Adoniram Judson, the first Baptist missionary from America, married Ann Hasseltine on February 5, 1812. They boarded a boat 2 weeks later and headed to Burma, where they had a rich marriage and a fruitful ministry.
A month after he met her, Adoniram wrote Ann a letter asking for permission to be her suitor. This was close to what we would call a proposal. She did not answer it for several days. When she finally did, Ann evaded the question, saying he would need to ask her parents first. Here is the letter Adoniram promptly sent to her dad:
I have now to ask, whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life; whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death. Can you consent to all this, for the sake of him who left his heavenly home, and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion, and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with the crown of righteousness, brightened with the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Saviour from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair. (Quoted in Courtney Anderson, To The Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson [Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1987], 83.)
At least two things impress me about this letter:
1. Ann’s dad, John, impresses me. What a disturbing letter to receive! When I met with my wife’s Father, I can assure you I did not emphasize hardships, sufferings, dangers, fatal climates, or violent deaths. One of John Hasseltine’s friends said he would rather tie his daughter to the bedpost than let her go across the world. But John told Ann it was her decision. Anne married Adoniram. She died in Burma.
We need more parents who give their children to the service of Christ. How discouraging it is for a young man or woman to feel called to the mission field and have their Christian parents try to talk them out of it or forbid them to go. Will we raise our children and entrust them to God for His glory and the good of immortal souls?
2. I am impressed by the Judsons’ single-minded commitment to the cause of Christ. Adoniram was not exaggerating or being dramatic in his letter. Going to live in Burma was a very dangerous mission. They both knew they would probably die among strangers. Ann struggled with her decision but eventually decided to marry the man she loved. Soon after accepting the proposal, she wrote to her friend:
I feel willing, and expect, if nothing in providence prevents, to spend my days in this world in heathen lands. Yes, Lydia, I have about come to the determination to give up all my comforts and enjoyments here, sacrifice my affection to relatives and friends, and go where God, in his providence, shall see fit to place me. (Quoted in Anderson, To the Golden Shore, 84.)