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Adoniram Judson, Part 1

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
November 11, 2021 12:00 am

Adoniram Judson, Part 1

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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November 11, 2021 12:00 am

Few missionaries in history ever suffered as much as Adoniram Judson, but that is also why few have left such a profound legacy. His biography is one of those rare stories that captivates like a grand novel but convicts like a great revival.

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Adoniram Judson was destined for a life of suffering. He knew that anyone who married him would have a difficult life. Imagine some young man wanting to marry your daughter and his proposal sounding like this. I have now to ask you whether you can consent 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? Sometimes God calls people into lives of service that are difficult and even dangerous. The implications of those dangers go just beyond the person.

Family members and loved ones have to share in the hardships as well. Today on Wisdom for the Heart, Stephen Davey continues through his series entitled Legacies of Light. Throughout the series, Stephen's been looking at heroes of the Christian faith. Today, we begin looking at the life of Judson.

You're going to find his life to be both inspiring and challenging. Now, here's Stephen with today's lesson. In John's Gospel, the Lord Jesus is speaking to his disciples and he is foretelling his death and his resurrection and his coming glory or glorification. And the Lord is not only speaking prophetically of his own death, but of all those who surrender.

In fact, to this day, those who surrender their lives to following Jesus Christ no matter what. Look at verse 24 there. This will be the life verse lived out by the individual.

I'm going to introduce you to tonight perhaps in a little bit deeper way. But the Lord says in verse 24 of John 12, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit. Jesus certainly implies here that suffering and fruit bearing go hand in hand. In fact, there seems to be some parallel, doesn't there, between suffering much and influencing much for the glory of Christ. Have you ever wondered why it is that people were still reading about today and people were still studying in the Bible and throughout church history? People who accomplished so much suffered so much. In fact, it seems like the more they suffered, the more they are studied to this day. The words of our Lord as he enters Jerusalem, knowing that within days he's going to be crucified, still echo to this day with this lasting principle, a legacy of spiritual fruit belongs to that man or woman, young person, who effectively says to Jesus Christ, here am I, bury me.

If there was anybody in church history that seemed to fit this description, at least in modern church history, of a fruitful life of surrender, it would be the man who would become America's first foreign missionary. He would suffer incredibly. He would bury all but one of his children. He would dig graves for his first wife and then his second wife 19 years later. Many of his associates would die as well from disease and difficulty. In fact, long after becoming a living legend, Adoniram Judson would write this kind of appeal to potential missionary candidates.

Ready for this? I quote, Remember, a large proportion of those who come out on a mission here to the east die within five years after leaving their native land. So walk softly. Death is narrowly watching your steps.

How's that for a recruiting strategy? Are you willing to be a seed planted in the ground by suffering, even dying bear a harvest of fruit for the gospel of Jesus Christ? Well, as I mentioned, this missionary's name was Adoniram Judson. He was born into a pastor's home in 1788 in Boston, Massachusetts. By the age of three, he was already revealing that he was a rather precocious child, a quick learner. His mother was able, to her surprise, to teach him how to read in one week.

My mother had the same problem with me, and it's a cross I have to bear. It was during a week while his father was away preaching, and Adoniram surprised his father upon his return by reading an entire chapter to him from the Bible. Three years of age. No, that wasn't me. I don't know about you. At age three, I was climbing up the stairs to the alpharic and go up and jump and still survive. That was my level of intelligence.

That was me. When he was 16, his father enrolled him in Rhode Island College, now Brown University. He did that because his father, although his father graduated from Yale, considered at that time Yale and Harvard to be too liberal, if only he could see them now. Well, Adoniram would go to Brown University. He'd be at the top of every class throughout college, and he would graduate valedictorian in 1807.

However, he would keep a secret that would not be revealed for at least a year, and when he revealed it after his 20th birthday, it would break his parents' heart. Adoniram had been heavily influenced by a fellow student named Jacob Eames. Jacob Eames was popular, brilliant, artistic, and he was an unbeliever.

Jacob became one of Adoniram's closest friends, and he introduced Adoniram to what was called then free thinking, which is basically atheism, French skepticism, and it ultimately denies the deity of Christ and the gospel of atonement. By the time Adoniram Judson graduated from Brown University, he had abandoned the Bible he'd learned how to read at the age of three, and he'd also abandoned the gospel. After informing his parents of his unbelief with their hearts shattered, he attempted to tutor for a year, and that didn't work out, and so he set out to tour New England on horseback. He eventually joined a group of actors in New York City, where he lived what he called a reckless vagabond life. He would write that they would find lodging in an inn, run up the score, and then slip out in the middle of the night without paying any of their bills.

But after only a few weeks in New York City with these actors, he kind of grew tired of their undisciplined lifestyle, and he struck out on his own, again, roaming without any purpose, without any meaning, searching. One night, he stopped to spend the night at an inn he'd never stayed at before, and the innkeeper apologized to him when he arrived that he would more than likely have his sleep interrupted by a young man next door in the room next to him who was violently ill. Sure enough, during the night, the moaning and the crying and the groaning of the young man in the next room kept him awake. The man seemed to be on the brink of dying.

His moaning and his groaning and lamenting and crying kept Adoniram lying awake on his bed almost all night. Adoniram wondered about this young man's soul. Where would he spend eternity? What was his hope after death?

In fact, he realized he shouldn't even be asking those kinds of questions because he didn't believe that anymore. In fact, he would recount later that he himself lay there thinking the same thoughts about his own soul and if he were that young man. Eventually, the moaning stopped, and Adoniram slipped off to sleep. But early the next morning, Adoniram got up and he asked the innkeeper about the young man's health, the outcome. And the innkeeper confirmed that the young man had indeed died hours earlier. Adoniram asked him, do you know who he was? And the innkeeper said, oh yes, his name was Eames, Jacob Eames. And Adoniram could hardly move. He would stay at that inn for hours pondering the death of his friend. He would later tell a friend, and I quote, to think that hell should open up in this country inn and snatch Jacob Eames, my dearest friend and guide, from the next room. This simply could not be pure coincidence.

And of course it wasn't. The sovereign grace of Christ, in fact, Adoniram realized that God was on his trail, he said. He immediately returned home and to the joy of his parents a few months later trusted Christ for his personal salvation and devoted himself to the Lord.

He would be marked forever by that event that God so dramatically used. Two years later he was wrapping up some seminary studies and he applied for missionary status with the Congregational Church, a congregational mission board. As a student he had heard a sermon that illustrated the mission fields of Burma, China, India, and he determined to give his life to serve Christ in that part of the world, which is then interesting again that his parents who were thrilled with his conversion were not happy with his desire for missionary service overseas. In fact, he had been offered a faculty position at Brown University, which he declined much to the frustration of his father.

He was offered a paid pastoral position in a church nearby his family home, which he declined to his mother's tears. On the same day he presented himself to the Congregational Mission Board, he met a young woman named Anne Haseltine. And over the next few weeks they quickly fell in love. Adnan was clear about his life's goal. He told her and everybody else he was heading for Burma.

That's located between southern India and China, a land that we now call Myanmar. She turned out to be just as committed to the gospel as he was. So one month after meeting her, again this is not what you want your children to hear, but one month after meeting her, he asked her father if he could marry her. His letter to Anne's father is revealing.

I'm going to read some of it to you because it reveals his passion for the lost and it's almost prophetic in detail. The letter reads, By the way, dads, imagine some young man wanting to marry your daughter and his proposal sounding like this. 1800s English, I quote, I have now to ask you whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring to see her no more in this world. Okay, that's a period for me.

Think about it. Listen, whether you can consent to her departure for a heathen land, her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary's life, whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean, to the fatal influences 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 heaven and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this and the promise of meeting your daughter in the world of glory with a crown of righteousness brightened by the acclamations of heathen now saved through her means who will there be praising her savior? How's that for a proposal? Man, imagine, I'd like to take your daughter away from you to a heathen land where she'll probably suffer every deprivation and more than likely a violent death.

You can see, can't you, in this young man, no holds barred. This is what I'm going to do. This is where we're going to go. This is what matters most. Anne's father said yes and so did she. In a way, Anne, her father, mother, really we're all saying the same thing to God just in different ways. Here am I.

Bury me. Two weeks after their wedding, they are on a ship bound for India. The voyage would last four months. And I want to bring up one thing because it creates problems and again shows you a little bit of their character. It's going to create problems with their congregationalist supporters back home and their family. Remember, his dad is a congregational pastor. You see, during this voyage, they spent a lot of time ransacking the book of Acts, the Gospels, studying the word on subjects related to church planting. And they came to the conclusion that salvation should precede baptism.

And they also concluded that baptism, correctly understood, literally translated, could only mean immersion. In that voyage, they changed their entire view and their affiliation. Which means, and by the way, this is no small thing, they departed from America as congregationalists and landed in India as Baptists. Now the problem was there was no American Baptist missionary board. He's the first missionary from America. So they effectively declined, walked away from all of their support and their supporters. I bring that issue up because it reveals something about them early on, both of them, their willingness to confront their religious past, their willingness to potentially upset their families, their willingness to lose all their financial support, all for the sake of biblical conviction, which reveals quite a bit about the metal of their character that will be put to the test. Adnarm and Anne Judson were baptized by immersion soon after landing in Calcutta, India by the son of William Carey.

Felix was his name with whom they stayed when they arrived. They would trust God and frankly never look back. Now the good news was when news reached America of their changed position, Baptist churches rallied.

Evidently they were a little slower than the Congregationalists and they created the American Baptist Missionary Union and promptly began supporting them. Now there were other changes ahead for them. They expected to settle in an area where they were not allowed when they arrived. They had to move several times and eventually they settled on an area known as Rangoon, Burma, just north of Thailand. There they would spend the next ten years of their lives attempting to learn the Burmese language. They had to learn it without a teacher, without a grammar, without a dictionary, without any other believers, without a church, without any help. Adnarm had to learn and his wife Anne by literally creating his own Burmese grammar. See how God wired him at three to prepare him for what he would be doing at 23. So he would spend several years creating his own grammar, learning the language. It would take six years of study before he was able to preach his first sermon. Finally, seven years after arriving, Adnarm led the first Burmese individual to faith in Jesus Christ. Now think about it. Seven years before one convert to Christ.

I mean that doesn't really sell all that well to the supporters back home, does it? But they stayed with it. Part of the problem was in Burma, converting from Buddhism was punishable by death. A little wonder, it would take Judson 12 years before he had 18 people baptized and in the church.

12 years, 18 people. On one occasion, Adnarm and another missionary traveled to see the emperor of Burma to petition for freedom, to preach and for people to convert without losing their lives or being threatened of the loss of their lives. He not only disregarded their request, but he threw the gospel tract that Adnarm had written to the ground after reading only a few lines. In the meantime, Roger William Judson, their little boy, died at eight months of age. Back in their home region, Ann Judson continued serving along with her husband. She had been able to befriend the wife of the political leader in Rangoon, sort of like the governor in our culture, and begin to make inroads. Before long, a printing press arrived and materials that Adnarm had translated into Burmese were now being printed by the thousands.

Still no real fruit, but they were now coalescing into printed materials that they could distribute and they were being distributed. It included a full and complete translation of the Gospel of Matthew. Eventually, Adnarm would complete the entire New Testament into Burmese. About the time he finishes this translation, war breaks out between England and Burma, and all of the English missionaries are immediately suspected of being spies for the British government.

There was trouble in the air. Five years after baptizing their first convert, on June 8, 1824, Burmese officials suddenly broke into their home, threw Adnarm to the ground, tied him up, and dragged him away to prison. He was placed in a prison building with a hundred other inmates, male and female. They were all lying on the floor, their feet in stocks and iron chains, weighing 14 pounds. In fact, Adnarm would wear the scars of those chains for the rest of his life. At night, he records, a bamboo pole was passed between the prisoners' shackled feet and then hoisted up by pulleys so the prisoners literally hung upside down. At a height which allowed their shoulders to rest on the ground while their feet were pulled above their heads all night long. After some time, Adnarm was moved to a cage that once housed a lion, not high enough to stand, not broad enough to lie down.

During this time, Ann delivered their daughter, Maria. She would walk to that jail every day, bringing Adnarm food that she would beg the jailer to pass along to him because the prison supplied no food. Inmates simply starved to death. Soon she became ill and unable to nurse her baby. Finally, if you can imagine this, the jailer had mercy on them and actually let Adnarm take the baby each evening into the village and beg for some nursing mother to give their baby milk. Finally, suddenly, Adnarm was released from prison almost two years in there. He was evidently needed to translate between the English and the Burmese.

They found a use for him. By the time he returned home, Ann was dead. A few months later, their little Maria died. A few months after that, he received news that his father had also only recently died as well, and he was crushed by it all. It just all bore down on him. He entered a deep depression.

It would last nearly three years. He dropped his translation work. He retreated from anything that might promote any sense of happiness or pleasure. He refused to eat with those outside the mission station. He renounced his honorary doctorate that he had been given from Brown University.

He gave all of his savings away to the Baptist mission board and asked that his salary be reduced. He then built a hut some distance from his mission compound deep in the jungle, dangerous and alone where he moved in. He even dug next to the hut an open grave where he expected to be buried, and he would sit in that grave for hours contemplating the decaying of his own flesh. He would write in his journal, though, and on one occasion during this time he wrote these words of utter spiritual desolation. He said, and I quote, God is to me the great unknown. I believe in him, but I cannot find him.

Is it possible that God in his timing waited until this seed had truly died? We're going to stop right here for today. We'll resume this lesson on tomorrow's broadcast. Our Bible teacher, Stephen Davey, is working his way through a series entitled Legacies of Light. He's examining the lives of some Christian heroes who provide a godly example to us today. There are 16 biographies in total, and I hope you'll be able to join us for all of them.

Before we end our time together, I want to make sure you know about two resources we have for you. The first is the book that's based on this series. Stephen's taken the content of this current series, Legacies of Light, and turned it into a beautifully bound hardback book. Each one of the biographies we're studying is a chapter in the book. It's a wonderful addition to add to your library of Christian resources, or to give to a friend. Our supply of this book is limited, so order soon to get yours. I also want you to be aware of a book that we have in our children's collection, written by Stephen's son, Seth.

It's called Marvel at the Mystery. It gives children an insightful look at the incarnation of Jesus. With Christmas approaching, you might have some children in your life who would enjoy this book. Both of these resources, Legacies of Light and Marvel at the Mystery, are available today, and we can give you information if you call us at 866-48-BIBLE.

That's 866-482-4253. You'll also find both of these resources on our website, which is While you're there, be sure and explore all the other resources we have available, including the complete archive of Stephen's Bible teaching. As always, we'd enjoy hearing from you. It's a delight to get cards and notes from those who listen to our broadcast. If you'd like to write to Stephen, address your card or letter to Wisdom International, PO Box 37297, Raleigh, North Carolina, 27627. Well, as I mentioned a few moments ago, we're going to bring you the conclusion to this lesson on tomorrow's broadcast, right here on Wisdom for the Heart. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-23 21:40:28 / 2023-07-23 21:49:36 / 9

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