The Conversion of Adoniram Judson

I recently read a biography on  the first American missionary, Adoniram Judson. I was moved by the story of his conversion.  I wanted to recount it for you in this post.

Adoniram Judson was an intelligent young man. He learned to read a in a weeks time at the age of three. At the age of 10, he was reading Greek and Latin. He was in college by the time he was 16 years old and he tested out of his freshman year. During his college years, he rubbed shoulders with a man named Jacob Eames. Eames was a kindred spirit to Adoniram, but he was also a deist. With the help of Eames, Adoniram fortified his unbelief in God with what seemed to be impeccable logic. Though he was reared in the God-fearing home of a pastor, Judson veered off that path and into a world that denied the God of the Bible.

Upon graduation, Judson determined to up and go to New York. Apparently this was the “sin city” of the day. His parents were shocked when he disclosed his plans to them. Their concern led to a discussion that pushed Adoniram to tell all. He informed his parents that he did not believe the God his father preached. His parents wept over him and pleaded with him to repent and believe, but to no avail. A week later, in prodigal fashion, Adoniram mounted the horse he had received from his father and rode off to New York.

On his ride to New York he stopped off and stayed with his uncle. During his stay, he met a young minister that deeply impressed him. He observed in him a sense of peace and calm that he had not witnessed in many his age. As he continued his journey and neared New York he stopped off at a random village to stay in a hotel/inn. John Piper recalls the incredible event that took place during this night.

The innkeeper apologized that his sleep might be interrupted because there was a man critically ill in the next room. Through the night he heard comings and goings and low voices and groans and gasps. It bothered him to think that the man next to him may not be prepared to die. He wondered about himself and had terrible thoughts of his own dying. He felt foolish because good deists weren’t supposed to have these struggles.

When he was leaving in the morning he asked if the man next door was better. ‘He is dead,’ said the innkeeper. Judson was struck with the finality of it all. On his way out he asked, ‘Do you know who he was?’ ‘Oh yes. Young man from the college in Providence. Name was Eames, Jacob Eames.’

Judson could hardly move. He stayed there for hours pondering the death of his deist friend. If his friend Eames were right, then this was a meaningless event. But Judson could not believe it: ‘That h-e-l-l  should open in that country inn and grab Jacob Eames, his dearest friend and guide, from the next bed—this could not, simply could not, be pure coincidence.’[1]

This event was a catalyst in Judson’s conversion. He tried and tried to subdue this experience but he could not. This moment placed him on a path that led him to take some classes at the Andover Theological Seminary. After a short time there he wrote of experiencing the “regenerating influences of the Holy Spirit.” He wrote in his journal that he made a “solid dedication of himself to God.”[2]

[1] John Piper, Adoniram Judson: How Few There Are Who Die So Hard (Minneapolis: Desiring God Foundation, 2012), 11-12. The quotations in this paragraph are taken from To The Golden Shore.

[2] Courtney Anderson, To The Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson (Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1987), 50.

Election as Mission Impulse

One of the most common objections to election and predestination is evangelism in missions. If God chooses men and women why do we share the gospel with them? What’s the point? Paul seems to think pretty differently about this. Look at what he says about it.

“I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they may too obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:10).

Election is no hindrance to Paul when he thinks about missions and winning the lost. It is in fact the opposite. This text helps us understand that election is a driving force and impulse for Paul in the missionary task. It gives him confidence that God is sovereign over all things including the people he is sharing with. It gives him strength to persevere in the midst of affliction and persecution because he knows his labor will not be in vain—how can it be when God has chosen men and women from every tribe, tongue, and nation.