Monday, 26 November 2012

William Carey: Pioneer Missionary to India

William Carey: Pioneer Missionary to India
Early Life
William Carey was born in August 17th 1761 in Northhampton, England to Christian parents  Edmund and Elizabeth Carey. From a very early age he showed interest in knowledge, reading every book he could get including Latin, plants and animals. His schooling however came to and end at age 14 when he was sent to Clark Nichols, a shoemaker in Piddington as his apprentice. At 17, he made a public confession of faith in Jesus Christ and left his Anglican Church for the non-conformist Baptist Church.
Carey developed his faith through Bible study, reading religious books and deep discussions with Anglican and non-conformist thinkers in the neighbourhood. He tookl opportunities to preach and succesfully sought the conversion of others including his master Nichols who was converted at his deathbed.  In 1781 he married Dorothy Plankett.
Missionary Call
William Carey was ordained as a baptist minister at 26 but he carried on as a shoemaker. In his spare time he studies languages, biographies and the conditions of the heathen world. 3 books particularly influenced him – The Bible, The life of David Breinard and Captain Cook’s Voyages whose vivid potrayal of the moral and spiritual conditions in the South Sea Islands made clear the the crying need for missions. [1]
In 1786, he pleaded with other ministers in his denomination to take up work among the heathen but was greatly grieved when the chairman reproved him with the infamous words.. “ Sit down young man. When it pleases God to convert the heathen, He will do it without your help or mine”[2] Carey was disturbed by this response so much so that he felt compelled to express his missionary convictions in pamplet form to reach a wider, perhaps more responsive audience. The pamphlet was published in 1792 under the heading  “An enquiry into the obligations of Christians to use means for the conversion of the heathen”
That same year,  Carey also preached his memorable sermon giving out the challenge “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God” the immediate result of that was the organisation of the Baptist Missionary Society.  At 32, William secured passage on a ship and headed off to India arriving in Serampore in 1793[3].
Into the Field
Work in Serampore grew quickly. From this base, he laboured for nearly a quarter century to spread the gospel throughout the land. Through his unfailing love for the people and his relentless campaign against “the spiritual forces of evil” (Eph. 6:12), India was literally transformed. Asian historian Hugh Tinker summarizes Carey’s impact on India this way: “And so in Serampore, on the banks of the river Hooghly, the principal elements of modern South Asia—the press, the university, social consciousness—all came to light.”2
Carey didn’t go to India to just start new churches or set up medical clinics for the poor. He was driven by a more comprehensive vision—a vision for discipling the nation[4]. “Carey saw India not as a foreign country to be exploited, but as his heavenly Father’s land to be loved and served, a society where truth, not ignorance, needed to rule.”4  Among  other misionary triumphs William Carey managed to do the following
-        He carried out a systematic survey of agriculture and campaigned for agriculture reform. He introduced the a system of plant organizations and published the first science texts in India.
-        - He introduced the idea of savings banks to India to fight the social evil of usury.
-        - He established the first newspaper in an Oriental language, His English-language journal, Friend of India, gave birth to the social-reform movement in India.
-        - He began schools for children of all castes and launched the first college in Asia.
-        - He was the first man to stand against the ruthless murders and widespread oppression of women. Women in India were being crushed through polygamy, female infanticide, child marriage, widow burning, euthanasia, and forced illiteracy—all sanctioned by religion. Carey opened schools for girls. When widows converted to Christianity, he arranged marriages for them. It was his persistent, 25-year battle against widow burning – sati- that finally led to the formal banning of this horrible religious practice.[5]
A Jar of Clay
Although William Carey had a long, illustrous mission career at Serampore, it was not without challenges , perhaps the biggest being his own marriage to Dorothy Planket. Dorothy came from a poor background and was herself illiterate. She had resisted going to India but went nonetheless together with her seven children. However, with recurrent bouts of illness she sufferred immensely and evantually went insane. [6]
Towards the end of his life, the mission suffered serious financial challenges. In 1823 there were floods which destroyed his school buildings, his own home and the beautiful garden washed away and there was no help forthcoming from England.
At 71 years of age, William Carey was still engaged in regular preaching, lecturing and translating of scriptures but in 1833, he took seriously ill on saveral occassions and had to give up all work and was confined to bed. He died on June 9th 1834 and was buried the following morning in the Baptist Mission Cemetery, Serampore. [7]
As rightly reffered, William Carey is indeed the father of the modern missionary movement, a movement that has since reached every corner of the world. Although a man of simple origins, he used his God-given gifts and every available means to serve Christ and illuminate the dark corners of India with the light of the truth.

[1] Davis, W Bruce; William Carey: Father of Modern Missions, Moody Press Chicago, 1963. P 13.
[2]  Bach, TJ; Vision and Valour, Baker Book House, Michigan, 1963  P38.
3. Ruth and Vishal Mangalwadi, The Legacy of William Carey: A Model for the Transformation of a Culture Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1999, p. vx.

[4] Scott Allen; William Carey: A Missionary who Transformed a Nation, Journal article available at
[5]Scott Allen; William Carey: A Missionary who Transformed a Nation, Journal article available at
[6] Mangalwadi Ruth & Vishal, Willima Carey and the Regeneration of India.Good Book Publishers,New Delhi 1993 P 33
[7] Davis, W Bruce; William Carey: Father of Modern Missions, Moody Press Chicago, 1963. P 104.