Judson, Adoniram

Judson, Adoniram the senior Baptist missionary to Burmah, was born in Maiden, Mass., Aug. 9, 1788. He was the eldest son of Adoniram and Abigail Judson. Before he was ten years of age he had acquired a reputation as a superior student and in 1807 graduated with the highest honors from Providence College (now Brown University), being not yet twenty years old. For a short period subsequently he was unsettled in his religious belief, but aroused by the death of an old classmate under peculiar circumstances, he became an earnest inquirer after the truth, and, though not a Christian, was admitted as a "special student" in the divinity school of Andover, and while there was converted, and joined the Congregational Church. In 1809 he declined a tutorship in Brown University, and in February, 1810, formed the resolution of becoming a missionary to the heathen. Several young men joined the seminary at this time who had also been for some time impressed with the need of missions to unchristian peoples. Judson became intimately associated with them, and their zeal finally led them to press this object on the attention of the American churches, and, though not properly the cause, they were the occasion of the formation of the American Board of Commissioners for. Foreign Missions, who sent Mr. Judson to England to confer with the London Missionary Society as to the practicability of an affiliation between the societies and their joint operation in "foreign parts." Mr. Judson left America on this errand January 1, 1811, but on the way was captured by a privateering vessel, carried to France, and did not reach London till April 6, 1811. His mission failed in its primary object, but was of advantage to the cause of missions in America, for the American Board resolved to assume the responsibility of sending out its own missionaries. Mr. Judson, after marrying Ann Hasseltine; Feb. 5, 1812, embarked for India on the 19th of the same month, under the auspices of this new organization. Changing his views of baptism on the voyage, almost immediately after his arrival he sought immersion at the hands of Dr. Carey, the Baptist missionary at Serampore. The Baptists in America were already possessed of considerable missionary zeal and intelligence and, on learning of Dr. Judson's change of view, were roused to intense earnestness, and in 1814 they organized a denominational missionary society, and took Dr. Judson under their patronage. The hostility of the East India Company towards missionaries was at that time so intense, that within ten days after Judson's arrival in India he was peremptorily ordered to leave the country, and, being forced to comply, he took passage in a vessel for the Isle of France, Nov. 30, 1812. He subsequently returned to Madras, but, finding the East India Company uncompromising in their opposition, he departed for Burma, and reached Rangoon July 13, 1813. Accepting Burmah as his mission field, Mr. Judson addressed himself to the task of acquiring the language of that country, and not only attained to the greatest familiarity with it, but spoke and wrote it with "the elegance of a cultured scholar." At an early period in these pursuits he published some "Grammatical Notices" of the language, which in a few short pages (only twenty-six) furnish "a most complete grammar of this difficult tongue." In imitation of the Burmese rest houses attached to their pagodas for the accommodation of pilgrims and worshippers, Mr. Judson instituted a Zyat in the public street for the reception of and conversation with inquirers about Christianity. This was ever a notable feature of his ministry, as he spent whole days thus with the people. Meeting with some success among the people, he resolved to go to Ava, the capital, and "lay his missionary designs before the throne, and solicit toleration for the Christian religion." His efforts were ineffectual, and he returned to Rangoon, and made a short trip to Calcutta for the recovery of Mrs. Judson's health. On July 20, 1822, Dr. Price, a newly arrived missionary physician, was summoned to attend on the king at Ava, and Mr. Judson was compelled to accompany him as interpreter. While at Ava Mr. Judson became known as the "Religion- propagating teacher," and, as his missionary prospects seemed favorable, though he went to Rangoon temporarily, he returned to Ava to prosecute his work. War breaking out between the British-India and the Burmese governments, all the foreigners at Ava came under suspicion as spies, and Mr. Judson, with others, was imprisoned. The horrible experiences of that incarceration cannot readily be described. On March 25, 1826, Mr. Judson himself wrote, "Through the kind interposition of our heavenly Father, our lives have been preserved in the most imminent danger from the hand of the executioner, and in repeated instances of most alarming illness during. my protracted imprisonment of one year and five months; nine months in three pairs of fetters, two months in five, six months in one, and two months a prisoner at large." After his release he rendered most important service to the British government in the formation of the treaty at Yandabo; and later in a commercial treaty. While absent with the government embassy as interpreter, his first wife, one of the noblest of women, died. Mr. Judson shortly after (1827) returned from Ava and settled at Amherst, but subsequently removed to Maulmain, as events had made it a much more important post. From this time to 1834 he was variously employed in his mission work at Maulmain, Rangoon, Prome, and other places, and became interested in the Karens. (q.v.), among, whom he made several missionary tours. In 1834 he married Mrs. Sarah Boardman, and completed his translation of the whole Bible into Burmese, in the revising. and perfecting of which, however, he spent sixteen years more. This was the great work of his life and the best judges venture to hazard the opinion that three centuries hence Judson's Bible will be the Bible of the Christian Church of Burmah" (Calcutta Review, 14, 434). He also compiled a short Burmese and English dictionary. With a larger work of this kind he was occupied at the time of his death. In 1839-40 his health failed, and he was obliged to take several voyages for its recovery. In 1845, in consequence of the failing health of Mrs. Judson, he left for America. Mrs. Judson died at St. Helena, and Mr. Judson, continuing his voyage, reached Boston on. October 15. He was received, in America "with affectionate and enthusiastic veneration that knew no bounds. His eminent position as the founder and pioneer of the mission; his long and successful labors in the East; his romantic and eventful life, associated with all that is most beautiful and lofty in human nature; his worldwide fame, and his recent afflictions, encircled him in, the people's mind with the halo of an apostle." But Mr. Judson's heart was in Burmah. After marrying Miss Emily Chubbuck in June, 1846, he again set sail for India, and arrived at Rangoon on Nov. 30 of that year. His health, however, again declined, and he was obliged once more to resort to the sea for relief, but died on his way to the Isle of Bourbon, April 12, 1850, and was buried at sea. (J.T.G.)

Topical Outlines Nave's Bible Topics International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Online King James Bible King James Dictionary

Verse reference tagging and popups powered by VerseClick™.