If you will hold the rope.

August 21, 2012

Reading William Carey’s biography, British missionary to India at the turn of the 18th century, “the father of modern missions.”  Many still marvel at his single-minded labor for the gospel, but I wonder how many know of his four faithful friends?  Friends who vowed to hold his arms up until death — much in the way Aaron and Hur upheld Moses’ arms in the battle against the Amalekites.  Friends who then kept their word.  Friends who fiercely loved him and the God of their cause.

The night before Carey left for India,

The five contrived to get apart — Ryland, Sutcliff, Fuller, Pearce, and Carey.  They talked for the last time together of the task which lay before them, with all its uncertainty and possibility.  Carey drew them into a covenant, that, as he went forth in the name of their Master and their Society, ‘they should never cease till death to stand by him,’ and to this they pledged their troth …

Later, in Fuller’s warm mind, it took imaginative shape, and he would often thus describe it, until his pictorial words became transferred to the original event, and the rope-holding pledge became a fixed and consecrated tradition.  But the simile was Fuller’s, as he once explained to Christopher Anderson.

“Our undertaking to India really appeared at its beginning to me somewhat like a few men, who were deliberating about the importance of penetrating a deep mine which had never before been explored.  We had no one to guide us; and, whilst we were thus deliberating, Carey, as it were, said, ‘Well, I will go down, if you will hold the rope.’  But, before he descended, he, as it seemed to me, took an oath from each of us at the mouth of the pit, to this effect that ‘whilst we lived, we should never let go the rope.‘”

With entire fidelity, that covenant was kept in every case until broken by death.

(William Carey, S. Pearce Carey, p. 108)

Makes me wonder: Whose rope am I holding with that ferocity of devotion?  And who have I humbly asked to hold my rope (maybe not to the distance of India but in similar fashion)?


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