Ralph Winter, the renowned missiologist wrote of J Hudson Taylor:
‘God honoured him because his gaze was fixed upon the world’s least-reached peoples…
The China Inland Mission – the most co-operative servant organisation yet to appear – eventually served in one way or another over 6000 missionaries, predominantly in the interior of China.’ [i]
Other great missionaries also sought to encourage the Chinese to accept the ancient faith of the Christians like the radical (if rather impulsive) C.T. Studd and the appropriately named Canadian Jonathan Goforth. Goforthsaw awakenings and revivals in the villages, and helped train and release many local Chinese leaders.
Roger Steer adds a personal note, ‘Just after Taylor died, a young Chinese evangelist looked upon his body and summed up Taylor’s most important legacy: “Dear and venerable pastor, we too are your little children. You opened for us the road to heaven. We do not want to bring you back, but we will follow you.” ‘[ii]
Today, China is arguably experiencing the greatest revival of church history. Reports from several sources describe hundreds of thousands coming to Christ with amazing miracles, signs and wonders along with persecution (Here are recent news item from the BBC, Fox News).
The so called ‘house churches’ in China seem unstoppable, even in the face of terrible cruelties and reports of human rights abuses on the part of the authorities.
News of very young leaders planting huge churches and very old women evangelising thousands reach us constantly and many of those from our churches who have visited the underground church leadership have been lastingly changed.
The estimates of those converted to the Christian faith in the last few decades range from between 75 and 100 million converts. The Guardian Newspaper in the UK ran an article that predicted that within 30 years China’s Christians will number no less than 400 million.
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.
China’s Millions 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.
By all means, save some!
From time to time, as church leaders, our hopes for a sudden gain in church growth are raised by news of a fresh and creative initiative. Whether this is a specific evangelistic strategy or whether it’s in connection with church management our response is often similar: We do the research, hear the testimonies, read the materials, pray and prepare to launch into new territory which we hope will yield better results.
None of this is wrong, of course. In fact, we ought to be on our toes for spotting effective means of communicating the gospel message. We must keep imagining and learning and trying all that we can, that ‘by all means we might save some.’ (1 Cor 9:22)
But in all of this we need to remember that this is a life’s work. We are not just jumping from project to project – we are living all of life in the context of God’s mission to reconcile the world to Himself through Christ; all of life and for the duration of our life.
And this is where Hudson Taylor’s example of perseverance can encourage us. By the time of these events he had been serving in China nearly 40 years.
Christians worship a pig! In the early 1890s leaflets were distributed throughout Hunan Province that misrepresented the CIM and other missionary organisations working in China:
‘Missionaries are the frontline troops of western nations in their designs on China; they use magic powers to corrupt the Chinese; they extract unborn children from their mothers’ wombs and scoop out the eyes of the dead to make silver;
Jesus debauched the women of Judea and was put to death for violating the king’s harem;
Christians worship a pig and refuse to honour heaven, earth, the sun, moon, stars, ancestors and the sages.’[i]
As a result of the publication of these leaflets, and the growing resentment of colonial rule, several missionaries lost their lives, and most were living in real danger.
Taylor wrote, ‘We are continually encouraging our converts to brave persecution and to suffer loss for Christ’s sake, and they are apt to think that it is easy for us to speak in this way, seeing that, as far as they can tell, we are well-off and exposed to no danger or loss.
When, therefore, we are in danger they will mark our conduct very closely, and judge for themselves how far we really believe…Years of teaching would not impress them as our conduct at such times may do.’[ii]
Slow Progress and our response to it Like Taylor’s men and women, we also battle misunderstanding as to our purpose or motive. And, just like Taylor’s troops, we also wrestle with slow progress.
We are heartened by bursts of growth and by news of growth in other situations but we must hold steady and persevere in order to build the church in a spiritually bewildered culture.
Writing back in March 1892, Hudson Taylor, after 38 years of hard work, said, ‘The supreme want of all missions in the present day is the manifested presence of the Holy Ghost.
Hundreds of thousands of tracts and portions of Scripture have been put into circulation; thousands of gospel addresses have been given; tens of thousands of miles have been traversed in missionary journeys but how small has been the issue in the way of definite conversions!
We…have much need to humble ourselves before God…’
Seeking the power of the Holy Spirit ‘Few of us, perhaps, are satisfied with the results of our work, and some may think that if we had more, or more costly machinery we should do better. But oh, I feel it is divine power we want…!
Should we not do well, rather, to suspend our present operations and give ourselves to humiliation and prayer for nothing less that to be filled with the Spirit, and made channels through which He shall work with resistless power?
Souls are perishing now for lack of this power!’[iii]
Sure enough, the following month, instead of the normal business meeting of the directors of the Chinese operation, the minutes recorded: ‘Instead of meeting for conference, the China Council united with the members of the mission in Shanghai in seeking for themselves, the whole mission in China and the Home Councils, the filling of the Holy Spirit.’[iv]
Soon after, news was spread of the power of God working in a new way amongst them.
Let’s learn from history – in order to persevere in the mission we are on, we need encounters with God, to be both humbled and empowered by the Spirit of God.
We never graduate from this…this is our life’s work.
For the first part of the Hudson Taylor story click here
Not defeated by suffering By the time Hudson Taylor was in his fifties, he had suffered through and emerged from some of life’s harshest tests.
He had established one of the world’s greatest missionary agencies, without denominational backing. He had pressed into the interior of China, something the other evangelism agencies were reluctant to do at the time. He had suffered the loss of several of his children and the wife of his youth, Maria.
He had escaped a violent mob assault against their home – with thousands gathering and several looting their belongings and physically assaulting him and his family, because of the false rumour that these ‘foreign devils’ were boiling and eating children. He had survived serious illness several times. Yet his was a buoyant faith.
You don’t need great faith – but faith in a great God! On the 26th May 1887 the 21st anniversary meeting of the CIM was held in the UK, with Hudson Taylor present with a fresh challenge to see 100 new missionaries sent to China that year.
In a speech laden with tweetable quotes, Taylor said:
‘People say, ‘Lord increase our faith!’ Did not our Lord rebuke His disciples for that prayer? It is not great faith you need, He said in effect, but faith in a great God.
We need a faith that rests on a great God, and expects Him to keep His own word and to do just as He has promised.
Now we have been led to pray for a hundred new workers this year. We have the sure word, ‘Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.’
We began the matter aright, with God, and we are quite sure that we shall end it aright. It is a great joy to know that 31 of the Hundred are already in China…Whether He will give His ‘exceeding abundantly’ by sending us more than a literal hundred, or whether by stirring up other branches of the Church to send many hundreds…or by awakening missionary enthusiasm all over the Church and blessing the whole world through it, I don’t know…
Keep God before you! [but] I do want you, dear friends, to realize this principle of working with God and asking Him for everything. If the work is at the command of God, then we can go to Him in full confidence for workers; and when God gives the workers, we can go to Him for means to supply their needs.
We always accept a suitable worker, whether we have funds or not. Then we often say, ‘Now, dear friend, your first work will be to join us in praying for money to send you to China.’
As soon as there is money enough, the time of the year and other circumstances being suitable, the friend goes out.
We don’t wait until there is a remittance in hand to give him when he gets there.
The Lord will provide in the meanwhile, and the money will be wired to China in time to supply his wants.
Let us see to it that we keep God before our eyes; that we walk in His ways, and seek to please and glorify Him in everything, great and small.
Depend upon it, God’s work, done in God’s way, will never lack God’s supplies.
God’s Church: A fully supplied, strong, healthy, happy people The Lord’s will is that His people should be an unburdened people, fully supplied, strong, healthy and happy.
Shall we not determine to be ‘[anxious] for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving’ bring those things that would become burdens and anxieties to God in prayer, and live in perfect peace?
I have not known what anxiety is since the Lord taught me that the work is His.
As the work of The China Inland Mission increased, Hudson Taylor needed more men and women to go inland, to towns and villages as yet totally unreached by the gospel.
Back in England, William Berger, Taylor’s friend and the Mission’s first Director, was engaged in the process of interviewing new candidates. He asked Taylor for clarification.
Taylor’s challenging and forceful response reads more like a call for revolutionaries than a job description:
A Different Kind of Christian Mission ‘We, as a mission, differ from all the other missions. As soon as some persons arrive here they find a sufficient answer to carry every question in, “the American missionaries so this, or the [Anglican] Church missionaries do that; why can’t we?”
The missionaries of almost all the societies have better houses, finer furniture, more European fare than we have or are likely to have.
But [critically important to Taylor], there is not one ofthem settled in the interior among the people.
Unless persons are prepared to stand alone – separate from these societies and those who imitate them – they should never join our mission at all…Let them know, too, beforehand, that if they are hearty, loyal members of this mission, they may expect the sneers and even opposition of good, godly men.
Into the interior – into indigenous culture ‘I only desire the help of such persons as are fully prepared to work in the interior, in the native costume, and living, as far as possible in the native style.
I do not contemplate assisting, in future, any who may cease to labour in this way. China is open to all but my time and strength are too short, and the work too great to allow of my attempting to work with any who do not agree with me in the main on my plans of action…
Not for quiet, ease-loving types… China is not to be won for Christ by quiet, ease-loving men and women…The stamp of men and women we need is such as will put Jesus, China, souls, first and foremost in everything and at every time – even life itself must be secondary…Of such men and women, do not fear to send us too many. They are more precious than rubies.’[i]
For the next part of Hudson Taylor’s Story, and his dramatic statement of faith click here
For the first part in the Hudson Taylor Story click here
The Gardener came and plucked a rose… How one family handled the cost of missions
In 1858 Hudson Taylor, after some difficulty, secured the hand of Maria Jane Dyer in marriage.
In 1859, their first child, Grace, was born, to the delight of both parents. Hers was a happy childhood and she enjoyed the affection of her doting father.
Born and raised in China, she was the firstborn of their missionary lives, followed by other siblings.
When she was eight years old, while her father was away ministering, she seemed unwell. She deteriorated quickly and became incoherent.
Taylor was called and was shocked to discover how unwell she really was. It looked very serious indeed and he feared the worst. She had meningitis.
Roger Steer, in his brilliantly written, ‘J Hudson Taylor, A Man in Christ’ writes,
‘Mary Bell [one of the female missionaries accompanying the Taylors] helped with the nursing and reported that Taylor “was so broken hearted he cried most of the day.”
‘I think Jesus is going to take you’
“There’s no hope of Gracie recovering,” he told Maria. They commended her to God and pleaded with Him to do the best for her and for them.
Back at her bedside, he said to Grace, “I think Jesus is going to take you to Himself. You are not afraid to trust yourself with Him, are you?”
“No papa,” came the reply.
A Father’s Agony
Next day, Hudson wrote to William Berger, “Beloved Brother – I know not how to write to you, not how to refrain…I am striving to write a few lines from the side of a couch on which my darling little Gracie lies dying…
Dear Brother, our heart and our flesh fail but God is the strength of our heart…It was no vain nor unintelligent act, when knowing the land, its people and climate, I laid my dear wife and the darling children with myself on the altar for this service.’
Four days later, Grace showed signs of pneumonia.
On Friday evening, August 23, the Taylor family and those closest to them gathered around Grace’s bed. Hudson began one hymn after another, though at times his voice failed…At twenty to nine Maria’s breathing stopped.
‘How I miss her sweet voice in the morning!’
“Our dear little Gracie!” wrote Hudson later. “How I miss her sweet voice in the morning, one of the first sounds to greet us when we woke – and through the day and at eventide!
As I take the walks I used to take with her tripping at my side, the thought comes anew like a throb of agony, ‘Is it possible that I shall nevermore feel the pressure of that little hand, nevermore hear the sweet prattle of those dear lips, nevermore see the sparkle of those bright eyes?’
And yet she is not lost…The Gardener came and plucked a rose…’
After a short while in China, Hudson Taylor met someone who had a huge impact on him and helped further shape his own ministry.
A Bright New Star Arrives on the Christian Scene
By today’s standards, the Scotsman William Burns could have been as great a celebrity as any successful leader. He could have published extensively, taken speaking engagements across Britain and America. He had, after all, just witnessed a mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Sensing his own call to take the gospel to the nations, Burns had considered India as well as China but had suddenly been offered the opportunity – as his first ministerial assignment – to preach in Dundee for Robert Murray M’Cheyne.
M’Cheyne was already well known in Scotland and had gathered a large congregation. Humanly speaking it would be fairly tough to match his standard of leadership. For Burns, this was his first regular preaching assignment – but something unusual happened!
Holy Spirit Revival!
Undeterred by a possible nonresponsive Scottish reserve, Burns had prayed for and now preached for conversion, trusting God for the power of the Holy Spirit![i]
The meetings went well, and returning for a meeting in his home town of Kilsyth, he preached there and the power of God fell. He describes the scene:
[I began] ‘to plead with the unconverted before me instantly to close with God’s offers of mercy, and continued to do so until the power of the Lord’s Spirit became so mighty upon their souls as to carry all before it, like the rushing mighty wind of Pentecost !
During the whole of the time that I was speaking, the people listened with the most riveted and solemn attention, and with many silent tears and inward groanings of the spirit;
but at the last their feelings became too strong for all ordinary restraints, and broke forth simultaneously in weeping and wailing, tears and groans, intermingled with shouts of joy and praise from some of the people of God.’[ii]
Returning to Dundee, at the regular Thursday evening prayer meeting, he told the congregation news of the outpouring he had just witnessed.
The Holy Spirit was poured out once again and every night for four months meetings were held and thousands felt the impact. One biographer says ‘the whole city was moved as family after family were converted![iii]
The Relative Obscurity of Faithfulness
Following such a hugely successful season of evangelistic preaching we might have expected Burns to redirect his steps and stay in the UK. However, he followed through with his conviction, left Scotland, and became an obscure missionary to China where he spent the rest of his life.
What a great encouragement he was to Hudson Taylor, as was Taylor to him. Burns followed Taylor’s example of adopting Chinese rather than European dress.
But what a lesson for us – in a day when publishers and people so love the celebrity status of our leaders, to observe one of the most highly gifted Christian leaders move out of the publishing spotlight into years of humble ‘unseen’ service for those who don’t know Christ.
To read the next part of the Hudson Taylor Story click here
For the first part of the Hudson Taylor Story click here
Sometimes people are heartless, cruel, self-centred. We are rightly shocked by blatant selfishness and disregard for others.
During his first stay in China Hudson Taylor had numerous evangelistic interactions with locals. He learnt the language, gave out New Testaments and many tracts and sought to communicate the amazing love of God in Jesus Christ.
But one moment of high drama in his travels caught my attention many years ago and I trust this account of it will have a significant impact on your own life:
The Boat Journey
Writing in his ‘Retrospect’ Taylor describes a journey towards the city of Sungkiang, about 30 miles from Shanghai.
‘Among the passengers on board the boat was one intelligent man, who in the course of his travels had been a good deal abroad, and had even visited England, where he went by the name of Peter.
As might be expected he had heard something of the gospel, but had never experienced its saving power. On the previous evening I had drawn him into an earnest conversation about his soul’s salvation. The man listened with attention, and was even moved to tears, but still no definite result was apparent.
I was pleased, therefore, when he asked to be allowed to accompany me, and to hear me preach.’
A Sudden Splash
‘I went into the cabin of the boat to prepare tracts and books for distribution on landing with my Chinese friend, when suddenly I was startled by a splash and a cry from outside.
I sprang on deck and took in the situation at a glance. Peter was gone! The other men were all there, on board, looking helplessly at the spot where he had disappeared, but making no effort to save him.
A strong wind was carrying us rapidly forward in spite of a steady current in the opposite direction, and the low-lying, shrubless shore afforded no landmark to indicate how far we had left the drowning man behind.
A drag net
I instantly let down the sail and leaped overboard in the hope of finding him. Unsuccessful, I looked around in agonising suspense, and saw close to me a fishing boat with a peculiar drag net furnished with hooks, which I knew would bring him up.
“Come!”, I cried, as hope revived in my heart. “Come and drag over this spot directly; a man is drowning just here!”
“Veh bin” (it is not convenient), was the answer.
“Don’t talk of convenience!” I cried in agony, “a man is drowning I tell you!!”
“We are busy fishing,” they responded, “and cannot come.”
“Never mind your fishing,” I said, “I will give you more money than many day’s fishing will bring; only come! Come at once!”
“How much money will you give us?”
“We cannot stay to discuss that now! Come, or it will be too late. I will give you five dollars.” (A lot of money).
“We won’t do it for that!” replied the men. “Give us twenty dollars, and we will drag the net.”
“I do not possess so much; do come quickly, and I will give you all that I have!”
“How much may that be?”
“I don’t know exactly, about fourteen dollars.”
At last, but even then slowly enough, the boat was paddled over, and the net let down. Less than a minute sufficed to bring up the body of the missing man.
The fishermen were clamorous and indignant because their exorbitant demand was delayed while efforts at resuscitation were being made. But all was in vain – his life was gone!
Were not those fishermen actually guilty of this poor Chinaman’s death, in that they had the means of saving him at hand, if they would have used them?
Assuredly, they were guilty. And yet, let us pause before we pronounce judgement against them, lest a greater than Nathan answer, “Thou art the man!”
Is it so hard-hearted, so wicked a thing to neglect to save the body? Of how much sorer punishment, then, is he worthy who leaves the soul to perish, and Cain-like says, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
‘The Lord Jesus commands, commands me, commands you, into all the world to preach the gospel to every creature.
Shall we say to Him, “No! It is not convenient!”? Shall we tell Him that we are busy fishing and cannot go? That we have purchased five oxen, or have married, or are engaged in other and more interesting pursuits, and cannot go?
Before long we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body.
Let us consider who it is that said,
‘Deliver those who are being taken away to death,
And those who are staggering to slaughter,
O hold them back!
If you say, “But we did not know this!”
Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts?
And does He not know it who keeps your soul?
And will He not render to man according to his works?’
Taylor’s challenge to us should shake us to the core. While so many are bemoaning this or that evangelistic method, and often leaving the churches even less confident than before, we ought to examine everything with a clear eye on the goal to go and speak to our communities.
Really though, how many times have we hesitated to share the gospel because ‘it is not convenient’? Let’s make a decision to change…
To read the next part of the Hudson Taylor story click here
To read the first part of the Hudson Taylor story click here
On March 1 1854, after six months at sea, Hudson Taylor arrived in China.
I had the benefit of remembering this fact as I was shooting lightning speed BlackBerry messages to a colleague who was appalled that the SAA plane I was sitting on didn’t have any personal inflight entertainment.
We had been hoping for the oft-promised replacement plane from SAA and he had begun to call this particular plane (which I’ve flown on innumerable times) ‘The Dog’!
I do, of course, understand the difference – I was taking a long-haul flight for a three day ministry trip; missionaries of the 18th and 19th centuries were going for years, and possibly for life. I also know that a modern plane, even one that is about to be replaced, isn’t really worthy of the name ‘The Dog’.
But if the six months of sea travel was expected, what wasn’t was the fact that there was no provision waiting for him by the missionary society with which he was associated.
No welcome, no provision, no money
The Chinese Evangelisation Society, destined to be surpassed by Taylor’s own China Inland Mission, were good on vision but not so good on provision!
Roger Steer writes that there was ‘Nothing from the CES: no money, no credit notes, no guidance, no instructions.’[i]
Nevertheless the missionaries that Hudson met were friendly and helpful, offering both advice (to learn Mandarin rather than the dialect only spoken around Shangai) and accommodation until the CES got organised.
Out on a limb
‘The other missionaries,’ writes Steer, in Shanghai were all highly educated and connected with either the Anglican church or large and well established missionary societies.
Taylor was connected with no particular denomination and had been sent out hurriedly by the CES before his medical course was finished…
The CES had adopted a strategy which the practical men already working in China regarded as absurd. Some of them openly ridiculed the CES and its journal, The Gleaner.’[ii]
This is not the kind of information you want to learn once you’ve arrived…miles and miles away from home.
To read the next post in the Hudson Taylor Story click here
To read the first post in the Hudson Taylor Story click here
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.’
‘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
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.
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
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.’
‘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
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
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
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.
‘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
We have seen how John Calvin was not passive about the Great Commission.
Calvin commissioned four church planters to go and preach the gospel to the Indians in Brazil (Ruth Tucker, From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, p. 67). Yep, that’s right! John Calvin!
As Luther and other Reformers were struggling to establish the rediscovered truths of Scripture in heir own nations, Calvin was propelled into mission.
From exile in Geneva, he sent over 100 church planters to France. In fact, on the basis of his outreach to France, one could argue for Calvin as a genuinely apostolic church planter. In 1555 he planted his first Church in Poitiers.
Over the next 7 years there were 1,750 ‘Calvinist’ Churches planted in France. Not only were Calvin’s hundred there, but others were raised up to lead this new church movement.
The Protestant population increased rapidly! Loraine Boettner, in an article called ‘Calvinism in History: Calvinism in France’, writes:
‘So rapidly did Calvinism spread throughout France that Fisher in his History of the Reformation tells us that in 1561 the Calvinists numbered one-fourth of the entire population. McFetridge places the number even higher. ‘In less than half a century,’ says he, ‘this so-called harsh system of belief had penetrated every part of the land, and had gained to its standards almost one-half of the population and almost every great mind in the nation. So numerous and powerful had its adherents become that for a time it appeared as if the entire nation would be swept over to their views.’ [Nathanial McFetridge, Calvinism in History, p. 144]
Smiles, in his ‘Huguenots in France,’ writes: ‘It is curious to speculate on the influence which the religion of Calvin, himself a Frenchman, might have exercised on the history of France, as well as on the individual character of the Frenchman, had the balance of forces carried the nation bodily over to Protestantism, as was very nearly the case, toward the end of the sixteenth century,’ (Samuel Smiles, Huguenots in France, p. 100).’
Not only Calvin, but many others spurred on to mission
A very large number of the 18th and 19th Century pioneering missionaries considered themselves to be ‘Calvinists’. As we read their biographies we find that it was often their belief that God was Sovereign and had already planned to save many that enabled them to press through the most disheartening circumstances and discouragements.
These missionary heroes did not give up until the Christian faith was securely planted in other lands.
For example, William Carey (to India), David Brainerd (to the native Americans), John Elliot, Henry Martyn, Alexander Duff, Robert and Mary Moffat (to South Africa), J. Hudson Taylor (to China). The list goes on.
John Calvin, speaking of the gospel, said in 1536:
“Our doctrine must stand sublime above all the glory of the world, and invincible by all its power, because it is not ours, but that of the Living God and His Anointed, whom the Father has appointed king that He may rule from sea to shining sea, and from the rivers even to the ends of the earth.”