History of Missions Lecture 12: India



Lecture 12 will look at what William Carey and missionaries from St Andrews did in India.

William Carey (these are notes, the part of the lecture based on William Carey is freeform)

During the first year in Calcutta, the missionaries sought means to support themselves and a place to establish their mission. They also began to learn the Bengali language to communicate with the natives. A friend of Thomas owned two indigo factories and needed managers, so Carey moved with his family north to Midnapore. During the six years that Carey managed the indigo plant, he completed the first revision of his Bengali New Testament and began formulating the principles upon which his missionary community would be formed, including communal living, financial self-reliance, and the training of indigenous ministers. His son Peter died of dysentery, causing Dorothy to suffer a nervous breakdown from which she never recovered.

The conversion of Hindus to Christianity posed a new question for the missionaries concerning whether it was appropriate for converts to retain their caste. In 1802, the daughter of Krishna Pal, a Sudra, married a Brahmin. This wedding was a public demonstration that the church repudiated the caste distinctions.

From the printing press at the mission came translations of the Bible in Bengali, Sanskrit, and other major languages and dialects. Many of these languages had never been printed before;

Internal dissent and resentment was growing within the Missionary Society as its numbers grew, the older missionaries died, and they were replaced by less experienced men. Some new missionaries arrived who were not willing to live in the communal fashion that had developed, one going so far as to demand “a separate house, stable and servants.” Unused to the rigorous work ethic of Carey, Ward, and Marshman, the new missionaries thought their seniors – particularly Marshman – to be somewhat dictatorial, assigning them work not to their liking.

Andrew Fuller, who had been secretary of the Society in England, had died in 1815, and his successor, John Dyer, was a bureaucrat who attempted to reorganize the Society along business lines and manage every detail of the Serampore mission from England. Their differences proved to be irreconcilable, and Carey formally severed ties with the missionary society he had founded, leaving the mission property and moving onto the college grounds. He lived a quiet life until his death in 1834, revising his Bengali Bible, preaching, and teaching students.

What can we learn from his work? (Discussion)


The St Andrews Seven: Thomas Chalmers was their teacher and taught certain things which rubbed off on his pupils. We will be going through a few lessons that are worth remembering.

John Adam – he threw himself into language study. His teacher had passed on the importance of preaching the gospel and he knew that he could not preach or affect the conscience without the knowledge of the local language. After 5 months he attempted his first sermon and from then on he was constantly preaching. While othe Europeans lay in exhaustion he preached the gospel in the heat of Calcutta. He also worked on the Bengali Bible. Sadly he died within a couple of years of the mission. He had given his life to the cause completely.

Alexander Duff – Chalmers had taught him that it was important both to have vision as well as a clear defined area, a practical aim. This was meant to stop someone being overwhelmed by the many tasks. By setting a goal, it was more likely that you could make a difference. Duff’s vision was to start a school. Within 6 weeks of being in Bengal he had formulated a plan which would eventually convert many and leave a massive impression on education in India. He did this in an unusual way though: he taught in English. He also offered people a “Christian” education, meaning he taught a high level of science. This was meant to be the interpretation of God’s work. The bible was a priority in this education. He was to become named “the prince of missionaries to India” as he had such amazing success.

William Sinclaire Mackey – Although Mackay didn’t gain the fame Duff did, he did have a great impact alongside him. He introduced a New Testament class because the students were asking for it so much. He was also an astronomer and set up a telescope on the roof of the school. He almost died many times, but said “My chief regret was that I had done so little for Christ, and given so much of my time to the world.” He retired 30 years after he came and died shortly after returning to Scotland. The lesson: there is always more to be done for Christ.

John Ewart – He taught for 6 hours every day and in the evenings would give his time to those asking about Jesus and to converts. Chalmers had taught him that the Gospel could meet the needs of all men. This meant he was hugely devoted to his work and believed that it did not matter if you were clever or not the Spirit could do amazing things in you. He died after 30 years of mission.

Robert Nesbitt – We spoke last week about how family was often difficult to leave when going on mission. It was particularly difficult for Nesbitt, but when his mother died faithfully, he felt all the more call to go to the Indian Mission. The struggle with his mother meant that he was prepared for the distressing times in India. When a child wanted to convert from Hinduism to Christianity their mothers would often weep hysterically, cling to their children and threaten to harm or kill themselves. Some priests shrank from this and didn’t want to do anything to cause this kind of pain. It fell to Nesbitt to attempt to comfort and encourage those who, by becoming Christians were expelled from their families completely. This rare sympathy was to be amazingly useful to those converts.

All in all the St Andrews 6 gave 141 years to the missionary cause.


Neill, Stephen. A History of Christian Missions (Penguins Books, Great Britain, 1964).
Piggin, Stuart & Roxborogh, John. The St. Andrews Seven (Banner of Truth, Southampton, 1985).
Carey, S. Pearce. William Carey (Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1923).


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