Christians You Should Know: Adoniram Judson June 21, 2023

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That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” – Ephesians 3:17-19

A Snapshot of the Life of Adoniram Judson:

Born: Aug. 9, 1788 – Malden, Massachusetts
Died: April 12, 1850 – Bay of Bengal

One of history’s greatest missionaries. Judson went to Burma in 1813 as the first American Baptist missionary abroad. He was converted at age 24 when an unbelieving friend from Brown University, where he graduated in 1807, died in a hotel room next to his. He enrolled at Andover (MA) Seminary in 1808. He married Ann Hasseltine  on February 5, 1812, and immediately left for India with the Newells, but was diverted to Burma in 1813. He soon left the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions and helped start the American Baptist Missionary Union, by having Luther Rice return to the States to establish it. Judson ministered faithfully for six years until he saw his first convert in 1819 and the sprouting of an organized church. Because of the English/Burmese War, he was imprisoned for 17 months (1824-26) in unbelievably primitive conditions. After his wife Ann died (1826) he ministered in Amherst, Burma, and the seaport town of Maulman. The failing health of his second wife, Sarah Boardman, whom he had married on April 10, 1834, motivated him to return to America (1845-47). She died during the stressful voyage in 1845. He later married Emily Chubbuck on June 2, 1846. Judson translated the Bible into Burmese and compiled an English/Burmese dictionary in 1849. Seven of his ten children died very young.

When asked if the prospects to evangelize the world were possible, he said, “As bright, Sir, as the promises of God.” He died on a cruise he specifically took for health reasons and was buried at sea. As he died, he said, “I feel so strong in Christ.” His wife awaiting his return was shocked upon the docking of the ship to learn of this.

He died leaving 100 national pastors and 7,000 church members. He had 13 children. His favorite Bible passages were Ephesians 3:17-18 and Matthew 2:2. – (Excerpt taken from the Reese Chronological Encyclopedia of Christian Biographies. Used by permission.)

A Spiritual Application for Our Lives:

Adoniram Judson was no ordinary man. He was a pioneer in the work of modern missions. His remarkable perseverance despite insurmountable odds and heartache testify of a power that was not from within – God enabled Judson for the task He had for him. Indeed, his life testifies that “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). The power of God on an obedient servant is limitless. Yet, let us not forget Christ’s warning: “for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). 

Judson learned to endure heartache and difficulty in the light of eternity. There is no other explanation. He endured the loss of his first and second wives. 10 of his 13 children died before reaching adulthood. Judson personally experienced torturous imprisonment and persecution. Yet, through it all our faithful God was with Him. 

The testimony of Judson and his courageous wife, Ann, inspired an entire generation of young people to go with the gospel. Their methods and patterns are still in use. Equipping the Burmese people to carry on in the faith was the greatest priority to Judson. Translating the Scriptures into the Burmese language was essential for this work. To this end, Adoniram and Ann spent many laborious hours studying and working. A Judson biographer, Hannah Chaplin Conant, gives a miraculous account of God’s protection of the manuscripts. Allow this account to remind you of the watchful care God has over His servants.

It [the translation] was taken to Ava in manuscript; and when Mr. Judson was thrown into prison, was secretly sewed up by his wife in a cushion too hard and unsightly to tempt the cupidity even of his jailers, and used by him as a pillow. When, at the close of seven months, he and his fellow sufferers were so rudely thrust into the inner prison, the old pillow fell to the share of one of the keepers; but finding it probably too hard for his use, he threw it back, and it came once more into its owner’s hands. It was again lost when he was driven to Oung-pen- la; and being stripped, by one of the attendants, of the mat which was tied around it, the roll of hard cotton was again flung back into the prison. Here it was found by Moung Ing, who took it home, as a memorial of his teacher, without suspecting its priceless contents. “Several months after, the manuscript, which now makes a part of the Burmese Bible, was found within, uninjured.

Excerpts from a letter to the “Female Members of Christian Churches in the United States of America.

Below is a small excerpt from one of Judson’s many lengthy letters. It is addressed to believing women but contains many convicting truths for us. Allow its words to prod your heart today. 

Wait not, therefore, for the fashionable to set an example; wait not for one another; listen not to the news from the next town; but let every individual go forward, regardless of reproach, fearless of consequences. The eye of Christ is upon you. Death is hastening to strip you of your ornaments and to turn your fair forms into corruption and dust…When placed before that awful bar, in the presence of that Being whose eyes are as a flame of fire, and whose irrevocable fiat will fix you forever in heaven or in hell, and mete out the measure of your everlasting pleasures and pains, what course will you then wish you had taken? Will you then wish that, in defiance of his authority, you had adorned your mortal bodies with gold, and precious stones, and costly attire, cherishing self-love, vanity, and pride? Or will you wish that you had chosen a life of self-denial, renounced the world, taken up the cross daily, and followed him? And as you will then wish you had done, do now.

Truly there is a message here for all followers of Christ! When we stand before our mighty Redeemer how we will wish we had given Him more. As for hardship, “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). As we look into the hands that received the nails of Calvary, we will wish we had unclenched our tiny fists, to receive the full measure of His blessing. So then, let us “as [we] will then wish [we] had done, do now.” 

 A Suggestion for Further Reading…

A Memoir of the Life and Labors of the Rev. Adoniram Judson. D.D. – Francis Wayland (1853)

Adoniram Judson; A Biography – Edward Judson (1894)

The Earnest Man: A Sketch of the Character and Labors of Adoniram Judson, First Missionary to Burmah – Hannah Chaplin Conant (1856)

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