Adoniram Judson was born August 9, 1788. I first met him as a freshman in college through the pages of his life story. Growing up in church I had heard the name of Adoniram Judson. To me, he was a pioneer missionary to Burma. Judson and his wife Ann were some of the first Baptist missionaries to be sent out of North America. (Actually, they did not leave as Baptists but they arrived that way!) Yet Judson was not always a missionary.
Adoniram Judson learned to read at the age of three. He had a brilliant mind and a personality that attracted others to him. By the time he was a young man many considered him a free thinker.
He knew all about the God of his father, the God of the Bible, and at the same time he knew nothing. A Christian home is one of the great blessings of life. Yet it is possible to grow up surrounded by truth without knowing Jesus Christ in a personal way. At some point, every young person must cross the threshold from their parent’s faith to their own.
As a freshman at Brown University he began to question everything he had been taught growing up in a pastor’s home. Much of this skepticism was planted in his mind through the influence of a fellow student named Jacob Eames. Eames was an outspoken unbeliever. It is impossible to exaggerate the influence of a single friend for good or evil.
Adoniram and Jacob spent most of their time in pursuing pleasure. Their greatest aim in life was personal fame. Little thought was given to eternity. Then came the events of September, 1808.
It was late when Adoniram turned his horse into a small village inn. There was only one room left and it was next to the room of a dying man. Adoniram was determined not to allow thoughts of death to disrupt a good night’s sleep.
Through the night the groans of a dying man made it nearly impossible to rest. Questions and fears filled his mind. Finally as day began to break he dressed and went downstairs to pay his bill. Little did Adoniram know that his world was about to change forever.
As he turned to leave he asked the innkeeper what had happened to the man in the next room. The innkeeper replied with a serious tone that the young man had died. The words seemed so final.
When Adoniram asked the name of the man the answer shook him to his core. The dying man was a college student from Brown University. His name was Jacob Eames.
Adoniram Judson had come face to face with death, with eternity. His best friend had often laughed at the thought of death and together they had scoffed at the idea of heaven and hell. But now everything was different. Judson would later say that his thoughts were consumed with one word – lost. Jacob Eames was lost. He was lost.
It was this divine appointment that brought Judson to a realization of his own sin in the sight of a holy God. What if that had been him? Where would he spend eternity?
Judson placed his faith in Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour. He would become a key figure in the record of world evangelism. This one event was not the end. It was the beginning, the beginning of an amazing adventure with God. Every day I walk past a church pew in our Christian Heritage Center at Crown College that came from Adoniram and Ann Judson’s church in Salem, Massachusetts. It is a constant reminder of what can become of one life when God becomes real to a man.
If you would like to read more about Adoniram Judson I would recommend To the Golden Shore by Courtney Anderson. Biography is a powerful tool. Experiences cannot be repeated but truth applies to us all. It must be personal.