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Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret


Thou on the Lord rely, So safe shalt thou go on; Fix on His work thy steadfast eye, So shall thy work be done. —Paul Gerhardt

Happy the man. called to go forward in any pathway of faith, who has in his life-companion only sympathy and help. For seven and a half years — perfect years as concerned their married life — Hudson Taylor had known no disappointment in the one he loved, and she did not fail him now. Frail in health and only twenty-eight years of age, Mrs. Taylor’s hands were full with the care of four young children, yet from the moment she learned of her husband’s call to the great, the seemingly impossible, task of the evangelization of inland China she became in a new way his comfort and inspiration. Her hand wrote for him, her faith strengthened his own, her prayers undergirded the whole work and her practical experience and loving heart made her the Mother of the Mission.

For very soon the larger house at Coborn Street into which they had moved began to fill up with candidates for China. The parlors that had seemed so spacious could scarcely accommodate the friends who gathered for the Saturday prayer meeting. The fifty dollars (all he had) with which Mr. Taylor had opened a bank account in the name of “The China Inland Mission” grew into hundreds, through the voluntary, unasked gifts of those who desired to have part in the work; and plans began to form themselves for the outgoing of the first party.

Picture then the sitting room at Number 30 Coborn Street on Sunday — the only day when Mr. Taylor could find time for quiet writing. At the table Mrs. Taylor is seated, pen in hand, while he paces to and fro, absorbed in the subject on their hearts. For the articles Mr. Lewis suggested have taken on new meaning. There is not only an urgent need to make known, but a new departure, a definite effort to meet that need in dependence upon God. CHINA’S SPIRITUAL NEED AND CLAIMS was the pamphlet that came into being as they prayed and wrote, wrote and prayed; and perhaps no book of modern times proved more effective in moving the hearts of the people of God. How many it sent to China as edition after edition was published, how many it drew into sympathy with missionary work the wide world oven, how it strengthened faith and quickened prayer and devotion will never be known until the secrets of all hearts are revealed. “Every sentence was steeped in prayer,” and every sentence seemed to live with the power of God.

The book made many friends and many openings. It had to be reprinted within three weeks of publication, and drew forth letters such as the following from the late Lord Radstock:

I have read your pamphlet and have been greatly stirred by it. I trust you may be enabled by the Holy Spirit to speak words which will thrust forth many laborers into the vineyards. Dear Brother, enlarge your desires! Ask for a hundred laborers, and the Lord will give them to you [This startling though prophetic suggestion was accompanied by a generous gift of $500. Lord Radstock lived to see the time when Mr. Taylor did ask for a hundred workers IN ONE YEAR, and when in answer to prayer they were given].

Not a hundred, however, but just twenty-four was the first objective, and a well-worn Bible lies before us now in which that prayer is recorded in Mr. Taylor’s clear though faded writing. Far from being elated at the turn events were taking, success only added to his sense of responsibility, and it was a man burdened with a God-given message who moved from place to place that memorable winter, awakening other hearts to a like God-consciousness.

For it seemed a new thing, in those days, to talk about FAITH as a sufficient financial basis for missionary undertakings at the other end of the world. “Faith missions” were unheard of, the only organizations then in existence being the regular denominational boards. But Hudson Taylor, young though he was, had learned to know God in a very real way. He had seen Him, as he wrote, quell the raging of a storm at sea, in answer to definite prayer, alter the direction of the wind, and give rain in a time of drought. He had seen Him, in answer to prayer, stay the hand of would-be murderers and quell the violence of enraged men. He had seen Him rebuke sickness in answer to prayer, and raise up the dying, when all hope of recovery seemed gone [Details of these experiences will be found in the first volume of Mr. Taylor’s larger biography, especially pages 429-492. See HUDSON TAYLOR IN THE EARLY YEARS: THE GROWTH OF A SOUL, by the present writers]. For more than eight years he had proved His faithfulness in supplying the needs of his family and work in answer to prayer, unforeseen as many of those needs had been. How could he but encourage others to put their trust in the love that cannot forget, the faithfulness that cannot fail?

We have to do with One [he reminded his hearers] who is Lord of all power and might, whose arm is not shortened that it cannot save, nor His ear heavy that it cannot hear; with One whose unchanging Word directs us to ask and receive that our joy may be full, to open our mouths wide, that He may fill them. And we do well to remember that this gracious God, who has condescended to place His almighty power at the command of believing prayer looks not lightly on the bloodguiltiness of those who neglect to avail themselves of it for the benefit of the perishing. …

To those who have never been called to prove the faithfulness of the covenant-keeping God… it might seem a hazardous experiment to send twenty-four European evangelists to a distant heathen land “with only God to look to”; but in one whose privilege it has been, through many years, to put that God to the test — at home and abroad, by land and sea, in sickness and in health, in dangers, necessities, and at the gates of death — such apprehensions would be wholly inexcusable.

The work they were undertaking was far too great to be limited to any one denomination. The fact that the Mission offered no salaries was in itself enough to deter all but those whose experience made them sure of God, and such souls possess a union in more than name.

We had to consider [Mr. Taylor continued] whether it would not be possible for members of various denominations to work together on simple, evangelistic lines, without friction as to conscientious differences of opinion. Prayerfully concluding that it would, we decided to invite the co-operation of fellow-believers, irrespective of denominational views, who fully held the inspiration of God’s Word and were willing to prove their faith by going to inland China with only the guarantee they carried in their Bibles.

That Word said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things [food and raiment] shall be added unto you.” If anyone did not believe that God spoke the truth, it would be better for him not to go to China to propagate the faith; if he did believe it, surely the promise sufficed. Again, we have the assurance, “No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” If anyone did not mean to walk uprightly, he had better stay at home; if he did mean to walk uprightly, he had all he needed in the shape of a guarantee fund. God owns all the gold and silver in the world, and the cattle on a thousand hills. We need not be vegetarians!

We might indeed have had a guarantee fund if we had wished it; but we felt that it was unnecessary and would do harm. Money wrongly placed and money given from wrong motives are both greatly to be dreaded. We can afford to have as little as the Lord chooses to give, but we cannot afford to have unconsecrated money, or to have money placed in the wrong position. Far better have no money, even to buy bread with. There are plenty of ravens in China, and the Lord could send them again with bread and flesh. … He sustained three million Israelites in the wilderness for forty years. We do not expect Him to send three million missionaries to China, but if He did He would have ample means to sustain them all.

Let us see 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.

One thing greatly concerned Mr. Taylor, and that was that the new enterprise should not deflect men or means from previously existing agencies. Robbing Peter to pay Paul, in this sense, would be no advantage to the work of God. To open the way for workers who might not be accepted by other missions, whose preparation had not included university training, was part of the plan, and no one was to be asked to join the Inland Mission. If the Lord of the harvest wanted them in that particular field, He would put it into their hearts to offer. In the same way, there were to be no appeals for money. If the Mission could be sustained in answer to prayer, without subscription lists or solicitation of any kind for funds, it might grow up among the older societies without danger of diverting gifts from their accustomed channels. It might even be helpful, by directing attention to the Great Worker, and affording a practical illustration of its underlying principle that God, God ALONE, is sufficient for God’s own work.

For the rest, they were content with little in the way of organization. It was wonderful how provision was made for the home side of the work. In Mr. and Mrs. Berger of Saint Hill, friends had been raised up who bore it upon their hearts almost as did Mr. and Mrs. Taylor. They prayed for it and lived for it with equal devotion, turning their beautiful home into a center for all the interests of the Mission.

When I decided to go forward [Mr. Taylor said of this relationship], Mr. Berger undertook to represent us at home.

The thing grew up gradually. We were much drawn together. The Mission received its name in his drawing room. Neither of us asked or appointed the other — it just WAS SO.

Essential, spiritual principles were talked over with the candidates and clearly understood as the basis of the Mission. A few simple arrangements were agreed to in writing, in Mr. Berger’s presence, that was all.

We came out as God’s children at God’s command [was Mr. Taylor’s simple statement] to do God’s work, depending on Him for supplies; to wear native dress and to go inland. I was to be the leader in China. … There was no question as to who was to determine points at issue.

In the same way, Mr. Berger was responsible at home. He would correspond with candidates, receive and forward contributions, publish an OCCASIONAL PAPER with audited accounts, send out suitable reinforcements as funds permitted and keep clear of debt. This last was a cardinal principle with all concerned. * * [From the first it was made perfectly clear that Mr. Taylor never drew for himself or his family upon the funds of the Mission.

He had the joy, however, as the Lord enabled him, of contributing largely to its support. “As poor, yet making many rich.”]

It is really just as easy [as Mr. Taylor pointed out] for God to give BEFOREHAND, and He much prefers to do so. He is too wise to allow His purposes to be frustrated for lack of a little money; but money obtained in unspiritual ways is sure to hinder blessing.

There were problems, many of them, that only experience could solve, and Mr. Berger’s practical illustration often came to mind. He was a man of affairs, a manufacturer of starch, at the head of a prosperous business. He knew that like the trees on his estate, a live thing will grow.

You must wait for a tree to grow [he said in this connection] before there can be much in the way of branches.

First you have only a slender stem, with a few leaves or shoots. Then little twigs appear. Ultimately, these may become great limbs, all but separate trees. But it takes time and patience. If there is life, it will develop after its own order.

The many answers to prayer, as the first party of the Mission made their preparations for sailing, cannot be dwelt upon now.

Wonderful indeed they were! so much so that an inset had to be put into the first OCCASIONAL PAPER saying that the whole sum referred to as needed for passage and outfits was already in hand. But behind these experiences lay the noon hour of prayer every day in Mr. Taylor’s home, as well as the weekly gathering there and at Saint Hill and special days for prayer and fasting. It all meant a very close and happy walk with God.

Human nothingness, divine sufficiency — the one just as real as the other — was the atmosphere of those last days at Coborn Street. Friends could not come and go without feeling it. Among packing-cases and bundles, the last prayer meetings were held, people crowding the rooms and staircase, sitting on anything that came to hand. On the wall still hung the map; on the table lay the open Bible.

Our great desire and aim [Mr. Taylor had written of the new mission] are to plant the standard of the Cross in the eleven provinces of China hitherto unoccupied, and in Chinese Tartary.

“A foolhardy business,” said those who saw only the difficulties.

“A superhuman task,” sighed others who wished them well. And many even of their friends could not but be anxious.

“You will be forgotten,” was the concern of some. “With no committee or organization before the public, you will be lost sight of in that distant land. Claims are many nowadays. Before long you may find yourselves without even the necessaries of life!”

“I am taking my children with me,” was the quiet answer, “and I notice it is not difficult to remember that they need breakfast in the morning, dinner at midday and supper at night. Indeed, I could not forget them if I tried. And I find it impossible to think that our heavenly Father is less tender and mindful of His children than I, a poor earthly father, am of mine. No, He will not forget us!”

And through all the years since then, with all they have brought, that confidence has been amply justified.

Click for the next chapter: Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret 12 | Spiritual Urgency