Adoniram Judson: “Nothing better to tell.”

To the Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram JudsonI’m finally finishing To the Golden Shore, Courtney Anderson’s riveting biography of Adoniram Judson. It’s a book I should have befriended years ago and is as riveting as any novel I’ve ever read. It’s just saturated with personal tragedy and gospel triumph. I’ve been moved to tears on more than one occasion.

The following scene captures the heart of Judson as well as any. Judson had spent over three decades taking the gospel to the unreached in Burma. He had lost one wife, and was being forced back to the United States (for the first time) by his second wife’s fatal illness. He had lost several children and co-workers, spent a year and a half in a virtual death camp, battled illnesses, faced ferocious animals, and seen the unspeakable splendor of Burmese monarchs. He received a hero’s welcome in the States; people thronged to see and hear this living legend. He would take the opportunity to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, but often his hearers were disappointed. Here’s the reflection of Emily (who would become his third wife) on one such meeting:

As he sat down…it was evident, even to the most unobservant eye, that most of the listeners were disappointed. After the exercises were over, several persons inquired of me, frankly, why Dr. Judson had not talked of something else; why he had not told a story… On the way home, I mentioned the subject to him.

“Why, what did they want?” he inquired; “I presented the most interesting subject in the world, to the best of my ability.”

“By they wanted something different—a story.”

“Well, I am sure I gave them a story—the most thrilling one that can be conceived of.”

“But they had heard it before. They wanted something new of a man who had just come from the antipodes.”

“Then I am glad they have it to say, that a man coming from the antipodes had nothing better to tell than the wondrous story of Jesus’ dying love.”

I love that. May we have such humility and regard for the gospel that we similarly exalt it far above our own anecdotes.

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5 Responses

  1. One of my family’s favorite books is Ann of Ava which records the life of Judson’s first wife. We have read this book aloud and everyone (ages 8 to 40+) was greatly blessed by the example of her life of faith. Another great Judson biography is that of Sara (Boardman) Judson, She is Judson’s second wife. This book gives the account of the work of Sara’s first husband and his death, as well as her life with Adoniram after Ann’s death. These are some of my favorite biographies.

  2. To the Golden Shore is a fine book. I think I was about half way through it when I decided to read it to my kids (back when they were kids). A gripping story and one well worth reading more than once. And I think reading biographies like this to kids is a tremendous way to communicate love for God and faith in God. I don’t know if this book played any part in the conversion of my kids, but it certainly bolstered their faith. And I think it could be used to teach as yet unsaved kids about saving faith.

    Maranatha!
    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  3. One of my favorite books; one of the best missionary biographies. I have read it to my oldest son, and have read it several times myself. I have been moved to tears at reading passages of the book. I loved that when he was back in the U. S. instead of telling exciting stories about exotic Burma, he preached the gospel.

  4. This is the first Christian biography I remember reading. It planted the seeds for a love of learning about God’s working in His church around the world and throughout time. Thanks for stirring a happy memory.

  5. […] of gospel advance in Burma. His commitment to Christ is illustrated well by an incident I recorded here. The church needs to be acquainted with missionary heroes of the past, and this book is a great […]

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