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Sarah B. Judson, of Burmah

by Daniel C. Eddy

Ralph and Abiah Hall lived in quiet Alstead, New Hampshire, [United States]. On the morning of November 4, 1803, their first child was born. They named her Sarah, in memory of a deceased relative. While in her youth the parents removed from New Hampshire to Massachusetts, and established themselves in Salem, where the younger days of our subject were spent. Of her childhood but little can be said. She was like other children, and spent her time in a childish manner; and connected with her early years were but few circumstances of any special interest.

Up to her sixteenth year she seems to have had but few convictions of sin. The great subject of the soul's salvation, if presented at all, made slight impression upon her mind and heart. The warnings and invitations of the gospel were alike unheeded, and she lived until this period in sinful thoughtlessness. In 1820 she found hope in the Savior, and on the 4th of June made a public profession of religion, and in the presence of a great congregation gave herself away to God and to his people. The solemn, awful step she fully realized; and when she was led down into her baptismal sepulchre, and buried there, her heart was fully given up to God. The venerable and departed Dr. Bolles administered the ordinance, and received her by the impressive rite of "fellowship" to the First Baptist Church in Salem, of which he was then pastor.

At that time the missionary spirit was beginning to pervade the churches of America and exert its holy influence upon the minds of the members. Young Sarah Hall caught the holy enthusiasm. Just converted, fresh from the public vows of consecration, the anxious question, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" upon her lips, she was in the exact frame of mind best adapted to be moulded by holy zeal for a dying race.

The feelings which struggled in her soul found utterance through the columns of the Christian Watchman in various prose and poetic effusions. These articles do not exhibit any extraordinary poetic merit. They hardly do credit to her real abilities. Bearing the marks of haste, these early productions never gave any peculiar pleasure to the authoress; but for deep feeling and pathos they are remarkable. They seem to be the outgushings of a soul stirred up with holy enthusiasm and flowing out in channels of its own formation. She evidently wrote, not for the severity of the critic, but for the warm heart of the Christian; not to awaken feelings of admiration, but to kindle up the flame of divine animation; not to win fame for herself, but to inspire others with love for the perishing.

One of these poems was the instrument in bringing her into an acquaintance with George D. Boardman, her future husband. The poem was upon the death of Colman, whose fall in a distant land, ere he had buckled the armor on, produced feelings of sadness in the hearts of all American Christians. Boardman saw it, and his soul was moved by it. Who the writer was he did not know, but determined to discover, if possible, what heart kept time with the wild beatings of his own. The first verse of that poem runs as follows:—

"'Tis the voice of deep sorrow from India's shore;
  The flower of our churches is withered, is dead!
The gem that shone brightly will sparkle no more,
  And the tears of the Christian profusely are shed.
Two youths of Columbia, with hearts glowing warm,
  Embarked on the billows far distant to rove,
To bear to the nations all wrapped in thick gloom
  The lamp of the gospel—the message of love.
But Wheelook now slumbers beneath the cold wave;
And Colman lies low in the dank, cheerless grave:

  Mourn, daughters of Arracan, mourn!
  The rays of that star, clear and bright,
That so sweetly on Chittagong shone,
  Are shrouded in black clouds of night;
  For Colman is gone!"

Mr. Boardman at once determined to discover the writer of these thrilling lines, and in a short time was enabled to trace them to the pen of Miss Hall. Ere he had seen her who was to be the companion of his arduous labors, the sharer of his success, and the attendant of his dying bed, he seems to have sought for the youthful authoress with a kind of intuition that God had fitted her to be his companion. Nor was he disappointed on an acquaintance with his young friend. He found her in possession of an active mind, a warm heart, and an agreeable person. He made proposals to her immediately, and requested her company to the heathen world. To such an enterprise all her friends were averse. To Mr. Boardman they had no objection; but the idea of sending out the flower of their family to wither and die on heathen soil they could not endure. The parents were oppressed with sorrow at what they considered the wild and romantic notions of their child, and for a long time withheld all consent, and steadfastly resisted every movement towards a missionary life. And when the daughter did gain their permission, it came like water wrung from the solid rock. These pious people did not understand the claim which God has upon the services of all his children; they did not understand the honor and glory of having a child in heathen lands laboring for the salvation of the dying; they did not know what a halo of light would in after years be thrown around the name of her who was about to embark on the perilous voyage; and when she left them they looked upon her as buried out of their sight.

Probably much of Miss Hall's enthusiasm in the missionary work was caught from Mrs. Judson, who visited this country in 1823. They became acquainted shortly after the arrival of Mrs. J., and continued correspondence as long as she remained in America; and when she sailed forth again, to return no more, no prayer of greater fervency was offered for her safety and success than was breathed forth by young Sarah Hall, who was so soon to follow her illustrious example in scenes of trial and self-devotion.

George D. Boardman and Sarah Hall were married in Salem, by Rev. Lucius Bolles, D.D., on the 3d day of July, 1825. Her personal appearance was good. Though not positively handsome, her countenance was agreeable and prepossessing. She usually wore a pleasant smile; and an air of frankness and ingenuous openness was a peculiar characteristic. She was affable and courteous, with sufficient dignity and grace. We may, however, suppose her husband to have been more attracted by her intellect and heart than by the outward ornament of person.

The vessel which conveyed Mr. and Mrs. Boardman to the "shades of moral death" sailed from Boston in 1825; and in due time the missionaries arrived in Calcutta. Here they remained nearly two years, employed in missionary work and doing good as they had opportunity. On the 17th of April, 1827, they entered Amherst, and found there the grave of Ann H. Judson and the bending form of her bereaved husband. That good man's trials were not at an end. His dear daughter Maria was dying; and Boardman's own hand formed her little coffin, and dug her grave, and supported the trembling form of the father, when his child, the daughter of the sainted mother and wife, was laid to rest.

While at Calcutta, the union of husband and wife was cemented by the birth of the first child—a daughter, whom they called Sarah Ann. The occurrence of this event, while it withdrew the devoted mother from the labors and toils of her missionary life, awakened in her bosom feelings which had never been stirred there before. A new world of thought and action was before her mind; and, to use her own language, she "was another creature." On his arrival at Amherst, Boardman conferred with the other missionaries, who, after mature deliberation, advised him to commence labors at Maulmain, about twenty-five miles from Amherst, to which place he proceeded with his little family. Soon a bamboo house was erected for him, and his work of self-denial and suffering commenced.

They were annoyed in various ways by the natives, and several times were plundered by the hordes of robbers that descended from the mountains at night and assaulted every dwelling which promised considerable booty. Their house was pillaged in this manner but a short time after they arrived at Maulmain. One night they went to sleep as usual, after committing themselves to the care of Him whose eyes are never closed to sleep. Awaking at midnight, Mrs. B. found the lamp, which had been left burning, extinguished, and in the dim moonlight the furniture of the room appeared to be in confusion. To light the lamp was but the work of a moment, on which a fearful scene was presented. Every thing of value had been taken away, and all that remained was in terrible confusion. During this robbery Mr. Boardman was painfully awake to every thing which transpired; while his wife, wearied with toil, slept as sweetly as if the villains who had caused such havoc had been kind attendants on errands of mercy. And providential was it that she did not awake. While some were carrying away the property, others stood over the prostrate forms of the sleeping family, ready to murder them if they awoke. Boardman knew it all—he knew that fierce eyes were watching him—that the uplifted weapon was ready to drink his blood. A single movement on the part of the sleepers would have brought down that weapon and hurried them from the scene of their labors to the bar of Him who had sent them forth to do his work, declaring, "Lo, I am with you alway."

In the early part of 1828 it was deemed advisable for Mr. Boardman to remove to Tavoy, about one hundred and fifty miles south of Maulmain; and, in accordance with certain instructions from the Board, he took up his residence there in April. On his arrival he found the "whole city given to idolatry." On every hand were the melancholy evidences of heathen worship, heathen superstition, and heathen cruelty. Gaudama was worshipped by all the people, and upwards of two hundred priests ministered at the various temples. The faithful missionary commenced his labors immediately on his arrival: his zayat went up within sight of the great pagoda, and daily he sat at the door to instruct the passing population. While at Tavoy, Mrs. Boardman was employed with her domestic duties, and with the instruction of the children who could be gathered into the school, which was commenced on their arrival. We deem the cares of one's own family enough to employ all the time of a female in this country; but the labors of Mrs. B., in her feeble state of health, were augmented, not merely by the children of the boarding school, but also by the care and instruction of the school itself. Uncomplainingly she performed her arduous labors, while day after day her health grew poorer and her cheek paler. It was at Tavoy that Ko Thah-byu was "buried with Christ by baptism." In his early days he had been a very wicked man. His path was stained with blood, and to all around he gave evidence of his ferocious, bloodthirsty nature. He was converted at Maulmain, and removed with Mr. B. to Tavoy. After his baptism he was a most faithful and devoted laborer. His nature seemed to be entirely changed. From being one of the most ferocious and dreadful tyrants, he became gentle, humble, forgiving, and merciful. His case presents us with a wonderful instance of what the gospel can do to soften the savage nature and bring even the most stubborn heart into sweet and willing subjection to our dear Redeemer. He was made a preacher of the gospel which had performed such wonders on his heart, and to the day of his death continued a faithful and devoted minister of the Lord Jesus.

While at Tavoy, a second child was born to this missionary family. They called him George, for his father. He yet lives—perhaps to bear the gospel forth to those who swarm around his father's grave.

At Tavoy, too, little Sarah died, when nearly three years old. This child, the first born, seems to have twined its affections sweetly and tenderly around the mother's heart. She was indeed a lovely child. "Her bright-blue eyes and rosy cheeks," her amiable disposition and obedient deportment, won the kindness of all around her. She inherited the warm heart of her missionary mother, and fond hopes were cherished that she might live to fill her mother's place on heathen ground. But God's ways are not as our ways. He removed the lovely flower, and blasted in an hour all the fond expectations of her parents. In his infinite wisdom he saw the hinderance the little one would be to his laboring servant, and in kindness took her to his own arms.

When children die in this loved land they depart in the midst of tears and sighs; kind friends sympathize and pray; the voice of sorrow is heard along the line of many dwellings; and in many families is uttered the voice of grief. At such times and under such circumstances the hand of friendship and benevolence will be stretched out to assist and perform the little acts of charity which at such an hour come with sweet fragrance to the parting and weary spirit. But when little Sarah closed her eyes in death but few tears were seen, but few hands of sympathy held out. The broken-hearted mother herself washed the cold form of the dead child and arrayed the pale body in its little shroud.

On the mind of Mrs. Boardman this affliction exerted a most salutary influence. She had admired and adored her child. She loved the precious gift more than the gracious Being who had bestowed it, and, wrapped up in its possession, imagined it could not be taken from her arms. But when God removed the loved and lovely one she began to feel how deeply she had erred, and forthwith restored her supreme affection to the great Creator. Her attention was called from the vain and transitory things of earth; she saw the narrow limit of human life more plainly than ever; she learned the lessons of mortality; and her sad bereavement became to her torn heart an inestimable blessing. Besides this, the idea that their little family had a representative in heaven was unutterably precious; and she feared less that hour when her own labors would be done and that reward entered upon which is prepared for all who obey God and love his Son Jesus Christ.

To Mrs. Boardman another child was also given, which was called Judson Wade Boardman—a trio of as illustrious names as ever were engraved on the records of the church militant. He lived but a short time, descending to the grave leaving another vacant place in the mother's heart.

In 1828 Mr. Boardman determined to leave Tavoy for a while and visit the Karen villages in the interior. He was accompanied by Ko Thah-byu and some other converted Karens. They had heard of him by means of persons who had visited Tavoy for business and pleasure, and religious books and tracts had been distributed among the people who had never heard a sermon or seen the pale face of the missionary. As he passed through their villages he was every where met with kindness. Food was brought and many valuable presents given him. At one village they found a zayat which the people had put up for them; and here they tarried and preached and explained the gospel several days. Many were converted; God's Spirit was poured out; and ere Mr. B. left the place several came and requested the ordinance of baptism. This matter, however, was prudently deferred, that the converts might "learn the way of the Lord more perfectly." He found the people in gross darkness: he left them with beams of light from the cross strong upon them. He found them without the word of God—without the Sabbath—without the way of salvation: he left them in the possession of all these good gifts, and at the end of nine days returned to his family at Tavoy, again to labor and suffer in the cause of his Master.

One of the most exciting incidents which occurred at Tavoy during the stay of Mr. B. was a rebellion, which commenced on the 9th of August, 1829. The English had withdrawn most of their soldiers from Tavoy and quartered them at Maulmain. Almost the whole force at the former place consisted of a hundred sepoys, commanded by a man who, at the moment of the revolt, was, believed to be in the agonies of death. On the 9th, at midnight, the missionary family were aroused by horrid cries around their rude dwelling. Boardman sprang from his bed, and, bending his ear to the open window, heard the cry, "Teacher, Tavoy is in arms! Tavoy is in arms!" In an instant the ready mind of the missionary comprehended the difficulty and the danger. He at once aroused his family, and began to prepare for resistance or flight as the case might require. After a time the insurgents were repulsed, and, retiring to a distance, took refuge in rear of the mission buildings; consequently the station was placed between the two contending parties; and over the heads of the little band the balls whistled, carrying death to hated foes. In the morning the sepoys were driven from the city and took refuge in the Government House, to which place the missionary family repaired, seizing for this a momentary quiet. Their situation here was terrible. The house was crowded with women and children: soon it became unsafe, and the whole party retired to a vacant building, having six rooms, on the margin of the river. Into this house, containing more than a hundred barrels of powder, were three hundred persons crowded together; while without were heard the wild and frantic yells of the savages, thirsting for blood. On the morning of the 13th Mr. Burney, the civil superintendent, who was away at the time of the outbreak, returned. To him the whole people were indebted for their safety and their lives. Under his management the sepoys rallied and advanced upon the city, and, after several desperate conflicts, succeeded in driving the insurgents from it and capturing several of the leaders in the revolt. The overwhelming number of the foe was not proof against the superior skill of the English; and when the vessel which had been sent to Maulmain for help returned, Major Burney was in quiet possession of the town.

Mrs. Boardman immediately embarked for Maulmain; to which place her husband soon followed her, taking with him all the scholars in the school who were willing to go. They remained at M. until the mission house was repaired and quiet restored.

From this period up to the time of her husband's last sickness we find but little in the history of Mrs. Boardman of a marked character. She labored on under discouragements and difficulties and amid sickness and sorrow. Often did her own system give way; and more often did her child utter the wail of sickness and distress, and plead for rest and quiet which could not be granted. During this interval Mr. B. made repeated journeys from Tavoy to Maulmain, and was busily engaged in the great object of his life. He saw to some extent the fruits of his toil; and on his abundant labors Heaven placed the broad seal of divine approbation. One after another yielded to the force of truth and bowed in homage to the cross of Christ. He did not die, like Colman and Wheelock, ere he had seen the heathen eye overflow with tears, the heathen heart burst with rapture into life, and the heathen knees bowing, not before Gaudama, but before Jehovah.

During the year 1830 it became evident to all that Mr. Boardman must die. The disease contracted in consequence of sleeping on the cold ground and being exposed to the damp fogs of night came on slowly but surely, and all hope of recovery took its flight. Feeling himself that he should soon depart, he called the converts around him and instructed them in the way of life. Others who had not been baptized he prepared for the ordinance. Three days were devoted to the examination, and eighteen were accepted as candidates for the holy service. The missionary was unable to rise from his bed; and many of the questions which he desired to put to these persons were first given to his wife, who, sitting on the bed beside him, put her ear to his lips and caught the sound as it struggled for utterance. On the 20th of December the baptism took place under circumstances of thrilling interest. The candidates, with the administrator, and the sick teacher, borne on a little cot upon the shoulders of the Karens, passed along to a fine lake, into which Moung Ing descended and immersed the young disciples. It was a sight of interest to God and angels; and doubtless they bent over the scene with holy satisfaction. As they went to the place and as they returned the wicked idolaters jeered and scoffed, and heaped their maledictions upon the head of the dying Boardman, who in a short time was to be far beyond the reach of injury and insult.

The administration of the Lord's supper followed the baptismal service, to which the little church of twenty-seven members sat down, eighteen of them for the first time. The bread was broken by the trembling, dying hand of Mr. Boardman, who was performing the deed for the last time.

In January, 1831, Mr. and Mrs. Mason arrived at Tavoy, having been sent out to reënforce the mission, and were immediately conducted to the residence of their dying fellow-laborer. The meeting of the two devoted men and their wives must have been of deep and solemn interest. One was fresh from the land of his birth, ready to engage with zeal in the Master's work; the other had fought the fight, had kept the faith, had finished the course, and was about to receive the robe of victory and the crown of glory.

Wishing to make one more effort in the cause of his Savior, Mr. Boardman determined to visit the village where a short time before he had preached several days and where several persons had been converted. These he wished to gather into the fold, and, ere his departure, see them buried in the liquid grave. He went forth with his newly-arrived associates and his own family. A company of Karens carried Mr. Boardman on a bed and Mrs. B. in a chair. After a journey of three days they arrived at the place and found the villagers in anxious expectation. They had erected a church on the banks of a lovely stream and prepared accommodations for the missionaries. After the converts had been properly instructed, they were baptized by Mr. Mason. Thirty-four submitted to the ordinance and were added to the little band of believers. The journey and the effort made to commune with the people were too much for the exhausted frame, and the good man began to sink rapidly. Carefully they took him up to remove him to the boat which was to convey him to the river; but as they passed along, the anxious wife, who watched the countenance of her husband, saw a change. Death had stamped his signet on those pale features; and, when they arrived at the water side, all that remained of Boardman was a cold, inanimate corpse. The voyage down the river was a sorrowful one. Every cheek was flowing down with tears and every heart was bleeding with anguish.

At Tavoy they were met by the sad disciples, headed by Moung Ing, the converted Burman. Slowly they bore forward the dead body of the man of God, and laid it down in the mission house in which he had so often discoursed of Jesus. Around him in that hallowed spot gathered a company more precious to God than ever assembled around the bier of a fallen emperor; there went up to heaven a wail of sorrow as heartfelt as ever was uttered over the grave of son or sire; and the death was as full of sadness and importance as could have been the demise of a laurelled chieftain or a titled senator. True, the throng who came out to see that pale form and marble brow were not gathered from the proud and great of earth. No king came weeping to the house of death; no noble cortége came in sackcloth and stood as mourners there; but the elect of God, the fruits of missionary labor on heathen soil, the converted sons and daughters of darkness, were the sincere, humble, faithful mourners.

They buried him in lowly pomp—the pomp of death. All the European residents of the place and crowds of natives to whom he had endeared himself followed him to his burial. They laid him down on the right side of his first born, and returned home to weep, and many to forget. But there was one who could never forget—no, never. The object of her early love had been stricken down, and in lonely widowhood she was left to bewail his loss. But, though cast down, she was not forsaken. The Savior was her portion; and in this hour of trial she leaned on him. In her terrible visitation she saw the traces of Jehovah's care; and, committing herself and her fatherless child to him, her soul rested in hope.

During the time which elapsed between the death of Mr. Boardman and her marriage with Dr. Judson the afflicted widow labored with all her might to do the will of her Master. Not content with instructing the lisping child and tender youth, she travelled from village to village with her little boy and a few attendants. Wherever she went she was met with kindness. The death of the white teacher had unsealed even the wild heart of heathenism; and the widow was an object of universal interest. It is doubtful if at any period of her life she exhibited more lovely traits of character, or accomplished a greater amount of good in an equal space of time, than while moving along her tearful way from the grave of one husband to the marriage chamber of another.

After having remained a widow four years, Mrs. B. was, in April, 1834, united in marriage to Dr. Judson. The parties were well acquainted with each other, and both understood the wants and privations of a missionary life. This new marriage was a new proof of devotion to Christ and his cause; and when Mrs. B. a second time gave herself to a missionary husband, it was a new and sublime token of her determination to live a missionary life. Had she been so disposed, she might have returned to the home and friends of her youth; but, with a full conception of all that would await her, she again gave herself, for life, to Jesus and the perishing heathen.

Her little George, who had been to her torn and lacerated heart such a source of comfort, began to fail; and his mother determined to send him to America. But how could she part with her darling one? How could she behold him borne away to a distant land, to see her face no more? But with the same submission which she had ever manifested she bowed to this new bereavement, and kissed the cheek of her child and sent him away. It was a trial for which she had prepared herself; and it proved almost equal to any which had preceded it. But, knowing the importance of the step, she cheerfully acquiesced with the fortitude of a Christian.

It was not alone on heathen minds that Mrs. Judson produced a pleasant influence. The English residents at Tavoy, Maulmain, and Calcutta remember her with affectionate interest. Many of them have in their houses or about their persons the tokens of her kindness; and not a few can look back to hours of sickness and affliction when a gentle hand smoothed the pillow and a kind voice whispered in the ear words of hope and heaven. Often did she meet in the praying circle with those who, like her, were far from home, and exhort them to love and serve God; and in obedience to her kind instructions many sought and found the Savior. For a prayer meeting of mothers she wrote a beautiful hymn, which appeared in a journal in our country, which is truly touching and beautiful. It is as follows:—

"Lamb of God, enthroned on high,
Look on us with pitying eye
While we raise our earnest cry
  For our babes to thee.

Once thy followers infants spurned;
But thy bosom o'er them yearned,
Nor from Canaan's daughters turned
  Thy all-pitying eye.

Thou didst give our spirits rest,
When with sin and grief oppressed,
In thy gentle, loving breast:
  Shelter, then, our babes.

Breath divine they breathe, and wear
God's own image; yet they bear
Sin and guilt a fearful share:
  Pity them, we pray.

Guide and guard them here below,
As through dangerous paths they go;
Be their joy 'mid earthly woe—
  Thou, their heavenly Friend.

When, to call thy children home,
Robed in glory thou shalt come,
For these little ones make room,
  Lamb of God, we pray."

Her union with Dr. Judson was a happy one. Four little babes were born unto them ere the mother was called to try the realities of that world where there are no separations. In the care and culture of these much of her time was necessarily spent; and so excessive and fatiguing were her labors that she soon began to sink under them. After the birth of her last child, which was born in December, 1844, it became evident to her husband that he was soon to be left alone. The wasting disease made its appearance, and the pale form bowed beneath it. Her kind and experienced physicians, as a last resort, recommended a voyage to America; and, after much consideration and prayer, she determined to turn her back on Burmah and once more visit the land of her nativity. A passage to this country was immediately secured; and, in company with her husband, she set sail in the early part of 1845. They had no sooner embarked than her health began to amend; and when they reached the Isle of France, Dr. Judson determined to return to his labors, and leave his companion to visit America alone. They made their arrangements to part—the one to labor and faint, the other to greet kind friends in an often-remembered land. On the Isle of France the beautiful poem, commencing,—

"We part on this green islet, love,"—

was written—a poem as affecting and heart-touching, when the circumstances are recounted, as any one ever written.

But, on putting out to sea again, the disease returned with new symptoms of alarm, and continued to increase until September 1, 1845, when she died within sight of the rocky Island of St. Helena.

Thus a second time was the venerable Judson bereaved of his dear companion, and in the midst of strangers called upon to surrender up the remains of the loved one to corruption and decay. They buried her where the hero of Lodi and Austerlitz slept, and a long train of mourners followed her to the tomb. The flags of the vessels in the harbor were seen waving at half mast, and signs of woe were observed in all directions.

She died in holy triumph, feeling that her labors were done, her toils finished, her race ended, and her warfare accomplished. To the husband who sat beside her when her last breath was drawn she said, just before she expired, "I ever love the Lord Jesus;" and with her hand in his, her soul leaning for support on the almighty arm, she sunk to rest...

From Daughters of the Cross: or, Woman's Mission by Daniel C. Eddy. New York: Dayton and Wentworth, 1855.

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