The Spirituality of William Ward: Unsung Hero of the Serampore Mission
by Matthew Reynolds
Upon seeing the title of this work, many readers may think, “William who?” For, if the reader is familiar with Serampore at all, the only William he or she will likely recollect is the “Father of Modern Missions,” William Carey. But there was another William at the Serampore Mission, namely, William Ward; member of the famed “Serampore Trio,” and printer of over twenty translations of the Bible into various languages of the East. But a closer look at primary sources reveals a man who was much more than a printer; a man whose deft administration, pastoral heart, and pacific counsel enabled the Serampore Mission to run smoothly and to endure times of great uncertainty and turmoil. The Spirituality of William Ward: Usung Hero of the Serampore Mission tells the forgotten story of William Ward, but in a way that has never been told before. This work examines Ward’s own writings and focuses on the beliefs that animated his life—the convictions that made him tick—and then asks the question, “What kind of man did these beliefs produce, and what effect did he have on the Serampore Mission?” The man that emerges is a missionary hero in his own right, from whom modern Christians and missionaries can learn much.
“This is a pleasing and compelling exploration of spirituality as manifested in the life of William Ward, the indispensable printer for the justly-famed Serampore Trio. Not only did he print, he wrote. Not only did he publish, he was a theologian. Not only was he doctrinally aware, he was spiritually deep. Not only was he spiritual, he was an activist. Not only did he have and hold strong convictions, he was a peacemaker and strategist. As the author notes early in this book, ‘this work focuses on the beliefs that animate the life—the convictions that made Ward tick—and then asks the question, “What kind of man did these beliefs produce?”’ Matthew Reynolds poses the question well and answers it with an instructive fullness that will benefit lay men and women, pastors, missiologists, and young people. Covering an impressive latitude of roles played by Ward, Reynolds brings to light his work as ‘preacher, evangelist, mentor, mission administrator, missiologist, theologian, historian, draftsman, author, college professor, pastor, husband, father, counselor, peacemaker, and friend.’ This is a great read about a great man pursuing a great calling.”
TOM J. NETTLES
Senior Professor of Historical Theology, SBTS
“The name of William Ward has been familiar to readers of Baptist history for over two hundred years due to his close missionary association with William Carey. With Carey and Joshua Marshman, Ward formed what has been called the Serampore Trio, a wonderful mission partnership in the early nineteenth century. Yet, despite this and unlike the way Carey’s story has been remembered, next to nothing has been written specifically about the life of this winsome Christian. In this year of our Lord, 2023, the bicentenary of Ward’s stepping into Glory, it is only proper to correct this deficiency. I am thrilled that Matthew Reynolds’ robust study of Ward’s thought and piety, which began its existence as a doctoral thesis, is going to be available to a much wider audience. May this wider reading lead to both a better understanding of the Serampore mission and also a new appreciation of Ward as a Spirit-filled believer and missionary.”
MICHAEL A.G. HAYKIN
Chair & Professor of Church History, SBTS
“Matthew Reynolds walked the streets, learned the language, and spent time scouring dusty texts where William Ward lived, unpacking this missionary giant’s theology and spirituality. I have known Matthew as a friend, pastor, colleague, and scholar, and I commend the research of this man of piety as he guides us in understanding and assessing the spirituality of Ward. Through careful analysis of personal journals and records of public ministry, we see that Ward’s role in the Serampore Trio went well beyond pressing ink to paper. Before he was a printer, God pressed theological truths on Ward’s heart. These treasured doctrines manifested love, humility, prayer, and usefulness in his spirituality. Furthermore, Reynolds’ well-researched text shows how Ward’s spirituality impacted the unity and peace of the broader Serampore missionary community. I heartily endorse this text for missionaries seeking to know, remember, and emulate a faithful missionary and for the renewed attention on this pioneer missions community.”
Assistant Professor of Missions & Theology,
“If remembered at all, William Ward is known as the industrious and efficient administrator of the Serampore Mission. In the shadow of William Carey, few are aware how the evangelistic zeal, missiological clarity, and pastoral concern of this unlikely missionary fueled the mission’s success. In addition to his skill as printer and editor, Ward was a vibrant itinerant evangelist, discipled new converts, invested in the spiritual growth of the young men and women of the mission, and labored to cultivate a gospel culture of generosity and peace that sustained the missionary team. Through careful examination of Ward’s journal and correspondence, Reynolds sheds new light on the deep evangelical piety that animated this humble and remarkably ‘useful’ man.”
Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Associate Professor of Church History,
Southwest Baptist University
“No hero of the faith stands alone. Every David has his Jonathan. And though William Carey has been famously awarded the title, ‘Father of Modern Missions,’ the gentle-hearted ‘amiable manners’ of William Ward kept the Serampore Trio together for the sake of the mission. Reynolds’ fabulous study of Ward’s piety reveals the blessing of spiritual friendships and warm-hearted camaraderie in Great Commission service. For its depth of historical research and breadth of spiritual refreshment, any scholar or Great Commission servant would find this peaceful spirituality of William Ward to be illuminating and inspiring.”
Professor of Spirituality & Missiology, Asia Biblical Theological Seminary;
Author of A Supreme Desire to Please Him: The Spirituality of Adoniram Judson
“The Spirituality of William Ward by Matt Reynolds is a well written account of one of the ‘Serampore Three.’ With compelling scholarship, much from original sources, this is a fascinating history of one of the key figures on one of the first teams of the modern missionary movement.
Matt has captured brilliantly the impact of a godly life when lived with humility, grace and disciplined, intense focus. He accomplishes this by painting a picture of the unique challenges and complexities confronting the missionaries of the day. Climate, health, a dizzying cultural context and the control of governments both local and colonial enable the reader to feel the full weight of the pressures working against Gospel advance in that era.
Yet, Ward worked as a tireless printer, administrator, evangelist and Christlike peace maker who brought together a diverse group of God-lovers from many different backgrounds and ethnicities to labor for the work of the God’s kingdom in that place. Against that dynamic and ever challenging backdrop, the life lived by Ward provides a memorable account of how one person’s robust and resilient faith against all odds could have such a profound impact. We desperately need more men and women like Ward in our day!
If a thoughtful practitioner or interested student of mission history wants to know how the challenges of cross-cultural ministry were confronted and conquered in a previous era, this is a must read. Matt has given us a masterful work of enduring quality and sound historical perspective. We owe him a deep sense of gratitude. To God be the glory!”
Regional Leader of a mission in Southeast Asia
“One of the towering figures in modern Protestant missions was William Carey, a key pioneer of mission and Bible translation in Bengal. Carey famously walked alongside two other colleagues as the ‘Serampore Trio,’ Joshua Marshman and William Ward. Those with at least a passing familiarity with the story of early Baptist missions in India will often recall Carey as a translator; if they know anything about his colleagues at all, they would see Marshman as an evangelist and debater, and remember William Ward primarily for his expertise as a printer. While it’s certainly true that Ward engaged in painstaking, brilliant work in designing typeface for multiple languages and scripts, in this volume, Matthew Reynolds opens the door to the almost hidden knowledge of the depth of character and spiritual life exemplified in the life of William Ward. The extensive quotations from Ward’s own writing gives voice to this fascinating figure, and enables readers to see him as a significant figure in his own right, rather than simply being a ‘supporting actor’ in Carey’s overall story. It is clear from this account, too, that rather than Ward’s Reformed theological leanings being of the type implied in John Ryland, Sr.’s reported ‘When God pleases to convert the heathen, he will do so without your aid nor mine’ rebuke to a younger William Carey, but rather like that of the more recent John Piper, who wrote that his Reformed theology ‘does not make missions unnecessary, it makes missions hopeful.’ The emphasis here on Ward’s spiritual life and vision for mission make this not only a scholarly work of biographical history, but a work of applied history, enabling the reader to draw lessons for missional practice and spiritual life.”
Asbury Theological Seminary