Baptist History Homepage

A Brief Memoir Of The Rev. Adoniram Judson
American Missionary to the Burman Empire
Baptist Magazine
Supplement, 1830
     We are happy in being able, in our present number, to present our readers with a portrait of Mr. Judson, the American Baptist missionary in Burmah, with whose labours and sufferings in the sacred cause many of them have become acquainted, from perusing the account of that mission by his late excellent wife, and her own interesting memoirs. From those works, and other sources in our possession, we shall add a few particulars of the history of our esteemed missionary brother.

     Adoniram Judson was born August 9, 1788, at Maiden, in the State of Massachusetts, in which town his father, who, if we mistake not, is still living, was settled as a Paedobaptist minister. He graduated at Brown University in 1807, and soon afterwards commenced making the tour of the United States. At that time he had been induced to adopt deistical sentiments, but some providential occurrences, while on his journey, so powerfully impressed his mind, that he resolved, instead of proceeding further, to return to his father's house, and examine thoroughly the foundation of the Christian religion. The result of this investigation was a full conviction of the divine authority of the scriptures, accompanied with a deep and anxious concern for his own personal salvation.

     About the time that Mr. Judson was the subject ot these mental exercises, a new theological seminary was established at Andover, in his native State. Into this institution be ardently desired to enter, but was almost deterred from applying, because evidences of evangelical piety were expected from all who obtained admission. These, he assured the Professors, he did not possess; but as their opinion on the subject was probably more favourable than his own, he was received into the seminary; and soon after, becoming gradually more confirmed in his religious views and experience, he directed his attention to the studies most adapted to prepare him for the exercise of the Christian ministry.

     When the term of his residence at Andover had nearly expired, Mr. Judson met with Dr. Buchanan's "Star in the East," which first impressed his mind with the subject of Oriental missions. The solemn importance of an attempt to rescue the perishing millions of Asia dwelt much on his mind, and he communicated his impressions to various individuals, but met with no encouragement from them. At length he wrote to the Directors of the London Missionary Society, explaining his views, and requesting information; and received, in reply, a friendly invitation to visit England, and communicate personally with the Directors on the subject which so deeply interested him.

     Soon after this, three other young men, who had been educating, like himself, for the ministry, Messrs.

[p. 542]
Nott, Newell, and Hall, imbibed the same spirit, and came to the resolution of leaving their native land, and engaging as missionaries to the heathen, as soon as Providence should open the way for their employment. Their united wishes and feelings were embodied in a modest and respectful application, drawn up by Mr. Judson, and presented to the Massachusetts (Congregational) Association, assembled at Bradford in June 1810. This step led to the immediate formation of the "American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions," a Society which numbers among its supporters a large proportion of our Paedobaptist fellow Christians in the United States, and whose various and extensive labours in different parts of the great missionary field, during the last twenty years, have been crowned with considerable success.

     Mr. Judson and his associates had entertained the hope of being sent forth at once to their missionary work; but as the Board were unprovided with funds, and no plan of operations had been settled, they advised their young friends to continue for a while their studies, and wait for further information. Anxious, however, to shorten the delay as much as possible, Mr. Judson obtained leave to visit England, in order to ascertain whether any plan of co-operation could be arranged between the London Missionary Society and the newly-formed American Board.

     He sailed in January, 1811; but three weeks after sailing, the vessel was captured by a French privateer, and he was detained more than two months as a prisoner. By the exertions of an American gentleman at Bayonne, he was released on parole; and after having, with great difficulty, obtained passports from the Emperor, he arrived in London in the following May; but it did not appear, from his interview with the Directors, that any combined plan of operations could be concerted between the two Societies.

     On his return to America, Mr. Judson met the Board at Worcester in September, when it was resolved that himself, with Messrs. Nott, Newell, and Hall, should proceed to establish a mission in Burmah. Accordingly, he embarked, with Mrs. Judson, and Mr. and Mrs. Newell, from Salem, on the 6th of February, 1812, and after a pleasant passage, landed at Calcutta on the 18th of June following, where the whole party were received with much kindness by Dr. Carey, and the other missionaries in that city and at Serarnpore.

     On his voyage from America, Mr. Judson, deeming it not improbable that during his temporary sojourn among the Baptist brethren, he might have occasion to defend the practice of infant sprinkling, entered (as it should seem, for the first time,) into an examination of the arguments by which that ceremony is maintained. His inquiries terminated in a full conviction of the unscriptural nature of the rite in question, and as Mrs. Judson shared both in the inquiry and in its result, they were baptized at Calcutta by Mr. Ward, the first Lord's day in September, 1812.*

     This change of sentiment occasioned a dissolution of the connection between Mr. Judson and his former patrons; and for a time, his prospects were such as severely to exercise his faith in the divine
* On this occasion, Mr. Judson delivered a masterly sermon on "Christian Baptism," which has gone through several editions.

[p. 543]
care and protection. The supreme government of that day was strongly opposed to the settlement of missionaries in Bengal, and the American friends were peremptorily required to return to their own country, in the vessel which had brought them out. There appeared no way of avoiding this most unwelcome alternative, but by proceeding to some place beyond the jurisdiction of the Company. The differences existing between the English and Burmese governments, seemed totally to forbid the idea of settling in the territory of the latter; and therefore, as the only resource, Mr. Judson obtained leave to proceed to the Isle of France, from whence their companion, Mr. Rice, returned to the United States, and proved the instrument, in the hand of Providence, of forming the American Baptist Missionary Society, which held its first general meeting at Philadelphia in April, 1814. One of the first acts of this body was to recognize Mr. and Mrs. Judson as their missionaries, leaving it to their discretion to select a field of labour.

     After residing about three months in the Isle of France, our missionary friends returned to Madras, in great perplexity whither ultimately to direct their course, and continually dreading lest the English government should compel them to quit India altogether, and proceed to England. In the midst of these apprehensions, a ship offered for Rangoon, the principal sea-port in the Burman empire; and as affairs between that government and the British had now assumed a more pacific aspect, they ventured on board, and after an unpleasant and dangerous passage, arrived at their destined haven in July, 1813.

     Thus, by a series of events wholly unexpected, and some of them very painful, they were at length conducted to the very spot which had been originally contemplated in the commencement of their missionary career ; and where Mr. Judson and those Christian brethren subsequently associated with him, have been privileged to found and conduct a mission, of which the history has been as remarkable, and the results are as promising, as those of any similar undertaking with which we are acquainted.

     But we have been requested to furnish, not a pamphlet, but a short article for the Magazine, and perhaps have already transgressed the proper limits. For the variety of interesting particulars connected with the establishment of this mission - the perils it has undergone - the fearful sufferings endured by Mr. and Mrs. Judson and others, during the Burmese war - the honourable part they sustained in the negotiations by which it was terminated - the affecting decease of Mrs. Judson - and the subsequent progress and present very encouraging state of the mission - we are constrained to refer our readers to the "Memoir of Mrs. Judson," of which the fourth edition is now on sale, by the Publisher of this Magazine. In that highly interesting work, the details are given with a simplicity and force which abridgment would greatly injure; and none, surely, who are capable of appreciating the moral grandeur of the missionary enterprize, can peruse it without emotions of gratitude to Him, whose power has already effected so much in that dark and benighted region; and of renewed expectation and lively hope, that the period is not far distant, when those who love the appearing of the great God, even our Saviour, shall behold far more abundant manifestations of his saving mercy. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts shall perform this. Amen.

[From Baptist Magazine, Supplement, 1830, pp. 541-543. Document from Google Books. Scanned and formattd by Jim Duvall.]

More Baptist Biographies
Baptist History Homepage