1788 - 1850
Adoniram Judson was born
August 9th, 1788 in Malden, Massachusetts.
His father was a Congregationalist minister.
From a very early age Judson showed to have
a brilliant mind. He learned to read at the
age of three, and had mastered the Greek language
by the age of twelve. Judson enrolled in Brown
University in Providence, Rhode Island in
1804 at just sixteen years old.
While at Brown University,
Judson fell in with the wrong crowd. He befriended
a man by the name of Jacob Eames who was an
atheist. By the time that Judson graduated
in 1807 as valedictorian he had total denounced
Christ and his Christian upbringing. He returned
home and opened up the Plymouth Independent
Academy, but soon grew tired of living a hypocritical
life and told his parents he was moving off
to New York to write for the stage. His parents
were crushed, but Judson went on anyway. When
he arrived in New York the fame and fortune
that he had envisioned did not come. So defeated
he obtained a horse and headed west. One night
he decided to lodge at a village inn. The
only room available was a room with a deathly
ill man. Throughout the night he heard the
man cry out in pain and could tell that he
did not know God. In the mourning he questioned
the innkeeper about the condition of the man.
He was told that he had died during the night.
Judson then asked who the man was. The innkeeper
replied that it was a Jacob Eames from
the college of Providence.
The death of his atheistic
friend greatly touched Adoniram Judson. He
returned home and enrolled in Andover Theological
Seminary in 1808. This was where he was led
to a full faith in Christ while reading the
writings of a Puritan author by the name Thomas
Boston. The young man that was once an atheist
now felt that God was calling him into missions.
Judson faced a big problem
with his calling. In the early 1800s
there were no foreign missionaries from America.
Judson wrote this in a magazine article in
How do Christians discharge
this trust committed to them? They let three
fourths of the world sleep the sleep of death,
ignorant of the simple truth that a Savior
died for them. Content if they can be useful
in the little circle of their acquaintances,
they quietly sit and see whole nations perish
for lack of knowledge.
Judsons parents who
were at one time so devastated by his lack
of concern for things of God were now encouraging
him to accept a prominent ministers job in
Boston rather than go off to the mission field.
You know that his parents must have prayed
for their son to be in the ministry when he
was running for God, but this just was not
what they had envisioned. In June of 1810
Judson along with several men, which were
involved in the famous haystack prayer meetings
at Williams College, wrote a statement to
the General Association of Congregational
Ministers at Bradford, Mass. that resulted
in the organization of the American Board
of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.
Since finances were still
a problem, Judson decided to sail to England
to appeal to the London Missionary Society
for support. On his journey to England a French
privateer captured his ship and Judson was
imprisoned. He was released but had no luck
with the board in England.
Judson returned to the States
were he was married to Ann Hasseltine on February
5th, 1812. He and his colleagues were ordained
the next day, and then sailed to Calcutta,
India on February 19th. While on the four-month
voyage to India Judson and his new wife decided
to study the topic of believers baptism.
They did this for a couple of reasons. First
of all because they knew that they were going
to be in contact with William Carey a Baptist
missionary, and secondly because he was having
some problems with how he was going to handle
the Congregationalist idea of covenant theology.
During their study they became convinced that
believers baptism by immersion was the
Biblical method, and presented themselves
for proper baptism in a Baptist Church in
Calcutta. Interestingly enough, Luther Rice
a colleague of theirs came to the same conclusion
during his trip to India and was also baptized.
Their being baptized meant that their support
from the Congregationalist would be terminated.
So they decided that Rice would go home and
raise support for missions and Judson would
stay on the field. By 1814 Rice had rallied
Baptist churches and they had established
the American Baptist Missionary Union.
Judson could not obtain
permission from the British East India Company
for permanent residency because they did not
trust missionaries and they did not like the
change in their converts. So they decided
to go to Burma. During the voyage the vessel
was caught in a monsoon in the Bay of Bengal.
Ann became severely ill and gave birth to
their first child, which soon died and had
to be buried at sea.
For the first six years
in Burma Judson devoted his time mainly to
learning the language and translating the
Bible. Then in 1819, he had his first convert,
a Burmese man by the name, Moung Nau. One
practice of Judsons that I found interesting
is that he insisted that new converts undergo
an extensive training before being baptized.
Another missionary named Dr. Pierce joined
the Judsons, and things were looking
good. Their success was to be short lived
though because war broke out between the Burmese
and the British, and although Judson and Dr.
Pierce were not British they were foreign
and white so they were arrested. The conditions
of their imprisonment were absolutely horrible.
They had to share a room with 100 men. They
were put in fetters, and they were extremely
malnourished. If it were not for the faithfulness
of his wife Ann to smuggle in food to him
and Dr. Pierce, Judson would probably have
died. During his imprisonment Ann gave birth
to their third child Maria (their second child
had also died soon after birth). Ann found
that she could not nurse her child so she
had to go up and down the streets begging
for some one to nurse her child. The war with
the British was to soon come to a close and
so Judson and his friend were released from
prison to help negotiate with the British.
Soon after his release his
precious wife Ann died from a tropical fever.
Not long after that, Maria, his baby girl
died. This drove Judson into a deep depression.
He moved out into a tiger infested jungle
where he lived alone for forty days in a hut.
The natives said that his surviving was like
Daniel surviving in the lions den. During
that lonely time in the jungle Judsons
spirit was renewed. He moved to Moulmein where
he would live for the rest of his ministry.
In 1828, Judson had the
privilege of converting a Karen slave. The
Karens were a wild race of people that lived
in the remote areas of the jungles. The mans
name was, Ko Tha Byu, and he was a robber
bandit that had been involved in some 30 murders.
Under Judsons and the Boardmans,
which were a new missionary couple that had
joined Judson, discipleship this man come
to be a mighty preacher that came to known
as the Karen Apostle. He helped the Karen
people to realize that Christianity was the
fulfillment of his own peoples legends.
Within 25 years there were 11,878 baptized
Mr. Boardman passed away
and Judson married his widow. They were married
for eleven years and had eight children together,
three of which died at an early age. The work
in Burma continued to grow, but Mrs. Judson
grew very ill and Judson decided that they
would take a furlough to try to nurse his
ailing wife back to good health. The trip
proved to be too much for her and she died
in the port of St. Helena. When he arrived
back in the United States, Judson was not
ready for the reception that he would receive.
It was his first furlough in 33 years and
everyone wanted him to come to their church
and speak about his adventures. While in the
States someone complained that he did not
tell enough stories of adventures in Burma,
and he replied, I am glad they have
it to say that I had nothing better to tell
than the wondrous story of Jesus dying love.
Judson married Miss Emily
Chubbock, and on July 11th, 1846 he sailed
back to Burma. In 1850 Adoniram Judson was
advised to take a sea voyage because of his
health and on April 12th he died and was buried
at sea. At the time of his death there were
7,000 baptized believers in Burma, 63 churches,
and 123 missionaries and pastors. On the 100th
year anniversary of his death there were some
200,000 Christians in Burma.