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William Carey

1761-1834. Missionary to India. Born near Northampton, England, he worked as a shoemaker from the age of sixteen to twenty-eight. Following his conversion at eighteen, he became a preacher among the Calvinistic Baptists, working by day and ministering in his spare time; while he worked he studied. In 1785 he became preacher to the Baptist church in the village of Moulton and taught also in the village school; in 1786 he was made pastor. During this period a great burden for the unevangelized in heathen lands was given to him. In 1792 his pamphlet An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens was published. He proposed the formation of a society to achieve this-the first modern missionary society. In 1789 he became pastor of a run-down Baptist church in Leicester; and in 1792 preached his famous missionary sermon—“Expect Great Things from God; Attempt Great Things for God”-at a ministers' meeting. At Kettering, four months later, the “Particular (Calvinistic) Baptist Society for Propagating the Gospel among the Heathen” (now the Baptist Missionary Society) was founded.

In 1793 Carey, with John Thomas, sailed for Bengal, India. At first destitute in Calcutta, he quickly mastered the language, and in 1794 was made manager of an indigo factory near Madras. Soon he set to work translating the Bible into Bengali, in addition to his business, evangelistic, and pastoral labors. By 1798 he had learned Sanskrit and had translated into Bengali the whole Bible, except Joshua to Job. To print it he set up his own press. He established schools and medical work. In 1800 he moved to the Danish colony of Serampore, which was his base for the remaining thirty-four years of his many-sided missionary labors. During these years he worked untiringly at the comprehensive pattern of missionary service which he had already laid down-Bible translation and production, evangelism, church- planting, education, and medical relief-spreading its influence and activities throughout India and then stimulating missions in other parts of Asia. He himself served as professor of Sanskrit, Bengali, and Marathi at the College of Fort William; he supervised and edited translations of the Scriptures into thirty- six languages; produced a massive Bengali-English dictionary, pioneered social reform, and founded the Agricultural and Horticultural Society of India. Carey has generally been acclaimed as “the Father of Modern Missions.”

J. Taylor, Biographical and Literary Notices of William Carey (1886); S.P. Carey, William Carey (1923); E.D. Potts, British Baptist Missionaries in India 1793-1837 (1967).