Investing in a Bank that cannot fail – Hudson Taylor

A Half Crown from 1845

Hudson Taylor on bringing our needs to God Alone
When we read biographies of some of the Christian leaders of the 19th Century there is a common feature which immediately strikes us: a commitment to pray to God until the answer comes, rather than appeal to men.

The name George Muller immediately comes to mind, but we could also mention Spurgeon and Hudson Taylor.

Getting it from the horse’s mouth
Taylor was seeking to grow in faith, to exercise ‘spiritual muscles’, in preparation for the demands of faith in China. The incident he describes in the following passage is perhaps one of the most famous in his life. I have edited it down somewhat but it is a sheer delight to read it in his own words.

‘I thought to myself, “When I get out to China, I shall have no claim on any one for anything; my only claim will be on God. How important, therefore, to learn before leaving England to move man, through God, by prayer alone.”

At Hull my kind employer, always busily occupied, wished me to remind him whenever my salary became due. This I determined not to do directly, but to ask that God would bring the fact to his recollection, and thus encourage me by answering prayer. At one time, as the day drew near for the payment of a quarter’s salary, I was as usual much in prayer about it. The time arrived, but my kind friend made no allusion to the matter. I continued praying, and days passed on, but he did not remember, until at length, on settling up my weekly accounts one Saturday night, I found myself possessed of only a single coin, one half-crown piece…’

Serving the Poor
‘That Sunday was a very happy one…After attending Divine service in the morning, my afternoons and evenings were filled with Gospel work, in the various lodging-houses I was accustomed to visit in the lowest part of the town…

After concluding my last service about ten o’clock that night, a poor man asked me to go and pray with his wife, saying that she was dying. I readily agreed, and on the way to his house asked him why he had not sent for the priest, as his accent told me he was an Irishman. He had done so, he said, but the priest refused to come without a payment of eighteen pence, which the man did not possess, as the family was starving.’

The dilemma of a single coin
‘Immediately it occurred to my mind that all the money I had in the world was the solitary half-crown [about 2 days’ labourer’s wage in 1860 – worth roughly £120 in 2011], and that it was in one coin; moreover, that while the basin of water gruel I usually took for supper was awaiting me, and there was sufficient in the house for breakfast in the morning, I certainly had nothing for dinner on the coming day.

Somehow or other there was at once a stoppage in the flow of joy in my heart; but instead of reproving myself I began to reprove the poor man, telling him that it was very wrong to have allowed matters to get into such a state as he described, and that he ought to have applied to the relieving officer.

His answer was that he had done so, and was told to come at eleven o’clock the next morning, but that he feared that his wife might not live through the night.

“Ah,” thought I, “if only I had two shillings and a sixpence instead of this half-crown, how gladly would I give these poor people one shilling of it!” But to part with the half-crown was far from my thoughts.

I little dreamed that the real truth of the matter simply was that I could trust in God plus one-and-sixpence, but was not yet prepared to trust Him only, without any money at all in my pocket.’

Into the home of the starving
‘Up a miserable flight of stairs, into a wretched room, he led me; and oh what a sight there presented itself to our eyes!

Four or five poor children stood about, their sunken cheeks and temples all telling unmistakably the story of slow starvation; and lying on a wretched pallet was a poor exhausted mother, with a tiny infant thirty-six hours old, moaning rather than crying at her side, for it too seemed spent and failing.

“Ah!” thought I, “if I had two shillings and a sixpence instead of half-a-crown, how gladly should they have one-and-sixpence of it!” But still a wretched unbelief prevented me from obeying the impulse to relieve their distress at the cost of all I possessed.’

‘You hypocrite!’
‘It will scarcely seem strange that I was unable to say much to comfort these poor people. I needed comfort myself. I began to tell them, however, that they must not be cast down, that though their circumstances were very distressing, there was a kind and loving Father in heaven; but something within me said, “You hypocrite! telling these unconverted people about a kind and loving Father in heaven, and not prepared yourself to trust Him without half-a-crown!”

I was nearly choked. How gladly would I have compromised with conscience if I had had a florin and a sixpence! I would have given the florin thankfully and kept the rest; but I was not yet prepared to trust in God alone, without the sixpence.’

Prayer for the Poor
‘To talk was impossible under these circumstances; yet, strange to say, I thought I should have no difficulty in praying. Prayer was a delightful occupation to me in those days; time thus spent never seemed wearisome, and I knew nothing of lack of words.

I seemed to think that all I should have to do would be to kneel down and engage in prayer, and that relief would come to them and to myself together.

“You asked me to come and pray with your wife,” I said to the man, “let us pray.” And I knelt down.

But scarcely had I opened my lips with “Our Father who art in heaven” than conscience said within, “Dare you mock God? Dare you kneel down and call Him Father with that half-crown in your pocket?”

Such a time of conflict came upon me then as I have never experienced before or since. How I got through that form of prayer I know not, and whether the words uttered were connected or disconnected I cannot tell; but I arose from my knees in great distress of mind.’

Relief – and joy!
‘The poor father turned to me and said, “You see what a terrible state we are in, sir; if you can help us, for God’s sake do!”

Just then the word flashed into my mind, “Give to him that asketh of thee,” and in the word of a King there is power.

I put my hand into my pocket, and slowly drawing forth the half-crown, gave it to the man, telling him that it might seem a small matter for me to relieve them, seeing that I was comparatively well off, but that in parting with that coin I was giving him my all; what I had been trying to tell him was indeed true: God really was a Father, and might be trusted.

The joy all came back in full flood-tide to my heart; I could say anything and feel it then, and the hindrance to blessing was gone; gone, I trust, for ever.’

My life was saved!
‘Not only was the poor woman’s life saved, but I realised that my life was saved too! It might have been a wreck, would have been a wreck probably, as a Christian life, had not grace at that time conquered, and the striving of God’s Spirit been obeyed.

I well remember how that night, as I went home to my lodgings, my heart was as light as my pocket. The lonely, deserted streets resounded with a hymn of praise which I could not restrain.

When I took my basin of gruel before retiring, I would not have exchanged it for a prince’s feast.’

Trusting God to supply – back to prayer
‘I reminded the Lord as I knelt at my bedside of His own Word, that he who giveth to the poor lendeth to the Lord: I asked Him not to let my loan be a long one, or I should have no dinner next day; and with peace within and peace without, I spent a happy, restful night.

Next morning for breakfast my plate of porridge remained, and before it was consumed the postman’s knock was heard at the door.

I was not in the habit of receiving letters on Monday, as my parents and most of my friends refrained from posting on Saturday; so that I was somewhat surprised when the landlady came in holding a letter or packet in her wet hand covered by her apron.’

A letter from Heaven
‘I looked at the letter, but could not make out the handwriting. It was either a strange hand or a feigned one, and the postmark was blurred. Where it came from I could not tell.

On opening the envelope I found nothing written within; but inside a sheet of blank paper was folded a pair of kid gloves, from which, as I opened them in astonishment, half-a-sovereign [ = 120d. A half crown = 30d] fell to the ground.

“Praise the Lord!” I exclaimed; “400 per cent for twelve hours investment; that is good interest. How glad the merchants of Hull would be if they could lend their money at such a rate!”

Investing in the Bank which cannot fail
‘I then and there determined that a bank which could not break should have my savings or earnings as the case might be, a determination I have not yet learned to regret.

I cannot tell you how often my mind has recurred to this incident, or all the help it has been to me in circumstances of difficulty in after-life.

If we are faithful to God in little things, we shall gain experience and strength that will be helpful to us in the more serious trials of life.’[i]

For the first part in the Hudson Taylor story click here

For the next part in the Hudson Taylor story click here

© 2011 Church History / Lex Loizides


[i] A Retrospect, Hudson Taylor, from Chapter 3, Bethany House, p.22-27

Photo of Half Crown from here

Hudson Taylor on Tithing, the Millenium and Possessions

In his later teenage years Hudson Taylor became a medical assistant in Hull. He was certain that God had called him to take the Christian message to China and was preparing himself for his life’s work.

He had already forsaken various comforts in order to develop a more robust and flexible lifestyle, which he felt would equip him for future unknown hardships.

Tithing
Whilst in Hull he began to consider the issue of tithing. Tithing is the practice of giving the first 10% of one’s income to the local church. Christians don’t do this in order to earn their salvation from God but as a response to His grace, as an expression of trust and as an acknowledgement of their dependence upon Him as the ultimate provider.

But Taylor had a dilemma. He received two amounts of income. The first was essentially his salary as a medical assistant. The second was an amount for board and lodging – the exact amount. Taylor personally felt that this, too, was income and should be tithed. He therefore left the more comfortable arrangement that had been made for him and took a cheaper place specifically that he might tithe the amount.

This may seem like nit-picking to us but for Taylor it was a significant test of whether he was able to trust God fully and be responsible with the funds he received – right down to the penny. In his ‘Retrospect’ he obviously wants to communicate to potential donors that he is trustworthy, and that this had been part of his training.

By watching his spending carefully he found that he was able to give more away that he had at first thought possible.

The Reign of Christ breaks the power of greed
At a fairly early point in his theological study Taylor came to believe in the premillenial reign of Christ – the idea that when Christ returns He will reign for a period of time, on this earth, in history (ie, before the eradication of sin) and prior to the Day of Judgement (the primary passage referred to by those who hold this view is in Revelation 20).

Taylor said that this teaching, rather than cause him to speculate on when Christ might return, breathed into his spirit a readiness and an eagerness for Christ’s return that infused him with energy for service.

It also drew his affections heavenward and freed him from materialism. ‘The effect of this hope was a thoroughly practical one.’ He went through his possessions selecting books and clothes which he could give away, to benefit others. This was a practice he kept up throughout his life.

He began to purchase fewer ‘luxurious’ goods. ‘My experience was that the less I spent on myself and the more I gave away, the fuller of happiness and blessing did my soul become.’[i]

This drive towards self-denial and generosity did not lead to a harshness or meanness of spirit in him, but rather to joy – because one day Christ would come and rule.

And all this was preparation for the mission – to take the gospel to China.

For the next part in the Hudson Taylor Story click here
For the first part in the Hudson Taylor Story click here

© 2011 Church History / Lex Loizides


[i] Retrospect (To China With Love), Bethany, p.21

The Private Preparation of a World Changer

Hull, in the 1800's, where Hudson Taylor studied

CH Spurgeon, the great evangelistic pastor of the 19th Century once said, ‘Fervent lovers of souls do not wait till they are trained, they serve their Lord at once.’[i]

Hudson Taylor was no exception to this rule of Christian leadership and immediately began sharing the gospel with those around him.

He had already become convinced that China was the place where he would, at some future point, serve God. He therefore began a process of self-discipline that, frankly, ought to challenge every potential Christian leader today.

Taylor’s own testimony of his late teenage years, is rich with instruction – honouring parents, trusting God, being open to correction, personal integrity, diligent study and a willingness to serve.

The Crucial Role of Parenting in the Global Mission
His parents, also, were parenting in faith. They could have discouraged his desire to leave England. After all, it is possible to serve God in England! They could have discouraged him from a ministerial career. After all, you can serve God and take up a regular profession!

Did the mother that prayed so earnestly for her precious son trust the wisdom of God in taking him so far away? This would require faith, pure and undefiled.

Taylor writes, ‘My beloved parents neither discouraged nor encouraged my desire to engage in missionary work. They advised me to use all the means in my power to develop the resources of body, mind, heart, and soul, and to wait prayerfully upon God, quite willing, should He show me that I was mistaken, to follow His guidance, or to go forward if in due time He should open the way to missionary service.’

‘Take my feather bed away!’
He continues, ‘The importance of this advice I have often since had occasion to prove. I began to take more exercise in the open air to strengthen my physique.

My feather bed I had taken away, and sought to dispense with as many other home comforts as I could, in order to prepare myself for rougher lines of life.’

Giving out tracts, visiting the poor
‘I began also to do what Christian work was in my power, in the way of tract distribution, Sunday-school teaching, and visiting the poor and sick, as opportunity afforded.’

Practical Training
‘After a time of preparatory study at home, I went to Hull for medical and surgical training. There I became assistant to a doctor who was connected with the Hull school of medicine, and was surgeon also to a number of factories, which brought many accident cases to our dispensary, and gave me the opportunity of seeing and practising the minor operations of surgery.’[ii]

But Taylor’s self-imposed preparation for service was not limited to the physical and intellectual arena. He knew he must grow in faith. And he, therefore, began to exercise his faith in the area of giving and trusting God for money.

For the next post in the Hudson Taylor Story click here

For the first part in the Hudson Taylor Story click here

Picture from A Personal History of Hull

© 2011 Church History / Lex Loizides


[i] Lectures to My Students on the Art of Preaching, Marshall and Pickering, p.36

[ii] From A Retrospect, later published as ‘To China with Love’, Bethany House, p.16-17

The First Steps Towards Mission

Getting alone with God

The young Hudson Taylor, newly converted, began to feel, as all new believers do, the desire to serve God in some practical way.

Finding that he had a spare afternoon, young Hudson decided to spend it in prayer. That is an immediate challenge to any young man today, who might, instead, spend the afternoon on the PlayStation or with friends at the mall. Who spends a whole afternoon in prayer?

Even those who are committed to the idea of mission may find that their initial impulse is not necessarily Godward. Research is good, valuable, helpful. Planning is critical. Advice from key leaders, seasoned professionals, may prove foundational. But, if you are seeking to impact a town or region with the gospel then let Hudson Taylor’s first lesson speak to you.

If you’re going to be a leader you need to turn aside and spend time with God. Did this simple spiritual truth get quietly relegated to the second division while the Premiership players published their runaway bestsellers?  Hudson Taylor’s testimony could strike us as simplistic. Well, let’s risk it…

HT: ‘Well do I remember that occasion. How in the gladness of my heart I poured out my soul before God; and again and again confessing my grateful love to Him who had done everything for me – who had saved me when I had given up all hope and even desire for salvation…’

‘Some self-denying Service
He continues, ‘I besought Him to give me some work to do for Him, as an outlet for love and gratitude; some self-denying service, no matter what it might be, however trying or however trivial; something with which He would be pleased, and that I might do for Him who had done so much for me.

Well do I remember, as an unreserved consecration I put myself, my life, my friends, my all, upon the altar, the deep solemnity that came over my soul with the assurance that my offering was accepted.

The presence of God became unutterably real and blessed…I remember stretching myself on the ground, and lying there silent before Him with unspeakable awe and unspeakable joy.’

‘I was no longer my own
HT: ‘For what service I was accepted I knew not; but a deep consciousness that I was no longer my own took possession of me, which has never been effaced [has never been erased, has never faded].’

Speaking of an exciting opportunity to become an apprentice to a medical doctor a couple of years later he wrote of how he felt it would take him off course in terms of his calling to serve God: ‘I felt I dared not accept any binding engagement such as was suggested.

‘I was not my own to give myself away; for I knew not when or how He whose alone I was, and for whose disposal I felt I must ever keep myself free, might call for service.

‘Within a few months of this time of consecration the impression was wrought into my soul that it was in China the Lord wanted me…’[i]

To read the next part of the Hudson Taylor story click here

For the first part in the Hudson Taylor Story click here

© 2011 Church History / Lex Loizides


[i] All quotes from James Hudson Taylor, A Retrospect. Also published as ‘To China with Love’ (Bethany House, Minneapolis)

The Power of Prayer in the Conversion of Souls

James Hudson Taylor in 1865

A Heritage of Faith
James Hudson Taylor was born in 1832 and died when the Welsh Revival of 1904 was one year old.

His story is one of prayer, or perseverance, of faith and of suffering. His story is one of radical obedience to Christ’s Commission to take the gospel to the world.

Hudson Taylor was a Yorkshireman, born in Barnsley. He was the son of evangelical Methodists and his family enjoyed the privilege of having hosted John Wesley, the great Methodist Evangelist, in 1786.

The story of his great grandparents looking after Wesley and then hearing him preach to a great congregation had been told and retold many times.

HT’s father was fascinated with China. He was a highly respected Chemist who also treated patients in a consulting room behind the store. But the passion he instilled into his children was centred on China. He had actually prayed, ‘Lord, if you give us a son, grant that he may work for You in China!’

His prayer was answered spectacularly.

A teenager’s apathy and a mother’s love
As a ‘teenager’ HT began to question the faith of his family. He wasn’t so sure that the daily Bible readings which his father led, were so necessary. He began to be sceptical.

But his mother began to pray, fervently and passionately.

One day in June 1849, the bored 17yr old began looking around for something to read. He casually looked through his father’s bookshelves when a tract caught his eye.

He knew what it was, and decided that he’d read the story part (which he assumed would be at the beginning of the tract) and skim read over the ‘moral of the story’ and probably a mini sermon at the end.

What he didn’t know was that his mother had also found herself at a loose end while she was in another town, and began praying fervently for his conversion. She began to get a conviction in prayer that she should pray on until she knew she had the answer from God.

In Praise of Tracts!
‘Let me tell you how God answered the prayers of my dear mother for my conversion!’ Hudson wrote in his book ‘Retrospect’

‘In the afternoon I looked through my father’s library to find some book with which to while away the unoccupied hours. Nothing attracting me, I turned over a little basket of pamphlets and selected from among them a Gospel tract which looked interesting, saying to myself, ‘There will be a story at the beginning , and a sermon or moral at the close: I will take the former and leave the latter for those who like it.’

I sat down to read the little book in an utterly unconcerned state of mind, believing indeed that I there were any salvation it was not for me…’

Little did I know at the same time what was going on in the heart of my dear mother, seventy or eighty miles away.

The Power of Prayer
She [had] an intense yearning for the conversion of her boy…She went to her room and turned the key in the door, resolved not to leave that spot until her prayers were answered.

Hour after hour did that dear mother plead for me, until at length she could pray no longer, but was constrained to praise God for that which His Spirit taught her had already been accomplished – the conversion of her only son.

I, in the meantime, while reading the tract, was struck with the sentence ‘the finished work of Christ.’

Why does the author use this expression? Why not say ‘the atoning work of Christ’?

Immediately the words, ‘It is finished!’ suggested themselves to my mind [these were words spoken by Jesus when he was on the cross – John 19:30]. What was finished?

And I at once replied: ‘A full and perfect atonement and satisfaction for sin: the debt was paid…Christ died for our sins!’

Then came the thought, ‘If the whole work was finished and the whole debt paid, what is there left for me to do?’

The finished work of Christ applied by the Holy Spirit
And with this dawned the joyful conviction, as light was flashed into my soul by the Holy Spirit, that there was nothing in the world to be done but to fall down on one’s knees, and accepting this Saviour and His salvation, to praise Him forever more!

Thus while my dear mother was praising God on her knees in her chamber, I was praising Him in the old warehouse to which I had gone alone to read this little book at my leisure.

When our dear mother came home a fortnight later, I was the first to meet her at the door, and to tell her I had such glad news to give.

I can almost feel that dear mother’s arms around my neck, as she pressed me to her bosom and said, ‘I know, my boy; I have been rejoicing for a fortnight in the glad tidings you have to tell me!’

My mother assured me that it was not from any human source that she had learned the tidings…

You will agree with me that it would be strange indeed if I were not a believer in the power of prayer.’[i]

To read the first part of the Hudson Taylor Story click here

To read the next part of the Hudson Taylor Story, the first steps towards the mission in China, click here

Personal Tracts

Tracts can still be incredibly powerful – and you don’t have to purchase an old fashioned one with dull graphics. You can easily write your own. Click here for more details.

© 2011 Church History / Lex Loizides


[i] From To China with Love, Hudson Taylor, Bethany House, p.10-13

Introducing Hudson Taylor…

The young Hudson Taylor

It was said of him:

‘No other missionary in the nineteen centuries since the Apostle Paul has had a wider vision and has carried out a more systematised plan of evangelising a broad geographical area than Hudson Taylor.’[i]

Hudson Taylor’s story is one of the most exciting and challenging in church history.

Oh not another rule breaker!
At first he was frowned upon by his fellow Europeans because when he arrived in China he was neither an ordained minister nor even a qualified doctor. He was looked down upon by the qualified missionaries as an upstart, almost an imposter – relying merely upon a supposed call from God.

He made it worse! When he adopted Chinese clothing and insisted on his fellow workers doing the same he became the laughing stock of the Shanghai missionary community.

But he persevered and soon, by faithful prayer and faithful preaching, he won converts and ‘mission stations’ (prototype church plant communities) were gradually established across China.

Wisdom (+faith+perseverance) vindicated
Before too long, Hudson Taylor’s organization, ‘The China inland Mission’, was the single most productive movement for evangelisation in Chinese history.

We are going to spend a little time examining certain aspects of Taylor’s life and ministry. Much has been written about him and his work and I trust we will be inspired to ‘imitate his faith’ in our own contexts.

To read the next part of the Hudson Taylor Story click here

© 2011 Church History / Lex Loizides


[i] Ruth Tucker, From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, Zondervan p.173

Dying to Serve

Dying to Serve Others

Alexander Mackay

Scottish missionary Alexander Mackay came to Africa in 1876.

He had been trained as an engineer at the University of Edinburgh, and later in Berlin, but felt the call of God to preach the gospel and to share the message of Christ in Africa.

Ruth Tucker, in her biographical history of missions, From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, states that Mackay (and seven others) came here in response to a request from King Mtesa of Uganda, who had asked for missionaries.

Mackay successfully influenced King Mtesa to stop providing his people as slaves to the Arab slave trade, which made him a direct target for both threats and numerous actual attempts on his life.

But Mackay worked hard on a translation of the Bible and on preaching the gospel. He was finally able to baptise new converts in 1882 and the church grew to 86 members. These numbers sound almost silly by comparison to the huge numbers who now make up the Christian Church in Africa. But Mackay and those like him were the pioneers – and not without cost.

Sacrifice
When Mackay and the other missionaries prepared to leave England in 1875 he had declared:

‘I want to remind the committee that within six months they will probably hear that some one of us is dead.  Yes, is it at all likely that eight Englishmen should start for central Africa and all be alive six months after?  One of us at least – it may be I – will surely fall before that.  When the news comes, do not be cast down, but send someone else immediately to take the vacant place.’ [i]

He was right. Five of them died within the first year. By the end of the second year in Uganda Mackay was left alone. All of them gave their lives for Africa.

Mackay himself was deported from Uganda by King Mwanga, who was far more resistant to Christian influence than Mtesa. He moved to Tanganyika.

He had pioneered, laid the foundations for future church growth, and served the purpose of God in his generation. In 1890 he, like his companions before him, caught Malaria and, tragically, died. He was 40.

‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.’ Jesus (John 12:24)

Africa Today

© 2011 Church History / Lex Loizides


[i] Quoted by Tucker, From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, Zondervan, p.157