A few weeks ago, a lady at our church who is fellow book-lover, loaned me a missionary story called To the Golden Shore. “I think you’ll like it,” she said, and she was right. I wanted to share it with you, and encourage you to read this wonderful book about Adoniram Judson.
I must say that I was a bit overwhelmed when I saw that it was 500 pages long. I had read about Adoniram Judson a little beforehand, so I knew he had a hard life. I am affected deeply by words, and I was concerned that I would be in an emotional downswing due to living the life of Adoniram Judson vicariously through the printed page. But, I put aside my fears and dove headfirst into the summer of 1788 in Massachusetts and met the Judson family as they welcomed their firstborn child, Adoniram, Jr. I traveled across the ocean to England and back to Salem, Massachusetts, then on to India and Burma, (back and forth many times), I visited prison, suffered losses of loved ones and ached through much illness, and then, finally, I walked to the dock to wave goodbye to Mr. Judson as he stepped onto that blessed Golden Shore. With the last page of this book, I felt a greater longing than ever before to do a good work for my Lord. On the contrary, rather than suffering an emotional downswing, I felt more thrilled than ever at the prospect of meeting the One Who died for me in that pristine land.
Mr. Courtney Anderson (and what a great first name he has!) did an excellent job of removing “some of the grimy crust of time, and revealing, at least a little, the bright features underneath.” He wrote about Judson, his family and friends; and led us across continents with ease. His descriptions were enough to make you feel everything that the Judsons felt, whether physical or emotional. I couldn’t wait to keep going, to see what would happen next! And the best part? It’s all true. I personally enjoyed the early-American historical tidbits at the beginning, which gave the book a firm and familiar start. The pilgrims, Squanto, Nathaniel Bowditch, and John Adams are all mentioned, and I relished each reference.
I was particularly moved by the following passage, taken from Ann Hasseltine Judson’s journal, regarding her husband’s and her own decision to be baptized by immersion, thereby abandoning the Congregationalist faith (in which they were brought up), and moving to the Baptist faith (in which they knew no one):
Thus, we are confirmed Baptists, not because we wanted to be, but because the truth compelled us to be. We have endeavored to count the cost, and be prepared for the many severe trials resulting from this change of sentiment. We anticipate the loss of reputation, and of the affection and and esteem of many of our American friends. . . We feel that we are alone in the world, with no real friend but each other, no one on whom we can depend but God. [page 146]
I can – in a very small measure – understand what Ann is saying here. I too, have been compelled by truth to have a change in sentiment. I have feared the loss of friends and loved ones. I have lost what bit of “reputation” I had, as several friends have written to say just how ashamed they are of our decision to adhere to the Doctrines of Grace. In the beginning, I felt that I no friend but Terry, and that only God was with us as we labored in ministry. But, as Ann discovers in her journey with Christ, I, too, have learned that Christ is enough. I’ve learned that where there is one believer, there will be others. I’ve learned that I have not disappointed everyone I know, just as Ann and Adoniram hadn’t either. In fact, when Adoniram Judson, Sr. was 67 years old, he too, became a Baptist, resigning his pastorate in Plymouth to do so. It is true that when one person stands for what is right according to Scripture, others will follow.
Judson labored tirelessly, in sickness, despair, loneliness, and poverty, to share the Gospel, but went no further than simply sharing Christ with others. He told them to “Pray to God for light. If you receive light, you will be able at once to distinguish between truth and falsehood.” [page 279] There was no mention of his leading anyone in prayers or asking for a show of hands after a sermon. Christ was, and is, enough.
In several chapters, most notably the one entitled, “Give us a Writing”, we see how Adoniram suffered with depression, feeling that the trials he endured were punishment from God for his selfish and prideful behavior. He would climb out of that pit by the Savior’s helping hand, only to fall back again later. I was encouraged that if a great man such as Adoniram Judson could be depressed, then anyone can. And like Judson learned, Christ is the answer to relieve us of that burden.
Adoniram Judson did not approve of temporary missionary trips, where one would only serve in a country for a limited time. He said, “The motto of every missionary, whether preacher, printer, or schoolmaster, ought to be ‘Devoted for life.’ [page 409]
Also, here is an encouraging little couplet:
Beware of desperate steps; the darkest day,
(Live till tomorrow) will have passed away. [page 481]
These are just a few highlights from this moving book. I don’t see how any Christian can read it, even if you’ve read other books about Adoniram Judson, and not be inspired by his faith in the very same God that we have the privilege to serve today. What a thought! This book exclaims, “Christ is Lord of all!” from beginning to end.