Terry G. Carter is a well-known religious researcher, who studied baptism in particular. Our research is devoted to one of his writings “The Journal and Selected Letters of William Carey”. In order to understand the ideas and views of the author, it’s better to start with the very concept of baptism. Firstly it’s a kind of Protestantism. In many countries the word baptism has a negative meaning. However general public tend to be uneducated in the sphere of such kinds of religion. Due to this factor, few people know that the very word “Baptism” is originated from Greek word “Baptizo” and has a meaning of christening. In this way it plays an important role in the life of faithful person. Baptism is the second step in the life of a Christian. The first one is person’s belief in Christ. That’s why we consider the work of Terry G. Carter a valuable material for wide range of readers. In his book, Carter represents major views of a famous missionary and Baptist William Carey. The word “baptizo” includes the content and form of christening. It literally means the “immersion” which symbolizes the death of sinful life, while coming out of water means symbolizes rise from the death. It’s a very important point which can’t be omitted. And it is the reason why Baptists were actually called so. A person is supposed to regenerate spiritually by the act of christening. It is the first and major element of Baptist believes.
Terry G. Carter devoted his work to one of the most important and well-known activists in the whole history of baptism, William Carey. Once he was also called “the Father of modern Baptist Movement” and became an authority in the circles of Baptists. Terry Carter writes about the Mission which had a great influence on all the other protestant missions in the period of about two centuries. Carter’s work differs from any other books concerning William Carey. From all the hundreds of books and stories of this kind, Carter’s book is characterized as the most unique and unusual writing. Apart from this, Carter’s book is much more detailed and substantial. Many critics find his “Journal” really profound in the way he writes chapter by chapter. His work considers the Mission wider than any other author ever tried to do before. It deals with different aspects of William Carter’s activity. Actually William Carey as the Father of modern Missionary began his activity in 1793 in India. It was he who managed to lay the foundation of the great missionary movement, which is vividly depicted in the word of Terry Carter. He was later followed by David Livingston, Hudson and Mary Tailor, Adoniram and Ann Judson and thousands of others. William Carey is represented to the reader as a genius Christian enlightener of the Third World. Carey was no more than a craftsman, but he turned into a really purposeful Christian. He managed to become a polyglot and a philologist of world-wide fame. Terry Carter’s book is penetrated with the spirit of titanic persistence and determination. The author represented William Carey as a person who seemed to start his life from the very beginning for several times. At least he spent all his life in search of a true way. For instance, he has changed his life views once when his titanic works were burned. He struggled with numerous troubles; he tried to overcome all the hardships in his life. One more suffering was that his faithful life companion, Dorothy, was mentally disordered.
Trying to state the main points of Terry Carter’s masterpiece, we consider it important to include some facts from the biography of William Carey. It would make it easier to understand what influenced his life views and life itself. He was born in a small village 80 miles northwards London in the family of a weaver. He was the sixth child in the family. His father later got the position of a plasm-reader in the Anglican parish. He also worked as a teacher in the village school. As a boy William Carey used to read eagerly and with great pleasure. A fateful turn in his life was his sudden illness, due to which he was no longer able to work outdoors. As a result he became a shoemaker’s apprentice and got acquainted with immoral people. He began to swear and even committed small robbery. It’s important to remind that at those times any kind of robbery was punished extremely severely. The “Journal” of Terry Carter doesn’t give much detailed information concerning William Carey’s past, but we consider it an essential element of his whole activity. The past reveals how radically he has changed. It proves that every person strives to certain ideals and builds his destiny on his own.
Terry Carter depicts William Carey as a personality with dual destiny. On the one hand he faced lots of hardships in his life. On the other hand he was rather lucky. In spite of his small crimes in the past, he wasn’t punished due to some reasons; nevertheless it was a serious misdeed. He even suffered from excruciating shame and pangs of conscience. And he even stopped attending the church. But once he talked to another apprentice, who persuaded him to come to his community to confess. It brought him certain calmness, made him tranquil and glad. “The Journal of William Carey” also proves that he joined Calvinist congregation instead of Anglican Church, where he soon mastered Bible and began to preach. It certainly caused misunderstanding and sort of barrier between his father and himself.
Terry Carter’s book draws reader’s attention to the whole 40 years of his career as an English Baptist, which certainly deserves thorough discussion. Carter himself admits that the “Journal and Letters” should be read together with William Carey’s biography in order to follow the chronological order and to understand the sequence of events better. “Journal” contains indispensable information as a supplemental material to the biography. As it was already mentioned, Carey began his career from a Mission to India. It was exactly at that time that he started to write a Journal. The major Carter’s writings about it need no interpretation. However some of them are hard to understand without certain knowledge of Carey’s biography. The journal contains only few years of his activity in India. It reveals his efforts to overcome hardships and sufferings, along with certain cultural shock between England and India. The letters were written during the next years of his Mission, which covers much longer period of nearly 30 years. In his letters Carey reveals the influence of his mission on the society and government. Along with this, he managed to show his own ideas and philosophy more clearly. In such a way Terry Carter’s summary became a considerable contribution into the literature [John H. Barnhill, 2003].
On the other hand Terry Carter not only presented valuable material about the most important personality in the whole Missionary history, but also made certain links to biographical facts which were already known. In the first place he managed to enrich the historical and religious literature with new details. In some letters William Carey tends to speak a bit haughty, but nevertheless quite fair. Through all his writings the main idea is clearly seen by a thorough reader. He tries to persuade people that it is important to seek for the truth during the whole life. He emphasizes that as long as there are people walking in the dark and unwilling to know the truth, there is a necessity for preachers and missionaries. There are people who rebel against beliefs and don’t honor God. His writings were mainly intended exactly for such people in order to help them to find right way in life.
William Carey himself seems to have found his true way. But in spite of this he faced many hardships in life. It is necessary to say about his life companion Dorothy. William Carey got acquainted with this poor illiterate girl, who was older than him and also belonged to the dissident church. They soon got married and Dorothy learned reading and writing. They used to live and poverty, trying to make both ends meet and to scrape for living as hard they could. However money earned from preaching was not enough to provide a decent living. Their daughter died very soon, William caught a serious disease and nearly lost his job and the whole family suffered greatly. Dorothy couldn’t resist the stress and became mentally sick. This fact from his biography justifies his further activity. At this time he changed his life views once more and became a Baptist. One more turn in his life actually saved his family.
From this time on he passionately started to learn different sciences: ancient and modern languages, history, geography, biblical investigations and just reading pious books. May be his affection in learning later influenced his decision to write journal and letters during his Mission. We find it important to admit that his knowledge of different sciences also formed his personal life views. Though he used to be a representative of lower class, he managed to become educated enough to express his radical views. Terry Carter made a summary of his writings as a supplement to his biography. Carter’s thorough investigation became a masterpiece among all writings of this kind. It shows Carey’s activity as a preacher, and reveals his necessity to help other people. For this reason he decided to go abroad. His memoirs remind those of captain Kuk to some extent.
The book clearly shows the doubtless nobility of Carey’s actions. Though he also had to sacrifice the lives of his wife and small children, he didn’t give up and continued his work. His journal tells of absolutely insulting attitude to missionaries and beliefs. But in spite of numerous barriers, William Carey managed to spread Christianity in India, as well as in the South Asia. Owing the influence of William Carey, missionary became the main duty of Christian church.
William Carey’s Mission attracted attention of many researchers. Terry Carter however was the only one, who managed to create a detailed summary of the whole missionary activity. William Carey went through numerous sufferings during the forty years of his missionary word; nevertheless he demonstrated endurance, persistence, patience and firm determination to succeed in his work [Richard J. Foster].
I know how to word. I can resist all difficulties. I achieved much and for this I’m much indebt to my personal qualities [W. Carey].
On the whole “The Journal and Selected Letters of William Carey by Terry G. Carter” proved to be a nice example of how a usual person may show unlimited faith to God, abilities to overcome life hardships. His writing gives an example of passionate work for the sake of personal life views. The book brought Terry Carter world fame. And at the same time it attracted attention to the great missionary William Carey. The book reveals the necessity to live in harmony with God and to seek for the truth all the time.
Terry G. Carter (2000) The Journal and Selected Letters of William Carey: Georgia, Smyth and Helwys Publishing.
The Baptist Studies Bulletin (2003) A monthly Emagazine, Bridging Baptists Yesterday and Today,
November Vol.2 No. 11. http://www.mercer.edu/baptiststudies/Bulletin/Nov03ARC.htm
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