In 1781, when he was twenty, Carey joined a small group of nonconformist Baptists at Hackleton. But as Carey grew in faith, he desired a deeper knowledge of God. This zeal led Carey to walk five miles to Olney every week – to listen to the preaching of Rev Thomas Scott whom he greatly admired. Carey testified: “If there be anything of the work of God in my soul, I owe much of it to his preaching when I first set out in the ways of the Lord” (Finnie Kellsye M, William Carey by trade a cobbler).
It was at one of these meetings in 1782 that Carey met Andrew Fuller, the future secretary of the missionary society. As a result of his meeting with Fuller, Carey began to preach in Olney. On 5th October 1783, he was baptised by Dr John Ryland who recorded in his diary these words: “This day baptised a poor journeyman shoemaker” (www.wholesomewords.org/missions/bcarey3.html).
Soon after, Carey joined the church at Olney where he was formally accepted as a preacher. In 1785, he moved to Moulton to take up a schoolmaster’s position. A year later, he became pastor of the local Baptist church there.
To Carey, the pastoral office was the highest honour on earth. He said: “Preaching, though a great part, is not all of our employ. We must maintain the character of teacher, bishop, overlooker in the chimney-corner as well as in the pulpit. In his own ‘chimney-corner’ one of the rewards of his faithfulness the following October was confirmed in the baptism of his wife” (Finnie).
His income of “eleven pounds a year from his people, and five pounds from a fund in London, in addition to six or seven shillings per week for school teaching” was insufficient to support his family (www.wholesomewords.org/missions/bcarey3.html). For the next four years, Carey resumed his shoemaking business.
o The call to mission work
It was in Moulton that Carey’s interest in missions was aroused. “To many, Cook’s Journal was a thrilling story of adventure, but to Carey it was a revelation of human need! He then began to read every book that had any bearing on the subject” (ibid).
The more Carey read and studied, the more he was convinced that the world needed the Gospel of Christ. Fascinated with the lives of John Elliot and David Brainerd – missionaries to the American Indians – and the life and ministry of the apostle Paul, Carey “was driven to begin compiling detailed statistics about the populations of countries and tribes unreached by the gospel. It was said that the world atlas was his other Bible, and he would sometimes be moved to tears simply by looking at it” (www.tms.edu/blog/william-carey-morning-star-modern-missions/).
In 1789, Carey accepted an invitation to pastor the Harvey Lane Baptist Church in Leicester. It was here in Leicester that his burden for missions grew into a fire that could not be extinguished.
Challenged further by a statement from Andrew Fuller’s book, The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation – “if it is the duty of all men to believe whenever the Gospel is presented to them, it must be the duty of all who have received the Gospel to endeavor to make it universally known” – Carey felt God’s call. In the quietness of his workshop, he responded, “Here am I, Lord. Send me.”
Sadly, however, Carey’s fellow Baptist ministers did not share his evangelistic zeal. At a ministers’ meeting in Northampton, when Carey laid bare his heart’s burden before his contemporaries, one of them snapped, “Young man, sit down: when God pleases to convert the heathen, He will do it without your aid or mine” (www.wholesomewords.org/missions/bcarey10.html).
Despite this discouraging encounter, the burden for lost souls in heathen lands never left Carey’s heart. That night, he began working on a pamphlet, An Inquiry into the Obligation of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathen. In it, Carey gave a detailed exposition of Matthew 28: 19-20 and argued that the Great Commission was not just for the apostles but also for believers of every age.
It was Carey’s objective that this 87-page booklet which he completed in early 1792 “would awaken churches from spiritual apathy towards evangelism and convince them that God’s sovereignty is not diminished through his use of human means in the spreading of the gospel. … Carey’s pamphlet was revolutionary. It was the first theology of missions ever known to have been published. The statistics he produced were overwhelming. Apathy on the part of the church was culpable; there was no justification for inaction” (www.tms.edu/blog/william-carey-morning-star-modern-missions/). (… to be continued)