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Rev. William Ward, 1769-1823. From the 'History and Antiquities of Derby', Simpson, 1826. Courtesy Derby Local Studies Library.

An extract from Ward's obituary in the 'Friend of India'

Since Mr. Ward's return to India his health had been for some time pretty good, but the complaint with which he was so much afflicted previous to his departure for Europe, soon returned upon him in so great a degree, as to compel him to abstain from rice in every form, from nearly all vegetables, from beer and every kind of wine, and from most kinds of meat. By strictly observing this course, and taking abundant exercise on horseback, his health so much improved, as to give hope, that he might be spared for years to come. On the Sabbath preceding his death, he was in Calcutta, and preached in the evening from, 'lead us not into temptation,' in so searching a manner, as to attract particular notice. He also attended the Monthly prayer-meeting held on Monday evening at the Loll-Bazaar Chapel, after having spent the day in visiting, for the last time, the flock he so much loved.

On Tuesday morning, March 4th, 1823, he returned to Serampore in the boat with Mrs. Marshman; and on the way up read to her a number of extracts from the 'Life of Brainerd', making such remarks occasionally, as sufficiently evidenced the state of his own mind. He appeared well the whole of that day, as well as the next, Wednesday the 5th, in the evening of which he preached the weekly lecture, in the Mission Chapel at Serampore, intended chiefly for the youth there for education, from Mark xvi. 16 'He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned.' No one suspected that this was the last message he had to deliver in his Great Master's name; but the close and poignant manner in which he addressed them, seemed to excite unusual attention. It was particularly recollected, that in the course of his Sermon, while he was exhibiting Christ as the one Saviour, he repeated the following verse:

'The best obedience of my hands
Dares not appear before thy throne;
But faith can answer thy demands
By pleading what my Lord has done.'

and to impress it the more firmly on his audience, he repeated the verse. The earnest affection with which he prayed for the salvation of his own children in his last prayer, was particularly remarked.

He retired to bed about ten, in quite as good health as usual; about five in the morning of Thursday the 6th, he felt himself affected with a bowel complaint, and instead of taking his usual morning ride, he returned to bed for an hour. At the weekly meeting for prayer, however, he united with his brethren and sisters as usual. Thus after more than twenty-three years' labour in promoting this object, in the most assiduous and intense manner perhaps ever known, he closed his public life by uniting in prayer with his brethren for the continuance of the Divine blessing on the work.

After the prayer-meeting he breakfasted with his brethren and sisters at Dr. Marshman's, and conversed on things which related to the advancement of the kingdom of God; he entered so much into discourse of this nature that morning, that no one suspected him to be very ill. He went into the printing-office as usual about ten, and among various letters on business, he wrote one to the brethren of Cuttack, in the course of the forenoon; the following extract from which was sent to his afflicted family in an affectionate letter from Mrs. Peggs, dated the 14th March, the day after they had received from Dr. Marshman the melancholy tidings of his removal. --"In his last note to us, dated March 6th, he says, 'How do you feel in your desires after the Holy Spirit? We can have no hope of success, but as we are brought to a believing dependence upon his influences, and an earnest solicitude to obtain them. Oh how I should like to be among you, although only for one hour, to sing a hymn with my dear sisters and brethren Peggs and Bampton. What hymn should we choose, 'Jesus with all thy saints above? or, 'Jesus I love thy charming name?' " Mrs. Peggs properly adds, "We see by this note, what a happy frame of mind he was in just before he was taken ill." He had indeed been very ill in the Cholera many hours before he wrote this note, although he was scarcely aware of it, and continued so assiduously pursuing that work of his Redeemer, to which he had so many years devoted every moment of his life, not spent in sleep or refreshment. About eleven, Dr. Marshman going into the office, and thinking he looked very ill, earnestly questioned him on the subject; he told him that he had been quite ill in the morning with a bowel complaint, and imputed that he had taken a little cold during the night. Dr. Marshman then begged him not to neglect this complaint, but have instant recourse to medicine. Dr. Marshman however, had not the least idea of its being the Cholera.

Our lamented brother continued to go on doing business in the printing-office till past twelve, in which interval he wrote the letter from which the quotation is taken, which so fully discovers the happy state of his mind. After this he began a letter to the Rotterdam Bible Society, which was unfinished on his desk after his death; before he had finished the second line he was constrained to desist, and retire to his own room.

'When my dear father,' says his daughter, 'came from the office and reclined on the sopha, I was sitting in the same room writing a letter. I supposed he was fatigued, and said nothing about his lying down. In his usual affectionate way he asked me, what I was doing? to which I replied, 'writing a letter;' he was cheerful, and said something that occasioned both of us to smile. Some time after, Mr Solomon came in and informed him that his child was just dead of the Cholera: my beloved father assured him of his sympathy, and gave directions to another native brother to see that a coffin was made for the child, adding, 'I fear I have something of the Cholera myself.' This startled me; for it was the first intimation I had of his being ill. I asked him to let me send for the doctor. He replied, 'No child, 'tis nothing of consequence.' Happily, however, I did not wait for his leave; but wrote to the doctor, begging he would call immediately to see my father. He came, and my father repeated his fears, that he had a slight attack of the Cholera. The doctor told him that there was no reason for him to think so, and said he would send him some medicine. Just before the doctor came I went and told my mother, that I feared my dear father was seriously ill. She was alarmed, and asked him how he felt; to which he replied, 'not well,' but not as appearing to apprehend any danger. It being dinner time, and my father being asleep, we thought it best to leave him, as he seemed anxious to remain quiet. As soon as dinner was over, I came into the room where we had left him asleep; but not finding him there, I went into the next room. Some minutes after I heard him make a noise, as if calling some one. I approached him, and asked what he wanted; to which he replied, 'Nothing child, only I feel very ill.' I immediately ran to my mother, begging her to come to my father. She came, and learning from him that he had the cramp, and feeling his hands cold, she burst into tears, and kindly remonstrated with him for having concealed his state so long. He begged her to make herself easy, adding, 'Call brother Carey and brother Marshman.' I ran instantly to do this, and in a few minutes the alarm spread through the premises, and brought the brethren and sisters from every side. Dr. Mundt had come again, and seeing the disorder gain ground, prescribed and applied what it seemed immediately to require.'

While Dr. Carey and the sisters were occupied about our brother, Dr. Marshman took the boat to Barrackpore, to bring more medical aid. Dr. Grierson, who was called in, coincided with Dr. Mundt respecting its being Cholera, and among other things they prescribed a hot bath; after which he seemed greatly refreshed, but felt exceedingly inclined to sleep. The medical gentlemen then entreated, that he might be left to himself, in the hope of his getting a little sleep; in consequence of this, Mrs. Ward and all his brethren and sisters refrained from conversation with him on the state of his mind, and remained waiting the issue in a state of suspense, which words cannot easily describe.

About nine in the evening, he told Mrs. Ward, that he felt sensibly better, and was not in any great pain. This excited great hope, that he would be able to obtain sleep during the night; four or five therefore remained to see their prescriptions administered, and the rest retired. Our deceased brother remained quiet and free from pain, apparently sleeping, till about ten at night, when he complained of a pain in the right side, particularly when he turned himself. Mr Williamson immediately went to Dr. Mundt to consult him. He advised a fomentation of the side, if the pain should continue. This was tried, and gave immediate relief. With this exception he was free from pain, and perfectly quiet during the night, appearing in a dozing state and saying nothing.

As in the morning there appeared very considerable hope of his recovery, Dr. Carey went to Calcutta, and Dr. Marshman again went over the river for Dr. Grierson, that he might assist in consulting relative to his case. Dr. Grierson said, that he thought there was no cause for alarm respecting his case; and to Mrs. Ward's enquiry, our dear brother himself said he felt better. The medicine, however, produced no effect; but he still continued quiet and easy; another was prescribed, but by the time it was ready, he appeared so weak, that his medical attendants forbore to give it. As late as ten in the morning we had hopes of his recovery; but about eleven Mrs. Ward offering him something directed to be given, he gently put it away with his hand, and with a sigh said, 'Oh dear;' - which were the last words he was heard to utter. Though he continued perfectly quiet, and apparently free from pain, about twelve his pulse declined so much as to take away all hope; and about five in the afternoon he ceased to breathe, in so imperceptible a manner, however, that we for some moments were scarcely aware, that his spirit had left its tenement of clay.

Thus, in the fifty-fourth year of his age, and the twenty-fourth of his missionary labours at Serampore, departed one of the most faithful, disinterested, and arduous labourers in the vineyard of his Glorious Redeemer, that India has ever seen. The next day, the news of his departure having been sent early to Calcutta, several friends arrived from thence to pay the last testimony of respect to his memory. At five the corpse was conveyed to the mission burying-ground in a hearse, as the distance was nearly a mile. All the native brethren attended the funeral, with the servants of the printing-office, the paper-mill, &c. to all of whom our deceased brother was like a father. The various gentlemen of Serampore and its neighbourhood were also present, and a number from Barrackpore, on the other side of the river.

The next Lord's-day week, the 16th March, Dr. Carey preached a funeral sermon in the Loll-Bazaar Chapel in Calcutta, from Prov. x. 17. 'The memory of the just is blessed.' to the largest congregation ever seen at the chapel; many friends of religion, and multitudes drawn by personal esteem, taking this opportunity of testifying their respect for his memory. On Wednesday evening, the 19th, Dr. Marshman preached a funeral sermon in the Mission Chapel, Serampore, at which were present the Governor, his Excellency Col. Krefting, and nearly every European inhabitant of Serampore, both Danish and English, with a number from Ishera and Barrackpore. As he had fixed on no passage of Scripture himself, Dr. Marshman took this declaration of the Apostle's as expressing the language of our deceased brother's inmost soul: 'By the grace of God I am what I am.' At the request of the Rev. James Hill, Dr. Marshman, on the next Lord's-day, March 23rd, preached a funeral sermon for him from the same text to a congregation of perhaps six hundred, at the Union Chapel, the pulpit and desk of which were hung with black, as a testimony of esteem.

His appearance and character

Ward was particularly distinguished by an amiable and affectionate disposition. He had neither the ardour and elasticity of Joshua Marshman, nor the dogged perseverance of William Carey; but he possessed great aptitude for business, great clearness of perception, and untiring industry. He surpassed his colleagues in a knowledge of the character and habits of the natives, and few Europeans have ever been so successful in managing them. He spoke Bengali with the fluency and ease of a native, and was thus enabled to acquire a powerful influence over the people. He commanded the attention of a native audience by the flow of his language and his apt allusion to their habits, feelings and allegories.

In his person Ward was of middle stature; in the latter years of his life inclined to corpulency, though he was rather thin in his youth. His countenance was finely formed, with bright hazel eyes, beaming with intelligence, and the sweetest expression of benevolence. He had a brown mark over the side of his right eye, which did not detract from the general pleasantness of his aspect; a Roman nose, a small mouth, a double chin, a broad expanse of forehead, and a bald head. His complexion was naturally fair; but long residence in a tropical climate had induced the usual swarthy complexion.

His public speaking was animated and striking. the habit of holding conversations, and argumentative discussions, which prevails so much in his labours had divested his preaching of much of the ardent appeal that once characterized it.

He left no son, but two daughters; the eldest married Captain Ward of the 67th regiment of Bengal Native Infantry, who died soon after his gallantry in the Sutlej campaigns had secured him an independent command; the youngest married Mr. Nichols, for some time the superintendent of the Benares College. Ward left nothing for the support of his family beyond a little sum he brought out with him, and the small accumulation of his tenths for five years; but his widow was fully provided for by the gratitude of his surviving colleagues.

A firm and uninterrupted union is broken

It would be difficult to cite another example of so firm and uninterrupted a union of three men for so long a period. That union was created by the magnitude of the object in which they were engaged, and by that elevation of views which it imparted, and was strengthened by the difficulties they had to encounter. They seemed as if they had been born to act together, and every attempt which was made to separate them only served to increase the strength of their union. With no small difference of opinion on many points, and much diversity of temper, there never was any discord among them, or any diminution of mutual confidence.

Extracts from Joshua Marshman's funeral sermon for William Ward

In reviewing this sudden and afflictive providence, we are affected with almost indescribable distress at the loss sustained, not only by the denomination to which our brother belonged, but by the church and the cause of God at large, particularly as it relates to India: for although his family and his immediate colleagues in the work of God, feel the sense of their loss increased by all that recollection of his worth as a man, a Christian, a husband, a father, a colleague and brother, which the space of nearly twenty-four years, spent in the greatest degree of social happiness capable of being enjoyed on earth, must continually furnish; our brother was not a man who confined his regard for the cause of God to one denomination. He loved all who loved the Redeemer, and sought to promote his cause. Hence his death is a public loss; and those particularly, whose spiritual good he laboured to promote, and whose hands he laboured to strengthen by his preaching, his prayers, and extensive correspondence, whether they be in India, Europe, or America, cannot but feel this bereavement.

The brethren of Serampore, indeed, have been thus called to renew their trust in God while wading through the depths of affliction, even from the beginning of their course. We do not here allude merely to the fire eleven years ago, in which our dear brother, now deceased, was himself almost miraculously preserved, and which threatened to overwhelm us, but which, through the divine mercy, was succeeded by the divine blessing to a greater extent than we had ever experienced before. We rather allude to the repeated afflictions we were called to sustain twenty-two years ago, when so many of our missionary brethren were in succession carried to the grave in the very infancy of the cause here. Within eighteen days after our landing at Serampore, on the 30th October 1799, Mr. Grant was carried off. The succeeding July Mr. Fountain was removed, within four years after his arrival in the country, and just as he had become ready in the language. The next July beheld the death of Mr. Brunsdon, scarcely twenty-six years of age, and the most forward in the language, as well as the ablest English preacher among all the four brethren who came out together. - And to complete the measure of affliction, the next October Mr. Thomas himself, who had laid the foundation of the mission in Bengal, and had come out with brother Carey seven years before, was taken away, at an age two years below that of our now deceased brother. At that critical period, that four of the only seven missionaries then in this part of India should be removed, and among them both the youngest and oldest, the ablest and the most active, was indeed overwhelming, had we looked merely to human aid. Yet nearly all that has been done in this part of India has been the fruit of the Divine blessing since, experienced on humble and persevering effort, accompanied with constant prayer.

The work for which God pre-eminently raised up our brother, was evidently that of printing the Scriptures in India; and we believe, that to him was herein shown grace and favour granted to very few men besides. To the language of the Apostle, which the brother who came out with him well recollects seeing in his diary in the course of the voyage, applied to his own circumstances, 'unto me, who am less than the least of the saints, is this grace given, that I should print among the heathen the unsearchable riches of Christ,' - could he have foreseen the Divine goodness to him, he might have added - "in Twenty of their languages;" for the twentieth version of the New Testament in the languages of India printed under his eye, had advanced to the book of Revelation at the time of our beloved brother's removal; and we believe it has been granted to few men in the church of God, ever to print the New Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in twenty languages spoken among the heathen. For the preparation of all those founts of types which they required, and most of which had never before been seen in India, was his thorough knowledge of the art, his nice discernment, his assiduity, his indefatigable diligence, his love for the cause of the Redeemer, and the souls of the heathen, peculiarly suited: yet these prepared, and the difficulties attending the first editions of the Scriptures overcome, the way is now made easy; - second and succeeding editions involve so little difficulty, that the various native Christian brethren and others, trained up by our beloved brother for so many years, can go on with the work under common European superintendence.

Seeing, then, that infinite wisdom and love guide all things, however mysterious, and that these are ever the same, - what remains, but that we all adore in humble silence what we are unable to comprehend - take new courage, and go forward in the work of Him, who will cause his church to increase, till, like the stone cut out without hands, it shall fill the whole earth. And to animate us thus to abound in the work of the Lord, and do our own peculiar work in our day and generation, what can tend more than the example and the end of our beloved brother; whose life, at least, for the last twenty-four years, amidst all the difficulties and trials he had to share with his brethren, was one uniform course of high usefulness and happiness of mind; and who, after so long a course of bodily and mental labour, and spirituality of soul, was in heaven, adoring before the throne of the Lamb, within forty-eight hours after he had delivered his last message for his glorious Redeemer below.


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