The Life of William Carey, Shoemaker & Missionary
George Smith

Part 1 out of 8

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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been favoured with the use of many unpublished letters written by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

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

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

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

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

"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

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

"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

"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

"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

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

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

"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

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

"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

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:--


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