Transcript of letter from Eugene Van Cooten to the Reverend Mr. Venn, Secretary of the Church Missionary Society.
Item in Church Missionary Society archives held by University of Birmingham Cadbury Research Library
CMS/B/OMS/C W O27/1-4
British Guiana: Demerara 1846
/1-3 Letters applying to be a missionary with CMS 1846;
/4 Letter from William Fox, chairman of Corresponding Committee, supporting application 1846
Transcribed by Rodney Van Cooten, March 2008.
Demerary 18th Aug. 1846
My Dear Sir,
After much prayer & mature deliberation, I again bring myself before your notice, with the same object & desires I sought an interview of previous to my departure from England. In the number of applicants, and multiplicity of engagements which must necessarily occupy your attention I may possibly be forgotten. Permit me therefore to state the particulars of my case, & should it meet with your approval, may I request you will be kind enough to bring it before the Committee at their next meeting. I am a young man of strong constitution & sound bodily health—able to endure fatigue & hardness for the sake of Jesus Christ, between I believe the age of twenty six & seven. I regret that I labor under a great disadvantage—an imperfect education having in the midst of business taught myself all I know—tho’ a serious & great difficulty. I hope it is not an insurmountable one, & if the fostering care of the Society be extended to me, I humbly trust that in the time allowed for training I will overcome the difficulties now in my path. I would say ‘tis no new fire which now burns in my soul, but one I have tried long to quench, a desire I have taken no means to increase or cultivate, but I now feel that I am acting contrary to conviction, in not making known my desires to the Society. I have therefore determined to delay no longer, and in now applying, to be sent to the heathen, I desire to know God’s will in the matter & if accepted I may justly conclude that ’tis the divine will that I should; for until application has been made, an essential means has been left untried. The reason why I have not taken the necessary steps to qualify myself for the office of a missionary, was the belief that it was my duty to remain in the calling in which I was called, & be the support of my Mother & Sisters—such views have alone kept me from making every effort to obtain the needful qualifications, and long ere this seeking admission. But I cannot feel at rest notwithstanding the opposition I have thrown in the way—the opposition of friends. I still do fervently desire to go to the heathen–the desire increases the more I seek to subdue it. A short time since I read a short tract “The present position & Future Prospects of the Society”. My heart responded to the call of the Society for labor, & weak & ignorant as I am I resolve to make a tender of mine.
Entertaining the views as above stated relative to my Mother, I accepted my present situation, & for the past year have been representing my principle during his absence in England—I believe with satisfaction to himself & other parties concerned to all of whom reference may be made. My Mother no longer desires me to remain here, but follow the desire of my heart, & tho’ she needs support she has faith to believe that God will not forsake them but if I am wholly dedicated to his service, in His own wise providence succour will be raised up for them in a way they know not of. They are at present supported by my Mothers brother, who is in a position to do so having been for upwards of twenty years the confidential steward of the Duke of Devonshire. It may be necessary to state that I am the younger son of a respectable Dutch family who from old time bore the title of Baron van Raider. In early youth I was left to do as I liked following the bent of my evil heart. I grew up in ignorance & forgetfulness of God. Adversity came & I determined to make my way in the world independent of others. Guided by God, I was led to form an engagement with a surgeon in good practice, as dispensing assistant. I found I had become a member of a truly Christian family, opposite to all I had desired or sought after, thro’ the instrumentality of one of its members now Mrs Aldous I was brought to the knowledge of the truth the year 1841. I remained three years & a half & have since continued to enjoy their friendship. Should any reference be required I would beg to mention them. John Primrose Esq. Fountain Cottage, Ipswich, Suffolk—also Mrs John Aldous, 46 New Square, Cambridge. My Mothers address is 13 Elizabeth St Eaton Sq. I mentioned my desire to my minister Mr Fae, who advised me to pray & think over the matter a month longer & that he would do so likewise as did also a dear Christian friend Mr Pollard, both of whom approved this step, & offered to address a letter in my behalf being truly godly & devoted men I esteem it as such. Should any other references be necessary I shall be happy to furnish them. I have been led to speak much of my self, but I thought it right to be as explicit as possible being at so great a distance
And now dear Sir, in conclusion I would say I am pained that I can offer so little for the service of God, at a time when men of learning & talent, tried & mighty men are so much wanted—learning I have not tho’ I humbly hope I am not deficient of capacity for acquiring it. I am making what progress I can in Latin—but confess I am very ignorant. What I have I freely & unreservedly offer. I count not my life dear but am willing to spend & be spent in God’s service. Nor do I seek the office as one of ease or emoluments, for that is to be obtained where I am, having within a short time refused two advantageous offers, independently of my present situation. No, I look upon the work as the most arduous of any—a work of toil & privation—but have counted the cost & tho’ I may exclaim who is sufficient for these things—the faith & patience, the zeal & energy, the wisdom & love required to win souls to Christ—the answer comes to comfort the humble & cast down soul. My grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in weakness. In these promises would I take refuge when overwhelmed by a sense of my weakness & utter insufficiency. I know that unless God be with me, I can do nothing. He must bless the means or they tend to no profit.
I am not insensible of this deep & awful responsibility of engaging in such a work—the self denial & courage needed by him who would preach a crucified saviour to the heathen—but from God cometh my help. I have read the life of Henry Martyn—& letters, the life of David Brainerd, Missions in Bengal by T. J. Weitbrecht &c Williams & Moffat &c. And when I think of the varied labor energy, zeal, wisdom, patience & utter forgetfulness of self & the intimate acquaintance with their own hearts exhibited by these men of God I am humbled with a sense of my short comings. Still the never to be forgotten truth flashes upon the mind that grace made them what they were. Oh that I may walk in their footsteps tho’ at a humble distance. I do not look upon my stay here as lost time—it has been one of sifting & experience—of temptation & trial. I would also add that I have accustomed myself to fatigue & temperance in living.
Dear Sir, I leave it in the hand of God, yourself & the Committee & may the decision be in accordance with the mind & will of God. If accepted, I trust I may have grace given me to walk upright in all that I may be called to & as becometh the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I must apologise for troubling you with this long letter—I have endeavoured to anticipate questions by giving a minute account of myself. What I have said I doubt not will meet your prayerful consideration & that you will favor me with an early answer.
With feelings of deep respect
I remain dear Sir
Your most obdt & humb servt
Eugene van Cooten
1. Rec. Sep 21/46
2. Cler Com. Sep. 22/46
3. Answered 16 Oct. 1846.
4. Envelope addressed to The Reverend Mr Venn
Secretary Church Missionary Society.