October 19: Henry Martyn, Priest, and Missionary to India and Persia, 1812
October 19, 2010 7 Comments
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About this commemoration
Translator of the Scriptures and Prayer Book into Hindi and Persian, Henry Martyn, an English missionary in India, died in Armenia when he was thirty-one years old. Though his life was brief, it was a remarkable one.
Like most English clergymen of the time, he was educated at one of the two ancient universities, Cambridge in his case. He had intended to become a lawyer, but Charles Simeon (November 12), the notable Evangelical rector of Holy Trinity, Cambridge, inspired him to go to India as a missionary. After serving as Simeon’s curate for a short time, Martyn traveled to Calcutta in 1806 as chaplain of the East India Company.
During his ﬁve years in India, Martyn preached the Gospel, organized private schools, and founded churches. In addition to his work as a missionary, Martyn translated the New Testament and the Book of Common Prayer into Hindi, a valuable missionary aid to the young Anglican Church in India. He also began the study of Persian, and translated the New Testament into Persian.
Martyn longed to go to Persia; in 1811, his persistence brought him to Shirmas, to become the ﬁrst English clergyman in that city. He engaged in theological discussions with learned Muslims and had time to correct his Persian translations. Obviously gifted with a remarkable facility for languages, Martyn hoped eventually to visit Arabia, and to translate the New Testament into Arabic.
While on his way to Constantinople in 1812, however, he died in the city of Tokat. The Armenians of the city recognized his greatness and buried him with the honors usually accorded to one of their own bishops. Very soon afterwards, his life of energetic devotion and remarkable accomplishment became widely known. He is remembered as one of the founders of the modern Christian Church in India and Iran.
I O God of the nations, who didst give to thy faithful servant Henry Martyn a brilliant mind, a loving heart, and a gift for languages, that he might translate the Scriptures and other holy writings for the peoples of India and Persia: Inspire in us, we beseech thee, a love like his, eager to commit both life and talents to thee who gavest them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
II O God of the nations, you gave your faithful servant Henry Martyn a brilliant mind, a loving heart, and a gift for languages, that he might translate the Scriptures and other holy writings for the peoples of India and Persia: Inspire in us a love like his, eager to commit both life and talents to you who gave them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Lessons: Isaiah 49:1–6, Romans 1:8–15, and John 4:22–26
Preface of a Saint (2)
From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.
We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?
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