Judson, Adoniram by Faye Huntington

BORN AUG. 9, 1788,
DIED APRIL 12, 1850.

This tells the story; indeed it tells the story of all of us. We are born, we die, and the years which are counted in between the two dates, filled with the work we do, whether we do good or evil, make up our record, and stand as our monument, or if we have not built well lie as a tumbling mass of ruins.

The inscription which I have copied is cut upon a marble tablet erected in the church in the town where the Missionary Judson was born. If we had only that record our imagination would fill it out. But we are not left to fancy him growing up an earnest Christian, going out in his young manhood to a heathen land preaching and translating the Gospel and at length dying on shipboard. We have a complete record of his life and we learn that he was the son of a New England clergyman. That he was an unusually bright boy and learned to read the Bible when he was three years old! One incident of his boyhood is rather amusing. He was very fond of solving riddles and puzzles; and on one occasion when he had worked some time over a newspaper puzzle and succeeding in solving it, had copied out his answer and carried it to the post-office. But the postmaster gave the letter to the boy's father, fearing that some mischief was brewing. The father with his accustomed courtesy and sense of propriety would not break the seal, but commanded his son to open and read the letter. The father called for the newspaper containing the puzzle and studied the boy's work. But he said nothing then or ever after either of reproof or commendation, but the next day he informed Adoniram that as he was so apt at solving riddles he had purchased for him a book of puzzles, and that as soon as he had solved all it contained he should have one more difficult. The boy was delighted; what boy who delights in riddles and puzzles would not be delighted with a new book of puzzles! But imagine if you can the boy's disappointment when he discovered the book to be a school text book on arithmetic!

Well, arithmetic sometimes proves a puzzle, even to bright boys. He was always a faithful student. He graduated at Brown University with the highest honors, being the veledictorian at commencement. So exemplary was his course while in college that the college president wrote to his father a letter of congratulation upon having such an amiable and promising son.

A year after graduation young Judson entered a theological seminary. At the time when he dedicated himself to the service of God, he consecrated himself to the work of preaching the Gospel. But it was some time afterwards that he began to think about being a missionary. A printed missionary sermon preached in England was the means of turning his thoughts to the heathen. One day while walking alone in the woods meditating and lifting his heart to God in prayer for direction, the command "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature," came to him with a new power and meaning, and he then resolved to obey the command. I suppose you have all heard the story of the haystack prayer-meeting, when four young men consecrated themselves to the work of carrying the Gospel to the heathen. About the time that Mr. Judson gave himself up to the work, he was thrown into the society of these four young men and together they planned as to ways and means of carrying out their purpose.

There were many and great difficulties in the way of carrying out their scheme. You may wonder why the way should have been so difficult; there was at that time no foreign missionary society in America to send them into heathen lands. You must remember that it was seventy-five years ago that these young Christians were fired with the spirit of missions, and though it may seem strange to you, it is a fact that the Christian people of our land had not yet had their attention turned to the work of foreign missions. The command "Go into all the world," had not reached their hearts; though the words of Christ had stood in their place in the record of our Saviour's life, yet their meaning had not yet dawned upon the hearts of his followers. And I fear that even now in our own day there are many Christians who overlook the words or read them without thought of their full meaning.

It was when the desire of these students was brought before the association of Congregational churches of Massachusetts that the matter was considered by that body, and as the result the board of commissioners for foreign missions was organized. In weakness and with many misgivings this "mother of American foreign missionary societies" was organized, but it has grown to be a power in the world of missions. Afterwards Mr. Judson became a Baptist, and together with a Mr. Rice set in motion events which led to the formation of the American Baptist Missionary Union, another society in the interests of the foreign work.

At length after many trials and a long wearisome journey Mr. Judson and his wife found themselves in Burmah, which was to be the field of their labors. For nearly forty years this devoted man labored to light up that dark country with the Gospel light. Perhaps the most important work of his whole life was the translation of the Scriptures into Burmese. In his autobiographical notes are two brief records which stand for years of hard labor:

"1832, December 15, sent to press the last sheet of the New Testament in Burmese;" and, "1834, January 31, finished the translation of the Old Testament."

While the work of translation was going on, when the New Testament was about completed, Doctor Judson was at Ava, the capital of the Burman Empire; war had broken out between Burmah and England, and as a foreigner, Doctor Judson was arrested and thrown into prison. At first he was put into the death prison, but afterwards was removed to an outer prison, but was kept heavily ironed. Mrs. Judson, alarmed for the safety of the manuscript, buried it under the house.

But at length she was permitted to see her husband, and fearing that the dampness of the soil would destroy the manuscript they devised means for its preservation. Mrs. Judson made a sort of pillow, not at all luxurious, lest some one should envy him and take it away; but she sewed the manuscript up in matting, and for months Doctor Judson slept with the precious pillow under his head. At one time when the prisoners were thrust again into the inner prison, everything was taken from them and the missionary feared that he should never again see his beloved manuscript. But the pillow proved so hard that the jailer threw it back into the prison, doubtless thinking that if the prisoner could find any comfort in that, he was welcome to it. Once again the precious package was taken from him and this time thrown away. But the Providence that watches over all the interests of his children put it into the heart of a Burmese convert to pick it up as a souvenir of his beloved missionary teacher whom he supposed was about to be put to death, never dreaming that it contained anything of value; and months afterwards he restored it to Doctor Judson. And in due time it was printed and given to the Burman world as a precious legacy from one who loved them more than life.

In all the years of his missionary labor Doctor Judson visited his native land but once. He brought three children to America to be educated and himself after a short sojourn returned to his work. But his arduous labors, together with his intense sufferings during the period of imprisonment, had enfeebled his constitution, and three years after his return he died on shipboard as he was taking a short voyage in search of health, and was buried at sea.

Doctor Judson's life of consecration, his self renunciation, can but influence the hearts of all who make it a study. I have heard of a young man who was so impressed upon reading the life of this wonderful man, that he went out into a field and there alone with Christ gave himself up to the service of the Lord. The era of foreign missionary work began with the hour when the few Christian students at Williams and Andover gave themselves to the work.

A conscientious decision may revolutionize the world.