J. Hudson Taylor
Spiritual Preparation of Missionary Volunteer
This talk was given by J. Hudson Taylor, the founder of the China Inland Mission, at the Second International Convention of the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions, held at Detroit, Michigan on February 28, and March 1,2,3 and 4, 1894.
“Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.—Ps. 1:1-3
Dr. Taylor said: —
As I look all around me, upon this sea of faces, my heart would sink within me if I thought that we were dependent for blessing upon any, or only, human agency. But, oh, when one looks up and recognizes in the great Father, the One from whom all blessings come, the One who opens His mighty hand and satisfies the desire of every living thing, I feel, beloved friends, that you and I have got to do with One who can fill to overflowing every heart in this large church. I have known a great deal about pumping. It is pretty hard work, especially when the reservoir is empty. You may work like any Trojan and not get anything, because there is nothing to get; but overflowing is so different! And there is no real equipment complete until our hearts are full to overflowing with the love of Christ that passes knowledge — until we are filled with all the fullness of God.
Now, do not misunderstand me. I have not a word to say against the fullest preparation that God gives us to make for His service. Do not depreciate the value of little things. I think every year of my life I get to think more about little things. I was much helped when a lad by reading of a Swiss pastor who was taking great pains in writing a letter. When a friend said, "I would not take pains with that letter if I were you; so-and-so is so illiterate that he won't know the difference," he replied, "But the Lord Jesus is looking over my shoulder, and I am making every letter for His eye: it is with Him that I have to do." I am quite certain that that little incident has many a time led me to try to glorify God in the address of a postal card or an envelope. I don't think a Christian man ought to tempt a postal agent to think bad thoughts or speak bad words. I have spent many hours of my life endeavoring in vain to ascertain the meaning of the writer who sent me an ambiguous letter. I do think, dear friends, that if we are to be perfect as our Father which is in Heaven is perfect, we shall not think lightly of what are often called little things. Ought we not, in the spirit of that text, do our best in everything that we do, and not do anything that is not worth doing our best in? Nothing but the power of the Holy Ghost will enable us to do little things with pains and with patience, gladly and joyfully.
It is one of the great promises given to the pure in heart, "They shall see God." And oh, if any one needs to see God, surely it is the missionary. He will see evil, plenty of it everywhere, and if he cannot see God, he will be deteriorated by the influences around him, and he may lose his power to save others.
Make the Devotional Study of the Bible a Daily Priority
Now, as to spiritual preparation, I scarcely know where to begin. Of all preparation the most important is to know God. I think there is no question about this. And to know God you must know His Word. I would urge upon all of you to make a devotional study of the Word of God the first thing in your lives, the first thing absolutely. God has given to you and to me a plan by which we may infallibly succeed in all that we put our hands to. "Whatsoever he doeth shall prosper." Now I need not tell you, my dear friends, that I am a believer in the verbal inspiration of the Word of God; and I believe it on the same ground upon which I believe many other things. For instance, I have been two or three times in the States. I have had a few of your notes pass through my hands. I have never yet been offered five cents less than the value of that note for it, and I have got to imagine that they really are what they represent, and that I would be a fool for parting with a bill for $20.00 for $19.50. I wish I had always dealt with the promises of God on those grounds. I have never been disappointed when I have so dealt with God's promises. And after a life spent in missionary service,— it is forty years ago to-day since I landed in China the 1st of March,— a life that has afforded me more opportunities than many lives of putting practically to the test both the directions of God's Word and resting upon the promises of God's Word, let me tell you I cannot look back on one instance of disappointment where in a right spirit I have followed the direction of God's Word, or one instance of disappointment where I have put my trust on the simple promise of God. I believe we want to get to look upon this Book as our guide and director, to come to it in the same spirit that I would take up one of your railway timetables. When the schedule states the train will leave at a certain hour, I expect it to leave. Now, look upon your Bibles just as you look upon your railroad guide: expect to find the information you need and expect that that information will be reliable, and you will not be disappointed. And I just mention this by the way. Well, then, with that belief, having close attention drawn to that first Psalm, we find there a very simple guide to prosperity in Christian work. That was a matter of very much moment to me, for at that time I was just forming the China Inland Mission. I wanted it to prosper, and I said, "If these directions are sufficient, by God's help the mission shall be prospered."
Be the Free Instrument God Can Use
Now, there has been much failure on my part and on the part of those who have worked with me, but there has been no failure on the Lord's part, none at all. That little work began in a very small and tiny way, and the Lord picked the least man perhaps physically and intellectually and in every other way that He could lay His hand on when He called me for that purpose. But the great and mighty God has been working, and, thank God, there are now in connection with the missionaries and their associates over six hundred men and women and about three hundred native laborers working in connection with us, and over four thousand communicants, and many candidates for baptism in over a hundred churches in inland provinces. It would take you a month perhaps to go over to Shanghai by either of your American routes. But when you got to Shanghai, it would take you a great many months indeed to get to our more distant stations. Now, at these great distances in the far interior of China, God has been blessing and prospering His great work. And why? because it is His work. And there let me just throw in a remark. You must bear the childish way in which I am speaking to you — I do not want to lose the opportunity of just bringing the thought that God's work is God's work; it is not men working for God, but it is God working through men. And oh, my dear friends, the preparation of preparations is to be such a man as God can work through. There is no fear that He will not work through one who is fit to be worked through. If we are only in that state of soul in which the Lord can use us, He is delighted to use His people. Oh, He loves to use them! Now, if we believe that God's work is God working, then there is infallible success before us. That object which God has to attain, will be attained by those who are in His hands, who are free in His hands to be dealt with as He sees fit. Oh, let us trust in God to work.
Make the Word Your Delight
Will you kindly read over the first Psalm, and especially the first three verses of it, and you will see the line of things to be avoided, the line of things to be taken; and the positive direction is simply this: "Delight — delight, delight — in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night!" Only get your delight in it and there is no fear you won't meditate about it. We all meditate on the things that are our delight. I remember some years ago, on coming home from China, I soon found out what was the special delight of my children at that time. They were talking of their bicycles, their bicycle tournaments, the cups they had won and expected to win, and that sort of thing. It was a comparatively new enjoyment to them. I did not have to ask them where their delight was; I found it out easily enough. Talk with any man and you will know: a man of business will talk shop, a man of science will talk science; you will easily find out where a man's delight is. Now, by God's grace, let us have our delight in this Book, and our success is secured; not to be secured, but is secured, by the infallible Word of God; for God, who cannot lie, says, "Whatsoever he doeth shall prosper."
And that is another all-round thing — "Whatsoever he doeth shall prosper." The recreation, the family life, as well as the missionary life, will all be made a success if we are carrying out the simple directions given in the first two verses of the Psalm.
Know the Word, Not Just About the Word
And why is delight in God's Word so important? Because through it we get to know God. And may I draw a distinction here that is very important? You may know a great deal about the Word of God and not know the Word at all. The Jews knew an immense amount about the Old Testament Scriptures. I suppose the learned Rabbis knew them almost by heart, but they did not fulfill them: they did fulfill them rather, unwittingly, by crucifying the Lord of glory. It is one thing to know a great deal about the Bible, and another thing to know the Bible. The men that know the Bible are never skeptical. If you take an object and put it under the microscope, you will have no doubt about it being man's work or God's work. The finest cambric becomes coarse sackcloth under the microscope; the finest needle is converted into a ragged poker when seen under the magnifying glass. But suppose you take the sting of the bee and a tip of a butterfly's wing, and put them under the microscope; observe each successively, noting the polished outlines and filament-like structure of the one, and the exquisite coloring and delicate texture of the other. You will soon know which two are man's work, and which two are God's work. And when God's Holy Spirit turns His flash-light upon the Word of God, and you see it in that light, and when under the magnifying power which the Spirit gives, you read that Word, you might just as well tell me that that butterfly is man's work as that this Book is man's work. My dear friends, I am not troubled a bit by skepticism; I know that this is God's Word. I want you to know your Bibles. It is a big book. Those of you who are accustomed to read it through systematically are very well aware of that. I have read through my Bible many times before daylight. In my very busy life I haven't been able to get a quiet time and a quiet mind for devotional reading oftentimes through the day. In my journeys in China and elsewhere I have found that the only way in which I could be quiet sometimes was when everybody else was asleep. And, rather than lose the opportunity of having this time with my Bible and my God, I have systematically got up at three or four in the morning, and had an hour or an hour and a half to devote to Bible reading and prayer, and then laid down for a little additional rest before breakfast time. I have found unspeakable blessing and profit in these quiet morning hours. I don't say this is necessary for all; many could not do it, and many do not need to. But if the other work of the day seems to prevent it, you can have the time before for your Bible and your God. Don't play through your concert and tune your instrument at the end, but tune your instrument before the concert begins, if you want harmony. This is only a means to an end; but it is a blessed means to a blessed end, that of knowing God. Men may know a great deal about God, and not know God. The men that know their God shall be strong to do exploits; they can't help it. When there is life and power in a man it will come out.
Take Time to be With God
I like the expression in the ninetieth Psalm, "The beauty of the Lord our God." We have such a beautiful God, so absolutely perfect, so delightfully real, so very near! Oh, it is well to take time to think about Him; it is well to take time to get to know Him. And you can't be holy in a hurry; it takes time to be holy. It takes time, and needs a reverent and a fruitful communion with Him. But He is so delightfully real, and so beautifully true, and so tender and so strong. And I find this, that the more simply one comes to Him, and the more simply one trusts Him, the more delightful He seems to be. There is a passage that my heart delights in exceedingly, in which the Lord Jesus "rejoiced in Spirit." I never think of it without rejoicing in spirit too. "I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in Thy sight." It is well to be one of the babes to whom God reveals Himself and the wonderful things written in His love.
Rest in the Arms of God Like a Little Child
A few years ago I heard a sentiment expressed by Professor Charteris, of Edinburgh. About seven hundred students of the University were gathered together at the close of the session for a united communion service. The Professor, who was leading our thoughts, gave us this thought: "There is but one life on earth," he said, "that was a life of steady development” — only one uninterrupted development; it was from the cradle to the Cross. All true Christian life, it seems to me, is like the life of Christ lived backwards. The true Christian life begins at the Cross, at the blood-shedding; the development of Christian life is toward the cradle, until the child of God can rest like a babe in the arms of Infinite love. "I commend that thought to you; it has been a great help and comfort to me. It is only the little ones that grow, you know. As soon as we become too big we cease to grow. And it is the little ones that get the most caressing; and the more simply as a little child one comes to the great and glorious Father, the more simply one just tells Him one's heart's desires, the more simply one depends upon Him if circumstances of need have arisen, the more sweetly, the more tenderly, the more lovingly does He manifest Himself.
Remain In Touch With God
We have all in our God what we need for our missionary enterprise; and apart from Him we have nothing that is competent and sufficient. We must keep in touch with our God. You have seen frequently the experiment in which a number of persons take hold of hands, and one of them touches a leaden jar, and the stream of electricity passes through the whole; but let any one break the connection, and he can shock no one. You have seen a person stand upon the insulated stool filled with electricity. Let any one come near him and touch any part of his body, and the spark will fly; but step off the stool and there is no power. We want, dear friends, to be separated unto our God. We want to be in touch with Him continually, and to know Him, to know what we can count on.
The spiritual preparation is to be knowledge of God, the Spirit of God, the Word of God. With that, everything else that God may give us or enable us to acquire may be useful; without it, everything else will fail.
I am quite sure from personal experience, dear friends, that you cannot go and live among the heathen people without one of two things taking place. You will either be growing in grace and in the knowledge and in the love of God, or you won't be standing still, you will be going back. There is an immense power in majorities, and no one can escape that power. But God is the majority, and if we are in touch with Him it does not matter though all the world is on the other side. The man who stands alone with God is with the majority. In all your preparation and through it all see to this, that you are day by day growing in grace and in the knowledge and in the love of God and of Jesus Christ our Lord. See to it there is no hindrance to blessing being poured into your own hearts.
Now, through your student course, and with regard to your future course, see that day-by-day you begin with God, and, beginning with God, He will enable you to go through the day with the sweet knowledge of God. There is nothing so helpful. I am naturally very nervous. I remember very well when I went in for my final examination as a medical man. I was pretty well up in my subjects, for I had done honest work. But when I got the paper and read over the questions my mind simply began to swim and everything became black. I didn't know where to begin; I didn't feel I could write anything on any of the topics before me. What did I do? I just went to God in prayer; and after a few minutes of prayer my mind was calm, I sat down and wrote, and, thank God, my examination was comfortably and safely passed. There is nothing that helps the mind to be more clear, nothing that helps in anything one has to do, more than communion with God. And if there is anything that God does not help one to do, keep clear of that. That which communion with God will not help is not a help to us in our preparation for missionary work.
Learn that “Shall” means “shall”!
There is a very sweet promise of God I want to leave with you as I sit down. A full equipment is to be filled with the Holy Spirit. And how simply it is to be attained! You know where to go. That poor Samaritan woman did not know in whose presence she was. The Master said to her, "If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldst have asked of Him and He would have given thee living water." And she did ask, very ignorantly indeed, not knowing what she asked. He knew, and He gave her that which she so ignorantly asked. He said to her, before He had fully blessed her, a word that is recorded for your instruction and mine, "Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again." Oh, how true it is; all the waters of earth, how thirsty they leave us, or how soon we become thirsty again! "But," continued our Master, there is something better, "whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst" — shall never thirst! It may have been the end of 1868 or the beginning of 1869 when I discovered that "shall" means " shall," and that "never " means " never," and that "thirst" means " thirst." I can't tell you how delighted I was, for I was so thirsty at the time. And so hungry and thirsty was I as the Spirit of God threw his own Divine light on those words, that I saw that "shall" means "shall," and "never" means "never," and "thirst" means " thirst." I leaped from my seat; I could not sit still. How I did praise God that the thirsty days were all past! Well, you know, it is only a little over twenty years since then, and they haven't come back since; and twenty thousand years hence, when you and I meet up there, I shall have the same story to tell you. He has promised it to me and I believe it.
But don't misread His Word. He does not say whosoever drank shall never thirst; but whosoever drinketh. It is in the present tense. We are not, with the appetite taken away, to stop drinking: "Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst." Isn't it glorious to feel that every one of you may just take that living water now and drink now and thirst no more; and to find you have got the well, and that you haven't to go and seek it — so different from the old pumping I used to try, and that was so ineffective? You cannot give people that which you yourself don't possess. What is the use of going over the beds with an empty watering-can? But when the Lord fills it and keeps it full and gives you delight to drink day by day, it just overflows! Go amongst your beautiful hills and see a waterfall, and put a great barrel under the waterfall, and it will soon be full and it will overflow, and as much water will overflow from that barrel as comes down from above. Take that great barrel away and put a little bucket there. The bucket will soon be just as full as the barrel, and when it overflows it will overflow just as much. I am the little bucket; it is easily filled and the flowing is so easy; there is no toil, there is no labor.
Be a Successor of the Samaritan Woman
I have seen of late years many missionaries who have drunk of this living water and who tell me that missionary work has become a new thing to them. I don't think a week passes over me in which I do not get letters from missionaries telling me of men or women who, the very first time they ever heard there was a Saviour, accepted Him from that moment. That is the sort of work that is wanted. And those who are blest are ready to give the blessing. You will hear in some quarters a great deal about Apostolic Succession; I would advise you to become successors of the Samaritan woman. The twelve apostles went into the city to get food, but never a person did they bring to Jesus. But that poor woman brought half the city. May God so equip you and equip me and use us to His ends!
This talk was given by Hudson Taylor at the Second International Convention of the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions, held at Detroit, Michigan on February 28, and March 1,2,3 and 4, 1894.