Faithful Heroes: Adoniram Judson, Suffered to take the message to Berma

Adoniram Judson

Adoniram Judson was the first foreign missionary sent from the United States.

Judson was born on August 7, 1788 in Malden, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. He was the son of Adoniram and Abigail Brown Judson. He grew up hearing about and learning about Christ from his congregational minister father.

At the age of nineteen, he graduated valedictorian from College of Rhode Island & Providence Plantations {now Brown University}.

While at college, he developed a friendship with Jacob Earnes, a devout deist and skeptic. This led him to abandon his childhood faith and embrace the French philosophes {of the French Enlightenment}. He returned to his faith when his friend suddenly and unexpectedly died. Judson had lost touch with Earnes, and gone in search of him. He came upon an inn that had no room and shared a room with a dying man. He heard the groans of the man and it sounded as if he were afraid to die. The next morning he discovered the man was his friend.

Ann “Nancy” Hasseltine Judson

Adoniram Judson imprisoned from Wikipedia

In 1808, he made a “solemn dedication of himself to God” and finished his studies at Andover Theological Seminary. During this time he decided to become a missionary.

In 1810, Judson and four other mission-minded students, known as “the breathern” appeared before the Congregationalists’ General Association where they appealed for support. From this meeting, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions was formed.

He was later commissioned and later ordained by the Congregational Church and soon thereafter married to Ann “Nancy” Hasseltine. On February 19, 1812, Judson and his wife set ssail with another couple abroad the brig Caravan to India.

The Judson’s arrived in Calcutta, India on June 17, 1812. In September of that year, he

Nancy visits Adoniram Judson in prison from Wikipedia

switched to the Baptist denomination. They were ordered out of India and moved to Buddhist Burma, where Nancy miscarried while aboard ship.

Judson could already speak Latin, Greek and Hebrew and began to learn Burmese, although it would take him three years to learn the language.

His first attempts to share the gospel was met with total indifference. The couple were also cut off from contact with any European or American for over three years. During this time a son was born to the couple, who died at eight months.

The first believers were baptized in 1819 and during this time he completed translating the Gospel of Matthew and by 1823 he had translated the entire New Testament into Burmese.

His wife became fluent in the language and quickly made friends.

Burmese Zayat

During the First Anglo-Burmese War of 1824, Judson was suspected of being a spy and imprisoned for seventeen months. ” Officers led by an official executioner burst into the Judson home, threw Judson to the ground in front of his wife, bound him with torture thongs, and dragged him off to the infamous, vermin-ridden death prison of Ava.”

While in prison, Ann had a child, who her husband did not see until her release. She became a “model of supreme courage” and the only “Western woman in an absolute and anti-Christian monarchy”. She lobbied vigorously for her husbands release and moved to a shack outside the prison to support her husband. She wrote stories of her life on the mission field, the struggles she faced, child marriages, female infanticide, and that the Burmese women only had the rights granted to them by their husbands. She also translated the books of Daniel and Jonah into Burmese and became the “first protestant to translate any scruptures into Thai”.

Adoniram Judson and wife, Ann

Ann died of smallpox only a short time after her husband’s release. Their third child died six months after Ann’s death. He sank into a deep depression after the death of his wife.

Judson served as a translator for the Burmese army, but churches still began to grow among the British-ruled territory.

The Karen people were a lost province of Great Britain. Judson was the first missionary to make contact with them and during this time he converted and freed a slave, named Ko Tha Byu, who shared the gospel with his fellow tribe members.

Adoniram Judson quote

In 1834, he finished translating the entire Bible into Burmese. The effort had taken him 24 years and he published the Bible the following year. He also compiled the first ever Burmese-English dictionary.

In 1834, he married Sarah Hall Boardman,

Sarah Hall Boardman Judson

widow of missionary George Boardman. Sarah translated The Pilgrim’s Progress into Burmese {which is still used today} and translated the New Testament into Peguan. They had eight children together, five of whom lived to adulthood. When her health began to falter, doctors recommended she return to America. She died on September 1, 1845 while en route at St. Helena.

Judson returned home, but had a pulmonary illness and could barely speak above a

Adoniram Judson quote

whisper. He received a heroes welcome and made speeches, by whispering the words to an attendant, who then addressed the crowd.

Judson married a third time to Emily Chubbuck on June 2, 1846. Emily was a writer, Judson had commissioned to write Sarah’s memoirs. The couple would have a daughter and later a son together.

Emily Chubbuck Judson

The couple returned to Burma, where they welcomes the first single women as missionaries to the area. Some reports stated she struggled with missionary work and being a step mother in the beginning.

Emily used three named during her writing career. “”Emily Chubbock” was used in her early career mostly writing children’s books, “Fanny Forester” in her period contributing to popular magazines, and “Emily Judson” during her missionary period and her later years.”

Adoniram Judson

Adoniram Judson died on April 12, 1850 of lung disease. He was sixty-one years old. His doctors recommended a sea voyage as cure, and he died aboard ship in the Bay of Bengal. He was buried at sea.

Emily Chubbuck Judson died of consumption on June 1, 1854 in Hamilton, New York.

A memorial was built on Burial Hill in Plymouth, Massachusetts to Judson.

Judson College {now University}, in Elgin, Illinois, was founded in his honor in 1963. Brown University, his Alma Mater, named a house after him. His seminary alma mater, Andover Theological Seminary, (now Andover Newton Theological School), named their prestigious annual award as The Judson Award.

The Episcopal Church honors him with a feast day on April 12.

The United States named a liberty ship {SS Adoniram Judson} in his honor during World War II.



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