On the Importance of Biographies

Biographies are one of my favorite types of books. I thoroughly enjoy learning about different people. I especially enjoy biographies about Christians. From Jonathan Edwards to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from Karl Barth to William Wilberforce, reading about men and women who have contributed mightily to the Church always spurns an excitement and a desire to do more.

Adoniram Judson is one of those gentlemen by whom I am always encouraged and convicted. In the February 2017 print of the Banner of Truth journal a brief recap of the life and ministry of Mr. Judson is given. I am amazed at the difficulties this man overcame. Personally, I do not think I could handle the death of one of my children, let alone all of them. Added to that the death of my wife? I would find myself as an irrecoverable wreck. But Adoniram Judson pushed on (though he definitely experienced a difficult road).

(I have also received much encouragement from other materials printed through the Banner of Truth journal. Read about it here.)

One of the aspects of his life that I am always touched by (and incidentally reminded by) in Philip Arthur’s address is the letter to Miss Ann Hasseltine’s father. In pursuing his love for Ms. Hasseltine Judson writes a letter to her father, John. I am overwhelmed at the severity and seriousness of the note. I am convicted at how wonderfully real the issue of preaching the Gospel is to Mr. Judson. I felt led to share the contents of that letter, as reprinted in the journal of the Banner of Truth. I imagine, as a father, this letter would make me extremely proud but also quite terrified.

“I have now to ask, whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure, and her subjection to the hardships of a missionary life; whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress to degradation, insult, persecution and perhaps a violent death. Can you consent to all this, for the sake of him who left his heavenly home, and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion, and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with the crown of righteousness, brightened with the acclamations [sic] of praise which shall redound to her Saviour [sic] from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?”

[Philip J. Arthur, “Adoniram Judson”, The Banner of Truth, February 2017, 15-28.]

I am overcome with both excitement and grief. How could one turn down such a request? How, as a parent, would I be if my son proposed to a girl in such a manner? What are we doing, as parents, to encourage this seriousness of the task to which the Christian is called?

I am reminded, upon the reading of this section, of the importance of biography. My brothers and sisters, read biographies!