A Map On The Wall
The year was 1792 and the place—Nottingham, England. A young man by the name of William Carey stood before a group of ministers and opened the scriptures to Isaiah 54:2, 3. There he expounded on those great inspired words: “Stretch forth the curtains of thy habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes; for thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left.” It followed with what has been recognized as one of the greatest missionary sermons in recent centuries.
William Carey is known as the father of the modern Protestant missionary movement. Born into a poor family with few resources, it is amazing what he was able to accomplish with God’s help. Unlike many famous theologians and churchmen, Carey did not have the luxury of a Cambridge or Oxford education. In fact, he had to leave school at barely fourteen years of age to earn a living. A short and stocky fellow, his fingers were not suited for his father’s trade as a weaver, so he had to become an apprentice cobbler—a mender of shoes.
Although young Carey had been confirmed in the Anglican church, the craftsman with whom he worked and lived was a very ungodly individual. Over the course of three years, the cobbler’s drinking, cursing, profanity, and harshness took their toll on the teenage apprentice. Soon Carey himself began to slip away from the influence of his parents and fell into an ungodly lifestyle.
Meanwhile his fellow apprentice, John Wart was converted to Christ, and became concerned for his friend, William Carey. He began to speak with him about the state of his soul and his need for the Lord. Though at first he met with resistance, Wart eventually persuaded Carey to attend a reform-minded church.
By the age of 18, for the first time in his life, Carey fully grasped the true gospel of Jesus Christ. He realized that eternal life was a free gift through the Savior’s atoning death. His heart rejoiced with the assurance that he belonged to Christ and that, if faithful, he would be with him forever. With this new-found meaning in his life came a special concern for others, and the first person for whom Carey developed a burden was Mr. Clarke Nichols, his supervisor. But the ungodly cobbler steadfastly resisted the importunity of his two converted apprentices and eventually he grew seriously ill. But as his illness grew worse, the teens continued to share with him the grace and mercy of Christ, even in his death chamber. By a miracle of God and the perseverance of the faithful pair, Mr. Nichols finally repented of his sins and embraced Christ as his Saviour before he was laid to rest.
With this experience, William Carey tasted a greater joy than he had ever known—the joy of seeing a soul won to Jesus. A whole new burden overwhelmed his heart; he was convinced that the entire world needed to know Christ. Scriptures flowed through his mind, echoing the thoughts. “Go ye into all the world…God so loved the world that He gave His Son…Make disciples of all nations.”
Now in our day, at the close of the twentieth century this may not seem all that revolutionary, but we have to realize that in the late 1700s the concern of the church for the world was far less than it is even today. At that time there were no world mission societies, and virtually no missionaries going beyond Europe and North America. India, china, Africa, and South America had pockets of Christian believers, but had been largely untouched by the Protestant reformation of the western world. In the heart of this one young man burned a zeal for the need of the world. He could not rest without pursuing his goal further.
Carey made a great map out of brown paper and pieces of leather and put it in his cobbler shop. He carefully gathered information about all the countries in the world, their population, religions and the conditions of the heathen. To enhance his income, Carey began to teach school. One biographer mentions that as he taught geography, his pupils beheld a strange sight: in the midst of a geography lesson, their teacher would be moved to tears as he would describe the various nations of the world. Then he would break forth and say, “They’re pagans, pagans, pagans!” and he would break down in tears. Even still, there was no one going out into the world with the gospel message.
Finally, that day arrived in Nottingham when William Carey shared his burden with a small ministerial association. He quoted Isaiah 54:2, 3 and challenged himself and his colleagues with the words, “Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God,” calling on these men to take the gospel to the world.
What was the result of this moving plea? We are told that John Ryland stood and said, “Young man, sit down, sit down. When God pleases to convert the heathen, He will do it without consulting you or me.” One of those who heard Cary’s sermon said it was so poignant that he thought all would break down and weep. But they did no such thing. Most got up to leave. In utter dismay, Carey grabbed the hand of his friend, “Oh, Fuller, call them back, call them back. Aren’t we going to do anything?” William Carey was a man of action. He was not satisfied merely with discussing or praying about the situation; he had to do something about it.
So the people were brought back and a motion was made to form a mission society dedicated to taking the gospel of Christ to the world. But still there was no missionary to go. And the total funds raised only amounted to about $67.00.
Refusing to be discouraged, Carey volunteered to go himself—To India. His father thought he had gone mad, and his wife wanted nothing to do with the idea.
Nevertheless, after a long series of difficulties and obstacles, at the age of 32, Carey finally managed to set sail for India with his wife and children. In the area where he began working, during the first year, 25 men were carried away by Bengal tigers and never seen again. But Cary was undaunted and determined.
As a youth of 14, he had already invested in the personal study of Latin, soon to be followed by a self-taught mastery of Greek, Hebrew and French and Dutch—all before the age of 20. During his life ministry in India, Carey learned the following languages and translated into them the entire scripture or a portion thereof: Bengali, Sanskrit, Oriva, Hindi, Marathi, Punjabi, Bolochi, Mewari, Telugu, Konkani, Pashto, Assamese, Lahnda, Gujerati, Bikaneri, Awadhi, Kashmiri, Nepali, Bagheli, Marawari, Harauti, kanouji, Kanarese, Jaipuri, Kumaoni, Sindhi, Dogri, Bhatneri, Magahi, Malvi, Braj Brasha, Garwahali, Manipuri, palpa, Khasi—a total of thirty-five different Indian languages.
What was it that imbued this one man with such an incredible amount of energy and zeal? There is only one answer. It was his tremendous love for the souls of men. He saw such value in one soul that he would persevere until victory for Christ was accomplished.
Carey preached every day to the natives in India. The result? For seven years he saw not one single convert among the Indians. Finally, Krishna Pal, in 1800, was the first convert of his missionary movement. By God’s grace, many thousands soon adhered to Christianity. Indeed the faith of William Carey paid off.
Dear youth of today, what should be on your wall? Think of the map Carey made—that map which so vividly illustrated the longings of his soul. Every day he gazed upon it, pondering the great work that God laid on his heart….such a worthwhile goal….such a worthwhile life. And today, as the final grains of sand in time’s hourglass begin trickling to the bottom, should not Carey’s timeless motto be adopted by the young?
“Expect great things from God! Attempt great things for God!”