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William Carey

This article, written by an Indian lady, Ruth Mangalwadi, shows the breadth of William Carey’s missionary ministry.

William Carey

  • was the botanist who discovered ‘Carey herbacea’ In the Jungles of the Himalayan foothills, an Indian variety of Eucalyptus now bearing his name.
  • was the founder of the Agri-Horicultural Society in the 1820’s. 30 years before the Royal Agricultural Society was established In England. He did a systematic survey of agriculture In India, wrote for agriculture reform in Asiatic Researches, and exposed the evils of the Indigo cultivation system two generations before It collapsed. He did this because he was horrified to see 60% of India had been allowed to become an uncultivated Jungle abandoned to wild beast and serpents.
  • was the first to write essays on forestry In India 50 years before the government made Its first attempt towards forest conservation. Believing that God had made man responsible for the earth, he both practised and vigorously advocated the cultivation of timber, advising on how to plant trees for environmental, agricultural and commercial purposes.
  • was the publisher of the first books on science and natural history in India, because he believed the Biblical view “All thy works praise Thee, O Lord”. Nature was declared “good” by the Creator. it Is not “maya” (Illusion) to be shunned. Carey frequently lectured on science and tried to inject a basic scientific presupposition Into the Indian mind that even lowly insects are not “souls In bondage” but “creatures worthy of our attention”.
  • was the father of the printing technology In India, building the nation’s largest press. Most printers had to buy their fonts from his mission press at Serampore.
  • was the first to make indigenous paper for the publishing industry.
  • established the first newspaper ever printed in any Oriental language, because of his belief that “above all forms of truth and faith, Christianity seeks free discussion”. His English-language Journal, “Friend of India”, was the force that gave birth to the Social Reform Movement In India in the first half of the 19th century.
  • was the first man to translate and publish great Indian religious classics into English. He transformed Bengali – considered “fit only for demons and women” – Into the foremost literary language of India. He wrote gospel ballads In Bengali, to bring the Hindu love of musical recitations to the service of his Lord. He also wrote the first Sanskrit dictionary for scholars.
  • began dozens of schools for Indian children . girls and boys – of all castes and launched the first college in Asia at Serampore, near Calcutta. He wanted to develop the Indian mind and liberate it from the darkness of superstition.
  • was a British shoemaker who became a professor of Bengali, Sanskrit and Marathi at the Fort William College in Calcutta where the civil servants were trained.
  • introduced the study of astronomy into the sub-continent because he cared deeply about such destructive cultural ramifications of astrology as fatalism, superstitious fears, and the Indian inability to organise and manage time. He did not believe that the heavenly bodies were deities that governed our lives, but were created to be signs or markers – dividing space Into north, south, east and west, and time into days, months, seasons and years. They made it possible for us to devise calendars, to study geography and history, to be free to rule instead of to be ruled by the stars.
  • pioneered lending libraries in the sub-continent In order to empower the Indian people to embrace Ideas that would generate freedom of mind. He wanted to encourage the creation of an Indigenous literature In the vernacular. He believed Indians needed to receive knowledge and wisdom from around the world, to catch up with other cultures, and made worldwide Information available through lending libraries.
  • was the first Englishman to introduce the steam engine to India, and encouraged Indian blacksmiths to make indigenous copies of his engine.
  • introduced the concept of a “savings bank” to India, to fight the all-pervasive social evil of usury.
  • was the first campaigner for a humane treatment for leprosy patients, who were often buried or burned alive because of the belief that a violent end purified the body and ensured the transmigration into a healthy new existence, while natural death by disease resulted In tour successive births, and a fifth as a leper.
  • was the first to stand against the oppression of women, including practices like polygamy, female infanticide child-marriage, widow-burning (sati), euthanasia and forced female illiteracy – “religious sanctions” virtually synonymous with Hinduism in the 18th and 19th centuries. While the British rulers accepted these social evils as irreversible and an intrinsic part of India’s religious mores, Carey researched and published, and raised up a generation of civil servants who changed the laws.
  • was the father of the Indian Renaissance of the 19th and 20th centuries, challenging the grip which asceticism, untouchability, mysticism, the occult superstition, Idolatry, witchcraft and oppressive beliefs and practices had on the nation. His movement culminated In the birth of Indian nationalism and of India’s subsequent independence. His “this-worldly spirituality”, with a strong emphasis on Justice and love for fellow men, next to love for God, marked the turning point of Indian culture from a downward trend to an upward swing.
  • also happened to be the pioneer of the modern missionary movement of the West reaching out now to all parts of the world; the founder of the Protestant Church In India; and the translator or publisher of the Bible In forty Indian languages.
  • was an evangelist who used every available medium to illumine every dark facet of Indian life with the light of truth. He is the central character In the story of the modernisation of India.

Some guy, this Carey!


William Carey was born in the village of Paulerspury, 10 miles south of Northampton, on 17th August 1761. As a young man he became a shoemaker’s apprentice at Piddington. His discovery of a Greek New Testament commentary on the shoemaker’s shelf was the beginning of a career which led him to become one of the notable scholars of his day. He was converted at the age of 18 after long discussions with a fellow apprentice.

In 1779 Carey transferred his apprenticeship to Thomas Old of Hackleton where he met and married Dorothy Plackett on 10th June 1781. Along with others he started a Congregational church and being influenced by the Baptists was baptized in 1783 by John Ryland in the River Nene close to Doddridge’s church in Northampton.

The Careys knew grinding poverty for their early years together. Their first child died, and Carey was left almost bald after a serious illness. In 1785, they moved to Moulton where Carey became the schoolmaster. He taught himself several languages and later became the Baptist pastor in the village, while continuing as schoolmaster and shoemaker.

Carey was influenced by the lives of Wesley, Whitefield, Doddridge and Wilberforce and when reading a book by Captain Cook about the unreached peoples of the Pacific Islands, Carey heard the Macedonian call, “Come over and help us!”.

Following the Prayer Call of 1784, initiated by John Sutcliff, church leaders in the region established regular meetings to pray for revival and the spread of the Gospel. The fruit of this prayer led Carey, with the support of Andrew Fuller [Kettering], John Ryland [Northampton], John Sutcliff [Olney] and Reynold Hogg [Thrapston] to launch the Baptist Missionary Society in Kettering on 2nd October 1792.

In June 1793, Carey set sail for India with his wife and four children. He never returned to England.

William Carey is widely regarded today as the “father” of the modern mission movement

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