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Adoniram Judson was America’s pioneer Baptist missionary. Today, we are going to look at his life through the lens of five trips. Now, the final three of these five trips are literal trips, but the first two are metaphorical trips. The first, sadly enough, is Judson’s journey to atheism.
Judson was born into the home of a Congregationalist minister in Malden, Massachusetts on August 9th, 1788. As a young man, he evidenced a significant intelligence and ability to learn languages. By the time he was ten, he was reading in Latin and Greek. He was sent off to then Rhode Island College—now we call it Brown University—and he graduated as the valedictorian at Brown at the age of twenty.
It was while he was at Brown, however, that he drifted from his father’s religion and the Congregationalism that he grew up with to deism. From deism, he drifted into atheism. That’s his first journey, his journey to atheism.
His second journey is his trip away from atheism and back to theism, to a once-again, solid belief in God. It all happened one night as Adoniram was traveling. He came across an inn, and he wanted lodging. So, he knocked on the door and went in and found the innkeeper, and the innkeeper informed him that there was only one room available, and the innkeeper thought, in the interest of full disclosure, that he should tell them that the room was next to a man that was very ill. Judson said, “I’ll take the room. Death has no terrors for me, you see, I’m an atheist.”
Well, it turned out to be a long night for Adoniram Judson. The man next to him groaned literally on the doorstep of death all night long, and in the morning, the man in fact died. When Judson inquired as to who the man was, it turned out it was his college friend, Jacob Eames, and Eames was the very one who influenced Judson to be a deist. This shook Judson to the very core of his being, and he realized that he was lost and that death was not something he would bravely take on. Remember, he had said, “Death has no terrors for me,” but he was literally scared to death of death. After that night at the inn, as he was traveling on the way, he stopped right at the side of the road, repented of his disbelief, and turned to God.
Three months later, he would write in his journal, “This day, I made a solemn dedication of my life to God,” and that’s what Judson did. He went on to seminary, and he would become a missionary. He was one of the pioneer missionaries to leave from America. He took a trip, and this is his third trip now, his trip to Calcutta, and this was a literal trip on a literal boat. When he arrived in Calcutta, he came under the influence of William Carey, and he learned from William Carey, observing his life.
This leads us to Judson’s fourth journey, that is, his trip to Burma. It was in Burma where Judson would begin his own work as a missionary. He started, of course, with translating God’s Word into the language of the people. It was a bad time to be in Burma. There was a war between the British and the Burmese, and Judson was suspected to be a spy for the British. He was thrown into prison for seventeen months. The Burmese realized they needed him for his ability as a translator for treaty negotiations, and so they released him.
That brings us to our fifth and final trip, the final journey. He died aboard a ship on April 12, 1850, and he was buried at sea. He died at the age of sixty-one, and he spent thirty-seven of his sixty-one years on the mission field. Those are the five journeys of Adoniram Judson, America’s pioneer Baptist missionary.