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Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret


Men die in darkness at your side, Without a hope to cheer the tomb; Take up the torch and wave it wide, The torch that lights time’s thickest gloom. —H. Bonar

That there was a sustaining power behind the leaders and many of the first workers of the new mission is very manifest from the records of the next few years. One cannot but be impressed by the urgency of spirit that characterized them — a great, twofold urgency that carried them through every kind of difficulty and trial. There was the urgency of love to the Lord Jesus Christ that made them glory in their privilege of knowing Him in the fellowship of His sufferings in a new and deeper way, and there was in them the urgency of His constraining love for the souls of the perishing by whom they were surrounded. It may seem old-fashioned in these days to talk of souls, perishing souls, needing salvation. But the theology of John 3:16 is a motive power that accomplishes results in and through believers that all the wisdom and resources of the world cannot equal.

God so loved… that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not PERISH, but have everlasting life.

We may have more wealth in these days, better education, greater comfort in traveling and in our surroundings even as missionaries, but have we the spirit of urgency, the deep, inward convictions that moved those who went before us; have we the same passion of love, personal love for the Lord Jesus Christ? If these are lacking, it is a loss for which nothing can compensate.

* * * * *

Over the dark blue sea, over the trackless flood, A little band is gone in the service of their God; The lonely waste of waters they traverse to proclaim In the distant land of Sinim, Immanuel’s saving Name.

They have heard from the far-off East the voice of their brothers’ blood:

A million a month in China are dying without God.

No help have they but God: alone to their Father’s hand They look for the supply of their wants in a distant land.

The fullness of the world is His; “all power” in earth and heaven; They are strong tho’ weak and rich tho’ poor, in the promise He has given.

‘Tis enough! they hear the cry, the voice of their brothers’ blood:

A million a month in China are dying without God. * * [From verses by the Rev. H. Grattan Guinness, on the sailing of the first party of the China Inland Mission, May 26, 1866.]

* * * * *

Four months’ voyage on a sailing ship of less than eight hundred tons’ burden was no small undertaking, with a party of sixteen missionaries and four young children. But much prayer had been made beforehand, not only for safety by the way but for a crew to whom God would bless His Word. One day was given to getting things in order in their cabins, and then Chinese study commenced, Mr. Taylor taking a class in the morning and Mrs. Taylor one in the afternoon. There were times when all the students were down with seasickness, and the teachers had to do duty as steward and stewardess. But they were good sailors, and the younger people soon found their sea legs. How young they all were! their leader at thirty-four being much the senior of the party.

At close quarters on that little sailing ship character was tested, and it was easy for the crew to see how far these passengers lived up to their profession. Needless to say they were keenly watched, at work and in their hours of relaxation. Doing all they could to make the voyage pleasant for the ship’s company, the missionaries prayed and waited. Then the sailors themselves asked for meetings, and a work of God began which resulted in the conversion of a large majority of the crew. It is a wonderful record, as one reads it in letters written at the time, and makes it very evident that the pioneers of the Mission were living for nothing less than to win souls to Christ. They were not faultless, and one reads of failures that hindered blessing. But these were not taken as a matter of course. They were deplored and confessed with a sincerity which restored fellowship in the Lord.

Then, unable to wreck the usefulness of the party, it seemed as though the great adversary, “the prince of the power of the air,”

determined to send them, ship and all, to the bottom. It was nothing short of a miracle that they ever reached their destination, for all the way up the China Sea they were hard-pressed by storm and tempest.

For fifteen days the stress of one typhoon after another was upon them, until they were almost a wreck.

The appearance of things was now truly terrific [Mr. Taylor wrote after twelve days of this experience]… Rolling fearfully, the masts and yards hanging down were tearing our only sail… and battering like a ram against the mainyard.

The deck from forecastle to poop was one scarcely broken sea.

The roar of the water, the clanging of chains, the beating of the dangling masts and yards, the sharp smack of the torn sails made it almost impossible to hear any orders that might be given.

And for three days after that the danger only increased, as the ship was making water fast. Fires were all out and cooking was impossible. For a time no drinking water was obtainable, and the women as well as the men worked at the pumps. But through it all prayer was so wonderfully answered that no lives were lost or serious injuries sustained. Kept in the peace which passes understanding, even the mother anxious for her children was enabled, as she wrote, “to enter into Habakkuk’s experience as never before — ‘YET I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.’”

No less wonderful were the answers to prayer a little later when the party set out from Shanghai, all in Chinese dress, to seek a home inland. Traveling by houseboats, the ladies and children could be sheltered from curious crowds as city after city was passed, while efforts were being made to find premises in which some of the young men might settle. But only disappointment awaited them. Again and again when it seemed they had succeeded, negotiations fell through and they had to move on, an unbroken party, toward Hangchow. Two or three missionary families had already taken up residence in that city, and it would have meant serious risk to them as well as to the new arrivals if the coming of so large a party stirred up opposition.

Yet, what were they to do? Autumn was far advanced and the nights on the water were bitterly cold. Several of the party were more or less ill and the boat people were clamoring to go home for the winter.

Never had Mr. Taylor realized his responsibilities more than when he left the boats in a quiet place outside the city and went ahead to seek the accommodation so urgently needed.

Mrs. Taylor was feeling the situation no less keenly, as with quiet, confident faith she gathered the younger missionaries for prayer, telling them of the comfort that had come to her through the Psalm in her regular reading that morning: “Who will bring me into the strong city? who will lead me into Edom? Wilt not thou, O God?

… Give us help from trouble; for vain is the help of man.” Together they read it now, and the prayer that followed changed an hour of painful suspense into one of fellowship long to be remembered.

Could it be Mr. Taylor’s voice that stirred the boat-people outside? Could he be back so soon? And what tidings did he bring?

“Before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.” Yes, all was well! A home was ready, waiting for them.

One of the Hangchow missionaries was absent for a week and had left word that his house, comfortably furnished, was at the disposal of Mr. Taylor’s party. Situated on a quiet street, it could be reached in the boats without observation, and that very night the weary, thankful travelers were at rest in the great city.

And within the next few days, in spite of all the usual difficulties, Mr. Taylor was enabled to secure premises of their own — a large rambling house which had once been a mandarin’s residence, but in course of time had become a regular rabbit warren, occupied by a number of families. It lent itself well to adaptation, and while the new owners were only in part possession they were able to begin missionary work within their own doors, without attracting too much attention. It does not need many words for a loving heart to overflow, and Miss Faulding, the youngest of the party, was already able to make herself understood by the women.

We have been getting the house a little more comfortable [she wrote in the middle of December] though there is plenty still to be done. Mr. Taylor and the young men have contrived paper ceilings fixed on wooden frames, which keep out some of the cold air — for the upstairs rooms have roofs such as you find in chapels at home. They also have papered some of the partitions between the rooms. Of course we are as yet in confusion, but we are getting on, and I hope shall be settled some day.

The lodgers are to leave next week. They occupy principally the ground floor. … I am so glad for them to have been here, for many have come to Chinese prayers and listened attentively. We could not have visited out of doors yet, … but I read and talked with those women every day and they seem to like it. One woman I have great hope of.

Before Christmas there were attentive audiences of fifty or sixty at the Sunday services, and Mr. Taylor had made at least one evangelistic journey. In the neighboring city of Siaoshan he and Mr. Meadows had found excellent opportunities for preaching the Gospel and had been enabled to rent a small house, with a view to settling out some of the new arrivals as soon as possible. His letters to Mr. Berger show the spirit in which they were facing their great task.

You will be glad to learn that facilities for sending letters by native post and for transmitting money … to the interior are very good. I do not think there will be any difficulty in remitting money to any province in the empire which will not be easily overcome. In the same way, letters from the most distant parts can be sent to the ports. Such communication is slow and may prove rather expensive, but it is tolerably sure. Thus we see the way opening before us for work in the interior.

It is pretty cold weather [Dec. 4] to be living in a house without any ceilings and with very few walls and windows. There is a deficiency in the wall of my own bedroom six feet by nine, closed in with a sheet, so that ventilation is decidedly free. But we heed these things very little.

Around us are poor, dark heathen — large cities without any missionary, populous towns without any missionary, villages without number, all without the means of grace. I do not envy the state of mind that would forget these, or leave them to perish, for fear of a little discomfort. May God make us faithful to Him and to our work.

Meanwhile his hands were more than full in Hangchow. With the Chinese New Year, patients crowded to the dispensary, as many as two hundred in a day, and an equal number attended the Sunday services.

When the first reinforcements arrived from home, early in 1867, Mr. Taylor was too busy to see anything of them until hours later. He was standing on a table at the time, preaching to a crowd of patients in the courtyard, and could only call out a hearty welcome as the party entered, escorted by Mr. Meadows. The new arrivals were more than satisfied with this state of affairs, and it was not long before John McCarthy was at Mr. Taylor’s side, soon to become his chief helper in the medical work. Those were days when, amid external hardships, his fellow workers had the opportunity of at any rate close association with the leader they loved, who embodied to so large an extent their ideals.

I think of him as I ever knew him [Mr. McCarthy wrote from western China thirty-eight years later], kind, loving, thoughtful of everyone but himself, a blessing wherever he went and a strength and comfort to all with whom he came in contact … a constant example of all that a missionary ought to be.

Yet there were some, even in those early days who, through failure in their own spiritual life, became critical of all around them. The spirit that had caused trouble on the voyage was still in evidence, and Mrs. Taylor suffered no less than her husband through the aspersions made. Not until months later, however, did she mention the matter, even in writing to Mrs. Berger, so anxious were they to conquer the trouble by love and patience. It was in answer to inquiries from Saint Hill that she wrote at length:

Do pray for us very much, for we do so need God’s preserving grace at the present time. We have come to fight Satan in his very strongholds, and he will not let us alone.

What folly were ours, were we here in our own strength! But greater is He that is for us than all that are against us.

…I should be very sorry to see discord sown among the sisters of our party, and this is one of the evils I am fearing now. … What turn the N—- matter will take I cannot think. One thing I know: “the hope of Israel” will not forsake us. One is almost tempted to ask, “Why was N—- permitted to come out?” Perhaps it was that our Mission might be thoroughly established on right bases early in its history.

Sorrows of another kind were permitted to test faith and endurance as the summer wore on, but all the while souls were being saved and the church built up which numbers over fifteen hundred members today. When the first baptisms came in May, Mrs. Taylor wrote again to Mrs. Berger:

Perhaps the dear Lord sees that we need sorrows to keep us from being elated at the rich blessing He is giving in our work.

But she little anticipated the overwhelming personal sorrow the hot season was to bring.

Sweetest and brightest of all their children was the little daughter given them in Ningpo, who by this time was almost eight years old. Full of love to the Lord Jesus and to the people around them, she was no little help in the work as well as with her younger brothers, to whom she was all a sister could be. But with the long hot days Gracie began to droop, and though the children were taken to the hills nothing could save the little life.

Beside his dying child in the old, ruined temple, Mr. Taylor faced the situation for himself and those he loved best.

It was no vain nor unintelligent act [he wrote to Mr. Berger] when, knowing this land, its people and climate, I laid my wife and children with myself on the altar for this service. And He whom so unworthily, yet in simplicity and godly sincerity, we are and have been seeking to serve — and with some measure of success — He has not left us now.

To his mother, Mr. Taylor wrote more freely.

Our dear little Gracie! How we 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 figure 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 see the sparkle of those bright eyes?” And yet she is not lost. I would not have her back again. I am thankful she was taken, rather than any of the others, though she was the sunshine of our lives…

I think I never saw anything so perfect, so beautiful as the remains of that dear child. The long, silken eyelashes under the finely arched brows; the nose, so delicately chiseled; the mouth, small and sweetly expressive; the purity of the white features … all are deeply impressed on heart and memory. Then her sweet little Chinese jacket, and the little hands folded on her bosom, holding a single flower — oh, it was passing fair, and so hard to close forever from our sight!

Pray for us. At times I seem almost overwhelmed with the internal and external trials connected with our work. But He has said, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,” and “My strength is made perfect in weakness.” So be it.

In the sorrow of this bereavement Mr. and Mrs. Taylor consecrated themselves afresh to the task of reaching inland China with the Gospel. Before the close of the year all the prefectural cities in Chekiang had been visited. Nanking in the neighboring province had been occupied, and the members of the Mission were working in centers as much as twenty-four days’ journey apart. The church also in Hangchow was well established with Wang Lae-djun as its pastor [Wang Lae-djun was the Ningpo friend who had accompanied Mr. and Mrs. Taylor to England], and as spring came again it was possible for the leaders of the Mission to be spared from that center.

Those were days when scarcely a station in China was opened without danger to life itself. Riots were so usual that they seemed almost part of the proceedings, and it was natural for Mr. Taylor to say to a candidate who had lost a limb and could only walk with the help of a crutch,

“But what would you do in China if a riot broke out and you had to run away?”

“I had not considered running away,” was the quiet answer. “I thought that ‘the lame’ were to ‘take the prey.’”

And this he did, in actual fact, when the time came and he had the privilege of living down the troubles through which the Gospel came to Wenchow.

“Why don’t you run away?” yelled the rioters who were robbing him of everything and had taken even his crutches.

“Run away!” he replied with a smile. “How can a man run with only one leg, I should like to know!”

Disarmed by his courage and friendliness, the better element prevailed, and the unseen power of prayer won the day.

[It was shortly after the death of little Gracie that Mr. George Stott, who had already been some years in China, planted in the city and prefecture of Wenchow the church which now numbers (including all communicants) eight thousand adult members.]

In the same spirit George Duncan, the tall, quiet Highlander, made his way in Nanking as the first resident missionary. Content to live in the Drum Tower, when he could get no other lodging, he shared an open loft with the rats and the deep-toned bell, spending his days amid the crowds in street and tea shop. When his supply of money was running low, his Chinese cook and only companion came to ask what they should do — as to leave the city and the little place they had rented would probably mean no possibility of return.

“Do?” said the missionary. “Why, we shall ‘trust in the Lord, and do good.’ So shall we ‘dwell in the land’ and verily we shall be fed.”

Days went on, and Mr. Taylor found himself unable to reach Nanking by native banks. Finally, in his anxiety for Duncan, he sent a brother-missionary to relieve the situation. By this time the cook’s savings, willingly given to the work, were all used up, and between them they had not a dollar left. But Duncan had gone out to his preaching as usual, saying to his anxious companion:

“Let us just ‘trust in the Lord and do good.’ His promise is still the same, ‘So shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily THOU SHALT BE FED.’”

That evening Rudland understood why the water in the Grand Canal had run so low that he had been obliged to finish his journey overland, for it brought him to Nanking several days earlier than would have been possible by boat. When he reached the house it was to find cupboard and purse alike empty. Tramping the endless streets, Duncan had preached all day and was returning tired and hungry when, to his surprise, he saw his Chinese helper running to meet him.

“Oh, sir,” he cried breathlessly, “it’s all right! It’s all right! Mr. Rudland — the money — a good supper!”

“Did I not tell you this morning,” Duncan replied,

laying a kindly hand on his shoulder, “that it is ALWAYS ‘all right’ to trust in the living God?”

But Mr. Taylor was not content with getting the young men out into pioneering work. There were no dangers or hardships which he and Mrs. Taylor themselves were not ready to face, and the inward, spiritual urge was at least as strong in their hearts as in others in the Mission. It was not easy to leave Hangchow after sixteen months of settled life and work. The church already numbered fifty baptized believers, and many of the inquirers were full of promise. But with Wang Lae-djun as pastor, assisted by Mr. McCarthy, and with Miss Faulding caring for the women, the good work would go on. There were lonely pioneers needing help, and teeming cities, towns and villages entirely without the Word of Life. Though it meant breaking up their home and taking the children to live on boats for a time, they set out in the spring, as we have seen, ready to join Duncan at Nanking, or to stay in any place that might open to them “en route.” It was in the great city of Yangchow the travelers were enabled to settle after two months of boat life. They had spent three weeks with Mr. Henry Cordon, a member of the Mission who was just commencing work in the far-famed city of Soochow, and had come on to Chinkiang at the junction of the Grand Canal with the mighty Yangtze.

Impressed with the strategic importance of this place, Mr. Taylor was soon in treaty for premises which they subsequently obtained, and finding that the negotiations were likely to be prolonged they continued their journey across the Yangtze and a few miles up the northern section of the Grand Canal. Thus the famous city of which Marco Polo had once been governor was reached, its turreted walls enclosing a population of three hundred and sixty thousand, without any witness for Christ.

Were it not that you yourselves are old travellers [Mrs. Taylor wrote to Mrs. Berger] I should think it impossible for you to realize our feelings last Monday week, when we exchanged the discomfort of a boat into every room of which the heavy rain had been leaking, for a suite of apartments in a first-rate Chinese hotel — such a place as my husband, who has seen a good deal of Chinese travellers’ accommodations, never before met with — and that hotel, too, inside the city of Yangchow.

A friendly innkeeper and crowds of interested visitors promised well at the beginning, and after a favorable proclamation from the governor had appeared, a house was obtained into which the family moved in the middle of July. The heat was already trying, and they were hoping for quieter days in August, but the rush of patients and visitors continued. The attraction of a foreign family in the city was considerable, especially as Mr. Taylor proved to be a skillful physician. Mrs. Taylor’s pleasing Chinese speech and manners attracted the women, and just as in Hangchow, hearts seemed opening to the Gospel.

But the enemy was busy. It could not be that such an advance into his territory should be unchallenged. The “literati” of the city held a meeting and decided to stir up trouble. Anonymous handbills appeared all over the city, attributing the most revolting crimes to foreigners, especially those whose business it was to propagate “the religion of Jesus.” Before long the missionaries realized that a change was coming over the attitude of the people.

Friendly visitors gave place to crowds of the lowest rabble about the door, and a fresh set of posters added fuel to the flame. By patience and kindliness rioting was averted again and again — Mr. Taylor hardly daring to leave the entrance to the premises for several days, where he was answering questions and keeping the crowds in order.

Great was the thankfulness of the household, augmented by the arrival of the Rudlands and Mr. Duncan, when the storm seemed to have spent itself. The intense heat of August was broken by torrential rains which effectually scattered the crowds. But the relief was short-lived. Two foreigners from Chinkiang, wearing not the Chinese dress adopted by the missionaries, but undisguised foreign clothing, came up to visit Yangchow and caused no little sensation. This was too good a chance to be lost. The “literati” were again busy, and no sooner had the visitors left with the impression that all was quiet, than reports began to be circulated that children were missing in all directions. Twenty-four at least, so the people believed, had fallen prey to the inhuman foreigners.

“Courage — avenge our wrongs! Attack! Destroy! Much loot shall be ours!”

* * * * *

Forty-eight hours later, in a boat nearing Chinkiang, wounded, suffering but undismayed, the missionary party were thanking God for His marvelous protection in the storm of murderous passions that had almost overwhelmed them.

Our God has brought us through [Mrs. Taylor wrote as they traveled], may it be to live henceforth more fully to His praise and glory. We have had another typhoon, so to speak, not as prolonged as the literal one, nearly two years ago, but at least equally dangerous to our lives and more terrible while it lasted. I believe God will bring His own glory out of this experience, and I hope it will tend to the furtherance of the Gospel. … Yours in a present Savior…

“A PRESENT SAVIOR” — how little could the rioters have understood the secret of such calmness and strength! Awed by something, they knew not what, the raging mob had been restrained from the worst deeds of violence. Death, though imminent, had been averted again and again, and both Mr. Taylor, exposed to all the fury of the crowds on his way to seek the help of local authorities, and those he had had to leave, who faced the perils of attack and fire in their besieged dwelling, were alike protected by the Unseen Hand.

But they were hours of anguish — anguish for the mother as she sheltered the children and women of the party in an upper room, from which they were driven at last by fire; anguish for the father, detained at a distance, hearing from the mandarin’s “yamen” the yells of the rioters bent on destruction. Outwardly as calm as if there were no danger, Mrs. Taylor faced those terrible scenes, more than once saving life by her presence of mind and perfect command of the language, her heart meanwhile torn with anxiety for the loved one they might never see again.

Long and trying were the negotiations that followed, before the Yangchow house was repaired and the party permitted to return.

Quite a function was arranged for their reception, and it was with thankfulness the leader of the Mission was able to write: “The results of this case will in all probability greatly facilitate work in the interior.” But it was the family life and friendly spirit of the missionaries that gradually disarmed suspicion. “Actions speak louder than words,” and neighbors had something to think over when the children were brought back after all that had happened, and when it appeared that Mrs. Taylor had not hesitated to return under conditions which made peace and quietness specially desirable.

In this again [she wrote to her beloved friend at Saint Hill] God has given me the desire of my heart. For I felt that if safety to my infant permitted it, I would rather it were born in this city, in this house, in this very room than in any other place — your own beautiful home not excepted, in which I have been so tenderly cared for, and the comforts and luxuries of which I know so well how to appreciate.

The arrival of a fourth son could not but make a favorable impression, as did the speedy recovery of all who had been injured in the riot. But far deeper was the compensation of finding that the innkeeper who had first received them in the city, and two others who had dared much to befriend them during the riot, were now confessed believers in Christ and candidates for baptism.

“He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”

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