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Henry Martyn

By White Unto Harvest


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Narrator:  When Henry Martyn arrived at Calcutta, India, in April 1806, he said these words: "Now let me burn out for God." Martyn was influenced by other pioneers in mission publishing, such as William Carey and David Brainerd. Like Brainerd, Martyn truly did burn out for God, for after only six years on the mission field, he died. Those six years were filled with an extraordinary intensity of service to the Lord.

In 1797, at the age of 16, Martyn began attending St. John's College in preparation to become a lawyer. However, in 1802, after hearing accounts of the renowned William Carey and his mission work in India, Martyn abandoned all desires of becoming a lawyer and set out to serve the Lord as a missionary throughout South Asia.

Martyn arrived in India April 1806 and was welcomed by William Carey. He had been busy with language learning on the long journey. At this first meeting, he conversed with Carey in Bengali. He quickly learned Hindustani, the root of what later became Hindi and Urdu.

He began to preach and translate. His proficiency in linguistics was so great that during the four years he was in India, Martyn translated the New Testament into the language of Urdu, Persian, and started with Arabic.

Sabat, an Arab Muslim who had come to Christ, became his close companion and assisted him with much of the translation work. Martyn's translation into Urdu later became the basis of all Urdu translations today.

Not only did Martyn work in translation, but he started many schools for the people of India and held Bible studies in his room with many of the men from the city.

He was employed as a chaplain to the English. Although not officially a missionary, his zeal for people and their languages made a tremendous impact. Martyn understood the value of the Word of God in the mother tongue of the people around him. He once wrote to a friend, "Without the work of translation, I should fear that my presence in India were useless."

In 1811, Martyn was suffering greatly from tuberculosis, a disease which had already killed his parents and sisters. His doctor recommended a sea voyage for his health, so he immediately left for Persia, which is now modern Iran. Martyn stayed in Persia for almost a year, and during that time, he and his language helper completed the translation for the New Testament and the Psalms into the Persian language.

He set out to present the shah of Iran with a copy of his translation of the New Testament, but was unable to give it to him in person. Instead, an official delivered it to the shah. After reading the New Testament, the shah wrote to Martyn and said, "The whole of the New Testament is completed in a most excellent manner, a source of pleasure to our enlightened mind."

On October 16, 1812, at 31 years of age, India and Persia lost a great man. Martyn once said, "I see no business in life but the work of Christ."

His six years on the mission field was filled with nothing but the work of Christ.

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