J. Hudson Taylor
“Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye, through His poverty, might become rich.”—2 Cor. 8: 9, R.V.
THERE is a natural science of which wise men avail themselves, and by which they accomplish great results unheard of by our forefathers. Our God is the God of nature as well as of grace; and as He always acts in the best way, so, in the same circumstances, He always acts in the same way. The uniformity of His mode of action in nature is seen and recognized by many who do not know the great Actor. Such often prefer to speak of the constancy of the laws of nature, rather than of the uniformity of the operations of God. But if we speak of the laws of nature, let us not misunderstand the expression. It is the law of a well-regulated household that the door is opened when the door-bell is rung. It would be an entire mistake, however, to suppose that this is done by the law. It is done, no matter whether directly or immediately, by the head of the household. So a sparrow “shall not fall on the ground without your Father.” We who know God, and are His children, do well to remind ourselves that it is our unchanging God who makes the water on the fire to boil, and the steam in the engine to develop such expansive power; that it is He who acts uniformly in electricity, whether we avail ourselves of His power in the useful telegraph, or succumb to it in the fatal thunderbolt; that it is He who makes unsupported bodies always to fall; and that it is His uniform action under such circumstances that we recognize as the law of gravitation.
No less constant and sovereign is He in the domain of grace; His sovereignty is never erratic or arbitrary. His methods of action may be studied and largely discovered in spiritual things as in natural. Some of His laws are plainly revealed in His Word; others are exemplified in the actions recorded therein. And best of all, by the illumination of the Holy Ghost, God Himself may be known, and loved and revered, through the study of His written Word; and He is especially seen in the face of Jesus Christ. Moreover, that indispensable illumination of the Holy Ghost is never denied to those who seek it, and are honestly desirous to have it, on God’s own terms. Spiritual things can only be spiritually discerned, but those who are spiritual have no more difficulty in learning spiritual laws — by which we mean God’s uniform mode of acting in the same circumstances in spiritual things — than natural men have in learning natural laws. Nay, in spiritual things there is less difficulty, for they are revealed more clearly; research into the Word and ways of God more readily shows us His modes of action than research and observation do in natural science. Some of the secrets of nature can only be known by the few; but the secrets of grace may be known by all the children of God, if they are willing to be taught, and obedient as they are taught.
As in natural things there are many mysteries beyond the ken of feeble men, so also in spiritual things there are things not yet revealed, not intended to be known here and now. But just as by utilizing what may be known, and is known, in nature, men achieve great results— as by steam, electricity, etc.—so by utilizing what is revealed and may be known in spiritual things, great results may be achieved. Ten thousand horses could not convey the loads from London to Glasgow in a week that are easily taken in half a day by rail; ten thousand couriers could not convey the tidings from London to Shanghai in months that may be flashed by cable in a few hours. And so in spiritual things no amount of labor and machinery will accomplish without spiritual power, what may be easily accomplished when we place ourselves in the current of God’s will, and work by His direction, in His way.
There are also conditions of success in spiritual things. Ignoring these, we may toil much, sow much, and reap little. Has not the failure of many of our efforts been due to our attempting to do God’s work in man’s way—aye, and sometimes even in the devil’s way? Does this seem a startling question? Just read the account of the temptations of our Lord, after His baptism, and see what Satan’s ways are. Have they not often been used, unknowingly, to forward work for God? Have not Christians at home and native helpers in foreign lands often been induced to begin work, and perhaps still more often to continue work, by inducements of support or position? Would the same sums of money always be contributed if the plate were not passed, or if the donor’s names were not published? And yet, does any spiritual mind really think that the true work of God is at all advanced by anything done from worldly motives, or to be seen of men? It is a solemn thought that the wood, and hay, and stubble will all be burned up; and that the gold, and silver, and precious stones, now often inextricably mingled with them, will alone stand the test of fire.
When the Lord of Glory came to bring in the highest blessing, and to break the power of the Enthraller, He chose the lowest place as the place best adapted to accomplish His purpose. In like manner we learn from the passage which heads this paper, and from other similar passages, that in order to enrich us, poor bankrupts, He intelligently and cheerfully emptied Himself of all His riches; and this He did, not by distributing them among us, but by leaving them behind — as neither needed nor suited to effect His purpose. Just as a runner in a race divests himself of clothing and adornments which would frustrate his aim, however good they might be at other times and for other ends, so the Christ of God saw that the low place, the place of poverty, of weakness, of shame and suffering was the best place in which to meet us when He came to raise us from our low estate. We do well to remember that He was the Wisdom of God and the Power of God, and necessarily chose the wisest way and mightiest way to effect His purpose. He might have become incarnate as a noble Roman; He would doubtless have gained disciples by it—but of what kind? He would have been spared the scourging and the cross; but He came to endure both. Or, He might have come into the family of a noble and wealthy Jew; but He did not — that was not God’s way to enrich us.
The Corinthian Christians knew the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Do we? Do we want to know it? Is He really our Lord? Or are we our own lords, and do we decide for ourselves what we will do, and how we will serve? If so, let us not wonder if our strength prevents our receiving that Divine strength which is ever made perfect in weakness. Have we noticed that one of our Master’s most used servants, who had many things that were gain to him, had to lose them all in order to win Christ for himself, and follow Him fully as a fisher of men? Are we “imitators of God,” if we are making no costly sacrifices for the salvation of men? It is our Isaacs who are wanted for the altar, not our superfluities merely. Are we followers of Christ if we do not “walk in love, as Christ also loved us, and gave Himself up for us?”
From J. Hudson Taylor's China’s Millions, February 1855.