An Amazing Account of Judson’s Conversion

John Piper. Don’t Waste Your Life. pp155-157.
How God Caught Adoniram Judson for Burma

That’s the way it was with Adoniram Judson, the first overseas
missionary from America, who sailed with his wife at age twentythree
on February 17, 1812. They had been married twelve days.
He spent the rest of his life, until 1850, “suffering yet always
rejoicing” to bring Burma under the sway of Christ and make the
people glad in God forever. But first God had to turn him around,
and he did it in a way that so stunned Judson, he never forgot
the providence of God in his conversion.
The son of a pastor, he was a brilliant boy. His mother taught
him to read in one week when he was three to surprise his father
when he came home from a trip.1 When he was sixteen he
entered Rhode Island College (later Brown University) as a
sophomore and graduated at the top of his class three years later
in 1807.

The Detour from God

What his godly parents did not know was that Adoniram was
being lured away from the faith by a fellow student named Jacob
Eames who was a Deist.2 By the time Judson’s college career was
finished, he had no Christian faith. He kept this concealed from
his parents until his twentieth birthday, August 9, 1808, when he
broke their hearts with his announcement that he had no faith
and that he wanted to write for the theater and intended to go to
New York, which he did six days later on a horse his father gave
him as part of his inheritance.
It did not prove to be the life of his dreams. He attached
himself to some strolling players and, as he said later, lived “a
reckless, vagabond life, finding lodgings where he could, and
bilking the landlord where he found opportunity.”3 The disgust
with what he found there was the beginning of several
remarkable providences. God was closing in on Adoniram
Judson.
He went to visit his Uncle Ephraim in Sheffield but found
there instead “a pious young man” who amazed him by being
firm in his Christian convictions without being “austere and dictatorial.”
4 Strange that he should find this young man there
instead of the uncle he sought.

The Unforgettable Night

The next night he stayed in a small village inn where he had never
been before. The innkeeper apologized that his sleep might be
interrupted because there was a man critically ill in the next room.
Through the night Judson heard comings and goings and low
voices and groans and gasps. It bothered him to think that the
man next to him may not be prepared to die. He wondered about
himself and had terrible thoughts of his own dying. He felt foolish
because good Deists weren’t supposed to have these struggles.
When he was leaving in the morning he asked if the man next
door was better. “He is dead,” said the innkeeper. Judson was
struck with the finality of it all. On his way out he asked, “Do
you know who he was?” “Oh yes. Young man from the college
in Providence. Name was Eames, Jacob Eames.”5
Judson could hardly move. He stayed there for hours pondering
death and eternity. If his friend Eames were right, then this
was a meaningless event. But Judson could not believe it: “That
hell should open in that country inn and snatch Jacob Eames, his
dearest friend and guide, from the next bed—this could not, simply
could not, be pure coincidence.”6 God was real. And he was
pursuing Adoniram Judson. God knew the man he wanted to
reach the Burmese people.

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