Adoniram Judson, Missionary to Mauritius and Burma

©2002 by Catherine Millard

On January 17, 1813, missionaries Adoniram Judson, Luther Rice, others, and their wives arrived at Port Louis aboard the Créole. Sent by the American Baptist Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to Burma, the missionaries familiarized themselves with the French language prior to disembarking in Mauritius.
It is recorded that they worked tirelessly among the soldiers; as well as among the sick in the hospital at Port Louis. Unfortunately, slave-holding Mauritius at the time was opposed to evangelizing and instructing the slaves. On May 7th, 1813, after three months’ fruitful work, they departed aboard The Countess of Harcourt for Burma.
It is said that Judson’s sermons abounded in word-pictures, which take the taste of the Eastern mind. Historically captured for us, is this account:

When he preached, every hearer sat motionless, every eye was fixed immovably upon the preacher, and every countenance seemed to change with every varied expression of sentiment; now beaming forth joy as though some joyous news from the other world had just reached them, which before had never gladdened their hearts; now depicting a feeling of anxiety, as though their immortal all, or that of their friends, was at stake; and next showing a deep solemnity, as though standing before their final Judge. 1

A visitor recounted the following, “though I did not know the meaning of a single sentence he uttered, still my attention was never before more closely riveted on any sermon I ever heard. It was impossible to escape the conviction that his whole soul was in his work.”
In 1828, Judson, after labouring many years with little success, heard of the Karens deep in the interior of Burma. He encountered one, KO THA BYA, a 50-year- old slave, who, as a youth, had been vicious and brutal, and as a man had killed 30 men with his own hands. Judson paid his ransom and took him into his own home. This blasphemer was soon sitting clothed and in his right mind, his darkened understanding lightened by the story of the cross of Christ. He was baptized, and going immediately to his own nation to preach, found a people ready for the Lord. For 12 years he laboured among the 600,000 Karens; whole villages being converted. Soon there were tens of thousands of native Christians, besides those added to the church of the redeemed in heaven. “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God,” was Judson’s established spiritual order. The governing principles of his daily life were:

  1. Be diligent in secret prayer, every morning and evening.
  2. Never spend a moment in mere idleness.
  3. Restrain natural appetites within the bounds of temperance and purity.
  4. Suppress every emotion of anger and ill-will.
  5. Undertake nothing from motives of ambition or love of fame.
  6. Never do that which, at the moment, appears to be displeasing to God.
  7. Seek opportunities of making some sacrifice for the good of others, especially of believers, provided the sacrifice is not inconsistent with some duty.
  8. Endeavor to rejoice in every loss and suffering incurred for Christ’s sake and the Gospel’s, remembering that though likely they are not to be willfully incurred, yet, like death, they are a great gain.
  9. Rise with the sun.
  10. Read a certain portion of Burmese every day, Sundays excepted.
  11. Have the Scriptures and some devotional book in constant reading.
  12. Read one book in English that has not a devotional tendency.
  13. Suppress every unclean thought or look.

God give me grace to keep the above rules and ever live to His glory, for Jesus Christ’s sake.

– Adoniram Judson

Judson’s translation of the New Testament

The story of the preservation of Adoniram Judson’s translation of the New Testament of the Bible into Burmese, is a story of great wonder. The manuscript was taken to Ava. When Dr. Judson was thrown into prison, it was secretly sewed up by his wife, who was driven away by the jailers from the prison door, and she gave him the bundle which she had made into the form of a cushion, too hard and unsightly to tempt even his jailers. It was used by the prisoner as a pillow. After 7 months, he and his fellow-sufferers were rudely thrust into the inner prison, and the old pillow fell to one of the jailers. Finding it too hard for his use, he threw it back, and it fell once again into its owner’s hands. When Judson was marched from one prison to another over the blood-tracked way, it was lost. Stripped of the mat which was tied about it, the roll of hard cotton containing the paper was again flung back into prison. Here it was found by a disciple, MOUNG ING, who took it home as a memorial of his teacher, without suspecting its priceless contents.Several months later, the manuscript, which now forms part of the Burmese Old and New Testament Bible, was found intact and undamaged.2 The table upon which Judson wrote his translation is preserved in a room of the New York Bible Society.3 On October 1st, 184l, Adoniram Judson returned to Mauritius on board the Ramsay, preaching the Gospel each Sunday on board ship, until their departure on November 1st, 1841. A last trip to Mauritius was made by the Judsons on July 5th, 1845 on board The Paragon. This great missionary died at sea in 1850 at the age of 62, having spent 37 years bringing the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ to Burma, as well as to Mauritius.

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Bibliography:

1

Hill, James L., D.D., The Immortal Seven – Judson and his Associates. Boston: American Baptist Publication Society, 1913, p. 91. Rare Book Collection, Library of Congress.

2

Ibid.

3

Ibid.

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