William Carey's and the Serampore Mission's Compact of 1805

Not open for further replies.


Ordinary Guy (TM)
This is the missions compact written by Carey and others for their missions practice. Historically interesting, but how applicable is it for today and what can we learn from it? Bad? Good?

The Serampore Compact of 1805


Note: The headings in bold have been added.

Form of Agreement respecting the great principles upon which the Brethren of the Mission
at Serampore think it is their duty to act in the work of instructing the heathen, agreed upon
at a meeting of the Brethren at Serampore, on Monday, October 7, 1805.

Why Are We Here? The Redeemer, in planting us in the heathen nation, rather than in any
other, has imposed upon us the cultivation of peculiar qualifications. We are firmly
persuaded that Paul might plant and Apollos water, in vain, in any part of the world, did not
God give the increase. We are sure that only those ordained to eternal life will believe, and
that God alone can add to the church such as shall be saved. Nevertheless we cannot but
observe with admiration that Paul, the great champion for the glorious doctrine of free and
sovereign grace, was the most conspicuous for his personal zeal in the word of persuading
men to be reconciled to God. In this respect he is a noble example for our imitation. Our
Lord intimated to those of His apostles who were fishermen, that he would make them
fishers of men, intimating that in all weathers, and amidst every disappointment they were to
aim at drawing men to the shores of eternal life. Solomon says: "He that winneth souls is
wise," implying, no doubt, that the work of gaining over men to the side of God, was to be
done by winning methods, and that it required the greatest wisdom to do it with success.
Upon these points, we think it right to fix our serious and abiding attention.

1. The Infinite Value of the Human Soul: In order to be prepared for our great and
solemn work, it is absolutely necessary that we set an infinite value on immortal souls;
that we often endeavour to affect our minds with the dreadful loss sustained by an
unconverted soul launched into eternity. It becomes us to fix in our minds the awful
doctrine of eternal punishment, and to realize frequently the unconceivably awful
conditions of this vast country, lying in the arms of the wicked one. If we have not this
awful sense of the value of souls, it is impossible that we can feel aright in any other part
of our work, and in this case it had been better for us to have been in any other situation
than in that of a Missionary. Oh! may our hearts bleed over these poor idolaters, and
may their case lie with continued weight on our minds, that we may resemble that
eminent Missionary, who compared the travail of his soul, on account of the spiritual
state of those committed to his charge, to the pains of childbirth. But while we thus
mourn over their miserable condition, we should not be discouraged, as though their
recovery were impossible. He who raised the Scottish and brutalized Britons to sit in
heavenly places in Christ Jesus; can raise these slaves of superstition, purify their hearts
by faith, and make them worshippers of the one God in spirit and in truth. The promises
are fully sufficient to remove our doubts, and to make us anticipate that not very distant
period when he will famish all the gods of India, and cause these very idolaters to cast
their idols to the moles and to the bats, and renounce forever the work of their own

2. Importance of Research: It is very important that we should gain all the information we
can of the snares and delusions in which these heathen are held. By this means we shall be
able to converse with them in an intelligible manner. To know their modes of thinking,
their habits, their propensities, their antipathies, the way in which they reason about God,
sin, holiness, the way of salvation, and a future state, to be aware of the bewitching nature
of their idolatrous worship, feasts, songs, etc., is of the highest consequence, if we would
gain their attention to our discourse, and would avoid to be barbarians to them. This
knowledge may be easily obtained by conversing with sensible natives, by reading some
parts of their works and by attentively observing their manners and customs.
3. Avoid Unnecessary Offences: It is necessary, in our intercourse with the Hindoos, that as
far as we are able, we abstain from those things which would increase their prejudices
against the Gospel. Those parts of English manner which are most offensive to them
should be kept out of sight as much as possible. We would also avoid every degree of
cruelty to animals. Nor is it advisable at once to attack their prejudices by exhibiting with
acrimony the sins of their gods; neither should we upon any account do violence to their
images, nor interrupt their worship. The real conquests of the Gospel are those of love:
"And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me." In this respect, let us be continually
fearful else one unguarded word, or one unnecessary display of the difference betwixt us, in
manners, etc., should set the natives at a greater distance from us. Paul's readiness to
become all things to all men, that he might by any means save some, and his disposition to
abstain even from necessary comforts that he might not offend the weak, are circumstances
worthy of our particular notice. This line of conduct we may be sure was founded on the
wisest principles. Placed amidst a people very much like the hearers of the Apostle, in
many respects, we may not receive the solid wisdom which guided him as a missionary.
The mild manners of the Moravians and also of the Quakers towards the North American
Indians have, in many instances, gained the affections and confidence of heathens in a
wonderful manner. He who is too proud to stoop to others in order to draw them to him,
though he may know that they are in many respects inferior to himself, is ill-qualified to
become a Missionary. The words of a most successful preacher still living, "that he would
not care if the people trampled him under their feet, if he might become useful to their
souls," are expressive of the very temper we should always cultivate.

4. Get Out with the People: It becomes us to watch all opportunities of doing good. A
missionary would be highly culpable if he contented himself with preaching two or three
times a week to those persons whom he might be able to get together into a place of
worship. To carry on conversations with the natives almost every hour in the day, to go
from village to village, from market to market, from one assembly to another, to talk to
servants, labourers, etc., as often as opportunity offers, and to be instant in season and out
of season - this is the life to which we are called in this country. We are apt to relax in
these active exertions, especially in a warm climate; but we shall do well to always fix in
our minds, that life is short, that all around us are perishing, and that we incur a dreadful
woe if we proclaim not the glad tiding of salvation.

5. Make Christ Central: In preaching to the heathen, we must keep to the example of St.
Paul, and make the greatest subject of our preaching, Christ Crucified. It would be very
easy for a missionary to preach nothing but truths, and that for many years together,
without any well-grounded hope of becoming useful to one soul. The doctrine of Christ's
expiatory death and all-sufficient merits had been, and must ever remain, the great means
of conversion. This doctrine, and others immediately connected with it, have constantly
nourished and sanctified the church. Oh, that these glorious truths ever be the joy and
strength of our own souls, and then we will not fail to become the matter of our
conversation to others. It was the proclaiming of these doctrines that made the
Reformation from Popery in the time of Luther spread with such rapidity. It was these
truths that filled the sermons of the modern Apostles, Whitefield, Wesley, etc., when the
Light of the Gospel which has been held up with such glorious effects by the Puritans was
almost extinguished in England. It is a well-known fact that the most successful
missionaries in the world at the present day make the atonement of Christ their continued
theme. We mean the Moravians. They attribute all their success to the preaching of the
death of our Saviour. So far as our experience goes in this work, we must freely
acknowledge, that every Hindoo among us who has been gained to Christ, has been won
by the astonishing and all-constraining love exhibited in our Redeemer's propitiatory
death. O then may we resolve to know nothing among Hindoos and Mussulmans but
Christ and Him crucified.

6. Be Accessible, Patient and Fair: It is absolutely necessary that the natives should have
an entire confidence in us, and feel quite at home in our company. To gain this
confidence we must on all occasions be willing to hear their complaints; we must give
them the kindest advice, and we must decide upon everything brought before us in the
most open, upright and impartial manner. We ought to be easy of access, to condescend
to them as much as possible, and on all occasions to treat them as our equals. All
passionate behaviour will sink our characters exceedingly in their estimation. All force,
and everything haughty, reserved and forbidding it becomes us ever to shun with the
greatest care. We can never make sacrifices too great, when the eternal salvation of
souls is the object except, indeed, we sacrifice the commands of Christ.

7. Work Diligently with New Converts: Another important part of our work is to build
up, and watch over, the souls that may be gathered. In this work we shall do well to
simplify our first instructions as much as possible, and to press the great principles of the
Gospel upon the minds of the converts till they be thoroughly settled and grounded in the
foundation of their hope towards God. We must be willing to spend some time with
them daily, if possible, in this work. We must have much patience with them, though
they may grow very slowly in divine knowledge.
We ought also to endeavour as much as possible to form them to habits of industry, and
assist them in procuring such employments as may be pursued with the least danger of
temptations to evil. Here too we shall have occasion to exercise much tenderness and
forbearance, knowing that industrious habits are formed with difficulty by all heathen
nations. We ought also to remember that these persons have made no common sacrifices
in renouncing their connections, their homes, their former situations and means of
support, and that it will be very difficult for them to procure employment with heathen
masters. In these circumstances, if we do not sympathize with them in their temporal
losses for Christ, we shall be guilty of great cruelty.
As we consider it our duty to honour the civil magistrate, and in every state and country
to render him the readiest obedience, whether we be persecuted or protected, it becomes
us to instruct our native brethren the same principles. A sense of gratitude too presses
this obligation upon us in a peculiar manner in return for the liberal protection we have
experienced. It is equally our wisdom and our duty also to show to the civil power, that
it has nothing to fear from the progress of Missions, since a real follower of Christ must
resist the example of his Great Master, and all the precepts the Bible contains on this
subject, before he can become disloyal. Converted heathens, being brought over to the
religion of their Christian Governors, if duly instructed, are much more likely to love
them, and be united to them, than subjects of a different religion.
To bear the faults of our native brethren, so as to reprove them with tenderness, and set
them right in the necessity of a holy conversion, is a very necessary duty. We should
remember the gross darkness in which they were so lately involved, having never had
any just and adequate ideas of the evil of sin, or its consequences. We should also
recollect how backward human nature is in forming spiritual ideas, and entering upon a
holy self-denying conversation. We ought not, therefore even after many falls, to give
up and cast away a relapsed convert while he manifests the least inclination to be washed
from his filthiness.

In walking before native converts, much care and circumspection are absolutely
necessary. The falls of Christians in Europe have not such a fatal tendency as they must
have in this country, because there the word of God always commands more attention
than the conduct of the most exalted Christian. But here those around us, in consequence
of the little knowledge of the Scriptures, must necessarily take our conduct as a specimen
of what Christ looks for in his disciples. They know only the Saviour and his doctrine as
they shine forth in us.

In conversing with the wives of the native converts, and leading them into the ways of
Christ, so that they may be an ornament to the Christian cause, and make known the
Gospel to the native women, we hope always to have the assistance of the females who
have embarked with us in the mission. We see that in primitive times the Apostles were
very much assisted in their great work by several pious females. The great value of female
help may easily be appreciated if we consider how much the Asiatic women are shut up
from the men, and especially from men of another caste. It behoves (sic) us, therefore, to
afford to our European sisters all possible assistance in acquiring the language, that they
may, in every way which Providence may open to them, become instrumental in
promoting the salvation of the millions of native women who are in a great measure
excluded from all opportunities of hearing the word from the mouths of European
missionaries. A European sister may do much for the cause in this respect, by promoting
the holiness, and stirring up the zeal, of the female converts. A real missionary becomes in
a sense a father to his people. If he feels all their welfare and company that a father does
in the midst of his children, they will feel all that freedom with, and confidence in him
which he can desire. He will be wholly unable to lead them on in a regular and happy
manner, unless they can be induced to open their minds to him, and unless a sincere and
mutual esteem subsist on both sides.

8. Promote Native Leadership: Another part of our work is the forming of our native
brethren to usefulness, fostering every kind of genius, and cherishing every gift and
grace with them. In this respect we can scarcely be too lavish of our attention to their
improvement. It is only by means of native preachers that we can hope for the universal
spread of the Gospel throughout this immense continent. Europeans are too few, and
their subsistence costs too much for us ever to hope that they can possibly be the
instruments of the universal diffusion of the word amongst so many millions of souls
spread over such a large portion of the habitable globe. Their incapability of bearing the
intense heat of the climate in perpetual itineracies, and the heavy expenses of their
journeys, not to say anything of the prejudices of the natives against the very presence of
Europeans, and the great difficulty of becoming fluent in their languages, render it
absolute duty to cherish native gifts, and to send forth as many native preachers as
possible. If the practice of confining the ministry of the word to a single individual in a
church be once established amongst us, we despair of the Gospel's ever making much
progress in India by our means. Let us therefore use every gift, and continually urge on
our native brethren to press upon their countrymen the glorious Gospel of the blessed

Still further to strengthen the cause of Christ in this country, and, as far as in our power,
to give it a permanent establishment, even when the efforts of Europeans may fail, we
think it our duty, as soon as possible, to advise the native brethren who may be formed in
separate churches, to choose their pastors and deacons from amongst their own
countrymen, that the word may be steadily preached, and the ordinances of Christ
administered, in each church by the native minister, as much as possible without
interference of the missionary of the district who will constantly superintend their
affairs, giving them advice in cases of order and discipline, and correct any errors into
which they may fall, and who joying and beholding their order, and their steadfastness of
their faith in Christ, may direct his efforts continually to the planting of new churches in
other places, and to the spread of the Gospel throughout his district as much as in his
power. By this means the unity of the missionary character will be preserved, all the
missionaries will still form one body, each one moveable as the good of the cause may
require, the different native churches will also naturally have to care and provide for
their ministers, for their church expense, the raising of places of worship, etc., and the
whole administration will assume a native aspect, by which means the inhabitants will
more readily identify the cause as belonging to their own nation, and their prejudices at
falling into the hands of Europeans will entirely vanish. It may be hoped too that the
pastors of these churches, and the members in general, will feel a new energy in
attempting to spread the Gospel, when they shall thus freely enjoy the privileges of the
Gospel amongst themselves.

Under the divine blessing, if, in the course of a few years, a number of native churches
be thus established, from them the Word of God may sound out even to the extremes of
India, and numbers of preachers being raised up and sent forth, may form a body of
native missionaries, inured to the climate, acquaint ed with the customs, language,
modes of speech and reasoning of the inhabitants; able to become perfectly familiar with
them, to enter their houses, to live upon their food, to sleep with them, or under a tree;
and who may travel from one end of the country to the other almost without any
expense. These churches will be in no immediate danger of falling into errors of
disorders, because the whole of their affairs will be constantly superintended, by a
European missionary.

The advantages of this plan are so evident, that to carry it into complete effect ought to
be our continued concern. That we may discharge the important obligations of watching
over these infant churches when formed, and of urging them to maintain a steady
discipline, to hold forth the clear and cheering light of evangelical truth in this region
and shadow of death, and to walk in all respects as those who have been called out of the
darkness into marvellous light, we should continually go to the Source of all grace and
strength for it. If to become the shepherd of one church be a most solemn and weight
charge, what must it be to watch over a number of churches just raised from the state of
heathenism, and placed at a distance from each other?

We have thought it our duty not to change the names of native converts, observing from
Scripture that the Apostles did not change those of the first Christians turned from
heathenism, as the names Epaphroditus, Phoebe, Fortunatus, Sylvanus, Apollos, Hermes,
Junia, Narcissus, etc., prove. Almost all these names were derived from those of heathen
gods. We think the great object which Divine Providence has in view in causing the
Gospel to be promulgated in the world, is not the changing of the names, the dress, the
food, and the innocent usages of mankind, but to produce a moral and divine change in
the hearts and conduct of men. It would not be right to perpetuate the names of heathen
gods amongst Christians, neither is it necessary or prudent to give a new name to every
man after his conversion, as hereby the economy of families, neighbourhoods, etc.,
would be needlessly disturbed. In other respects, we think it our duty to lead our
brethren by example, by mild persuasion, and by opening and illuminating their minds in
a gradual way rather than use authoritative means. By this they learn to see the evil of a
custom, and then to despise and forsake it; whereas in cases where force is used, though
they may leave off that which is wrong while in our presence, at not having seen the evil
of it, they are in danger of using hypocrisy, and of doing that out of our presence which
they dare not do in it.

9. Translate Scripture: It becomes us also to labour with all our might in forwarding
translations of the sacred Scriptures in the languages of Hindoostan. The help which God has
afforded us already in this work is a loud call to us to "go forward." So far, therefore, as God
has qualified us to learn those languages which are necessary, we consider it our bounden
duty to apply ourselves with unwearied assiduity in acquiring them. We consider the
publication of the Divine Word throughout India as an object which we ought never to give
up till accomplished, looking to the Fountain of all knowledge and strength to qualify us for
this great work, and to carry us through it to the praise of His Holy name.
It becomes us to use all assiduity in explaining and distributing the Divine Word on all
occasions, and by every means in our power to excite the attention and the reverence of the
natives towards it, as the fountain of eternal truth and the Message of Salvation to men. It is
our duty also to distribute, as extensively as possible, the different religious tracts which are
published. Considering how much the diffusion of the knowledge of Christ depends upon a
liberal and constant distribution of the Word, and of these tracts, all over the country, we
should keep this continually in mind, and watch all opportunities of putting even single tracts
into the hands of those persons with whom we occasionally meet. We should endeavour to
ascertain where large assemblies of the natives are to be found, that we may attend upon
them, and gladden whole villages at once with the tidings of salvation.
The establishment of native free schools is also an object highly important to the future
conquests of the Gospel. Of this very pleasing and interesting part of our missionary labours,
we should endeavour not to be unmindful. As opportunities are afforded, it becomes us to
establish, visit, and encourage these institutions, and to recommend the establishment of
them to other Europeans. The progress of divine light is gradual, both as it respects
individuals and nations. Whatever therefore tends to increase the body of holy light in these
dark regions is "as bread cast upon the waters to be seen after many days." In many ways the
progress of individual events is preparing Hindoos for casting their idols to the moles and
bats, and for becoming a part of the chosen generations, the royal priesthood, the holy nation.
Some parts of missionary labours very properly tend to present conversion of the heathen,
and others to the ushering in the glorious period when "a nation shall be born in a day." Of
the latter kind are native free schools.

10. Importance of Prayer and Personal Devotion: That which, as a means, is to fit us for the
discharge of these laborious and unutterable important labours, is the being instant in prayer,
and the cultivation of personal religion. Let us ever have in remembrance the examples of
those who have been most eminent in the work of God. Let us often look at Brainerd, in the
woods of America, pouring out his very soul before God for the perishing heathen, without
whose salvation nothing could make him happy. Prayer secret, fervent, believing prayer, lies
at the foot of all personal godliness. A competent knowledge of the languages current where
a missionary lives, a mild and winning temper, and a heart giving up on closet religion, these
are the attainments which, more than all knowledge, or all other gifts, will fit us to become
the instruments of God in the great work of Human Redemption. Let us then ever be united
in prayer at stated seasons whatever distance may separate us, and let each one of us lay it
upon his heart that we will seek to be fervent in spirit, wrestling with God, till He famish
these idols and cause the heathen to experience the blessedness that is in Christ.

11. We Claim Nothing. We Belong to God. Finally, let us give ourselves up unreservedly to
this glorious cause. Let us never think that our time, our gifts, our strength, our families, or
even the clothes we wear, are our own. Let us sanctify ourselves for His work! Let us ever
shut out the idea of laying up a dowry for ourselves or our children. If we give up the
resolution which was formed on the subject of private trade, when we first united at
Serampore, the Mission from that hour is a lost cause. A worldly spirit, quarrels and every
evil work will succeed the moment it is admitted that each brother may do something on his
own account. Woe to that man who shall ever make the smallest movement toward such a
measure. Let us continually watch against a worldly spirit, and cultivate a Christian
indifference towards every indulgence. Rather let us bear hardness as good soldiers of Jesus
Christ, and endeavour to learn in every state to be content.
If in this way we are enabled to glorify God, with our bodies and spirit which are His, - our
wants will be His care. No private family ever enjoyed a greater portion of happiness, even
in the most prosperous gale of worldly prosperity than we have done since we resolved to
have all things in common, and that no one should pursue his business for his own exclusive
advantage. If we are enabled to persevere in the same principles, we may hope that
multitudes of converted souls will have reason to bless God to all eternity for sending His
Gospel into this country.

To keep these ideas alive in our minds, we resolve that this Agreement shall be read
publicly, at every station, at our three annual meetings, vis., on the first Lord's day in
January, in May, and in October.


Ordinary Guy (TM)
Easier to read version in PDF: http://chi.gospelcom.net/pdf/serampore.pdf

The key points of this agreement:

1. The Infinite Value of the Human Soul.
2. Importance of Research.
3. Avoid Unnecessary Offences.
4. Get Out with the People.
5. Make Christ Central.
6. Be Accessible, Patient and Fair.
7. Work Diligently with New Converts.
8. Promote Native Leadership.
9. Translate Scripture.
10. Importance of Prayer and Personal Devotion.
11. We Claim Nothing. We Belong to God.


Ordinary Guy (TM)
Point 2, The importance of research. What role does anthropology play in missions today?

Also, in general, the Serampore missionaries agreed upon this compact themselves and did not send it west for approval. They had a field-based gvoernance and made semi-autonomous decisions as a team...i.e. like a parachurch. Was establishing these rules for themselves against the authority of the local church problematic? Carey was the Father of Modern Missions largely because he established a vehicle for modern missions, the voluntary association (i.e. missionary society....a class of parachurch structure).
Not open for further replies.