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Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret


Oh, to save these! to perish for their saving; Die for their life; be offered for them all. —Selected

But it told, this busy, happy work, upon those who were engaged in it. Within nine months, sixteen patients from the hospital had been baptized, while more than thirty others were candidates for admission to one or other of the Ningpo churches. But six years in China, six such years, had left their mark, and Hudson Taylor’s strength was failing rapidly.

People are perishing, and God is so blessing the work [he wrote to his father]. But we are wearing down and must have help…

Do you know of any earnest, devoted young men desirous of serving God in China, who, not wishing for more than their actual support, would be willing to come out and labor here? Oh, for four or five such helpers! They would probably begin to preach in Chinese in six months’ time, and in answer to prayer the means for their support would be found.

“People are perishing and God is so blessing the work” — it was the urgency of these facts that carried Hudson Taylor through serious illness and the painful parting, when he was invalided home in 1860. It was the urgency of these facts that sustained him through the years that followed, when it seemed as though the doctors were right in thinking that he would never be strong enough to return to China. The great need, as he had seen it, and a deep sense of responsibility burned as a steady fire in his soul, and neither poor health, lack of encouragement nor any other difficulty could lessen his sense of call to bring Christ to those perishing millions.

Settling in the east end of London, to be near his old hospital, Mr. Taylor was able as health improved to resume his medical studies. He also undertook the task of revising the romanized Ningpo Testament, the Bible Society having agreed to publish a new edition. And for a time there was a good deal of correspondence with young men who were considering China as a field for life service, which resulted in the going out of one, one only, to join Mr. and Mrs. Jones in Ningpo [Mr. James Meadows sailed for China in 1862, three years before the inauguration of the China Inland Mission, of which he was for more than fifty years an honored member. Two of his daughters are still in China, members of the Mission]. But gradually outside interest seemed to lessen, and Mr. and Mrs. Taylor found themselves, with few friends, shut up to prayer and patience. At twenty-nine and twenty-four years of age it was not easy to be set aside, cut off from the work they loved and left in the backwater of that dreary street in a poor part of London. Yet, without those hidden years with all their growth and testing, how could the vision and enthusiasm of youth have been matured for the leadership that was to be?

Five long, hidden years — and we should have known little of their experiences but for the discovery in an old, dusty packing-case, of a number of notebooks, small and thin, filled with Mr. Taylor’s handwriting. One after another we came upon them among much useless rubbish, until the complete series lay before us — twelve in number, not one missing. And what a tale was unfolded as, often blinded with tears, one traced the faded record!

For these unstudied pages reveal a growing intimacy with God and dependence upon Him. Faith is here, and faithfulness down to the smallest detail. Devotion is here and self-sacrifice, leading to unremitting labor. Prayer is here, patient persevering prayer, wonderfully answered. But there is something more: there is the deep, prolonged exercise of a soul that is following hard after God. There is the gradual strengthening here, of a man called to walk by faith not by sight; the unutterable confidence of a heart cleaving to God and God alone, which pleases Him as nothing else can.

“Without faith it is impossible to please [or satisfy] him:

for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”

Outwardly the days were filled with quiet, ordinary duties, enriched with trials and joys of many kinds. The little daughter who had brought such happiness in Ningpo had now three younger brothers.

Home and children had to be cared for with very limited means, and faith was often tested as Mr. and Mrs. Taylor went on in the pathway of direct dependence upon God. The work in Ningpo had also to be provided for and directed, which involved a good deal of correspondence. The New Testament revision was a task that seemed to grow rather than diminish, as it had come to include the preparation of marginal references. These proved of great value to the Ningpo Christians, and the labor of preparing them, while it was considerable, brought no little blessing to the young missionary who was spending hours every day over the Word of God.

The amount of work he was enabled to get through is amazing, and could hardly be credited but for this record. Every day Mr. Taylor noted the time given to his main task, and one frequently comes upon entries such as the following:

April 27, Revision seven hours (evening at Exeter Hall).

April 28, Revision nine and a half hours.

April 29, Revision eleven hours.

April 30, Revision five and a half hours (Baptist Missionary Society meetings).

May 1, Revision eight and a half hours (visitors till 10 P.M.).

May 2, Revision thirteen hours.

May 3, Sunday at Bayswater: In the morning heard Mr. Lewis, from John 3:33; took the Communion there in the afternoon. -1- Evening, stayed at home and engaged in prayer about our Chinese work.

-1- [Bayswater in the west end of London, was at this time the home of Mr. Taylor’s sister Amelia, recently married to Mr. B. Broomhall. The Rev. W. G. Lewis was the minister of the Baptist church of which Mr. Taylor had become a member.]

May 4, Revision four hours (correspondence and visitors).

May 5, Revision eleven and a half hours.

May 6, Revision seven hours (important interviews).

May 7, Revision nine and a half hours.

May 8, Revision ten and a half hours.

May 9, Revision thirteen hours.

May 10, Sunday: Morning, with Lae-djun on Heb. 11, first part, a happy season. -2- Wrote to James Meadows.

Afternoon, prayer with Maria about leaving this house, about Meadows, Truelove, revision, etc. Wrote to Mr. Lord.-3- Evening, heard Mr. Kennedy on Matt. 27:42 — “He saved others, himself he cannot save.” Oh, to be more like the meek, forbearing, loving Jesus! Lord, make me more like Thee.

-2- [Lae-djun was one of the Ningpo Christians who had volunteered to come to England, without salary, to help Mr. and Mrs. Taylor in their work. This association had not a little to do with his subsequent usefulness as the first and for thirty years one of the most devoted pastors in the China Inland Mission.]

-3- [The Rev. E. C. Lord of Ningpo, though connected with the American Baptist Mission, found time to replace Mr. J. Jones in the care of the Bridge Street Church, and to give much help to Mr. and Mrs. Meadows. Mr. Jones had been obliged to leave China on account of illness, and did not live to reach England.]

The meetings referred to were a large part of Mr. Taylor’s work at this time, for he was doing his utmost to induce the denominational boards to take up the evangelization of inland China.

Alone or with his colleague in the revision, the Rev. F. F. Gough of the C.M.S., he visited the secretaries of various societies, putting before them the need of that long-neglected field, made accessible by the granting of passports for travel and even residence in the interior. But, while everywhere meeting with a sympathetic hearing, it became evident that none of the boards was prepared to assume responsibility for so great an undertaking.

All this, naturally, reacted in one way on Hudson Taylor, and when to his personal knowledge of certain parts of China was added a careful study of the whole field, the result was overwhelming. For he had been requested by his friend and pastor, Mr. Lewis, editor of the BAPTIST MAGAZINE, to write a series of articles to awaken interest in the Ningpo Mission. These he had begun to prepare and one had already been published when Mr. Lewis returned the manuscript of the second. The articles were too important and weighty, he felt, to be restricted to a denominational paper.

“Add to them,” he urged, “let them cover the whole field and be published as an appeal for inland China.”

This led to a detailed study of the spiritual needs of every part of China, and of its outlying dependencies. While in Ningpo, the pressure of claims immediately around him had been so great that Mr. Taylor had been unable to give much thought to the still greater needs further afield. But now — daily facing the map on the wall of his study and the open Bible whose promises were gripping his soul — he was as near the vast provinces of inland China as the places in which he had labored near the coast. Little wonder that “prayer was the only way by which the burdened heart could obtain any relief”!

But the real crisis came when prayer no longer brought relief, but seemed to commit him more and more to the undertaking from which he shrank. For he began to see in the light of that open Book that God could use him, even him, to answer his own prayers.

I had a growing conviction [he wrote] that God would have ME seek from Him the needed workers and go forth with them. But for a long time unbelief hindered my taking the first step. …

In the study of that divine Word, I learned that to obtain successful workers, not elaborate appeals for help, but first earnest prayer to God to thrust forth laborers, and second the deepening of the spiritual life of the Church, so that men should be unable to stay at home, were what was needed. I saw that the apostolic plan was not to raise ways and means, but to go and do the work, trusting His sure promise who has said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” …

But how inconsistent unbelief always is! I had no doubt but that if I prayed for fellow-workers, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, they would be given. I had no doubt but that, in answer to such prayer, the means for our going forth would be provided, and that doors would be opened before us in unreached parts of the Empire. But I had not then learned to trust God for keeping power and grace for myself, so no wonder I could not trust Him to keep others who might be prepared to go with me. I feared that amid the dangers, difficulties and trials necessarily connected with such work, some comparatively inexperienced Christians might break down, and bitterly reproach me for encouraging them to undertake an enterprise for which they were unequal.

Yet what was I to do? The sense of bloodguiltiness became more and more intense. Simply because I refused to ask for them, the laborers did not come forward, did not go out to China: and every day tens of thousands in that land were passing into Christless graves! Perishing China so filled my heart and mind that there was no rest by day and little sleep by night, till health gave way.

For the hidden years had done their work. An instrument was ready that God could use, and the prevailing prayers going up from that little home in East London were to receive a speedy though unexpected answer.

Click for the next chapter: Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret 10 | A Man Shut Up With God