The Life of William Carey, Shoemaker & Missionary by George Smith

This Etext was created by John Bechard, London, England ( {Note: I have had to insert a view comments mainly in regards to adjustments to fonts to allow for some of the characters in the Indian names; you will find any of my own notes enclosed in these brackets–{}. I have also renumbered the footnotes
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  • 1885
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This Etext was created by John Bechard, London, England (

{Note: I have had to insert a view comments mainly in regards to adjustments to fonts to allow for some of the characters in the Indian names; you will find any of my own notes enclosed in these brackets–{}. I have also renumbered the footnotes and placed them at the end of this Etext, removing them from within the document where they fell at the end of each corresponding page.}

The Life of William Carey, Shoemaker & Missionary

by George Smith

This Etext was created by John Bechard, London, England (

{Note from the preparer of this etext: I have had to insert a view comments mainly in regards to adjustments to fonts to allow for some of the characters in the Indian names; you will find any of my own notes enclosed in these brackets–{}. I have also renumbered the footnotes and placed them at the end of this e-text, removing them from within the document where they fell at the end of each corresponding page.}


On the death of William Carey In 1834 Dr. Joshua Marshman promised to write the Life of his great colleague, with whom he had held almost daily converse since the beginning of the century, but he survived too short a time to begin the work. In 1836 the Rev. Eustace Carey anticipated him by issuing what is little better than a selection of mutilated letters and journals made at the request of the Committee of the Baptist Missionary Society. It contains one passage of value, however. Dr. Carey once said to his nephew, whose design he seems to have suspected, “Eustace, if after my removal any one should think it worth his while to write my Life, I will give you a criterion by which you may judge of its correctness. If he give me credit for being a plodder he will describe me justly. Anything beyond this will be too much. I can plod. I can persevere in any definite pursuit. To this I owe everything.”

In 1859 Mr. John Marshman, after his final return to England, published The Life and Times of Carey, Marshman, and Ward, a valuable history and defence of the Serampore Mission, but rather a biography of his father than of Carey.

When I first went to Serampore the great missionary had not been twenty years dead. During my long residence there as Editor of the Friend of India, I came to know, in most of its details, the nature of the work done by Carey for India and for Christendom in the first third of the century. I began to collect such materials for his Biography as were to be found in the office, the press, and the college, and among the Native Christians and Brahman pundits whom he had influenced. In addition to such materials and experience I have been favoured with the use of many unpublished letters written by Carey or referring to him; for which courtesy I here desire to thank Mrs. S. Carey, South Bank, Red Hill; Frederick George Carey, Esq., LL.B., of Lincoln’s Inn; and the Rev. Jonathan P. Carey of Tiverton.

My Biographies of Carey of Serampore, Henry Martyn, Duff of Calcutta, and Wilson of Bombay, cover a period of nearly a century and a quarter, from 1761 to 1878. They have been written as contributions to that history of the Christian Church of India which one of its native sons must some day attempt; and to the history of English-speaking peoples, whom the Foreign Missions begun by Carey have made the rulers and civilisers of the non-Christian world.







The Heart of England–The Weaver Carey who became a Peer, and the weaver who was father of William Carey–Early training in Paulerspury–Impressions made by him on his sister–On his companions and the villagers–His experience as son of the parish clerk–Apprenticed to a shoemaker of Hackleton–Poverty–Famous shoemakers from Annianus and Crispin to Hans Sachs and Whittier–From Pharisaism to Christ–The last shall be first–The dissenting preacher in the parish clerk’s home–He studies Latin, Greek and Hebrew, Dutch and French–The cobbler’s shed is Carey’s College.

William Carey, the first of her own children of the Reformation whom England sent forth as a missionary to India, where he became the most extensive translator of the Bible and civiliser, was the son of a weaver, and was himself a village shoemaker till he was twenty-eight years of age. He was born on the 17th August 1761, in the very midland of England, in the heart of the district which had produced Shakspere, had fostered Wyclif and Hooker, had bred Fox and Bunyan, and had for a time been the scene of the lesser lights of John Mason and Doddridge, of John Newton and Thomas Scott. William Cowper, the poet of missions, made the land his chosen home, writing Hope and The Task in Olney, while the shoemaker was studying theology under Sutcliff on the opposite side of the market-place. Thomas Clarkson, born a year before Carey, was beginning his assaults on the slave-trade by translating into English his Latin essay on the day-star of African liberty when the shoemaker, whom no university knew, was writing his Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to use means for the Conversion of the Heathens.

William Carey bore a name which had slowly fallen into forgetfulness after services to the Stewarts, with whose cause it had been identified. Professor Stephens, of Copenhagen, traces it to the Scando-Anglian Car, CAER or CARE, which became a place-name as CAR-EY. Among scores of neighbours called William, William of Car-ey would soon sink into Carey, and this would again become the family name. In Denmark the name Caròe is common. The oldest English instance is the Cariet who coined money in London for Æthelred II. in 1016. Certainly the name, through its forms of Crew, Carew, Carey, and Cary, still prevails on the Irish coast–from which depression of trade drove the family first to Yorkshire, then to the Northamptonshire village of Yelvertoft, and finally to Paulerspury, farther south–as well as over the whole Danegelt from Lincolnshire to Devonshire. If thus there was Norse blood in William Carey it came out in his persistent missionary daring, and it is pleasant even to speculate on the possibility of such an origin in one who was all his Indian life indebted to Denmark for the protection which alone made his career possible.

The Careys who became famous in English history sprang from Devon. For two and a half centuries, from the second Richard to the second Charles, they gave statesmen and soldiers, scholars and bishops, to the service of their country. Henry Carey, first cousin of Queen Elizabeth, was the common ancestor of two ennobled houses long since extinct–the Earls of Dover and the Earls of Monmouth. A third peerage won by the Careys has been made historic by the patriotic counsels and self-sacrificing fate of Viscount Falkland, whose representative was Governor of Bombay for a time. Two of the heroic Falkland’s descendants, aged ladies, addressed a pathetic letter to Parliament about the time that the great missionary died, praying that they might not be doomed to starvation by being deprived of a crown pension of £80 a year. The older branch of the Careys also had fallen on evil times, and it became extinct while the future missionary was yet four years old. The seventh lord was a weaver when he succeeded to the title, and he died childless. The eighth was a Dutchman who had to be naturalised, and he was the last. The Careys fell lower still. One of them bore to the brilliant and reckless Marquis of Halifax, Henry Carey, who wrote one of the few English ballads that live. Another, the poet’s granddaughter, was the mother of Edmund Kean, and he at first was known by her name on the stage.

At that time when the weaver became the lord the grandfather of the missionary was parish clerk and first schoolmaster of the village of Paulerspury, eleven miles south of Northampton, and near the ancient posting town of Towcester, on the old Roman road from London to Chester. The free school was at the east or “church end” of the village, which, after crossing the old Watling Street, straggles for a mile over a sluggish burn to the “Pury end.” One son, Thomas, had enlisted and was in Canada. Edmund Carey, the second, set up the loom on which he wove the woollen cloth known as “tammy,” in a two-storied cottage. There his eldest child, WILLIAM, was born, and lived for six years till his father was appointed schoolmaster, when the family removed to the free schoolhouse. The cottage was demolished in 1854 by one Richard Linnell, who placed on the still meaner structure now occupying the site the memorial slab that guides many visitors to the spot. The schoolhouse, in which William Carey spent the eight most important years of his childhood till he was fourteen, and the school made way for the present pretty buildings.

The village surroundings and the country scenery coloured the whole of the boy’s after life, and did much to make him the first agricultural improver and naturalist of Bengal, which he became. The lordship of Pirie, as it was called by Gitda, its Saxon owner, was given by the Conqueror, with much else, to his natural son, William Peverel, as we see from the Domesday survey. His descendants passed it on to Robert de Paveli, whence its present name, but in Carey’s time it was held by the second Earl Bathurst, who was Lord Chancellor. Up to the very schoolhouse came the royal forest of Whittlebury, its walks leading north to the woods of Salcey, of Yardley Chase and Rockingham, from the beeches which give Buckingham its name. Carey must have often sat under the Queen’s Oak, still venerable in its riven form, where Edward IV., when hunting, first saw Elizabeth, unhappy mother of the two princes murdered in the Tower. The silent robbery of the people’s rights called “inclosures” has done much, before and since Carey’s time, to sweep away or shut up the woodlands. The country may be less beautiful, while the population has grown so that Paulerspury has now nearly double the eight hundred inhabitants of a century ago. But its oolitic hills, gently swelling to above 700 feet, and the valleys of the many rivers which flow from this central watershed, west and east, are covered with fat vegetation almost equally divided between grass and corn, with green crops. The many large estates are rich in gardens and orchards. The farmers, chiefly on small holdings, are famous for their shorthorns and Leicester sheep. Except for the rapidly-developing production of iron from the Lias, begun by the Romans, there is but one manufacture–that of shoes. It is now centred by modern machinery and labour arrangements in Northampton itself, which has 24,000 shoemakers, and in the other towns, but a century ago the craft was common to every hamlet. For botany and agriculture, however, Northamptonshire was the finest county in England, and young Carey had trodden many a mile of it, as boy and man, before he left home for ever for Bengal.

Two unfinished autobiographical sketches, written from India at the request of Fuller and of Ryland, and letters of his youngest sister Mary, his favourite “Polly” who survived him, have preserved for us in still vivid characters the details of the early training of William Carey. He was the eldest of five children. He was the special care of their grandmother, a woman of a delicate nature and devout habits, who closed her sad widowhood in the weaver-son’s cottage. Encompassed by such a living influence the grandson spent his first six years. Already the child unconsciously showed the eager thirst for knowledge, and perseverance in attaining his object, which made him chiefly what he became. His mother would often be awoke in the night by the pleasant lisping of a voice “casting accompts; so intent was he from childhood in the pursuit of knowledge. Whatever he began he finished; difficulties never seemed to discourage his mind.” On removal to the ancestral schoolhouse the boy had a room to himself. His sister describes it as full of insects stuck in every corner that he might observe their progress. His many birds he entrusted to her care when he was from home. In this picture we see the exact foreshadowing of the man. “Though I often used to kill his birds by kindness, yet when he saw my grief for it he always indulged me with the pleasure of serving them again; and often took me over the dirtiest roads to get at a plant or an insect. He never walked out, I think, when quite a boy, without observation on the hedges as he passed; and when he took up a plant of any kind he always observed it with care. Though I was but a child I well remember his pursuits. He always seemed in earnest in his recreations as well as in school. He was generally one of the most active in all the amusements and recreations that boys in general pursue. He was always beloved by the boys about his own age.” To climb a certain tree was the object of their ambition; he fell often in the attempt, but did not rest till he had succeeded. His Uncle Peter was a gardener in the same village, and gave him his first lessons in botany and horticulture. He soon became responsible for his father’s official garden, till it was the best kept in the neighbourhood. Wherever after that he lived, as boy or man, poor or in comfort, William Carey made and perfected his garden, and always for others, until he created at Serampore the botanical park which for more than half a century was unique in Southern Asia.

We have in a letter from the Manse, Paulerspury, a tradition of the impression made on the dull rustics by the dawning genius of the youth whom they but dimly comprehended. He went amongst them under the nickname of Columbus, and they would say, “Well, if you won’t play, preach us a sermon,” which he would do. Mounting on an old dwarf witch-elm about seven feet high, where several could sit, he would hold forth. This seems to have been a resort of his for reading, his favourite occupation. The same authority tells how, when suffering toothache, he allowed his companions to drag the tooth from his head with a violent jerk, by tying around it a string attached to a wheel used to grind malt, to which they gave a sharp turn.

The boy’s own peculiar room was a little library as well as museum of natural history. He possessed a few books, which indeed were many for those days, but he borrowed more from the whole country-side. Recalling the eight years of his intellectual apprenticeship till he was fourteen, from the serene height of his missionary standard, he wrote long after:–“I chose to read books of science, history, voyages, etc., more than any others. Novels and plays always disgusted me, and I avoided them as much as I did books of religion, and perhaps from the same motive. I was better pleased with romances, and this circumstance made me read the Pilgrim’s Progress with eagerness, though to no purpose.” The new era, of which he was to be the aggressive spiritual representative from Christendom, had not dawned. Walter Scott was ten years his junior. Captain Cook had not discovered the Sandwich Islands, and was only returning from the second of his three voyages while Carey was still at school. The church services and the watchfulness of his father supplied the directly moral training which his grandmother had begun.

The Paulerspury living of St. James is a valuable rectory in the gift of New College, Oxford. Originally built in Early English, and rebuilt in 1844, the church must have presented a still more venerable appearance a century ago than it does now, with its noble tower in the Perpendicular, and chancel in the Decorated style, dominating all the county. Then, as still, effigies of a Paveli and his wife, and of Sir Arthur Throckmorton and his wife recumbent head to head, covered a large altar-tomb in the chancel, and with the Bathurst and other monuments called forth first the fear and then the pride of the parish clerk’s eldest son. In those days the clerk had just below the pulpit the desk from which his sonorous “Amen” sounded forth, while his family occupied a low gallery rising from the same level up behind the pulpit. There the boys of the free school also could be under the master’s eye, and with instruments of music like those of King David, but now banished from even village churches, would accompany him in the doggerel strains of Sternhold and Hopkins, immortalised by Cowper. To the far right the boys could see and long for the ropes under the tower, in which the bell-ringers of his day, as of Bunyan’s not long before, delighted. The preaching of the time did nothing more for young Carey than for the rest of England and Scotland, whom the parish church had not driven into dissent or secession. But he could not help knowing the Prayer-Book, and especially its psalms and lessons, and he was duly confirmed. The family training, too, was exceptionally scriptural, though not evangelical. “I had many stirrings of mind occasioned by being often obliged to read books of a religious character; and, having been accustomed from my infancy to read the Scriptures, I had a considerable acquaintance therewith, especially with the historical parts.” The first result was to make him despise dissenters. But, undoubtedly, this eldest son of the schoolmaster and the clerk of the parish had at fourteen received an education from parents, nature, and books which, with his habits of observation, love of reading, and perseverance, made him better instructed than most boys of fourteen far above the peasant class to which he belonged.

Buried in this obscure village in the dullest period of the dullest of all centuries, the boy had no better prospect before him than that of a weaver or labourer, or possibly a schoolmaster like one of his uncles in the neighbouring town of Towcester. When twelve years of age, with his uncle there, he might have formed one of the crowd which listened to John Wesley, who, in 1773 and then aged seventy, visited the prosperous posting town. Paulerspury could indeed boast of one son, Edward Bernard, D.D., who, two centuries before, had made for himself a name in Oxford, where he was Savilian Professor of Astronomy. But Carey was not a Scotsman, and therefore the university was not for such as he. Like his school-fellows, he seemed born to the English labourer’s fate of five shillings a week, and the poorhouse in sickness and old age. From this, in the first instance, he was saved by a disease which affected his face and hands most painfully whenever he was long exposed to the sun. For seven years he had failed to find relief. His attempt at work in the field were for two years followed by distressing agony at night. He was now sixteen, and his father sought out a good man who would receive him as apprentice to the shoemaking trade. The man was not difficult to find, in the hamlet of Hackleton, nine miles off, in the person of one Clarke Nichols. The lad afterwards described him as “a strict churchman and, what I thought, a very moral man. It is true he sometimes drank rather too freely, and generally employed me in carrying out goods on the Lord’s Day morning; but he was an inveterate enemy to lying, a vice to which I was awfully addicted.” The senior apprentice was a dissenter, and the master and his boys gave much of the talk over their work to disputes upon religious subjects. Carey “had always looked upon dissenters with contempt. I had, moreover, a share of pride sufficient for a thousand times my knowledge; I therefore always scorned to have the worst in an argument, and the last word was assuredly mine. I also made up in positive assertion what was wanting in argument, and generally came off with triumph. But I was often convinced afterwards that although I had the last word my antagonist had the better of the argument, and on that account felt a growing uneasiness and stings of conscience gradually increasing.” The dissenting apprentice was soon to be the first to lead him to Christ.

William Carey was a shoemaker during the twelve years of his life from sixteen to twenty-eight, till he went to Leicester. Poverty, which the grace of God used to make him a preacher also from his eighteenth year, compelled him to work with his hands in leather all the week, and to tramp many a weary mile to Northampton and Kettering carrying the product of his labour. At one time, when minister of Moulton, he kept a school by day, made or cobbled shoes by night, and preached on Sunday. So Paul had made tents of his native Cilician goatskin in the days when infant Christianity was chased from city to city, and the cross was a reproach only less bitter, however, than evangelical dissent in Christian England in the eighteenth century. The providence which made and kept young Carey so long a shoemaker, put him in the very position in which he could most fruitfully receive and nurse the sacred fire that made him the most learned scholar and Bible translator of his day in the East. The same providence thus linked him to the earliest Latin missionaries of Alexandria, of Asia Minor, and of Gaul, who were shoemakers, and to a succession of scholars and divines, poets and critics, reformers and philanthropists, who have used the shoemaker’s life to become illustrious.1 St. Mark chose for his successor, as first bishop of Alexandria, that Annianus whom he had been the means of converting to Christ when he found him at the cobbler’s stall. The Talmud commemorates the courage and the wisdom of “Rabbi Jochanan, the shoemaker,” whose learning soon after found a parallel in Carey’s. Like Annianus, “a poor shoemaker named Alexander, despised in the world but great in the sight of God, who did honour to so exalted a station in the Church,” became famous as Bishop of Comana in Cappadocia, as saint, preacher, and missionary-martyr. Soon after there perished in the persecutions of Diocletian, at Soissons, the two missionary brothers whose name of Crispin has ever since been gloried in by the trade, which they chose at once as a means of livelihood and of helping their poor converts. The Hackleton apprentice was still a child when the great Goethe was again adding to the then artificial literature of his country his own true predecessor, Hans Sachs, the shoemaker of Nürnberg, the friend of Luther, the meistersinger of the Reformation. And it was another German shoemaker, Boehme, whose exalted theosophy as expounded by William Law became one link in the chain that drew Carey to Christ, as it influenced Wesley and Whitefield, Samuel Johnson and Coleridge. George Fox was only nineteen when, after eight years’ service with a shoemaker in Drayton, Leicestershire, not far from Carey’s county, he heard the voice from heaven which sent him forth in 1643 to preach righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, till Cromwell sought converse with him, and the Friends became a power among men.

Carlyle has, in characteristic style, seized on the true meaning that was in the man when he made to himself a suit of leather and became the modern hero of Sartor Resartus. The words fit William Carey’s case even better than that of George Fox:–“Sitting in his stall, working on tanned hides, amid pincers, paste-horns, rosin, swine-bristles, and a nameless flood of rubbish, this youth had nevertheless a Living Spirit belonging to him; also an antique Inspired Volume, through which, as through a window, it could look upwards and discern its celestial Home.” That “shoe-shop, had men known it, was a holier place than any Vatican or Loretto-shrine…Stitch away, every prick of that little instrument is pricking into the heart of slavery.” Thirty-six years after Fox had begun to wear his leathern doublet he directed all Friends everywhere that had Indians or blacks to preach the Gospel to them.

But it would be too long to tell the list of workers in what has been called the gentle craft, whom the cobbler’s stall, with its peculiar opportunities for rhythmic meditation, hard thinking, and oft harder debating, has prepared for the honours of literature and scholarship, of philanthropy and reform. To mention only Carey’s contemporaries, the career of these men ran parallel at home with his abroad–Thomas Shillitoe, who stood before magistrates, bishops, and such sovereigns as George III. and IV. and the Czar Alexander I. in the interests of social reform; and John Pounds, the picture of whom as the founder of ragged schools led Thomas Guthrie, when he stumbled on it in an inn in Anstruther, to do the same Christlike work in Scotland. Coleridge, who when at Christ’s Hospital was ambitious to be a shoemaker’s apprentice, was right when he declared that shoemakers had given to the world a larger number of eminent men than any other handicraft. Whittier’s own early experience in Massachusetts fitted him to be the poet-laureate of the craft which for some years he adorned. His Songs of Labour, published in 1850, contain the best English lines on shoemakers since Shakspere put into the mouth of King Henry V. the address on the eve of Agincourt, which begins: “This day is called the feast of Crispin.” But Whittier, Quaker, philanthropist, and countryman of Judson though he was, might have found a place for Carey when he sang so well of others:–

“Thy songs, Hans Sachs, are living yet, In strong and hearty German;
And Bloomfield’s lay and Gifford’s wit And patriot fame of Sherman;

“Still from his book, a mystic seer,
The soul of Behmen teaches,
And England’s priestcraft shakes to hear Of Fox’s leathern breeches.”

The confessions of Carey, made in the spiritual humility and self-examination of his later life, form a parallel to the Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, the little classic of John Bunyan second only to his Pilgrim’s Progress. The young Pharisee, who entered Hackleton with such hate in his heart to dissenters that he would have destroyed their meeting-place, who practised “lying, swearing, and other sins,” gradually yielded so far to his brother apprentice’s importunity as to leave these off, to try to pray sometimes when alone, to attend church three times a day, and to visit the dissenting prayer-meeting. Like the zealot who thought to do God service by keeping the whole law, Carey lived thus for a time, “not doubting but this would produce ease of mind and make me acceptable to God.” What revealed him to himself was an incident which he tells in language recalling at once Augustine and one of the subtlest sketches of George Eliot, in which the latter uses her half-knowledge of evangelical faith to stab the very truth that delivered Paul and Augustine, Bunyan and Carey, from the antinomianism of the Pharisee:–

“A circumstance which I always reflect on with a mixture of horror and gratitude occurred about this time, which, though greatly to my dishonour, I must relate. It being customary in that part of the country for apprentices to collect Christmas boxes [donations] from the tradesmen with whom their masters have dealings, I was permitted to collect these little sums. When I applied to an ironmonger, he gave me the choice of a shilling or a sixpence; I of course chose the shilling, and putting it in my pocket, went away. When I had got a few shillings my next care was to purchase some little articles for myself, I have forgotten what. But then, to my sorrow, I found that my shilling was a brass one. I paid for the things which I bought by using a shilling of my master’s. I now found that I had exceeded my stock by a few pence. I expected severe reproaches from my master, and therefore came to the resolution to declare strenuously that the bad money was his. I well remember the struggles of mind which I had on this occasion, and that I made this deliberate sin a matter of prayer to God as I passed over the fields towards home! I there promised that, if God would but get me clearly over this, or, in other words, help me through with the theft, I would certainly for the future leave off all evil practices; but this theft and consequent lying appeared to me so necessary, that they could not be dispensed with.

“A gracious God did not get me safe through. My master sent the other apprentice to investigate the matter. The ironmonger acknowledged the giving me the shilling, and I was therefore exposed to shame, reproach, and inward remorse, which preyed upon my mind for a considerable time. I at this time sought the Lord, perhaps much more earnestly than ever, but with shame and fear. I was quite ashamed to go out, and never, till I was assured that my conduct was not spread over the town, did I attend a place of worship.

“I trust that, under these circumstances, I was led to see much more of myself than I had ever done before, and to seek for mercy with greater earnestness. I attended prayer-meetings only, however, till February 10, 1779, which being appointed a day of fasting and prayer, I attended worship on that day. Mr. Chater [congregationalist] of Olney preached, but from what text I have forgotten. He insisted much on following Christ entirely, and enforced his exhortation with that passage, ‘Let us therefore go out unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.’–Heb. xiii. 13. I think I had a desire to follow Christ; but one idea occurred to my mind on hearing those words which broke me off from the Church of England. The idea was certainly very crude, but useful in bringing me from attending a lifeless, carnal ministry to one more evangelical. I concluded that the Church of England, as established by law, was the camp in which all were protected from the scandal of the cross, and that I ought to bear the reproach of Christ among the dissenters; and accordingly I always afterwards attended divine worship among them.”

At eighteen Carey was thus emptied of self and there was room for Christ. In a neighbouring village he consorted much for a time with some followers of William Law, who had not long before passed away in a village in the neighbourhood, and select passages from whose writings the Moravian minister, Francis Okely, of Northampton, had versified. These completed the negative process. “I felt ruined and helpless.” Then to his spiritual eyes, purged of self, there appeared the Crucified One; and to his spiritual intelligence there was given the Word of God. The change was that wrought on Paul by a Living Person. It converted the hypocritical Pharisee into the evangelical preacher; it turned the vicious peasant into the most self-denying saint; it sent the village shoemaker far off to the Hindoos.

But the process was slow; it had been so even in Paul’s case. Carey found encouragement in intercourse with some old Christians in Hackleton, and he united with a few of them, including his fellow-apprentice, in forming a congregational church. The state of the parish may be imagined from its recent history. Hackleton is part of Piddington, and the squire had long appropriated the living of £300 a year, the parsonage, the glebe, and all tithes, sending his house minister “at times” to do duty. A Certificate from Northamptonshire, against the pluralities and other such scandals, published in 1641, declared that not a child or servant in Hackleton or Piddington could say the Lord’s Prayer. Carey sought the preaching of Doddridge’s successor at Northampton, of a Baptist minister at Road, and of Scott the commentator, then at Ravenstone. He had found peace, but was theologically “inquisitive and unsatisfied.” Fortunately, like Luther, he “was obliged to draw all from the Bible alone.”

When, at twenty years of age, Carey was slowly piecing together “the doctrines in the Word of God” into something like a system which would at once satisfy his own spiritual and intellectual needs, and help him to preach to others, a little volume was published, of which he wrote:–“I do not remember ever to have read any book with such raptures.” It was Help to Zion’s Travellers; being an attempt to remove various Stumbling-Blocks out of the Way, relating to Doctrinal, Experimental, and Practical Religion, by Robert Hall. The writer was the father of the greater Robert Hall, a venerable man, who, in his village church of Arnsby, near Leicester, had already taught Carey how to preach. The book is described as an “attempt to relieve discouraged Christians” in a day of gloominess and perplexity, that they might devote themselves to Christ through life as well as be found in Him in death. Carey made a careful synopsis of it in an exquisitely neat hand on the margin of each page. The worm-eaten copy, which he treasured even in India, is now deposited in Bristol College.

A Calvinist of the broad missionary type of Paul, Carey somewhat suddenly, according to his own account, became a Baptist. “I do not recollect having read anything on the subject till I applied to Mr. Ryland, senior, to baptise me. He lent me a pamphlet, and turned me over to his son,” who thus told the story when the Baptist Missionary Society held its first public meeting in London:–“October 5th, 1783: I baptised in the river Nen, a little beyond Dr. Doddridge’s meeting-house at Northampton, a poor journeyman shoemaker, little thinking that before nine years had elapsed, he would prove the first instrument of forming a society for sending missionaries from England to preach the gospel to the heathen. Such, however, as the event has proved, was the purpose of the Most High, who selected for this work not the son of one of our most learned ministers, nor of one of the most opulent of our dissenting gentlemen, but the son of a parish clerk.”

The spot may still be visited at the foot of the hill, where the Nen fed the moat of the old castle, in which many a Parliament sat from the days of King John. The text of that morning’s sermon happened to be the Lord’s saying, “Many first shall be last, and the last first,” which asserts His absolute sovereignty in choosing and in rewarding His missionaries, and introduces the parable of the labourers in the vineyard. As Carey wrote in the fulness of his fame, that the evangelical doctrines continued to be the choice of his heart, so he never wavered in his preference for the Baptist division of the Christian host. But from the first he enjoyed the friendship of Scott and Newton, and of his neighbour Mr. Robinson of St. Mary’s, Leicester, and we shall see him in India the centre of the Episcopal and Presbyterian chaplains and missionaries from Martyn Wilson to Lacroix and Duff. His controversial spirit died with the youthful conceit and self-righteousness of which it is so often the birth. When at eighteen he learned to know himself, he became for ever humble. A zeal like that of his new-found Master took its place, and all the energy of his nature, every moment of his time, was directed to setting Him forth.

In his monthly visits to the father-house at Paulerspury the new man in him could not be hid. His sister gives us a vivid sketch of the lad, whose going over to the dissenters was resented by the formal and stern clerk, and whose evangelicalism was a reproach to the others.

“At this time he was increasingly thoughtful, and very was jealous for the Lord of Hosts. Like Gideon, he seemed for throwing down all the altars of Baal in one night. When he came home we used to wonder at the change. We knew that before he was rather inclined to persecute the faith he now seemed to wish to propagate. At first, perhaps, his zeal exceeded the bounds of prudence; but he felt the importance of things we were strangers to, and his natural disposition was to pursue earnestly what he undertook, so that it was not to be wondered at, though we wondered at the change. He stood alone in his father’s house for some years. After a time he asked permission to have family prayer when he came home to see us, a favour which he very readily had granted. Often have I felt my pride rise while he was engaged in prayer, at the mention of those words in Isaiah, ‘that all our righteousness was like filthy rags.’ I did not think he thought his so, but looked on me and the family as filthy, not himself and his party. Oh, what pride is in the human heart! Nothing but my love to my brother would have kept me from showing my resentment.”

“A few of the friends of religion wished our brother to exercise his gifts by speaking to a few friends in a house licensed at Pury; which he did with great acceptance. The next morning a neighbour of ours, a very pious woman, came in to congratulate my mother on the occasion, and to speak of the Lord’s goodness in calling her son, and my brother, two such near neighbours, to the same noble calling. My mother replied, ‘What, do you think he will be a preacher?’ ‘Yes,’ she replied, ‘and a great one, I think, if spared.’ From that time till he was settled at Moulton he regularly preached once a month at Pury with much acceptance. He was at that time in his twentieth year, and married. Our parents were always friendly to religion; yet, on some accounts, we should rather have wished him to go from home than come home to preach. I do not think I ever heard him, though my younger brother and my sister, I think, generally did. Our father much wished to hear his son, if he could do it unseen by him or any one. It was not long before an opportunity offered, and he embraced it. Though he was a man that never discovered any partiality for the abilities of his children, but rather sometimes went too far on the other hand, that often tended a little to discourage them, yet we were convinced that he approved of what he heard, and was highly gratified by it.”

In Hackleton itself his expositions of Scripture were so valued that the people, he writes, “being ignorant, sometimes applauded to my great injury.” When in poverty, so deep that he fasted all that day because he had not a penny to buy a dinner, he attended a meeting of the Association of Baptist Churches at Olney, not far off. There he first met with his lifelong colleague, the future secretary of the mission, Andrew Fuller, the young minister of Soham, who preached on being men in understanding, and there it was arranged that he should preach regularly to a small congregation at Earls Barton, six miles from Hackleton. His new-born humility made him unable to refuse the duty, which he discharged for more than three years while filling his cobbler’s stall at Hackleton all the week, and frequently preaching elsewhere also. The secret of his power which drew the Northamptonshire peasants and craftsmen to the feet of their fellow was this, that he studied the portion of Scripture, which he read every morning at his private devotions, in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.

This was Carey’s “college.” On the death of his first master, when he was eighteen, he had transferred his apprenticeship to a Mr. T. Old. Hackleton stands on the high road from Bedford and Olney to Northampton, and Thomas Scott was in the habit of resting at Mr. Old’s on his not infrequent walks from Olney, where he had succeeded John Newton. There he had no more attentive listener or intelligent talker than the new journeyman, who had been more influenced by his preaching at Ravenstone than by that of any other man. Forty years after, just before Scott’s death, Dr. Ryland gave him this message from Carey:–“If there be anything of the work of God in my soul, I owe much of it to his preaching when I first set out in the ways of the Lord;” to which this reply was sent: “I am surprised as well as gratified at your message from Dr. Carey. He heard me preach only a few times, and that as far as I know in my rather irregular excursions; though I often conversed and prayed in his presence, and endeavoured to answer his sensible and pertinent inquiries when at Hackleton. But to have suggested even a single useful hint to such a mind as his must be considered as a high privilege and matter of gratitude.” Scott had previously written this more detailed account of his intercourse with the preaching shoemaker, whom he first saw when he called on Mr. Old to tell him of the welfare of his mother:

“When I went into the cottage I was soon recognised, and Mr. Old came in, with a sensible-looking lad in his working-dress. I at first rather wondered to see him enter, as he seemed young, being, I believe, little of his age. We, however, entered into very interesting conversation, especially respecting my parishioner, their relative, and the excellent state of her mind, and the wonder of divine grace in the conversion of one who had been so very many years considered as a self-righteous Pharisee. I believe I endeavoured to show that the term was often improperly applied to conscientious but ignorant inquirers, who are far from self-satisfied, and who, when the Gospel is set before them, find the thing which they had long been groping after. However that may be, I observed the lad who entered with Mr. Old riveted in attention with every mark and symptom of intelligence and feeling; saying little, but modestly asking now and then an appropriate question. I took occasion, before I went forward, to inquire after him, and found that, young as he was, he was a member of the church at Hackleton, and looked upon as a very consistent and promising character. I lived at Olney till the end of 1785; and in the course of that time I called perhaps two or three times each year at Mr. Old’s, and was each time more and more struck with the youth’s conduct, though I said little; but, before I left Olney, Mr. Carey was out of his engagement with Mr. Old. I found also that he was sent out as a probationary preacher, and preached at Moulton; and I said to all to whom I had access, that he would, if I could judge, prove no ordinary man. Yet, though I often met both old Mr. Ryland, the present Dr. Ryland, Mr. Hall, Mr. Fuller, and knew almost every step taken in forming your Missionary Society, and though I sometimes preached very near Moulton, it so happened that I do not recollect having met with him any more, till he came to my house in London with Mr. Thomas, to desire me to use what little influence I had with Charles Grant, Esq., to procure them licence to go in the Company’s ships as missionaries to the British settlements in India, perhaps in 1792. My little influence was of no avail. What I said of Mr. Carey so far satisfied Mr. Grant that he said, if Mr. Carey was going alone, or with one equally to be depended on along with him, he would not oppose him; but his strong disapprobation of Mr. T., on what ground I knew not, induced his negative. I believe Mr. Old died soon after I left Olney, if not just before; and his shop, which was a little building apart from the house, was suffered to go to decay. While in this state I several times passed it, and said to my sons and others with me, that is Mr. Carey’s college.”

This cobbler’s shed which was Carey’s college has been since restored, but two of the original walls still stand, forming the corner in which he sat, opposite the window that looks out into the garden he carefully kept. Here, when his second master died, Carey succeeded to the business, charging himself with the care of the widow, and marrying the widow’s sister, Dorothy or Dolly Placket. He was only twenty when he took upon himself such burdens, in the neighbouring church of Piddington, a village to which he afterwards moved his shop. Never had minister, missionary, or scholar a less sympathetic mate, due largely to that latent mental disease which in India carried her off; but for more than twenty years the husband showed her loving reverence. As we stand in the Hackleton shed, over which Carey placed the rude signboard prepared by his own hands, and now in the library of Regent’s Park College, “Second Hand Shoes Bought and–,”2 we can realise the low estate to which Carey fell, even below his father’s loom and schoolhouse, and from which he was called to become the apostle of North India as Schwartz was of the South.

How was this shed his college? We have seen that he brought with him from his native village an amount of information, habits of observation, and a knowledge of books unusual in rustics of that day, and even of the present time. At twelve he made his first acquaintance with a language other than his own, when he mastered the short grammar in Dyche’s Latine Vocabulary, and committed nearly the whole book to memory. When urging him to take the preaching at Barton, Mr. Sutcliff of Olney gave him Ruddiman’s Latin Grammar. The one alleviation of his lot under the coarse but upright Nichols was found in his master’s small library. There he began to study Greek. In a New Testament commentary he found Greek words, which he carefully transcribed and kept until he should next visit home, where a youth whom dissipation had reduced from college to weaving explained both the words and their terminations to him. All that he wanted was such beginnings. Hebrew he seems to have learned by the aid of the neighbouring ministers; borrowing books from them, and questioning them “pertinently,” as he did Scott.3 At the end of Hopkins’s Three Sermons on the Effects of Sin on the Universe, preached in 1759, he had made this entry on 9th August 1787–“Gulielm. Careius perlegit.” He starved himself to purchase a few books at the sale which attended Dr. Ryland’s removal from Northampton to Bristol. In an old woman’s cottage he found a Dutch quarto, and from that he so taught himself the language that in 1789 he translated for Ryland a discourse on the Gospel Offer sent to him by the evangelical Dr. Erskine of Edinburgh. The manuscript is in an extremely small character, unlike what might have been expected from one who had wrought with his hands for eight years. French he acquired, sufficiently for literary purposes, in three weeks from the French version of Ditton on the Resurrection, which he purchased for a few coppers. He had the linguistic gift which soon after made the young carpenter Mezzofanti of Bologna famous and a cardinal. But the gift would have been buried in the grave of his penury and his circumstances had his trade been almost any other, and had he not been impelled by the most powerful of all motives. He never sat on his stall without his book before him, nor did he painfully toil with his wallet of new-made shoes to the neighbouring towns or return with leather without conning over his lately-acquired knowledge, and making it for ever, in orderly array, his own. He so taught his evening school and his Sunday congregations that the teaching to him, like writing to others, stereotyped or lighted up the truths. Indeed, the school and the cobbling often went on together–a fact commemorated in the addition to the Hackleton signboard of the Piddington nail on which he used to fix his thread while teaching the children.

But that which sanctified and directed the whole throughout a working life of more than half a century, was the missionary idea and the missionary consecration. With a caution not often shown at that time by bishops in laying hands on those whom they had passed for deacon’s orders, the little church at Olney thus dealt with the Father of Modern Missions before they would recognise his call and send him out “to preach the gospel wherever God in His providence might call him:”

“June 17, 1785.–A request from William Carey of Moulton, in Northamptonshire, was taken into consideration. He has been and still is in connection with a society of people at Hackleton. He is occasionally engaged with acceptance in various places in speaking the Word. He bears a very good moral character. He is desirous of being sent out from some reputable church of Christ into the work of the ministry. The principal Question was–‘In what manner shall we receive him? by a letter from the people of Hackleton, or on a profession of faith, etc.?’ The final resolution of it was left to another church Meeting.

“July 14–Ch. Meeting. W. Carey appeared before the Church, and having given a satisfactory account of the work of God upon his soul, he was admitted a member. He had been formerly baptised by the Rev. Mr. Ryland, jun., of Northampton. He was invited by the Church to preach in public once next Lord’s Day.

“July 17.–Ch. Meeting, Lord’s Day Evening. W. Carey, in consequence of a request from the Church, preached this Evening. After which it was resolved that he should be allowed to go on preaching at those places where he has been for some time employed, and that he should engage again on suitable occasions for some time before us, in order that farther trial may be made of ministerial gifts.

“June 16, 1786.–C.M. The case of Bror. Carey was considered, and an unanimous satisfaction with his ministerial abilities being expressed, a vote was passed to call him to the Ministry at a proper time.

“August 10.–Ch. Meeting. This evening our Brother William Carey was called to the work of the Ministry, and sent out by the Church to preach the Gospel, wherever God in His providence might call him.

“April 29, 1787.–Ch. M. After the Orde. our Brother William Carey was dismissed to the Church of Christ at Moulton in Northamptonshire with a view to his Ordination there.”

These were the last years at Olney of William Cowper before he removed to the Throckmortons’ house at Weston village, two miles distant. Carey must often have seen the poet during the twenty years which he spent in the corner house of the market-square, and in the walks around. He must have read the poems of 1782, which for the first time do justice to missionary enterprise. He must have hailed what Mrs. Browning calls “the deathless singing” which in 1785, in The Task, opened a new era in English literature. He may have been fired with the desire to imitate Whitefield, in the description of whom, though reluctant to name him, Cowper really anticipated Carey himself:–

“He followed Paul; his zeal a kindred flame, His apostolic charity the same;
Like him crossed cheerfully tempestuous seas, Forsaking country, kindred, friends and ease; Like him he laboured and, like him, content To bear it, suffered shame where’er he went.”




Moulton the Mission’s birthplace–Carey’s fever and poverty–His Moulton school–Fired with the missionary idea–His very large missionary map–Fuller’s confession of the aged and respectable ministers’ opposition–Old Mr. Ryland’s rebuke–Driven to publish his Enquiry–Its literary character–Carey’s survey of the world in 1788–His motives, difficulties, and plans–Projects the first Missionary Society–Contrasted with his predecessors from Erasmus–Prayer concert begun in Scotland in 1742–Jonathan Edwards–The Northamptonshire Baptist movement in 1784–Andrew Fuller–The Baptists, Particular and General–Antinomian and Socinian extremes opposed to Missions–Met by Fuller’s writings and Clipstone sermon–Carey’s agony at continued delay–His work in Leicester–His sermon at Nottingham–Foundation of Baptist Missionary Society at last–Kettering and Jerusalem.

The north road, which runs for twelve miles from Northampton to Kettering, passes through a country known last century for the doings of the Pytchley Hunt. Stories, by no means exaggerated, of the deep drinking and deeper play of the club, whose gatehouse now stands at the entrance of Overstone Park, were rife, when on Lady Day 1785 William Carey became Baptist preacher of Moulton village, on the other side of the road. Moulton was to become the birthplace of the modern missionary idea; Kettering, of evangelical missionary action.

No man in England had apparently a more wretched lot or more miserable prospects than he. He had started in life as a journeyman shoemaker at eighteen, burdened with a payment to his first master’s widow which his own kind heart had led him to offer, and with the price of his second master’s stock and business. Trade was good for the moment, and he had married, before he was twenty, one who brought him the most terrible sorrow a man can bear. He had no sooner completed a large order for which his predecessor had contracted than it was returned on his hands. From place to place he wearily trudged, trying to sell the shoes. Fever carried off his first child and brought himself so near to the grave that he sent for his mother to help in the nursing. At Piddington he worked early and late at his garden, but ague, caused by a neighbouring marsh, returned and left him so bald that he wore a wig thereafter until his voyage to India. During his preaching for more than three years at Barton, which involved a walk of sixteen miles, he did not receive from the poor folks enough to pay for the clothes he wore out in their service. His younger brother delicately came to his help, and he received the gift with a pathetic tenderness. But a calling which at once starved him, in spite of all his method and perseverance, and cramped the ardour of his soul for service to the Master who had revealed Himself in him, became distasteful. He gladly accepted an invitation from the somewhat disorganised church at Moulton to preach to them. They could offer him only about £10 a year, supplemented by £5 from a London fund. But the schoolmaster had just left, and Carey saw in that fact a new hope. For a time he and his family managed to live on an income which is estimated as never exceeding £36 a year. We find this passage in a printed appeal made by the “very poor congregation” for funds to repair and enlarge the chapel to which the new pastor’s preaching had attracted a crowd:–“The peculiar situation of our minister, Mr. Carey, renders it impossible for us to send him far abroad to collect the Contributions of the Charitable; as we are able to raise him but about Ten Pounds per Annum, so that he is obliged to keep a School for his Support: And as there are other two Schools in the Town, if he was to leave Home to collect for the Building, he must probably quit his Station on his Return, for Want of a Maintenance.”

His genial loving-kindness and his fast increasing learning little fitted him to drill peasant children in the alphabet. “When I kept school the boys kept me,” he used to confess with a merry twinkle. In all that our Lord meant by it William Carey was a child from first to last. The former teacher returned, and the poor preacher again took to shoemaking for the village clowns and the shops in Kettering and Northampton. His house still stands, one of a row of six cottages of the dear old English type, with the indispensable garden behind, and the glad sunshine pouring in through the open window embowered in roses and honeysuckle.

There, and chiefly in the school-hours as he tried to teach the children geography and the Bible and was all the while teaching himself, the missionary idea arose in his mind, and his soul became fired with the self-consecration, unknown to Wyclif and Hus, Luther and Calvin, Knox and even Bunyan, for theirs was other work. All his past knowledge of nature and of books, all his favourite reading of voyages and of travels which had led his school-fellows to dub him Columbus, all his painful study of the Word, his experience of the love of Christ and expoundings of the meaning of His message to men for six years, were gathered up, were intensified, and were directed with a concentrated power to the thought that Christ died, as for him, so for these millions of dark savages whom Cook was revealing to Christendom, and who had never heard the glad tidings of great joy.

Carey had ceased to keep school when the Moulton Baptists, who could subscribe no more than twopence a month each for their own poor, formally called the preacher to become their ordained pastor, and Ryland, Sutcliff, and Fuller were asked to ordain him on the 10th August 1786. Fuller had discovered the value of a man who had passed through spiritual experience, and possessed a native common sense like his own, when Carey had been suddenly called to preach in Northampton to supply the place of another. Since that day he had often visited Moulton, and he thus tells us what he had seen:–

“The congregation being few and poor, he followed his business in order to assist in supporting his family. His mind, however, was much occupied in acquiring the learned languages, and almost every other branch of useful knowledge. I remember, on going into the room where he employed himself at his business, I saw hanging up against the wall a very large map, consisting of several sheets of paper pasted together by himself, on which he had drawn, with a pen, a place for every nation in the known world, and entered into it whatever he met with in reading, relative to its population, religion, etc. The substance of this was afterwards published in his Enquiry. These researches, on which his mind was naturally bent, hindered him, of course, from doing much of his business; and the people, as was said, being few and poor, he was at this time exposed to great hardships. I have been assured that he and his family have lived for a great while together without tasting animal food, and with but a scanty pittance of other provision.”

“He would also be frequently conversing with his brethren in the ministry on the practicability and importance of a mission to the heathen, and of his willingness to engage in it. At several ministers’ meetings, between the year 1787 and 1790, this was the topic of his conversation. Some of our most aged and respectable ministers thought, I believe, at that time, that it was a wild and impracticable scheme that he had got in his mind, and therefore gave him no encouragement. Yet he would not give it up; but would converse with us, one by one, till he had made some impression upon us.”

The picture is completed by his sister:–

“He was always, from his first being thoughtful, remarkably impressed about heathen lands and the slave-trade. I never remember his engaging in prayer, in his family or in public, without praying for those poor creatures. The first time I ever recollect my feeling for the heathen world, was from a discourse I heard my brother preach at Moulton, the first summer after I was thoughtful. It was from these words:–‘For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake will I give him no rest.’ It was a day to be remembered by me; a day set apart for prayer and fasting by the church. What hath God wrought since that time!”

Old Mr. Ryland always failed to recall the story, but we have it on the testimony of Carey’s personal friend, Morris of Clipstone, who was present at the meeting of ministers held in 1786 at Northampton, at which the incident occurred. Ryland invited the younger brethren to propose a subject for discussion. There was no reply, till at last the Moulton preacher suggested, doubtless with an ill-restrained excitement, “whether the command given to the Apostles, to teach all nations, was not obligatory on all succeeding ministers to the end of the world, seeing that the accompanying promise was of equal extent.” Neither Fuller nor Carey himself had yet delivered the Particular Baptists from the yoke of hyper-calvinism which had to that hour shut the heathen out of a dead Christendom, and the aged chairman shouted out the rebuke–“You are a miserable enthusiast for asking such a question. Certainly nothing can be done before another Pentecost, when an effusion of miraculous gifts, including the gift of tongues, will give effect to the commission of Christ as at first.” Carey had never before mentioned the subject openly, and he was for the moment greatly mortified. But, says Morris, he still pondered these things in his heart. That incident marks the wide gulf which Carey had to bridge. Silenced by his brethren, he had recourse to the press. It was then that he wrote his own contribution to the discussion he would have raised on a duty which was more than seventeen centuries old, and had been for fourteen of these neglected: An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens, in which the Religious State of the Different Nations of the World, the Success of Former Undertakings, and the Practicability of Further Undertakings, are considered by WILLIAM CAREY. Then follows the great conclusion of Paul in his letter to the Romans (x. 12-15): “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek…How shall they preach except they be sent?” He happened to be in Birmingham in 1786 collecting subscriptions for the rebuilding of the chapel in Moulton, when Mr. Thomas Potts, who had made a fortune in trade with America, discovering that he had prepared the manuscript, gave him £10 to publish it. And it appeared at Leicester in 1792, “price one shilling and sixpence,” the profits to go to the proposed mission. The pamphlet form doubtless accounts for its disappearance now; only four copies of the original edition4 are known to be in existence.

This Enquiry has a literary interest of its own, as a contribution to the statistics and geography of the world, written in a cultured and almost finished style, such as few, if any, University men of that day could have produced, for none were impelled by such a motive as Carey had. In an obscure village, toiling save when he slept, and finding rest on Sunday only by a change of toil, far from libraries and the society of men with more advantages than his own, this shoemaker, still under thirty, surveys the whole world, continent by continent, island by island, race by race, faith by faith, kingdom by kingdom, tabulating his results with an accuracy, and following them up with a logical power of generalisation which would extort the admiration of the learned even of the present day.

Having proved that the commission given by our Lord to His disciples is still binding on us, having reviewed former undertakings for the conversion of the heathen from the Ascension to the Moravians and “the late Mr. Wesley” in the West Indies, and having thus surveyed in detail the state of the world in 1786, he removes the five impediments in the way of carrying the Gospel among the heathen, which his contemporaries advanced–their distance from us, their barbarism, the danger of being killed by them, the difficulty of procuring the necessaries of life, the unintelligibleness of their languages. These his loving heart and Bible knowledge enable him skilfully to turn in favour of the cause he pleads. The whole section is essential to an appreciation of Carey’s motives, difficulties, and plans:–

“FIRST, As to their distance from us, whatever objections might have been made on that account before the invention of the mariner’s compass, nothing can be alleged for it with any colour of plausibility in the present age. Men can now sail with as much certainty through the Great South Sea as they can through the Mediterranean or any lesser sea. Yea, and providence seems in a manner to invite us to the trial, as there are to our knowledge trading companies, whose commerce lies in many of the places where these barbarians dwell. At one time or other ships are sent to visit places of more recent discovery, and to explore parts the most unknown; and every fresh account of their ignorance or cruelty should call forth our pity, and excite us to concur with providence in seeking their eternal good. Scripture likewise seems to point out this method, ‘Surely the Isles shall wait for me; the ships of Tarshish first, to bring my sons from far, their silver and their gold with them, unto the name of the Lord, thy God.’–Isai. lx. 9. This seems to imply that in the time of the glorious increase of the church, in the latter days (of which the whole chapter is undoubtedly a prophecy), commerce shall subserve the spread of the gospel. The ships of Tarshish were trading vessels, which made voyages for traffic to various parts; thus much therefore must be meant by it, that navigation, especially that which is commercial, shall be one great mean of carrying on the work of God; and perhaps it may imply that there shall be a very considerable appropriation of wealth to that purpose.

“SECONDLY, As to their uncivilised and barbarous way of living, this can be no objection to any, except those whose love of ease renders them unwilling to expose themselves to inconveniences for the good of others. It was no objection to the apostles and their successors, who went among the barbarous Germans and Gauls, and still more barbarous Britons! They did not wait for the ancient inhabitants of these countries to be civilised before they could be christianised, but went simply with the doctrine of the cross; and Tertullian could boast that ‘those parts of Britain which were proof against the Roman armies, were conquered by the gospel of Christ.’ It was no objection to an Eliot or a Brainerd, in later times. They went forth, and encountered every difficulty of the kind, and found that a cordial reception of the gospel produced those happy effects which the longest intercourse with Europeans without it could never accomplish. It is no objection to commercial men. It only requires that we should have as much love to the souls of our fellow-creatures, and fellow-sinners, as they have for the profits arising from a few otter-skins, and all these difficulties would be easily surmounted.

“After all, the uncivilised state of the heathen, instead of affording an objection against preaching the gospel to them, ought to furnish an argument for it. Can we as men, or as Christians, hear that a great part of our fellow-creatures, whose souls are as immortal as ours, and who are as capable as ourselves of adorning the gospel and contributing by their preachings, writings, or practices to the glory of our Redeemer’s name and the good of his church, are enveloped in ignorance and barbarism? Can we hear that they are without the gospel, without government, without laws, and without arts, and sciences; and not exert ourselves to introduce among them the sentiments of men, and of Christians? Would not the spread of the gospel be the most effectual mean of their civilisation? Would not that make them useful members of society? We know that such effects did in a measure follow the afore-mentioned efforts of Eliot, Brainerd, and others amongst the American Indians; and if similar attempts were made in other parts of the world, and succeeded with a divine blessing (which we have every reason to think they would), might we not expect to see able divines, or read well-conducted treatises in defence of the truth, even amongst those who at present seem to be scarcely human?

“THIRDLY, In respect to the danger of being killed by them, it is true that whoever does go must put his life in his hand, and not consult with flesh and blood; but do not the goodness of the cause, the duties incumbent on us as the creatures of God and Christians, and the perishing state of our fellow-men, loudly call upon us to venture all, and use every warrantable exertion for their benefit? Paul and Barnabas, who hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, were not blamed as being rash, but commended for so doing; while John Mark, who through timidity of mind deserted them in their perilous undertaking, was branded with censure. After all, as has been already observed, I greatly question whether most of the barbarities practised by the savages upon those who have visited them, have not originated in some real or supposed affront, and were therefore, more properly, acts of self-defence, than proofs of ferocious dispositions. No wonder if the imprudence of sailors should prompt them to offend the simple savage, and the offence be resented; but Eliot, Brainerd, and the Moravian missionaries have been very seldom molested. Nay, in general the heathen have showed a willingness to hear the word; and have principally expressed their hatred of Christianity on account of the vices of nominal Christians.

“FOURTHLY, As to the difficulty of procuring the necessaries of life, this would not be so great as may appear at first sight; for, though we could not procure European food, yet we might procure such as the natives of those countries which we visit, subsist upon themselves. And this would only be passing through what we have virtually engaged in by entering on the ministerial office. A Christian minister is a person who in a peculiar sense is not his own; he is the servant of God, and therefore ought to be wholly devoted to him. By entering on that sacred office he solemnly undertakes to be always engaged, as much as possible, in the Lord’s work, and not to choose his own pleasure, or employment, or pursue the ministry as a something that is to subserve his own ends, or interests, or as a kind of bye-work. He engages to go where God pleases, and to do or endure what he sees fit to command, or call him to, in the exercise of his function. He virtually bids farewell to friends, pleasures, and comforts, and stands in readiness to endure the greatest sufferings in the work of his Lord, and Master. It is inconsistent for ministers to please themselves with thoughts of a numerous auditory, cordial friends, a civilised country, legal protection, affluence, splendour, or even a competency. The slights, and hatred of men, and even pretended friends, gloomy prisons, and tortures, the society of barbarians of uncouth speech, miserable accommodations in wretched wildernesses, hunger, and thirst, nakedness, weariness, and painfulness, hard work, and but little worldly encouragement, should rather be the objects of their expectation. Thus the apostles acted, in the primitive times, and endured hardness, as good soldiers of Jesus Christ; and though we, living in a civilised country where Christianity is protected by law, are not called to suffer these things while we continue here, yet I question whether all are justified in staying here, while so many are perishing without means of grace in other lands. Sure I am that it is entirely contrary to the spirit of the gospel for its ministers to enter upon it from interested motives, or with great worldly expectations. On the contrary, the commission is a sufficient call to them to venture all, and, like the primitive Christians, go everywhere preaching the gospel.

“It might be necessary, however, for two, at least, to go together, and in general I should think it best that they should be married men, and to prevent their time from being employed in procuring necessaries, two, or more, other persons, with their wives and families, might also accompany them, who should be wholly employed in providing for them. In most countries it would be necessary for them to cultivate a little spot of ground just for their support, which would be a resource to them, whenever their supplies failed. Not to mention the advantages they would reap from each other’s company, it would take off the enormous expense which has always attended undertakings of this kind, the first expense being the whole; for though a large colony needs support for a considerable time, yet so small a number would, upon receiving the first crop, maintain themselves. They would have the advantage of choosing their situation, their wants would be few; the women, and even the children, would be necessary for domestic purposes: and a few articles of stock, as a cow or two, and a bull, and a few other cattle of both sexes, a very few utensils of husbandry, and some corn to sow their land, would be sufficient. Those who attend the missionaries should understand husbandry, fishing, fowling, etc., and be provided with the necessary implements for these purposes. Indeed, a variety of methods may be thought of, and when once the work is undertaken, many things will suggest themselves to us, of which we at present can form no idea.

“FIFTHLY, As to learning their languages, the same means would be found necessary here as in trade between different nations. In some cases interpreters might be obtained, who might be employed for a time; and where these were not to be found, the missionaries must have patience, and mingle with the people, till they have learned so much of their language as to be able to communicate their ideas to them in it. It is well known to require no very extraordinary talents to learn, in the space of a year, or two at most, the language of any people upon earth, so much of it at least as to be able to convey any sentiments we wish to their understandings.

“The Missionaries must be men of great piety, prudence, courage, and forbearance; of undoubted orthodoxy in their sentiments, and must enter with all their hearts into the spirit of their mission; they must be willing to leave all the comforts of life behind them, and to encounter all the hardships of a torrid or a frigid climate, an uncomfortable manner of living, and every other inconvenience that can attend this undertaking. Clothing, a few knives, powder and shot, fishing-tackle, and the articles of husbandry above mentioned, must be provided for them; and when arrived at the place of their destination, their first business must be to gain some acquaintance with the language of the natives (for which purpose two would be better than one), and by all lawful means to endeavour to cultivate a friendship with them, and as soon as possible let them know the errand for which they were sent. They must endeavour to convince them that it was their good alone which induced them to forsake their friends, and all the comforts of their native country. They must be very careful not to resent injuries which may be offered to them, nor to think highly of themselves, so as to despise the poor heathens, and by those means lay a foundation for their resentment or rejection of the gospel. They must take every opportunity of doing them good, and labouring and travelling night and day, they must instruct, exhort, and rebuke, with all long suffering and anxious desire for them, and, above all, must be instant in prayer for the effusion of the Holy Spirit upon the people of their charge. Let but missionaries of the above description engage in the work, and we shall see that it is not impracticable.

“It might likewise be of importance, if God should bless their labours, for them to encourage any appearances of gifts amongst the people of their charge; if such should be raised up many advantages would be derived from their knowledge of the language and customs of their countrymen; and their change of conduct would give great weight to their ministrations.”

This first and still greatest missionary treatise in the English language closes with the practical suggestion of these means–fervent and united prayer, the formation of a catholic or, failing that, a Particular Baptist Society of “persons whose hearts are in the work, men of serious religion and possessing a spirit of perseverance,” with an executive committee, and subscriptions from rich and poor of a tenth of their income for both village preaching and foreign missions, or, at least, an average of one penny or more per week from all members of congregations. He thus concludes:–“It is true all the reward is of mere grace, but it is nevertheless encouraging; what a treasure, what an harvest must await such characters as Paul, and Eliot, and Brainerd, and others, who have given themselves wholly to the work of the Lord. What a heaven will it be to see the many myriads of poor heathens, of Britons amongst the rest, who by their labours have been brought to the knowledge of God. Surely a crown of rejoicing like this is worth aspiring to. Surely it is worth while to lay ourselves out with all our might, in promoting the cause and kingdom of Christ.”

So Carey projected the first organisation which England had seen for missions to all the human race outside of Christendom; and his project, while necessarily requiring a Society to carry it out, as coming from an “independent” Church, provided that every member of every congregation should take a part to the extent of fervent and united prayer, and of an average subscription of a penny a week. He came as near to the New Testament ideal of all Christians acting in an aggressive missionary church as was possible in an age when the Established Churches of England, Scotland, and Germany scouted foreign missions, and the Free Churches were chiefly congregational in their ecclesiastical action. While asserting the other ideal of the voluntary tenth or tithe as both a Scriptural principle and Puritan practice, his common sense was satisfied to suggest an average penny a week, all over, for every Christian. At this hour, more than a century since Carey wrote, and after a remarkable missionary revival in consequence of what he wrote and did, all Christendom, Evangelical, Greek, and Latin, does not give more than five millions sterling a year to Christianise the majority of the race still outside its pale. It is not too much to say that were Carey’s penny a week from every Christian a fact, and the prayer which would sooner or later accompany it, the five millions would be fifty, and Christendom would become a term nearly synonymous with humanity. The Churches, whether by themselves or by societies, have yet to pray and organise up to the level of Carey’s penny a week.

The absolute originality as well as grandeur of the unconscious action of the peasant shoemaker who, from 1779, prayed daily for all the heathen and slaves, and organised his society accordingly, will be seen in the dim light or darkness visible of all who had preceded him. They were before the set time; he was ready in the fulness of the missionary preparation. They belonged not only to periods, but to nations, to churches, to communities which were failing in the struggle for fruitfulness and expansion in new worlds and fresh lands; he was a son of England, which had come or was about to come out of the struggle a victor, charged with the terrible responsibility of the special servant of the Lord, as no people had ever before been charged in all history, sacred or secular. William Carey, indeed, reaped the little that the few brave toilers of the wintry time had sown; with a humility that is pathetic he acknowledges their toll, while ever ignorant to the last of his own merit. But he reaped only as each generation garners such fruits of its predecessor as may have been worthy to survive. He was the first of the true Anastatosantes of the modern world, as only an English-speaking man could be–of the most thorough, permanent, and everlasting of all Reformers, the men who turn the world upside down, because they make it rise up and depart from deadly beliefs and practices, from the fear and the fate of death, into the life and light of Christ and the Father.

Who were his predecessors, reckoning from the Renascence of Europe, the discovery of America, and the opening up of India and Africa? Erasmus comes first, the bright scholar of compromise who in 1516 gave the New Testament again to Europe, as three centuries after Carey gave it to all Southern Asia, and whose missionary treatise, Ecclesiasties, in 1535 anticipated, theoretically at least, Carey’s Enquiry by two centuries and a half. The missionary dream of this escaped monk of Rotterdam and Basel, who taught women and weavers and cobblers to read the Scriptures, and prayed that the Book might be translated into all languages, was realised in the scandalous iniquities and frauds of Portuguese and Spanish and Jesuit missions in West and East. Luther had enough to do with his papal antichrist and his German translation of the Greek of the Testament of Erasmus. The Lutheran church drove missions into the hands of the Pietists and Moravians–Wiclif’s offspring–who nobly but ineffectually strove to do a work meant for the whole Christian community. The Church of England thrust forth the Puritans first to Holland and then to New England, where Eliot, the Brainerds, and the Mayhews sought to evangelise tribes which did not long survive themselves.

It was from Courteenhall, a Northamptonshire village near Paulerspury, that in 1644 there went forth the appeal for the propagation of the Gospel which comes nearest to Carey’s cry from the same midland region. Cromwell was in power, and had himself planned a Protestant Propaganda, so to the Long Parliament William Castell, “parson of Courteenhall,” sent a petition which, with the “Eliot Tracts,” resulted in an ordinance creating the Corporation for the Promoting and Propagating the Gospel of Jesus Christ in New England. Seventy English ministers had backed the petition, and six of the Church of Scotland, first of whom was Alexander Henderson. The corporation, which, in a restored form, Robert Boyle governed for thirty years, familiarised the nation with the duty of caring for the dark races then coming more and more under our sway alike in America and in India. It still exists, as well as Boyle’s Society for advancing the Faith in the West Indies. The Friends also, and then the Moravians, taught the Wesleys and Whitefield to care for the negroes. The English and Scottish Propagation Societies sought also to provide spiritual aids for the colonists and the highlanders.

The two great thinkers of the eighteenth century, who flourished as philosopher and moralist when Carey was a youth, taught the principles which he of all others was to apply on their spiritual and most effective side. Adam Smith put his finger on the crime which had darkened and continued till 1834 to shadow the brightness of geographical enterprise in both hemispheres–the treatment of the natives by Europeans whose superiority of force enabled them to commit every sort of injustice in the new lands. He sought a remedy in establishing an equality of force by the mutual communication of knowledge and of all sorts of improvements by an extensive commerce.5 Samuel Johnson rose to a higher level alike of wisdom and righteousness, when he expressed the indignation of a Christian mind that the propagation of truth had never been seriously pursued by any European nation, and the hope “that the light of the Gospel will at last illuminate the sands of Africa and the deserts of America, though its progress cannot but be slow when it is so much obstructed by the lives of Christians.”

The early movement which is connected most directly with Carey’s and the Northamptonshire Baptists’ began in Scotland. Its Kirk, emasculated by the Revolution settlement and statute of Queen Anne, had put down the evangelical teaching of Boston and the “marrow” men, and had cast out the fathers of the Secession in 1733. In 1742 the quickening spread over the west country. In October 1744 several ministers in Scotland united, for the two years next following, in what they called, and what has since become familiar in America as, a “Concert to promote more abundant application to a duty that is perpetually binding–prayer that our God’s kingdom may come, joined with praises;” to be offered weekly on Saturday evening and Sunday morning, and more solemnly on the first Tuesday of every quarter. Such was the result, and so did the prayer concert spread in the United Kingdom that in August 1746 a memorial was sent to Boston inviting all Christians in North America to enter into it for the next seven years. It was on this that Jonathan Edwards wrote his Humble Attempt to promote Explicit Agreement and Visible Union of God’s People in Extraordinary Prayer for the Revival of Religion and the Advancement of Christ’s Kingdom on Earth.

This work of Edwards, republished at Olney, came into the hands of Carey, and powerfully influenced the Northamptonshire Association of Baptist ministers and messengers. At their meeting in Nottingham in 1784 Sutcliff of Olney suggested and Ryland of Northampton drafted an invitation to the people to join them, for one hour on the first Monday of every month, in prayer for the effusion of the Holy Spirit of God. “Let the whole interest of the Redeemer be affectionately remembered,” wrote these catholic men, and to give emphasis to their œcumenical missionary desires they added in italics–“Let the spread of the Gospel to the most distant parts of the habitable globe be the object of your most fervent requests. We shall rejoice if any other Christian societies of our own or other denominations will join with us, and we do now invite them most cordially to join heart and hand in the attempt.” To this Carey prominently referred in his Enquiry, tracing to even the unimportunate and feeble prayers of these eight years the increase of the churches, the clearing of controversies, the opening of lands to missions, the spread of civil and religious liberty, the noble effort made to abolish the inhuman slave-trade, and the establishment of the free settlement of Sierra Leone. And then he hits the other blots in the movement, besides the want of importunity and earnestness–“We must not be contented with praying without exerting ourselves in the use of means…Were the children of light but as wise in their generation as the children of this world, they would stretch every nerve to gain so glorious a prize, nor ever imagine that it was to be obtained in any other way.” A trading company obtain a charter and go to its utmost limits. The charter, the encouragements of Christians are exceeding great, and the returns promised infinitely superior. “Suppose a company of serious Christians, ministers and private persons, were to form themselves into a society.”

The man was ready who had been specially fitted, by character and training, to form the home organisation of the society, while Carey created its foreign mission. For the next quarter of a century William Carey and Andrew Fuller worked lovingly, fruitfully together, with the breadth of half the world between them. The one showed how, by Bible and church and school, by physical and spiritual truth, India and all Asia could be brought to Christ; the other taught England, Scotland, and America to begin at last to play their part in an enterprise as old as Abraham; as divine in its warrant, its charge, its promise, as Christ Himself. Seven years older than Carey, his friend was born a farmer’s son and labourer in the fen country of Cromwell whom he resembled, was self-educated under conditions precisely similar, and passed through spiritual experiences almost exactly the same. The two, unknown to each other, found themselves when called to preach at eighteen unable to reconcile the grim dead theology of their church with the new life and liberty which had come to them direct from the Spirit of Christ and from His Word. Carey had left his ancestral church at a time when the biographer of Romaine could declare with truth that that preacher was the only evangelical in the established churches of all London, and that of twenty thousand clergymen in England, the number who preached the truth as it is in Jesus had risen from not twenty in 1749 to three hundred in 1789. The methodism of the Wesleys was beginning to tell, but the Baptists were as lifeless as the Established Church. In both the Church and Dissent there were individuals only, like Newton and Scott, the elder Robert Hall and Ryland, whose spiritual fervour made them marked men.

The Baptists, who had stood alone as the advocates of toleration, religious and civil, in an age of intolerance which made them the victims, had subsided like Puritan and Covenanter when the Revolution of 1688 brought persecution to an end. The section who held the doctrine of “general” redemption, and are now honourably known as General Baptists, preached ordinary Arminianism, and even Socinianism. The more earnest and educated among them clung to Calvinism, but, by adopting the unhappy term of “particular” Baptists, gradually fell under a fatalistic and antinomian spell. This false Calvinism, which the French theologian of Geneva would have been the first to denounce, proved all the more hostile to the preaching of the Gospel of salvation to the heathen abroad, as well as the sinner at home, that it professed to be an orthodox evangel while either emasculating the Gospel or turning the grace of God into licentiousness. From such “particular” preachers as young Fuller and Carey listened to, at first with bewilderment, then impatience, and then denunciation, missions of no kind could come. Fuller exposed and pursued the delusion with a native shrewdness, a masculine sagacity, and a fine English style, which have won for him the apt name of the Franklin of Theology. For more than twenty years Fullerism, as it was called, raised a controversy like that of the Marrow of Divinity in Scotland, and cleared the ground sufficiently at least to allow of the foundation of foreign missions in both countries. It now seems incredible that the only class who a century ago represented evangelicalism should have opposed missions to the heathen on the ground that the Gospel is meant only for the elect, whether at home or abroad; that nothing spiritually good is the duty of the unregenerate, therefore “nothing must be addressed to them in a way of exhortation excepting what relates to external obedience.”

The same year, 1784, in which the Baptist concert for prayer was begun, saw the publication of Fuller’s Gospel Worthy of all Acceptation. Seven years later he preached at Clipstone a famous sermon, in which he applied the dealing of the Lord of Hosts (in Haggai) to the Jewish apathy–“The time is not come that the Lord’s house should be built”–with a power and directness which nevertheless failed practically to convince himself. The men who listened to him had been praying for seven years, yet had opposed Carey’s pleas for a foreign mission, had treated him as a visionary or a madman. When Fuller had published his treatise, Carey had drawn the practical deduction–“If it be the duty of all men, when the Gospel comes, to believe unto salvation, then it is the duty of those who are entrusted with the Gospel to endeavour to make it known among all nations for the obedience of faith.” Now, after seven more years of waiting, and remembering the manuscript Enquiry, Carey thought action cannot be longer delayed. Hardly was the usual discussion that followed the meeting over when, as the story is told by the son of Ryland who had silenced him in a former ministers’ meeting, Carey appealed to his brethren to put their preaching into practice and begin a missionary society that very day. Fuller’s sermon bore the title of The Evil Nature and the Dangerous Tendency of Delay in the Concerns of Religion, and it had been preceded by one on being very jealous for the Lord God of Hosts, in which Sutcliff cried for the divine passion, the celestial fire that burned in the bosom and blazed in the life of Elijah. The Elijah of their own church and day was among them, burning and blazing for years, and all that he could induce them to promise was vaguely that, “something should be done,” and to throw to his importunity the easy request that he would publish his manuscript and preach next year’s sermon.

Meanwhile, in 1789, Carey had left Moulton6 for Leicester, whither he was summoned to build up a congregation, ruined by antinomianism, in the mean brick chapel of the obscure quarter of Harvey Lane. This chapel his genius and Robert Hall’s eloquence made so famous in time that the Baptists sent off a vigorous hive to the fine new church. In an equally humble house opposite the chapel the poverty of the pastor compelled him to keep a school from nine in the morning till four in winter and five in summer. Between this and the hours for sleep and food he had little leisure; but that he spent, as he had done all his life before and did all his life after, with a method and zeal which doubled his working days. “I have seen him at work,” writes Gardiner in his Music and Friends, “his books beside him, and his beautiful flowers in the windows.” In a letter to his father we have this division of his leisure–Monday, “the learned languages;” Tuesday, “the study of science, history, composition, etc;” Wednesday, “I preach a lecture, and have been for more than twelve months on the Book of Revelation;” Thursday, “I visit my friends;” Friday and Saturday, “preparing for the Lord’s Day.” He preached three times every Sunday in his own chapel or the surrounding villages, with such results that in one case he added hundreds to its Wesleyan congregation. He was secretary to the local committee of dissenters. “Add to this occasional journeys, ministers’ meetings, etc., and you will rather wonder that I have any time, than that I have so little. I am not my own, nor would I choose for myself. Let God employ me where he thinks fit, and give me patience and discretion to fill up my station to his honour and glory.”

“After I had been probationer in this place a year and ten months, on the 24th of May 1791 I was solemnly set apart to the office of pastor. About twenty ministers of different denominations were witnesses to the transactions of the day. After prayer Brother Hopper of Nottingham addressed the congregation upon the nature of an ordination, after which he proposed the usual questions to the church, and required my Confession of Faith; which being delivered, Brother Ryland prayed the ordination prayer, with laying on of hands. Brother Sutcliff delivered a very solemn charge from Acts vi. 4–‘But we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.’ And Brother Fuller delivered an excellent address to the people from Eph. v. 2–‘Walk in love.’ In the evening Brother Pearce of Birmingham preached from Gal. vi. 14–‘God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world.’ The day was a day of pleasure, and I hope of profit to the greatest part of the Assembly.”

Carey became the friend of his neighbour, Thomas Robinson, evangelical rector of St. Mary’s, to whom he said on one occasion when indirectly charged in humorous fashion with “sheep-stealing:” “Mr. Robinson, I am a dissenter, and you are a churchman; we must each endeavour to do good according to our light. At the same time, you may be assured that I had rather be the instrument of converting a scavenger that sweeps the streets than of merely proselyting the richest and best characters in your congregation.” Dr. Arnold and Mr. R. Brewin, a botanist, opened to him their libraries, and all good men in Leicester soon learned to be proud of the new Baptist minister. In the two chapels, as in that of Moulton, enlarged since his time, memorial tablets tell succeeding generations of the virtues and the deeds of “the illustrious W. Carey, D.D.”

The ministers’ meeting of 1792 came round, and on 31st May Carey seized his opportunity. The place was Nottingham, from which the 1784 invitation to prayer had gone forth. Was the answer to come just there after nine years’ waiting? His Enquiry had been published; had it prepared the brethren? Ryland had been always loyal to the journeyman shoemaker he had baptised in the river, and he gives us this record:–“If all the people had lifted up their voices and wept, as the children of Israel did at Bochim, I should not have wondered at the effect. It would only have seemed proportionate to the cause, so clearly did he prove the criminality of our supineness in the cause of God.” The text was Isaiah’s (liv. 2, 3) vision of the widowed church’s tent stretching forth till her children inherited the nations and peopled the desolate cities, and the application to the reluctant brethren was couched in these two great maxims written ever since on the banners of the missionary host of the kingdom–


The service was over; even Fuller was afraid, even Ryland made no sign, and the ministers were leaving the meeting. Seizing Fuller’s arm with an imploring look, the preacher, whom despair emboldened to act alone for his Master, exclaimed: “And are you, after all, going again to do nothing?” What Fuller describes as the “much fear and trembling” of these inexperienced, poor, and ignorant village preachers gave way to the appeal of one who had gained both knowledge and courage, and who, as to funds and men, was ready to give himself. They entered on their minutes this much:–“That a plan be prepared against the next ministers’ meeting at Kettering for forming a Baptist Society for propagating the Gospel among the Heathen.” There was more delay, but only for four months. The first purely English Missionary Society, which sent forth its own English founder, was thus constituted as described in the minutes of the Northampton ministers’ meeting.

“At the ministers’ meeting at Kettering, October 2, 1792, after the public services of the day were ended, the ministers retired to consult further on the matter, and to lay a foundation at least for a society, when the following resolutions were proposed, and unanimously agreed to:–

“1. Desirous of making an effort for the propagation of the gospel among the heathen, agreeably to what is recommended in brother Carey’s late publication on that subject, we, whose names appear to the subsequent subscription, do solemnly agree to act in society together for that purpose.

“2. As in the present divided state of Christendom, it seems that each denomination, by exerting itself separately, is most likely to accomplish the great ends of a mission, it is agreed that this society be called The Particular [Calvinistic] Baptist Society for Propagating the Gospel among the Heathen.

“3. As such an undertaking must needs be attended with expense, we agree immediately to open a subscription for the above purpose, and to recommend it to others.

“4. Every person who shall subscribe ten pounds at once, or ten shillings and sixpence annually, shall be considered a member of the society.

“5. That the Rev. John Ryland, Reynold Hogg, William Carey, John Sutcliff, and Andrew Fuller, be appointed a committee, three of whom shall be empowered to act in carrying into effect the purposes of this society.

“6. That the Rev. Reynold Hogg be appointed treasurer, and the Rev. Andrew Fuller secretary.

“7. That the subscriptions be paid in at the Northampton ministers’ meeting, October 31, 1792, at which time the subject shall be considered more particularly by the committee, and other subscribers who may be present.

“Signed, John Ryland, Reynold Hogg, John Sutcliff, Andrew Fuller, Abraham Greenwood, Edward Sherman, Joshua Burton, Samuel Pearce, Thomas Blundel, William Heighton, John Eayres, Joseph Timms; whose subscriptions in all amounted to £13:2:6.”

The procedure suggested in “brother Carey’s late publication” was strictly followed–a society of subscribers, 2d. a week, or 10s. 6d. a year as a compromise between the tithes and the penny a week of the Enquiry. The secretary was the courageous Fuller, who once said to Ryland and Sutcliff: “You excel me in wisdom, especially in foreseeing difficulties. I therefore want to advise with you both, but to execute without you.” The frequent chairman was Ryland, who was soon to train missionaries for the work at Bristol College. The treasurer was the only rich man of the twelve, who soon resigned his office into a layman’s hands, as was right. Of the others we need now point only to Samuel Pearce, the seraphic preacher of Birmingham, who went home and sent £70 to the collection, and who, since he desired to give himself like Carey, became to him dearer than even Fuller was. The place was a low-roofed parlour in the house of Widow Wallis, looking on to a back garden, which many a pilgrim still visits, and around which there gathered thousands in 1842 to hold the first jubilee of modern missions, when commemorative medals were struck. There in 1892 the centenary witnessed a still vaster assemblage.

Can any good come out of Kettering? was the conclusion of the Baptist ministers of London with the one exception of Booth, when they met formally to decide whether, like those of Birmingham and other places, they should join the primary society. Benjamin Beddome, a venerable scholar whom Robert Hall declared to be chief among his brethren, replied to Fuller in language which is far from unusual even at the present day, but showing the position which the Leicester minister had won for himself even then:–

“I think your scheme, considering the paucity of well-qualified ministers, hath a very unfavourable aspect with respect to destitute churches at home, where charity ought to begin. I had the pleasure once to see and hear Mr. Carey; it struck me he was the most suitable person in the kingdom, at least whom I knew, to supply my place, and make up my great deficiencies when either disabled or removed. A different plan is formed and pursued, and I fear that the great and good man, though influenced by the most excellent motives, will meet with a disappointment. However, God hath his ends, and whoever is disappointed He cannot be so. My unbelieving heart is ready to suggest that the time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built.”

The other Congregationalists made no sign. The Presbyterians, with a few noble exceptions like Dr. Erskine, whose Dutch volume Carey had translated, denounced such movements as revolutionary in a General Assembly of Socinianised “moderates.” The Church of England kept haughtily or timidly aloof, though king and archbishop were pressed to send a mission. “Those who in that day sneered that England had sent a cobbler to convert the world were the direct lineal descendants of those who sneered in Palestine 2000 years ago, ‘Is not this the carpenter?'” said Archdeacon Farrar in Westminster Abbey on 6th March 1887. Hence Fuller’s reference to this time:–“When we began in 1792 there was little or no respectability among us, not so much as a squire to sit in the chair or an orator to address him with speeches. Hence good Dr. Stennett advised the London ministers to stand aloof and not commit themselves.”

One man in India had striven to rouse the Church to its duty as Carey had done at home. Charles Grant had in 1787 written from Malda to Charles Simeon and Wilberforce for eight missionaries, but not one Church of England clergyman could be found to go. Thirty years after, when chairman of the Court of Directors and father of Lord Glenelg and Sir Robert Grant, he wrote:–“I had formed the design of a mission to Bengal: Providence reserved that honour for the Baptists.” After all, the twelve village pastors in the back parlour of Kettering were the more really the successors of the twelve apostles in the upper room of Jerusalem.




Tahiti v. Bengal–Carey and Thomas appointed missionaries to Bengal–The farewell at Leicester–John Thomas, first medical missionary–Carey’s letter to his father–The Company’s “abominable monopoly”–The voyage–Carey’s aspirations for world-wide missions–Lands at Calcutta–His description of Bengal in 1793–Contrast presented by Carey to Clive, Hastings, and Cornwallis–The spiritual founder of an Indian Empire of Christian Britain–Bengal and the famine of 1769-70–The Decennial Settlement declared permanent–Effects on the landed classes–Obstacles to Carey’s work–East India Company at its worst–Hindooism and the Bengalees in 1793–Position of Hindoo women–Missionary attempts before Carey’s–Ziegenbalg and Schwartz–Kiernander and the chaplains–Hindooised state of Anglo-Indian society and its reaction on England–Guneshan Dass, the first caste Hindoo to visit England–William Carey had no predecessor.

Carey had desired to go first to Tahiti or Western Africa. The natives of North America and the negroes of the West Indies and Sierra Leone were being cared for by Moravian and Wesleyan evangelists. The narrative of Captain Cook’s two first voyages to the Pacific and discovery of Tahiti had appeared in the same year in which the Northampton churches began their seven years’ concert of prayer, just after his own second baptism. From the map, and a leather globe which also he is said to have made, he had been teaching the children of Piddington, Moulton, and Leicester the great outlines and thrilling details of expeditions round the world which roused both the scientific and the simple of England as much as the discoveries of Columbus had excited Europe. When the childlike ignorance and natural grace of the Hawaiians, which had at first fired him with the longing to tell them the good news of God, were seen turned into the wild justice of revenge, which made Cook its first victim, Carey became all the more eager to anticipate the disasters of later days. That was work for which others were to be found. It was not amid the scattered and decimated savages of the Pacific or of America that the citadel of heathenism was found, nor by them that the world, old and new, was to be made the kingdom of Christ. With the cautious wisdom that marked all Fuller’s action, though perhaps with the ignorance that was due to Carey’s absence, the third meeting of the new society recorded this among other articles “to be examined and discussed in the most diligent and impartial manner–In what part of the heathen world do there seem to be the most promising openings?”

The answer, big with consequence for the future of the East, was in their hands, in the form of a letter from Carey, who stated that “Mr. Thomas, the Bengal missionary,” was trying to raise a fund for that province, and asked “whether it would not be worthy of the Society to try to make that and ours unite with one fund for the purpose of sending the gospel to the heathen indefinitely.” Tahiti was not to be neglected, nor Africa, nor Bengal, in “our larger plan,” which included above four hundred millions of our fellowmen, among whom it was an object “worthy of the most ardent and persevering pursuit to disseminate the humane and saving principles of the Christian Religion.” If this Mr. Thomas were worthy, his experience made it desirable to begin with Bengal. Thomas answered for himself at the next meeting, when Carey fell upon his neck and wept, having previously preached from the words–“Behold I come quickly, and My reward is with Me.” “We saw,” said Fuller afterwards, “there was a gold mine in India, but it was as deep as the centre of the earth. Who will venture to explore it? ‘I will venture to go down,’ said Carey, ‘but remember that you (addressing Fuller, Sutcliff, and Ryland) must hold the ropes.’ We solemnly engaged to him to do so, nor while we live shall we desert him.”

Carey and Thomas, an ordained minister and a medical evangelist, were at this meeting in Kettering, on 10th January 1793, appointed missionaries to “the East Indies for preaching the gospel to the heathen,” on “£100 or £150 a year between them all,”–that is, for two missionaries, their wives, and four children,–until they should be able to support themselves like the Moravians. As a matter of fact they received just £200 in all for the first three years when self-support and mission extension fairly began. The whole sum at credit of the Society for outfit, passage, and salaries was £130, so that Fuller’s prudence was not without justification when supported by Thomas’s assurances that the amount was enough, and Carey’s modest self-sacrifice. “We advised Mr. Carey,” wrote Fuller to Ryland, “to give up his school this quarter, for we must make up the loss to him.” The more serious cost of the passage was raised by Fuller and by the preaching tours of the two missionaries. During one of these, at Hull, Carey met the printer and newspaper editor, William Ward, and cast his mantle over him thus–“If the Lord bless us, we shall want a person of your business to enable us to print the Scriptures; I hope you will come after us.” Ward did so in five years.

The 20th March 1793 was a high day in the Leicester chapel, Harvey Lane, when the missionaries were set apart like Barnabas and Paul–a forenoon of prayer; an afternoon of preaching by Thomas from Psalm xvi. 4; “Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another God;” an evening of preaching by the treasurer from Acts xxi. 14, “And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, the will of the Lord be done;” and the parting charge by Fuller the secretary, from the risen Lord’s own benediction and forthsending of His disciples, “Peace be unto you, as My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you.” Often in after days of solitude and reproach did Carey quicken his faith by reading the brave and loving words of Fuller on “the objects you must keep in view, the directions you must observe, the difficulties you must encounter, the reward you may expect.”

Under date four days after we find this entry in the Church Book–“Mr. Carey, our minister, left Leicester to go on a mission to the East Indies, to take and propagate the Gospel among those idolatrous and superstitious heathens. This is inserted to show his love to his poor miserable fellow-creatures. In this we concurred with him, though it is at the expense of losing one whom we love as our own souls.” When Carey’s preaching had so filled the church that it became necessary to build a front gallery at a cost of £98, and they had applied to several other churches for assistance in vain, he thus taught them to help themselves. The minister and many of the members agreed to pay off the debt “among ourselves” by weekly subscriptions,–a process, however, which covered five years, so poor were they. Carey left this as a parting lesson to home congregations, while his people found it the easier to pay the debt that they had sacrificed their best, their own minister, to the work of missions for which he had taught them to pray.

John Thomas, four years older than Carey, was a surgeon, who had made two voyages to Calcutta in the Oxford Indiaman, had been of spiritual service to Charles Grant, Mr. George Udny, and the Bengal civilian circle at Malda, and had been supported by Mr. Grant as a missionary for a time until his eccentricities and debts outraged his friends and drove him home at the time of the Kettering meetings. Full justice has been done to a character and a career somewhat resembling those of John Newton, by his patient and able biographer the Rev. C. B. Lewis. John Thomas has the merit of being the first medical missionary, at a time when no other Englishman cared for either the bodies or souls of our recently acquired subjects in North India, outside of Charles Grant’s circle. He has more; he was used by God to direct Carey to the dense Hindoo population of Bengal–to the people and to the centre, that is, where Brahmanism had its seat, and whence Buddhism had been carried by thousands of missionaries all over Southern, Eastern, and Central Asia. But there our ascription of merit to Thomas must stop. However well he might speak the uncultured Bengali, he never could write the language or translate the Bible into a literary style so that it could be understood by the people or influence their leaders. His temper kept Charles Grant back from helping the infant mission, though anxious to see Mr. Carey and to aid him and any other companion. The debts of Thomas caused him and Carey to be excluded from the Oxford, in which his friend the commander had agreed to take them and their party without a licence; clouded the early years of the enterprise with their shadow, and formed the heaviest of the many burdens Carey had to bear at starting. If, afterwards, the old association of Thomas with Mr. Udny at Malda gave Carey a home during his Indian apprenticeship, this was a small atonement for the loss of the direct help of Mr. Grant. If Carey proved to be the John among the men who began to make Serampore illustrious, Thomas was the Peter, so far as we know Peter in the Gospels only.

Just before being ejected from the Oxford, as he had been deprived of the effectual help of Charles Grant through his unhappy companion, when with only his eldest son Felix beside him, how did Carey view his God-given mission? The very different nature of his wife, who had announced to him the birth of a child, clung anew to the hope that this might cause him to turn back. Writing from Ryde on the 6th May he thus replied with sweet delicacy of human affection, but with true loyalty to his Master’s call:–

“Received yours, giving me an account of your safe delivery. This is pleasant news indeed to me; surely goodness and mercy follow me all my days. My stay here was very painful and unpleasant, but now I see the goodness of God in it. It was that I might hear the most pleasing accounts that I possibly could hear respecting earthly things. You wish to know in what state my mind is. I answer, it is much as when I left you. If I had all the world, I would freely give it all to have you and my dear children with me; but the sense of duty is so strong as to overpower all other considerations; I could not turn back without guilt on my soul. I find a longing desire to enjoy more of God; but, now I am among the people of the world, I think I see more beauties in godliness than ever, and, I hope, enjoy more of God in retirement than I have done for some time past…You want to know what Mrs. Thomas thinks, and how she likes the voyage…She would rather stay in England than go to India; but thinks it right to go with her husband…Tell my dear children I love them dearly, and pray for them constantly. Felix sends his love. I look upon this mercy as an answer to prayer indeed. Trust in God. Love to Kitty, brothers, sisters, etc. Be assured I love you most affectionately. Let me know my dear little child’s name.–I am, for ever, your faithful and affectionate husband,


“My health never was so well. I believe the sea makes Felix and me both as hungry as hunters. I can eat a monstrous meat supper, and drink a couple of glasses of wine after it, without hurting me at all. Farewell.”

She was woman and wife enough, in the end, to do as Mrs. Thomas had done, but she stipulated that her sister should accompany her.

By a series of specially providential events, as it seemed, such as marked the whole early history of this first missionary enterprise of modern England, Carey and Thomas secured a passage on board the Danish Indiaman Kron Princessa Maria, bound from Copenhagen to Serampore. At Dover, where they had been waiting for days, the eight were roused from sleep by the news that the ship was off the harbour. Sunrise on the 13th June saw them on board. Carey had had other troubles besides his colleague and his wife. His father, then fifty-eight years old, had not given him up without a struggle. “Is William mad?” he had said when he received the letter in which his son thus offered himself up on the missionary altar. His mother had died six years before:–