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Book Review

William Carey - by Carey, S. Pearce

Oberlin, OH: Wakeman Trust, 2008. 419 pp.
Reviewed by Glenna Andersen, wife of TMS student Rodney Andersen

Recently I finished reading William Carey, a biography of ‘the father of modern missions,’ written by his great-grandson, S. Pearce Carey. This lengthy and thorough book was well worth the effort. I learned many interesting facts about Carey’s life and ministry as well as rich spiritual lessons.

William Carey (1761-1834) began as a humble shoemaker. He was an ordinary, self-taught working man with extraordinary faith in Christ and love for people. He preached in an English village church where some would refuse to attend if they knew that he was scheduled to speak.

From these inauspicious beginnings the Lord shaped and prepared William Carey and several other godly men to lead the charge in taking the gospel of Christ to India. Carey and others saw the need for British Christians to broaden their perspectives on reaching the lost for Christ, to first “expect great things from God” and then “attempt great things for God”. After many trials and delays, William Carey and his family set out for India where he would spend the rest of his life as an evangelist, Bible translator, college professor, mentor and botanist in the Calcutta area.

In addition to his public ministry there were many challenges as well as blessings in his private life. William Carey’s first of three wives that he lost in India was never physically or emotionally well there, suffering from severe dysentery which led to “mental disorder and distress”. However, two of his sons grew up to become missionaries in Asia. Carey’s love for botany and keeping a diverse and beautiful garden brought him much pleasure throughout his life, as well as being a testimony and tool for outreach to the entire Bengal area. Carey’s primary work in India was Bible translation, working on forty different translations during his years in India. The first was a Bengali translation for the East and West Bengal areas. Of interest, though not in the book, is that two hundred years later, TMS’ professor Dr. William Barrick also did a Bengali Bible translation in Bangladesh, formerly East Bengal.

More than just the facts, however, this book also contains many rich spiritual lessons for believers today. William Carey worked tirelessly and selflessly so as not to be a financial burden upon his supporting churches, and yet was harshly accused of building an empire for himself in India with the funds he received for the mission. Though grieved, his response while the rumors and accusations flew, was to stand firm and trust the Lord to vindicate him in the proper time. I drew great encouragement from a collection of sentences taken from letters he wrote to his son, Jabez, who was a missionary in Malaysia. Carey wrote purposefully, frankly, and with great affection: “Tell me all your difficulties. I am your father.” “Never step an inch out of the path of righteousness and Truth, to curry favor or avoid disgrace.” “If duty leads us to any place, however unhealthy, we may safely trust God to take care of us.” “Watch against temptation just to gossip with the Europeans. Show them every respect, but always remember that your chief duty lies among the Malays.” Challenging and wise words, indeed!

You too will be inspired by this ordinary man’s example of walking by faith and not by sight if you take the time to read about this famous early missionary.

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