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
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
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
So George Whitefield, merely months before becoming one of England’s youngest and most popular preachers, discovers that he needs to be born again in order to get right with God. He discovers that spiritual life is imparted by God through faith.
But strangely, he then acts in the opposite direction – throwing himself into a round of even more exacting religious exercises and good works, desperately trying to appease God.
Self-denial, satanic oppression, sickness and scaring Charles Wesley!
He increases his fasts, he stops eating fruit, giving the money he would have spent to the poor, he goes outside in rain and storm to cry out to God and confess his sinfulness.
Rather than finding relief from any of these exercises he becomes even more disconsolate, fearful and insecure. Feeling himself to be horribly oppressed by the devil he finally decides to ‘forsake’ all, including his new friends and stays in his study for days on end. He becomes physically ill and his tutor sends a physician.
His gloomy, depressed demeanour, the terrible loss of weight, all of this alarms the other students.
Charles Wesley is way out of his depth, doesn’t know what to do, and so refers him to his older brother John (already in his thirties, clearly the leader by this time, but not yet converted).
John painstakingly talks George down from the extremity of legalism in which he is bound and gives him Thomas a Kempis to read. Perhaps John realises even at this point that the strictness of the lifestyle he is promoting, the intensity of examination of every moment, is not working.
Locked in the second half of Romans 7
George seemed to have been caged in experience into what Paul merely illustrates in Romans 7:7-25.
There, Paul illustrates the inability of the Law to produce freedom from sin. Life is in the Gospel not in the Law. George Whitefield, having been awakened to the rightness of God’s Commands, then went on to try and justify himself through religious duty to fulfill those Commands. But Paul clearly demonstrates that the Law cannot produce life – only Christ can.
But, as in Paul’s illustration, so in real life, and as Whitefield was about to experience – the bondage of the cycle of sin and death is broken only by the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
Finally the breakthrough
Whitefield had come to that great pre-conversion cry, ‘Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me?’ (Rom 7:24)
In his Journal he records, ‘God was pleased to set me free in the following manner. One day, perceiving an uncommon drought and a disagreeable clamminess in my mouth and using things to allay my thirst, but in vain, it was suggested to me, that when Jesus Christ cried out, ‘I thirst!’ His sufferings were near at an end. Upon which I cast myself down on the bed, crying out, ‘I thirst! I thirst!’’
From Mourning to Dancing
Although it seems a small thing – to be desperately thirsty, and to somehow see that when Christ cried out that He thirsted, it was near the end of His anguish – yet, here’s the point, when George Whitefield cried out to God, God intervened and heard him.
‘Soon after this’, writes George, ‘I found and felt in myself that I was delivered from the burden that had so heavily oppressed me. The spirit of mourning was taken from me and I knew what it was truly to rejoice in God my Saviour; and, for some time, could not avoid singing psalms wherever I was…’
‘Thus were the days of my mourning ended. After a long night of desertion and temptation, the Star, which I had seen at a distance before [referring to the doctrine of the New Birth in Scougal’s book], began to appear again, and the Day Star arose in my heart.
Now did the Spirit of God take possession of my soul, and, as I humbly hope, seal me unto the day of redemption.’ (GW Journals, Banner of Truth, p.58)
Well, he had wrestled and struggled and, at last, discovered God’s free and Sovereign grace. Being now certain of the new birth in his own experience he began to proclaim the message of it to the English speaking world.
Wisdom from Old Times – Prosperity and Adversity from a Puritan Perspective
How focused should we be on material success and wealth? How focused should we be on eternity? Should the fluctuation of our material comforts have a significant influence on our experience of peace, or should we be able to set our hearts on the future grace to be revealed at Christ’s coming?
These are questions addressed in one of the most beautifully named Puritan books, ‘The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment’.
This short work was first published in 1648 by Jeremiah Burroughs. Burroughs was yet another mighty Puritan teacher/preacher educated at Emmanuel College at Cambridge University, England. After graduating, Burroughs served in churches in East Anglia, England and then in Rotterdam, Holland.
Some of his insights and comments are challenging. I don’t like some of them! But maybe it’s the ones I don’t like that should instruct me the most!
If you are facing difficult times at the moment then it may be that you will find strength and help in some of the wisdom from the 17th Century.
On God as the Source of true Peace
‘The good of my life and comforts and my happiness and my glory and my riches are more in God than in myself.’ (p.54)
‘If the children of God have their little taken from them, they can make up all their wants in God himself.’ (p.65)
‘Every comfort you have is a forerunner of those eternal mercies you shall have with God in Heaven.’ (p.59)
‘If you will only have contentment when God’s ways suit with your own ends, you can have it only now and then, but a self-denying man denies his own ends, and only looks at the ends of God and therein he is contented…The lesson of self-denial is the first lesson that Jesus Christ teaches men who are seeking contentment.’ (p.90-91)
On the Unchanging Nature of Human Desire
‘The world is infinitely deceived in thinking that contentment lies in having more than we already have.’ (p.45-46)
‘So if we come to understanding in the school of Christ we will not cry, ‘Why have I not got such wealth as others have?’, but, ‘The Lord sees that I am not able to manage it and I see it myself by knowing my own heart.’’ (p.102)
On how Affliction may Help and Prosperity may Hurt
‘You do not find one godly man who came out of an affliction worse than when he went into it; though for a while he was shaken, yet at last he was better for an affliction.
But a great many godly men, you find, have been worse for their prosperity.’ (p.50)
On Trusting God in Troubled Times
‘We must not have hearts hurrying up and down in trouble, discontent and vexing, but still and quiet hearts, if we [want to] receive mercy from the Lord. If a child throws and kicks up and down for a thing, you [will] not give it him when he cries so…
Even though, perhaps, you intend him to have what he cries for, you will not give it him till he is quiet, and comes, and stands still before you, and is contented without it, and then you will give it him. And truly so does the Lord deal with us.’ (p.124)
‘God is doing you good if you could see it, and if he is pleased to sanctify your affliction to break that hard heart of yours, and humble that proud spirit of yours, it would be the greatest mercy that you ever had in all your life.’ (p.181-2)
‘By contentment we come to give God the worship that is due to him.’ (p.119)
On the Bible as a Source of Comfort
‘There is no condition that a godly man or woman can be in, but there is some promise or other in the Scripture to help him in that condition.’ (p.69)
God has provided for us in His word and in Himself. In all the various trials we face we need to exercise faith in Him, either to be content in our need or to see the necessary breakthrough come. As Burroughs says, there’s no circumstance in life that we face but that some passage of Scripture can speak to us and help us through.