Carey was a man who loved God’s word. As a young man, Carey had recognized the sole power of the Bible. He began a habit of, every morning, reading one chapter out of the Bible in every language he spoke: six languages in all. The more he read the Bible, the more he realized the importance of it in a believer’s life. When Carey arrived in India, his goal was to see the Bible translated into all the languages and principle dialects of India.
The first language Carey challenged was Bengali. The province where Carey was centered was roughly the size of France and was home of nearly 80 million people. Of those, 45 million spoke Bengali. They were either Hindu or Muslim and had never before read the Words of Life. Carey began the translation by surrounding himself with three things: Greek manuscripts and Concordances, the Family Expositor of Doddridge commentary, and Ram Basu (the most acoomplished Bengali scholar of the day). But as much as Carey wanted his translation to be absolutely thorough, he would often bring in Bengali-speakers of all classes, to bounce the translation off them to ensure it was simple to read and understand.
The translation became Carey’s passion. He continued in his many other duties, but he would not allow anything to interfer with the time he set aside each day to translate. He even wrote to a friend once: “You will excuse my brevity when I inform you that all my time for writing letters is stealing from my work of transcribing the scriptures into the Bengali language.” Carey had to revise his manuscripts four times before he was completely satisfied with them. But finally, he was finished.
At just the time Carey was finishing the translation, Ward was arriving with the new printing press. It took them several months to get the typeset made and organized. But finally, Carey was able to personally take the impression of the first page of Matthew. By the time they were done (It took the nearly a year ), they had 500 New Testaments printed and ready to hand out.
All the missionary families and many of the Indian believers gathered into the Chapel as Carey presented the book. The Bible was placed on the communion table and everyone gathered around to in a prayer of thanksgiving, lead by Krishna Pal. Then Carey preached out of the New Bible from Colossians 3:16, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom.”
This small success would be first in a long line of great translations made by Carey and his team. In 1817, Carey was able to report back to his mission society:
The number of languages into which the sacred Scriptures are translated, or under translation, are nearly forty
At the age of 23, Robert set out for China with another young man, Henry Hickok. Their mission society had sent them out with meager instructions (to acquire a working knowledge of the language, preach the Gospel of Christ, heal the sick, distribute literature, and establish schools) and, although he had a bachelors and masters degree from an American University, he had received little practical training on missionary work. But despite this, Maclay tackled his task with extreme diligence.
In 1856, Robert built the first Methodist church in East Asia at the city of Iongtau, calling it 真神堂 (the Church of the True God). Later that same year, he started the second church, 天安堂 (the Church of Heavenly Peace). For twenty-three years, Robert labored in China, until he was forced to return home for health reasons. He would later return to the East to start missions in Japan and Korea.
Robert’s work among the Chinese people is recorded in his book Life among the Chinese. In the opening chapter, he states:
Four hundred millions! Who are they? Our brethren; bone of our bone, flesh of our flesh. What are they? Heathen, athwart whose gloomy night of error no ray of light ever shines; idolaters, bowing down to senseless images, the workmanship of their own hands. What are they? Men, created by God; fallen, ruined, helpless; victims, morally, of a foul and relentless malady; sinking into guilt and woe unutterable, inconceivable; immortals, objects of the divine compassion, subjects of Christ’s mediation, into the mysteries of whose redemption angels desire to look, and for whose eternal salvation all heavenly intelligences are moved with a profound and ceaseless solicitude.
Life among the Chinese By: Robert Maclay
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