—Leonard Woods, A.T.S. professor, from A Sermon Delivered in the Chapel of the Theol. Seminary, Andover, Feb. 1, 1835, on the Death of Henry Lyman & Samuel Munson, Missionaries, and of Aurelian H. Post, Luke Baker & Chester Lord, All Recent Members of the Seminary.
Samuel Nott Jr., whose father was one of the initial foreign missionaries to be trained in Andover, wrote in 1888, three-quarters of a century after Harriet Newell's death: "The alabaster box was not broken in vain! Leonard Woods wrote her life. It has been widely circulated, and has made many a missionary."  The memoir did indeed inspire women throughout the United States and beyond to take up the life, or become a missionary's wife. For men, too, the book had far-reaching and long-lasting effects. Elnathan Gridley, A.T.S. class of 1823, wrote to Reverend Woods that his thoughts "were first turned to the subject of missions" by a friend who had been reading the Newell book.  (Gridley left for Smyrna, Turkey, in 1825. He died of illness in the Holy Land's Caesarea two years later.)
Seminarian Henry Lyman wrote to his sister not long after his arrival in Andover in 1829: “If there are any books which interest my feelings, they are the lives and journals of missionaries."  Newell's memoir, however, rather than inspiring him, made him question his own plans to become a foreign missionary: “[How] did she, at so young an age, and at so early a period of missionary operations, devote herself to the service of Christ in the field? Why do I not feel more for the heathen?. . . Can I leave my country and engage in this work? I want to do it. No, I do not. I want to do just what God will have me to do, whether to go there or to stay here.” His reading of the memoir of Ann Judson, wife of Adoniram Judson, brought more doubts. As he told his sister: "I was led to exclaim, ‘Where are my qualifications for missionary service, either in piety, or intellectual attainments?’ I am almost always discouraged in reading the lives of such persons, and sometimes I am tempted to renounce the service and enter upon some secular employment.”
Shortly, his vocation was revived, though not by reading yet another missionary memoir -- a literary form that had become quite common by the early nineteenth century; what reinvigorated his vocation was seeing religious objects collected by previous missionaries on display in the seminary museum. “This P.M., while viewing the idols formerly worshiped by the Sandwich Islanders, I received a fresh impulse to spend and be spent on heathen shores,” he wrote. After that, he was introduced to The Brethren, a secret society of Andover seminarians founded by Nott and the other initiators of American foreign missionary work. (“To think I was a member of the Society which is the mother of the American Board. . .”). He was then interviewed by the A.B.C.F.M.'s Rufus Anderson ("who is up here with his drum, beating for recruits").
Lyman began to prepare himself for a life of deprivation, putting himself on a bread and water only diet. (“You can give the money these things [butter, coffee, tea] cost to send the Gospel to the poor pagans.") He also started walking great distances, often between forty and fifty miles a day. He taught Andoverites at West Parish Church, too, and did fundraising work, reporting that he had “visited all the school districts in town, [and] set half a dozen ladies at work collecting money for the enlargement of our Sabbath School Library.” In a letter to his parents, written on February 10, 1830, and published in The New York Observer, he explained his rationale for going into the foreign missionary field. It wasn't only about saving souls, he said. There would be other benefits: “Missions have raised the standard of piety at home; have added to science and literature. Even men of this world say that ‘the geographical knowledge obtained through missionaries will repay all the lives lost, time spent, and money expended, in the cause.’”
Did he imagine, when he wrote that, that his own life would be among all the lives lost? Did he envision that his own missionary memoir would be published? Or that one day Reverend Woods would be eulogizing him at the seminary with these words: “A tribe of Cannibals in Sumatra have inhumanly killed and devoured our beloved brethren, who went there from the purest benevolence”?  Speaking directly to the future missionaries sitting before him in the seminary chapel, Reverend Woods was not conciliatory about what had happened to Lyman and his colleague and fellow A.T.S. graduate, Samuel Munson. Yes, it was true that '[a]n event of sorrowful and appalling character has been announced to you, — an event unknown in the history of missions of late years, and of very rare occurrence for many centuries.” (For they were the first A.T.S. men killed instead of being downed by disease.) “By this event, you are carried back to primitive times, when it was nothing uncommon for missionaries to suffer martyrdom.” But, he stressed, future missionaries should not be deterred. They should, in fact, be even more motivated to go to foreign lands, where they should be prepared to die. “Regard sacrifices and sufferings as constituting a substantial part, and not an unwelcome part, for the life of missionaries,” he said. “Never think of enlisting in this holy warfare without a cordial readiness to endure affliction.”
Lyman and Munson were warned of the dangers to missionaries, but they went on with their work anyway. While on the Island of Nyas, they, along with one of their servants, who was wearing European clothing, were murdered. (They others were able to flee.) The cannibalism, claimed by Reverend Woods, was not verified.
In 1839, William Thompson published Memoirs of the Rev. Samuel Munson, and the Rev. Henry Lyman.  Another memoir, Lyman's alone, The Martyr of Sumatra, came out in 1856.  Regarding the latter, the Andover Advertiser reported, "a benevolent individual in New York has presented each student in the Theological Seminary with a copy. Such is truly a very appropriate and valuable New Year’s present to the members of an Institution, with which Mr. Lyman was once himself connected.” 7. In a subsequent issue of the newspaper (February 7, 1857) the benefactor was revealed to be John Tappan (1781–1871), a one-time, long-time president of the American Tract Society, who, while crossing the Atlantic on a business trip to Europe, was shipwrecked as a result of the first mate’s intoxication, and who, allegedly, stayed alive by carving an oar into a fishing spear. This experience made him devote his life to Christian benevolence and, not coincidentally, to the temperance movement.
1. “The Apparent Waste of Missions,” The Missionary Review of the World, Vol. XI., No. 3, March 1888, 162.
2. Quoted in Leonard Woods, Memoirs of American Missionaries, Formerly Connected with the Society of Inquiry Respecting Missions in the Andover Theological Seminary: Embracing A History of the Society, etc. Boston, Pierce & Parker, 1833 (p. 130), from a letter to Woods, Aug. 8, 1823.
3. Henry Lyman, The Martyr of Sumatra: A Memoir of Henry Lyman (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1856), 87. All subsequent quotes by Lyman are from this source.
4. A Sermon Delivered in the Chapel of the Theol. Seminary, Andover, Feb. 1, 1835, on the Death of Henry Lyman & Samuel Munson, Missionaries, and of Aurelian H. Post, Luke Baker & Chester Lord, All Recent Members of the Seminary. By Leonard Woods, D.D.(Andover: Gould and Newman, 1835), 31. All subsequent quotes from this sermon.
5. William Thompson, Memoirs of the Rev. Samuel Munson, and the Rev. Henry Lyman: Late Missionaries to the Indian Archipelago, with the Journal of Their Exploring Tour (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1839).
6. Henry Lyman, The Martyr of Sumatra: A Memoir of Henry Lyman (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1856).