Thursday, October 27, 2011

To The Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson


“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, 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 the crown of righteousness, brightened with the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Savior from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?”
This is not your typical, “may I have your daughter’s hand in marriage?” speech.  Yet, it is an excerpt from a letter written in 1810 for that very purpose by Adoniram Judson to John Hasseltine requesting permission to marry his daughter, Nancy, and to take her with him to serve as missionaries overseas.  Mr. Hasseltine gave his consent, and the young couple shortly found their way to shores of Burma.
Whether or not Judson truly expected to face the potential difficulties detailed in his letter, his words were prophetic.  He and those with him would eventually experience all the suffering mentioned there, save the violent death. 
The story of the life of Adoniram Judson, as told in Courtney Anderson’s To The Golden Shore, is all at once inspiring, encouraging, convicting, and horrifying.  The first Baptist missionary sent abroad from the shores of America, Judson exemplified the essence of the missionary heart and task.  After denying the faith in his college years, he was prompted by the death of his best friend to consider his own mortality and the purpose of his life.  Shortly, he was converted and dedicated his life to the spread of the gospel among the “heathen nations.” 
Judson’s dedication to the task is something unparalleled in our modern times.  That dedication, reflected in his letter to John Hasseltine, would lead him to spend his entire life in Burma, a land completely untouched by the gospel prior to his ministry there.  He diligently absorbed the local Burmese dialect so that he could translate the Bible into the native tongue.  He would spend thirty years laboring on that translation only to immediately begin revising it until the time of his death.  All the while, he was also writing and distributing gospel tracts in a land that was hostile to the Christian faith.  It took six years to see the first native convert. 
That Adoniram Judson labored so long and so faithfully is inspiring in itself.  However, the account of how he suffered throughout his ministry makes his dedication all the more amazing.  There was the seemingly constant loss of friends and family to disease, the imprisonment and torture at the hands of the Burmese government, and the numerous personal life-threatening illnesses.  There were two constant themes in Judson’s life: the ever-present specter of death and the methodical translation of the Bible into Burmese.  
To the Golden Shore:The Life of Adoniram Judson is one of the best books I have ever read.  It prompted me to examine the motives behind my life’s pursuits.  It put into blessed perspective the light, momentary difficulties I have experienced thus far.  And it challenged me to consider what meaningful return the cause of Christ is receiving for the investment God has made in me.  It is rare to find such an engaging and challenging story.  Courtney Anderson’s care in the writing of this work has made it an enduring classic in Baptist history, considered by many to be one of the greatest Christian biographies every written.  I highly recommend it to you.
Posted by Greg Birdwell

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