Baptist John Fawcett on Sending Missionaries

by | Feb 21, 2024 | Missions

Editor’s Note: John Fawcett (1740-1817) was a Baptist minister in England after being converted through George Whitfield’s preaching. He wrote a number of books, including Christ Precious to Those Who Believe, and a famous hymn still sung today, “Blest Be the Tie That Binds.” He was also deeply committed to missions through the Baptist Missionary Society, together with William Carrey and Andrew Fuller. Below is a tract Fawcett wrote to encourage the spread of the gospel to the unreached in India. May it continue to inspire us in our missions efforts today!

I have modernized the spelling, but left the wording as it was originally written. The racial language used may be challenging or even offensive to contemporary readers, but it is historically accurate from the author. He reminds us both of the time in which he lived as well as his conviction that all peoples are equal before God and need to be saved through the preaching of Christ’s gospel.

Considerations Relative to the Sending of Missionaries to Propagate the Gospel among the Heathens

A Society of Ministers and others, of the Profession commonly distinguished by the Name of Particular Baptists, in Northamptonshire, and the adjacent Counties, have, after earnest Prayer to God, and deliberate Consultation, united in the Design of sending Missionaries to spread the Savour of the Knowledge of Christ, among the Heathen Nations; and solicited their Brethren in different Parts of the Kingdom, to assist them in the important Undertaking. The Treasurer of this Society is the Rev. R. Hogg, of Thrapston; and the secretary, the Rev. Andrew Fuller, of Kettering.

A period will certainly commence, when the kingdom of Christ shall prevail far and wide. The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the seas.— Princes shall be subject to the Redeemer’s scepter, and Ethiopia shall stretch forth her hands unto God. All the ends of the earth shall see his salvation. The fullness of the Gentiles shall come in, and all Israel shall be saved.

At present, alas! darkness covers a great part of the earth, and gross darkness the people; above four hundred millions of the inhabitants of the world, are destitute of the light of the gospel, ignorant of the true God, and bowing to the host of heaven, or to stocks and stones, the works of their own hands.— Who can think on this without emotions of pity, and without a desire to attempt, by such means as God has ordained, to contribute something towards the removing of the dreadful veil from those multitudes who are perishing for lack of knowledge?

Our Lord has taught us to pray, that his kingdom may come; and those who make mention of the Lord should not keep silence; they should continue to present their ardent petitions to him, and give him no rest, till he establish his church through the nations, and make her a praise in the earth.

Nor should we satisfy ourselves with praying only for this desirable event; other means should be used, in a dependence on God, and under the guidance of his merciful providence, for the accomplishment of it. It is by the ministry of the gospel, that men are turned from darkness to light; that gospel is ordained to be published to every creature, that its sound may go out through all the earth, and its words to the ends of the world.

That this event may be brought about is most desirable. In every attempt of this kind difficulties must be encountered, and some expense will necessarily be incurred. But the openings of Providence for the promoting of so important a work, should not be disregarded. Ought not the love of Christ, and a sincere regard for the welfare of immortal souls, to constrain us cheerfully to exert ourselves to the utmost in such a case?

The souls of all men are equally precious. They are endowed with capacities and powers capable of being conformed to the great Creator’s image; of being made happy in the enjoyment of his favour, and of partaking of all the felicity of his heavenly kingdom, through eternal ages. The soul of a Negro, a Hindu, or even of a Hottentot, is of equal value with that of the most enlightened European.

That God who has made of one blood all nations of men on the face of the earth, requires us to look upon the most abject of our fellow mortals as brethren. One God is our creator, our preserver and upholder; from one flock we originally sprung, and to one sovereign judge we are all accountable.

We are required to love our neighbour as ourselves, should any one be disposed to ask with the man in the gospel, “But who is my neighbor?” The parable of the good Samaritan will furnish him with an answer.

When the kind and merciful Redeemer of men was engaged in his public ministrations on earth, and saw the multitudes coming to hear the glad tidings of the kingdom from his lips, we are told, that he beheld them with compassion, because they were as sheep having no shepherd; and he said to his disciples, the fields are white already to harvest; and the harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest. If the mind of Christ in any degree be in us, we shall surely be affected in the same way.

Are many of the heathen nations poor, abject and miserable? Let us remember, that our Lord has ordained the gospel to be preached to the poor. The more helpless our fellow creatures are, the greater is their need of that relief which God has provided in the saving economy of religion. Our Redeemer not only began, but spent a great part of his public ministry among those of the lowest rank in fortune, knowledge, and refinement. For this very reason, he was held in contempt by the great, the wise, and the learned. With an imperious and diabolical spirit we hear them exclaim, have any of the rulers, or of the Pharisees, believed on him? But this people who knew not the law, are cursed. God forbid that any degree of so detestable a disposition should be cherished in our bosoms. Do we enjoy the blessings of salvation ourselves, and shall we not ardently desire, that the most miserable of mankind may also be partakers of them?

See how the experience of gospel grace expanded the heart of the blessed Apostle Paul. God is my record, how greatly I long after you all, in the bowels of Jesus Christ. I am debtor both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians, both to the wise and to the unwise. So as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also, He purposed in the Spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, after I have been there, I must also see Rome. His labours had already been amazingly great, as well as gloriously successful. Yet, as if he had done nothing, he was still on the stretch for God, and ardently longing for the salvation of poor sinners. The universe itself was but just large enough to be the scene of action for him, in his endeavours to promote the Redeemer’s cause. He expected nothing but poverty, bonds, afflictions and death; yet none of those things moved him. To testify the gospel of the grace of God, was dearer to him than life itself. We want nothing to excite our efforts to promote the business now under our consideration, but a measure of that zeal and love which glowed in the heart of this blessed man.

The attempts which have been made, by men actuated by the genuine principles of Christianity, to reduce the heathens to the knowledge and government of Christ, have generally been more or less successful. God has blessed the pious and persevering endeavours of his faithful servants, by making them the happy instruments of turning many from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. Without the exertions of his saving power, it is readily acknowledged, every attempt of this kind would prove abortive. Even Paul might plant, and Apollos water in vain, if the Almighty vouchsafe not to give the desired increase. These eminent men well knew this to be the case. But did this consideration prevent their assiduous exertions in planting and watering? By no means. They earnestly pursued the line of duty, and left the event with him, in whose work they were engaged. Nor did they labour in vain. How does it gladden our hearts to hear them say, Thanks be to God, who always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place!

Of late years, the attempts which have been made to evangelize the heathens have been attended with singular success. The Danish mission to the coast of Coromandel, in the East Indies, has, since the year 1706, reduced more than eighteen thousand Gentoos to the profession of Christianity. The Dutch have had still more extensive success, in the island of Ceylon, and other of their East India settlements. In the last century, the truly apostolic Elliot laboured much among the native Indians of North America; and was made the happy instrument of the evident and thorough conversion of great numbers of them. By his, and the patient and assiduous endeavours of some other excellent ministers, several churches were raised, from among those poor savages; gifts were bestowed for public usefulness, and some of these churches were supplied with ministers of their own race. It is pleasing to recollect that some of our own denomination were successfully employed in promoting this blessed work.

In the present century, a society in Scotland for promoting Christian knowledge has helped forward several useful missions among the American Indians. The pious and truly excellent David Brainerd, who was singularly successful among the Indians, and his brother John were supported by this society. Mr. Kirkland is now employed in this good work, by their assistance, together with Mr. Sergeant, from both of whom very pleasing accounts have lately been received. By their instrumentality the Lord is gathering others to himself, besides those he has already gathered.

The Moravian brethren have perhaps excelled all others in their endeavours to bring the poor heathens to the knowledge of Christ. They have sent missionaries to various parts of the World, who have encountered a thousand difficulties in the promotion of what they had evidently much at heart. They have transported themselves into the frozen climes of Greenland, and Labrador; and exposed themselves to the scorching heats of Abyssinia. They have carried the glad tidings of salvation to the ends of the earth. Within these sixty years past, they have discovered a zeal for the propagation of the gospel, which is deserving of the highest applause, and ought to provoke, in all other denominations of Christians, a godly emulation. Their success in Greenland, in the Danish West Indies, and in other places has been very considerable. In the year 1788, they had in their societies about fifteen thousand converted heathens.

The Methodists in the late Mr. Wesley’s connection, within these few years have exerted themselves in this line. They have attempted a mission to the Caribbees, natives of the West-India Islands, and laboured with success among the Negro Slaves there.

We have animating accounts in our Annual Register, of the preaching, and the success of George Liele, a Baptist Negro, in Jamaica. He has been greatly owned among his fellow Africans, both bond and free; hundreds of them are called into the fellowship of the gospel.

One of our intended missionaries, Mr. John Thomas, has been labouring, for about six years, among the Hindus, on the banks of the river Ganges, near Bengal, fifteen thousand miles from hence, and reckoned by the ancients, the extremity of the eastern world.

He had an interpreter who taught him to speak and write the language in use among them, which is the Bengalese. He has lately translated part of the New Testament into that language, in which undertaking he has been liberally encouraged by the celebrated Sir William Jones.

In a letter which is now before me, he says, the Hindus are a people the most mild, harmless and inoffensive, perhaps on the face of the earth; a missionary among them, commands extraordinary veneration and respect. They are very religious in their way, but their religion is idolatry. Their superstitions are many, but they are not greatly bigoted to them. The following instances may serve to illustrate this assertion.

Mr. Thomas went into one of their temples, where the object of adoration, as my informant relates, was the image of a frog. He went up to it, examined it, and then said to the worshippers, with an air of surprise, “What have you here? A frog? And do you pay divine honours to the image of a frog?” These inquiries appeared to have the force of conviction; they withdrew from the place, ashamed of their foolish superstition.

He went into another of their temples, where the image was more like the figure of a man. He fixed his eyes upon it, in the presence of its priests, and other persons assembled before it, and then said,— “It has eyes, but it cannot see; it has a mouth, but it cannot speak; it has hands, but it cannot handle; it has feet, but cannot walk.” One of the Brahmins immediately replied, with emotion, “No; if the house were to burn over its head, it could not escape.”

It appears that this people are very teachable, and open to conviction. Some of them receive the word of life with readiness of mind, and seem to drink it in, as the parched earth drinks in the falling shower. “It would do your heart good,” says Mr. Thomas, “to hear them express their different emotions of fear, wonder and joy.” Almost every thing in the Christian system is new to them. He could at any time have hundreds about him, to hear him tell of Jesus Christ, and salvation by him.

“I have lately thought,” says this judicious and worthy man, “that conversation is the best mode of addressing the Hindus at first, and when they are duly prepared to receive it, they may be more profitably addressed in the usual way of preaching:— otherwise, they are apt to ask you comical questions, and think no harm of it, though you are in the midst of a prayer or sermon. —There are certainly difficulties in the way of him who attempts to instruct the poor, simple Hindus; but all difficulties flee away before the assiduous efforts of a man whose heart is in the work, as chaff before the wind; and if his heart be not in it, let him take advice,— keep away.”

Mr. Thomas’s success has already been considerable. One of the converts appears to have promising abilities for preaching the gospel to his countrymen, which is very desirable.

“The last interview,” says Mr. Thomas, “which I had with the Hindus, was attended with the following circumstances; returning to Calcutta in an accommodation boat, I was obliged to come to, eight or nine miles short of it; the tide not having served.

It was about noon, and dinner not being ready, I went ashore, to take a solitary walk, as I thought it an uninhabited place. But I found there was a college there. I went up to it as an inquirer, determined to assert nothing. On seeing a Brahmin, he asked my business. I told him, I had in my heart one great concern; I am, said I, to be in this world but a little while, and afterwards to go to Heaven or Hell. What shall I do to escape the wrath of God due to me, as a sinner, and to obtain Heaven? He, pleased with the question, said, I must give alms to the poor. I thanked him, and said, how much? He replied, one fourth of all I had. “Well, I thank you,” said I. “What, suppose I have four rupees (half-crowns) if I only give one of them, can I escape hell for a rupee? Can I go to heaven for a rupee?” He could not bear this. He then told me, I must do good works; but when we came to the quantity, he was involved in a second dilemma; and would talk no more, but yielded; and said he would take me to the college, which was just what I wanted.

On my arrival, the students, the Brahmins poured out from their little tolas or studies; mats were laid under the shady trees, and we all sat down. I repeated all that had passed, and proposed my inquiry to them all. Some would have me wash in the holy river, the Ganges, which, they say, takes away sin. I spoke of the great change which taking away sin must occasion, and asked them, if they felt such a change of mind themselves, when they washed in it. They said, “No.” Then, how shall I? Thus one dilemma followed after another. They treated me like an angel. Some ran up the trees to get coconuts for me; others brought fruits, milk, sugar, and sweetmeats; they laid them all at my feet, and told me, if I did not eat at their hands, it would not go well with them. They at last began to make inquiries of me, about the matters mentioned above.”— This gave Mr. Thomas an opportunity of laying before them the way of salvation by Jesus Christ. He adds, “But I have not time to tell you one-half of this interesting debate. It lasted till six or seven in the evening; by which time, my dinner was cold, but my heart was warm. Many of them followed me to the boat, and with longing eyes looked after me, till I was gone far away. Thus they received me in many other places.”

In another part of his letter, Mr. Thomas speaks of the importance of his having an associate in this good work. “A companion,” says he, “is above all things necessary in this business; and blessed be they, and blessed be their attempts, who shall effectually encourage such as are fit for it, to come and labour in this harvest! We may say emphatically here, Two are better than one. O Lord of the harvest; send forth thy servants by two and two again!”

The Society of our Baptist Brethren, for propagating the gospel among the Heathens, January 9, 1793, came to the following resolutions:

That there is an open door for preaching the gospel among the Hindus.

That Mr. Thomas be invited to go among them, as a missionary from the society.

That should Mr. Thomas accept the invitation, we will endeavour to provide him a companion to go with him.

On the evening of the same day, Mr. Thomas arrived, cheerfully acceded to the invitation; and, agreed to embark for Bengal about the third of April next. Mr. Carey, of Leicester, a worthy minister of our denomination, offered himself to go along with Mr. Thomas. The committee of the society knowing Mr. Carey’s peculiar fitness for the undertaking, called him to it. It was a solemn day with them; spent, as many others had been, in fasting and prayer.

A considerable sum of money will be wanted to furnish these two missionaries for the undertaking. By subscriptions and collections about 160l. is already advanced, and as, at least three hundred more will be wanted, it is hoped that those who have it in their power will exert themselves on this interesting occasion. Ye that love the gospel, ye to whom the souls of men are dear, come forward in this noble cause. To what more valuable purpose can you apply a portion of your worldly substance, than in sending the bread of life to your poor fellow sinners who are perishing with hunger? Can there be an act of charity more necessary, more important, or more acceptable to God? Let the free-hearted offer willingly; and those who have it not in their power to give of their worldly substance, let them help forward the work by their fervent, constant and hearty prayers. The enlargement of Christ’s kingdom has been earnestly sought by many religious societies by extraordinary prayer, at stated seasons. It is to be hoped they will persist in this good work. It shall never be said, that praying breath was spent in vain. The present remarkable opening of providence, perhaps may be considered as an answer to the requests of those, who are crying day and night, Thy kingdom come.

At a meeting held at Halifax, Feb. 15, 1793, to consider the important design of sending missionaries to propagate the gospel among the Hindus, it was resolved unanimously,

  1. That the design is laudable, and worthy of all the encouragement we are able to give it.
  1. That we form ourselves into a society for the promoting of this design, in conjunction with the original society established in Northamptonshire, and the adjacent counties.
  1. That we exert ourselves in our several connections, in raising money, by subscription or otherwise, towards furnishing the two missionaries for the intended voyage to India.
  1. That the Rev. J. Fawcett, of Brearley Hall, near Halifax, be considered as secretary; and that the several sums of money advanced in this circuit, be transmitted to him, or signified by letter, on or before the 16th of March next, that a bill to the amount of the whole, may, as soon as possible be sent to the treasurer of the original society.
  1. That a short account of this undertaking be immediately printed, and copies sent to the several churches in this neighbourhood.

N. B. Every person who subscribes 10s. 6d. annually, will be considered as a member of the society; but occasional contributions will be very gratefully received.

Perhaps the following Hymn, by Ram Ram, a converted Hindu, translated by Mr. Thomas, may not be unacceptable to the reader. The translation is as literal as possible, without any attention to metre:

Jesus the Lord is the Son of God,
The Mediator in a sinner’s salvation;
Whosoever adores him,
Will get over his eternal ruin.

O! who besides can recover,
O! who besides can recover
From the everlasting darkness of sin,
Except the Lord Jesus Christ!

In all this world,
There is none free from sin,
Except the Saviour of the world,
And his name is Jesus.

O! who besides, &c.

That Lord was born into the world,
To redeem sinful men;
Whosoever has faith to adore him,
That is the man that shall get free.


O! who besides, &c.

With and without form, a holy incarnation,
That is the Lord of the world;
Without the faith of him,
The road to the heav’nly world is inaccessible.

O! who besides, &c.

These words of his mouth, hear O! men,
(For his sayings are very true)
“Whoso is thirsty, let him come to me,
I will give him the living water.”

O! who besides, &c.

Therefore adore, O my soul,
Having known him substantial;
And besides himself,
There is no other Saviour.

O! who besides can recover,
O! who besides can recover,
From the everlasting darkness of sin,
Except the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thus sing the converts on the banks of the Ganges; that we may have the pleasure of uniting with them in a song of praise to the Redeemer, I have subjoined a metrical imitation.

Jesus descended from above,
To save our souls from guilt and shame;
O may we then admire his love,
And render praises to his name.

Jesus alone whom we adore,
The ruin’d sinner can restore.

He came to bear our sins and die,
That he might save our wretched race:
Yet he’s the son of God most high,
Adorn’d with purity and grace.

Jesus, alone whom we adore,
The ruin’d sinner can restore.

Angelic hosts the tidings bring
And hail the long expected morn,
“Go, shepherds, visit Christ your King,
The promis’d Saviour, now is born.”

Jesus alone, whom we adore,
The ruin’d sinner can restore.

Sinners he ransoms by his blood;
He that believes the tidings lives;
Sinners he reconciles to God:
Pardon and peace he freely gives.

Jesus alone, whom we adore,
The ruin’d sinner can restore.

By humble faith to him apply;
His words are kind and ever true;
“Ye thirsty souls, to me draw nigh,
Water of life, I give to you.”

Jesus alone, whom we adore,
The ruin’d sinner can restore.

O may we still adore his name,
We who have known his saving pow’r;
Ascribe salvation to the lamb,
And love and praise him evermore.

Jesus alone, whom we adore,
The ruin’d sinner can restore.

J. Fawcett.

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