Famous Reformed Baptists

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- Famous Baptists
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Famous Reformed Baptists listed on this page:
- John Bunyan
- William Carey
- Adoniram Judson
- Charles Spurgeon

John Bunyan
 author of Pilgrim's Progress

"The Immortal dreamer of Bedford jail;" born at Harrowden in the parish of Elstow, christened Nov. 30, 1628; died in London Aug. 31, 1688. He had very little schooling, followed his father in the tinker's trade, was in the parliamentary army, 1644-47; married in 1649; lived in Elstow till 1655, when his wife died and he moved to Bedford. He married again 1659. He was received into the Baptist church in Bedford by immersion in the Ouse, 1653. In 1655 he became a deacon and began preaching with marked success from the start. In 1658 he was indicted for preaching without a license; kept on, however, and did not suffer imprisonment till Nov., 1660, when he was taken to the county jail in Silver Street, Bedford, and there confined, with the exception of a few weeks in 1666, till Jan., 1672. In that month he became pastor of the Bedford church. In March, 1675, he was again imprisoned for preaching and this time in Bedford town jail on the stone bridge over the Ouse. In six months he was free and was not again molested. In Aug., 1688, on his way to London he caught a severe cold from being wet, and died at the house of a friend on Snow Hill.

All the world knows that Bunyan wrote The Pilgrim's Progress, in two parts, of which the first appeared at London in 1678, and was, at all events, begun during his imprisonment in 1676; the second in 1684. The earliest edition in which the two parts were combined in one volume was in 1728. A third part falsely attributed to Bunyan appeared in 1693. The Pilgrim's Progress is the most successful allegory ever written, and like the Bible is adapted to man in every clime. It is indeed commonly translated by Protestant missionaries after the Bible. It is thus read in all literary languages and is a world-classic. Two other works of Bunyan's would have given him fame, but not as wide as that he now enjoys; viz., The Life and Death of Mr. Badman (1680), an imaginary biography, and the allegory The Holy War (1682). The book which lays bare Bunyan's inner life and reveals his preparation for his appointed work is Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners (1666). It is very prolix, and being all about himself, in a man less holy would be intolerably egotistic, but his motive in writing is plainly to exalt the grace of God and to comfort those passing through experiences somewhat like his own.

Bunyan was a popular preacher as well as a very voluminous author, though most of his works consist of expanded sermons. In theology he was a Puritan, but not a partisan; nor was there anything gloomy about him. He was tall, had reddish hair, prominent nose, a rather large mouth, and sparkling eyes. He was no scholar, except of the English Bible, but that he knew thoroughly. Another book which greatly influenced him was Martin Luther's Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians.

from the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge

William Carey
 "Father of Modern Missionary Movement"

Baptist missionary and Orientalist; born at Paulerspury, Northamptonshire, England, Aug. 17, 1761; died at Serampur, India, June 9, 1834. By baptism a member of the Established Church, he was early in life convinced of the Scriptural authority for the Baptist views, and joined this group, in which he soon became a preacher. His congregations were very poor, and he supported himself and family by shoemaking. But his thirst for knowledge was strong; and he managed, notwithstanding the pressure of poverty, to acquire Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and a goodly amount of other useful learning, especially in natural history and botany. His attention was turned to the heathen, and he saw plainly his duty to go to them. On Oct. 2, 1792, largely through his exertions, the first Baptist missionary society was founded; and on June 13, 1793, he and his family sailed for India, accompanied by John Thomas, who had formerly lived in Bengal.

On reaching Bengal early in 1794, Carey and his companion lost all their property in the Hugli; but, having received the charge of an indigo-factory at Malda, he cut off his pecuniary connection with the missionary society, and began in earnest what, instead of regular missionary labor, was to be the work of his life - the study of and translation both from and into the languages of India. In 1799 the factory was closed; and he went with Thomas to Kidderpur, where he had purchased a small indigo-plantation. Here, joined by Marshman and Ward, he started, under bright hopes, a mission, but soon encountered the opposition of the Indian government, which forbade the mission's enlargement, and compelled its removal, at a great pecuniary loss, to Serampur, a Danish settlement (1800), where it took a fresh lease of life. For some time Carey and Thomas had been diligently at work upon a version of the New Testament in Bengali. In 1801 it was published by the press Carey instituted.

About the same time the Marquis of Wellesley appointed him professor of Oriental languages in the Fort William College, which the marquis had founded at Calcutta for the instruction of the younger members of the British Indian civil service. Carey held this position for thirty years, and taught Bengali, Mahrati, and Sanskrit. He wrote articles upon the natural history and botany of India for the Asiatic Society, to which he was elected, 1805, and thus made practical application of acquisitions of former years; but this was only a part, and by far the less valuable part, of his work.

That which has given him his undying fame was his translation of the Bible, in whole or in part, either alone or with others, into some twenty-six Indians languages. The Serampur press, under his direction, rendered the Bible accessible to more than three hundred million human beings. Besides, he prepared grammars and dictionaries of several tongues; e.g., Mahratta Grammar, 1805; Sanscrit Grammar, 1806; Mahratta Dictionary, 1810; Bengalle Dictionary, 1818; and a dictionary of all Sanskrit-derived languages, which unhappily was destroyed by a fire in the printing establishment in 1812. Later students have discovered errors and omissions in these works; but all honor is due to Carey for "breaking the way," and every inhabitant of India is his debtor.

from the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge

Adoniram Judson
 America's first Protestant missionary

The Apostle of Burma and one of the first and most devoted of the foreign missionaries of the American churches; born at Malden, Mass., Aug. 9, 1788; died on board of a vessel off the coast of Burma April 12, 1850. He graduated first in his class at Brown University in 1807. After teaching school for a year at Plymouth, he entered Andover Seminary in the autumn of 1808, although "not a professor of religion, or a candidate for ministry, but as a person deeply in earnest on the subject, and desirous of arriving at the truth" (Wayland). The following May he made a profession of his faith in the Third Congregational Church at Plymouth, of which his father was then pastor. His attention was first drawn to the subject of missionary effort in heathen lands by the perusal, in 1809, of Buchanan's Star in the East; and in Feb., 1810, he devoted himself to that work.

About this time he entered into intimate relations with that illustrious band of young men - Mills, Nott, Newell, and Richards, and joined the first three in submitting a statement to the General Association of Ministers at Bradford, Mass., which led to the organization of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. In Jan., 1811, he was sent to England, by the American Board, to promote measures of affiliation and co-operation between it and the London Missionary Society. He returned unsuccessful in the immediate design of his journey, but was appointed, with Nott, Newell, Hall, and Rice, a missionary to India. He was ordained, with these four men, on Feb. 6, 1812, at Salem, Mass. Judson sailed on the 19th, from New York, with Mrs. Judson and Mr. and Mrs. Newell, for Calcutta, where he arrived June 17. On the voyage his views on the mode of baptism underwent a change; and, after his arrival in India, he and Mrs. Judson were baptized by immersion in the Baptist Church of Calcutta. In consequence of this change of views, he passed under the care of the American Baptist Missionary Union at its formation in 1814.

The East India Company forbade his prosecution of missionary labors in India; and, after various vicissitudes, he landed in July, 1813, at Rangoon, Burma, taking up his residence at the Mission House of Felix Carey. Judson devoted himself to the acquisition of the language, in which he afterward became a proficient scholar. After six years of labor, the first convert, Moung Nau, was baptized at Rangoon, June 27, 1819. He was the first Burman accession to the Church of Christ. From 1824 to 1826, during the war of England with Burma, Judson suffered almost incredible hardships. He was imprisoned for seventeen months in the jails of Ava and Oung-pen-la, being bound during nine months of this period, with three, and during two months with no less then five, pairs of fetters. His sufferings from fever, excruciating heat, hunger, repeated disappointments, and the cruelty of his keepers, form one of the most thrilling narratives in the annals of modern missionary trial.

Mrs. Ann Hasseltine Judson suffered no less than her husband, though she was not subjected to imprisonment. Her heroic efforts to relieve the sufferings of the English prisoners received the tributes of warmest gratitude and praise at the time. She was born in Bradford, Mass., Dec. 22, 1789, and had been married on Feb. 5, 1812. She entered with great enthusiasm into missionary effort, and established a school at Rangoon for girls. In 1821 she paid a visit to America. Her health was never robust; but she combined with strong intellectual powers a remarkable heroism and fortitude. During the imprisonment of her husband she was unremitting in her self-sacrifice, and walked fearless and respected from palace to prison among the excited Burmese population. She died Oct. 24, 1826. Hers is one of the immortal names in missionary biography.

In 1826 Judson transferred the headquarters of his mission to Amherst, in Tenasserim, Lower Burma; and in 1830 he began preaching to the Karens. In 1835 he completed the revision of the Old Testament in the Burmese language, and in 1837 that of the New Testament. In the latter year there were 1,144 baptized converts in Burma. After an absence of more than thirty years, he returned, in 1845, for a visit to his native land. On the voyage his second wife (Sarah Hall Boardman) died (Sept. 1) at St. Helena. She was the widow of the missionary, Dr. Boardman, and was married to Judson in 1834. Judson's arrival in the United States was the signal for an enthusiastic outburst of admiration for the missionary, and interest in the cause he represented. Everywhere crowded assemblies gathered to see and hear him. He, however, shunned the public gaze, and was diffident as a speaker. In 1823 Brown University had honored him with the degree of D.D. On July 11, 1846, he again set sail for Burma, having married, a few days before, Miss Emily Chubbuck of Eaton, N.Y., who was already well known under the name of "Fanny Forester." He arrived safely at Rangoon, and spent much of the remained period of his life in revising his English-Burmese dictionary. His health, however, was shattered; and he died while on a voyage to the Isle of Bourbon. His body was buried in the ocean.

His confidence in the success of missionary effort never wavered. Being asked, on his visit to America, whether the prospects were bright for the conversion of the world, he immediately replied, "As bright, Sir, as the promises of God." Adoniram Judson's name will always have a place in the very first rank of American missionaries to heathen lands. He belongs to the first band of those missionaries, and his heroism, wise judgment, and diligent labor have not been excelled if equaled by any who have followed him.

from the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge

Charles Spurgeon
 called the "Prince of Preachers"

English Baptist; born at Kelvedon, Essex, June 19, 1834; died at Mentone, France, Jan. 31, 1892. His father and grandfather had been Independent ministers. From the age of seven to fifteen he was educated in a school at Colchester; he spent a few months in an agricultural college at Maidstone in 1842; and in 1849 became usher in a school at Newmarket, kept by a Baptist. As a youth he was subject to inner restlessness and conflict and dated his conversion from Dec. 6, 1850, at the chapel of the Primitive Methodists in Colchester, on which occasion he was deeply stirred and greatly relieved by a sermon preached by a layman on Isa. 14:22. However, the study of the Scriptures brought further misgivings and he was not content until he was immersed. This took place in the Lark at Isleham May 3, 1851, and he then united with the Baptist communion. In 1851 he became usher in a school at Cambridge, and entered the lay preachers' association in connection with the Baptist church meeting in St. Andrews Street, Cambridge.

Forced by circumstance he preached unprepared his first sermon in a cottage at Teversham near Cambridge, at the age of sixteen. His gifts were recognized at once and his fame spread. He preached in chapels, cottages, or in the open air in as many as thirteen stations in the villages surrounding Cambridge, and this after his school duties for the day were past. In 1852 he became pastor of the small Baptist church at Waterbeach, and in 1854, after preaching three months on probation, he was called to the pastorate of the New Park Street Church, Southwark, London. Only 100 persons attended his first service; but before the end of the year the chapel had to be enlarged, and he preached in Exeter Hall during the alterations. When the enlarged chapel was opened it proved at once too small, and a great tabernacle was projected. Meanwhile, in 1856, Spurgeon preached at the Surrey Gardens music-hall to congregations which numbered 10,000 people; and at twenty-two he was the most popular preacher of his day. In 1861 the Metropolitan Tabernacle, seating 6,000, was opened and there he ministered until his death, retaining his popularity and power as a preacher to the end.

Beside preaching, other enterprises made their demand upon his energy. In 1855 he accepted his first student for the ministry; soon a class assembled in his house every week for instruction in theology, pastoral duties, and other practical matters. This work was assigned mainly to a tutor. Out of it grew the Pastors' College, located first in his house; under the Tabernacle, 1861-74; and, after 1874, in the New College buildings. The local mission work of these students in the slums formed the nuclei of new Sunday-schools and churches, a circle of which banded around the central church. Its internal needs were provided by a number of auxiliary associations. Spurgeon was president of a society for the dissemination of Bibles and tracts employing the service of ninety colporteurs. The Stockwell Orphanage was incorporated in 1867. It grew to a group of twelve houses and accommodated 500 children.

Spurgeon watched with misgivings the growth among Baptists of what seemed to him indifference to orthodoxy, deploring that not enough stress was laid on Christ's divine nature. He opposed what he called the "down-grade" movement of Biblical criticism; and, not being able to win the Baptist Union to his view, he withdrew in 1887, remaining independent until the end of his life, although still a staunch Baptist. Personally unambitious and unselfish, industrious in his exacting parish service and incessant Biblical study, human in sympathy and sane on social questions, democratic in temperament, he was ever zealous in the gospel of grace and redemption, and fearless in denouncing evil and upholding what he deemed true and right.

from the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge

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