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to be disposed of as He pleases

From the quiet town of Bradford to the heathen city of Rangoon, Burma, Ann Judson remained a tool in the master’s hands. God brought her through many personal trying times before He could use her. He allowed her to be raised in a good home where she could develop and grow into a woman fit for the master’s use. Before she could be used by God He needed to show the light of the Gospel to her and bring her to a point of absolute surrender to Him.

While the United States of America worked through its development as a nation by electing their first president, George Washington, to office and composing the Bill of Rights. [1] The citizens of Paris began the French Revolution by storming the Bastille. These events serve as examples that give insight into the world’s national, political, and religious struggles of that day. Religion in America had become for the must part undemanding upon the human soul. Self-enjoyment had set itself as the centerpiece of life in the minds of Americans as a whole.[2] Religion focused on the outward lifestyle and conduct of an individual. On December 22, 1789 in Bradford, Massachusetts Rebecca Hasseltine gave birth to a beautiful little girl who would grow up in this struggling world.[3]

She thought very little of the troubles of the world as she grew up in Bradford. Her loving parents John and Rebecca Hasseltine had established a Christian home and took good care of Ann and her siblings; John, Rebecca, Abigail, and Mary[4]. Their beautiful home overlooked Andover road and the Merrimack River flowing through the valley below.[5] Mr. Hasseltine served as a deacon and hospitably opened up their home to church gatherings and activates on numerous occasions.

            Mrs. Hasseltine did her part to educate Ann and her siblings. Ann records in her Journal that she was “taught early by [her] mother”[6]. Little did her parents know that they had the mind of a genius budding in their presence. Ann’s mind was sharp and eagerly learned anything it could. “We are told that from her earliest years she was distinguished for activity of mind, extreme gaiety, a strong relish for social amusements, unusually ardent feelings, a spirt of enterprise, and restless, indefatigable perseverance.”[7]

            Her father took part in founding an academy at Bradford in 1803 when Ann was fourteen. The city fathers had determined that an academy was needed for the community and so her father stepped in as one of the main contributors and put one-hundred dollars to it.[8] The academy proved to have two profound impacts upon Ann’s life. First, it was here that she met her friend Harriet Newel from Haverhill who unbeknownst to her would travel with her to the Orient. Second, Mr. Brunham the principle not only looked after the academic welfare of the students, but he also cared to the spiritual state of his students. Under his ministry many of the pupils as well as parents who had been growing up in religious deadness came to realize the deadness of their lives and turned to Christ. [9]

            Ann consistently excelled in her studies. She especially enjoyed english, penmanship, map drawing, elaborate embroidery, history, geography, and arithmetic. But although she excelled academically here spiritual life was lacking. In her Journal she wrote …

During the first sixteen years of my life, I very seldom felt any serious impressions, which I think were produced by the Holy Spirit. I was early taught by my mother (though she was then ignorant of the nature of true religion) the importance of abstaining from those vices to which children are liable- as telling falsehoods, disobeying my parents, taking what was not my own, etc. She also taught me, that if I were a good child, I should, at death, escape that dreadful hell, the thought of which sometimes filled me with alarm and terror. I therefore, made it a matter of conscience to avoid the above mentioned sins, to say my prayers night and morning, and to abstain from my usual play of the Sabbath, not doubting but that such a course of conduct would ensure my salvation.[10]


            The spiritually dead Christianity that Ann’s parents knew transferred to her. Her life was nothing more than keeping a high moral standard. The other students at the academy did not help Ann spiritually and she soon developed close friends that did not aid her pharisaical lifestyle. Her friends soon drew her to join them in activities such as balls and parties of pleasure. Ann’s mind became cluttered with what she called “innocent amusements”.[11] Her friends always wanted to have here around because they knew that “Where Ann [was], no one could be gloomy or unhappy”.[12] They knew Ann as a girl full of life and enthusiasm but they could not see the inward death and turmoil of heart.

            Although Ann gave her life over to amusements the Holy Spirit did not quit working on her. She had read Strictures on Female Education by Hannah More when she was sixteen and the Holy Spirit used the words “she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.”[13] to grab her. She also read John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and concluded that she must stay on the narrow path of righteousness just as Christian did. So at the age of seventeen she resolved that she needed a change of heart. She wanted to gain the pharisaical life she once had. Decisions to give up parties, become serious minded among classmates, and devote time to God were formed but soon let go as the challenge to keep them proved to be above her ability.[14] She found that no matter how hard she tried to change she did not have the power to do it. Her conscience began to bring up her decisions and accuse her of her failure. She had failed to stay away from these amusements, say her prayers, and read her Bible. Torture of soul continually plagued Ann.

            Her principal, Mr. Burnham, strove to meet with every student and discuss their spiritual life. He was concerned with the needs of his students and their constant partying. Ann was cut to the heart when he said, “People often cover up their real feelings with assumed levity because they are afraid of becoming too serious. It is a device of Satan to prevent their convictions from becoming stronger.”[15] Ann pondered the words of her principal and later wrote in her Journal, “I was led captive by Satan at his will, and that he had entire control over me.”

            In 1806 the upper parish of Bradford held religious conferences that she had begun to regularly attend. The preaching of the conference made her doubt if she was truly saved.[16] She had never expressed her feelings to anyone nor did she intend to express them to her aunt who she knew to be a pious woman. Upon visiting, her aunt began to inquire into her life and soon Ann broke down in tears and shared her heart. After listening to Ann, her aunt gave her a solemn warning that the promptings she currently experienced were from the Holy Spirit and that if they were quenched her heart would be hardened to God.

            Ann knew that what her aunt had told her was true so she sought out one of her teachers for help. She was given some religious books to read and articles from people who had experienced what she was going through.  She eagerly read them but she continued to feel out of touch with God. She struggled to understand the Bible because it had become so foreign to her. She spent her time reading and crying out for God’s mercy. As she sought out God she began to become bitter at Him for not answering her prayers for deliverance. She said herself, “My heart was filled with aversion and hatred towards a holy God; and I felt, that if admitted into heaven, with feelings I then had, I should be as miserable as I could be in hell.”[17] She was almost driven to suicide before she began to understand the way of salvation. The book of Romans opened her eyes to the finished work of Christ. it showed her that Christ had finished the work of her salvation on the cross and nothing she could do could merit her salvation.[18] She committed her soul to God.

            A few days after her conversion she was reading Bellamy’s True Religion and received a new view of God.[19] She saw His Justice, Holiness, and Love. She also realized that it was not her goodness that would keep her doing right, but it was God’s work on the cross. The work he did on the cross has the power to save from the penalty of sin in hell and to save from the power that sin has now. The people around her still saw her as one of the happiest creatures on earth but now she was no longer happy in temporal things but spiritual. [20]

            Ann for the first time participated in communion on the September 14th, 1806. She had just received membership at the Congregational Church in Bradford and upon joining the church it she drew up a list of resolutions.[21] On November 3, 1806 she recorded her resolutions in her Journal:

O Thou God of all Grace, I humbly beseech thee to enable me to keep the following resolutions: When I first awake, solemnly devote myself to God, for the day. Read several passages of Scripture, and then spend as long time in prayer, as circumstances permit. Read two chapters in the Old Testament, and one in the New, and meditate thereon. Attend to the duties of my chamber. If I have no needle-work to do, read in some religious books. At school, diligently attend to the duties before me, and let not one moment pass unimproved. At none, read a portion of Scripture, pray for the blessing of God, and spend the remainder of the intermission, in reading some improving or religious book. In all my studies, be careful to maintain a humble dependence on divine assistance. In the evening, if I attend a religious meeting, or any other place for instruction, before going, reading a portion of Scripture. If not, spend the evening in reading, and close the day as I began. Resolve also to strive against the first risings of discontent, fretfulness and anger; to be meek, and humble, and patient; constantly to bear in mind, that I am in the presence of God; habitually to look up to him for deliverance from temptations; and in all cases, to do to others as I would have them do to me.[22]

            Although today a list of resolutions is not used as part of church membership, Ann’s resolutions greatly assisted her spiritual walk. She knew that she did not have the power to keep the decisions but her God did. She diligently looked to God for the strength to keep her decisions. Her life became marked by a love for God and study of His Word. She read everything she could about God’s attributes and His work of redemption. The works of Guise, Orton and Schott, Hopkins, Bellamy, Edwards, Doddridge and others assisted her in her Bible Study. [23]

            If it were possible, Ann would have given herself wholly to the study of Scripture, but daily needs demanded her attention. She prepared herself to be a teacher and soon she taught at Salem, Haverhill, Newburg, and other neighboring towns.[24] Just as her principal, Mr. Brunham, had a spiritual view for his students she wanted to make a spiritual impact upon her students. She desired to “devote [herself] to him, in such a way, as to be useful to [her] fellow creatures.”[25]

In the summer of 1810 the conference of Congregational ministers commenced in Bradford.[26] Ann’s father invited the young and aspiring Adoniram Judson to come to his home for dinner along with several other men of the conference.[27] As Mr. Hasseltine directed the men into his home Adoniram could not help but notice beautiful Ann. She had heard much about this young man and his desire to go to the foreign mission field with Nott, Newell, and Hall.[28] She had also heard about his deep booming voice, intellect, and wonderful speaking ability. As she observed him she found all those descriptions to be quite disappointing. Adoniram had become captive by Ann’s soft, olive complexion, beautiful brown eyes, and curly brown hair.[29] He found himself unable to speak clearly and conduct himself properly. All night at the Hasseltine’s home he remained quiet. [30]

Adoniram had just spent his day laboring to convince the Association to send him and his friends to the foreign field and now he was faced with this beautiful young high-spirited girl. It did not take long for him to see past her personality and appearance into her inward desire to serve her Lord. Within one month he wrote a letter to her to ask permission to begin a courtship.[31] She responded by throwing that decision back upon her father. Adoniram went to work on writing a letter to her father. He desired to be completely upfront and honest with Mr. Hasseltine. In endeavoring to do this he wrote …

I have now to ask, whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure for a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life; whether you can to consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death. Can you consent to all this, for the sake of him who left his heavenly home, and died for her and for you; for the sake of the perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion, and the glory of God? Can  you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting you daughter in the world of glory, with a crown of righteousness, brightened by the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Savior from the heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?[32]

This proposal angered Mr. Hasseltine and he cried out, “I would tie my daughter to a bedpost before I would let her go to Burma!”[33] Although he was not pleased with the thought of his daughter spending her life in heathen lands he left the decision up to Ann. She wrestled with the thought herself. She wanted to do God’s will and if this was it she could not bear the though of missing it. She wrote in her Journal, “[I] endeavored to commit myself entire to God to be disposed of according to his pleasure.”

Adoniram was just as frank with his letters to Ann.[34] He did not want to trick her in any way. He knew that life on the mission field would be hard and that the possibilities of death were great. Many of Ann’s friends pleaded with her not to go. Instead of listening to the voice of her friends, she set herself to seek the mind of God about the matter. It would be very novel to be the first American woman missionary, but she knew that that would wear off. At last she made the decision to marry Adoniram Judson and surrender to a life of full time service for God. She felt this was her duty to the Lord who had saved her soul and wanted to save others.

Ann had placed her life in the hands of the Lord and trusted Him as the Good Shepard to take care of her. It was God who led her to a saving knowledge of Him and it was God who prepared her with the talents and gifts she needed to go. Ann had discovered that searching to know God brings contentment and comfort. For years on the field she faithfully served by the side of her husband. Even when he was carried off to prison she stayed as close to him as possible to care for his needs. Ann Judson’s life had been given to God to dispose of has He pleased.


                [1] February 4, 1789

[2] Sharon James. My Heart in His Hands: Ann Judson of Burma (Webster, New York: Evangelical Press USA, 2003) , 20.

[3] E.R. Pitman. Ann H. Judson of Burma (Fort Washington, Pennsylvania: Christian Literature Crusade, 1967) , 8.

[4] Ann Judson of Burma, 17.

[5] Courtney Anderson. To the Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publish House, 1956) , 72.

[6] Basil Miller. Ann Judson, Heroin of Burma (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1947) , 5.

[7] Ann H. Judson of Burma, 8.

[8] Ann Judson, Heroin of Burma , 5.

                [9] It is interesting to note that this was happening at the beginning of the Second Great Awakening. Before the 1,800’s only 6.9% of the people were formally linked to a church and in 1910 the results of the Second Great Awakening were so great that 43.5% of the population were linked to a church. (Sharon James, My Heart in His Hands: Ann Judson of Burma, pp. 20)

[10] Ann Judson of Burma, 22,23.

[11] Ibid.

                [12] Ibid., 17.

                [13] Ibid.

[14] Ann Judson, Heroin of Burma, 6.

                [15] Ibid., 8.

[16] Ann Judson of Burma , 23.

                [17] Ibid., 24.

                [18] Ann H. Judson of Burma, 9.

[19] Ann Judson of Burma, 25,26.

                [20] Her conversion was marked by her father. He saw his daughter as a pure and good girl who certainly would not go to hell. When he heard of Ann’s decision and how she needed God he was driven to the Lord himself and trusted in God. (Basil Miller, Ann Judson, Heroin of Burma, pp. 10)

                [21] Resolutions were commonly drawn up by new members entering the church body.

[22] Ann Judson of Burma , 29-30.

                [23] Ibid., 30.

[24] Ann Judson, Heroin of Burma, 12.

                [25] Ann Judson of Burma, 30.

[26] D.L. Badcock. Burma Prisoner: The story of Adoniram Judson (Chicago: The Moody Bible Institute, 1962) , 16.

[27] This gathering took place on June 28, 1810. Ann, who was now twenty one, and her sisters were called upon to assist in entertaining the guests. (Sharon James, My Heart in His Hands: Ann Judson of Burma, pp. 33)

[28] Ann H. Judson of Burma, 23.

[29] Ann Judson, Heroin of Burma, 14.

[30] Often friends and acquaintances of Ann would call her Nancy. Adoniram was no exception.

[31] Ann Judson of Burma, 33.

[32] Ibid., 33-35.

[33] Ann Judson, Heroin of Burma, 14.

[34] In one of his letters to her he wrote, “May this be the year in which you will change your name; in which you will take final leave of your relatives and native land; in which you will cross the wide ocean and dwell on the other side of the world among a heathen people. What a great change will this year probably effect in our lives! How very different will be our situation and employment! If our lives are preserved and our attempt prospered, we shall next new year’s day be in India and perhaps wish each other happy new year in the uncouth dialect of Hindustan or Burma. We shall no more see our friends around us, or enjoy the conveniences of civilized life, or go to the house of God with those that keep holy days; but swarthy countenances will everywhere meet our eyes, the jargon of an unknown tongue will assail our ears, and we shall whiteness the assembling of heathen to celebrate the worship of idol gods. We shall be weary of the world, and wish for wings like a dove that we many fly away and be at rest. We shall probably experience seasons when we shall be ‘exceeding sorrowful even unto death.’ We shall see many dreary, disconsolate hours, and feel a sinking of spirits, and anguish of mind, of which now we can form little conception. O, we shall wish to lie down and die, and that time may soon come! One of us may be unable to sustain the heat of the climate and the change of habits; and the other may say, with literal truth, over the grave:

‘By foreign hands thy dying eyes were closed;

By foreign hands thy decent limbs composed;

By foreign hands thy humble grave adorned.’

But whether we shall be honored and mourned by strangers, God only knows. At least, either of us will be certain of one mourner. In view of such scenes, we shall not pray with earnestness, ‘O for overcoming faith!’ ” (E.R. Pitman, Ann H. Judson of Burma, pp. 23-25)

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