“HOW FEW THERE ARE WHO DIE SO HARD” ~ THE LIFE OF ADONIRAM JUDSON

Myanmar, known in the past as Burma, has about as many people as South Africa (around 55 million), though the country is half the size. The majority, 80-90%, of the people are Buddhist. Only about 8% have any Christian conviction. Yet over 1 million are Baptists. Where did they come from? They all trace their roots back to a 23-year old man and his 22-year old wife who arrived 204 years ago. (July 1813) We should know these people, these fellow travellers because they deserve to be imitated. “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.” Hebrews 13:7

The two books I used the most for this biography are Courtney Anderson’s To the Golden Shore and Arabella Stuart’s The Lives of the Three Mrs. Judsons, the edition published by PBP since it has nearly 150 pages of extra material. This manuscript was intended for the ear not the eye, thus, the choppy sentences.

The Life of Adoniram Judson

  1. 1788 Born into a Congregationalist home 9 August 1788.
  2. As a boy, he was gifted in answering math and logic puzzles. He once won a contest by solving a problem posed in the newspaper.
  3. 1799 By 10, he was already advanced in Latin and Greek.
  4. 1804 At 16, he entered college—studying Latin, Greek, math, geography, astronomy, logic, rhetoric, and philosophy.
  5. During his three years at college he gave up Christianity under the influence of a “brilliant” young man named Jacob Eames, yet he hid this from his parents.
  6. 1807 He opens a school to teach young children, publishing two textbooks on English and math within the first two years.
  7. After telling his parents about his apostasy, he left to be a stage entertainer.
  8. A few months into this wild life, he stayed at an inn where he heard the person in the next room dying.
  9. Eames died during the night and led Judson to great fear.
  10. Five weeks after telling his parents that he had left the faith, he told them that he was in dread over his own soul.
  11. While at his father’s home, he read The Fourfould State by Thomas Boston.
  12. 1808 3 weeks later, he had enrolled at a Seminary even though he was not yet a Christian!
  13. There were only two main professors and both of them were young, yet they guided Judson to faith.
  14. 1808 2 Dec. Conversion! 20 years old.
  15. Though he didn’t know it, he had 42 years left to live writing, “How shall I so order my future being as best to please God?”
  16. He immediately devoted his life to full-time service.
  17. Up to this point, no American had ever left North America to reach the unreached.
  18. 1810 13 months after conversion, he dedicated his life to being a missionary.
  19. “It was during a solitary walk in the woods behind the college, while meditating and praying on the subject, and feeling half inclined to give it up, that the command of Christ, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature,’ was presented to my mind with such clearness and power, that I came to a full decision, and though great difficulties appeared in my way, resolved to obey the command at all events.”
  20. Over the next year, Adoniram and 6 other young men, stirred up missions’ zeal all around the seminary and the surrounding towns.
  21. He often preached and it was said he “had that rarest of attributes, a commanding stage presence” and powerful voice.
  22. The young men met with the leaders of the churches and asked for their support.
  23. That afternoon, at 22 years of age, Judson fell in love with Ann Hasseltine.
  24. She was 21 and the daughter of a deacon converted at 17 by reading godly books.
  25. Ann: “I felt resolved to give up everything, and seek to be reconciled to God. That fear, which I had ever felt, that others would know I was serious, now vanished away, and I was willing that the whole universe should know that I felt myself to be a lost and perishing sinner.”
  26. 1806 Ann also opened a school though only 17 in order to teach the basics to children.
  27. 1810 Four years later, she met Judson while he was visiting in their home asking the pastors for financial support.
  28. Ranking among the greatest letters in history, here is the request Judson sent to her father asking for permission to marry her.

“I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world ? Whether you can consent to her departure to a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life? Whether you can 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? Can you consent to all this, for the sake of Him who left His heavenly home and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with a crown of righteousness brightened by the acclamations of praise which shall resound to her Saviour from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?”

  1. Ann’s sister wrote about Adoniram, “he was a man of one idea, and that was, love, to Jesus, and a desire to manifest it in all its varied forms.”
  2. One of Ann’s friends, Harriet–only 17–was also courted by one of Adoniram’s friends, Samuel Newell. They would go to Burma together.
  3. What these girls were contemplating was terrifying considering the times and technology.
  4. 1811 Judson rushed to London to try to find support.
  5. While on the sea he was captured by a French war ship and only escaped by sneaking out of the prison.
  6. Eventually, the Congregationalists decided to pay the missionaries $666.66 per year. A low salary at that time.
  7. Four young men and their wives were accepted as the first missionaries from America, but only one of them would actually serve as a missionary.
  8. 1812 Two weeks before they left on the boat, Judson and Ann were married as well as Samuel and Harriet.
  9. 1812 While on the boat, he accepts the Bible’s teaching on baptism.
  10. 1812 At 19, Harriet and her baby die before she reaches Burma.
  11. 1813 While on the boat, the nurse falls over dead, and Ann’s first baby is stillborn.
  12. 1813 After 1 ½ years of traveling they finally arrive in Burma. Nancy is so sick that she has to be carried on shore.
  13. 1813 Language difficulty: They struggled to learn with no English anywhere in the culture.
  14. Hardness of the people: Ann writes, “Lying is so common and universal among them, that they say, ‘We cannot live without telling lies.’”
  15. “The Burmans are subtle, thievish, mercenary, addicted to robbery and fraud; truth and honesty are not known among them as virtues.”
  16. Rangoon: The country had no banks, bread, butter, or cheese. The children begin smoking as babies and don’t wear clothes until 7.
  17. Corruption: All officials demanded bribes. Criminals went in bands.
  18. Government: Conversion to Christianity is illegal. One convert was beaten with a hammer inch by inch from feet to breast.
  19. Burmese language lacked abstract words needed to preach. No cause / effect categories in their thinking.
  20. The Judson received no communication from America for nearly 3 years.
  21. 1816 Death of baby Roger. Ann’s second baby died at 8 months old.

“God saw it was necessary… to strip us of our only little all. O may it not be vain that he has done it. May we so improve it, that he will stay his hand say, ‘It is enough.’”

  1. 1817 They were often sick and would take a sea voyage in hopes of recovery. Both husband and wife nearly died from sickness multiple times.
  2. 1819 Death of the new missionary, Wheelock a few months after his arrival. His 21 year old wife, Eliza, full of bitterness.
  3. 1819 6 June First convert, Maung Nau, after 6 years of work.
  4. 1819 Judson asks the king for religious freedom. It is denied.
  5. 1820 One year later, they had a church of 10 adults.
  6. Nancy, about to die, leaves for a sea voyage.
  7. Judson spends most of his time in translation.
  8. 1824 6 months after Nancy returns healthy, Judson is 35 years old. He is arrested, tortured, and imprisoned for 17 months.
  9. The cause was the British war with Burma.
  10. Tortures at this time: He was bound with “the cord”, overcrowded prison, no news, no food, no cleanliness, lice, feet raised at night, housed in a low hut.
  11. Ann visits officials every day desperate for his relief.
  12. She smuggles his NT manuscript to him in a pillow.
  13. 1825 After 6 months of prison, Nancy gives birth to Maria.
  14. Adoniram gets deathly sick in prison.
  15. Forced to march 12 kilometers in 40 degree weather (Celsius).
  16. Feet were so painful, he ponders suicide.
  17. In the new jail, they are bound and the mosquitoes torture them.
  18. Ann is frantic in her search for Adoniram with two adopted Burmese children and her own daughter.
  19. She moves to a hut near the new prison.
  20. The children catch smallpox including baby Maria.
  21. Ann gets deathly sick trying to help Adoniram and the girls.
  22. The prison keeper lets Judson out to take Maria house to house looking for a wet nurse.
  23. Then after 17 months he is released to translate for the British government.
  24. He lost the pillow with his manuscript in the first prison, but amazingly, it is found with the Burmese NT inside!
  25. When he returns to Ann, he finds her at home nearly dead.
  26. 1826 Ann dies 10 months after they come out of prison. Married 14 years.
  27. 1827 6 months later, Maria dies.
  28. 1827-1829 Judson withdraws in depression.
  29. 1830 Suddenly, people begin to inquire. At this time he wrote:

“Some come from two or three months’ journey, from the borders of Siam and China—‘Sir, we hear that there is an eternal hell. We are afraid of it. Do give us a writing that will tell us how to escape it.’ Others come from the frontiers of Kathay, a hundred miles north of Ava. … Others come from the interior of the country, where the name of Jesus Christ is a little known—‘Are you Jesus Christ’s man? Give us a writing that tells us about Jesus Christ.’”

  1. 1834 Burmese Bible complete! After 20 years of work. 45 years old.
  2. 1834 Married Sarah Boardman, 30 years old.
  3. She was a gifted poet and linguist.
  4. She served in Burma with her gifted husband George for 4 years until his death.
  5. The Boardman’s had taken great risks by moving into dangerous areas.
  6. Adoniram met her on 6 April and they were married four days later.
  7. She was entirely devoted to evangelism—walked with her baby boy into the jungles.
  8. She bore Judson 8 children.
  9. 1845 They returned to America while trying to save Sarah’s life, but it is no use–she dies after 11 years of marriage.
  10. While there he met a 28 year old named Emily Chubbock.
  11. Four weeks later he gave her the “watch” he had given to Ann and to Sarah in their turns as engagement presents.
  12. They returned to Burma together for less than four years.
  13. 1849 He finished the English-Burmese dictionary.
  14. She bore his 12th child. Only 6 lived; 2 became pastors.
  15. 1850 Though he had been sick many times before, this last sickness was so painful that he wrote, “How few there are who suffer such torment–who die so hard!”
  16. 1850 Terribly sick for weeks, Adoniram Judson died at 61 and was buried at sea. 12 April 1850.

Eight Lessons From the Lives of the Judson’s

  1. Truth is more important than money.
    • When he became a Baptist Ann was “terrified” because they would lose their support, teammates, and friends.
    • It was a hard, difficult life full of suffering, misunderstandings, and self-denial.
  1. Planting churches among the least-reached people groups costs lives, money, and comfort.
    • Throughout his life, I counted 17 children, wives, and teammates who died.
    • His own life was cut short.
    • Several missionaries died before doing any work.
    • It was a hard, difficult life full of suffering, misunderstandings, and self-denial.
  2. We must not mind a little suffering.
    • Loss of family and comforts of America.
    • The terrible episode in the prison.
    • Numerous sicknesses for himself, his wife, and his children. They seemed to be either recovering or about to be sick.
    • Death of family members.
    • Low salary.
    • Very much like our Savior.
  3. Without fluency in native languages, the Great Commission cannot be fulfilled.
    • Let us study language so that we may be some good as missionaries.
    • Short term trips cannot do much good for missions.
  4. The grace and labor of a godly wife makes a merely good man great.
    • The doctor who attended Ann said that she eventually died from the pain she bore keeping her husband alive in prison.
    • Sarah and Emily served him so that the Bible and the dictionary could be completed.
  5. The task of missions demands the brightest and most able minds.
    • Judson was gifted.
    • Learning languages, adjusting to culture, communicating in a land darkened by false religion all require the best gifts.
  6. Without the influence of the gospel of Jesus Christ, men suffer through a degraded, difficult life.
    • The religion of the Burmese kept them poor.
    • The Burmese hide their wealth rather than building beautiful homes because they know officials look for bribes.
    • This religion blocked their societal advance, education, peace, and political stability.
    • Ann told the Americans when she returned: “To be born a female [in Burma] is universally considered a peculiar misfortune.”
  7. Fitting love for Jesus Christ may cause our love for our wives and children to be questioned.
    • Judson loved his wife and children dearly.
    • Ann and Sarah both wrote in letters that Adoniram was the most loving husband.
    • And yet the world would say that he hated them because he put them at risk.

Conclusion

  • Adoniram Judson and his wives sacrificed, hoped, and died for unreached people.
  • God has given us their lives as examples for our own love and devotion to God.
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One Response to “HOW FEW THERE ARE WHO DIE SO HARD” ~ THE LIFE OF ADONIRAM JUDSON

  1. Tim Cantrell says:

    Amen, thanks brother!

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