Term Paper: How Luther Rice and Adoniram Judson's Commission to Foreign Mission Impact Baptist Churches

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Luther Rice and Adoniram Judson

The history of the Baptist Church in the United States reached a profound turning point when it began to pay attention to the issue of overseas missionary work. Particularly, the pioneers in the field, Adoniram Judson and Luther Rice provided a and unprecedented pathway in terms of enthusiasm and fervor not only for their faith, but also for the souls they felt obliged to attempt to save. The extraordinary vision that helped these men inspire many others to follow their footsteps appears to be cultivated since the years of their respective childhoods and early education. These visions culminated in their calling to the ministry, and ultimately to missionary work. What made both Rice and Judson pioneers in their field is first their wholehearted conversion to, and ultimately their influence upon, the Baptist Church. This influence was so prominent that it is evident in the work of the Baptist Church to this day.

It is interesting that both Judson and Rice were born into the Congregationalist denomination. It was only on the way to their first mission to India that they spontaneously converted to Baptism after reading relevant passages from the Bible. The son of a Congregationalist minister, Judson graduated from Brown University in 1807, after which he entered professions such as school teacher and actor. Feeling himself attracted to the ministry, he completed a course at the Andover Theological Seminary in 1810

At this time, Judson also felt himself called to bring the gospel to foreign nations, and with some of his fellow students petitioned the general association of ministers to send him to Asia. The difficulty was however that there was no formal general association specifically for foreign missionaries at the time. Furthermore, few missionaries had endeavored to go beyond the borders of the country to spread the gospel

. This lack of experience and what Christian2 refers to as a lack of "national confidence" led to a promise to pray for the young men, but little else of concrete value. Judson and his friends were however sent to England in an attempt to obtain the support of the London Missionary Society. Here his proposal was once again considered without any concrete commitments by the Society. When he returned to the United States, however, he found the board ready to make an independent decision.

Luther Rice was also born into the Congregationalist faith. His early years as a young teenager and adult brought much brooding and contemplating on the nature of salvation and Christianity. It was only when he entered higher education that these broodings culminated into a more optimistic spirit, and an ultimate decision to become a missionary

. During these years, he made the acquaintance of Sam Mills, Jr. And found himself increasingly passionate not only about his faith, but also about missionary work. This led him to join an association called The Brethren. Like Judson, 1810 was also a significant year for Rice, when he transferred to Andover College. Here he joined The Brethren chapter led by Adoniram Judson, and the association of the two men would continue until the end of their lives.

Finally, after months of waiting, Rice and Judson heard that the Association approved their mission to the East, with two ships made available to transport them to India3. It is during this voyage that the extraordinary conversion to Baptism, first of Judson and his wife, and later of Rice, influenced everything the missionaries experienced during their work. Knowing that they would meet William Carey, a Baptist missionary, when they arrived, Judson and his wife Ann investigated the Greek translation of the Bible for references to the baptism. They came to the conclusion that the Baptist doctrine was more in line with the Scriptures than the infant birth espoused by the Congregationalist faith, and converted while they were still traveling3. As a result, they found themselves obliged to resign from their Congregationalist sending agency, which immediately plunged their mission into financial uncertainty.

Luther Rice also found himself somewhat influenced by Baptist doctrine, but not so much in the form of Scripture as by discussion with the Baptists who were traveling with him. The first influence towards Baptism came in the person of Seth Grout, whom Rice met during his time of intense spiritual searching. These initial discussions then formed a good basis for further discussion during his voyage to India. It was to his great surprise that he found both Ann and Adoniram Judson converted to Baptism when he met them at their destination. It was only later, during a period of forced isolation due to sickness, that Rice also had the opportunity to study the Greek text of the Bible and came to the conclusion that Baptism indeed had a sound doctrine. He wrote a letter to this effect to the Congregationalist mission board in the United States. It was this conversion that would forever alter the nature of the Baptist Church in the United States and their vision for missionaries to foreign countries

Adding to the difficulty of financial security was the fact that the Indian government commanded the newly arrived missionaries to leave the country3. Because they could no longer depend upon the Congregationalists to support them in India, Rice was chosen to return to America to formally sever their ties with Congregationalism and petition the Baptist Church for funding to continue their work. Rice was chosen for this role partly because he was single, and partly because of ill health, from which he hoped to recover by returning to the United States. Specifically, Ann and Adoniram Judson felt themselves called to Burma and needed funding specifically for this purpose.

It is important to note that, at the time, The United States Baptists felt themselves morally obliged to engage in missionary work2. The have however not undertaken foreign missionary work, and had no general organization in the country. Still recovering from years of persecution, they did not yet find themselves strong enough to mobilize foreign missions. The English Baptist William Carey however formed an important contact point for missionaries from this denomination from the United States. Indeed, his mission elicited fervent support from the American Baptists. Furthermore, the fact that the Judsons and Rice were already on their way before converting to Baptism provided a fortunate platform for further missionary endeavors overseas. These two factors then created the basis of Rice's success among the Baptists in the country.

Ann and Adoniram Judson would then continue their journey to Burma, and requested support from the American Baptists. Once in the United States, Rice began his work by formally breaking his and the Judsons' ties with the Congregationalist association. He then began approaching an enthusiastic Baptist audience with requests for funding. With Rice's help, the Judsons then received some immediate funding from the Boston Baptists under Thams Baldwin

. Luther Rice used his exceptional talent as public speaker to gain support for the missionary cause. He traveled from Boston to Washington and Baltimore to spread the work to eager audiences. Particularly in his favor was also the fact that he was an American who had returned from the "darkness of paganism" and returned to tell the tale.

During his time in the United States, Rice also promoted better organization among the Baptist churches, among which was the creation of a national Baptist mission organization. Because of its loosely organized nature, only a few missionary societies existed in the United States, mostly focused upon home missions. Rice endeavored to change this by creating a central interest in among the Baptist churches for foreign missions.

Here, Luther Rice made use of the unique combination of his Congregational upbringing and his fervor for the Baptist doctrine. The Baptist paradigm for example attached great importance to the autonomy of each church. As Congregationalist by birth, Rice's background dictated that a centralized agency would serve the purpose of overseas missionary work best. This belief, combined with his ability to communicate, enabled Rice to form seventeen new missionary societies, along with a centralized convention by the end of 1813. This culminated in the General Missionary Convention of the Baptist Denomination of the United States, or the Triennial Convention -- so called because its members met every three years. The Convention was then specifically focused upon supporting foreign Baptist missions.

These evolutions were then the direct effect of sending Rice and the Judsons on their missions to foreign countries. Their conversion to Baptism and their subsequent need for funding appears to be just the elements that were required to help Baptism in the United States grow to a more widely accepted and even "respectable" organization. Indeed, the leaders of the Convention were respectable, educated men with a keen sense of their position in the world and the role of Baptism in it.

Adding fuel to the enthusiastic fire for the missionaries to foreign countries were their regular publication of hardship and adventures4. These did not take long to become bestsellers among American audiences at… [END OF PREVIEW]

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How Luther Rice and Adoniram Judson's Commission to Foreign Mission Impact Baptist Churches.  (2010, August 15).  Retrieved November 22, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/luther-rice-adoniram-judson-commission/94859

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