When he left England for India in 1793, the odds were stacked against him. Apart from a few years in a village school, he had no formal education. He was shy, introverted, and insular. He had no financial resources. And, even though he was an ordained pastor, the Baptist bigwigs who led his denomination in London had no confidence in the cobbler-pastor and refused to support his plans.
But Carey would not be deterred. Through his study of the Bible, he had become convinced that he and his fellow Christians were obliged to carry the message of Jesus Christ to those who had never heard it. Carey was a Calvinist but not a hyper-Calvinist. He believed that God wanted all people to hear the message of Christ and that he had ordained “the use of means” to carry out that purpose. Against others who argued that the missionary mandate had been fulfilled long ago in the apostolic age, Carey said that the Great Commission had no statute of limitations.
And so, on June 13, 1793, William Carey, his wife Dorothy, and their four children—including a nursing infant—sailed from Dover on a Danish ship headed for India. Carey never saw his homeland again. He would spend the rest of his life in India as a pastor, teacher, evangelist, linguist, agriculturalist, journalist, botanist, social activist, and correspondent with some of the world’s leading political and religious figures. His fame seemed not to have corrupted his soul. When he died in his seventy-third year, he requested that a couplet from one of his favorite hymns by Isaac Watts be inscribed in the stone slab that would mark his grave. Though the words have faded with time, their traces can still be seen today: “A wretched, poor, and helpless worm, on thy kind arms I fall.”