Obedience and Blessing: Judsons, Newells, and Rice

Obedience and Blessing: Judsons, Newells, and Rice

On 17 June, 1812, some 208 years ago, the brig Caravan sailed into the harbor at Calcutta, four months after embarking from Salem, Massachusetts. Its safe arrival was remarkable, for war seemed to be everywhere, threatening its passage. Napoleon and his French army, menace to all of Europe, was suffering defeat at the hands of the Russians. South Americans were rising in force to follow Simon Bolivar's struggle for liberty. The new United States was poised on the brink of a war with Great Britain. The world was in turmoil. There was another war waging in the hearts of two missionary couples, as well, and this was a war for obedience.

On board the Caravan were Adoniram and Anne Hasseltine Judson, and Samuel and Harriet Newman. They had all been reared in Congregationalist homes, been baptized as infants, and had championed the formation of the first Congregationalist foreign missions-sending agency in America, established in 1810. They were appointed as missionaries and, after their ordinations, set sail on 19 February, bound for India. They would meet William Carey, the famous Baptist missionary from England, when they landed. The Baptists had been there since 1793, and the work of evangelization was underway.

The Judsons and Newells studied their Greek New Testament texts en route, learning from its pages the meaning and practice of baptism. They soon came to understand that the New Testament taught believer's baptism as an act of identification with Christ as one committed to become His disciple. This is when the war began in each heart. What was at stake if they followed the New Testament pattern of baptism? They would leave their family religious upbringings, familiar church traditions, and disappoint all of their missionary sending-agency friends. They would have no income. They would be met in Calcutta by the Baptists, a group not well received by some denominations in America at the time. Despite their pivotal role in the passing of the Bill of Rights and the winning of religious freedom for Americans, the Baptists were still a smaller group, considered "peculiar" by established churches like Anglicans and Congregationalists. After prayer and at great price, the two couples put conviction ahead of convenience. Obedience brought peace. With that decision, they became the Father's world-changers.

When they arrived, the missionaries were met by William Carey and were immersed in the Baptist Chapel in Calcutta. God rewarded them with fruitfulness that only eternity can reveal. Countless millions have since come to know Christ as a result of their faithfulness. Their steps were guided, not by tradition or family or friends or economics, but by the Word of God. What an important lesson this is for our generation!
"When a person's ways please the Lord,
He makes even His enemies to be at peace with him."
Proverbs 16:7
Karen O'Dell Bullock
Posted in