Central is the location for a museum dedicated to the work of the pioneer missionary, William Carey, who was instrumental in the formation of the Baptist Missionary Society. The museum is well worth a visit. If you would like to know more about the William Carey Museum, which is open to view every Sunday or other times by prior arrangement, please contact us. A memorial tablet to Carey can be found at Harvey Lane Baptist Church, Leicester.
William Carey, a shoemaker's apprentice, is pictured in the living room of his small cottage in Piddington, Northamptonshire.
He is reading Journal of Captain Cook's Last Voyage which thrilled him and showed him a world of people in spiritual darkness, intensifying his conviction that the words of Matthew 28:19-20 were still binding on all Christians. We have the 1784 edition of the 4 volumes of James Cook's Voyages. They have been conserved and are available for inspection.
Reading the Enquiry
In 1789 William Carey was invited to become pastor of Harvey Lane Baptist Church in Leicester.
Two years later he was ordained, on 22 May 1791. After the service Carey was asked to read his book "Enquiry" to a number of friends at his cottage, as shown below. Carey had been working on the book for 8 years, collecting information about the world and its religions. The book was published the following year in Leicester and a facsimile copy is held in the museum at Central.
The Deathless Sermon
Carey's opportunity to let his fellow baptists know his heart's concern came on Wednesday 30 May 1792 at the Assembly of the Northamptonshire Association.
The day began with prayer at 6am, with Carey preaching at 10am. His text was Isaiah 54:2-3. The facts he had collected for his book were clothed with life and passion. His message and challenge were summed up as "lengthen thy cords, strengthen thy stakes, expect great things from God, attempt great things for God". This became known as "The Deathless Sermon" and as a result the Baptist Missionary Society was formed on 2 October 1792.
The first Baptist Missionary Society (BMS) missionaries were William Carey and Dr John Thomas, who sailed to India in 1793.
Although it was a difficult task, both men were concerned that the indigenous population should have the Bible in their own language. After 40 years, Carey had translated the Bible into 6 different languages and the New Testament into 33. It was Carey who introduced printing and paper manufacture into India. The tableau below shows Carey at work, assisted by his Pundit, while Ward enters the room with a proof sheet in his hand.
The Social Reformer
Carey witnessed certain customs in India that filled him with horror and disgust, working hard to have them abolished.
The tableau above shows him witnessing the burning of a Hindu widow on the funeral pyre of her dead husband. He fought relentlessly against this practice of "suti" and must have been overjoyed when asked by the Governor General to translate an edict abolishing the custom.
William Carey's work came to be admired by Christians of all branches of the church. One such admirer was a young man by the name of Alexander Duff, who visited Carey shortly before his death.
Just as Duff was leaving a feeble voice called him back and said, "Mr Duff, you have been speaking of Dr Carey. When I am gone say nothing about Dr Carey - speak about Dr Carey's Saviour".