William Carey

In 1814 Baptists in America formed their first national foreign missions board, known as the Triennial Convention (it met every three years). Meanwhile, in England Baptists were in their third decade of doing foreign missions. William Carey, father of the Baptist missions movement, penned instructions to new missionaries, as follows:

Pay the utmost attention at all times to the state of your own mind both towards God and Man. Cultivate an intimate acquaintance with your own heart, labour to obtain a deep sense of your own depravity and to trust always in Christ. Be pure in heart and meditate much upon the pure and holy character of God. Cherish every amiable and right disposition towards men. Be mild, gentle and unassuming, yet firm and manly. As soon as you perceive anything wrong in your spirit and behaviour set about correcting it and never suppose yourself so perfect as to need no correction. ….

Behave affably and genteelly to all but not cringingly or unsteadily towards any. Feel that you are a man, and always act with the dignified sincerity and truth which will command the esteem of all. Seek not the society of worldly men, but when called to be with them act and converse with propriety and dignity. To do this labour to gain a good acquaintance with History, Geography, Men and Things. A Gentleman is the next best character after a Christian, and the latter includes the former. Money never makes a, Gentleman, much less does a fine appearance, but an enlarged understanding joined to engaging manners. ….

(For Carey’s full listing of instructions, click here.)

Carey’s instructions are to a large degree a product of his time. Penned in the early era of Baptist mission work when many Baptists remained unconvinced that Christians should be doing mission work in the first place, Carey placed great emphasis on self-reflection and displayed an inquisitiveness for disciplines and knowledge beyond the realm of religion. An understanding of self and an appreciation of other cultures – or at the least, an attempt to understand and an oppeness to appreciating other cultures – underpinned Carey’s pioneering efforts in preaching the Gospel in foreign lands.

Much has changed since 1814, but perhaps some of William Carey’s instructions yet remain relevant to this day.



Bruce Gourley

About Bruce Gourley

Bruce Gourley is online editor. In addition to managing Baptist Today’s web presence, Bruce is the executive director of the Baptist History and Heritage Society (baptisthistory.org), general editor of the Baptist History & Heritage Journal, editor of the Baptist Studies Bulletin, creator and author of the "Baptists and the American Civil War Project" (civilwarbaptists.com), and author of seven books. Bruce is also an avid hiker, owns the Yellowstone Net website (yellowstone.net), and is an award-winning photographer (brucegourley.com). A graduate of Mercer University (B.A.), Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div.), and Auburn University (Ph.D.), he and his family live near Bozeman, Montana.