“The Father of Modern Missions”by Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
Looking back through William Carey’s life, one stands amazed at what one man attained because he attempted to do a great thing for God. Born to a poor weaver and his wife on August 17, 1761, Carey grew up in the small village of Paulerspury in Northamptonshire, England. At the age of twelve, the time came for him to earn at least part of his living; thus he left school and was apprenticed to a shoemaker, later becoming a shoemaker. Though practically uneducated, William’s love of knowledge was not hindered by his trade or his great poverty, “…for before he was thirty-one he could read the Bible in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Dutch, French, and English.” (Royer, Galen B. “The Father of Modern Missions.” Wholesome Words. Worldwide Missions. 12 Dec. 2003 <http://www.wholesomewords.org/missions/bcarey3.html>) In his later teen years, God placed a young man by the name of John Warr into William’s life. They worked together as apprentices and after many debates, Warr’s Christ-like love, and William Carey’s attendance at prayer meetings with Warr; Carey finally converted to Christianity.
Joining with the Baptists, Carey became the pastor at a small church in Moulton and continued selling shoes to provide for his family. It was during these days that God burdened Carey’s heart for the unreached people of the world. He drew a simple map of the world and began marking the places where the Gospel had not been preached, praying that the Lord would send harvesters into the enormous field of lost souls. William Carey’s convictions were settled when he read Rev. Andrew Fuller’ declaration in his book, “The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation”. Fuller said “if it is the duty of all men to believe whenever the Gospel is presented to them, it must be the duty of all who have received the Gospel to endeavor to make it universally known.” (Royer, Galen B. “The Father of Modern Missions.” Wholesome Words. Worldwide Missions. 12 Dec. 2003 <http://www.wholesomewords.org/missions/bcarey3.html>) The first time William Carey made his convictions known about foreign missions he was rebuked by a senior minister, who said, “Young man, sit down! When God pleases to convert the heathen, he will do it without your help or mine!” (Royer, Galen B. “The Father of Modern Missions.” Wholesome Words. Worldwide Missions. 12 Dec. 2003 <http://www.wholessomewords.org/missions/bcarey3.html>)
On May 30, 1792, after his idea aroused some attention, he was invited to preach a ministerial gathering. Preaching out of Isaiah 54:2, 3, Carey put forth two thoughts that summed up his ministry and have since become an incredible missionary motto, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.” (“Biography of William Carey.” Southerm Baptist Historical Library and Archives. Southern Baptist.12 Dec. 2003 <http://www.sbhla.org/bio_carey.htm>) From this sermon, William Carey finally broke through with God’s vision and at the age of thirty-one, on October 2, 1792, twelve ministers came together inside a widow’s home and formed what today is called the Baptist Missionary Society.
After tackling the huge task of attaining money for the mission work, the question was where to go. This question was soon answered when John Thomas, who had recently returned from Bengal (a state in India), asked Carey to join him in his mission work in India. Agreeing happily, on June 13, 1793, Carey, his wife and four boys, along with her sister and Thomas set off for Calcutta, India. After a long five-month voyage, the party finally reached their destination. Fifteen miles outside of Calcutta, in the scattered villages of a jungle region, William Carey planted his first mission site. Mr. Udny, a Christian and friend of mission work, offered Carey a job as superintendent of an indigo factory. This blessing from God gave Carey the money to humbly support his family, the time provided to study, and a crew of natives who worked in the factory to whom he could witness. Working there for five years, Carey was able to visit many villages and translate the entire New Testament into the Bengalese dialect. During his last year working in these tiny villages, Carey finally saw the fruit of his toiling when a man of Portuguese descent accepted Jesus Christ into his heart.
In 1799, a terrible flood came to south India and the indigo factory closed down, leaving Carey wondering where he should move next. Also that year God sent others to join Carey, including William Ward, a printer who would help Carey make numerous Bibles in future years. However, the mission team could not join Carey because the East India Company continued to oppose missionaries and would not let them cross into English territory. They were stopped only about fourteen miles north of Calcutta, territory under Danish rule, but the Governor of that region was a Christian and accepted them warmly. Not only was he kind to them, he also helped them find a suitable mission site in Serampore. This seemed like the answer to William Carey’s prayers and in January of 1800, he and his family moved to Serampore, where he would serve until his death. Many blessings followed this move. Before the end of the year, Carey had the opportunity to baptize his first Hindu convert. In 1801, William College in Calcutta commissioned Carey as professor of Sanskrit, Bengali, and Marathi, a position he held for thirty years. Also in 1801, Mr. Ward finished printing the New Testament in Bengali and by 1809, Carey and Ward published the entire Bible in Bengali. By 1804, another mission began in Cutwa and one in Calcutta. Within the next few years some twenty new mission sites were established.
Throughout William Carey’s life, his patience and perseverance in pursuing God’s will for his life shines through as we see what God accomplished with this fully surrendered life. When Carey died on June 9, 1834, “…there were in connection with the mission he founded some thirty missionaries, forty teachers, forty-five stations and substations, and approximately six hundred church members. In addition one must remember that he was the cause of the forming of the English Baptist Missionary Society, thru whom Christ has been brought to thousands in different parts of the world… it may well be said he was the beginning of the present glorious day of world evangelization.” (Royer Galen B. “The Father of Modern Missions.” Wholesome Words. Worldwide Missions. 12 Dec. 2003 <http://www.wholesomewords.org/missions/bcarey3.html>) Also, because of his yearning for knowledge and ability to attain languages, “By 1837, he and his helpers had translated portions of the Scripture into more than forty languages.” (“Portrait William Carey.” The Baptist Page. 21 Jan. 2002. Baptist. 14 Dec. 2003 <http://www.baptistpage.org/Portraits/print/print_carey.html>)
Yet through these many accomplishments William Carey remained humble and gave all glory and honor where it was due, the Lord. Saying to a friend shortly before his death, “Mr. Duff, you have been speaking about Dr. Carey, Dr. Carey. When I am gone say nothing about Dr. Carey—speak about Dr. Carey’s Savior.” (Miller, Basil. “William Carey: The Father of Modern Missions” Minneapolis, Minn.: Bethany House Publishers, 1980.) William Carey shows one the prime example of a man of faith, one willing to attempt great things for God and expecting to see God do a mighty work.