–William Carey, 1792
“Expect great things; attempt great things,” the quotation attributed to William Carey, has a mixed literary history. Originally spoken in his sermon to the Baptist Association meeting in Nottingham, England, May 30, 1792, at the Friar Lane Baptist Chapel, Carey used the citation to urge his Baptist colleagues to enter the missionary enterprise. Among others, William Finnemore (The Story of a Hundred Years: 1823-1923, Oxford: At the University Press, 1923, p. 14), suggested that the saying formed the twofold division of Carey’s sermon.
The significance and contemporary use of Carey’s proverbial saying continues. For example, on February 20, 2001, The Rev. Dr. George L. Carey (no relation to William Carey), former Archbishop Canterbury, Church of England, urged Nigerian Anglicans to trust in God and to expect great things from God. In addition, numerous educational institutions and churches use Carey’s saying as a motto.
Various forms of the saying appear in the sources, but the most probable form was “Expect great things; attempt great things.” Among others, William Staughton, one of the founding members of the Baptist Missionary Society in 1792, cites Carey’s saying in the short form.
Below are listed the various forms of the saying and the sources:
Expect great things–attempt great things.
“Narrative of the First Establishment of this Society.” Periodical Accounts Relative to A Society, Formed Among The particular Baptists, for Propogating the Gospel Among the Heathen. No. I. In Periodical Accounts Relative to the Baptist Missionary Society. Vol. I. Clipston: Printed by J. W. Morris, 1800, p. 3.
William Staughton, The Baptist Mission in India: Containing a Narrative of Its Rise, Progress, and Present Condition, A Statement of the Physical and Moral Character of the Hindoos, Their Cruelties, Tortures and Burnings, With a Very Interesting Description of Bengal, (Philadelphia: Hellings and Aitken, 1811), Title page (p. i) and Title page Reverse (p. ii).
Miron Winslow, A Sketch of Missions; or History of the Principal Attempts to Propagate Christianity among the Heathen, (Andover, Massachusetts: Flagg and Gould, 1819), pp. 250-251.
John Scott, The Life of the Rev. Thomas Scott, D.D., Rector of Aston Sandford, Bucks; Including a Narrative Drawn Up By Himself, and Copious Extracts of His Letters. Boston: Samuel T. Armstrong and Crocker & Brewster; New York: John P. Haven, 1822, p. 125 [this account states that Andrew Fuller reported this form of the saying to Rev. Thomas Scott].
Christopher Anderson, The Christian Spirit which is essential to the triumph of the kingdom of God; A Discourse Delivered at the Annual General Meeting of the Baptist Missionary Society, In London, 23d June, 1824 (London: B. J. Holdworth, et al., 1824), p. 21.
Eustace Carey and William Yates. Vindication of the Calcutta Baptist Missionaries: In Answer to “A Statement relative to Serampore, by J. Marshman, D.D. with Introductory Observations by John Foster.” London: Wightman & Co. and Parbury, 1828. Title Page 34 35
The Baptist Magazine for 1830. Vol. XXII. London: George Wightman, 1830, (July 1830):311.
“Biographical Sketch of The Rev. William Carey, D.D., Late Principal of Serampore College, Bengal.” The Congregational Magazine, for the Year 1835. (January 1835):3.
John Dyer. “The Rev. Doctor Carey, Professor of Oriental Languages in the College of Fort William, Calcutta, &c, &c.” In The Christian Keepsake, and Missionary Annual. Edited by William Ellis. London, Paris, and America: Fisher, Son, & Co., 1837. Title Page Page 11
“Dr. Marshman” [Obituary]. The Museum of Foreign Literature, Science and Art. Vol. V, New Series. Vol. XXXIII. Edited by Robert Walsh, Eliakim Littell, and John Jay Smith. Philadelphia: E. Littell, & Co., 1838, p. 419; reprint, The Friend of India, December, 1837.
The American Quarterly Register. Conducted by B. B. Edwards and W. Cogswell. Published by the American Education Society. Vol. XI. Boston: Perkins & Marvin, 1839, p. 57.
“The Jubilee.” In The Missionary Herald. No. 36. May 1842. Reprinted in The Baptist Magazine for 1842. Vol. XXXIV. London: Houlston and Stoneman, p. 267.
Rev. Benjamin Godwin. “The Goodness of God Reviewed, and the Hand of God Acknowledged.” In Two Sermons Preached at Kettering on the 31st of May, and the 1st of June, 1842, before the Baptist Missionary Society, Special General Meeting Held in Celebration of the Fiftieth Year; With an Account of the Meeting. London: The Society’s House and Houlston and Stoneman, 1842. Page 3.
Rev. Edward Steane. “The Present Position of the Missionary Enterprise, Contrasted with Its Commencement.” In Two Sermons Preached at Kettering on the 31st of May, and the 1st of June, 1842, before the Baptist Missionary Society, Special General Meeting Held in Celebration of the Fiftieth Year; With an Account of the Meeting. London: The Society’s House and Houlston and Stoneman, 1842. Page 58.
Holmes and Co., The Bengal Obituary, or a Record to Perpetuate the Memory of Departed Worth, Being a Compilation of Tablets and Monumental Inscriptions from Various parts of the Bengal and Agra Presidencies. To which is Added Biographical Sketches and Memoirs of Such as Have Pre-Eminently Distinguished Themselves in the History of British India, since the Formation of the European Settlement to the Present Time (Calcutta: J. Thomas, Baptist Mission Press, 1848), p. 335 and p. 341.
The Primitive Methodist Magazine for the Year of Our Lord 1855. Vol. XIII of the Third Series. Vol. XXXVI from the Commencement. London: Thomas King, , p. 666.
John Clark Marshman, The Life and Times of Carey, Marshman, and Ward Embracing the History of the Serampore Mission, vol. 2 (London: Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans, and Roberts, 1859), 506.
M. J. Knowlton, “The Ningpo Mission and Our Duty.” The Missionary Magazine. XVIII/9 (September 1863):336.
Leighton and Mornay Williams, eds., Serampore Letters, Being the unpublished correspondence of William Carey and others with John Williams, 1800-1816. With an introduction by Thomas Wright. (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1892), p. 9.
Attempt great things; expect great things.
The Latter Day Luminary, by a Committee of the Baptist Board of Foreign Missions, (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Anderson and Meehan, 1818), title page 1.
Francis Wayland (Introductory Essay) in Eustace Carey, Memoir of William Carey, D.D.: Late Missionary to Bengal; Professor of Oriental Languages in the College of Fort William, Calcutta, (Boston: Gould, Kendall and Lincoln, 1836), p. xvii.
Sixteenth Annual Report of the American Tract Society; Presented at New York, May 12, 1841: Showing the Progress of Tract Distribution and Visitation, Volume Circulation, and Foreign Distribution; With Evidences of the Divine Blessing, &c. (New York: Printed at the Society’s House, by Daniel Fanshaw, 1841), p. 6.
Taylor, John (compiler). Biographical and Literary Notices of William Carey, D.D., The English Patriarch of Indian Missions and the First Professor of the Sanskrit and Other Oriental Languages in Indian Missions. Comprising Extracts from Church Books, Autograph MSS., and other Records. Also A List of Interesting Mementoes Connected with Carey. With Bibliographical Lists of Works relating to, or written by Carey; and pertaining to Baptist Missions in the East, etc. And Addenda. Northampton: The Dryden Press, Taylor and Son; London: Alexander and Shepheard, 1886, Title Page; Title Page Enlargement.
Memorial Tablet to Carey from Harvey Lane Baptist Church, Leicester, England, Located in the William Carey Museum, Central Baptist Church, Leicester, England, UNITED KINGDOM
Expect great things from God;[,] attempt great things for God.
Brief Narrative of the Baptist Mission in India: Including an Account of Translations of the Sacred Scriptures into the Various Languages of the East. Fifth edition. London: Sold by Button & Son, 1819, p. 3.
Rev. Thomas Smith. The History and Origin of the Missionary Societies. Vol. I. (London: Thos. Kelly and Richd. Evans, 1824), p. 317.
Anderson, Christopher. A Discourse Occasioned by the Death of the Rev. William Carey, D.D. of Serampore, Bengal, Delivered in Charlotte Chapel, on the Evening of 30th November 1834. 2nd ed. London: Parbury, Allen and Co., J. Nisbet, 1835.
Eustace Carey, Memoir of William Carey, D.D.: Late Missionary to Bengal; Professor of Oriental Languages in the College of Fort William, Calcutta. With an Introductory Essay by Francis Wayland, D.D, President of Brown University, (Boston: Gould, Kendall and Lincoln, 1836), p. 50.
William Cathcart, ed., The Baptist Encyclopedia, 2 Vols., Rev. ed., (Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts, 1883), Vol. I, p. 182.
Arthur C. Chute, William Carey, A Sketch of Beginnings in Modern Missions, Prefatory Note by Rev. E. B. Hulbert, D.D. (Chicago: Goodman & Dickerson, 1891), pp. 24-25.
William Carey University, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, U.S.A.
Carey Baptist College, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.
Jeremiah Chaplin, “An Introductory Essay,” in Eustace Carey, Memoir of William Carey, D.D.: Late Missionary to Bengal; Professor of Oriental Languages in the College of Fort William, Calcutta. With an Introductory Essay by Francis Wayland, D.D, President of Brown University (Hartford: Canfield and Robins, 1837), p. 18.
John Brown Myers, ed., The Centenary Volume of the Baptist Missionary Society 1792-1892 (London: The Baptist Missionary Society, 1892), Title Page.
George Smith, The Life of William Carey, Shoemaker and Missionary, (London: Murray, 1887), ch. 2.
Expect great things from God, and attempt great things for God.
Thomas Armitage, A History of the Baptists; Traced by Their Vital Principles and Practices, from the Time of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to the Year 1886, Introduction by J. L. M. Curry (New York: Bryan, Taylor, & Co., 1887), p. 581.
Attempt Great Things for God and Expect Great Things from God
Marianne Farningham, “The Shoemaker Missionary” [a poem], in Friends’ Review: A Religious, Literary and Miscellaneous Journal, ed. Henry Hartshorne, vol. XL (Philadelphia: Published at 1316 Filbert Street, 1886-1887), p. 607.