Today is Luther Rice’s birthday. Brett Charap wrote an excellent article about his life. Enjoy:

Luther Rice was born March 25, 1783 in Northborough Massachusetts. Rice was raised as a Congregationalist, but from an early age Rice saw the church filled with unregenerate church members whose lives did not reflect the person of Jesus Christ. As Rice entered adolescents a battle ensued within him. For some time Rice had been burdened by a deep sense of guilt over his sins and a gnawing fear that he would never come to know true regeneration

Rice spent many years searching for direction and guidance for his spiritual faith. He read the Life and Letters of John Newton over and over, and drank in every word of Richard Baxter’s Directions for Getting and Keeping Spiritual Peace and Comfort. Finally on September 14, 1805, Luther came to see that all God really wants us to give Him is ourselves. That night Luther Rice did just that, resulting in an immediately detectable change in him.

As a young man at Williams College Rice cofounded and later became the president of a secret group of like minded students called “the Brethren” with a focus on world missions. The commitment of the Brethren in seeking service in foreign missions was solidified at an event which was later coined the “Haystack Prayer Meeting”.

In February of 1812 Rice sailed out of the Philadelphia harbor to Calcutta India. During the voyage, Rice spent a great deal of time with Baptist missionaries also en route for India. The time he spent with them, as well as several months he spent studying the scriptures in illness induced isolation resulted in Rice accepting the doctrinal teachings of the Baptists, and was later baptized by William Ward on Nov 1st 1812.

Rice subsequently returned to America to sever ties with the Congregationalists and began traveling between Baptist churches to raise support for mission work in India. For the next three years Luther Rice traveled almost constantly, sharing with every church and Christian he could find the needs of foreign missionaries.

Although his life was not without controversy, Rice’s contribution to the support of missions work was invaluable. During Rice’s lifetime the Baptist convention he helped to establish, known as the Triennial Convention, saw membership grow from 8,000 to 600,000, and the convention supported 25 missions and 112 missionaries, with 15 Baptist universities and colleges formed.

While traveling the South, Luther Rice left this earth in 1836. On his deathbed he asked his friends to sell his horse and sulky and give the proceeds to the University. That was all Rice had to leave. He had never married and had no home accept his heavenly one. All he had to leave was an unfailingly optimistic belief that God has greater things for us to do than we have ever imagined.

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