"GREAT THINGS FOR GOD"
Ethics Changed India
(Investigator 115, 2007
teaching collided with India's caste system, widow burning, idolatry,
infanticide, and with reincarnation and karma. Behind the collision was
grew up in a village in central England. His father was a school
master, his mother a lace-maker. He left school at 14, worked on a farm
two years, then became a cobbler.
devout Anglicans. His interest in the Bible began at 17 when he
attended meetings of Anglican dissenters. A gift for languages revealed
itself when he borrowed a Bible with the Greek text between the English
and began learning Greek.
Dorothy Placket an uneducated girl unable even to sign the parish
was baptized by
Baptists in 1783. At 25 he could read the Bible in Latin, Hebrew and
Greek and spoke Dutch, French and Italian. He now had a reputation as a
preacher, converted his two sisters, and also became a teacher.
pondered over Bible
prophecies that God and the gospel would be declared in all nations. He
asked some ministers whether, "the command given to the apostles to
teach all nations was not obligatory on all succeeding ministers to the
end of the world."
recalled, "He was remarkably impressed about the heathen lands and the
slave trade. I never remember him engaging in prayer, in his family or
in public, without praying for those poor wretches."
Carey became a
minister at Leicester, a country town. He now had three sons and still
worked nine to five as a teacher.
his 87-page book
was published — AN ENQUIRY into the Obligation of Christians to use
means for the Conversion of the Heathens. His text was Romans
distinction between the Jew and the Greek, the same Lord is Lord of all
and bestows his riches upon all who call upon him. For "every one who
calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved."
how are men to call
upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in
him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a
preacher? And how can men preach unless they are sent?
meeting Carey expounded Isaiah 54:2-3 and concluded, "Expect great
things from God. Attempt great things for God."
ministers including Carey founded the Baptist Missionary Society to
"propagate the gospel among the heathen." He also met John Thomas who
had spent five years as a physician in Bengal. The two men were
appointed as the Baptist Missionary Society's first missionaries —
assignment Bengal, India.
wife opposed the
move; his father called him "mad"; the East India Company opposed
missionary work and refused Carey a licence to enter India.
John Newton — a
former slave trader turned Christian minister opposing slavery, and
composer of the song Amazing Grace — said, "If God has
you to accomplish, nothing on earth can stop you!"
Carey with wife
and children, his wife's sister, and John Thomas sailed on a Danish
ship to Bengal.
co-workers described what they found:
temples…none erected for the worship of the one living and true God.
Services without end…performed in honour of the elements and deified
heroes… Among these idolaters no Bibles were found; no Sabbaths; no
congregation for religious instruction in any form, no house of God; no
God but a log of wood, or a monkey; no Saviour but the Ganges; no
worship but that paid to abominable idols... (Martin 1974, p.82)
next forty years
Carey and co-workers experienced poverty, wild animals, primitive
conditions, sicknesses, East India Company opposition, deaths of family
members, and setbacks from fire and floods. Nevertheless they:
Ordered types from England and set up a printing press;
Prepared and published the grammars of seven languages;
Wrote dictionaries and textbooks in Bengali, Sanskrit and Marathi;
Established schools for native students, and in Serampur a
Developed the Serampur Botanical Gardens;
Established a Horticultural Society.
was shocked by the
Hindu practices of:
Child marriage whereby parents contracted infant daughters to
marry men they had never met;
Leaving old, or very sick, people by the Ganges River to die;
Mothers sacrificing newborn babies by drowning in the Ganges;
Hook-swinging where people had bamboo splints forced through
their flesh, attached to hooks, and were swung through the air;
Widow-burning or suttee:
number of people assembled on the river-side…to burn the body of a dead
man. I inquired if his wife would die with him; they answered yes, and
pointed to her. She was standing by the pile of large billets of wood,
on top of which lay her husband's dead body. Her nearest relative stood
by her and near her was a basket of sweetmeats. I asked if this was her
choice, or if she were brought up to it by any improper influence. They
answered that it was perfectly voluntary. I talked till reasoning was
of no use, and then began to exclaim with all my might against what
they were doing, telling them it was shocking murder. They told me it
was a great act of holiness and added in a very surly manner that if I
did not like to see it, I might go further off, and desired me to do
so. I said I would not go, that I was determined to stay and see the
murder, against which I would certainly bear witness at the tribunal of
God. I exhorted the widow not to throw her life away, to fear nothing,
for no evil would follow her refusal to be burned. But in the most calm
manner she mounted the pile, and danced on it with her hands extended
as if in the utmost tranquillity of spirit.
to this, the
relative whose office it was to set fire to the pile, led her six times
round it — thrice at a time. She went round, she scattered the
sweetmeats amongst the people who ate them as a very holy thing. This
being ended, she lay down beside the corpse, and put one arm under its
neck, and the other over it, when a quantity of dry cocoa-leaves and
other substances were heaped over them to a considerable height, and
then ghee, melted preserved butter, was poured on the top. Two bamboos
were then put over them, and held fast down, and fire put to the pile
which immediately blazed very fiercely, owing to the dry and
combustible materials of which it was composed. No sooner was the fire
kindled than all the people set up a great shout of joy, invoking Siva.
It was impossible to have heard the woman had she groaned, or even
cried aloud, on account of the shoutings of the people, and then it was
impossible for her to stir or struggle, by reason of the bamboos held
her down, like the levers of a press. We made much objection to their
use of them, insisting that it was undue force to prevent her getting
up when the fire burned. But they declared it was only to keep the fire
from falling down. We could not bear to see more, and left them,
exclaiming loudly against the murder, and filled with horror at what we
had seen. (Martin 1974, p.70)
treatment toward widows is different — namely that they be put on a
list for Church support:
be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years old… (I Timothy 5:9-10;
nations have now
adopted standards similar to the Bible and call it "pension", "social
security" or "government benefits".
also described how
Hindus treated lepers:
cubits in depth was dug and a fire placed at the bottom of it. The poor
man rolled himself into it; but instantly, on feeling the fire, begged
to be taken out and struggled hard for that purpose. His mother and
sisters, however, thrust him in again; and thus a man, who to all
appearance might have survived several years, was cruelly burned to
death… Taught that a violent end purifies the body and ensures
transmigration into a healthy new existence, while natural death by
disease results in four successive births, and a fifth as a leper
again, the leper, like the even more wretched widow, has always courted
suicide. (Martin 1974, p. 83)
had numerous fixed
social categories or "castes". The lowest, the "Untouchables", were
considered barely human and fit for only the dirtiest work. No one
could change caste irrespective of talent or ability, or show
compassion toward lower castes. Why? — Because Hindus believe in
reincarnation and Karma.
a law of divine
justice whereby suffering is considered punishment for wrongs one did
in a previous life. Suffering, therefore, is deserved; it's a just
rejects reincarnation — and says that people "die once". (Hebrews 9:27)
caste system also
ensured preferential access to status and wealth. It economically
advantaged all except the lowest caste. Caste is therefore an
institutionalized example of the truth of:
of money is the root of all [sorts of] evils. (I Timothy 6:10)
combat Hindu practice
Carey used the Bible. The Encyclopedia Britannica says: "Carey
translated the Bible into Bengali, Oriya, Merathi, Hindi, Assamese, and
Sanskrit. Parts of it he also translated into 29 other languages and
Carey preached the
The "golden rule" (Matthew 7:12);
Neighborly love and doing good (Luke 10:25-37; II Thessalonians
Kindness and compassion (Colossians 3:12-13);
wrongness of child sacrifice (Jeremiah 7:31; Psalm 127:3-5);
wrongness of idolatry (Jeremiah 10:1-16);
wrongness of suttee.
that oppose racial distinctions also oppose caste:
cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian,
Scythian, slave, free man, but Christ is all, and in all. (Colossians
God shows no
partiality. (Romans 2:11; Deuteronomy 10:17)
for a Hindu to
change religion flouted the caste system and resulted in persecution
and disownment by relatives. Carey's first converts therefore were
Europeans. In 1800 the first native, Krishna Pal, accepted Christianity
and became a missionary to the Hindus.
reluctant to interfere in religion and simply let "murder", as in suttee
and child sacrifice, continue. But Carey lobbied
almost 30 years.
in 1829 Lord W.
C. Bentinck, Governor-General of Bengal, abolished suttee. On
5th a messenger handed Carey a document abolishing suttee
British-ruled India for translation into Bengali.
measures to suppress the murder of unwanted children and human
Bengal alone 6,000
widows had been burned to death in the previous ten years. Allowing for
the rest of India and the passage of time, the widows that Carey, and
the Bible, helped to save must number many millions.
by the Baptist
Missionary Society other denominations formed missionary societies
including the London Missionary Society (1795) and the Church
Missionary Society (1799). Missionaries headed for Africa, the South
Seas, Asia and all over the world.
killing of babies and lepers illegal. India's Parliament outlawed
Untouchability in 1949 and the caste system is slowly breaking down.
cobbler from an obscure village did "great things for God" and helped
fulfil Jesus Christ's great prophecy:
gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a
testimony to all nations; and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14)
N. 1974 William
Carey The Man Who Never Gave Up, Hodder & Stoughton.
The Bible Brought
writers for Investigator
are quite negative about the Bible and Christianity. However, "Great
Things For God, Biblical Ethics Changed India" (#115) about the work of
William Carey, was constructive, inspiring and encouraging.
people, even in
churches, don't know or appreciate that their quality of life arose
because people searched the Bible and sought to understand it and apply
it. In this way the Bible gradually changed nations and societies for
Newton, the Earl of Shaftesbury (who introduced factory reform),
William Booth (who opposed injustice, poverty, "sweated labour" and
child prostitution), Hudson Taylor, and numberless others acted from
their Christian faith and worked for changes that benefit nations and