Henry Martyn, Missionary to India

“But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel”

Philippians 1:12

The cycle of Christians being called “hereticks” when they are not hereticks continues to be prevalent today. When the Apostle Paul preached and taught salvation through Jesus Christ, the high priests of his day called him a blasphemer. Yet Paul knew whom he believed, and he defended his faith with scripture. After all, faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Many in the world believe that a man is worthless if he has not made a name for himself, and they care nothing for the word of God.

Even today, when the holy scriptures are made so widely available in many languages. Why must Christians disagree? For the Holy Spirit cannot disagree with himself. God forbid. It is by the whim of man and of satan that there are disagreements in the body of Christ. And for these disagreements many Christians are called heretics, mostly by men who do not know the Lord themselves. These same call others “unfruitful” and their works vain. Yet it is God that ordains each of his children for work, and it is not the children themselves who choose.

This was such a case with Henry Martyn. He was an Englishman who lived on earth from 1781 to 1812. As a child he was known as a lazy boy, which did not change in his teenage years. When his father died in 1800, Henry turned to the word of God for comfort, and by the words he read he believed and received Christ as his Savior. This change in him caused him to abandon his worldly studies and travel to where God had called him. He left for India in 1805.

Henry traveled as a chaplain, but in those days preaching outside of a Church building was prohibited. He sought permission to preach to the sailors from the captain of the ship heading for India, and the captain acquiesced. His messages, one of which was about the scripture, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” (Psalm 9:17), is said to have caused the sailors to weep. 

It was in India where he met resistance to his preaching. The Anglican clergy had disdain for his message from God, for he preached that a man is justified by faith in Christ, not by works. This was a teaching that many of the Anglicans called heretical. For these “powerful men” to be his enemies meant that he might miss “opportunities” for success and fame in the “church”. So is it today among Christians in the United States, that it is who you know that will cause success in the “church”, not that you know Christ. Oh how can this nation be healed as long as the “leaders” of the Church are hypocrites! How will young Christians preach Christ without the leaven of filthy lucre if they come out of the schools living for it?! To be great in this world is to be at odds with the Lord, for it is the pleasure of God that Christians should long after, not the pleasing of men.

Henry Martyn had said, “I see no business in life but the work of Christ, neither do I desire any employment to all eternity but His service”. Henry was greatly impressed upon in his early days by a sermon of Charles Simeon, who preached, “Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not” (Jeremiah 45:5). He sought no name for himself in India, and only desired to see the Lord glorified in the conversion of lost souls to Christ. 

While there in India he translated the New Testament of Jesus Christ into the Hindustani and Sanskrit languages. He traveled to Persia to translate the New Testament and many Psalms into Arabic and Persian. He established 5 Christian schools in India, and taught many new Christians the error of theosophy, so-called science, and the evils of the Catholic religion. Concerning his works for God, and upon being told he had not converted a large number to Christ, he said, “Let me labor for fifty years, amidst scorn and without seeing one soul converted, still it shall not be worse for my soul in eternity, nor even worse for it in time” (Missions and Miracles). Henry understood that his work was done for God, and God uses some to plant, some to water, but God alone gives the increase. 

Becoming sick in 1812, Henry attempted to return to England to recover. Being forced to stop in Tokat, his last written words were, “I sat in solitude in the orchard, and thought with sweet comfort and peace of my God, my Company, my Friend, and Comforter” (Missions and Miracles). He did not live to see fifty years, for he died there in Tokat, being a young 31 years of age. His work was done and so God had called him home. 

“Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain” (Philippians 2:16). 

Please pray for our missionaries in foreign lands.

Quotes referenced here are attributed to Missions and Miracles, compiled by P.G. Temple.

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