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Outline of a Lecture delivered by the
REV. J. VENN,
was just about one hundred years ago that a child was
born of obscure parents, in an obscure village, the name of which was not generally known, except in connection with the individual the subject of our lecture: and this child, under the Providence of God, was destined to do more for the awakening of the Christian Church to a sense of its responsibility and duty towards the heathen, than perhaps any other individual since his time. William Varey was born in the month of August, 1761, in a retired village in Northamptonshire. His father was the village clerk and schoolmaster, as was also his grandfather before him. At six years of age William gave evident indication that he had a mind of no ordinary character, and at once showed his talents in mathematics and arithmetic. He also showed an ardent love for natural history, in his rambles always hunting for insects and collecting specimens of flowers, with which he formed a beautiful museum at home. This curious collection was made solely by his own natural genius, and not by the help of books, and was classified and arranged in a way most wonderful for a child. He was clever, too, in making drawings of the different parts of which the insects and plants were composed, so as to get an intimate acquaintance with them; and never lost an opportunity of anxiously endeavouring to obtain information on all subjects, by borrowing books of friends.
At twelve years of age he fell in with a Latin Vocabulary, which he began to learn by heart so as to lay up a good stock of words. In the various games of play he was popular with his companions, but his amusements consisted chiefly of researches in natural history. Had that little boy lived in the age in which we live, he would have had advantages never dreamed of, in the easy access to books, in the valuable institutions like yours, where a great deal of
information may be obtained, and help given in guiding our pursuits : but at that time no assistance
was given him of this kind, so that he had to fight against every discouragement. It now became a question what he really was to do in order to obtain a livelihood. As he was of delicate constitution, his parents thought it best to apprentice him to a shoemaker, and at the age of fourteen he became such, at the little town of Hakelton. His master happily had a few books, to which young William had access; and amongst others was discovered a Bible, which contained 'a learned commentary at the end of it. This was eagerly read, but the commentary contained many Greek words of which he knew not the meaning. A friend of his, however, knew these characters, and explained them to him, and from that time William was determined not to rest until he had learned the Greek language. After he had been apprenticed some time, it pleased God to give a new turn to all his desires ; he became anxious about his soul and the welfare of his fellow-creatures. This was chiefly brought about by friendly intercourse with a pious fellow-workman. Let those who know the truth, and really believe themselves to be the disciples of the Saviour, never lose an opportunity of using an influence over their companions. Who would not have had the honour of being the feeble instrument in the hand of God, in speaking a "word in season," had he kuown that through it this same poor cobbler was to be the “father of modern missionaries ?
As soon as Carey became interested in the gospel, he gave heart and soul to the Lord, and showed a most intense desire for obtaining knowledge, his great aim being to employ all his talents to the service and glory of God. At the early age of nineteen years he had gained considerable reputation, and was even invited by a congregation at some distance to be their minister. This was perhaps an unwise step on their part in asking one so young, and perhaps as unwise for him to have undertaken it. However, he accepted it, and as he afterwards tells us, he often thought of his boldness and presumption in so doing. He accepted another invitation of the same kind in his own parish, and thus he became not merely a journeyman shoemaker, but a preacher. After a little time his views on the question of baptism underwent a change, and he was subsequently baptized in the river near at hand. Now that he had
undertaken to be a pastor, he felt more than ever the necessity for diligent study, and at once commencer to learn the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew languages, for, poor as he still was, he managed either to borrow or buy the necessary works.
When twenty years of age, he unfortunately made a match with his master's daughter-I say unfortunately, for her tastes in many respects were very different from his. Almost immediately afterwards her father died, leaving the entire stock of boots and shoes as her dowry, and the business to them both. But William Carey proved a bad mán of business, for he had at the same time to study for his congregations, and he therefore neglected it, which was the cause of its sadly decreasing. It was about this time that his health failed, and feeling too ill to work at all, he was obliged to fall back on his dowry of shoes, and carry them up and down the country for sale, to avoid starvation This must have been inevitable, had it not been for å brother of his, who proferred assistance for a short time.
At the age of twenty-four he received another invitation from a Baptist congregation near his native village, at the low salary of £11, which was increased £5 by a fund given for the help of poor Baptist ministers. He was also appointed schoolmaster to a very good school in the same distriet, and received on an average about 7s. 6d. per week by it. But notwithstanding this appointment, it was found that with all his learning he could not manage even an ordinary school like this. I suppose that the boys were either not like him in loving to learn, or that he could not enter fully into the many little difficulties to keep it on foot; but whatever was the cause, Carey utterly failed as a schoolmaster ; for, sometime afterwards, when the question was asked—“Didn't you keep a school ?” he replied“No, I didn't--the school kept me.” He found his pupils 80 rapidly decreasing, that he was finally compelled to relinquish his school, and seek a living once as a joumeyman shoemaker. It was during his attempt åt keeping a school that his thoughts were turned towards the great and glorious subject of missions, which gave a new feature to the whole of his after-life.
In the study of geography with his pupils, and more especially of “Mavor's Voyages and Travels,” he was pained to his very soul to find so large a portion of the
world in utter darkness. He delighted in drawing maps of the world, and noting particularly on them the moral and spiritual statistics of the country. These maps afterwards were fastened on the walls of the cobbler's stall
, and during his labour he was very frequently observed fixing his eyes intently on them, and lifting up his heart to God in prayer to send the light of the gospel there, and he resolved never to rest until he had gone forth himself as a missiouary. He could not, however, find anyone to take the matter in hand with him; but at a clerical meeting, which was held for discussion, he modestly proposed this question"Was it not the duty of the Church of England to send the gospel to hidden lands?" Mr. Reiland replied—“That is not the proper question to discuss ; when God's time is come, then it will be time enough to propose such a subject." This answer, however, did not check the confidence of poor Carey. Determined not to be daunted, he wrote a pamphlet on the subject of missions, which he had published and circulated, with the help of a good man of Birmingham. All this time he was working as a poor cobbler, on the verge of starvation, and yet possessing an undaunted spirit on the subject of missions, and an indomitable energy in every study he undertook.
When twenty-eight years old he had the offer of an office as pastor of a large Baptist congregation at Leicester, which he gladly accepted. He found, however, that his congregation was in a fearful state of disorganisation, being torn asụnder by party spirit; and a great deal of firmness and unwearied attention was required on his part. When thirty-one years of age, he had an excellent opportunity of bringing the subject of missions before a large number of ministers of different denominations. He did not lose this chance, and preached an eloquent, powerful, and convincing sermon. He chose for his text the 2nd and 3rd verses of the 54th chapter of Isaiah—“Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes ; for thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited."
He divided his discourse into two heads---“Expect great things from God,” and “ Attempt great things for God." Even Mr. Reiland, who had before treated the subject as
unworthy of discussion, now confessed he was perfectly overcome and convinced of the fearful error he had been in until then. Speaking to a friend afterwards, he said—“I really felt as if the congregation would have risen as one man, and confessed the neglect of that solemn duty before God with one heart and one voice.” Carey had made a great impression on the ministry, and it resulted in the establishment of the first real Protestant society—“The Baptist Missionary Society.” Funds were raised, the first collection amounted to the modest sum of £13. 2s. 6d., and Carey, overjoyed at the success, offered himself as' first missionary. But still difficulties had to be surmounted before starting on this mission of love, there being no voluntary society to lend pecuniary aid.
Efforts were made to interest other bodies of Christians; the scheme was discussed at a conference in London, and afterwards before a body of Scotch clergy; but the former replied that it was not expedient to take any steps in the matter; and the latter, that the heathen was so bad that it was useless to make any attempt at converting them.
A few persons however, members of the society, wished all success to the work; but the difficulty arose-Where were they to send Carey ? They could not send him to China, for its gates were not then open to foreigners ; nor to Africa, for there was the deadly climate unfit for any European ; nor to the Islands of the Pacific, for those were the habitations of savages : but there's India—surely there was a field for missionary labour. Why did they not make the attempt at once ? The reason was this:-At that time, before the renewal of the Charter, the Government of India would not permit a missionary to set his foot on British territory. Carey mentioned the matter to Mr. Wilberforce, then member of Parliament, and asked him to use his influence with the East India Company, but they would not relax their rule, and one of its members indignantly replied—“Pd rather see so many devils let loose in India.” However, at this time a Gloucester man, named Thomas, who had gone out some years previously as surgeon in one of the East India Company's vessels, and been engaged at Bengal as an indigo planter, returned to England. He was a sincere Christian, and while in India had preached frequently to the natives, who always flocked in great numbers to hear him. The news of this success on his part was soon made