Friday, July 20, 2007

A Strange Proposal

Adoniram Judson, the first Baptist missionary from America, married Ann Hasseltine on February 5, 1812. They boarded a boat 2 weeks after their wedding and headed to Burma. They had a rich marriage, and a fruitful ministry. A month after they first met, Adoniram wrote Ann a letter asking for permission to be her suitor (which was close to what we would call a proposal). She did not answer it for several days. When she finally did, she evaded the question, saying he would need to ask her parents first. Here is the letter Adoniram promptly sent to her dad:

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, 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 the crown of righteousness, brightened with the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Saviour from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?
--Quoted in Courtney Anderson, To The Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson (Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1987), 83.
A few things impress me about this letter. First, Adoniram Judson was bold and decisive in his pursuit of Ann. After knowing her only a month he proposed. I heard someone say recently, "You can't just get married." Actually you can. If you know what kind of girl you are looking for and you find her, be decisive and pursue marriage.

Second, Ann's dad, John, impresses me. What a disturbing letter to get. When I met with Stephanie's dad I can assure you I did not emphasize hardships, sufferings, dangers, fatal climates, or violent deaths. One of John Hasseltine's friends said he would rather tie his daughter to the bedpost than let her go across the world. But John told Ann it was her decision, and Anne married Adoniram and died in Burma. We need more parents who give their children to the service of Christ. How discouraging it is for a young man or woman to feel called to the mission field and have their Christian parents try to talk them out of it or forbid them to go. Will we raise our children and entrust them to God for His glory and the good of immortal souls?

Third, I am impressed by the single minded commitment of the Judsons to the cause of Christ. Adoniram was not exaggerating, or being dramatic in his letter. Going to live in Burma was a very dangerous mission, and they both knew it would probably end in death among strangers. Ann struggled with her decision, but eventually decided to marry the man she loved. Soon after deciding to marry she wrote to her friend:
I feel willing, and expect, if nothing in providence prevents, to spend my days in this world in heathen lands. Yes, Lydia, I have about come to the determination to give up all my comforts and enjoyments here, sacrifice my affection to relatives and friends, and go where God, in his providence, shall see fit to place me.
--Quoted in Anderson, To The Golden Shore, 84.


Cousin Jason said...

Man, that is heavy stuff. When I asked Jenn's dad for permission to marry his daughter, I also did not mention hardships.

Judson's singleness of purpose and drive is so evident in his letter. Something not many have.

Speaking of pastoring, Mark Driscoll said, "If you cant get up in the morning, look in the mirror and say 'Jesus said to do this' you're going to tap out."

Anonymous said...


I have frequented your post of late, and just want to let you know I appreciate your writing. This post in particular stands out for obvious reasons. It takes a passionate student of history to come up with these gems. Thanks a lot!

Kevin Sheckler

Mark and Stephanie said...

Yeah, that is what impresses me about Judson and just about every other 19th century missionary I read about. I read something recently about our TV generation for the most part lacks the ability for commitment, single-mindedness, and sacrifice that it takes to go to hard fields. I think learning from people like the Judson's is helpful.

Thank you for reading, and thanks for your encouragement. I have been trying to write more lately, once Stephanie convinced me that some people actually read this blog. Part of my goal is to convince people that history is neither boring or pointless (at least it doesn't need to be).

Merea said...

I love this story. Where do you find stories like these? Are you reading a book. As you know, I like history and missions. So naturally history about missions is at the top of my list as well=) Can you just post on everything you learn in the Church history study of yours? hee hee.

Mark and Stephanie said...

I found this story in one of the best biographies out there, "To the Golden Shore," by Courtney Anderson. I bet you'd enjoy it. Also, for more on Judson, check out Piper's biographical sketch of him, "How Few There are Who Die so Hard." He quotes this letter I think.

Also, right now I am reading the history of the Foreign Mission Board of the SBC. I'll probably post a thing or two from that in the coming weeks.