My Heart in His Hands Ann Judson of Burma:
a life with selections from her memoir and letters, by Sharon James,
published by Evangelical Press, 237 pages, £6.95. Obtainable from the Free Presbyterian Bookroom.
This is an excellent book. It recounts the life of Ann Judson, who with her husband Adoniram was among the first foreign missionaries to go out from the USA. Mrs Judson is mostly left to tell her own story, and a fascinating story it is.
The Judsons sailed for India in 1812. Ann had written much in her journal as she considered this major step in her life which would almost certainly cut her off from her family for the rest of her life. On 28 October1811, she expressed herself on the subject as follows: “I have, at all times, felt a disposition to leave it with God, and trust in Him to direct me. I have at length come to the conclusion, that if nothing in providence appears to prevent, I must spend my days in a heathen land. I am a creature of God and He has an undoubted right to do with me as seemeth good in His sight. I rejoice that I am in His hands that He is everywhere present and can protect me in one place as well as in another. He has my heart in His hands (the words used as the title of the book), and when I am called to face danger, to pass through scenes of terror and distress, He can inspire me with fortitude and enable me to trust in Him. Jesus is faithful; His promises are precious. . . . If I have been deceived in thinking it my duty to go to the heathen, I humbly pray that I may be undeceived and prevented from going. But whether I spend my days in India or America, I desire to spend them in the service of God and be prepared to spend an eternity in His presence. O Jesus, may I live to Thee, and I desire no more.”
In this spirit the Judsons set sail, but it was not possible to work in India because of opposition from the East India Company. Instead they moved to Burma, where till her death in 1826 she supported her husband in his work of evangelisation and Bible translation in the face of illness, opposition and bereavement. War with Britain meant that all white people were suspect. Adoniram suffered a period of imprisonment as a result, while Ann, in spite of illness and having to look after a little child, visited her husband daily and made repeated and valiant efforts to secure his release. During this period, she went to no end of trouble to preserve the manuscript of his translation of the New Testament into the local language.
In spite of every difficulty, they pressed on. The work was not without fruit. But, worn out through her exertions and repeated illnesses, Ann Judson passed to her eternal reward soon after her husbands release. “Blessed assurance,” he wrote to her parents, “and let us apply it afresh to our hearts, that while I am writing and you perusing these lines, her spirit is resting and rejoicing in the heavenly paradise.” An appendix gives a brief account of Adoniram Judsons life till his death in 1850.
This book has much to teach a generation where there is so little of true Christian experience. The account of Ann Judson passing from death to life would be a good antidote to the spurious conversions which are so often given too much publicity today. Ones only disappointment with the account of their lives is that they felt obliged to take up baptistic views. But that, of course, does not take away from the godliness that they demonstrated in the face of so many difficulties, including the death of their children. They proved the faithfulness of Christ as they trusted in those precious promises which Ann referred to when considering a future far away from the comforts and friendships of home. This book gives a welcome picture of a young couple who, in spite of human imperfection, sought to live to the glory of God in the midst of so many discouragements.