William Carey: Chapter 7: Village Work in India

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TWO hundred villages without a single missionary! How Mr. Carey longed to preach the glad tidings of the gospel to those who had never heard of the Lord Jesus Christ. Many of these neglected villages were on the banks of rivers at no great distance from where he lived, so to travel by boat was, he saw, the best and easiest way of reaching them.
He usually took two small boats. The one in which he lived was just large enough to hold a chair, a table, a bed and lamp, his Bible and a few other books. The other boat served as a kitchen, and was used for cooking his food, which he always took with him. He would often visit five or six different villages during the day, walking from those nearest the river bank to those further inland, preaching at each stopping-place, and often remaining for some time to answer questions, or converse with any who seemed to wish to hear more, and returning to his boat for food and sleep.
Still, he found time to go on not only with the study of Sanscrit, but to make good progress with his loved work, the translation of the Bible into Bengali. As each chapter was translated, it was tested by being read to hundreds of the natives; when he found, as was sometimes the case, that there was any word or phrase they did not understand, it was changed for another.
Writing to two missionaries about to sail for Africa, Mr. Carey advised them to learn the language by going as much as possible among the people, adding, "If you have children, they will soon become your teachers, as they learn quickly from native servants or playfellows. Our children speak Bengali almost like natives, and I often find when they do not understand what I say to them in English, it is quite easy when I repeat it in Bengali.”
Of his friend and fellow-worker, Mr. Thomas, Mr. Carey said, "God has greatly blessed the medical branch of our work; Thomas has, I feel sure, been the means of saving many lives. I never saw so many sick people. Many are blind. Day after day crowds come begging medicine either for themselves or their relations. They have no money to pay for it, even if we wished them to do so. All have the gospel preached to them, and seem very grateful for help given.”
For more than a year Mr. Carey's friends in the Homeland had been without news of him. Letters in those days did not travel quickly between India and England. Owing to bad weather, the ship that took out the missionaries had been driven along the coast of France, and so failed to bring back the expected letters. The waiting-time must have seemed long and trying; there was just one comfort, they could still pray, and pray they did; and fourteen months after the day on which Mr. Carey and his family sailed, the long-looked-for packet arrived, giving an account of the voyage, and the first six weeks in India. How much might have happened since those letters were written no one could tell, but the hearts of the little company of praying men and women who met that night in the old schoolroom at Leicester were very full of thanksgiving.
The first six years of Mr. Carey's life in India were spent in Bengal, but God was leading him by a way he knew not; and finding that by a removal to Serampur he would be better able to carry on a work that lay very near his heart, the translation and printing of the scriptures, early in January, 1800, he went there with his family. The day after his arrival he was introduced to the Governor; he then, with his usual promptness, went and preached to the natives.
Soon after his removal to Serampur, Mr. Carey was joined by three other missionaries; he had something kind to say of each. Of one he wrote, "Brother Marshman is a marvel of diligence and prudence, so also is his wife. Learning the language seems only play to him; he already knows as much as I did in double the time. He goes out nearly every day, and seldom fails to make himself understood. Mr. Ward does not learn Bengali so quickly as the others, but I do thank God for allowing him to come out here, he is a man of faith and prayer, and so useful among the children.”
The girls' school for which Mr. Carey had long wished and prayed was begun, and though at first it was far from easy to persuade Hindu fathers and mothers to allow their daughters to be taught to read, Mrs. Marshman, under whose care it was from the first placed, proved herself a patient and loving teacher, and it soon grew in numbers and usefulness.
All the missionaries were early risers, for in India it is well to get work well forward before the great heat of the day begins. On weekdays all were at work by seven o'clock in the morning, Mr. Carey in the garden, Mr. and Mrs. Marshman in the schools, and the others in the printing-office. At eight the bell rang for prayers. Breakfast followed, after which Mr. Carey read proofs or went on with translation till dinner at three; after dinner, all rested for an hour, and then went out to preach or visit till supper-time. Bible-reading, prayer and study closed the day.