Our Only Little All

Adoniram Judson was one of America’s first foreign missionaries. In 1812, at the age of 22, he left America for India, (eventually ending up in Burma), burning in his heart to obey his Master’s command to make disciples of all the nations (Mt 28:20). For a wonderful and riveting summary and application of his life, listen John Piper’s biological sermon for the 2003 Pastor’s Conference here.  My intent is to highlight passages from Courtney Anderson's biography of Adoniram — To the Golden Shore.  May the Lord use it to encourage and send His workers into the harvest. ---

This quote tells of the life and death of Roger Williams Judson, Adoniram's first son. O how Adoniram and Nancy grieved! May we plant their theology of the goodness of God's painful discipline deep in our own hearts. They cried in pain and worshipped their God in pain. They lamented and cast themselves on the Lord who loved them so. They held to no stoic fatalism, but to a radiant vision of the supremacy of God in all the sufferings of men.

Isaiah 45 9 “Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker— An earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you doing?’ Or the thing you are making say, ‘He has no hands’?

Proverbs 3 11 My son, do not reject the discipline of the Lord Or loathe His reproof, 12 For whom the Lord loves He reproves, Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.

On the eleventh of September, 1815, with no attendant but Adoniram, [Nancy] gave birth to a little boy, Roger Williams Judson.

The baby flourished from the start.  He fed well, never cried except when in pain, and to his doting mother and father seemed unusually sensitive to his surroundings.  Nancy felt better than in years, "almost in a new state of existence."

[…]

The new year 1816 came and Adoniram continued to drive himself.  Little Roger, who still flourished, was almost his only relaxation.  The baby seemed to show an unusual desire to be with his parents.  Sometimes when they went by his cradle without picking him up, "he would follow us with his eyes to the door, when they would fill with tears, and his countenance so expressive of grief, though perfectly silent, that it would force us back to him, which would cause his little heart to be as joyful as it had been before sorrowful."

[…]

For six months Roger waxed fat and healthy.  Then, in early March of 1816, Nancy began to notice that he was feverish and perspired heavily at night.  Like any mother she was alarmed, but her fears quieted when she saw that his appetite continued good in the daytime and he seemed quite well. He even kept on gaining weight.  She finally concluded that the baby had some childish ailment which would end when he cut his teeth.

She soon almost forgot her worries about Roger in her concern for Adoniram.  All at once he was attacked by severe headaches. His eyes hurt, and he became so weak that he could hardly stand. Reading, writing, or making any kind of effort caused such unbearable pain that he had to stop working. In a mood of depression he decided his missionary career was closing, and in the few moments when he felt well began to assemble his grammar and write a tract in Burmese to help his successor carry on without him.

So things went until the beginning of May — Adoniram sick and miserable most of the time, little Roger well enough during the day but feverish and sweating at night. Then one morning when Nancy lifted Roger from his cradle he was taken with a paroxysm of coughing which lasted half an hour. Within an hour or so he had developed a high fever. Both Nancy and Adoniram were alarmed. But when the fever abated the next day, they decided that attack had passed.

They were mistaken. The following morning, a Thursday, the cough and fever returned, worse than before. Something in his throat seemed to be choking him. His heavy breathing could be heard all over the house.

In all Rangoon the only person who knew anything about medicine was a Portuguese priest. They went for him at once, but all he could give the baby was "a little rhubarb and gascoign powder," neither of which relieved the cough or the difficulty in breathing.

All through the night and the next day Roger continued the same while Nancy sat up, anguish in her heart, holding him. But the second night, about two in the morning, exhaustion overcame and Adoniram, sick as he was, took the baby. "The little creature drank his milk with much eagerness (he was  weaned) and Mr. Judson thought that he was refreshed and would go to sleep. He laid him in his cradle — he slept with ease for half an hour, when his breath stopped without a struggle, and he was gone!"

In that climate funerals could not be delayed. On the far side of the garden a circle of mango trees surrounded a little bamboo hut where Nancy was in the habit of writing letters home.  WIthin the enclosure of trees a grave was dug beside the hut that very day, the fourth of May, and there, in the afternoon, Roger was buried while Adoniram and Nancy numbly watched in the company of forty or fifty Burmese and Portuguese acquaintances who tried to console them.

His death and interment occurred almost before they could feel grief. But in the next few days, as they put away the little evidences of his short life — the cradle, his clothing, the few toys — until the only tangible reminders were his absence and the fresh grave in the mango circle, their hearts began to bleed.

[…]

Our hearts [she reflected, with a touch of resentment] were bound up in this child; we felt he was our earthly all, our only source of innocent recreation in this heathen land.  But God saw it was necessary to remind us of our error, and to strip us of our only little all. O may it not be vain that he has done it. May we so improve it, that he will stay his hand and say, 'It is enough.' […] When for a moment we realize what we once possessed…the wound opens and bleeds afresh.  Yet we would still say, "Thy will be done."

Anderson, Courtney. To the Golden Shore. Copyright by Courtney Anderson, 1987. Published by Judson Press, 1987. pg. 184-193

Psalm 16

Missions Send Off