A Major Figure in Modern Missions

Carey was born into a poor family in Paulerspury, Northamptonshire, England in the year 1761. His father worked as a low-level, clerical worker, [and] a member of the Anglican church. In the year 1779, at the age of 18, Carey was converted. He then joined the Baptist church, becoming a preacher and a school teacher during the day while working at night as a shoemaker to make ends meet.

Carey was the type of person who loved to study hard and never backed away from a challenge. He taught himself Greek, Hebrew, Dutch and French. As a minister who had experienced rebirth, Carey concentrated upon evangelism.

In 1792, Carey instigated the founding of a mission agency named the Baptist Missionary Society in Nottingham. He kindled the famous slogan, "Hope great things from God and attempt great things for God." For Carey, the great commission given by Jesus was to evangelize every living creature, and every Christian had to be a sharer of the good news.

He became a pastor of the Chapel Baptist Church in Moulton in the year 1786. Then the Baptist Missionary Society sent him as the first missionary to India in the year 1792. Together with his family, he left for India as a passenger on a cargo ship, arriving in Malda, as his first center for missionary activity. Nevertheless, the East India Company then forbade Carey from evangelizing there so that he worked in an indigo dye factory there while studying the local language. After 5 years, he succeeded in learning the Bengali language well and began translating the New Testament into this language. In the year 1799, the dye factory where Carey worked went bankrupt, and this forced him to move to Serampore, the area colonized by Denmark.

In this new spot Carey joined two other Baptist missionaries, namely Joshua Marshman and William Ward. These three subsequently became known as the "Serampore Trio." With the help of these two English friends, Carey successfully published a Bengali translation of the New Testament. In 1801, he opened a school named "Fort William College" for training Indian nationals as pastors. "Only with an indigenous evangelist can we hope for this expansive country to hear the good news," he stated with conviction. Carey was of the opinion that the Missionary Society needed to immediately train nationals to become evangelists for their own country. In his school, Carey taught Sanscrit, Bengali and Marathi for about 30 years.

In addition to this, Carey also was active collecting funds to sponsor research in agriculture. This work was his effort to seek solutions to the problem of famine (PANGAN) in the country where the Lord had sent him. His other activities were to translate the Bible into Bengali and other languages, and structure a grammar and dictionary for Sanscrit, Marathi, Punyab and Telugu.

Besides being known as the father of missions, Carey was also known as a major figure of ecumenism. He ignited the idea that every 10 years a conference be held for all missionary societies in Tanjung Harapan. This idea was never realized in his lifetime, but was reached in 1910 at Edinburgh [Scotland]. The modern understanding of "ecumenical" originated with him. William Carey finally died in the year 1834 at the age of 73. During the British occupation of Indonesia, Christians in Maluku experienced the work and ministry of one of William Carey’s children, namely Jabez Carey.

(From a variety of sources)

The Center gratefully acknowledges the translation by:

Dr. E. Randolph (Randy) Richards
Associate Professor of Biblical Studies and Theology

Ouachita Baptist University

Arkadelphia, Arkansas

Click here to view Dr. Richards's Website

Click here to send E-mail to Dr. Richards