Adoniram Judson was one of America’s first foreign missionaries. In 1812, at the age of 22, he left America for India, (eventually ending up in Burma), burning in his heart to obey his Master’s command to make disciples of all the nations (Mt 28:20). For a wonderful and riveting summary and application of his life, listen John Piper’s biological sermon for the 2003 Pastor’s Conference here. This quote explains one of the main pivotal turning moments before his conversion. In 1807, he had denied the faith, broken his family's heart, and then left home to pursue play writing. It powerful testifies of God's grace and the fact that He will seek, find, and save His sheep — and nothing, no nothing will prevent Him from bringing them into His fold. Sometimes He uses uncanny methods; the following is a true story of such.
As night drew on he [Adoniram] found himself passing through a small village. Finding the local inn, he stabled his horse and asked the innkeeper for a room. The house was nearly full, said the landlord apologetically. But he had one next to a young man who was critically ill, perhaps dying. He might be disturbed but...? No, said Adoniram, still wrapped in his own thoughts, he would not let a few noises next door deny him a night's rest. After giving him something to eat, the landlord lighted Adoniram to this room and left him. Without further ado, Adoniram got into bed, and waited for sleep to come.
But though the night was still, he could not sleep. In the next room beyond the partition he could hear sounds, not very loud; footsteps coming and going; a board creaking; low voices; a groan or gasp. These did not disturb him unduly — not even the realization that a man might be dying. Death was commonplace in Adoniram's New England. It might come to anyone, at any age.
What disturbed him was the thought that the man in the next rom might not be prepared for death. Was he, himself? A confusing coil of speculation unwound itself as he lay half dreaming, half waking, while the autumn chill stole down from the mountains and crept through every crack and cranny of the house. He wondered how he himself would face death. His father would welcome it as a door opening outward to immortal glory. So much his creed had done for him. But to Adoniram the son, the freethinker, the Deist, the infidel, lying huddled under the covers, death was an exit, not an entrance. It was a door to an empty pit, to darkness darker than night, at best to extinction, at worst to — what? On this matter his philosophy was silent. It had no answer but "Who knows?"
...But he must die, and the grave was a cold, dark place. His flesh crawled. Was the wet earthy mold and the motionless body, the slow dissolution of muscle and tendon, the slower crumbling of bone, the immense weight of soil — was this all, through the endless centuries? What was the part of Adoniram Judson he thought of as "I"? Did it go out like the flame of a candle? Or did it, too, stay in the ground with the flesh?
There was a terror in these fantastically unwinding ideas. But as they presented themselves, another part of himself jeered. ...What a skin-deep thing this freethinking philosophy of Adoniram Judson, valedictorian, scholar, teacher, ambitious man, must be! What would the classmates at Brown say to these terrors of the night, who thought of him as bold in thought? Above all, what would Eames say — Eamses the clearheaded, skeptical, witty, talented? He imagined Eames's laughter and felt shame.
[Jacob Eames was Judson's influential friend from Brown, and himself a convinced and confident Deist. He was instrumental in leading Judson to deny his Christian upbringing and adopt the Deist mantra.]
When Adoniram woke the sun was streaming in the window. His apprehensions had vanished with the darkness. He could hardly believe he had given in to such weakness. He dressed quickly and ran downstairs, looking for the innkeeper. ...He found his host, asked for the bill, and — perhaps noticing the man somber-faced — asked casually whether the young man in the next room was better. "He is dead," was the answer.
"Dead?" Adoniram was taken aback. There was a heavy finality to the word. For an instant, some of his fear of the night made itself felt once more. Adoniram stammered out the few conventional phrases common to humanity when death takes someone nearby, and asked the inevitable quesiton: "Do you know who he was?"
"Oh yes. Young man from the college in Providence [Brown]. Name was Eames, Jacob Eames."
Anderson, Courtney. To the Golden Shore. Copyright by Courtney Anderson, 1987. Published by Judson Press, 1987. pg. 42-44