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Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret


He told me of a river bright That flows from Him to me, That I might be, for His delight, A fair and fruitful tree. —Tersteegen

When Mr. Taylor was caught away from the heart of China — passing in one painless moment to the presence of the Lord he loved— a feeling almost of suspense held many hearts. What will become of the Mission now? was the unspoken question. Hudson Taylor was a man of such unusual faith! It was all right while he lived and prayed.

But now — ? The thought was natural, but years have only proved that though the father and long-loved leader of the work passed on, the God in whom was all his confidence remains.

The lines at the head of this chapter were dear to Mr. Taylor, and express the essence of his spiritual secret.

It is very simple [he wrote] but has He not planted us by the river of living water that we may be, FOR HIS DELIGHT, fair and fruitful to His people?

God was first in Hudson Taylor’s life — not the work, not the needs of China or of the Mission, not his own experiences. He knew that the promise was true, “Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” And is the promise less true for us today? Let the experience of one of the leaders of the Mission stand for the many.

The work is always increasing [Miss Soltau wrote], and were it not for the consciousness of Christ as my life, hour by hour, I could not go on. But He is teaching me glorious lessons of his sufficiency, and each day I am carried forward with no feeling of strain or fear of collapse.

Streams flowing still — how true it has been in the experience of the enlarged and ever-growing Mission! The main facts as to the developments of the last thirty years are given in an appendix, and wonderful facts they are. But here we would only refer— as we turn from the past to the present — to the practical side of Mr. Taylor’s spiritual life. He knew that the thought expressed by one deeply versed in the things of God is true: “God does not give us overcoming life: He gives us life AS WE OVERCOME.”

[See “My Utmost for His Highest,” by Oswald Chambers, page 47.] To him, the secret of overcoming lay in daily, hourly fellowship with God; and this, he found, could only be maintained by secret prayer and feeding upon the Word through which He reveals Himself to the waiting soul.

It was not easy for Mr. Taylor, in his changeful life, to make time for prayer and Bible study, but he knew that it was vital.

Well do the writers remember traveling with him month after month in northern China, by cart and wheelbarrow, with the poorest of inns at night. Often with only one large room for coolies and travelers alike, they would screen off a corner for their father and another for themselves, with curtains of some sort; and then, after sleep at last had brought a measure of quiet, they would hear a match struck and see the flicker of candlelight which told that Mr. Taylor, however weary, was poring over the little Bible in two volumes always at hand. From two to four AM was the time he usually gave to prayer; the time when he could be most sure of being undisturbed to wait upon God. That flicker of candlelight has meant more to them than all they have read or heard on secret prayer; it meant reality, not preaching but practice.

The hardest part of a missionary career, Mr. Taylor found, is to maintain regular, prayerful Bible study. “Satan will always find you something to do,” he would say, “when you ought to be occupied about that, if it is only arranging a window blind.” Fully would he have endorsed the weighty words:

Take time. Give God time to reveal Himself to you.

Give yourself time to be silent and quiet before Him, waiting to receive, through the Spirit, the assurance of His presence with you, His power working in you. Take time to read His Word as in His presence, that from it you may know what He asks of you and what He promises you. Let the Word create around you, create within you a holy atmosphere, a holy heavenly light, in which your soul will be refreshed and strengthened for the work of daily life. [Rev. Andrew Murray, in “The Secret of Adoration,” from the Introduction.] It was just because he did this that Hudson Taylor’s life was full of joy and power, by the grace of God. When over seventy years of age he paused, Bible in hand, as he crossed the sitting-room in Lausanne, and said to one of his children: “I have just finished reading the Bible through, today, for the fortieth time in forty years.” And he not only read it, he lived it.

Hudson Taylor stopped at no sacrifice in following Christ.

“Cross-loving men are needed,” he wrote in the midst of his labors in China, and if he could speak to us today would it not be to call us to that highest of all ambitions: “that I may know him [the One we, too, supremely love], and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings.” Can we not hear again the tones of his quiet voice as he says:

There is a needs-be for us to give ourselves for the life of the world. An easy, non-self-denying life will never be one of power. Fruit-bearing involves cross- bearing. There are not two Christs — an easy-going one for easy-going Christians, and a suffering, toiling one for exceptional believers. There is only one Christ. Are you willing to abide in HIM, and thus to bear much fruit?

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