By 1812, the Serampore mission station had grown significantly. The vast printing shop – complete with presses for the printing of Bibles, tracts and other Christian books – provided employment for dozens of natives who worked on new dictionaries and grammar books.
The mission’s first publication was the Bengali New Testament. “Between 1800 and 1834, the press printed Bible translations in almost 50 languages, 38 of which were translated at Serampore by Carey and his associates” (wikipedia.org/wiki/Serampore Mission Press).
“By this time 11 Indian churches had been planted, averaging over 30 members in each location. Carey and his colleagues had trained twenty Indian evangelists and pastors who were taking the gospel to their own people and shepherding them as well” (www.tms.edu/blog/william-carey-morning-star-modern-missions/).
o Serampore fire
Sadly, however, the mission team faced a severe blow on 11th March 1812. A devastating fire completely razed the printing office including manuscripts, 14 types in Eastern languages and printed Bibles.
Undeterred by the disaster, the missionaries cleared the ruins, and printing work resumed shortly after. When news of the calamity reached England, funds were collected and sent to Serampore. The type was recast, and a month later, two improved editions of the New Testament went to the press.
o First convert
After labouring for seven years in India, Carey baptised his first convert, Krishnu Pal. A carpenter, Krishnu had come to Dr Thomas for treatment when he dislocated his arm. Krishnu’s request for baptism was met with angry threats to his life. A riot broke out which was dispersed by the Governor’s soldiers.
On 28th December 1800, Krishnu was baptised at the Hooghly River. Subsequently, Krishnu’s family also came to the Lord. The new convert served the Lord faithfully as a preacher of the Gospel for the next twenty years of his life.
Though the natives were slow to respond to the Gospel at the beginning, the number of believers grew steadily. By 1821, there were more than 1,400 baptised converts.
o Social reforms
Since his early years in India, Carey had violently opposed the natives’ brutal religious rites like suttee (the burning of widows on the funeral pyres of their dead husbands) and infanticide (the sacrifice of infants to the Ganges River). Carey’s research and campaigning led the government to eventually ban these cruel practices.
William Carey served the Lord in India for forty-one years. Throughout his long life, he lived out his famous maxim: “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.”
Carey persisted and plodded on in the face of extreme hardships and personal sufferings including the insanity of his wife, Dorothy. Her debilitating mental instability added to Carey’s burdens and was one of his sorest trials in the ministry. Marshman, his fellow missionary in Serampore, commented: “Carey worked away on his studies and translations while an insane wife, frequently wrought up to a state of most distressing excitement, was in the next room” (wikivividly.com/wiki/William_Carey).
Carey never returned to England. Despite grievous trials and discouragement, he persevered in the ministry. By the time he died on 9th June 1834 at the age of 72, the Bible had been translated and printed into forty Indian languages.
In Carey’s biography, Thomas John Bach, rightly observed: “Not many missionaries have started their careers with so few advantages, or culminated their work with so much success for the glory of God and the good of man, as did William Carey” (www.wholesomewords.org/missions/bcarey18.html).
William Carey was mightily used of the Lord to bring the Gospel and the Bible to the Indians whom he loved dearly. He left behind a legacy that has inspired other missionaries to follow in his footsteps and to serve their Master in heathen lands.
May the life of this faithful servant challenge us to devote our lives to serve the Lord wholeheartedly. Let us emulate Carey’s unwavering faith and perseverance. May we be willing to give our all for the sake of the Gospel that has been entrusted to us. Amen.