I never get over this… the following are two letters Adoniram Judson (first real, American foreign missionary) wrote, the first to his prospective father-in-law asking Ann Hasseltine’s hand in marriage, and the second to Ann herself. Adoniram Judson had the most profound impact on me; his biography was the first book I read after becoming a Christian in high school. Judson’s biography was also the book that “broke” my wife in college, compelling her to tell God He could take her anywhere, anytime, with no conditions or limitations. He’s on my mind because I’m using this first letter for a message on missions I’m giving at Idlewild Baptist Church in Tampa, Fl tonight. Here are the letters:
Letter to Mr. Hasseltine Asking for His Daughter’s Hand in Marriage
“I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world ? Whether you can consent to her departure to a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life? Whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death? Can you consent to all this, for the sake of Him who left His heavenly home and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with a crown of righteousness brightened by the acclamations of praise which shall resound to her Saviour from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?”
Letter to Ann Hasseltine Before Their Marriage
“January 1, 1811. Tuesday Morning
It is with the utmost sincerity, and with my whole heart, that I wish you, my love, a happy new year. May it be a year in which your walk will be close with God; your frame calm and serene; and the road that leads you to the Lamb marked with purer light. May it be a year in which you will have more largely the spirit of Christ, be raised above sublunary things, and be willing to be disposed of in this world just as God shall please. As every moment of the year will bring you nearer the end of your pilgrimage, may it bring you nearer to God, and find you more prepared to hail the messenger of death as a deliverer and a friend. And now, since I have begun to wish, I will go on. May this be the year in which you will change your name; in which you will take a final leave of your relatives and native land; in which you will cross the wide ocean, and dwell on the other side of the world, among a heathen people. What a great change will this year probably effect in our lives! How very different will be our situation and employment! If our lives are preserved and our attempt prospered, we shall next new year’s day be in India, and perhaps wish each other a happy new year in the uncouth dialect of Hindostan or Burmah. We shall no more see our kind friends around us, or enjoy the conveniences of civilized life, or go to the house of God with those that keep holy day; but swarthy countenances will everywhere meet our eye, the jargon of an unknown tongue will assail our ears, and we shall witness the assembling of the heathen to celebrate the worship of idol gods. We shall be weary of the world, and wish for wings like a dove, that we may fly away and be at rest. We shall probably experience seasons when we shall be ‘exceeding sorrowful, even unto death. We shall see many dreary, disconsolate hours, and feel a sinking of spirits, anguish of mind, of which now we can form little conception. O, we shall wish to lie down and die. And that time may soon come. One of us may be unable to sustain the heat of the climate and the change of habits; and the other may say, with literal truth, over the grave–
‘By foreign hands thy dying eyes were closed;
By foreign hands thy decent limbs composed;
By foreign hands thy humble grave adorned;’
but whether we shall be honored and mourned by strangers, God only knows. At least, either of us will be certain of one mourner. In view of such scenes shall we not pray with earnestness ‘O for an overcoming faith,’ etc.?”
Ann Hasseltine married Adoniram Judson on February 5, 1812. They left for India (and ultimately Burma) that year. She never returned, dying of disease in 1826, a victim of the long, dreadful months of disease, death, stress and loneliness that had been her station for 21 months. Their third child died six months later. When Adoniram Judson himself died many years later, they left 100 churches in Burma and 8,000 Burmese believers. Today Burma (Myanmar) has the 3rd largest number of Baptists worldwide.
From The Life of Adoniram Judson by his son Edward Judson. New York: Anson D. F. Randolph & Company, 1883.