William Carey, who was well known as the father of modern missions nowadays. He was the type of person who would make sacrifices and undergo any kind of hardships to serve the Lord and help others. Because of his accomplishment, motivation and attitude, the Gospel could be able to pass to the gentiles in India. William Carey sparked a foreign mission movement and that movement is still making a great impact and influences to the world today. Not only he was the founder of Baptist Missionary Society, he was also a great Bible translator that he and his pundits translated the Bible into many Indian languages such as Bengali, Oriya, Marathi Hindi, Assamese and Sanskrit and so on.1 He was also the social reformer that he helped abolish the social ills such as sati, which is “the self-immolation of a widow on the funeral pyre of her husband”.2 He also helped abolishing the prostitution of children in Hindu temples. Moreover, he was the educational activist and he founded Serampore College.3 He has attempted and achieved many great things for God, but at the same time he did not boast and he was just a simple man who had fervent heart for God’s kingdom.
William Carey’s life and his accomplishments
William Carey was born in Paulerspury, a small village in the Northamptonshire, England. Carey has been raised in the Anglican Church, but he then became a godly Christian because of the influence of his fellow shoemaker John Warr. John Warr was a Nonconformist and he was urging Carey to leave the Anglican and enter the Nonconformist. Few months before Carey’s eighteen birthday, he confessed his faith in Christ publicly. This was a difficult step for Carey because his parent would be distressed since they were zealous Anglicans.4
With this newfound faith, Carey was enthusiastic about reading the Bible and religious books. He also engaged in religious discussions with Nonconformist and Anglican. Carey developed a deep love for the Lord and the strong desire to serve the gospel and work towards becoming a minister. 5
When Carey was barely twenty, Carey married Dorothy Plackett, who was five years older than Carey. Dorothy could neither read nor write. Many people later presented negative comments that William’s marriage to Dorothy was a mistake. George Smith said “never had minister, missionary or scholar a less sympathetic mate,” and to the last she remained “a peasant woman with a reproachful tongue.”6 Despite the negative comments about their marriage, God blessed them and they had seven children, but their first child Ann died when she was two years old.
While he was still working as a shoemaker, he taught himself different languages such as Greek, Hebrew, Dutch, French, Latin, Italian and English. He showed the sign of language gift since the early age.
The first missionary
In 1791, Carey began concerned with the propagation of the gospel throughout the world and he began to use his influences to increase the awareness of sharing the gospel to the unreached nations.7 He completed his first book, “Enquiry into the Obligation of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathen.” The content is divided into three categories: (1) the religious situation in all countries in the world, (2) the pagan salvation and Christian obligations, (3) feasible method to lead the pagan back to Christ. 8
“The main points made by Carey in the Enquiry are as follows: the population of the world is approximately 731 millions, of whom 557 millions are non-Christians; the deplorable moral and spiritual condition of the heathen is a call to Christian action; the Great Commission is still binding upon Christ’s followers; each of the chief problems which faces every prospective missionary, the danger of living among barbarians, the difficulty of securing supplies, the herculean task of learning the languages can and should be resolutely overcome; and a society should be organized to promote home and foreign missions.”9
His book then became one of the most popular Christian books in England.
In October, 1792, William Carey established the Baptist Missionary Society with his friends Fuller, Ryland and Sutcliff. And their goal was to raise funds and train missionaries.
Later on, Carey met Dr. John Thomas, who had been living in India as a medical missionary. He came back to England to raise funds for his mission. Then Baptist Missionary Society decided to fund his mission work and Carey also decided to go with him to India.
At that time, the entire Indian country was under the control of the East Indian Company. The policy was that they did not welcome any missionaries entering India. Therefore, many were expelled from India and returned to their country of origin. At this time, religious rituals controlled India and people did not conform to the religious doctrines of Christ.
Then Carey’s family, Thomas and his wife set sail together. During their long voyage over the past five months, they kept sharing the gospel on the boat every week. Carey also learned Bengali in these five months and assisted Thomas in translating the Bible in Bangladesh. This voyage finally ended in November 11 the same year, docked in Calcutta.10
His Mission Works in India
As they left Calcutta and walked to the south, Thomas preached to the natives and Carey was just listening and trying to learn the local language. At that time, Thomas and Carey had only a little money. Two months later, they were already penniless, so Thomas decided to go back to Calcutta while Carey and his family moved to the inland region.
Later, William Carey wrote a letter back to England and he was expressing the difficulties of presenting the gospel to the Indian due to the difference of languages and dialects people spoke.11 In this terrible suffering, he sees the vision of translating the Hindi, Bengali Scriptures and spreading the gospel throughout India. While studying the language and translating the Bible, he continued to preach. After his fifth years in India, he founded the first church in India in 1797.12
Through the work of evangelism by William Carey and published the first Bengali New Testament, Krishina pal converted to Christ. He was an Indian carpenter and he was also Carey’s first convert. Krishina paid a great price. His faith inflicted a great stir among Indians. People even imprisoned his eldest daughter, but he still insisted to follow Christ and baptized as Christians.13
Carey translates the Bible into Bengali, Hindi, Sanskrit, Assamese, and Oriya, Marthi languages. And he translated the Bible into twenty-nine other languages and dialects. They also introduced the epic in Indian literature and Chinese classical literature to English. To promote cultural and social well-being, he pioneered Indian medical missionaries, savings banks, seminaries, girls’ schools, and Bengali newspapers. He also established India’s first modern printing house, paper mill, and steam train. He also translated Western agricultural and horticultural books to Indian and promoted agricultural improvement experiments.
In 1801, Carey’s translation work led to him to be hired as a professor of Bengali and Sanskrit at Fort William College in Calcutta.14
Carey continued in his ministry work at Serampore and leading the team of translations. At that time, the printing shop was also used for business and Carey received many printing projects from the government. And it brought a great source of revenue for his mission team. Later, the Baptist Missionary Society sent and funded many missionaries to come to India. Some served with Carey while some were sent out to other mission posts.
Nine years after Carey started teaching, he began to investigate Indian traditions and Sati was regarded by the West as a cruel practice of burning up widows and sacrificing to their bereaved husband to show the widow’s loyalty to her husband. Carey considered it extremely inhuman and cruel. “In the late 1700’s when Carey first arrived in India, there were more than 600 cases of Sati each year in the Bengal region. Between World War I and the 1980’s, it is estimated that there have only been 40-50 cases of Sati in that same region.”15 William Carey was very outspoken against the practice of Sati and he became the world’s leading civic activist against Sati.
After nearly thirty years of hard work, Carey spent a great amount of time fighting against the Sati and fighting for the rights of woman in India. “In 1813, the famous abolitionist William Wilberforce gave an impassioned speech before the House of Commons in England. He cited stats and case studies collected by Carey. That sparked an international movement against Sati.”16
In 1829, the practice of Sati was outlawed and banned officially by British parliament. Later, many states of India followed and outlawed the practice.
Later, William Carey established Serampore College with Joshua Marshman and William Ward. Serampore College is a school of higher education for theology, sciences and arts. Carey had a great heart to train young people for ministry through education.
On June 9, 1834, William Carey died. At his own request, only a simple tablet marked his grave, bearing the words “A wretched, poor and helpless worm, On Thy kind arms I fall.”17
Dr. Carey is a great man in modern Christianity. He not only influenced India but also started the modern missionary education and made a great impact and set a solid foundation for the mission work nowadays.
How William Carey influences the Baptist
Two centuries after the founding of the Baptist Missionary Society and William Carey’s mission to India, the Christian world stands again at a critical juncture in the fulfillment of the Great Commission. Despite the great work of William Carey, there are still many people have never heard the gospel and know about the grace from Jesus Christ. William Carey received a heart of mission and he knew that Christian missions was rooted in the gracious, eternal purpose of the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to call unto Himself a redeemed people out of the fallen race of lost humankind.
Carey himself, aided by his learned Indian pundits, is credited with the fantastic achievement of having translated the entire Bible into Bengali, Oriya, Marathi, Hindi, Assamese, and Sanskrit; and parts of it into twenty-nine other languages.
Many Scholars since Carey’s time have produced more accurate, more graceful translations of the Bible into the languages of Asia, but the Serampore missionaries provided the foundation on which those later translations could be built.
It is this breadth of vision of making God’s Word available to all mankind in its own tongue that is Carey’s chief glory. That a man of such limited education and from such humble origins could imagine and put into operation with so few helpers and undertaking of such magnitude is surely earns him right to be described as a great man.18
Throughout his mission life, Carey focused on communal living, training of indigenous ministers and financially self-sustain. These three principles form the basic of the modern day missions for Baptist.
William Carey created the greatest legacy in the worldwide mission movement in the 19th century. His achievements set the milestones and the foundation of the foreign mission nowadays in the 21st century. His word “expect great things from God; attempt great things for God”19 inspired many people such as Hudson Taylor, David Livingstone, Adoniram Judson and so on. “From the first to last he was keenly aware of God’s sovereignty in awakening the Church from its slumber and sending it forth to accomplish His eternal purpose in bringing the lost to a saving knowledge of the Redeemer. In this sense, both the “expecting” and the “attempting” were “from God.” It was His mission, His spirit, His call.”20 William Carey carried this vision for His mission and brought many people back to Christ and rose up new missionaries for the mission movement in the next generation.
1 Mary Drewery, William Carey: A Biography (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub. House, 1979, ©1978), 156.
2 Anthony L. Chute, Nathan A. Finn, Michael A. G. Haykin, The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement (Nashville, Tennessee: B & H Academic, 2015), 108.
3 Ibid., 108.
4 Walter Bruce Davis, William Carey: Father of Modern Missions (Chicago: Moody Press, 2000), 1-11.
5 Ibid., 1-11
6 James R. Beck, Dorothy Carey: The Tragic and Untold Story of Mrs. William Carey (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, ©1992), 16.
7 Joseph Early JR., Readings in Baptist History: Four Centuries of Selected Documents (Nashville: B & H Academic, ©2008), 69.
8 William Carey, An Enquiry Into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens (London: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016), 7-77.
9 Walter Bruce Davis, William Carey: Father of Modern Missions (Chicago: Moody Press, 2000), 17.
10 Ibid., 23-33.
11 William Carey, The Journal and Selected Letters of William Carey (Macon, Ga.: Smyth & Helwys, ©2000), 21-24.
12 Walter Bruce Davis, William Carey: Father of Modern Missions (Chicago: Moody Press, 2000), 32-48
13 Ibid., 32-48.
14 Ibid., 32-48.
15 Kenneth Ortiz, “William Carey: Father of Modern Mission”, Bethany Teams, January 9, 2017, accessed January 26, 2018, https://bethanyteams.org/missions/william-carey-father-modern-missions/
17 Mary Drewery, William Carey: A Biography (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub. House, 1979, ©1978), 200.
18 Ibid., 156-157
19 Timothy George, Faithful Witness: The Life and Mission of William Carey (Birmingham, Ala.: New Hope, ©1991), 32.
20 Ibid., 32.