1788–1850
portrait

Au­gust 9, 1788, Mal­den, Mas­sa­chu­setts.

Ap­ril 12, 1850, Bay of Ben­gal, near Bur­ma.

At sea.

portrait

When but four years of age, [Jud­son] seemed to fore­sha­dow his fu­ture ca­reer. Ga­ther­ing the child­ren of the neigh­bor­hood around him, he was wont to mount a chair, and go through a preach­ing ser­vice with marked ear­nest­ness. His fa­vo­rite hymn on these oc­ca­sions was one of Watts’, com­menc­ing:

Go, preach my gos­pel, sa­ith the Lord.

During his course of stu­dy at Pro­vi­dence col­lege, a cir­cum­stance oc­curred that changed the whole fu­ture of his life. In his class was a young man named E—, to whom he was warm­ly at­tached, and by whose in­flu­ence he was led into pro­fessed in­fi­del­i­ty, to the great grief of his de­vot­ed par­ents.

Starting out on a tra­vel­ling tour at the close of his school, Jud­son as­sumed an­oth­er name and joined a the­a­tri­cal com­pa­ny in New York.

When­ev­er the thought of a mo­ther’s tears would oc­cur, he tried to soothe his conscience by say­ing, I am in no dan­ger, I am on­ly see­ing the world, the dark side of it as well as the bright.

After a while, pur­su­ing his jour­ney west­ward, he stopped at a coun­try inn. As the land­lord took him to his bed­room, he said: I am obliged to place you next door to a young man who is ex­ceed­ing­ly ill, prob­ab­ly in a dy­ing state, but I hope it will oc­ca­sion you no un­ea­si­ness.

It proved, how­ev­er, a ve­ry rest­less night; groans were fre­quent­ly heard, and oth­er sounds that made him think of Eter­ni­ty.

Alone, and in the dead of night, he felt the props of his in­fi­del­i­ty give way. Then he would try to shame his fears, by think­ing what his wit­ty, clear-mind­ed in­tel­lec­tu­al E— would say to such con­sum­mate boy­ish­ness.

At last, morn­ing came, and the bright flood of light which poured in­to his cham­ber dis­pelled all his su­per­sti­tious il­lu­sions. Go­ing in search of the land­lord, he made in­qui­ry about his fel­low-lodg­er.

He is dead, was the re­ply. Dead! Yes, he is gone, poor fel­low! Do you know who it was? O yes, it was a young man from Pro­vi­dence Col­lege—a ve­ry fine fel­low, his name was E—.

Judson was com­plet­ely stunned. He knew not what to say or do. Dead—Lost were the two words that kept ring­ing in his head.

He could go no fur­ther in his jour­ney. This death-scene of his in­fi­del com­panion was the pi­vot on which turned his des­ti­ny, both for time and eter­ni­ty.

Judson af­ter­wards en­tered the The­o­lo­gic­al Se­mi­na­ry at An­do­ver [Mas­sa­chu­setts], be­came a de­cide­d Chris­tian, and af­ter read­ing The Star in the East, re­solved to be­come a mis­sion­a­ry.

After mar­ry­ing Miss Ann H. Has­sel­tine, a young Chris­tian la­dy as ear­nest and de­vot­ed as she was ac­comp­lished and beau­ti­ful, the two set sail for the realms of hea­then dark­ness, on the 19th of Feb­ru­a­ry, 1812.

Just as they were get­ting un­der way with their mis­sion­a­ry work at Ava, the ca­pi­tal of Bur­ma [My­an­mar], war broke out, and Mr. Jud­son and others were vi­o­lent­ly seized as Eng­lish spies and cast in­to the death pri­son.

During nine months, he was stretched on the bare floor, bound by three pairs of ir­on fet­ters, and fast­ened to a long pole to pre­vent his mov­ing. This was dur­ing the hot sea­son, too, when he was shut up with a hun­dred pri­son­ers in a room with­out any win­dows, or any ap­pli­anc­es by which a breath of air could be ad­mit­ted, ex­cept through the cracks in the boards.

They were all obliged to lie in a row up­on the floor, with­out a mat­tress, or ev­en so much as a wood­en block, which they begged might be grant­ed them for a pil­low.

His whole per­i­od of in­des­crib­a­ble suf­fer­ing con­tin­ued for one year and se­ven months. Yet from this dark pri­son is­sued a hymn of praise that is now echo­ing around this world in the psalm­o­dy of the church. Jud­son dates it, Pri­son, Ava, March 1825.

It is a ver­si­fi­ca­tion of the Lord’s Pray­er, and shows the thoughts and feel­ings that filled his heart during his long pro­tract­ed ag­o­ny. He says it is com­prised in few­er words than the orig­in­al Greek, and in on­ly two more words than the com­mon trans­la­tion:—

Our father, God, who art in heaven,
All hallowed be thy name;
Thy kingdom come; thy will be done
In heaven and the earth the same.
Give us this day our daily bread;
And as we those forgive
Who sin against us, so may we
Forgiving grace receive.
Into temptation lead us not,
From evil set us free;
And thine the kingdom, thine the power
And glory, ever be.

His lov­ing wife, know­ing what the dai­ly bread meant in such a pri­son, ar­ranged, by means of some buf­fa­lo meat and plan­tains, to get up a mince pie, at least in ap­pear­ance.

But when it ar­rived in pri­son, its as­so­ci­a­tions brought so vi­vid­ly to mind the old com­forts of home, that he bowed his head up­on his knees, and wept till the tears flowed down to the chains about his an­kles.

Through his flow­ing tears he saw the home of his boy­hood again—his gen­tle mo­ther, his re­vered fa­ther, his much loved sis­ter and bro­ther around the noon­day meal.

His heart was too full to par­take of the de­li­cious mor­sel, and so he thrust it in­to the hand of an as­so­ci­ate.

In this time of tri­al he add­ressed thir­ty stan­zas to his in­fant daugh­ter, who, when twen­ty days old, was brought in­to pri­son to re­ceive a fa­ther’s kiss. The lines be­gan:

Sleep, darling infant, sleep,
Hushed on thy mother’s breast;
Let no rude sound of clanking chains,
Disturb thy balmy rest.

And yet af­ter pass­ing through all these pri­va­tions and pain­ful ex­per­i­enc­es, he could brush away his tears, and write:—

Sovereign love appoints the measure,
And the number of our pains,
And is pleased when we take pleasure
In the trials he ordains.

In 1850, Jud­son’s health had so brok­en down that his on­ly hope for res­to­ra­tion was a pro­tract­ed sea voy­age. On the 3rd of April, he em­barked on a ves­sel, bound to the Isle of France [now Mau­ri­ti­us].

Nine days lat­er, while out at sea, he breath­ed his last, and all that was mor­tal of Dr. Jud­son was com­mitted to the ocean’s deep, where his dust is rocked by the migh­ty bi­llows, till, to sea and land, God’s an­gel shall de­clare that there should be time no long­er.

Long, pp. 234–39

  1. Come, Ho­ly Spir­it, Dove Di­vine
  2. Come, Ho­ly Spir­it, Fa­ther Blest
  3. Into Temp­ta­tion Lead Us Not
  4. Our Fa­ther, God, Who Art in Hea­ven
  5. Our Sav­ior Bowed Be­neath the Wave
  6. Sing We to Our God Above