William Carey: Chapter 9: The First Indian Boarding School

 •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 8
BIBLE-TRANSLATING, preaching, superintending, and often teaching in his own schools, must have made Mr. Carey's life a very busy one; but still more might, he saw, be done, so without wasting time he set about doing it. In the spring of 1800, a notice, something like an advertisement, appeared in several Indian papers.
“MISSION HOUSE, SERAMPUR. On Thursday, the 1st of May, 1800, a Boarding School will be opened in the Mission House, which stands on the bank of the river, and is very healthy, and pleasantly situated. Letters addressed to Mr. Carey will receive prompt attention. Lessons in Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and Persian or Sanscrit can be had. Bengali and English will be taught to all pupils, great care being taken that English should be correctly spoken.”
Such was the small beginning of what grew into a large and flourishing college, in which many sons of well-to-do natives received a high-class education. The school for boys was soon followed by one for girls, and as the Bible was taught in both schools (though no one was forced to break their caste), the light of the gospel shone into many a dark heart; and from both schools some went forth as missionaries to their own people.
A little later Mr. Carey wrote to a friend in England: "Last year we opened a free school for boys in Calcutta. This year we have been able to add to it one for girls. The boys' school now numbers about one hundred and forty, and we have about forty girls. The boys are taught by a very earnest and painstaking master; the girls are under the care of a native convert, who, though a very poor woman, is an earnest Christian. All are being taught to read the Bible.”
"The missionaries must not be allowed to live and work in Calcutta." So said a great many people, some of whom I am sorry to say were Europeans; but when a college for the sons of high-caste Hindus was opened at Fort William, Mr. Carey was the only teacher of Bengali who could be found, and he was asked to accept the appointment. This he did thankfully feeling that God had in answer to prayer opened a long-closed door; "This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes," was the language of his praise-filled heart.
Work grew fast, for in addition to his duties as teacher of Bengali and English at Fort William, a place for gospel preaching was opened in the large and thickly-peopled city of Calcutta. Bible and other classes were held during the week, and the hearts of the missionaries were gladdened by knowing that a few of the almost countless numbers of heathen around them had not only heard, but believed the glad tidings, and though they had much to learn, really loved to please and serve the Lord Jesus.
Shall we turn, for a moment, from India as Carey found it rather more than a hundred years ago, and take a peep at what is being done to-day? There are many villages in India where lady missionaries are only able to visit very seldom, perhaps once a year.
Thousands of women and girls are shut up in zenanas; if these are not visited in their homes, they live and die without ever hearing of Jesus and His love.
A morning spent in Indian homes could hardly fail to be interesting, but as we cannot travel so far, or speak even one of the many Ianguages of that vast empire, we will join in thought a missionary teacher, as in company with a native Bible-woman she sets out for her Monday's round of visits. The first house visited seems almost like a small school, for there are ten pupils, all waiting for their weekly lesson; so two classes are formed, the missionary taking five for English and the Bible woman five for Urdu or Hindu. How the teacher longs to get the three youngest girls of her English class into a Christian school, quite near their home; they would be delighted to go, and their mother makes no objection, but the father will not consent, saying that no girl from his caste has ever been allowed to attend school! So the poor children must be content with a weekly reading lesson. The boys of the family all go to school, and sometimes give their sisters a little help. But it is time for the Bible lesson, and as it is given in Hindu, three more come in for it, and all listen very attentively.
One day the lesson was about the temptation of the Lord in the wilderness, and the answer given by the Lord to Satan when he wished Him to bow down in worship to him: "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve" (Matt. 4.), seemed to impress one thoughtful girl, as it was pointed out that the word used for "worship" in the Hindu Bible really means to bow the head, a mark of respect the Hindus never forget to pay to their idols. She said, with a quick glance to the shelf where the family idols were arranged, "Does it really mean that we are only to bow the head to God, even though we cannot see Him? Must we bow the head to no one else?” The answer was, "That is what the Lord says." All seemed to feel it was a solemn time.
The smallest pupil, a little girl of seven, would not for a long time even try to learn her lesson properly. Her elder sisters said they had tried to teach her, but could not; she was lazy! One day the teacher said, "I have a little dolly at home, I should like it to come and live with you; but I cannot give it to a little girl who never learns her lessons. What shall I do with it?" The next week the lesson was learned, and the little scholar seemed much brighter.