William Carey's Deathless Sermon

Ken Curtis, PhD

William Carey's Deathless Sermon

It is often difficult for us to believe that in the late 18th century the majority of Protestant churches had very little interest in missionary outreach. Jesus' command to go to all nations was for the generation of apostles, they thought.

The Moravians had launched many courageous missionary efforts. Inspired by these, William Carey urged his fellow Baptist ministers in England to form a missionary society. At first there was little interest. On one occasion an older pastor sneered at his appeal, saying, "Young man, sit down. When God pleases to convert the heathen, he'll do it without consulting you or me."

Carey persisted. In 1792 he wrote his "Inquiry Into the Obligation of Christians" that became almost a charter for modern missions. A society was formed to send missionaries abroad. Carey was appointed one of the first. He would go to India for the next 40 years, not returning home even once.

But before he left, Carey preached what has become known as his "Deathless Sermon" to a Baptist meeting in Nottingham, England, based largely on Isaiah 54:2-3, a sermon that climaxed with the "Expect great things" saying. It became a kind of motto for Carey's subsequent ministry which included translating the Bible into over 34 languages, and it continues as a watchword for those whose hearts burn to see the Gospel of Jesus offered to all the people on the earth.

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