William Carey: Chapter 11: Busy Years

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WE all know something, though perhaps it may not be much, about the story of our own dear English Bible, how it has been translated, and how suffer ed for; but if the people of India were to read for themselves God's wonderful book, it must be translated into many languages; and fifteen years of patient, steady work were needed before the Bengali Bible was quite ready to be put into the hands of native converts and others to whom it had long been promised. It was printed in five large volumes, and though in preparing it Dr. Carey got help which he valued greatly from his fellow-missionaries, every sheet was written by his own pen.
During the forty years of his missionary life in India, Dr. Carey saw through the press no less than five editions of the Old Testament and eight of the New, in Bengali. But if the scholars and pundits (teachers) of India were to read the word of God for themselves, it must be offered to them in Sanscrit, the language in which their Vedas, or sacred books, are written.
A Brahmin to whom a copy of the New Testament in Bengali had been offered would not even touch the book, but said, "Even if the book contains the knowledge of God, it is to us what milk would be if placed in a vessel of dog's skin, polluted, and we would rather die from thirst than drink it.”
But when the scriptures were offered to them in Sanscrit, even high caste Brahmins took them gladly.
The blessing of the Lord rested upon the translation of the scriptures. A copy of the gospels led a Brahmin priest to Christ, and many of the Sepoys, or Indian soldiers, were so anxious to get New Testaments of their own that they bought them of their officers.
The story of the conversion of Ali Khan, a high-caste Brahmin, is deeply interesting. Thirty-two years before it took place, he had been sent with his elder brothers by their father to a fair, with a string of horses for sale. A Bible in his own language was, while at the fair, given to him by an English gentleman, who told him to take care of it, not to throw it into the fire, nor into the river, but keep it safely till the British were rulers in the land. He said nothing about the book to any one, but after wrapping it up in a linen cloth, hid it carefully away.
Unable at the time to read it for himself, during all those years he had only shown it to one person, a Mohammedan, who read some passages from the Old Testament, and said, "Yes, this is a true book, it tells of Father Noah and Father Moses." Great changes in the government of India had taken place, and a large part of the country was under British rule. So Ali Khan made up his mind that the time to study the book had come. He read, believed, was won for Christ, and became a wholehearted helper in making the gospel known to his countrymen.
The cold season of 1811-12 was one of deep and unlooked-for trial. Death was a frequent visitor at the mission-house, and each of the little band of missionaries was called upon to part with some loved one; Dr. Carey lost one of his grandsons. A severe shock of earthquake caused great alarm. Houses shook and fell, while hundreds of natives ran wildly about calling upon idols that could neither hear nor help them.
The sun had just set on the evening of March 11, 1812, the native workmen had all gone to their homes, Mr. Ward still lingered at his desk, busy with some accounts, when clouds of smoke poured from the type room. A large stock of paper had only a few days before been stored in the printing-office, where were also thousands of printed sheets ready for binding, besides valuable manuscripts, types, a dictionary of all, or nearly all, Indian languages, on which Dr. Carey had worked for some years, and a safe in which the money that would be needed to pay the work-people had been placed. Rushing through this room to try and find out the cause of the fire, he saw the paper store was alight.
Joined by Mr. Marshman, they had every door and window closed, and with the help of some natives, who brought water, they climbed on to the roof, and for four hours did their utmost to put out the flames. About midnight, just as they hoped they had got the fire under, some one opened a window, and the whole building was one mass of flames; soon after the roof fell in with a terrible crash.
Dr. Carey was in Calcutta on the night of the fire, but when he arrived the next evening the ruins were still smoking. The trial was keenly felt, but all realized it might have been worse, for Mr. Ward, who had been all day hard at work clearing away rubbish, was able to report that five large printing-presses had not been touched by the flames and some other valuables had also escaped injury. A large, old warehouse near the mission premises was taken and all hands set to work to clear it; the presses were set up, and in little more than a week after the fire, printers and type-setters were at work again.
Much that had been destroyed by the fire had to be done over again; but good came out even of what at first had seemed so trying. When the story of the fire and the losses the missionaries had suffered became known in England, Scotland and America, old and new friends alike felt that they could do something to help, and not only wrote letters full of kindness and sympathy, but sent money to buy type, paper, and many other things needed in printing-offices.
Soon after the fire Dr. Carey wrote to a friend: "The loss is very great, and will long be severely felt, yet it might have been much more difficult to bear. The Lord has laid His hand upon us, He had a right to do so, and we deserve His correction. I wish to bow to His will, and even to rejoice in it, `He hath done all things well.' I turn now to the bright side. Our loss as far as I can see will be repaired in much less time than at first seemed possible. We have already begun to set type for a fresh edition of the New Testament in Tamil. Many are praying for us, and we can say of the Lord, that 'his mercy endureth forever.'”