After two decades on the mission field,
Adoniram Judson wrote the following advice for missionary candidates to the
Foreign Missionary Association of the Hamilton Literary and Theological
Institution, N. Y. Maulmain, on June 25, 1832:
Brethren…. In commencing my remarks, I
take you as you are. You are
contemplating a missionary life.
First, then, let it be a missionary life;
that is, come out for life, and not for a limited term. Do not fancy that you have a true missionary
spirit, while you are intending all along to leave the heathen soon after
acquiring their language. Leave them,
for what? To spend the rest of your days
in enjoying the ease and plenty of your native land?
Secondly. In choosing a companion for life, have
particular regard to a good constitution, and not wantonly, or without good
cause, bring a burden on yourselves and the mission.
Thirdly. Be not ravenous to do good on
board ship. Missionaries have frequently
done more hurt than good, by injudicious zeal, during their passage out.
Fourthly. Take care that the attention
you receive at home, the unfavorable circumstances in which you will be placed
on board ship, and the unmissionary examples you may possibly meet with at some
missionary stations, do not transform you from living missionaries to mere
skeletons before you reach the place of your destination. It may be profitable to bear in mind, that a
large proportion of those who come out on a mission to the East die within five
years after leaving their native land. Walk
softly, therefore; death is narrowly watching your steps.
Fifthly. Beware of the reaction which will take place
soon after reaching your field of labor. There you will perhaps find native Christians,
of whose merits or demerits you cannot judge correctly without some familiar
acquaintance with their language. Some
appearances will combine to disappoint and disgust you. You will meet with disappointments and
discouragements, of which it is impossible to form a correct idea from written
accounts, and which will lead you, at first, almost to regret that you have
embarked in the cause. You will see men
and women whom you have been accustomed to view through a telescope some
thousands of miles long. Such an
instrument is apt to magnify. Beware,
therefore, of the reaction you will experience from a combination of all these
causes, lest you become disheartened at commencing your work, or take up a
prejudice against some persons and places, which will embitter all your future
Judson, The Life of Adoniram Judson
(New York: Anson D. F. Randolf & Company, 1883), 577-578; Francis Wayland, A Memoir of the Life and Labors of the Rev. Adoniram Judson, D.D.
(Boston: Phillips, Samson, and Company, 1853), 2:38-39.