In northern China, as the 19th Century drew to a close, a more determined resistance to foreign rule finally emerged.
The Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists
Local militia, later known as ‘Boxers’ (who apparently believed certain boxing type techniques gave them special powers), were deployed specifically to attack foreigners and those assisting them.
Authorised by the Empress Dowager, who sent orders into the provinces in June 1900, the Boxers, or literally ‘The Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists’, began to kill missionaries and converts.
Thousands of Chinese Christians, nick-named ‘secondary devils’, were martyred and many foreign missionaries and Christians died. Some put the estimate at near 20,000.[i]
‘I can trust’
Hudson Taylor, nearing the end of his life, was initially protected by staff from hearing the worst of the news, but it became impossible to hide.
In Shanxi, 34 Protestant missionaries and 12 Catholics were beheaded before the Governor. In the Beijing area, 15 of Taylor’s missionaries were killed, two others both single female missionaries were killed while kneeling in prayer.[ii]
During the uprising the China Inland Mission alone lost 58 missionaries and 21 of their children.
When Taylor, frail and ill, and resting in Switzerland, heard, he said ‘I cannot read. I cannot think. I cannot even pray. But I can trust.’
‘They do not regret it now’
Part of the correspondence he received was a letter from the two female missionaries written the very day before they were murdered. After reflecting on the desperate situation they found themselves in, Taylor said, ‘Oh think what it must have been to exchange that murderous mob for the rapture of His presence…They do not regret it now.’[iii]
Indeed there is no reported evidence of a single missionary attempting to recant in the face of execution. None of the CIM correspondence revealed a spirit of revenge. Reports also showed that local converts also stayed true to the faith and didn’t back down in order to save their lives. Some local non-Christian officials also paid with their lives to protect the freedom of religion in their areas.[iv]
Taylor’s last trip to China
In July, Jennie, Taylor’s second wife, finally succumbed to cancer and Taylor decided to make one last trip to China. There, in April 1905, three veteran missionaries from different missionary organisations met and thanked God for lives spent serving Him in China. They prayed and sang hymns together. They had served as missionaries in China a combined total of 156 years.
It was in China at last that he passed away – in the land where he had spent his life sharing the gospel.
Hudson Taylor’s two-volume biography, written by his son and daughter-in-law, ends with the chapter ‘Prayers Yet to be Answered’. I think even they would be thrilled to know that today millions of Chinese are followers of Jesus Christ.
The success of the gospel is not finally dependent on any individual human leader, yet the role an individual plays can be decisive in its advance.
Ultimately the gospel is dependent on the still-living, resurrected Jesus Christ, who was sent by the Father and empowered by the Holy Spirit. The triune God is a God who saves – the dramatic success of Christianity in China, even under the challenges of legislated persecution or atheism, is testimony to that.
For the first post on Hudson Taylor click here
© Church History Blog / Lex Loizides
[i] Roger Steer, J Hudson Taylor, A Man in Christ (OM: Singapore), p.354
[ii] ibid p.355
[iii] ibid p.357
[iv] ibid p.358-9