Adoniram Judson, junior, was born at Malden, Massachusetts, August 9, 1788. Of his childhood and youth little information has been communicated to the public. It would be interesting, if possible, to trace the development of powers so capacious and a character so striking as his long and eventful career displayed.
He was graduated at Brown University in 1807, with the highest honour. He is remembered by college contemporaries as a young man of a spare but commanding figure, erect and firm, giving evidence of a sound physical constitution, and a mind of more than common vigour and self-reliance. His habitual demeanour was grave and circumspect until near the close of his collegiate course. His ambition having been gratified by the position he had gained, the constraint of his manners was then somewhat relaxed, and he showed a more genial and playful humour. He acquitted himself on the commencement day in a manner that attracted much attention and praise, heightened by his youthful appearance.
The son of a Congregational clergyman, he had the advantages of religious culture that such a relation naturally confers, but entered upon manhood, not only without evidence of personal piety, but with skeptical views of the authority of Christianity. Soon after graduating, he began a tour through the United States. While travelling, he became impressed with the conviction that to cherish doubts of the truth of Christianity without making an effort to resolve them, was unreasonable. The importance and solemnity of the issue were discerned in such a light that it was impossible to continue his journey. He returned to Plymouth, then the residence of his father, and commenced the serious examination of the Christian evidences. He was convinced of their validity, but did not at first have very distinct views of the nature of religion as a practical system. In this state of mind, being on a visit to Boston, he happened to take from the shelf of a private library a work formerly much esteemed by serious readers,—"Human Nature in its Fourfold State;" by Thomas Boston, minister of Ettrick, in Scotland. From this he gained new views of the Christian scheme and of his own relations to it. His mind was profoundly agitated, and all his plans were merged in anxiety to find peace for a disquieted conscience.
About this time the Theological Seminary at Andover was established, and Mr. Judson applied for admission, in order to gain the advantages it afforded for religious study and instruction. The rules of the seminary required evidence of evangelical piety before admission, but the officers, with some hesitation, received him as a member. In no long time his inquiries were satisfied; he clearly saw and heartily submitted to the truth, receiving a full measure of its divine consolations. He then turned his attention to the appropriate studies preparatory to the Christian ministry. But his purposes were not to find their limit here.
In the summer or autumn of 1809, he met with Buchanan's "Star in the East," the reading of which suggested to his mind the importance of the missionary work, and awakened a desire to engage in it. His feelings were communicated to several persons, who all discouraged him. At length he gained the assent of Samuel Nott, jr., to his views, and subsequently found in the minds of several other young men associated with him in the seminary, Messrs. Mills, Richards, Rice and Newell, a deep sympathy in his aspirations, the fruit of meditation and mutual counsel in past years and distant scenes.
The state of public sentiment was not such as to furnish encouragement that any immediate steps would be taken to secure the accomplishment of their wishes, and a submission to this delay was apparently yielded by his associates, with which Mr. Judson was dissatisfied. Seeing no avenue to the missionary field open on this side of the Atlantic, he conceived the design of offering himself for the patronage of the London Missionary Society. This he suggested to Rev. Dr. Griffin, then a professor in the seminary, who undertook to write on his behalf to London. Some time after, as they casually met, Dr. Griffin apologized for having failed to write according to his promise, but expressed his intention to do so immediately. "I thank you, sir," Mr. Judson replied with characteristic promptness "I have written for myself." A letter to the Directors of the London Missionary Society, disclosing his views and requesting information, received a favourable reply, inviting him to visit England, and obtain in person the information he sought.
The project was arrested by more favourable indications at home. Having learned from those of his associates who had mutually pledged themselves to the missionary work while at Williams College, something of the character and views of Gordon Hall, then at Woodbury, Conn., he addressed a letter to him, which hastened Mr. Hall's arrival at Andover. Mr. Hall's inclinations concurred with his own. Renewed consultation led to a decisive resolve, and the meeting of the General Association of Massachusetts, at Bradford, in June, 1810, was fixed upon as a favourable occasion for broaching their designs to the public. Mr. Judson drew up a paper, setting forth their wishes, and asking the advice of the Association with respect to the propriety of cherishing, and the proper means of effecting them. To this paper were first subscribed the names of Messrs. Judson, Nott, Newell, Hall, Richards and Rice, but the two latter withdrew their names, lest so large a number should produce embarrassment. The result was the organization of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.
It was Mr. Judson's expectation that he and his associates would immediately receive an appointment as missionaries, but the Board was without the needful funds to send them forth, and contented itself with approving their purpose, and recommending them to adhere to it. Mr. Judson thought that this course savoured of timidity, and was auspicious of no very speedy action. He recurred to his invitation from England, and suggested the possibility of gaining the cooperation of the London Missionary Society. At his request he was authorized to visit London, and ascertain the practicability of a joint management of missions by the two societies. He sailed for England in January, 1811, and three weeks after was captured by a French privateer, on board of which he was detained several weeks, and was then confined in a prison at Bayonne. By the interposition of an American gentleman he was released on his parole, and at length obtained a passport, and reached England in May. He found the plan he had in view impracticable, but the Directors of the London society expressed a readiness to receive him and his brethren under their patronage in case they could not obtain support in America, and gave them instructions to be used by them at their option.
Returning to the United States, Mr. Judson and another of the candidates for missionary service attended the meeting of the Board of Commissioners at Worcester in September. The funds of the Board were scanty, and there was some indication that their enterprise might be yet further delayed. Mr. Judson urged immediate movement, on the ground of impending war with England, which might cause a long postponement, if not a final abandonment of missions to the east. After anxious deliberation, the Board adopted Messrs. Judson, Hall, Newell and Nott, as its missionaries, with a designation to the Burman empire, recommending, however, that they should continue their studies for a time.
It happened, by a singular coincidence, that Mr. Judson was in Salem a few weeks before, and was there introduced to the late Rev. Dr. Bolles, with whom he was destined to stand in relations of which neither could then have formed a conception. In the course of conversation he casually expressed to Mr. Bolles the hope that the Baptist denomination in America would follow the missionary example of their brethren in England. The hint was a seed dropped in a fruitful soil. The Baptists of this country were then weak, and there was little prospect of independent action on their parts, but the Salem Bible Translation and Foreign Missionary Society was immediately formed, a month before the meeting of the Board of Commissioners at Worcester. Its first object was the contribution of aid to the Baptist mission at Serampore, but it distinctly contemplated the appointment of foreign missionaries from this country, as soon as circumstances should make such a measure practicable. The occasion came sooner than was anticipated.
While attending the meeting of the Association at Bradford in the preceding year, Mr. Judson first met Miss Ann Hasseltine, with whom he formed an acquaintance that led to an offer of marriage. However such a proposal might have been viewed by her under ordinary circumstances, coming as it did from one about to be self-exiled for missionary service, in a distant land, and among a semi-barbarous people, it was no wonder that she hesitated. With qualities that fitted her to move in the choicest society, and sensibilities that might well shrink from the imminent self-denial involved in an acceptance of the proposal, her devoted piety gave her power to sympathize with the missionary's spirit. Her decision was deliberately made, to share his sufferings and toils and unselfish joys. In her Mr. Judson found a most fortunate companion, and the cause of missions an unrivaled ornament. Together, they were a pair peculiarly qualified for mutual support in founding a mission against obstacles few would have ventured to encounter, and fewer still would have had strength to overcome. The future was not indeed foreseen, but its possibilities were present to their minds. In asking her father's assent to their union, extenuating nothing, Mr. Judson frankly asked whether he could "consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death." The sacrifice was made, a sense of duty overcame the promptings of parental tenderness, and the youthful pair, bound together by ties of united duty and affection, prepared for their departure. They were married on the 5th of February, 1812, and on the day following Mr. Judson, with his four colleagues (Note: Mr. RIce had been subsequently appointed), received ordination at Salem.
Messrs. Judson and Newell with their wives sailed from Salem on the 19th, in the bark Caravan for Calcutta, and the rest of the company from Philadelphia on the 18th for the same destination.
The Caravan arrived at Calcutta on the 18th of June. The missionaries were cordially welcomed by Dr. Carey, and invited to await at Serampore the arrival of their associates. They accepted the invitation, and were received with marked kindness by the mission family. Their enjoyment was rudely interrupted. In about ten days they received a summons to Calcutta. There a government order was served upon them to return immediately to America. Their position was embarrassing. The state of the Burman empire, their original destination, seemed to forbid the present establishment of a mission there. To leave Calcutta then, was apparently to abandon their whole enterprise. They finally asked and obtained leave to sail to the Isle of France, whither a vessel then in the river was bound, which was granted. The vessel could take but two passengers, and Mr. and Mrs. Newell embarked in her, leaving their companions to follow by the first opportunity. Mr. Judson remained two months at Calcutta, during which time that change took place in his views which sundered his present relations as a missionary, and was made the instrument of enlisting a new agency in the work of human evangelization.
While on his passage from America, as he was engaged in the study of the original Scriptures, his attention was drawn to the subject of baptism. The reflection that he was soon to meet Baptist missionaries, and that he might be called to defend his faith on the points of difference between them,—an apprehension which turned out to be groundless,—led him to study the subject more closely. Before reaching any conclusion, his arrival at Calcutta and subsequent difficulties arrested the inquiry. He resumed it after the departure of Mr. Newell, and ended by adopting the sentiments of the Baptists. It cost him a severe struggle to arrive at a conclusion that must sever him from the patronage of the Board that had honoured him by its confidence, and leave him to the contingency of gaining support from a communion with whose members, saving two or three individual exceptions, he had no personal acquaintance. On first learning the state of his mind, Mrs. Judson was much distressed, but after a similar investigation her views were conformed to his. They were baptized on the 6th of September.
Mr. Rice united with Messrs. Hall and Nott in a regretful communication of this "trying event" to the Board. But his own mind was excited to a review of his opinions, and in a few weeks followed the example of Mr. Judson. They resigned their commission from the Board, and wrote to Rev. Dr. Baldwin, of Boston, and Mr. Bolles of Salem, appealing to American Baptists for sympathy and aid. Meanwhile, it became necessary to take immediate measures to find a refuge from the hostility of the East India Company, which was heightened by intelligence of war between Great Britain and the United States, and by the suspicion, from their protracted stay, that the missionaries designed to remain permanently at Calcutta. They were peremptorily ordered to take passage for England. In this emergency they engaged a passage to the Isle of France. They had gone down the river for two days, when an order came, arresting the vessel, on the ground that she had on board passengers ordered to England. All escape now seemed impossible, but after remaining on shore three days, they received from an unknown hand a pass authorizing their passage in the ship they had left. By two days' hard rowing, a distance of seventy miles, they reached Saugur, and found the vessel providentially lying at anchor.
They arrived at the Isle of France on the 17th of January. The hostility of the East Indian government followed them,—the governor received a notice to look carefully after them as suspicious persons. To this he paid no attention, and on the contrary treated them with much kindness, offering them, if they chose to remain on the island, his countenance in their work. But it was not a desirable field for missionary labour. They thought of Madagascar, but a mission there appeared impracticable, and it was at last decided to attempt one on Pinang, or Prince of Wales' Island, for which purpose Mr. and Mrs. Judson embarked for Madras. In the mean time Mr. Rice returned to America, to effect in person with the Baptists the needful arrangements for their support. Tidings of the unexpected event, that threw upon the sympathies of the denomination two missionaries already providentially in India, had preceded him, and he received a cordial welcome. Auxiliary societies were formed, and a meeting of delegates assembled in Philadelphia, by whom was formed the Baptist General Convention, more recently reorganized by the name of the American Baptist Missionary Union. Mr. and Mrs. Judson were adopted as their missionaries, while Mr. Rice remained to give his services to the domestic agency of the Convention.
Where the appointed missionaries would labour was not, indeed, known even to themselves. On reaching Madras they heard of the order for the transportation of the American missionaries from Bombay to England. Dreading the like treatment, they made all haste to escape from the British dominions. There was no outward-bound vessel in the harbour, except an unseaworthy craft; about to sail for Rangoon, the principal port of the Burman empire. In this they took passage, and after braving numerous perils reached their destination in July, 1813, resolved, if practicable, to remain there. The trials they had met with providentially overruled the apprehensions that caused them to shrink from a mission in Burmah, and brought them to the place of their original designation. The day of their arrival was one of gloom. Uncertain as to the issue of their enterprise, lonely from the want of Christian society, and without intelligence from friends at home, they went on shore, scarcely knowing whither they should go. The health of Mrs. Judson, moreover, had suffered from excitement, fatigue and danger, so that she was scarcely able to land. They found shelter and the temporary companionship of Mrs. Felix Carey, in the mission-house that had been occupied about five years by English missionaries, but was now to be abandoned for the occupancy of others to whom the evangelization of Burmah was manifestly committed.
The Burman empire, then including Arracan and the Tenasserim provinces, of which it has been stripped, and Cassay, a part of which is now independent, is an absolute despotism. The monarch is styled the "Master of Life and Death," and his edicts are the unquestioned law of the land. The country is divided into districts, each under the rule of a viceroy, or governor, by whom the imperial decrees are executed on the whole people.
The religion of Burmah, if such it may be called, is Boodhism, a superstition which enslaves nearly one-third of the human race. It acknowledges no living God or intelligent first cause, but affirms the eternity of matter. It holds that four Boodhs, or deities, have successively appeared at intervals of several thousand years, and have been absorbed into Nicban, a state of entire unconsciousness or annihilation, which is regarded as the highest reward of virtue. The last Boodh, Gaudama, appeared about the year B. C. 600, became Boodh at the age of thirty-five, and forty-five years after was absorbed. As thousands of years will elapse before the appearance of another, the system is meanwhile one of pure atheism. The objects of adoration are images and relics of Gaudama, to whom numerous temples are erected, served by a large body of priests, who are bound to celibacy, and subsist by alms. The only religious pursuit of the people is the acquisition of merit by alms deeds and austerities.
Boodhism is superior to other forms of paganism, in its moral features. It does not deify lust, revenge or cupidity. It has five moral precepts: Thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not commit adultery; thou shalt not lie; thou shalt use no intoxicating liquor. But as it recognizes no eternal and supreme Deity, leaving the universe to the force of a blind destiny, it imposes no adequate restraint on the depraved passions of its devotees. With many professions of asceticism, they show all the vices with which the history of heathen nations is uniformly darkened. The people are naturally active and energetic, with acute minds, lively imaginations, and a freedom of social intercourse unknown to most oriental nations, but the debasing influences of an atheistic philosophy and a tyrannical government have made them indolent, unfeeling, suspicious and cruel.
More than a year elapsed before Mr. Judson heard of the formation of the Baptist General Convention. For three years he was busied in learning the language, which is one of peculiar difficulty, and undertaken, as it was, without grammar, dictionary or a teacher speaking English, almost insurmountable. But he had great aptitude for philological investigation, and foreign as its idiom is to the mental habits of western nations, he made the Burmese so much his own that he ultimately used it with all the freedom of a native. His first labours were directed to the preparation of a tract, entitled a Summary of the Christian Religion. He was commencing a translation of the New Testament, when he found himself so much enfeebled by continuous study that he was compelled to suspend his exertions, and think of seeking temporary change of climate. The arrival of Rev. George H. Hough at Rangoon, to reinforce the mission, caused him to relinquish this purpose. Mr. Hough brought a printing press, the gift of the Serampore mission, by which the tract just mentioned, and a catechism, were soon ready for circulation. A translation of the Gospel of Matthew was next undertaken, and printed in the course of the following year.
The tracts were not without effect in calling the attention of the people to the "new religion." In March, 1817, an intelligent man, with great seriousness of manner, came to the mission-house as an inquirer, from whom Mr. Judson caught with grateful wonder "the first acknowledgment of an eternal God he had ever heard from the lips of a Burman." It was now resolved to commence public preaching, and in December Mr. Judson sailed for Chittagong, in Arracan, to obtain the services of a native Christian as an assistant. The vessel was driven out of its course, and he was landed at Madras, where he was detained till the June following. Great anxiety was excited at Rangoon by information from Chittagong that the vessel had not been heard from. To add to the perplexity of their situation, the missionaries were startled by a summons, couched in menacing terms, commanding Mr. Hough's presence at the courthouse. The viceroy had hitherto treated them with respect and kindness; the change was equally mysterious and alarming. It afterwards appeared that a royal order for the expulsion of three Portuguese priests, from the laxity of its terms, had been held to include all foreign religious teachers. After some days' alarm and vexation, Mr. Hough was released from arrest, but these events, together with rumours of a war with the British Indian government, excited such fear, that he set sail for Bengal, taking with him the chief part of the printing apparatus. Mrs. Judson at first proposed to share his flight, and actually went on board the vessel, but finally determined, though alone, and uncertain whether her husband was living, to remain at Rangoon, and there await his coming, or the tidings that should confirm her darkest forebodings. In a few days her heroic decision was rewarded by Mr. Judson's return, and not long after, Rev. Messrs. Colman and Wheelock arrived from the United States to join the mission. Their presence was hailed with the liveliest satisfaction, but it soon became painfully evident that neither had the physical strength to endure the toils of missionary life.
Though foiled in the purpose for which his voyage to Chittagong was undertaken, Mr. Judson went forward with his design to attempt public preaching. The comparatively quiet manner in which the mission had hitherto been conducted screened them from official jealousy, but with a change of policy this security would be at an end. Trusting, however, in the divine protection, the decisive step was taken. A zayat,—a building which in Burmah answers the two-fold purpose of an inn or caravansery and an edifice for public meetings,—was erected on an eligible site, and opened for worship in April, 1819. A small congregation was gathered, and the only living and true God was for the first time publicly adored, and his message of mercy proclaimed, in the Burmese language.
The thirtieth of April was a memorable day: Moung Nau, the first Burman convert, then made his appearance at the zayat (Note: Moung and Ko are titles in Burmese applied respectively to young and old men; Men and Ma having a like application to women). He continued his visits daily, till on the 5th of May Mr. Judson recorded his confident hope that a soul was truly won. "It seems almost too much," he says, "to believe that God has begun to manifest his grace to the Burmans; but this day I could not resist the delightful conviction that this is really the case. PRAISE AND GLORY BE TO HIS NAME FOR EVERMORE. Amen." On the 6th of June, Moung Nau presented a written application for baptism, which was administered on the 27th in "a large pond in the vicinity, the bank of which is graced with an enormous image of Gaudama." The first success was gained, the first living stone laid for the spiritual temple that is to glorify God in Burmah.
Two additional converts were received to the fellowship of the church in November. Others were inquiring, among them Moung Shwa Gnong, a learned man and subtle reasoner, who engaged Mr. Judson in animated discussions for a considerable time. At last he confessed his belief in the truths of Christianity. The viceroy was informed that he had changed his religion. "Inquire further," was his significant order. Moung Shwa Gnong was terrified. The other inquirers shared his apprehensions, and the zayat was deserted except by the three Christian Burmans. Under these circumstances, an appeal to the king appeared to the mission the only resource. Fear restrained the people, and only a pledge of toleration by the government, it seemed, would enable them to prosecute their work with the hope of success.
Messrs. Judson and Colman accordingly set out, on the 22d of December, to ascend the Irrawadi to Amarapoora, then the capital of the empire. Mr. Wheelock was no more, having died in August. They reached the "golden city" on the 25th of January. (Note: The Epithet "golden" describes every thing royal in Burmah). On the 27th, the king having signified his willingness to see them, they repaired to the palace, taking with them the Bible in six volumes gilded in Burman style, as a present to the king, a revised copy of the "Summary of the Christian Religion for his majesty's information, and a respectful prayer for toleration. Moung Zah, one of the chief ministers, conducted them to a magnificent hall, where they awaited the royal presence. The "golden foot" approached. "He came," says Mr. Judson, "unattended,—in solitary grandeur,—exhibiting the proud gait and majesty of an eastern monarch."—" He strided on. Every head excepting ours was now in the dust. We remained kneeling, our hands folded, our eyes fixed on the monarch. When he drew near we attracted his attention. He stopped, partly turned toward us;—'Who are these?' 'The teachers, great king,' I replied. 'What, you speak Burman?'" After a series of questions respecting themselves and their nation, the petition was read aloud. He took it in his hand, and read it deliberately through. Without saying a word, he returned it, and took the tract. he held it long enough to read the first two sentences, which affirmed the existence of one eternal God, and dashed it to the ground. The present was unfolded, but no notice was taken of it. The minister interpreted the royal silence in these words: "In regard to the objects of your petition, his majesty gives no order. In regard to your sacred books, his majesty has no use for them;—take them away."
Some further efforts were made to accomplish their purpose, but in vain. Exhausted with fatigue and excitement, disappointed of their object, and looking for the certain abandonment of their mission, they returned to Rangoon. On their way they met Moung Shwa Gnong, and related the failure of their petition. He showed less alarm than they expected, and calmly reaffirmed his faith in Christianity. At Rangoon they disclosed their sad tidings to the three disciples, and intimated their intention to remove to the border of Arracan, among a Burman population under British protection. To their surprise, the disciples, so far from being disheartened, vied with each other in expressions of courageous zeal. If the missionaries removed, they would accompany them; if not, they would stand by them. They earnestly desired that Rangoon might not be abandoned,—and it was not. Mr. and Mrs. Judson remained where they were. Mr. Colman fixed his abode at Chittagong, to provide a retreat for them in case of danger. But his time was short. In a little more than two years he fell a martyr to the intensity of his zeal.
The missionary pair were alone at Rangoon, but were cheered by the constancy of the disciples and the visits of inquirers. Three persons were added to their little church in the spring and summer of 1820. The health of Mrs. Judson required a voyage to Bengal, in which it was necessary that she should be accompanied by her husband. Four additional converts, one of them the learned Moung Shway Gnong, and another a female disciple, the first of her sex in Burmah, applied for baptism, and received the rite before their departure. Thus, against all discouragements, the work went on. They had acquired the language, a grammer and dictionary were compiled, the Gospel of Matthew and some tracts had been printed, the Epistle to the Ephesians was translated, public worship established, and in the face of the royal frown ten persons had made an open profession of Christianity. After about six months' residence in Bengal, the missionaries returned to Rangoon in January, 1821. They were joyfully welcomed by the disciples who, though without the regular means of grace, and dispersed through fear of petty officers, had continued steadfast in the faith, and another was added to their number in March.
The improvement in Mrs. Judson's health was transient, and in the summer of 1821 she visited America, where she spent about a year. The voyage was undertaken alone, as Mr. Judson felt that in the present state of his work he could not leave Rangoon. By the publication of a history of the mission, and her personal appeals, she deepened the public interest for its furtherance, and in her return was accompanied by Mr. and Mrs. Wade, appointed to reinforce them. During her absence Mr. Judson, besides forwarding the translation of the New Testament, had gathered several converts, making the whole number eighteen. The arrival of Dr. Price, who joined the mission soon after Mrs. Judson's departure, led to another visit to the capital, the king having heard of his medical skill, and ordered him to report himself immediately at court. Mr. Judson accompanied him, with the hope of making a more favourable impression respecting his missionary labours. For some time no notice was taken of him, except as interpreter to Dr. Price, who received very kind attention. After three days' attendance at the palace, his majesty condescended to ask some questions about his religion, and put the alarming interrogatory whether any had embraced it. The evasive answer, "Not here," would not do. "Are there any at Rangoon?" "There are a few." "Are they Burmans or foreigners?" The truth must out. "There are some Burmans and some foreigners." The king showed no displeasure, but calmly continued the conversation.
By some of the ministers and officers in the court Mr. Judson was treated with much consideration, and the claims of Christianity were freely and candidly discussed. The king was pleased to direct that the missionaries should remain at Ava, (Note: The capital had been removed from Amarapoora to Ava, where it has since continued) and land was given them for the erection of dwellings. These arrangements having been made, Mr. Judson returned to Rangoon. Here he completed the translation of the New Testament, and composed an epitome of the Old, to serve the converts till the entire Scriptures could be put into their hands.
On the 5th of December, 1823, he welcomed Mrs. Judson and Mr. and Mrs. Wade, and immediately removed with his wife to Ava, "not knowing the things that should befall them there," leaving Mr. Hough with the new missionaries at Rangoon. For a little time he preached in the imperial city, but the work was suddenly arrested, and the persons of the missionaries placed in great peril by the commencement of a war with the British East Indian government. Mrs. Judson had been warned of the probability of such an event on her arrival at Calcutta from the United States, but disregarded the advice of her friends to forbear returning to Burmah.
The storm burst sooner than had been anticipated. The encroachments of the Burmans on the territories of the East India Company had been long complained of, but the king, with ignorant vanity, attributed the remonstrances of the English to fear. He collected an army to invade Bengal, with instructions to bring the governor-general in golden fetters to Ava! The English resolved to anticipate his movements, and in May, 1824, a force of six thousand men, under command of Sir Archibald Campbell, attacked Rangoon. The viceroy forthwith ordered the arrest of every person in town "who wore a hat." Messrs. Hough and Wade were seized, and condemned to instant death, but were reprieved, and after much suffering were released by the English. They then removed with all speed to Bengal, where Mr. Wade pursued the study of the language, and put to press Mr. Judson's Burman dictionary, a work of modest pretensions, but of no little utility.
For two years no information was received of the fate of the missionaries at Ava. Whether they were murdered at the first outbreak of hostilities, or worn out by slower tortures, or still lingered in captivity, could not be conjectured. The suspense was almost intolerable. And when the silence was broken by tidings of their safety, the general joy was mingled with inexpressible sympathy, at the recital of sufferings more dreadful than the pains of death, visited upon their devoted heads.
The intelligence that Rangoon was taken caused a great sensation at Ava, but it was regarded as a mere surprise. The only fear expressed was, that the English would run away before they could be sufficiently chastised. Their continued advance toward the capital excited a strange fear, and the king began to suspect that there were spies in the country, by whom his movements were communicated to the enemy. Some English merchants were seized, and cast into prison, it appearing that they had received early intimation of the probability of a war. The examination of their papers disclosed the fact that one of them had paid the missionaries large sums of money. Ignorant of the principles of exchange, this mode of receiving remittances from America was regarded as proof that they were connected with the enemy; the money was of course received from the British government for services rendered. Mr. Judson and Dr. Price were arrested, hurried to prison, heavily ironed, and subjected to sufferings and privations which words are inadequate to describe. Their houses were searched and their property confiscated, but Mrs. Judson succeeded in concealing a quantity of silver, and prevailed on the officers to spare her a few articles of furniture.
Month after month passed by, and this heroic woman, without any earthly protector, exhausted every contrivance and all means of influence to obtain the release of the prisoners. She appealed to the officers of government, to the jailer, to the ladies of the court; valuable presents were extorted and evasive promises made, but all was of no avail, except to keep alive her hopes and prevent her from sinking into absolute despair. The only mitigation she could gain was the temporary removal of her husband from the poisoned air of a crowded dungeon to a little bamboo apartment in the prison-yard, where she ministered to his necessities, and alleviated his sufferings. The prisoners were not supplied with food by their jailers, and were only saved from starvation by her unremitting care. Though residing two miles from the jail, she went daily on foot to learn their wants and devise means to supply them. The future was all dark. "The acme of my distress," she wrote, "consisted in the awful uncertainty of our final fate. My prevailing opinion was, that my husband would suffer violent death; and that I should of course become a slave, and languish out a miserable, though short existence, in the tyrannic hands of some unfeeling monster." All her faculties were concentrated in the contemplation of their present and possible misery. "Sometimes, for a moment or two, my thoughts would glance toward America and my beloved friends there,—but for nearly a year and a half, so entirely engrossed was every thought with present scenes and sufferings, that I seldom reflected on a single occurrence of my former life, or recollected that I had a friend in existence out of Ava."
Worse was to come. The wretched prisoners, at the commencement of the hot season, were loaded with additional fetters, and thrust into the inner prison. The heat and oppressive atmosphere of the dungeon were too great for endurance. Mr. Judson was attacked with fever, and must have looked for death as a welcome relief from his tortures. His wife, driven near to desperation, forced her way to the presence of the governor, who had forbidden her admission. The old man wept at her impassioned remonstrance. "I knew you would make me feel," said he; "therefore I forbade your application." He declared that he had been repeatedly ordered to execute the prisoners secretly, which he had refused to do, but that he could not mitigate the severity with which they were treated, and must not be asked to. That she might at all events be near her husband, and know the worst, she occupied a low bamboo hut in the governor's enclosure, near the prison-gate, and by incessant application at last gained an order for his removal there.
This relief was transient. Only three days afterward the prisoners were ordered from Ava. The governor, anxious to spare Mrs. Judson the dreadful sight, sent for her, and detained her in conversation till it was past. Mr. Judson was stripped of nearly all his clothing, and with his fellow-sufferers was driven on foot towards the "death prison" of Oung-pen-la, four miles from Amarapoora. The sun was insupportably hot, he was without hat or shoes, and his feet were blistered by the burning sand till the skin was worn off. Had it not been for the humanity of the Bengali servant of an English prisoner, who tore in two his own head-dress to wrap his bleeding feet, (with the other half doing the like service for his master,) and then bore him on his shoulders, he must have fallen dead by the way. This fate actually overtook one of their number, at which the officer in charge halted for the night. The wretch had a wife, who took compassion on his victims, and sent them some refreshments. As further progress on foot was out of the question, the rest of the journey was performed in carts.
Mrs. Judson, meanwhile, ignorant of their destination, ran from street to street to find some trace of them. The governor finally told her they were removed to Amarapoora, "I can do nothing for your husband," he said; "take care of yourself." Regardless of herself, she obtained a passport, and with her infant child, born in the midst of these overwhelming sorrows, and a faithful Bengali servant, pursued her desolate way down the river, and at night-fall found herself in her husband's presence. Half-dead with the tortures of their march, the manacled prisoners were huddled together under a narrow projection of a dilapidated hovel, without a roof or any other sufficient shelter. Men were busy trying to form a partial covering of leaves. "Why have you come?" Mr. Judson sadly asked; "you cannot live here."
With much difficulty she succeeded in obtaining a shelter, such as it was, in the dwelling of the jailer. The next morning Mary Hasseltine, a Burman girl adopted by Mrs. Judson, was taken with the small-pox, and required all the attention she could spare from her husband, who, between his fever and his mangled feet, was for several days unable to move. She immediately inoculated the infant, knowing the infection could not be escaped, but the precaution was ineffectual, and the little one soon had the disease in its unmitigated form, from which it only recovered after three months' sickness. Anxiety and toil now prostrated the mother. She had just strength to go to Ava, and bring their medicine chest, which had been left behind in her flight, and when she returned to the jailer's hut at Oung-pen-la, fainted upon her mat, from which she rose not for two months. In this extremity, unable to give nourishment to her babe, or to procure a nurse, the jailer was bribed to release Mr. Judson from close confinement, who daily bore the starving child round the village, appealing to the charity of such Burman mothers as had young children, to give it sustenance. Thus they awaited the sentence of death appointed to be executed, they knew not when, upon all the prisoners.
But their doom was suddenly arrested. The officer, by whose advice the sentence was passed, had proposed to sacrifice them on occasion of taking command against the English; before his purpose was carried into effect, he was disgraced, and executed for treason. The English forces were much retarded by the difficulties of their march and the scarcity of forage, but had annihilated army after army sent to resist them, and were steadily advancing on the capital. The king discovered that he was not invincible. Orders came for the return of the prisoners to Ava, and Mr. Judson was hurried off to the English camp, as translator and interpreter to an embassy for peace. The negotiation was a tedious one, and during the months that its slow length trailed between the English headquarters and the capital, Mrs. Judson was brought so low by a violent fever, peculiar to the country, that her life for the time was despaired of. Once and again the treaty was broken off through the revulsion of the king from the humiliating conditions imposed upon him. But the certainty that the "white foreigners" would soon be in the "golden city" unless their demands were complied with, tamed his impotent pride. With a very bad grace he agreed to pay a large pecuniary indemnity, and to cede Arracan and the Tenasserim provinces to the English, stripping himself of the chief portion of his sea-coast. He also stipulated that the missionaries might retire in safety to the British provinces, a step which they were quite ready to take, after their unimaginable sufferings under his authority. They were solicited, indeed—for the negotiation had taught the king to value their services—to continue at the court, and assured that they should become "great men." Dr. Price, confident that his medical character would secure his personal safety, remained at Ava to carry forward the mission. He gathered a school, including many young men of rank, and preached regularly to a small congregation. His prospects seemed bright, but pulmonary consumption cut him down while the fruits of his ministry were yet immature. His associates gladly turned away from Ava, the one to pursue his life's task among the Burmans under British protection, the other to rest in a premature grave from sufferings that had knit them together by no common ties of sympathy, and added a new page to the history of female heroism.
The little flock of disciples at Rangoon was scattered, and several of them were dead. The survivors removed with their teachers, in the summer of 1826, to Amherst, a new town, near the mouth of the Salwen, in British Burmah. Here Mr. Judson hoped to devote himself unreservedly to missionary work. But at the solicitation of Mr. Crawfurd, commissioner of the British East Indian government, he accompanied an embassy to Ava for negotiating a commercial treaty, to procure, if possible, the insertion of a guaranty for religious freedom in the king's dominions. This, which alone reconciled him to so long an absence from his chosen work, and from a home that claimed his presence more imperatively than he conceived, entirely failed, and after several months' detention he returned to Amherst,—to find his house desolate. Mrs. Judson, very soon after his departure, had been seized with a fever that her enfeebled constitution was ill-fitted to resist, and sunk into the grave after an illness of eighteen days. The dreadful tidings were conveyed to him at Ava,—the more insupportable because he was wholly unprepared for them, his last intelligence having assured him of her perfect health. From the native Christians who surrounded her deathbed, and the physician, who did all that skill could do for her recovery, he heard of the celestial peace that sustained her departing spirit. His only child soon followed her mother, and he was left a solitary mourner. His cup of sorrow seemed full. The heart which had sustained all that barbarian cruelty could inflict, was well-nigh crushed by this total bereavement.
Though the life of Mrs. Judson was, as it seemed, prematurely closed, it was long enough to exhibit a character which, in some of its elements, has no parallel in female biography. Capacities for exertion and endurance, such as few men have brought to great enterprises, were united to the most engaging feminine qualities, fitting her at once to cheer the domestic retirement of her husband, and to share his most overwhelming trials and dangers. The record of her deeds and sufferings has moved the hearts of myriads in this and other lands, and her memory is immortal as the sympathies of our common humanity.
But the bereaved missionary sank not in inconsolable grief. Looking to the eternal hills for help, he nerved himself anew to the fulfilment of his appointed ministry. Mr. and Mrs. Wade had reached Amherst shortly before the return of Mr. Judson from Ava, and with them Rev. George D. Boardman and wife, who had arrived in Bengal during the war. Besides the original population of British Burmah, the provinces were the resort of constant emigration, and Amherst grew rapidly into a considerable town. But the government was soon transferred to Maulmain, on the east bank of the Salwen, about twenty-five miles from its mouth. The mission followed in the course of the year 1827, and has since been permanently established in that city.
There the work went rapidly forward. Schools were set up, two or three houses of worship were opened, and during the years 1827 and 1828, between thirty and forty converts were added to the church. The Tavoy station was commenced by Mr. Boardman, under whose auspices Christianity began to be communicated to the Karens, among whom it has since made such progress as to astonish the Christian world. Dr. Judson continued at Maulmain till the summer of 1880. (Note: The degree of Doctor in Divinity was conferred on Mr. Judson by Brown University in 1823. He subsequently declined the title, but its application to him was continued, and during the later years of his life was silently acquiesced in, though he never retracted his original declination.) Besides the ordinary duties of preaching and teaching, he thoroughly revised the New Testament, and prepared twelve smaller works in Burmese. In the spring of 1830, Mr. Wade visited Rangoon, the success of a native preacher having made the presence of a missionary desirable. His health did not admit of a residence in that climate, and Dr. Judson, who had not ceased to cherish a deep interest in the progress of Christianity in Burmah Proper, repaired thither in May. He found a prevalent spirit of inquiry, and resolved to penetrate into the interior. He accordingly went up the Irrawadi to Prome. His boat at every landing was visited by persons eager for books. Converts whom he had lost sight of for years greeted him at one or two places as he passed, and he heard of the conversion of others whom he had never seen, but who had derived their knowledge of the truth indirectly from his instructions. For a month or two he had numerous auditors, a few of whom seemed to have cordially received the word. Then came a sudden and mysterious reaction. The zayat was nearly deserted. People seemed afraid to converse with him. This state of things continuing till autumn, he regarded his work in Prome as finished for the present, and returned to Rangoon, confident that the now rejected truth would bear fruit in due season. It appeared that the king had given orders for his expulsion, but that the governor, under the influence of some unaccountable awe of him, had not ventured to execute them.
At Rangoon he gave himself to the translation of the entire Scriptures. He shut himself into an upper chamber, leaving a native evangelist to receive inquirers, admitting only the most promising to his own apartment. In spite of the known displeasure of the king, nearly half his time was absorbed in these interviews. The spirit of inquiry deepened and widened through all the surrounding country. During the great festival in honour of Gaudama, held near the close of the following winter, there were as many as six thousand applications at his house for tracts. Some came from the borders of Siam or the far north, saying, "Sir, we have seen a writing that tells about an eternal God. Are you the man that gives away such writings? Pray, give us one, for we want to know the truth before we die." Or some from the interior, who had barely heard the name of the Saviour, would say, "Are you Jesus Christ's man? Give us a writing that tells about Jesus Christ." The press at Maulmain worked day and night, but could not meet the demands from all quarters.
In the summer of 1831, in consequence of the infirm state of Mr. Wade's health, he removed to Maulmain, and Mr. Wade, after a few months' respite, took his place at Rangoon. At Maulmain Dr. Judson prosecuted the work of translation, but still preached in the city and the jungles. On the last day of January, 1834, he completed the task with which he might have rejoiced to seal up his earthly mission,—the Bible in the Burmese language. No words can more fitly describe the emotions of that hour than his own: "Thanks to God, I can now say, I have attained. I have knelt down before Him, with the last leaf in my hand, and imploring his forgiveness for all the sins which have polluted my labours in this department, and his aid in removing the errors and imperfections which necessarily cleave to the work, I have commended it to his mercy and grace. I have dedicated it to his glory. May he make his own inspired word, now complete in the Burman tongue, the grand instrument of filling all Burmah with songs of praise to our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen." Few, comparatively, of the myriads in whose behalf the great work was undertaken, had a thought of the sublime transaction of that hour, and none but he to whose supreme glory it was dedicated, could fully apprehend the ultimate issues of the event. The kneeling missionary alone, with the last leaf of the translated Bible, humbly and gratefully offering it before the Divine Majesty, has been suggested as a subject for the pencil. But he must be an artist elevated to more than a common measure of celestial sympathy, who shall worthily represent to our senses a triumph so purely spiritual.
In April of this year, Dr. Judson was united in marriage with Mrs. Boardman; who, after the lamented death of her husband, had given herself with unyielding devotion to the blessed work in which he so triumphantly passed away, and through all her missionary career showed a spirit nearly kindred to that of the "ministering angel" to the prisoners of Ava.
For some years he was engaged in the revision of the Scriptures, dividing his time between this and the superintendence of' the native church at Maulmain. The steady increase of the churches in numbers and in knowledge was an ample reward for all his toils, while the reinforcement of the missions, and their extension into Siam and Assam, filled him with gladness in the prospect of the future. The arrival of fourteen missionaries in 1836, accompanied by Rev. Dr. Malcom, who was commissioned by the Board to visit their stations in Asia, was an occasion of special joy. The conferences held, the plans devised, the recollections and hopes awakened at this season, must have made it memorable to them all. Since the lonely pioneer landed in doubt and apprehension at Rangoon, more than twenty years of labour and suffering had passed over his head. Not one witness of his earlier struggles, not one sharer of his many fears and sorrows and of their precious compensations, stood by his side. But a host, comparatively, had succeeded, to carry forward by their united strength the work begun in weakness, and not less than a thousand souls redeemed from the bondage of idolatry attested the divine presence and benediction.
In 1838 his enfeebled health compelled a change of air, and he visited Bengal. But the ardour of his spirit drove him back to his station without any visible change for the better. The Board invited him to visit the United States, which he gratefully but firmly declined. The revision of the Scriptures was finished in 1840, and a second edition was put to press. A recent writer in the Calcutta Review, understood to be well qualified to pass judgment in this matter, hazards "the prediction, that as Luther's Bible is now in the hands of Protestant Germany, so, three centuries hence, Judson's Bible will be the Bible of the Christian churches of Burmah.''
In the summer of 1841 he found it needful, for the sake of his family and himself, to make another voyage. They went to Bengal, where he was compelled to bury his youngest child, proceeded to the Isle of France, and thence returned to Maulmain, where they arrived, much invigorated, in December.
The next year saw him engaged in another important undertaking,—the compilation of a complete dictionary of the Burmese language. He was reluctant to be diverted from his ministerial labours by any further literary tasks, but yielded to the solicitation of the Board, and to a conviction of the importance of the work His plan contemplated two complete vocabularies—Burmese and English, and English and Burmese. It was interrupted by the illness of Mrs. Judson. A voyage along the Tenasserim coast proved ineffectual for her recovery, and in the spring of 1845 her helpless state appeared to demand a visit to the United States. In announcing this purpose Dr. Judson warned the Board that he must not be expected to address public assemblies, as the weakness of his lungs forbade such exertion, and for a reason which shall be stated in his own words: "In order to become an acceptable and eloquent preacher in a foreign language, I deliberately abjured my own. When I crossed the river, I burnt my ships.—From long desuetude, I can scarcely put three sentences together in the English language." (Note: This was, of course, limited to speech, for through his whole life he wrote his native language in a style of great purity and force.) Taking with him his family, and two native assistants to carry forward his dictionary during his visit, he embarked for Boston on the 26th of April. On arriving at Mauritius, Mrs. Judson was so far revived that it was thought she might safely proceed without her husband. The assistants were sent back, and he was about to follow them, but the day before her reembarkation she suffered a relapse, which determined him to go on with her. She grew weaker from day to day, and it seemed that she must find a grave in the deep, but her life was spared till they reached St. Helena. With an unclouded prospect of the heavenly felicity, her soul parted serenely from earth and all earthly ties. Her mortal remains were committed to the dust on the first of September, and the twice-widowed missionary tore himself away, to guide his motherless children to the land of their fathers.
He arrived at Boston on the 15th of October. A thrill of solemn and grateful emotion was felt in every part of the land, and found expression in countless forms. On the evening of the third day after he landed, a large assembly was gathered, and the venerable President of the Board, Rev. Dr. Sharp, addressed him in appropriate words of welcome. More touching was the hearty embrace of Rev. Samuel Nott, jr., from whom he had parted more than thirty years before; who had privately and publicly attested his unabated Christian affection since the change that caused their paths to diverge; who heard, in his enforced retirement from missionary service, of the arrival of his youthful associate and honoured colleague, and had hastened to greet him. Pressing through the congregation, he made himself known. Who can guess what thoughts of the past crowded their minds and subdued their hearts, at this unlooked for meeting!
Dr. Judson attended a special meeting of the Baptist General Convention, called together in consequence of the separation of the Southern churches,—his first interview with a body called into existence by his instrumentality,—and there received a more formal and memorable welcome. Though forbidden to speak in public, a proposition to abandon the Arracan mission drew from his lips a fervent protest, which, seconded by other missionaries present, determined the Convention to retain all their stations in the east. By other public assemblies in the principal cities, he was received in a manner that told how deeply the story of his labours and sufferings had imprinted itself on the hearts of the people. Thus attracting to himself the affectionate sympathy of thousands, and kindling higher by his presence the flame of missionary zeal, refreshing his spirit by the amenities of friendship, and recalling the memories of youth by visiting its most cherished scenes, he continued in the land of his nativity till the 11th of July, 1846, when he once more set his face toward the field of his struggles and triumphs. He went not alone. A third gentle spirit gave her affections to soothe and her energies to sustain his soul, in the years of labour and suffering that awaited him. (Note: Dr. Judson was married June 2, 1846, to Miss Emily Chubbuck, of Utica, N.Y.) This is not the place or the time to do honour to the living;—may it be long before the pen shall be summoned to recall into memory the departed! Several new missionaries accompanied them, and they arrived safely at Maulmain in December.
A revolution having taken place in Burmah, Dr. Judson removed to Rangoon, the only city in the king's dominions where foreigners were permitted to reside. He found it impossible to do anything efficiently unless he could obtain some countenance at Ava, but having no means at his disposal to undertake the journey at that time, he was obliged to resign all hope in that quarter, and go back to Maulmain, and to his dictionary. Besides his literary tasks, he assumed the pastoral care of the Burman church, and preached once on a Sabbath. In these pursuits he continued with his wonted diligence, till disease laid its hand upon him in the autumn of 1849.(Note: The English and Burmese Dictionary was finished, and has been printed. The Burmese and English Dictionary was considerably advanced, and the manuscripts have been placed in the hands of one of his younger colleagues, Rev. E. A. Stevens, for completion.)
A severe cold in the month of September was followed by a fever that prostrated his strength. A voyage on the coast and sea-bathing at Amherst failed to restore his wasted energies, and he returned to Maulmain in a declining state. His sufferings were extreme, but his mind was peaceful, and his habitual conversation was filled with the spirit of heaven. "The love of Christ" was his absorbing theme, and love to his brethren in Christ dwelt on his lips and breathed in his constant prayers. Though ready to depart, if so it should please God, he yet longed to do more for Burmah,—to finish the wearisome toil of literary investigation, and spare a few years for the more delightful work of preaching to the heathen. For this his exhausted nature struggled to the last, and when all hope of recovery at Maulmain was lost, on the third of April, 1850, he bade farewell to his anxious companion, whose feeble health forbade her to accompany him, and with a single attendant set out on a voyage for the Isle of Bourbon. The passage down the river was slow, and he nearly sunk under the combined force of disease and the suffocating atmosphere. Once upon the sea he revived, and the pilot-boat bore back a message full of hope. The relief was momentary. For three days he endured indescribable sufferings, that extorted from his lips the exclamation, "O that I could die at once, and go directly to Paradise, where there is no pain!" To the question whether he felt the presence of the Saviour, he quickly replied, "O, yes; it is all right, there! I believe He gives me just so much pain and suffering as is necessary to fit me to die—to make me submissive to his will." For the last day and a half his agonies were dreadful to behold. In this state he continued till a few minutes before the going out of life. Then he was calm, and apparently free from pain. His last words were in remembrance of her from whom he had parted in so much uncertainty a few days before, and a hurried direction for his burial. Then, gradually sinking, he "fell asleep" on the afternoon of April 12th, and his mortal remains were committed to the deep, thence to be raised incorruptible, when the sea shall give up its dead.
Dr. Judson combined in his experience the toils and sufferings of a missionary pioneer, with the amplest rewards of missionary success. Often have men, in a spirit of heroic courage and constancy, struggled with the first, and departed without enjoying the last. But he who under cover of twilight baptized the first Burman convert, lived to see twenty-six churches gathered, with nearly five thousand communicants, the entire Bible in one vernacular, and the New Testament in others; and the missions, by the aid of a regular native ministry, extending on every side. He was not required to look for the confirmation of his faith to promise and prophecy alone, but was permitted to enjoy in his lifetime a fullness of success exceeding his fondest hopes.
So long and fortunate a career developed and displayed a character, whose portraiture would have been incomplete had his term of service been more brief. Had the tortures of Ava and Oung-pen-la formed the tragic catastrophe of his life, instead of a discipline for continued action and final triumph, we should indeed have seen in him the patient and discriminating scholar, the unselfish philanthropist, the death-defying hero, with energy superior to all obstacles, constancy unshaken by reverses, fortitude immovable by extremest cruelty. But how attractively the stern features of his character were chastened by milder graces,—how much beauty mingled with his strength, how finely gentleness was interfused with courage, and humility with firmness,—what depths of sensibility lay beneath heights of more than stoical endurance,—what soundness of judgment was united with ready impulse and imaginative ardour,—and how solidly his manly enterprise was founded on the elements of a child-like piety, and guided by aspirations after holiness that kept his eye ever on his divine Master and Example,—these might have remained unknown till the last day should reveal them. Happily for him and for mankind, it was otherwise ordered. Peace settled upon his pathway, which declined gently to the brink of the deep that hid him from mortal sight. The furnace of affliction seemed heated for him seven-fold, but the flame only purified his sterling nature. Clouds gathered darkly about his prime, but the sun broke through and transfigured them all, to add splendor to the descending day. The night brought no darkness for him. Though beyond our visible horizon,
He is not lost,—he hath not passed away,—
Clouds, earths, may pass,—but stars shine calmly on;
And he who doth the will of God, for aye
Abideth, when the earth and heaven are gone.
From Heroes and Martyrs of the Modern Missionary Enterprise... edited by Lucius E. Smith. Hartford: P. Brockett & Co., 1854.
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