‘I am clear that I am called to go!’
William Carey had already stirred up a new interest in world mission. He had already prompted the formation of a ‘Missionary Society’ which had begun to raise funds for world mission.
Now came the real test: who should go?
For Carey it was clear. He knew he had been called by God to go (George, Faithful Witness,IVP p.76). What may seem strange to us is that his wife and family would not be going with him.
William: Yes. Dorothy: No!
He had a clear call to India – an ‘appointment’, he called it. But Dorothy was not keen to go, and only consented that their eldest son should go with him until he was able to establish a home there. Then, possibly, the rest of the family would follow.
So the original party was to be William, his eight year old son, Felix, and another minister, John Thomas. But all that was to change, as we shall see.
In a final service in London, Carey shared his dream of translating the Bible in to the local Indian languages. A printer, William Ward, was in the congregation and spoke with Carey afterwards. ‘You must come over and print it for us!’ said Carey. Seven years later he did just that.
Colonialists and Missionaries were not serving the same purpose
Carey had no official documentation or permission to preach in the British territories in India. In fact, the Empire kept missionaries out. The gospel inevitably leads to emancipation and while you could go as a chaplain to expats it was not at all easy to go as a church planter amongst locals. Empire and missionary work did not always go hand in hand – as we are often led to believe.
Newton on Carey: ‘He is an Apostle!‘
Carey went to the converted slaver and, now, Anglican Minister John Newton for advice.
‘What is the company [The British ‘East India Company’] should send us home on our arrival in Bengal?’ asked Carey. ‘Then conclude’, replied Newton, ‘that your Lord has nothing there for you to accomplish. But if He have, then no power on earth can hinder you.’ Not brilliant advice, and Carey sought to appeal to the Company before going. (George:82)
Newton was later to describe William Carey in glowing terms: ‘Such a man as Carey is more to me than bishop or archbishop: he is an apostle.’ (ibid)
Visas aren’t just a modern necessity
Carey urged Newton to try and get special permission from the East India Company for Carey’s work but he failed. William Wilberforce, who was working hard in the background to have the company’s policy towards evangelism changed, had not succeeded yet in adding the possibility of ‘religious improvement’ to the responsibilities of the company, thus clearing a way for church planters to go officially. It seemed they were unlikely to get on board any ship bound for India without the proper licence.
To read the next post, ‘Colonialism and Christian Mission’, click here
To read the first part of the William Carey Story click here
© 2011 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides