If you have never heard of William Carey, what follows is a brief, borrowed survey of his life. Most of this post is borrowed from Christianity Today, and the original article can be found here. Be encouraged by God’s providential evaluation of a faithful, yet not overtly “successful,” servant. Painful, plodding perseverance is the path to God’s promised reward (Matt. 16:24-28).
“Expect great things; attempt great things.” ~ William Carey
Carey was raised in the obscure, rural village of Paulerpury, in the middle of England. He apprenticed in a local cobbler’s shop, where the nominal Anglican was converted. He enthusiastically took up the faith, and though little educated, the young convert borrowed a Greek grammar and proceeded to teach himself New Testament Greek.
When his master died, he took up shoemaking in nearby Hackleton, where he met and married Dorothy Plackett, who soon gave birth to a daughter. But the apprentice cobbler’s life was hard—the child died at age 2—and his pay was insufficient. Carey’s family sunk into poverty and stayed there even after he took over the business…
In October 1799, things finally turned. He was invited to locate in a Danish settlement in Serampore, near Calcutta. He was now under the protection of the Danes, who permitted him to preach legally (in the British-controlled areas of India, all of Carey’s missionary work had been illegal).
Carey was joined by William Ward, a printer, and Joshua and Hanna Marshman, teachers. Mission finances increased considerably as Ward began securing government printing contracts, the Marshmans opened schools for children, and Carey began teaching at Fort William College in Calcutta.
In December 1800, after seven years of missionary labor, Carey baptized his first convert, Krishna Pal, and two months later, he published his first Bengali New Testament. With this and subsequent editions, Carey and his colleagues laid the foundation for the study of modern Bengali, which up to this time had been an “unsettled dialect.”
Carey continued to expect great things; over the next 28 years, he and his pundits translated the entire Bible into India’s major languages: Bengali, Oriya, Marathi, Hindi, Assamese, and Sanskrit and parts of 209 other languages and dialects.
He also sought social reform in India, including the abolition of infanticide, widow burning (sati), and assisted suicide. He and the Marshmans founded Serampore College in 1818, a divinity school for Indians, which today offers theological and liberal arts education for some 2,500 students.
By the time Carey died, he had spent 41 years in India without a furlough. His mission could count only some 700 converts in a nation of millions, but he had laid an impressive foundation of Bible translations, education, and social reform…