Serampore on March 11, 1832. His associate, William Ward, was working late. Suddenly Ward smelled smoke. He leaped up to discover clouds belching from the printing room. He screamed for help, and workers passed water from the nearby river until 2 a.m., but everything was destroyed.
On March 12, 1812 missionary Joshua Marshman entered a Calcutta classroom where Carey was teaching. “I can think of no easy way to break the news,” he said. “The printshop burned to the ground last night.” Carey was stunned. Gone were his massive polyglot dictionary, two grammar books, and whole William Carey, the “father of modern missions,” wanted to translate the Bible into as many Indian languages as possible. He established a large print shop in Serampore where translation work was continually being done. Carey spent hours each day translating Scripture, while his insane wife ranted and raved.
Carey was away from versions of the Bible. Gone were sets of type for 14 eastern languages, 1,200 reams of paper, 55,000 printed sheets, and 30 pages of his Bengal dictionary. Gone was his complete library. “The work of years—gone in a moment,” he whispered.
He took little time to mourn. “The loss is heavy,” he wrote, “but as traveling a road the second time is usually done with greater ease and certainty than the first time, so I trust the work will lose nothing of real value. We are not discouraged; indeed the work is already begun again in every language. We are cast down but not in despair.”
When news of the fire reached England, it catapulted Carey to instant fame. Thousands of pounds were raised for the work, and volunteers offered to come help. The enterprise was rebuilt and enlarged. By 1832, complete Bibles, New Testaments, or separate books of Scripture had been issued from the printing press in 44 languages and dialects.
The secret of Carey’s success is found in his resiliency. “There are grave difficulties on every hand,” he once wrote, “and more are looming ahead. Therefore we must go forward.”
We often suffer, but we are never crushed. Even when we don’t know what to do, we never give up. In times of trouble, God is with us, and when we are knocked down, we get up again. (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)
Robert J. Morgan, On This Day: 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). Mar.12.
ALSO ON THIS DAY
604 – Death of Pope Gregory the Great, known for his Dialogues, his teachings, his revision of the worship service, and promulgation of Gregorian chant, as well as the evangelization of England.
1022 – Symeon the New Theologian, died in Paloukiton of dysentery, after thirteen years of exile. He emphasized the importance of experiencing directly the grace of God and described his own mystical experience with “Divine Light.” Although contemporary church authorities condemned his teachings, later generations in the Eastern Orthodox Church declared him a saint and honored him with the rare title “theologian.”
1947 – British evangelist Smith Wigglesworth, a notable Pentecostal speaker, and faith healer died in Yorkshire.
2000 – Pope John Paul II asks God’s forgiveness for the sins of Roman Catholics through the ages, including wrongs inflicted on Jews, women, and minorities.
Information accessed ChristianHistoryInstitute.org 11 March 2020.