbath they preached; and on other days as they had
opportunity, they taught the most ignorant of them to read, and also imparted religious instruction. To the honour of divine grace, it may be recorded, that these faithful servants laboured not in vain, and spent not their strength for nought. It was the pleasure of God to bless their pious instructions. Several mariners began to be awakened to a sense of their lost and guilty condition, and were finally brought to exercise that hope, which is as an anchor to the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil. Some of these men had been drunkards, swearers, and lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God; but the grace of God which bringeth salvation, taught them to deny themselves of all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present evil world.
In his first letter from Calcutta, after mentioning that the voyage had been very pleasant, he says, "but the most delightful circumstance which we have to mention, is, that the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the sailors, and six or seven of them, we humbly hope, were brought to the knowledge of the truth."
Mr. Colman arrived at Rangoon, September 19, 1818. Some idea of his feelings as a missionary, may be formed by an extract from a letter which he addressed to his Pastor, dated
Rangoon, February 8, 1819.
Very dear Pastor,
We left Calcutta, August 19th, and after a passage of four weeks, arrived at this port. Never did a man famishing with hunger, partake of food with more satisfaction than we beheld the shores of Burmah. For ten long months we had been wanderers upon the ocean, or exposed to the influence of a sickly clime. It was delicious to arrive at the end of our journey. The land appeared to us, as Canaan did to the Israelites of old: — the land of rest and promise. As we sailed up the river, we felt real satisfaction in anticipating that upon its banks we should pitch our tents, and beneath its turf should lay our bodies.
We found, upon arriving at the landing place, our beloved brethren waiting to receive us. For a short time, we could do no more than to take each other by the hand. The sensations of our minds destroyed the power of utterance. In about an hour, the females came on shore, when the whole mission family met, and by mutual expressions of love and joy, attracted universal attention. This was a memorable season. Such a combination of unusual feelings never rushed upon my mind before. We were immediately conducted to the King's Godown, where, according to the custom of the country, we were strictly searched. We then proceeded to the mission house. Imagine, if you can, our sensations when we stepped beneath its roof, and found ourselves in that dear company which we had so long desired to enjoy. That was a season of feasting. How swiftly the hours passed away! How varied, how cheering was the conversation! How fervent were the prayers and thanksgivings to Almighty God! The events of those sweet days can never be effaced from my memory; I feel something of their influence at the present time.
Our deceased friend immediately commenced the study of the Burman language; his success was as great as might have been expected, and he began to look forward to the time when he should make known to this benighted people the way of salvation by Jesus Christ. But these delightful anticipations were not realized. Early in 1820, Messrs. Judson and Colman made a personal application to the emperor, that they might be
permitted to preach the gospel of Christ to the subjects of his empire. But at the close of this interview the missionaries were informed, that permission to proselyte within the Burman dominions could not be obtained; and that if any Burmans were proselyted, they could have no assurance of protection.
This state of things made it desirable that they should have a place of refuge, to which they might flee in case they should be ordered to leave the empire. As Mr. Judson was acquainted with the language, it was thought very important that be should remain, while Mr. Colman should attempt to establish amission at Chittagong.
Mr. Colman left Rangoon with very sorrowful feelings, but with the entire approbation, and undiminished affection of the associates he left behind. And here it may be proper to remark, that the most satisfactory and ample testimony has been borne by the surviving missionaries to the piety, diligence, prudence, and zeal of the deceased during the whole of his residence at Rangoon.
On the fifth of June, 1821, Mr. Colman found himself in Chittagong. In this place he was treated with much attention and respect, especially by the Judge of the district, whose timely aid and protection in some trying instances deserve to be gratefully remembered by the friends of missions. As his chief object was to preach the gospel to the Arrakanese, who live on the borders of the Burman empire, he left Chittagong for Cox's Bazar, a place which contains about thirty thousand inhabitants, and whose language is very similar to the Burman.
In this new situation he met with unexpected and cruel opposition. A boodhist priest from Ceylon excited a popular tumult against him, and he expected every moment that the mob who surrounded his house, would compel him to leave the town. But in patience he possessed his soul. Indeed the tranquillity which he manifested at this time was such, as to fill his opposers wiih astonishment. In a few days an order was received from the worthy magistrate before alluded to, prohibiting any one from injuring Mr. Colman, on pain of his displeasure. This order had the desired effect, and no one attempted to molest him afterwards. He also wrote a kind letter to Mr. Colman, containing assurances of future protection, and in addition to this kindness, he furnished the missionaries with a native officer, who was to be in constant attendance, and render them any assistance requisite.
Mr. Colman now resumed his studies under the direction of an Arrakanese teacher, and besides conversing with inquirers on the nature of the Christian religion; with the assistance of his wife, he established a school for the education of children. A powerful appeal was made to the friends of Christ in the United States, in favour of this school, and a Society was immediately formed in Boston, to defray the expenses of female children in this school. The prospect of success at Cox's Bazar was bright and encouraging. Christians were looking forward to the time, when they should receive the joyful intelligence that the Arrakanese were converted to the faith of Christianity, and that female schools were in successful operation. But the thoughts of the Almighty are unsearchable, and his ways are past finding out. Instead of this delightful information, the next vessel that arrived from India, brought us the melancholy tidings that Mr. Colman was dead.
As a particular account of his sickness and death has already appeared in the Magazine, it will be unnecessary to enlarge on this painful event. It may only be
proper to remark, that his last end was peace. He is at rest from his labours, and no doubt, has gone, to receive a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give unto all them that love his appearing. A few lines which have recently been received from his disconsolate widow, may perhaps give some interest to this memoir.
Calcutta, November 21, 1822.
My dear Mrs. S_____,
Surely the "way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." When I last wrote you, my dear Mrs. S____, how little did I anticipate the heart rending trial that awaited me! Ah! little indeed did I imagine, that the Lord would call me to pass through such a fiery furnace. I was favoured with one of the most amiable and best of husbands. How happy were we in each other! How delightful the prospects before us! Some of the poor pagans had gladdened our hearts by the interesting inquiry, "What shall we do to be saved?" And with the most sanguine hopes did we anticipate the time, when, believing on the Lord Jesus Christ with all their hearts, they would profess his name, and unite with us in celebrating his dying love. But now, alas! how reversed is the scene! I am forever deprived of the sweet society of my beloved companion. Every prospect is blasted, and every hope entombed! How applicable to my afflicted feelings, is the language of Watts,
"This world is all an empty show,
But the bright world to which we go,
Hath joys substantial and sincere.
When shall I wake, and find me there!"
You have requested me, my dear Mrs. S____, to write to you in confidence, and I will assure you, that, in my present disconsolate and afflicted circumstances, it affords me peculiar relief to avail myself of this liberty. The esteem and friendship which my dearest companion entertained for you, and Mr. S____, is also another inducement for me to open my mind to you freely. Ever since the painful event of his
hisdeath, it has been my prevailing desire to remain still united to the mission, although a sense of my unworthiness and inability has almost forbid me to hope this would be the case. Not long since, I wrote to Dr. Staughton respecting the illness and death of Mr. Colman, and requested the opinion of the Board in regard to what plan they thought best for me to adopt. I said nothing, however, relative to my own wishes, partly from motives of delicacy, but more particularly, because I feared it was not the result of due deliberation. But since my arrival in Calcutta, I have endeavoured seriously to re-consider the subject, and feel the above desire, not only confirmed, but greatly increased. Could I be indulged the privilege of continuing those delightful pursuits which occupied my time during the life of my beloved partner, it would, I am persuaded, more reconcile me to the heavy loss which I sustain in his death, than I could ever expect otherwise to feel. Perhaps, also, I might by this means, do a little towards the promotion of that glorious cause in which he so warmly engaged. If it is thought that a single female in a single capacity would be of the slightest service to the mission, the desire which I have thus freely expressed, will, I humbly hope, be gratified. Allow me to assure you that your sympathy, your friendship, and your advice, will be most grateful to the feelings of my widowed and afflicted heart.
What painful events transpire with reference to this mission! May God overrule them all for the advancement of the Redeemer's cause among the Burmans! The station at Cox's Bazar is now left entirely destitute. Melancholy indeed
is the situation of the poor Arrakanese. Some of them had began to "see men as trees walking;" they stand in great need of Christian instruction. When I think of their distressing cajp, my heart is oppressed with grief, and all the relief I find, is to repair to the throne of mercy, and there pour out my burdened soul into ihe bosom of my heavenly Father. I earnestly hope that the Board will feel encouraged to continue the station which has been formed among them, notwithstanding the agonizing scene which there transpired, and that soon they will send a faithful missionary to supply it.
In deep affliction, I am. sincerely and affectionately yours, E. W. COI.MAN.
We sincerely sympathize with our bereaved sister. But we trust that she "will not sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus, will God bring with him."
[From The American Baptist Magazine, and Missionary Intelligencer, Volume 4, May, 1823, pp. 81-92; July, pp. 113-121; September, pp. 153-157. Document from Google Books. — Jim Duvall]
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