With no friends in high places and virtually no financial reserves, this small group of men—at one point Anderson called them “a little band of brothers”—became convinced that the Christian faith was not meant for Westerners alone. They thus formed the Baptist Missionary Society and sent Carey (and later others) to India and Southeast Asia, and then, in the years that followed, others to the West Indies and West Africa.
The Lord Is Doing Great Things
Carey’s 1792 sermon mentioned above had two sections to it that were summed up by these watchwords: “expect great things” and “attempt great things.” The formation of the Baptist Missionary Society was only the first of a number of important missionary enterprises formed in this remarkable era. There was, for example, the interdenominational London Missionary Society (1795), the Anglican Church Missionary Society (1799), and the Wesleyan Missionary Society (1813), to name but three, who began to fulfill Carey’s call to “attempt great things” for God and His glory.
What lessons, then, can we learn from this early era in the modern missionary movement? First, the Moravians and the Baptists around Carey remind us that without prayer, nothing can be accomplished for the expansion of God’s kingdom. With Carey, we must reach that point where we experientially confess, as he once said, that “if a temple is raised for God in the heathen world, it will be by” the Spirit of God.
Second, we need to be gripped by a passionate activism to win the lost even as the eighteenth-century Moravians and English Baptists were. Though Carey often reproached himself for his indolence, he was actually a hurricane of energy focused on winning the lost for Christ and advancing the kingdom of Christ. In the words of David Kingdon, Carey and his band of brothers knew that they were debtors to grace, and they were thus willing to
hazard health and comfort to bring the gospel to heathen multitudes lost in darkness. They believed in the eternal punishment, not the annihilation, of the impenitent. They entertained no hopeful views of the salvific possibilities of general revelation, nor did they speculate that people could be saved apart from the proclamation of the gospel.
Finally, there was a profound catholicity that marked both the Moravians and the Baptist circle around Carey. They were well aware that they did not have the calling to build their own little kingdoms, and, as such, they networked with others of like mind, theology, and ethos. Thus, Thomas Scott, an Anglican minister, and John Newton, one of the founders of the Church Missionary Society, wrote in December 1814 to their mutual friend, the Baptist John Ryland Jr.:
I do most heartily rejoice in what your missionaries are doing in India. Theirs is the most regular and best conducted plan against the kingdom of darkness that modern times have shewn. . . . May all India be peopled with true Christians!—even though they be all Baptists. . . . The Lord is doing great things, and answering prayer everywhere.
And if we are wise in our own day, we too shall make common cause with those who share our commitment to the gospel.