William Ward was born on October 20, 1769, in Derby, England and became a printer. While young, he became editor of the Daily Mercury, and then edited the papers in Stafford and Hull.
In 1793, when William Ward was 23 years old, and was visiting friends, William Carey heard about the young printer from Derby. He decided to visit him just before sailing for India. Carey told him that in 4 or 5 years he planned to have the Bible translated in Bengali and would need him and his press by that time.
It was not until August, 1796, that he was saved and joined the Baptist Church at Hull. Because of his incredible talents as an editor and printer, a friend offered to pay all his expenses if he would study for the ministry. He did so, renouncing journalism. He had only completed a few months of study, but upon hearing a repeated request that the mission was looking for a printer to print the Bible in the Bengali language, he offered his services and was gladly accepted.
On May 29, 1799, now 29 years old, he sailed to Serampore, near Calcutta, with three other men and their families, bringing with him a press. They arrived on Oct. 13. He became the second part of the Serampore Trio. These three men served as an incredible gospel machine for 23 years. Each was indefatigable, they shared the same house, and finances. Where there was a weakness in one of the men, the other men filled the void.
In 1811 he authored and published the still authoritative and popular book on the life of the Hindus. The Trio believed that in order to properly share the Gospel, they must thoroughly understand Hindu thought. In order to lead the Hindu to salvation, the thoughts of the Hindu also had to be brought under the submission of Christ. It repulsed them to have to learn their ways, and William wrote in the preface to his book:
Multitudes of fables and scenes are found in the most chaste of the Hindu writings, belonging to the histories of their gods and ancient sages, that are disgusting beyond all utterance ….
William Ward was a very practical man, serving the mission as the administrator, acted as a surrogate father to Carey’s boys, and running the press.
On March 11, 1812, an event happened that has stirred the hearts of many people for mission work. William Carey was away in Calcutta, teaching. William Ward was working late at the print shop. He suddenly smelled smoke, and yelling for help found the other room ablaze. With everyone working till 2 a.m. trying to put the blaze out, they were still unsuccessful, and everything was lost. Joshua Marshman got the unfortunate task of travelling to tell William Carey what happened. William Carey took a few moments to lament the loss of years of work, but the three got right back to work, redoing all that had been lost. They had a large print house, with type sets for 14 eastern languages, 1200 reams of paper, 55,000 printed sheets, and 30 pages of the Bengal dictionary, a huge polyglot dictionary, several translations of the Bible, two grammars, etc. But when news reached England, the story made Carey famous. People immediately mobilized to help volunteer to help rebuild things, huge sums of money were raised, and the work was rebuilt and became much larger than previously.
Meanwhile, in 1812, Adoniram Judson and his wife sailed Feb. 19, 1812 from Massachusetts and arrived in Calcutta on June 17. During the trip, Mr. Judson’s views on baptism changed, and he went to Mr. Ward for Baptism, and was baptized on Sept. 6, 1812. Doing so meant Mr. Judson’s relationship with the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions was severed, and a new Baptist board was assembled.
In 1819, he visited England, and was the first missionary to return from the East. He was beset with many public meetings, and his warm but animated speaking style proved very popular. He visited Holland, and then spent three months in the United States and collected $10,000 Serampore College. He returned to India in 1821
In 1823 his health suddenly broke, and he died of Cholera on March 7, 1823. By this time the Serampore Trio had produced six complete Bible translations and twenty-four partial ones. They also had provided several grammars, dictionaries and translations of Eastern books. They had started twenty-six churches, 126 schools (with 10,000 enrolled), founded India’s first medical mission, a savings bank, seminary, girl’s school, and a newspaper in Bengali.
In closing here is a quote on discouragement from him:
Discouragement is dissatisfaction with the past, distaste for the present, and distrust of the future. It is ingratitude for the blessings of yesterday, indifference to the opportunities of today, and insecurity regarding strength for tomorrow. It is unawareness of the presence of beauty, unconcern for the needs of our fellowman, and unbelief in the promises of old. It is impatience with time, immaturity of thought, and impoliteness to God.
Thomas Armitage, A History of the Baptists (Watertown, Wisconsin: Roger Williams Heritage Archives, 1886; 2003), p. 583.
C.C. Bitting, Bible Societies and the Baptists (Watertown, Wisconsin: Roger Williams Heritage Archives, 1897; 2003). 7.
David Benedict, A General History of the Baptist Denomination in America; The Baptist Denomination in America (Watertown, Wisconsin: Roger Williams Heritage Archives, 1813; 2003), p. 237.
John C. Carlile, The Story of the English Baptists (Watertown, Wisconsin: Roger Williams Heritage Archives, 1905; 2003), pp. 179-180.
William Cathcart, The Baptist Encyclopedia, (Philippines: Life Line, n.d.), Vol. 1, p. 625–627; Vol. 2, p. 1210.
M. Fackler, “Carey, William.” Editors: J.D. Douglas, Philip Wesley Comfort and Donald Mitchell, Who's Who in Christian History (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House, 1997, c1992).
Herbert G. Grether, “Versions, Modern Era” Editor, David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1996, c1992), Vol. 6, p. 846.
“Adoniram Judson,” Roger William Heritage Archives Editors, Baptist Biographies (Watertown, Wisconsin: Roger Williams Heritage Archives, 2003).
George Thomas Kurian, Nelson's New Christian Dictionary (Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson Pubs., 2001). “Ward, William.”
Robert J. Morgan, On This Day, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). March 12.
Robert J. Morgan, Real Stories for the Soul, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000), p. 117.
R.S. Sugirtharajah, “Textual Cleansing: A Move from the Colonial to the Postcolonial Version.” Editors: Randall C. Bailey and Tina Pippin, and Society of Biblical Literature, Semeia. (Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature, 1996, 1998). Vol. 76, p. 8.
Bruce L. Shelley, Church History in Plain Language, Updated 2nd ed. (Dallas: Word Pub., 1995), p. 375.
E. Wayne Thompson and David L. Cummins. This Day in Baptist History, (Greenville, South Carolina: Bob Jones University Press, 1993), pp. 435, 436.
Today in the Word, April, 1989, p. 18, quoted by 10,000 Sermon Illustrations, electronic ed. (Dallas: Biblical Studies Press, 2000).