Until age 14, William Carey later wrote, “I was addicted to swearing, lying, and unchaste conversation; which was heightened by the company of ringers, … foot-ball players, the society of a blacksmith’s shop … and though my father laid the strictest injunctions on me to avoid such company, I always found some way to elude his care.” His father was clerk of the local Church of England parish, so William was required to attend worship. But he said, “of real experimental religion, I scarcely heard anything till l was fourteen years of age.” That’s when he met John Warr, a fellow apprentice cobbler and a devout Dissenter. (“Dissenters” were Baptists, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, and Quakers who renounced certain doctrines and practices of the Church of England.)

Warr shared his books and “radical” ideas with Carey, who, even though a lukewarm Anglican, argued according to the anti-Dissenter prejudices of his day. In their shoeshop debates, Carey nearly always had the last word, though afterward he admitted to feeling “stings of conscience.”

Conscience of a Cheat

Nearly two years into his apprenticeship, when he was 15, those stings became acute. As he delivered goods to various customers in the village, the local ironmonger gave him a shilling as a Christmas gift. When Carey went to buy himself a treat with it, he discovered it was counterfeit. So he exchanged it for a genuine shilling from the money his master, Clarke Nichols, had entrusted him. He would tell his master one of his customers had paid in counterfeit.

Carey later recalled, “I prayed to God to excuse my dishonesty and lying for this once, I would never repeat such an action, but would break off with sin thenceforth. My wickedness prevailed, and I told the falsehood.” ...

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