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Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret


Against me earth and hell combine; But on my side is Power Divine; Jesus is all, and He is mine. —W. T. Matson

At home in England, Mr. Berger was facing even a worse storm that winter than had broken over the little mission in China. For the Yangchow riot had stirred up criticism in Parliament and throughout the country to an extent that seems hardly credible. Based upon misunderstandings, the public press was bitter in its attack upon missionaries who had brought the country to the verge of war with China, it was stated, demanding the protection of British gunboats in their campaign to induce the Chinese to change their religion “at the mouth of the cannon and point of the bayonet.” Needless to say, Mr. Taylor and his colleagues had given little if any ground for such criticism. Their case had been taken up by the consular authorities in a way that the missionaries neither expected nor desired. Acting under instructions from the Foreign Office, its representatives were quick to make the most of the opportunity to press for treaty rights, but before the not unreasonable demands of the British Ambassador were complied with, a change of Government in England complicated the situation. Mrs. Taylor, writing to relieve her husband, put all the details fully before Mr. and Mrs. Berger.

As to the harsh judgings of the world [she concluded] or the more painful misunderstandings of Christian brethren, we generally feel that the best plan is to go on with our work and leave it to God to vindicate our cause. But it is right that you should know intimately how we have acted and why. I would suggest, however, that it would be undesirable to PRINT the fact that Mr. Medhurst, the Consul General, and through him Sir Rutherford Alcock, took the matter up without application from us. The new Ministry at home censures those out here for the policy which the late Ministry enjoined upon them. It would be ungenerous and ungrateful were we to render their position still more difficult by throwing all the onus, so to speak, on them.

There was nothing for it but with prayer and patience to weather the storm which continued long after peaceful residence had been resumed at Yangchow. Four months later, indeed, Mr. Berger was writing from Saint Hill.

The Yangchow matter is before the House of Lords. …

You can scarcely imagine what an effect it is producing in the country. Thank God I can say, “None of these things move me.” I believe He has called us to this work, and it is not for us to run away from it or allow difficulties to overcome us. … Be of good courage, the battle is the Lord’s.

It was doubly painful that, at such a crisis, the disaffection of certain members of the Mission came to a climax and the resignation had to be asked for of some who from the very first had caused trouble. Their representation of matters added to the misunderstandings at home, and in spite of Mr. Berger’s wise, strong leadership, not a few friends were more or less alienated from the work. This, together with the strictures in the public press, affected the income in a serious way, so that the trials that pressed upon the leaders of the Mission were neither few nor small.

Pray for us [Mr. Taylor wrote soon after the riot].

We need much grace. You cannot conceive the daily calls there are for patience, for forbearance, for tact in dealing with the many difficulties and misunderstandings that arise among so many persons of different nationality, language and temperament. Pray the Lord ever to give me the single eye, the clear judgment, the wisdom and gentleness, the patient spirit, the unwavering purpose, the unshaken faith, the Christlike love needed for the efficient discharge of my duties. And ask Him to send us sufficient means and suitable helpers for the great work which we have as yet barely commenced.

For in the midst of it all there was no halting in the pioneer evangelism to which the Mission was called. Even before Yangchow matters were settled, Mr. Taylor had taken an important journey up the Grand Canal to a city from which he hoped to reach the northern provinces, and Mr. Meadows had left his work in Ningpo to others that he might lead an advance into the first inland province westward from Chinkiang — Anhwei with its twenty millions among whom there was not a single Protestant missionary.

But instead of the increase of men and means for which they were praying, there was a marked diminution in the funds reaching them from home. Unforeseen on their part, the situation was not unprepared for, however, as they found to their encouragement. For the One who had permitted the troubles to come had also made provision in His own wonderful way.

A penniless man in England — literally with no more resources than the birds of the air or lilies of the field — was already supporting through prayer and faith a family of some two thousand orphan children, later increased to double that number.

Without a cent of endowment, without an appeal of any kind for help, without even letting their wants be known to anyone but the Father in Heaven, on whose promise he relied, George Mueller was proving the faithfulness of God in a way that had long stimulated Hudson Taylor’s faith and that of many another. But so large was the heart of this man of God in Bristol that he could not be content without having some part in direct missionary work in the darker places of the earth. He prayed for funds with which he might forward the preaching of the Gospel in many lands, including China, and had the joy of being the Lord’s channel of help in many a difficult situation. It seemed as if the Lord had his ear in quite a special way, and could use him in needed ministries that others overlooked or were not prepared for.

No sooner had the Yangchow riot taken place, for example, and long before the news could have reached England, it was laid on Mr. Mueller’s heart to send financial help to the China Inland Mission.

He was already contributing, but within a day or two of the riot he wrote to Mr. Berger asking for the names of other members of the Mission whom he might add to his list for ministry and prayer. Mr. Berger sent him six names from which to choose, and his choice was to take them all.

And then, a year later, when the shortness of funds in China was being most seriously felt, Mr. Mueller wrote again, enlarging his help. While that letter was on its way, Mr. Taylor, in sending out a December remittance, wrote to one of the workers:

Over a thousand pounds LESS has been contributed during the first half of this (financial) year than last year. I do not keep a cook now. I find it cheaper to have cooked food brought in from an eating-house at a dollar a head per month. … Let us pray in faith for funds, that we may not have to diminish our work.

To diminish one’s comforts seemed to him of small account, but “to diminish our work” — well, thank God, that was something he never had to do! Before the year closed, on this occasion, Mr. Mueller’s letter was in his hands.

My dear Brother [it read], the work of the Lord in China is more and more laid on my heart, and hence I have been longing and praying to be able to assist it more and more with means, as well as with prayer. Of late I have especially had a desire to help all the dear brethren and sisters with you with pecuniary means. This I desired especially that they might see that I was interested in them personally. This my desire the Lord has now fulfilled.

The eleven checks enclosed were for all the members of the Mission to whom Mr. Mueller had not previously been ministering.

Writing by the same mail, Mr. Berger said:

Mr. Mueller, after due consideration, has requested the names of ALL the brethren and sisters connected with the C.I.M., as he thinks it well to send help as he is able to each one, unless we know of anything to hinder. … Surely the Lord knew that our funds were sinking, and thus put it into the heart of His honored servant to help.

But it was not the money only, it was the prayerful sympathy of such a man that made his gifts the wonderful encouragement they were [Mr. Mueller’s donations for the next few years amounted to nearly ten thousand dollars annually — just the sum by which the income of the Mission had fallen off after the Yangchow riot].

My chief object [he wrote in his letter to the missionaries] is to tell you that I love you in the Lord; that I feel deeply interested about the Lord’s work in China, and that I pray daily for you.

I thought it might be a little encouragement to you in your difficulties, trials, hardships and disappointments to hear of one more who feels for you and who remembers you before the Lord. But were it otherwise, had you even no one to care for you — or did you at least seem to be in a position as if no one cared for you — you will always have the Lord to be with you. Remember Paul’s case at Rome (2”Tim. 4:16-18).

On Him then reckon, to Him look, on Him depend: and be assured that if you walk with Him, look to Him and expect help from Him, He will never fail you. An older brother, who has known the Lord for forty-four years, who writes this, says for your encouragement that He has never failed him. In the greatest difficulties, in the heaviest trials, in the deepest poverty and necessities, He has never failed me; but because I was enabled by His grace to trust in Him, He has always appeared for my help. I delight in speaking well of His name.

Sorely had such encouragement been needed by Mr. Taylor himself, for, strange as it may seem, the trouble that followed the Yangchow riot had been light compared with the trials within. Perhaps it was partly stress of outward circumstances that had hindered spiritual joy and rest; and yet, after the deeper experience that was drawing nearer, no amount of trial ever clouded his rejoicing in the Lord.

“It doesn’t matter, really, how great the pressure is,” he used to say; “it only matters WHERE THE PRESSURE LIES. See that it never comes BETWEEN you and the Lord — then, the greater the pressure, the more it presses you to His breast.”

But at that time he had not learned the secret that made his after life so radiant, and many were the hours of inward darkness and almost despair.

I have often asked you to remember me in prayer [he wrote to his mother], and when I have done so there has been much need of it. That need has never been greater than at present. Envied by some, despised by many, hated by others, often blamed for things I never heard of or had nothing to do with, an innovator on what have become established rules of missionary practice, an opponent of mighty systems of heathen error and superstition, working without precedent in many respects and with few experienced helpers, often sick in body as well as perplexed in mind and embarrassed by circumstances — had not the Lord been specially gracious to me, had not my mind been sustained by the conviction that the work is His and that He is with me in what it is no empty figure to call “the thick of the conflict,” I must have fainted or broken down. But the battle IS the Lord’s, and He will conquer. We may fail — do fail continually — but He never fails. Still, I need your prayers more than ever.

My position becomes continually more and more responsible, and my need greater of special grace to fill it.

But I have continually to mourn that I follow at such a distance and learn so slowly to imitate my precious Master.

I cannot tell you how I am buffeted sometimes by temptation. I never knew how bad a heart I have. Yet I do know that I love God and love His work, and desire to serve Him only and in all things. And I value above all else that precious Savior in whom alone I can be accepted. Often I am tempted to think that one so full of sin cannot be a child of God at all. But I try to throw it back, and rejoice all the more in the preciousness of Jesus and in the riches of the grace that has made us “accepted in the beloved.” Beloved He IS of God; beloved He ought to be of us. But oh, how short I fall here again! May God help me to love Him more and serve Him better. Do pray for me. Pray that the Lord will keep me from sin, will sanctify me wholly, will use me more largely in His service.

“The Holy Spirit never creates hungerings and thirstings after righteousness, but in order that Christ may fill the longing soul.”

“Faith in Jesus crucified is the way of peace to the sinner; so faith in Jesus risen is the way of daily salvation to the saint.”

“You cannot be your own Savior, either in whole or in part.”

Click to read the next chapter: Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret 14 | The Exchanged Life