Joseph Herrin (09-18-09)
Hudson Taylor – At age 21
(Click on picture for larger image)
Hudson Taylor was the founder of the China Inland Mission. He was born in England in 1832 and live to the age of 73, dying in 1905. There exists two biographical books of his life, written by his son Dr. Howard Taylor. Both books are quite lengthy, being over 500 pages each, and they are full of spiritual riches. The books are titled Hudson Taylor – The Growth of a Soul, and Hudson Taylor – The Growth of a Work of God. Both books can be read online.
There are such riches in these two volumes that I am going to make two posts from them. At an early age he discerned the call to go to China as a missionary. Hudson Taylor in his teen years worked for his father who was a chemist and druggist. Missionary societies encouraged aspiring missionaries to receive training in the medical field for they often used medical clinics set-up in China as an opportunity to share Christ with the native population.
Hudson Taylor began looking for an opportunity to receive training, and was engaged by Dr. Hardey, a Christian man with a large practice in the city of Hull. Of this period of Hudson Taylor’s life we read the following.
Here then in what was called the Surgery Hudson Taylor found himself at home. Mrs. Hardey’s supervision had not extended apparently to this branch of the establishment, but the new assistant was equal to the occasion and soon had everything in apple-pie order, after the fashion to which he had been accustomed at home. His knowledge of book-keeping also proved of value to Dr. Hardey, who had much work of that sort on hand and was glad to leave it to so competent a helper. Thus the doctor’s relations with the Barnsley lad soon came to be of a cordial character. He was so bright and eager to learn, so willing and good-tempered, that to work with him was a pleasure, and before long the busy doctor found that it was a help to pray with him too. Many were the quiet times, after that, from which the older man came away refreshed and strengthened. Needless to say there was no familiarity or presuming on these relations. The young assistant respected himself and his employer far too much for that. He did his work faithfully, as in the sight of God, and Dr. Hardey showed his appreciation by giving him opportunities for study and by directing his reading as much as possible.
But there were drawbacks to the life at Charlotte Street, of which Hudson Taylor himself was largely unconscious. For one thing it was too comfortable, too easy-going in certain ways, and failed on that account to afford some elements needed in a missionary’s training. Quite in another part of Hull amid very different surroundings was a little “prophet’s chamber,” bare in its furnishings and affording neither companionship nor luxury, where a stronger if a sterner life could be lived, apart with God. Moses at the backside of the wilderness, Joseph in Pharaoh’s prison, Paul in the silence of the Arabian desert lived that sort of life, and came out to do great things for men in the power of God. That was the life Hudson Taylor needed and to which he was being led. He did not choose it for himself, at any rate not at first or consciously. The Lord chose it for him, and so ordered circumstances that he was brought to see and to embrace it, finding in self-denial and the daily cross a fellowship with his Master nothing else can yield.
So there came a day, providentially, when the young assistant could no longer be domiciled at Dr. Hardey’s. His room was needed for a member of the family, and as the Surgery was not provided with sleeping accommodation he had to seek quarters elsewhere…
“After much thought and prayer, I was led to leave the comfortable home and pleasant circle in which I resided, and engage a little lodging in the suburbs, a sitting-room and bedroom in one, undertaking to board myself. I was thus enabled to tithe the whole of my income; and while one felt the change a good deal, it was attended with no small blessing. More time was given in my solitude to the study of the Word of God, to visiting the poor and to evangelistic work on Sunday evenings than would otherwise have been the case. Brought into contact in this way with many who were in distress, I soon saw the privilege of still further economizing, and found it possible to give away much more than I had at first intended.”
It all reads so simply and naturally that one can hardly imagine any special sacrifice to have been involved. Let us hunt up this ” sitting-room and bedroom in one,” however, and find out what were in actual fact the surroundings for which he had given up his home on Kingston Square. The change could scarcely have been more complete.
Hardey Residence at top/Drainside in Lower Image
(Click on picture for larger image)
“Drainside,” as the neighborhood was termed, could not under any circumstances have been considered inviting. It consisted of a double row of workmen’s cottages facing each other across a narrow canal, connecting the country district of Cottingham with the docks and estuary of the Humber. The canal was nothing but a deep ditch into which Drainside people were in the habit of casting their rubbish, to be carried away in part whenever the tide rose high enough. It was separated from the town by desolate spaces of building-land, across which ran a few ill-lighted streets ending in makeshift wooden bridges. The cottages, like peas in a pod, were all the same size and shape down both sides of the long row. They followed the windings of the Drain for half a mile or more, each one having a door and two windows, one above the other. The door opened straight into the kitchen, and a steep stairway led to the room above. A very few were double cottages with a window to right and left of the door and two rooms overhead.
On the city side of the canal, one of these larger dwellings stood at a corner opposite The Founder’s Arms, a countrified public-house whose lights were useful as a landmark on dark nights, shining across the mud and water of the Drain. The cottage, known as 30 Cottingham Terrace, was tenanted by the family of a seafaring man, whose visits home were few and far between. Mrs. Finch and her children occupied the kitchen and upper part of the house, and the downstairs room on the left as one entered was let at a rental of three shillings a week. It was too high a charge, seeing the whole house went for little more. But the lodger in whom we are interested did not grudge it, especially when he found how much it meant to the good woman whose remittances from her husband came none too regularly.
Mrs. Finch was a true Christian and delighted to have “the young Doctor” under her roof. She did her best no doubt to make the little chamber clean and comfortable, polishing the fireplace opposite the window and making up the bed in the corner farthest from the door. A plain deal table and a chair or two completed the appointments. The whole room was less than twelve feet square and did not need much furniture. It was on a level with the ground and opened familiarly out of the kitchen. From the window one looked across the narrowest strip of “garden” to the Drain beyond, whose mud banks afforded a playground for the children of the neighborhood.
Whatever it may have been in summer, toward the close of November, when Hudson Taylor made it his home, Drainside must have seemed dreary enough, and the cottage far from attractive. To add to the discomforts of the situation, he was “boarding himself,” which meant that he lived upon next to nothing, bought his meager supplies as he returned from the Surgery, and rarely sat down, with or without a companion, to a proper meal. His walks were solitary across the waste, unlighted region on the outskirts of the town; his evenings solitary beside the little fire in his otherwise cheerless room; and his Sundays were spent alone, but for the morning meeting and long hours of work in his district or among the crowds that frequented the Humber Dock.
And more than this, he was at close quarters with poverty and suffering. Visiting in such neighborhoods he had been accustomed to for a few hours at a time, but this was very different. It belonged to him now in a new way, and outwardly at any rate he belonged to it. He had cast in his lot with those who needed him, and needed all the help and comfort he could bring. This gave new purpose to his life and taught him some of its most precious lessons.
” Having now the twofold object in view,” he wrote, ” of accustoming myself to endure hardness, and of economizing in order to be able more largely to assist those amongst whom I spent a good deal of time laboring in the Gospel, I soon found that I could live upon very much less than I had previously thought possible. Butter, milk and other luxuries I ceased to use, and found that by living mainly on oatmeal and rice, with occasional variations, a very small sum was sufficient for my needs. In this way I had more than two-thirds of my income available for other purposes, and my experience was that the less I spent on myself and the more I gave to others the fuller of happiness and blessing did my soul become…”
At a very young age, Hudson Taylor had turned his heart away from desiring the material comforts this world affords, and had set his affections on heavenly aspirations. He was acutely aware of his own shortcomings, and would often write to his mother or his sister to ask them to pray for him.
” I feel my need of more holiness,” he wrote to his sister early in the New Year, “and conformity to Him who has loved us and washed us in His blood. Love so amazing should indeed cause us to give our bodies and spirits to Him as living sacrifices…. Oh, I wish I were ready! I long to be engaged in the work. Pray for me, that I may be made more useful here and fitted for extended usefulness hereafter.” And again a few weeks later:
I almost wish I had a hundred bodies. They should all be devoted to my Savior in the missionary cause. But this is foolishness. I have almost more than I can do to manage one, it is so self-willed, earthly-minded, fleshly. Constantly I am grieving my dear Savior who shed for me His precious blood, forgetting Him who never has relaxed His watchful care and protection over me from the earliest moment of my existence. I am astonished at the littleness of my gratitude and love to Him, and confounded by His long-suffering mercy. Pray for me that I may live more and more to His praise, be more devoted to Him, incessant in labors in His cause, fitted for China, ripened for glory.
The following correspondence to his mother revealed how much Hudson Taylor was choosing to get by on a very meager diet, along with his very humble dwelling place. He could have chosen to eat much better, but it was his delight to save as much of his money as possible to share with the poor people he visited throughout the week.
“I am sorry you make yourself anxious about me,” he wrote in January. I think it is because I have begun to wear a larger coat that everybody says, `How poorly and thin you look !’ However, as you want to know everything, I have had a heavy cold… that lasted a week. But since then I have been as well as ever in my life. I eat like a horse, sleep like a top and have the spirits of a lark. I do not know that I have any anxiety save to be more holy and useful…
As to my health, I think I never was so well and hearty in my life. The winds here are extremely searching, but as I always wrap up well I am pretty secure… The cold weather gives me a good appetite, and it would be dear economy to stint myself. So I take as much plain, substantial food as I need, but waste nothing on luxuries…
I have found some brown biscuits which are really as cheap as bread, eighteen pence a stone, and much nicer. For breakfast I have biscuit and herring, which is cheaper than butter (three for a penny, and half a one is enough) with coffee. For dinner I have at present a prune-and-apple pie. Prunes are two or three pence a pound and apples tenpence a peck. I use no sugar, but loaf which I powder, and at fourpence halfpenny a pound I find it is cheaper than the coarser kind. Sometimes I have roast potatoes and tongue, which is as inexpensive as any other meat. For tea I have biscuit and apples. I take no supper, or occasionally a little biscuit and apple… I pickled a penny red cabbage with three halfpence worth of vinegar, which made me a large jar-full. So you see, at little expense I enjoy many comforts…
What a glimpse is here afforded into his deeper life during that winter at Drainside ! ” I cannot tell, I cannot describe how I long to be a missionary, to carry the Glad Tidings to poor, perishing sinners. . . . For this I could give up everything, every idol, however dear . . . I feel as if I could not live if something is not done for China.”
This was no mere emotion, no superficial interest that might give place to considerations of personal advantage.
It was not that he had taken up missionary work as a congenial branch of Christian activity, but that the need of the perishing in heathen lands, the need and longing of the heart of Christ-” them also I must bring “-had gripped him and held him fast…
Yet much as he longed to go, and go at once, there were considerations that held him back.
“To me it was a very grave matter,” he wrote of that winter, “to contemplate going out to China, far from all human aid, there to depend upon the living God alone for protection, supplies, and help of every kind. I felt that one’s spiritual muscles required strengthening for such an undertaking. There was no doubt that if faith did not fail, God would not fail. But what if one’s faith should prove insufficient? I had not at that time learned that even ‘if we believe not, yet He abideth faithful, He cannot deny Himself.’ It was consequently a very serious question to my mind, not whether He was faithful, but whether I had strong enough faith to warrant my embarking in the enterprise set before me.
O ‘When I got out to China,’ I thought to myself, ‘I shall have no claim on anyone for anything. My only claim will be on God. How important to learn, before leaving England, to move man through God by prayer alone.”‘
He knew that faith was the one power that could remove mountains, conquer every difficulty and accomplish the impossible. But had he the right kind of faith? Could he stand alone in China? Much as he longed to be a missionary, would such faith as he possessed be sufficient to carry him through all that must be faced? What had it carried him through already, here at home?
He thankfully realized that faith, the faith he longed for, was a “gift of God,” and that it might “grow exceedingly.” But for growth, exercise was needed, and exercise of faith was obviously impossible apart from trial. Then welcome trial, welcome anything that would increase and strengthen this precious gift, proving to his own heart at any rate that he had faith of the sort that would really stand and grow.
And here it should be remembered that in taking this attitude before the Lord, Hudson Taylor was wholly earnest and sincere. He was bringing “all the tithes into the storehouse,” a most important consideration; living a life that made it possible for him to exercise faith to which God could respond in blessing. In a word, there was no hindrance in himself to the answer to his prayers; and experiences followed that have been made an encouragement to thousands the wide world over…
“To learn before leaving England to move man through God by prayer alone,” this and nothing less was the object Hudson Taylor had before him now, and it was not long before he came to see a simple, natural way of practicing this lesson.
At Hull my kind employer, always busy, wished me to remind him whenever my salary became due. This I determined not to do directly, but to ask that God would bring the fact to his recollection, and thus encourage me by answering prayer.
At one time as the day drew near for the payment of a quarter’s salary I was as usual much in prayer about it. The time arrived, but Dr. Hardey made no allusion to the matter. I continued praying. Days passed on and he did not remember, until at length on settling up my weekly accounts one Saturday night, I found myself possessed of only one remaining coin, a half-crown piece. Still, I had hitherto known no lack, and I continued praying.
That Sunday was a very happy one. As usual my heart was full and brimming over with blessing. After attending Divine Service in the morning, my afternoons and evenings were taken up with Gospel work in the various lodging-houses I was accustomed to visit in the lowest part of the town. At such times it almost seemed to me as if heaven were begun below, and that all that could be looked for was an enlargement of one’s capacity for joy, not a truer filling than I possessed.
After concluding my last service about ten o’clock that night, a poor man asked me to go and pray with his wife, saying that she was dying. I readily agreed, and on the way to his house asked him why he had not sent for the priest, as his accent told me he was an Irishman. He had done so, he said, but the priest refused to come without a payment of eighteen pence which the man did not possess, as the family was starving. Immediately it occurred to my mind that all the money I had in the world was the solitary half-crown, and that it was in one coin; moreover, that while the basin of water-gruel I usually took for supper was awaiting me, and there was sufficient in the house for breakfast in the morning, I certainly had nothing for dinner on the coming day.
Somehow or other there was at once a stoppage in the flow of joy in my heart. But instead of reproving myself I began to reprove the poor man, telling him that it was very wrong to have allowed matters to get into such a state as he described, and that he ought to have applied to the relieving officer. His answer was that he had done so, and was told to come at eleven o’clock the next morning, but that he feared his wife might not live through the night.
“Ah,” thought I, “if only I had two shillings and a sixpence instead of this half-crown, how gladly would I give these poor people a shilling! “But to part with the half-crown was far from my thoughts. I little dreamed that the truth of the matter simply was that I could trust God plus one and-sixpence, but was not prepared to trust Him only, without any money at all in my pocket.
My conductor led me into a court, down which I followed him with some degree of nervousness. I had found myself there before, and at my last visit had been roughly handled. My tracts had been torn to pieces and such a warning given me not to come again that I felt more than a little concerned. Still, it was the path of duty and I followed on. Up a miserable flight of stairs into a wretched room he led me; and oh, what a sight there presented itself! Four or five children stood about, their sunken cheeks and temples all telling unmistakably the story–of slow starvation, and lying on a wretched pallet was a poor, exhausted mother, with a tiny infant thirty-six hours old moaning rather than crying at her side, for it too seemed spent and failing.
“Ah!” thought I, “if I had two shillings and a sixpence, instead of half-a-crown, how gladly should they have one-and-sixpence of it.” But still a wretched unbelief prevented me from obeying the impulse to relieve their distress at the cost of all I possessed.
It will scarcely seem strange that I was unable to say much to comfort these poor people. I needed comfort myself. I began to tell them, however, that they must not be cast down; that though their circumstances were very distressing there was a kind and loving Father in heaven. But something within me cried, “You hypocrite! telling these unconverted people about a kind and loving Father in heaven, and not prepared yourself to trust Him without a half-a-crown.”
I was nearly choked. How gladly would I have compromised with conscience, if I had had a florin and a sixpence! I would have given the florin thankfully and kept the rest. But I was not yet prepared to trust in God alone, without the sixpence.
To talk was impossible under these circumstances, yet strange to say I thought I should have no difficulty in praying. Prayer was a delightful occupation in those days. Time thus spent never seemed wearisome and I knew no lack of words. I seemed to think that all I should have to do would be to kneel down and pray, and that relief would come to them and to myself together.
“You asked me to come and pray with your wife,” I said to the man, “let us pray.” And I knelt down.
But no sooner had I opened my lips with “Our Father who art in heaven,” than conscience said within, “Dare you mock God? Dare you kneel down and call Him Father with that half-crown in your pocket?”
Such a time of conflict then came upon me as I have never experienced before or since. How I got through that form of prayer I know not, and whether the words uttered were connected or disconnected I cannot tell. But I arose from my knees in great distress of mind.
The poor father turned to me and said, “You see what a terrible state we are in, sir. If you can help us, for God’s sake do!”
At that moment the word flashed into my mind, “Give to him that asketh of thee.” And in the word of a King there is power.
I put my hand into my pocket and slowly drawing out the half-crown, gave it to the man, telling him that it might seem a small matter for me to relieve them, seeing that I was comparatively well off, but that in parting with that coin I was giving him my all; what I had been trying to tell them was indeed true – God really was a Father, and might be trusted. The joy all came back in full flood-tide to my heart. I could say anything and feel it then, and the hindrance to blessing was gone – gone, I trust, forever.
Not only was the poor woman’s life saved; but my life, as I fully realized, had been saved too. It might have been a wreck – would have been, probably, as a Christian life – had not grace at that time conquered, and the striving of God’s Spirit been obeyed.
I well remember how that night, as I went home to my lodgings, my heart was as light as my pocket. The dark, deserted streets resounded with a hymn of praise that I could not restrain. When I took my basin of gruel before retiring, I would not have exchanged it for a prince’s feast. I reminded the Lord as I knelt at my bedside of His own Word, “He that giveth to the poor lendeth to the Lord”; I asked Him not to let my loan be a long one, or I should have no dinner next day. And with peace within and peace without, I spent a happy, restful night.
Next morning for breakfast my plate of porridge remained, and before it was finished the postman’s knock was heard at the door, I was not in the habit of receiving letters on Monday, as my parents and most of my friends refrained from posting on Saturday, so that I was somewhat surprised when the landlady came in holding a letter or packet in her wet hand covered by her apron. I looked at the letter, but could not make out the handwriting. It was either a strange hand or a feigned one, and the postmark was blurred. Where it came from I could not tell. On opening the envelope I found nothing written within ; but inside a sheet of blank paper was folded a pair of kid gloves, from which, as I opened them in astonishment, half-a sovereign fell to the ground.
“Praise the Lord,” I exclaimed. “Four hundred percent for twelve hours’ investment – that is good interest! How glad the merchants of Hull would be if they could lend their money at such a rate.” Then and there I determined that a bank that could not break should have my savings or earnings, as the case might be–a determination I have not yet learned to regret.
I cannot tell you how often my mind has recurred to this incident, or all the help it has been to me in circumstances of difficulty in afterlife. If we are faithful to God in little things, we shall gain experience and strength that will be helpful to us in the more serious trials of life.
But this was not the end of the story, nor was it the only answer to prayer that was to confirm his faith at this time. For the chief difficulty still remained. Dr. Hardey had not remembered; and though prayer was unremitting, other matters appeared entirely to engross his attention. It would have been so easy to remind him. But what then of the lesson upon the acquirement of which Hudson Taylor felt his future usefulness depended,” to move man through God, by prayer alone.”
“This remarkable and gracious deliverance,” he continued, “was a great joy to me as well as a strong confirmation of faith. But of course ten shillings however economically used will not go very far, and it was none the less necessary to continue in prayer, asking that the larger supply which was still due might be remembered and paid. All my petitions, however, appeared to remain unanswered, and before a fortnight elapsed I found myself pretty much in the same position that I had occupied on the Sunday night already made so memorable. Meanwhile I continued pleading with God more and more earnestly that He would Himself remind Dr. Hardey that my salary was due.
“Of course it was not the want of money that distressed me. That could have been had at any time for the asking. But the question uppermost in my mind was this : `Can I go to China ? or will my want of faith and power with God prove so serious an obstacle as to preclude my entering upon this much-prized service?’
“As the week drew to a close I felt exceedingly embarrassed. There was not only myself to consider. On Saturday night a payment would be due to my Christian landlady, which I knew she could not well dispense with. Ought I not, for her sake, to speak about the matter of the salary? Yet to do so would be, to myself at any rate, the admission that I was not fitted to undertake a missionary enterprise. I gave nearly the whole of Thursday and Friday, all the time not occupied in my necessary employment, to earnest wrestling with God in prayer. But still on Saturday morning I was in the same position as before. And now my earnest cry was for guidance as to whether I should still continue to wait the Father’s time. As far as I could judge I received the assurance that to wait His time was best, and that God in some way or other would interpose on my behalf. So I waited, my heart being now at rest and the burden gone.
“About five o’clock that Saturday afternoon, when Dr. Hardey had finished writing his prescriptions, his last circuit for the day being taken, he threw himself back in his arm-chair, as he was wont, and began to speak of the things of God. He was a truly Christian man, and many seasons of happy fellowship we had together. I was busily watching, at the time, a pan in which a decoction was boiling that required a good deal of attention. It was indeed fortunate for me that it was so, for without any obvious connection with what had been going on, all at once he said
‘By the by, Taylor, is not your salary due again?’
“My emotion may be imagined. I had to swallow two or three times before I could answer. With my eye fixed on the pan and my back to the doctor, I told him as quietly as I could that it was overdue some little time. How thankful I felt at that moment! God surely had heard my prayer and caused him in this time of my great need to remember the salary without any word or suggestion from me. He replied,
“‘Oh, I am so sorry you did not remind me! You know how busy I am. I wish I had thought of it a little sooner, for only this afternoon I sent all the money I had to the bank. Otherwise I would pay you at once.”
“It is impossible to describe the revulsion of feeling caused by this unexpected statement. I knew not what to do. Fortunately for me the pan boiled up and I had a good reason for rushing with it from the room. Glad indeed I was to get away and keep out of sight until after Dr. Hardey had returned to his house, and most thankful that he had not perceived my emotion.
“As soon as he was gone I had to seek my little sanctum and pour out my heart before the Lord for some time before calmness, and more than calmness, thankfulness and joy were restored. I felt that God had His own way, and was not going to fail me. I had sought to know His will early in the day, and as far as I could judge had received guidance to wait patiently. And now God was going to work for me in some other way.
“That evening was spent, as my Saturday evenings usually were, in reading the Word and preparing the subject on which I expected to speak in the various lodging-houses on the morrow. I waited perhaps a little longer than usual. At last about ten o’clock, there being. no interruption of any kind, I put on my overcoat and was preparing to leave for home, rather thankful to know that by that time I should have to let myself in with the latchkey, as my landlady retired early. There was certainly no help for that night. But perhaps God would interpose for me by Monday, and I might be able to pay my landlady early in the week the money I would have given her before had it been possible.
“Just as I was about to turn down the gas, I heard the doctor’s step in the garden that lay between the dwelling-house and Surgery. He was laughing to himself very heartily, as though greatly amused. Entering the Surgery he asked for the ledger, and told me that, strange to say, one of his richest patients had just come to pay his doctor’s bill. Was it not an odd thing to do?
It never struck me that it might have any bearing on my own case, or I might have felt embarrassed. But looking at it simply from the position of an uninterested spectator, I also was highly amused that a man rolling in wealth should come after ten o’clock at night to pay a bill which he could any day have met by a check with the greatest ease. It appeared that somehow or other he could not rest with this on his mind, and had been constrained to come at that unusual hour to discharge his liability.
“The account was duly receipted in the ledger, and Dr. Hardey was about to leave, when suddenly he turned and handing me some of the banknotes just received, said to my surprise and thankfulness
“‘By the way, Taylor, you might as well take these notes. I have no change, but can give you the balance next week.’
“Again I was left, my feelings undiscovered, to go back to my little closet and praise the Lord with a joyful heart that after all I might go to China. To me this incident was not a trivial one; and to recall it sometimes, in circumstances of great difficulty, in China or elsewhere, has proved no small comfort and strength.”
Joseph’s Comments: I find this testimony very fitting for the hour in which we live. The Spirit is indicating that an hour is at hand when life as it is now known in America and many Western nations will be changed forever. Prosperity will be replaced by poverty. Christians will be thrust upon God for their daily provision, for the only alternative will be to embrace the beast system of this fallen world.
Seeing that such things are at hand, would it not prove beneficial NOW for Christians to begin living with much less? I know of some who are even at this time being led to much simpler lives. I personally have been camping in a pop-up trailer for the past two months. For part of this time I have been eating mostly grains; grits, oatmeal, cream of wheat.
It will be difficult for many to adjust when they are suddenly taken from houses filled with creature comforts, partaking of abundant foods, and then they are suddenly dislodged and having to adjust to many hardships. I encourage you to seek the Lord now to understand what He would have you to do.
Just this past week I heard from two different families whom the Lord has suddenly directed to sell their homes and furnishings (and in one case a business of 31 years), to pare down greatly and relocate to a place God has directed them to. Such things are happening frequently as Yahweh prepares His people to walk through the days ahead.