CHAPTER VIII. Missionary Life in Siam – Suggestions for Missionaries

1840 – 1843.

Excursion, and restoration of strength – Death of a Siamese pupil – Siamese curiosities – “Thy will be done” – Revenge of the smallpox, and death of her daughter Harriet – Last entry in her journal – Letters to a younger brother on the choice of a missionary life – Suggestions for missionaries

“Man foretells afar
The courses of the stars, the very hour
He knows when they shall darken or grow bright;
Yet does the eclipse of sorrow and of death
Come unforewarned.”

Mrs. Bradley’s strength had declined so as to become alarmingly low. In view of the prospect of death, she remarked that the idea of leaving her three little daughters motherless in that heathen land was agonizing. She could find no relief except in prayer. But God did not then call her to the trial, for which he had not yet prepared her. A British merchantman lying near the mouth of the Meinan, received her as a guest for some weeks. Here, by the invigorating influence of sea air, with change of scene and diet, she was restored for a season to active life and its conflicts.

While she was absent from home, a Chinese boy, a member of her family, a beneficiary of the Sabbath-school Missionary society of Clinton, died suddenly. At the request of this society, he had born the name of Asahel S. Norton, after the venerable pastor in Clinton. Mrs. Bradley gave a circumstantial account of the character, improvement, sickness, and death of this boy, in a letter addressed to the late deacon Gridley, then superintendent of the Sabbath-school. When she heard of the death of Asahel Norton, she asked a little native girl by her side where she thought his spirit had gone. The child replied in her own native tongue, “I think he had gone to a good place, for he prayed earnestly to Jesus every night.”

In the same year, Mrs. Bradley prepared a box of articles for her friends in America, including miniature models of many things in common use in Siam. One was that of a cradle, consisting of a single board, with net-work attached to each of its four edges, by which it is suspended from the ceiling, and within which the infant is laid. Then the nurse gives it a swinging movement by means of a string; and her lullaby, as written by Mrs. Bradley, consisted of a succession of semibreves all on the same low key. Another article was a wooden tray, on which the Siamese set their dishes of food at their meals. The trays are made of various materials as the owner can afford, up to fine gold, which is used in the gorgeous palaces. The poorer classes set their tray upon the mat or floor on which they sit; while those who can afford it have a stand about six inches high, somewhat in a form of a wine glass, on which the tray is placed. They eat without knife or fork, the carving being done, if done at all, when the food is cooked. All these articles were classified, arranged, and numbered, and accompanied with a clear and minute description of the use of each. The extensive collection constituted a most valuable treatise on life, character, and manners in the city of Bangkok. This laborious work, patiently and perseveringly prosecuted for the sake of utility rather than show, was a manifestation of one distinguishing trait in the character we are attempting to delineate.

May 20, 1841. “While watching by the bedside of my feverish child, I make a note of the events of yesterday and today. Yesterday, Jane went to the floating house with her father to attend a meeting, while I tarried at home, not feeling able to go. Jane had a beautiful white rabbit, a present from Chow K. Thair. He was her greatest treasure, and had become a favorite of the family, servants, and printers. While she was absent, Mr.—-‘s dog killed it. When she returned, she came up the stairs in fine spirits, bringing me a handful of tamarind flowers. I said, ‘Jane, I have something to tell you which will make you very sorry.’ She looked me full in the face, and I continued, ‘A dog has bitten your rabbit.’ The first burst of feeling was quite uncontrolable, but she became more calm. When we gathered around the tea-table, she did not eat, but talked of her rabbit. To divert her mind, I Inquired of her the subject brought forward at the meeting. She replied, that it was, ‘Thy will be done,’ and asked, ‘What does that mean?’ I explained it very briefly, and she proceeded to make the application to herself in a way which surprised us all. She showed a clear comprehension of what is meant by that expression of Christian submission to the will of God, and professed to feel it. She continued to converse upon the subject till she retired. A burning fever prevented sleep. She has been quite all today, but manifested a sweet submission to God, and to parents. With us it has been a day of prayer. It is true that hands have performed an unusual amount of labor, but my heart has plead for her soul’s salvation. She is a child of uncommon maturity of mind, and our hearts cling to her, but she is the Lord’s. I do feel that I have given her to Him unreservedly. If he takes her away, I have but to ask the regeneration of her heart, and the evidence thereof. If he spares her, what more can I ask, but that he will serve himself of her in whatever way he pleases.

Aug. 30. “Was feeble this forenoon, but enjoyed a freedom from pain which enabled me to be diligent in my duties. After several lyings and sittings, succeeded in getting the manuscript of the first of the Old Testament history ready for Mr. Robinson’s inspection.

Sept. 6. “Yesterday, Sabbath, was an interesting day, but its privileges were too numerous for my strength. Conversed with each servant before ten o’clock. Was ready for the communion-service in season. Many natives looked in upon us with interest as well as curiosity. Bush’s appearance was very solemn. Dr. Bradley preached upon the subject of robbing God. I held up until the services closed, but then found myself completely exhausted. My mind was in a prayerful and quiet frame, but I could not engage in the appropriate exercises of the day. I perceive symptoms which strengthen my suspicion of internal ulcers; but these things do not disturb my peace. The Judge of all the earth will do right. If he takes me away, he gives me full liberty to commit my children to him. I do so now. I would hope that the Spirit of the Lord is present among us. I hope that nothing may be done to grieve him away. May he not depart without converting Jane.

Sept. 15. “Finished the proofs of Bible History No. I. Very unwell today. Read much, but perhaps not profitably.

Sept. 17. “Miss Pierce went below yesterday and brought me articles from Mr. Johnson, that I might make selections for myself. He presented me a dress of the former Mrs. Johnson, which I had wished to purchase because it was hers. Have been able just to totter about today. I have gradually lost strength since the first of July. I am forcibly reminded as I waste away, that a short time may close my earthly career. I have felt it much today, while laying in my stock of clothing.

Sept. 18. “Have been very feeble today. Conversed more freely with my husband about the state of my health; think he has more hopes of an improvement than I have. I do not seem to be greatly diseased, but strength and fresh waste away. I would live for the sake of my children and the heathen.

Oct. 2. “Am able to hold my pen again for a few moments, and I most gladly employ it to record the goodness of the Lord for my future encouragement. I have been brought low, so feeble that I have been often unable to cross the room without support. I saw my husband almost overwhelmed with his pastoral and other duties, and I could not bear to add the weight of a feather to his burden, or occupy a moment of his time. I prayed to the Lord that I might not hinder him in his great work. I asked not life or health, but that the will of the Lord might be done. That same night he told me he had been praying for my restoration, for he saw a great work which I might do if my health would permit. I am measurably renovated, in answer, I doubt not, to his prayers. It has been a week of great interest.

April 24, 1842. “Seldom as I write in this book, I wish occasionally to record the dealings of the Lord with me. Yesterday evening was a period of great suffering, from difficulty of breathing. After the last duties had been performed to my children, I went to my closet to spread my case before my Saviour. Though I have numbered but three tens of years, yet I am often made to feel, with the man of three-score years and ten, that life is ‘labor’. The ten thousand mercies with which I am surrounded prevent my adding, ‘and sorrow’ too. I wept and sought that relief which I had in vain tried to find in remedial agents. Soon the bands which had confined my throat gave way, and I could breathe freely again. If suffering would always drive me to Jesus it would be a blessing. I enjoyed communion with him last evening and this morning. I cannot instruct my servants now, as is my custom on the Sabbath.”

The latter part of the year 1842 was signalized by an afflictive dispensation. The city was ravaged by the small-pox, which carried off its hundreds and thousands. Dr. Bradley made the most vigorous and persevering efforts to obtain the vaccine virus, in which he at last succeeded, but not until the disease had entered his own family and fastened itself upon his little Harriet, then seven months old. Seventeen day and nights the mother sat most of the time with the dear sufferer in her arms, and then quietly resigned the charge into the hands of Him who gave it. “My Saviour is welcome,” said she, in writing of the event, to the loveliest flower of my garden.” December 30, at evening twilight, the remains were committed to the earth. Mrs. Bradley’s health never fully recovered from the ravages produced by this event. From this time her labors were chiefly limited to her own house-hold, and even there were far less than formerly.

March 26, 1843. “Since I have written in this volume, the Lord has given and recalled from me one of his greatest blessings. Our sweet Harriet was born May 7, and died December 30, 1842. I have this morning had a vivid sense of her blissful state since her departure. She has shed no tear, has felt no pang. Her little soul has been full of joy and peace, and her voice that so often, even during her mortal sickness, broke out in sinhing, has been tuned to the music of heaven. My throat is too irritable ti instruct my servants today; but I have call them one by one, and told them that their souls are just as precious as when I could teach them, and exhorted them to the attentive to the means of grace. This is the last entry made in Mrs. Bradley’s journal. We bid adieu, with reluctance, to so rich a mine of thought, of Christian feeling, and of incident. We acknowledge, with humble gratitude, that we have been made better by its perusal. During the last two or three years, she has occasionally recorded instances of impatience and irritability, which we have inserted in this memorial, for the truth’s sake, not because we delight in the physical sufferings, and the pressure of the cares, labors, and responsibilities which had power to disturb, even for a short season, a temper so well-disciplined.

The following letters to a younger brother in America who was then about choosing his profession, discuss with ability and practical wisdom the qualifications needful for a missionary.

“Bangkok, May, 1843.”

“Dear Brother Edward—-…Have you ever thought of preaching Christ crucified to the heathen? Are you willing to do so? Yes, more, are you desirous of doing so? I will take it for granted that from your inmost soul you say, Lords what wilt thou have me do?’ that you only wait to know your Master’s will, before you decide upon your field of labor; that you hold the comforts and endearments of our native land as the small duet of the balance, if they oppose the will of our Lord and Master. This being the case I hear you ask, How is that will to be ascertained?! I answer, not by a supernatural call, like that of the man of Macedonia to Paul; not by a love of novelty and travelling; not by romantic impression sowed by the wind in the hotbed of a lively imagination; not by a text of Scripture presented unexpectedly to the mind; not by the favor or opposition of friends. These things are not to be sought unto; to make known to us our Master’s will; and I have seen and heard enough of decisions based upon these sandy foundations, to make me desire that no more missionary castles may be built upon them. Ask counsel of the Lord, as the children of Israel did when they had been twice defeated in battle by the Benjamites: ‘Shall I yet again go out to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother, or shall I cease?’ Shall I go to the heathen, or shall I not go? Take your moral, mental, and physical qualifications, and make them pass in strictest scrutiny before you, constituting the Bible chief judge in the case, common-sense the second, and the opinions of candid and judicious friends the third.

“Piety always stands first in the list of qualifications required in a missionary, and so it should. Yet I think that the Christian community hold erroneous opinion upon this subject. I hold that you are bound to attain and maintain the highest degree of holiness possible now; and no more could be required of you if you were on heathen ground. I have, since I left America, raised the standard of the piety required in missionaries which I had fixed in my own mind; but I find nothing in the Bible which requires less of any christian. So if you are as devoted as you should be, you are devoted enough for a missionary. Perhaps I shall not succeed in reducing my remarks to method, but I wish to give you my view in a brief a manner as possible upon what constitute the requisite qualifications, and what are disqualifications for a foreign missionary. I shall do this, hoping that if you have not already done it you will make the question of your duty to the heathen a serious one.

“In a list of qualifications for missionary, I should place comonsense next to piety. Every year enhances the value of this inestimable gift in my eyes. There are many ways in which a man who is somewhat deficient in common sense may get along in a civilised community, where division of labor is understood and practised. In almost any exigency, even no greater than nailing a box, he can find a man whose craft it is to do that very thing, and whose reputation will be of value enough to make him do it well. But this is not the case in a heathen land, ‘A Jack at all trades,’ even if he be ‘good at none,’ is a very convenient many or woman either, in a mission.

“The individuals who compose a mission are so intimately connected, that they cannot fail of seeing, and that constantly, peculiarities in each other. That might be endured, but it is trying to perceive that the ignorant and degraded heathen are amusing themselves at the expense of your brother or sister. Common-sense is quite as essential to the female who would spent her days in a heathen land, as to the missionary himself, and perhaps more so. If the missionary’s wife is a sensible woman, and possessed of tolerable health, she can relieve her husband of nearly all family cares; can make his rude dwelling insensibly take a neat and civilized air; can finish his table with comfortable food, though her book of recipes be ill-adapted to the scanty market of a heathen land, or the deficiences of her store-room by her ingenuity and forethought his wardrobe can be supplied with garments both tidy and comfortable, though the material and fashion might serve to amuse a tailor or a dandy. More than this, she can comprehend his plans, and encourage him in such as are well laid; and without assuming any wise aire, greatly direct his attention to deficiencies in others. He can rely confide all his trials to her, from whatever source they may arise, and receive from her sympathy and perhaps relief. His children too, must receive their moral, mental, and physical training from her, and what can do more to fit her for this mighty task the common-sense? To kind relatives step in and aid in the task of keeping house and family together, for the sake of home herself. In addition to all that woman in ever required to do in a civilized land, if she can drive a nail, head a barrel, glue a broken chair, tell a carpenter how to make a cupboard, etc., all the better.

“Her is less common-sense required in an unmarried female who comes out with the laudable design of teaching. She needs no ordinary share of this quality, to collect the wild, barbarous children around her, and hold them within the circle of her influence; then she must have it to teach them often without books and without precedents. She needs it to make her apartment and residence in a missionary family comfortable to herself and the family who furnish her a home. She needs it in order to secure to herself necessary relaxation, air, and exercise. A young lady may teach many branches in a boarding school at home, who is utterly incapable of managing a heathen school. Many thing have been said both for and against missionaries’ marrying. I have neither time nor talents to discuss this question, but to give the result of eight or nine years’ observation. I have known good men with good wives making most efficient missionaries, taking hold of their work with energy, and accomplishing with cheerfulness and pleasure a great amount of labor. I have known good men without wives tolling on, willingly wearing themselves out in the cause they love, but often obliged to change location or employment in order to keep the field. I have known these same men more than doubled by finding good wife, while every observer was constrained to exclaim, What wonders a discreet, amiable wife can work! I have come to the conclusion that, with very few exceptions, every missionary should be married. His wife should be prayerfully and judiciously selected, not picked up

“I had not much method in my mind when I commenced, but I have digressed even from that little. Providence permitting, I shall write you more soon. In the meantime, believe me your affectionate sister,

“E. R. Bradley”


Bangkok: July 25, 1844

“Dear Brother Edward—-I hear you have graduated, and been ordained; and I anxiously want to learn more of your plans. I rejoice that one of my brothers is preaching the everlasting gospel; and pray the Lord to bless you in your labors, and make your own soul as a watered garden. To take care of our own vineyard, is our first duty. Perhaps you may take up your abode in some heathen land, and I will fill another sheet upon the subject of the qualifications and disqualifications of missionaries. Should my letter prove put of season, through my tardiness, it will only result as too many of my

“Next to a deficiency of common-sense, or on a par with it, I should place an ungoverned, irritable temper, in my list of disqualifications. I say ungoverned, for some persons so govern their irritable tempers that they are useful notwithstanding. It must be allowed that the influence of a tropical climate, and residence among the heathen, is a trial of temper such as we do not often experience in our own native land. Here we constantly detect in all with whom we deal, dishonesty, deceit, indolence, and disobedience. These heathen will disobey up right before our eyes. I recall with pain the blunders I have formerly made. I used to be much vexed with a boy who often laughed in the midst of what I meant for a very serious reproof. I laugh now when I think of what I said to him. It is provoking, when ordering your dinner, to see the cook laughing heartily, while you need to be composed to think first of any thing you can eat, and secondly of words enough to communicate the result of your cogitations to him. But he must be a grave man to keep his countenance as you tell him to buy, or boil ‘the doctor’. Yet in Siamese the difference between a doctor and an article which might be bought and boiled for dinner, is very slight.

“An openness to conviction is very necessary in a missionary. He is often placed in new circumstances, and without precedents before him, he must weigh and balance the arguments pro and con with an unbiassed, unprejudiced mind.

“Perseverance is an admirable trait of character. I have seen the good resulting from the most simple agency perseveringly prosecuted, and rejoiced in it, and I have seen aman full of his plans, and good ones too, for the benefit of the heathen, but he could not pursue any one long enough to accomplish much before a new one displaced the one already in successful operation.

“Versatility too is necessary to the missionary. He needs to be a ‘universal genius.’ If a man will carry on two or three branches of labor at once, he will accomplish just about as much of each as of one. This is not a theoretical idea, but the result of observation.

“Conciliation manners go far towards rendering a person useful among the heathen, among his brethren, and among the foreigners whom he will often meet. I wish also to say something upon the appropriate duties of a missionary’s wife. When I left home, and for a long period previous, it was expected that a missionary’s wife would perform the duties of a wife, mother and teacher to her own children, superintend several native schools, hold meetings with native women, write books in the native language, besides being a housekeeper in the midst of a barbarous community. Those who came out while such as the tone of feeling at home, learned the language in spite of obstacles, and commenced much more than they could carry through some finding that they could not attend to all these things, told that they must send their children to America, and labor for the heathen; some, I fear, neglected their children, neither training them themselves, nor sending them home to be trained; some, not believing that the Lord requires any class of his servants to cast out their young children, or that he requires more of them than they can perform, conclude that they honor the Lord most in faithfully training their households, and act accordingly. Many fell under the burdens which public opinion and thei own desires laid upon them, and were never able to rise again.

“May you seek and find direction with regard to your future course. I often think of the possibility of meeting you here, and of your laboring for the good of this people. The repeated disappointments which I have had in my expectations or seeing early friends in Bangkok have chastened my sanguine spirit not a little, however, and I seldom look upon it as a probable event. I cannot put upon paper what I think and feel when I remember my kindred, but I have a hope of meeting most of them in heaven, and let us never relax in prayer or effort till we can say the same of all. Farewell, dear brother, the Lord bless you in your ministry, and in your own person.

“Your sister,
“Emelie R. Bradley.”

Reproduced from: A Sketch of The Life and Character of Mrs. Emelie Royce Bradley, Ten Years a Missionary in Siam by Nancy Royce c.1865. Please notify of any transcription inaccuracies to DigitalBangkokRecorder