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Specimens of Oriental Alphabets. Courtesy 'The Centre for the Study of the Life and Work of William Carey D.D., 1761 - 1834.'

The first Armenian missionaries from the Chitpore Road chapel

During 1809, the missionaries recruited Europeans who had been born and educated in India to the missionary field. Ward writes: 'for the army of labourers to be employed in assaulting the bulwarks of Hindooism, we ought to look to England only for a few superior officers. The non-commissioned officers and rank and file we must raise in the country.' These men had a thorough knowledge of the habits and the feelings of the people and were familiar with the vernacular tongue. They could not be deported from the country for want of a license and could travel about without a passport.

During the preceeding 2 or 3 years the labours of the missionaries had drawn around them a small body of men, of East Indian, Portuguese and Armenian extraction, who manifested much zeal after their conversion.

Two men were selected for missionary work, Mr. Carapiet Aratoon and Mr. John Peter. Both were Armenian and owed their religious convictions to the ministrations in Bengali at the little chapel on the Chitpore Road. Mr. Aratoon was placed in Jessore and Mr. Peter, on the border of Orissa, at Balasore.

The 1809 report to the Society on the progress of translations

At the close of 1809, the missionaries sent a report to the Baptist Missionary Society on the progress of translations. They stated that after 16 years of exertion:

1) The whole Bible had been printed in Bengali in 5 volumes.

2) The New Testament and Psalms had been printed in Oriya.

3) The Sanskrit New Testament was printed and the Pentateuch begun.

4) They had made the first rough translations of the New Testament in Telugu and Punjabi.

5) The Gujarati and Mahratti translations had been suspended for want of funds.

6) The Gospels had been printed in Hindi in the Deva Nagree script.

7) Mr. Chater and Felix Carey were preparing to translate the Scriptures into Burmese.

8) Mr. Robinson was preparing to translate the Bible into the language of Bhutan.

9) Mr. Marshman was translating the Bible into Chinese.

The progress of the type foundry

By the middle of 1807, the missionaries had completed 4 founts. With the addition of the Persian fount that Fuller had sent out from England, (at a cost of £500), they were able to print in 7 languages.

Messrs. Fry and Figgins, of London, were employed in preparing Oriental punches for the East India Company, and Mr. Figgins offered to supply the missionaries with 407 matrices of the Telugu font (he retaining the punches) for £641. For the Nagree type, where the number of characters had been judiciously reduced to 300 matrices, the price was £700. At the type foundry at Serampore their native workmen had produced a complete font of the Nagree type, consisting of 700 characters, for the sum of £100.

Ward's general review of the first 10 years of the Serampore Mission

Ten years had now elapsed since the establishment of the Mission at Serampore, and a general review of the progress which had been made during the period was drawn up by Ward, at the request of his brethren, in December 1809.

They had:

1) Succeeded in settling 4 stations in Bengal.

2) Planted stations on the borders of Orissa and Bhutan, and in Burma.

3) The number of members in church fellowship exceeded 200.

4) Obtained a footing in Calcutta where a chapel had been built, and a large congregation collected.

5) The Scriptures had been printed, in whole or in part, in 6 languages, and translations commenced in 6 others.

The report concludes: 'And now dear brethren, has not God completely refuted the notion that all attempts to disseminate the Gospel among the heathen are vain? This happy degree of success, which surprises us who are on the spot, has been created within the space of about nine years; for it is no more since the baptism of the first Hindoo.... ...I hope the Report I have drawn up will afford you and the other brethren who have born the heat and the burden of the day a degree of real comfort. God has done great things, not only by us, but through you. We can never separate ourselves from you for a moment in thinking what God has done for the Baptist mission in India.'

A tribute to Ward, by Carey

In one of Carey's letters of 1810 he describes Ward's gifts. 'Brother Ward has such a facility of addressing spiritual things to the heart, and his thoughts run so naturally in that channel, that he fixes the minds of all who hear him on what he says, while I, after making repeated efforts, can scarcely get out a few dry sentences, and should I meet with a rebuff at the beginning, sit, like a silly mute, and scarcely say anything at all. Reflections such as these have occasioned and still do occasion me much distress.'

Ward's exertions on a typical Sunday in Calcutta

Of the extraordinary personal labours of Mr. Ward, even at the most oppressive season of the year, we have a description in his Journal of the 17th June, 1810. In the morning he received two soldiers into the Church on their confession of faith, and then preached to a large English congregation in the Bow Bazaar Chapel, and subsequently held a meeting in the vestry, to catechise as many children as could be accommodated there. He then went to the house of an enquirer, and proceeded from thence to the great jail, (1) a distance of 3 miles, and preached to the prisoners, first in English and then in Bengali, and held a religious service with 3 soldiers in the hospital. After dusk, he went into the fort, and addressed a congregation of soldiers in a close and suffocating room. In the evening he met a number of friends at the house of one of the members of the church, and passed an hour in social and religious conversation, closing the labours of the day, at ten, with devotional exercises. The only remark he makes on exertions which appear too severe for any European constitution in a tropical climate, is:- 'Preaching in black cloth in this climate is a sad burden. My clothes have been saturated with perspiration three times to-day, and the very papers in my pocket are dyed black... Thus you see the heat of the climate does not prevent a hard day's work.'


(1) To see where the prison used to be, and the fort still is, click on the link.

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