Sarah Boardman Judson was born Sarah Bailey Hall on November 4th, 1803, as the oldest of 13 children. Unable to attend school due to the Hall’s financial situation, young Sarah taught herself at home and helped care for her many siblings. Though her situation was not ideal, Sarah was very bright and began to show a gift for poetry early. At age 17, she was converted to faith in Christ Jesus and was entered into the membership of First Baptist Church in Salem, Massachusetts. After her conversion, she earnestly asked the Lord, "What wilt thou have me to do?" Surrounded by a vibrant missions spirit in her church, she began to consider the life of a missionary.
In her young adult life, Sarah contributed poetry and prose to the American Baptist Magazine and Christian Watchman, her words those of a zealous young believer ardently desiring to stir the hearts of others to reach the lost. In 1823 her burden for missions was increased when she met fellow soul-winner Ann Hasseltine Judson, wife of Adoniram Judson – missionary to Burma. The two women continued a correspondence until Ann sailed again for Burma later that year. The thirty-six-year-old lady would die on the mission field just three years later.
Seminary student George Dana Boardman intended to serve in Burma after his studies concluded. In 1825 his heart was stirred after reading a touching poem Sarah had written on the death of missionary James Colman in Burma, whom Boardman had volunteered to replace. Determined to meet the authoress possessing a heart so like his own, he sought out Sarah Hall and proposed immediately. Just one week following their wedding, the newlyweds bid family and friends farewell and departed the United States for the east, never to return. For six years, they laboured where the Lord led, learning the people's languages and ministering among the Karen people. Together they faced great suffering as they buried two of their three children in infancy and bore the hardships of a difficult ministry. Their sacrifices weren't for nought however, and the Boardmans rejoiced as eighty converts among the Karen gave testimony of conversion and were baptized.
In 1831 this joy gave way to sorrow as George Dana Boardman died of a tropical illness at the age of thirty, leaving a heartbroken Sarah and their surviving son alone. Many expected the twenty-eight-year-old widow to return to the United States but she chose to remain. For three years she continued ministering to the Karen people, telling them of Jesus and supervising schools for their benefit. In 1834 however, God fit a new family together as Sarah Boardman married fellow missionary Dr. Adoniram Judson, who had been widowed in 1826.
For eleven years Sarah and Adoniram Judson worked together, both among the people and in translation efforts. The Judsons had a loving marriage, not merely an arrangement of convenience for the two bereaved missionaries serving in a strange land. Eight children were born to their union, but only five survived to adulthood. Sarah's extensive work among the people afforded her excellent command of the language, which she applied to her translation of The Pilgrim's Progress (still in use today), the New Testament, and several other Christian materials. By 1845 her health had failed after years of toil, and the decision was made to return to the United States for her recovery. Sadly, the great lady died on the journey home while harboring at the Atlantic island of St. Helena. She was forty-one.
Her husband Adoniram wrote:
"There I saw her safely deposited and, in the language of prayer, which we had often presented together at the throne of grace, I blessed God that her body had attained the repose of the grave,
and her spirit the repose of Paradise."
After Sarah's death, Judson continued to the United States and there commissioned popular author "Fanny Forester" Emily Chubbuck to write his wife's biography, "Memoir of Sarah B. Judson." In a remarkable turn of events, Adoniram and Emily were married in 1846, and they continued the work in Burma for an additional four years until his death in 1850.
Pity the deluded nations,
Wrapped in shades of dismal night;
Ye, whose bosoms glow with rapture,
At the precious hopes they bear;
Ye, who know a Saviour's mercy,
Listen to our earnest prayer!
See that race, deluded, blinded,
Bending at yon horrid shrine;
Madness pictured in their faces,
Emblems of the frantic mind;
They have never heard of Jesus,
Never to th'eternal prayed;
Paths of death and woe they're treading,
Christian! Christian! come and aid!
By that rending shriek of horror,
Issu'ng from the flaming pile,
By the bursts of mirth that follow,
By that Brahmin's fiendlike smile;
By the infant's piercing cry,
Drowned in Ganges' rolling wave;
By the mother's tearful eye,
Friends of Jesus, come and save!
By that pilgrim, weak and hoary,
Wand'ring far from friends and home,
Vainly seeking endless glory
At the false Mahomet's tomb;
By that blind, derided nation,
Murd'rers of the Son of God,
Christians, grant us our petition,
Ere we lie beneath the sod!
By the Afric's hopes so wretched,
Which at death's approach shall fly;
By the scalding tears that trickle
From the slave's wild, sunken eye;
By the terrors of that judgment,
Which shall fix our final doom;
Listen to our cry so earnest;–
Friends of Jesus, come, oh, come!
By the martyrs' toils and suff'rings,
By their patience, zeal, and love;
By the promise of the Mighty,
Bending from his throne above;
By the last command so precious,
Issued by the risen God;
Christians! Christians! come and help us,
Ere we lie beneath the sod!"
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