The following comprises the substance of Dr. Judson’s address to the Society for Missionary Inquiry, in Brown University, during his visit back to America (1845) after decades of being overseas as a missionary.
Only One Right Path For Every Believer
My dear young Brethren: There is one, and only one, right path for every man, — for each one of you to follow, in order to ensure the full approbation of God, and the greatest success in your efforts to do good and glorify Him. Seek that one path. There may, indeed, be some other path, not very far from the right one, in which you can accomplish something for the cause of truth; but nowhere can you do so much as in that one. Do not, my brethren, content yourself; with anything short of finding that one path marked out for you by the will of Heaven; and when you have found it, walk in it, straight forward, and let nothing turn you aside.
How to Find That Path?
But to find that path: that is the question, and one not to be settled without diligent inquiry. To determine this point in your own case, in the first place, try all your schemes by the unerring word of God. Reject, at once, whatever has not a firm basis there. Let this blessed Word be to you the golden lamp of heaven, hung out to guide you into and along the pathway of duty, and do not for a moment turn your backs upon this glorious light, to follow the feeble tapers of your own lighting. But you are not to suppose that this of itself, independent of all other considerations, will decide you to your particular sphere of labor. Next, then, look for the developments of God’s providence in your own characters, and in the circumstances in which you are placed. Watch for the expressed of His will in the opinions and advice of your most pious and judicious brethren respecting you, and by all means humbly and earnestly pray for guidance from above.
Having an Abiding Conviction of Duty
Finally, seek for a deep and abiding conviction of duty. Do not act from the impulse of mere feeling. There is great danger here. Feelings often mislead us. Good men sometimes mistake transient impressions, or the whisperings of their own vain imaginations, for a sense of duty, and follow some satanic influence, instead of the Spirit of truth. You must be very cautious here. I well recollect when I and other young men stood before the association in Bradford, to petition that body for aid in prosecuting our missionary scheme. An inquiry was made respecting the motives which prompted us to engage in this work. Samuel J. Mills replied, with great emphasis, “I feel myself impelled to go — yea, woe is me if I preach not the gospel to the heathen.” It is this settled conviction of duty to Christ, a feeling that necessity is laid upon him, and this only, that will sustain a man under the severe trials and labors of the missionary life. Without this, he will soon be discouraged, and faint by the way. But with the assurance that having humbly submitted himself to the divine teaching, he has the approval of Christ, he is prepared for any event. With this he can labor; by this, he can die. If brought into difficulties, from which there seems no escape, he feels that he has gone thus far in obedience to his Lord’s command; that he is doing his Master’s work; and that, whatever befalls him, all is well: it is the will of Christ.
If you can have this unwavering conviction, my dear brethren, that God requires you to go as missionaries to the heathen, go. But do not go without it. It is indispensable to your success. I have known more than one missionary break down for want of this assurance.
If it be the will of God, may many of you go, constrained by the love of Christ, and lead many more to love Him; and when our work is done on earth, may we all be raised to heaven, where we shall know more of His love to us, and love Him more.
From: Pulling the Eye Tooth from a Live Tiger: A Memoir of the LIfe and Labors of Adoniram Judson Volume 2 by Francis Wayland, pg 227-228