“Christ Was All His Theme”

By Evan D. Burns

Having been trained in the New Divinity movement, Adoniram Judson’s hunger for eternity reflected an Edwardsean tenor.  In an ordination sermon he preached in 1836 for S.M. Osgood from John 10:1-18 (his only English sermon in Burma), Judson spoke of heaven’s eternal increase of joy and delight in the happy countenance of God.  God loves himself above all, and our happiness is wrapped up in his happiness in his own glory forever.  Throughout Judson’s journals, letters, and sermons, he never ceased to speak of his longing for heaven and the reward that awaited Christ’s faithful witnesses, those who loved not their lives even unto death.  After his death, his widow, Emily C. Judson, recorded how heavenly-minded his spirituality was.  She said that he could turn any conversation, observation, book, and anything trivial or important, into a spiritual train of thought.  She claimed that “Christ was all his theme.”[1]  Judson spoke often and with warm affection of seeing his Savior someday and being welcomed in to his eternal rest.  He longed for heaven because his Redeemer was there.  Judson’s prominent biographer, Francis Wayland, commented on the effect of Judson’s heavenly-minded piety on his life and virtue:

In treating of his religious character, it would be an omission not to refer to his habitual heavenly mindedness. In his letters, I know of no topic that is so frequently referred to as the nearness of the heavenly glory.  If his loved ones died, his consolation was, that they should all so soon meet in paradise.  If an untoward event occurred, it was of no great consequence, for soon we should be in heaven, where all such trials would either be forgotten, or where the recollection of them would render our bliss the more intense.  Thither his social feelings pointed, and he was ever thinking of the meeting that awaited him with those who with him had fought the good fight, and were now wearing the crown of victory. So habitual were these trains of thought, that a person well acquainted with him remarks, that “meditation on death was his common solace in all the troubles of life.”  I do not know that the habitual temper of his mind can in any words be so well expressed as in the following lines, which he wrote in pencil on the inner cover of a book that he was using in the compilation of his dictionary:

“—In joy or sorrow, health or pain, Our course be onward still; We sow on Burmah’s barren plain, We reap on Zion’s hill.”[2]


[1]Edward Judson, The Life of Adoniram Judson (New York: Anson D. F. Randolf & Company, 1883), 530.

[2]Francis Wayland, A Memoir of the Life and Labors of the Rev. Adoniram Judson, D.D. (Boston: Phillips, Samson, and Company, 1853), 2:381-382.

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Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is on faculty at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, and he lives in Southeast Asia with his wife and twin sons.  They are missionaries with Training Leaders International.