William Carey was born in Paulers Pury, England, August 17, 1761. When William was 17 he began a shoemaking apprenticeship with Clarke Nichols, who allowed Carey to work for his support while learning this trade. It was during this time that he attended a prayer meeting and gave his life to Christ on Feb. 10, 1779. Carey met Dorothy Plackett and married June 10, 1781. Dorothy was a loving wife, but never gained a heart for the world and a vision for missions as Carey did. William Carey began a spiritual journey for himself, to seek the truths of scripture. He joined the Baptists and was baptized by Mr. J.C. Ryland on Oct. 5th, 1783. While Carey continued to work on shoes, this ‘uneducated’ man of God began to learn Greek and Hebrew in order to study the Bible in its original languages. He was an aggressive student of the word of God. His knowledge of Scripture soon led to a Baptist church asking him to be their pastor, even though he was supported through his shoe cobbling and working as a school teacher. In 1789 he began to serve as pastor of the Harvey Lane Baptist Church. The more Carey exhausted himself in scripture the more he developed his own personal convictions, some of which were very different that of his denomination, especially about the topic of world missions. His interest in the world led him to even make a large leather globe of the world. While reading Andrew Fuller’s book, “The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation.” God used one line specifically to end any doubts in his mind as to God’s leading. “If it is the duty of all men to believe whenever the Gospel is presented to them, it must be the duty of all who have received the Gospel to endeavor to make it universally known.” With this, his convictions were concrete.
Once a month the other Baptist ministers in this area would meet for fellowship and prayer. Carey, excited about what the Lord has impressed on his heart about reaching the nations, shared that he believed the command given to the apostles in the Great Commission (Matt 28:19-20) was in no way exclusively for them alone, but was to be obeyed by all successive disciples as a part of the very command “teach them to obey everything” that Jesus commanded. This includes the command in verse 19 to “go.” He also maintained that if we believe (as the Baptists they were) that the command to be baptized is still applicable to all believers, we must also attribute the responsibility to “go and make disciples of all nations” to all believers.
Mr. Ryland, the very man that had baptized Carey, quickly interrupted him and said, “Sit down, young man, sit down and be still. When God wants to convert the heathen, He will do it without consulting either you or me.” This temporary defeat only served to fuel William Carey’s passion to prove himself true to God’s word. He embarked on sermon and study to demonstrate the undeniable responsibility of the Church to finish the promise of God to “bless all the nations” (Gen. 12:1-3). Over the next eight years he put together a finished work of his study of the unreached world, statistics, and biblical theology of mission, under the published title of “An Enquiry into the obligation of Christians to use means for the conversion of the heathen.” It became widely published and a topic of controversy in the Church at the time. Carey held closely to a passage that fueled his desire for the nations. It was Isaiah 54:5, “Thy Redeemer … The God of the whole earth shall He be called.”
Through the invitation of a missionary on furlough, Dr. Thomas, William decided he would follow God’s plan for his life by taking the gospel to India. Before leaving Carey preached a sermon known for his exhortation to “expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.” Carey had expected God to do great things, now he was moving forward in obedience to allow God to use his attempts. William’s wife refused to go with him up until the day he left, and then she came along at the last hour only because her sister agreed to join them. It took five months to sail to India, so Carey embarked on language learning again, this time tackling Bengali. They reached Calcutta on November 11, 1793. Carey was to face many trials in his time in India. He was appalled at the practice of widow burning and made a vow to see the practice ended. Most of his trials came from within his family. His wife lost her sanity after the death of their five-year-old son, Peter. Carey however lost her in 1807 to disease, and his next wife Charlotte Rumohr passed away in 1821. He then married Grace Hughes in 1823 and she labored alongside him in India faithfully. His perseverance also allowed him to press in for seven years before seeing his first convert from Hinduism. His work in translating the scripture was completely lost in a fire one night when it was very near completion, but Carey didn’t give up. He just started over the next day. He persevered.
Carey founded the Christian Church in India, the school system, the postal system and ended the practice of widow burning as he had vowed to. This ‘uneducated’ man, at the end of his life had seen the Scriptures translated into forty languages, and printed 213,000 Bibles.
Just before he died at age 73 (June 9, 1834), Carey said out to a missionary friend, “Dr. Duff! You have been speaking about Dr. Carey; when I am gone, say nothing about Dr. Carey — speak about Dr. Carey’s God.”
William Carey’s tombstone in Serampore Christian burial grounds has only these words inscribed about the life of the father of modern missions.
Born August 17, 1761
Died June 9, 1834
“A wretched, poor, and helpless worm, On Thy kind arms I fall.”
“Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace.”