Joseph Herrin (09-20-09)
Hudson Taylor – Growth of a Work of God
Hudson Taylor in 1893
(Click on picture for larger image)
The quotations in this post on the life of Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission, are taken from the second biographical book written by his son Dr. Howard Taylor. The book is titled Hudson Taylor – Growth of a Work of God. It can be read online in its entirety at the following link:
Hudson Taylor had spent six years by this time in China ministering. At the end of this period his health, which was never robust, was at such a low state that he had to return to England. He was told by the physicians that he would never be able to return to China again.
Upon arriving back in England he immediately set to work laboring to produce a copy of the Scriptures in a language that the Chinese, and the missionaries, could readily use. He also devoted himself to finishing his medical training. For four years he labored day by day, entering into his journal a brief summary of the days labor. For a man broken in health, he labored prodigiously.
The burden for lost souls in China never left him, and he continued to seek the Lord that He might raise up laborers for the mission field. Before another year had passed he had been able to arrange for five missionaries to be sent. These missionaries operated differently than most all other mission organizations in that day. They received no regular support. They did not raise large amounts of money before setting forth. They went in faith that the God who had called them would also care for them.
Hudson Taylor began to feel the pressure of this situation. His mind was led to deal with the responsibility of sending men and women to China to evangelize the population. What if support failed? What if there arose some great need among the workers, and there were no resources to send them? Hudson Taylor was confronted by the fear of great suffering and even death resulting in consequence of the missionaries who were going out with so little material support in evidence. We read of his struggle at this time.
“I knew God was speaking,” he said of this critical time. “I knew that in answer to prayer evangelists would be given and their support secured, because the Name of Jesus is worthy. But there unbelief came in.”
“Suppose the workers are given and go to China: trials will come; their faith may fail; would they not reproach you for bringing them into such a plight? Have you ability to cope with so painful a situation?”
“And the answer was, of course, a decided negative.”
“It was just a bringing in of self, through unbelief; the devil getting one to feel that while prayer and faith would bring one into the fix, one would have to get out of it as best one might. And I did not see that the Power that would give the men and the means would be sufficient to keep them also, even in the far interior of China.”
“Meanwhile, a million a month were dying in that land, dying without God. This was burned into my very soul. For two or three months the conflict was intense. I scarcely slept night or day more than an hour at a time, and feared I should lose my reason. Yet I did not give in. To no one could I speak freely, not even to my dear wife. She saw, doubtless, that something was going on; but I felt I must refrain as long as possible from laying upon her a burden so crushing – these souls, and what eternity must mean for every one of them, and what the Gospel might do, would do, for all who believed, if we would take it to them.”
The break in the journal at this point is surely significant. Faithfully the record had gone on for two and a quarter years; but now-silence. For seven weeks from the middle of April, lovely weeks of spring, there was no entry. First and only blank in those revealing pages, how much the very silence has to tell us! Yes, he was face to face with the purpose of God at last. Accept it, he dare not; escape it, he could not. And so, as long ago, “there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.”
It was Sunday, June 25, a quiet summer morning by the sea. Worn out and really ill, Hudson Taylor had gone to friends at Brighton, and, unable to bear the sight of rejoicing multitudes in the house of God, had wandered out alone upon the sands left by the receding tide. It was a peaceful scene about him, but inwardly he was in agony of spirit. A decision had to be made and he knew it, for the conflict could no longer be endured.
“Well,” the thought came at last, “if God gives us a band of men for inland China, and they go, and all die of starvation even, they will only be taken straight to heaven; and if one heathen soul is saved, would it not be well worthwhile?”
It was a strange way round to faith – that if the worst came to the worst it would still be worthwhile. But something in the service of that morning seems to have come to mind. God-consciousness began to take the place of unbelief, and a new thought possessed him as dawn displaces night.
“Why, if we are obeying the Lord, the responsibility rests with Him, not with us.”
This, brought home to his heart in the power of the Spirit, wrought the change once and for all.
“Thou, Lord,” he cried with relief that was unutterable, “Thou shalt have all the burden! At Thy bidding, as Thy servant I go forward, leaving results with Thee.”
For some time the conviction had been growing that he ought to ask for at any rate two evangelists for each of the eleven unoccupied provinces, and two for Chinese Tartary and Tibet. Pencil in hand he now opened his Bible, and with the boundless ocean breaking at his feet wrote the simple memorable words: ” Prayed for twenty-four willing skillful laborers at Brighton, June 25, 1865.”
“How restfully I turned away from the sands,” he said, recalling the deliverance of that hour. “The conflict ended, all was joy and peace. I felt as if I could fly up the hill to Mr. Pearse’s house. And how I did sleep that night! My dear wife thought Brighton had done wonders for me, and so it had.”
Such a trial is common among those who answer the call to follow the Spirit wherever He will lead. There is fear to be confronted as one carries the burden for their own self. How will they eat? How will they live? Where will their provision come from? Hudson Taylor had been adequate to such trials for the six years that he was laboring alone in China, but it was an altogether different burden to be seeking for, and sending, others to a foreign land where they too must face the same risks, trials and challenges.
I knew this burden when the Lord directed me to quit my employer in 1999, and to begin a ministry of writing. I had a wife and two young children. I had no savings, and no church to support me. All I had was the leading of the Spirit. Like Hudson Taylor, I judged that I was not adequate for the burdens to be carried, but neither could I deny the Lord and refuse to follow where He was leading.
When we see ourselves as responsible for the care of others, the weight can be crushing. We must enter into that place where we understand that Yahweh will Himself be the surety and care-giver for all those who follow Him. The burden is not ours alone to carry. The burden and responsibility belongs to Him. If He can fail, then our hope is in vain.
Yahweh does not promise any of His sons and daughters that they will not know troubles. He does not say they will not endure times of lack and even hunger. Indeed, He declares that such things will be common.
Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
The path of self-direction seems a much safer road. When one chooses for themselves the offering they will present to God and the life they will live, they are able to bypass many of the trials of faith. Yet such a life is totally unsatisfactory to the Father. He requires that we hate our own life that we might follow Christ. Those who have accepted the cost can also testify that the presence of god becomes much more dear to them than ever before. His mercies are sought for, and encountered every morning. Sufficient unto the day is the trouble thereof, and also the grace bestowed.
The Lord began introducing Hudson Taylor after this trial to people of some means. Hudson Taylor never sought such relations, for his confidence was fully in the Lord and not in the arm of flesh. Nevertheless, as God desired to expand the work of sending forth missionaries to China, He raised up those who would give of their substance, as well as raising up those who would lay down their entire lives in going to the mission fields.
Hudson Taylor relates an account of one meeting where a well-to-do family desired to contribute to the work, but they had already given to others and had nothing on hand at the moment. This family then considered that they could give the quarterly insurance money that was paid for the protection of their substantial gardens and conservatories, looking to the Lord to protect their property during that time.
So warm was the sympathy of the parents that they desired to help the Mission financially, though no appeal had been made for money and no collections taken. All the more, perhaps, for this reason, Mr. Taylor’s host and hostess wished to give as a matter of privilege; but their generosity in other directions had left them little in hand for the purpose. After praying over it, however, the thought suggested itself,
“Why not trust the Lord about the conservatories, and contribute the amount almost due for insurance?”
Langley Park possessed extensive greenhouses, and winter storms were apt to be serious near that east coast. But, definitely committing the matter to Him Who controls wind and wave, the check was drawn and the premium paid into the Mission treasury. The sequel Mr. Taylor never heard till long after, nor indeed that the gift had been made possible in this way. But the Lord knew; and when a few months later a storm of exceptional violence broke over the neighborhood, He did not forget. Much glass was shattered for miles around, but the conservatories at Langley Park entirely escaped.
I have observed the Father’s hand of protection in similar ways among those I have lived with. A couple years ago an elderly gentleman opened his home up to me that I might stay with him whenever I was in town. He and his grandson had been reading many of the writings I had written, and I had also shared with them numerous biographical books of saints who had walked in faith.
This gentleman has a very nice piece of property outside of town. He has 24 acres of land, a fishing pond and many trees on the property. It is a very idyllic setting. From time to time people were given permission to fish in his pond, and he even allowed some local churches and the rescue mission from the nearby town to bring groups out to fish.
The thought arose that it might be prudent to take out an insurance policy to protect this man and his property against loss from destruction, or from someone being injured and filing suit against him. As he was considering this the man’s grandson suggested to him that this was a test from God to see if He would trust Him or look to man for his security. After careful consideration and prayer the man chose not to purchase the insurance, but to leave the matter in God’s hands.
Some months afterwards a tremendous storm came through the area. It was on Mother’s Day, and there were numerous tornadoes in the area. There were many trees and buildings damaged. On the road he lived on trees toppled and telephone poles were snapped all along the way. I went out afterwards and saw that the road was closed due to the damage all around, but as I walked across this gentleman’s property I did not see any evidence of damage.
II Timothy 1:12
I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.
The many trials that Hudson Taylor faced in earlier days served to lay a foundation upon which his trust in God could rest. As the cares of the ministry increased, he was able to remember the trials he had already been carried through, looking to God with hope and expectation of continued care, protection and provision. He wrote:
Feeling, on the one hand, the solemn responsibility that rests upon us, and on the other the gracious encouragements that everywhere meet us in the Word of God, we do not hesitate to ask the great Lord of the Harvest to call forth, to thrust forth twenty-four European and twenty-four native evangelists, to plant the standard of the Cross in the eleven unevangelized provinces of China proper and in Chinese Tartary. To those who have never been called to prove the faithfulness of the Covenant-keeping God in supplying, in answer to prayer alone, the every need of His servants, 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 in varied circumstances, at home and abroad, by land and sea, in sickness and health, in dangers, in necessities and at the gates of death, such apprehensions would be wholly inexcusable. “The writer has seen God, in answer to prayer, quell the raging of the storm,” Mr. Taylor continued, “alter the direction of the wind and give rain in the midst of prolonged drought. He has seen Him, in answer to prayer, stay the angry passions and murderous intentions of violent men, and bring the machinations of His people’s foes to nought. He has seen Him, in answer to prayer, raise the dying from the bed of death, when human aid was vain; has seen Him preserve from the pestilence that walketh in darkness, and from the destruction that wasteth at noon-day. For more than eight years and a half he has proved the faithfulness of God in supplying his own temporal wants and the needs of the work in which he has been engaged…”
Instance after instance is given from Mr. Taylor’s experience of direct, unmistakable answers to prayer, and the deduction drawn is that with such a God it is safe and wise to go forward in the pathway of obedience-is indeed the only safe and wise thing to do.
Remarking on the operation of the China Inland Mission and the type of men and women it needed, he wrote:
“That Word had said, ‘Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things (food and raiment) shall be added unto you.’ If any one 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, ‘No good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly.’ If any one 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 it was unneeded and would do harm. Money wrongly placed, and money given from wrong motives are both to be greatly 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 at all, even to buy food with; for there are plenty of ravens in China, and the Lord could send them again with bread and flesh…”
“Our Father is a very experienced One. He knows very well that His children wake up with a good appetite every morning, and He always provides breakfast for them, and does not send them supperless to bed at night. ‘Thy bread shall be given thee, and thy water shall be sure.’ He sustained three million Israelites in the wilderness for forty years. We do not expect He will 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.”
It was men and women of faith, therefore, who were needed for the Inland Mission, prepared to depend on God alone, satisfied with poverty should He deem it best, and confident that His Word cannot be broken.
There is great wisdom in these words, and it is little wonder that the China Inland Mission met with much greater success in leading others to faith in Christ that those missionary organizations that operated along man’s principles, seeking to shield themselves from trials and distresses. It is also not surprising that the China Inland Mission found itself accused of recklessness, irresponsibility and folly by those denominational groups that always kept suitable money in reserve, and insurance policies and lines of credit for emergencies. The flesh of man finds it a terrifying thing to be vulnerable before the world. Yet peace is attained by the one who makes God his refuge and looks to the bank of heaven to supply His needs.
One such family who were willing to embrace the life of faith faced their own tests as God brought them to cast all upon Him. We read of their experience in the following words.
In the little town of Attica two other hearts had been learning similar lessons, hearts united in an equally deep bond of love. Circumstances had changed a good deal for Mr. and Mrs. Frost since Mr. Taylor’s previous visit, but their home seemed, if anything, more attractive than before. The marriage gift of his father, it had been beautified by the addition of paneled wooden ceilings, to replace the plaster ones which had fallen in the lower rooms, a detail that was to have a good deal to do with the direction of their lives at this time. With every comfort in their surroundings, a large circle of friends and nothing but happiness in their children, there seemed little of earthly good left to desire. But an unseen Hand was stirring up this nest, and Mr. Taylor’s second visit found them in the midst of strange experiences.
For their income, which had hitherto been amply sufficient, had suddenly been cut off through the failure of a flourishing business. At his father’s express desire, Mr. Frost had given up his own business some years previously, to devote himself entirely to evangelistic work. The father was well able to supply the needs of the family, and rejoiced to have fellowship in this way in his son’s service for the Lord: But now, to his sorrow, this was no longer possible. To have gone back into secular employment would have greatly curtailed Mr. Henry W. Frost’s usefulness as an evangelist, and would have necessitated his giving up much active participation in the work of the China Inland Mission. This he could not feel to be the will of God, after all the way in which he and Mr. Taylor had been led, and it practically came to be, as he expressed it, a question- “Which father are you really trusting?”
Outside the immediate family no one knew of their position, and both Mr. and Mrs. Frost saw it to be a special opportunity for putting to the test, not their faith only, but the definite promises of God. A few months previously they had determined never, under any circumstances, to go into debt. Amid the apparent comfort of their surroundings, therefore, and with wide margins of credit in the stores of the little town, they found themselves directly dependent upon their Heavenly Father even for daily bread. How searching as well as precious were the experiences through which they were learning more of His infinite faithfulness is a story to itself that we may not enter upon here. Suffice it to say that their joy in God was growing deeper and their desire to be wholly engaged in His service stronger, although they little anticipated the sacrifice that would be involved.
Great was the encouragement to Mr. Frost, as to Mr. Taylor, of the welcome with which they were received at the Niagara Conference of this summer. The interest in China seemed deeper and the sympathy for the Inland Mission stronger than the previous year. The gifts of 1888 for the support of American workers were largely exceeded, and many new friendships were formed and old ones strengthened…
Mr. Taylor’s chief object in coming over being the settlement of the work upon a permanent basis, he gave much time to meetings with the Council and intercourse with its individual members. The number of the latter was increased, and Mr. Sandham finding it necessary, on account of many engagements, to retire from the position he had held, Mr. Frost was invited to assume the sole responsibility as Treasurer and Secretary, making his home in Toronto.
So this was what it had all been leading to! In view of recent experiences, he was himself prepared for a life of faith with regard to temporal supplies; but he knew that Mrs. Frost would feel giving up their lovely home very keenly, on account of the children.
“One day as I was in the parlor, resting,” he wrote of this critical time, “my wife, unknown to me, was waiting upon God in her own room for guidance. While thus engaged she was led to open her Bible and to read in the book of Haggai; and she had not read long in this portion of Scripture before she had the light for which she had been so earnestly seeking. A moment later I heard her coming to me across the library and hall. She stepped to my side, and without a word laid her open Bible on my knee, pointing as she did so to the fourth verse of the first chapter of Haggai. I looked at the words indicated and read as follows:
‘Is it a time for you, 0 ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses and this house lie waste?’
“It was not necessary that my wife should say anything to explain her meaning; the lesson was self-evident. One look in her face showed me that the Lord had won the victory for her, and one look at the ceiling overhead settled the question finally for myself. From that hour, though it was not an easy thing to do, we were united in our desire to give up our home, in order that we might have part in the building of that spiritual house, the temple of Christ’s body, which we knew the Lord was waiting to see completed.”
Gladly would Mr. Taylor have made it possible for the step to be taken without financial difficulty; but while he could give them enough for the actual move, there was little over. The contributions at Niagara and in other centers, while amounting to thousands of dollars, were almost all designated for individual missionaries, and could not be drawn upon. About fifty pounds given to Mr. Taylor for his own use he felt free to pass on, but “beyond this” he said quite frankly, “I can promise you nothing. You will have to look to the Lord for supplies, as we do in England and in China.”
“I confess,” was Mr. Frost’s very natural recollection,” that Mr. Taylor’s words did not at first suggest an inviting prospect. To move my family and belongings, to take a home in a strange city, to invite a large number of candidates into that home, to supply their needs and our own and to carry on the work of the Mission with little more than two hundred and fifty dollars was certainly not a promising arrangement from an earthly standpoint. But recent experiences had given me to understand that there was a factor in the case not to be left out, and which being reckoned upon altered the proposition. That factor was the Lord Himself. Two hundred and fifty dollars was anything but a large sum with which to begin such an undertaking; but two hundred. and fifty dollars with the Lord was all that we could need. Thus, so far as finances were concerned, I soon felt prepared to accept Mr. Taylor’s offer.”
There are many in this hour who have been dwelling in their paneled and ceiled houses who are hearing the call to follow Christ into circumstances where they will daily have to look to Yahweh for their provision. There is often nothing than “a still, small voice that guides them.” Yet weighing all things, and having waited upon the Father to be sure that they have discerned between the voice of their own soul, and the voice of the Spirit, many are accepting the challenges and finding the Father faithful.
He has not promised us that there would not be sacrifices, or material loss, or even seasons of poverty and hunger. But He will never abandon His people, or forsake them. There is truly a fellowship in joining Christ in His sufferings.
The following excerpt from Rick Joyner’s book The Call is here presented as a fitting conclusion to this series of writings. It is written as Christ speaking to His people.
“Those who come to Me now, fighting through all the forces of the world that rebel against Me, come because they have the true love of God. They want to be with Me so much that even when it all seems unreal, even when I seem like a vague dream to them, they will risk all for the hope that the dream is real. That is love. That is the love of the truth. That is the faith that pleases My Father. All will bow the knee when they see My power and glory, but those who bow the knee now when they can only see Me dimly through the eyes of faith are the obedient ones who love Me in Spirit and in truth. These I will soon entrust with the power and the glory of the age to come…”