Serampore Compact

ken curtis, Ph.D.

Serampore Compact

What a community and mission!
They founded 26 churches and 126 rural schools for boys and girls. They were the first in India to promote education for women. They oversaw Bible translations in over 35 languages, more than had been done in all previous Christian history. They founded the Agricultural and Horticultural Society of India, established the first Bengali newspaper, sparked the Bengali Renaissance, and were instrumental in achieving the banishment of the age-old practice of sati -- the burning alive of widows on their husbands’ funeral pyre. From this communal life, Carey has become known as the “Father of Modern Missions.” Their story demonstrates some basics well worth considering. For example:

  • God often sees fit to use unknown and seemingly insignificant people to fulfill his purposes and advance his work.
  • A team approach with mutual accountability and submission can generate amazing results.
  • Certain principles of missions have been learned in the past that can serve us well today.

The Serampore Compact on the next three pages is a condensation and paraphrase. The original is about three times longer. A transcription of the full compact is available free at serampore.pdf.

Our Agreement
These are the principles upon which we at the Mission at Serampore agreed as our calling and duty at our meeting at Serampore, on Monday, October 7, 1805. We seriously intend to follow these points of agreement and to keep them ever before our minds, so we will read them out publicly, at every station, at our three annual meetings, on the first Lord's day in January, in May, and in October.

We are here by God's leading in a pagan land. This is God's work. He will accomplish his purposes, but we must also cooperate and follow him in seeking the salvation of others. For our part there are certain expectations that we think essential if we are to be effective servants here.

  1. We set an infinite value on immortal souls. This means we need to remind ourselves often of the dreadful future of those who die without knowing Christ. O may our hearts bleed over these poor idolaters. May their situation be a continual weight on our minds so that we are like the Apostle Paul, who compared his burden for those he was sent to reach for Christ with a woman going through labor pains until the baby is born. Yes, there is good reason to mourn for those we have come here to reach. But we are not discouraged, for we think of our own nation and the pitiable, pagan condition of our fellow British and Scottish countrymen before the Gospel found wide acceptance in our country. And the gospel can triumph here as well and liberate those who are slaves to superstition. We trust God's promises and look forward to the time not very distant when God will famish all the gods of India and cause these idolaters to cast their idols to the moles and to the bats and renounce forever the false gods they have made.
  2. We must learn all we can about the pagan snares that delude the minds of the people. We need to converse with them in an intelligible manner. So it is important to be acquainted with their modes of thinking, their habits, what they like and don't like, how they think about God, sin, holiness, the way of salvation. We need to know what their religion means to them and how they go about practicing it if we are to communicate meaningfully with them and not seem to them like barbarians. So we must talk with the people, read their books, and carefully study their way of life.
  3. We must not do those things that would increase prejudice against the Gospel. There are things about the British ways that repel them. We should be aware of them and avoid them. We would also avoid every degree of cruelty to animals. And we should not begin by attacking their false gods, nor try to physically destroy their pagan images, nor do anything to disrupt their worship. If the Gospel is to prevail, it will be through love and exalting Jesus.
  4. We eagerly seek for all opportunities to do good. A missionary would be highly culpable if he contented himself with preaching two or three times a week to those persons whom he might be able to get together into a place of worship. We must converse with the natives almost every hour in the day, to go from village to village, from market to market, from one assembly to another, to talk to servants, laborers, etc., as often as opportunity offers
  5. We shall make the greatest subject of our preaching Christ crucified. It is a well-known fact that the most successful missionaries in the world at the present day make the atonement of Christ their continued theme. We mean the Moravians. They attribute all their success to the preaching of the death of our Savior. So far as our experience goes in this work, we must freely acknowledge that every Hindu among us who has been gained to Christ has been won by the astonishing and all-constraining love exhibited in our Redeemer's propitiatory death.
  6. We must do all we can to help the people here trust us and feel quite at home in our company. To gain this confidence we must be always willing to hear their complaints; we must give them the kindest advice, and we must decide upon everything brought before us in the most open, upright and impartial manner. They need to feel that we are always available to them and consider them as our equals.
  7. We must pay careful attention to strengthen and guide those who do come to faith. We need to start with the simple precepts of the faith and then to press the great principles of the Gospel upon the minds of the converts till they be thoroughly settled and grounded in the foundation of their hope. We must be willing to spend time with them daily, if possible, in this work. We must have much patience with them, though they may grow very slowly in divine knowledge. We need to extend practical help, too, and assist them to find jobs. Just as we seek to be good citizens here, even when we are opposed, so we will teach the native brethren that they too should be good citizens and obey the laws. We must be patient with the people here and when they fall to give them a helping hand and show them how the Gospel calls us to a new way of life. We always need to remind ourselves where they started from, the fierce grip in which they were held in superstition. Daylight doesn’t come in an instant. They may fall many times, but we must not give up on them but patiently and lovingly lead them on in the Lord as long as they are willing. And what a responsibility is upon us -- for what they will learn of Christ will be seen in us. We place the highest value and esteem upon the important role of the women in our mission calling. They have a vital role in ministering to the native women here just as women played an important part in the apostolic era. The Asiatic women are mostly shut up from the men, and especially from men of another caste. So we must give our European sisters all possible help in acquiring the language, that they may become instrumental in promoting the salvation of the millions of native women who are in a great measure excluded from all opportunities of hearing the word from the mouths of male European missionaries.
  8. We must do all we can to help cultivate the gifts of our native brethren, fostering every kind of genius, and cherishing every gift and grace with them. In this respect we can scarcely be too lavish of our attention to their growth. It is only by means of native preachers that we can hope for the universal spread of the Gospel throughout this immense continent. And we insist that as soon as possible native churches should choose their own native pastors and leaders from among their own countrymen. We foreigners need to get out of the way as soon as possible and as much as possible. That does not mean we abandon them. No, we shall be available to help with problems as needed. But for the most part we will rejoice in seeing them take the reins themselves to oversee their own churches, and that will free us up to take the Gospel to still more places that have not yet heard the Word. We have thought it our duty not to change the names of native converts, observing from Scripture that the Apostles did not change those of the first Christians turned from paganism. We think it our duty to lead our brethren by example, by mild persuasion, and by opening and illuminating their minds in a gradual way rather than the use of authoritative means. By this they learn to see the evil of a custom, and then to despise and forsake it; whereas in cases where force is used, though they may leave off that which is wrong while in our presence, yet not having seen the evil of it, they are in danger of hypocrisy, and of doing that out of our presence which they will not do in it.
  9. We will labor with all our might in Bible translation in the various languages of this land. The help which God has given already in this work is a loud call to us to "go forward." So far, therefore, as God has qualified us to learn the languages, we consider it our sacred duty to apply ourselves with all our strength in acquiring them. We consider the publication of the Divine Word throughout India as an object which we ought never to give up till accomplished. The establishment of native-free schools is also an object highly important to the future conquests of the Gospel.
  10. We must be constant in prayer, and the cultivation of personal religion like missionary David Brainerd, in the woods of America, pouring out his very soul before God for those without Christ, without whose salvation nothing could make him happy. We will be fervent in spirit, wrestling with God, till He famish the idols here and cause the unconverted to experience the blessedness that is in Christ.
  11. And last-- we give ourselves up unreservedly to this glorious cause. Let us never think that our time, our gifts, our strength, our families, or even the clothes we wear, are our own. Let us sanctify ourselves for His work. We are not going to build up any large retirement fund or estate to leave to our children. None of us are here for their own preferences and desires. We are accountable to one another. We are committed to sharing all of our resources for the good of our community. To maintain our unity we renounce a worldly spirit, quarrels and every evil work. We are ready to bear hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ and endeavor to learn in every state to be content. We belong to God. He will take care of us. We live together and for each other under God. But no family living only for its own well being and interest ever enjoyed a greater portion of happiness, even in the most invigorating gale of worldly prosperity, than we have found since we resolved to have all things in common, and agreed that no one should pursue his business for his own exclusive advantage. If we are enabled to persevere in the same principles, we may hope that multitudes of converted souls will have reason to bless God to all eternity for sending His Gospel into this country.

The small mission community met every Saturday evening. That was the time to bring up any grievances or conflicts. Save them for Saturday. And if you did not bring up your grievances at the Saturday meeting, then let go of them.

 
  
Page last updated March, 2007.