Judson was born in coastal Massachusetts, the son of a Congregational minister. His promise was discovered early when he was able to read a passage from the Bible to his parents at the tender age of three and as a student he excelled, graduating from the College of Rhode Island (now Brown University) as the Valedictorian of his class at the age of 19. To the regret of his parents, however, he fell under the influence of his best friend at college, Jacob Eames, a Deist. While acknowledging the existence of God, he nonetheless began to doubt the active involvement of God in the life of man.
Starting work as a teacher, he lost touch with Eames but decided a year or so later that he wanted to find out where he was. On horseback, he traveled around the New York City area looking for him. Alas, after a futile search, one night he stopped at a roadside inn for lodging and, while having difficulty sleeping, listened to the man in the next room who sounded to be in agony. The innkeeper told him he was caring for the man who was very ill.
Early the next morning, Judson inquired of his host as to the condition of the man and was told that he had passed during the night. When he asked who the man was, he was told it was Jacob Eames. He had looked diligently for his friend only to find himself lodging in the room next door at the time of his death.
Judson took this as a sign that he had better straighten up his life and get back to a godly life and he took heed. He embarked on the road to the ministry and, while preparing himself, he saw an English sailor's pamphlet about Burma and its lack of Christianity and saw this as a golden opportunity to serve his God in a special way.
Completing his studies, he requested and received assignment as a missionary and, with his new bride Anne, sailed for Burma. Somewhere along the way he became convinced that immersion was the only way to be baptized and, as a result, became a Baptist. Because of this belief and the resultant need for a new sponsorship, he was able to convince the Baptist Church through his initiative, good manners and conviction to sponsor him and several others as the first Baptist missionary to Burma.
Life and work were not easy for the young man in Burma. He was harassed, even spent some time in prison, and it took him seven years to gain his first convert. This task was made almost impossible by the Burmese Buddhist government which would issue a death warrant to any Buddhist disavowing his faith for Christianity.
Other problems came along because of the assignment and the circumstances. His son died at eight months, his first wife and a later wife died due to health conditions caused by the climate and diseases of the time, yet Judson labored on. His spirit and hope was reinforced at a time when he was doubting himself when he learned of his thirty-five year old brother's death, a man who had not been a believer, who saw the error of his ways and accepted Jesus before his death.
In the end, following a forty year commitment to his mission in Burma, Judson left behind a legacy of seven thousand baptized converts, sixty-three Baptist congregations, and assignment of one hundred sixty three missionaries to the country. He also translated the Bible into Burmese and his work is still followed by the large number of Christians in the country today.
Despite personal hardship and heartache, Judson never forgot what his mission was and what he felt was his duty to his Lord. Today he is remembered with a college bearing his name, many Baptist churches throughout America doing the same and a following in Burma that would have never been possible without his hard work and sacrifice.
He died at the age of sixty two in 1850 but he is well remembered and he offers to each of us Christians, regardless of our denomination or church, a stellar example of what service to Christ really means. May God bless his soul.
Let's use the example of Adoniram Judson, missionary extraordinaire, as a wonderful example of putting Christ first. Are we Christians today willing to do the same?