Hudson Taylor - Heritage of Faith
By David R. Barnhart
Volume 29 Sprint 2014 Issue 2
“If I had a thousand pounds, China should have it. If I had a thousand lives, China should have them. No! Not China, but Christ. Can we do too much for Him? Can we do enough for such a precious Savior?”
“I Never Made a Sacrifice”
James Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission, should be high on any list of saints whose names and exemplary lives are worthy of honor by all Christians. Rarely has God called a missionary to carry the gospel of Christ to so many people or pay so great a price for doing so. The sufferings and challenges he endured in the service of Christ’s Kingdom would cause most Christians to turn and run the other way, but not Hudson Taylor. After 51 challenging years as a missionary to China, he declared, “I never made a sacrifice.”
It would take volumes to contain all the inspiring accounts of Hudson Taylor’s life or describe his leadership of the China Inland Mission. But, it is my hope and prayer that as you read this brief account of his life, you will be inspired to follow the Savior wherever He may lead and gladly offer up whatever treasure
may be required.
Heritage of Faith
James Hudson Taylor was born to James and Amelia Taylor on May 21, 1832 in the York- shire city of Barnsley, England. His great grandparents, James and Betty Taylor, who settled in Barnsley in the mid-1700s, were followers of John Wesley. On one occasion they hosted Wesley in their home when he came to preach in the area.
James and Betty’s eldest son, John, married a devout Christian named Mary Shepherd. John and Mary were active in the Methodist church in Barnsley. In turn, their son James became a chemist and a Methodist pastor. James married Amelia Hudson, the daughter of a Methodist pastor.
James and Amelia established a strong Christian home into which James Hudson and five other children were born. James and Amelia had a desire to do missionary work in China, if God would open the doors. Shortly before their son, James Hudson was born, they asked God to give them a son who would take the gospel to the Chinese people.
His Awakening and Call to China
Hudson, as he came to be called, was raised in a loving Christian atmosphere. But after he left home at age 15 to work in a bank, a streak of rebellion filled his heart. His rebellious spirit caused him to believe that he could no longer be saved because his sins were so grievous.
One day while both of his parents were away, Hudson searched his father’s library for something to read. A small gospel tract entitled “The Finished Work of Christ” caught his attention, and he carried it off to a nearby barn to read its contents. Unknown to Hudson, at that very hour his mother was on her knees 80 miles away praying for her son’s salvation. As Hudson read the tract and as his mother engaged in fervent prayer, the lad’s heart was touched with the realization Christ’s death had covered all his sins.
Later he told his mother, “There was nothing in the world for me to do save to fall on my knees and accept this Savior and His salvation.” Immediately God gave him a desire to see lost souls brought to Christ. Later Hudson wrote, “From that time on the conviction never left me that I was called to China.”
With a vision for China tugging at his heart, Hudson wrote to the Chinese Evangeli- zation Society (CES), asking if they would send him to China as a missionary. He began to learn Chinese by reading a Mandarin New Testament and comparing its verses to an English text. He even ex- changed his feather bed for wooden boards so that he might get accustomed to more challenging accommodations.
Hudson studied Greek and Hebrew, and began reading every book on China he could find. Hearing that a pastor in Barnsley had a book on China, he asked to borrow it. When Hudson Taylor told the pastor that God had called him to spend his life as a missionary to China, he inquired, “How do you propose to get there?” Young Hudson responded that he would rely completely on God’s provision.
“Ah my boy,” said the pastor, “as you grow older you will get wiser than that. Such an idea would do very well when Christ Himself was on earth, but not now.” That was the first of many times Christians would tell Hudson Taylor his mission work could not be accomplished by relying on God’s faithfulness alone.
Preparation For Work in China
Not long after his conversion, Hudson went to work in his father’s apothecary. Assisting his father in dispensing drugs increased his desire to study medicine. Such know- ledge, he reasoned, would be invaluable in China.
Dr. Robert Hardey, a surgeon in the seaport city of Hull, offered Hudson a job as his assistant. Those were special months, not only for training in medicine but also for taking the gospel to the poor in an area of Hull known as “Drain- side.” It was so named because of a foul-smelling ditch with piled-up trash and rundown houses located there.
Hudson worked long hours with Dr. Hardey by day, and made excursions to Drainside at night to share the gospel. Initially he resided with his aunt in Hull, but later concluded that he could save
money and strengthen his witness if he lived in Drainside.
He wrote, “I soon found that I could live on 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, a very small sum was sufficient for my needs, making more than two-thirds of my income available to give to others.”
On one occasion when Dr. Hardey forgot to pay his young assistant, Hudson said nothing, even though his rent was due and his food nearly exhausted. He was down to his last half-crown [about a dollar] when a man on the street asked him to come and pray for his dying wife. Hudson was led to a sparse flat where the man’s children were gathered around the bedside of their mother. Not a morsel of food was in the house.
As Hudson knelt to pray for the dying woman, he was overwhelmed by the plight of the starving family. He later wrote, “No sooner had I open my lips with ‘Our Father in Heaven,’ than my conscience said within, ‘Dare you mock God? Dare you kneel down and call Him ‘Father’ with that half-crown in your pocket?’ After my prayer I slowly rose and handed my last coin to the man.”
Back in his room that night, Hudson prayed that the Lord would remind Dr. Hardey of his unpaid salary. The next morning as Hudson was eating the little bit of food he had left, his landlady knocked at his door and handed him a small package that had arrived the day before. Inside the package, that bore no name of the sender, were a pair of gloves and a half-sovereign coin. “Praise the Lord,” Hudson exclaimed, “four-hundred percent for a twelve hour investment! How glad the merchants of Hull would be if they could lend their money at such a rate of interest.”
Late the next afternoon Dr. Hardey asked his assistant if he had been paid. Hudson politely reminded the doctor that his pay was “quite a bit overdue.” Dr. Hardey apologized for his forgetfulness and promised to pay him as soon as he could get to the bank. Around ten o’clock that same night, Dr. Hardey knocked at Hudson’s door and handed him his pay from money he had received just moments before from one of his more affluent patients. Dr. Hardey told young Hudson that he thought the late-night payment from this particular patient was strange, but Hudson knew it was a direct answer to his prayer.
Through such incidents Hudson learned to depend entirely on God for all of his needs. It was a principle he would rely on throughout his life, not only for personal needs but also for the needs of the China Inland Mission.
Another serious challenge Hudson faced occurred when a girl named Marianne refused to marry him if he continued with his plans to go to China. Hudson anguished over the possibility of losing the girl he loved, but in the end the choice was made—he would follow the Lord alone to China.
Off to China
?“Depend upon it, God’s work, done in God’s way, will never lack God’s supply.” Hudson Taylor
Following his time in Hull with Dr. Hardey, Hudson Taylor moved to London to study medicine at the London Hospital Medical School. His days were long and difficult, even as his expenses were costly and challenging. But through it all God continued to meet all his needs.
In 1853, a year after beginning his studies in London, the CES informed him that he should prepare immediately to leave for China. After long sessions of prayer and consul- tations with his parents and friends, he decided to go, believing it was the Lord who had opened the door.
Going to China without a degree in medicine or theology could put him at a decided disadvantage, but he would leave those matters in the hands of the Lord as well. Even so, Hudson Taylor had achieved many skills in medicine and surgery from Dr. Hardey as well as from his time at the London Hospital Medical School.
After purchasing medical instruments and supplies from his own resources, and after bidding a difficult goodbye to his family and friends, Hudson Taylor, age 21, began his journey to China in September 1853. It was a dangerous and arduous voyage, but his ship arrived safely in Shanghai on March 1, 1854. Without money or a place to live, Hudson turned to fellow missionaries from England for help and guidance.
Fightings Within and Fears Without
Shanghai was in turmoil when Hudson arrived. Rebels had taken control of the city and violence was everywhere. Many Chinese treated Christian missionaries with scorn and even worse. Over the next two years Taylor made numerous excursions to inland China, treating patients and preaching the gospel in areas where no Christian missionary had gone before. Eventually he moved to Ningpo where he set up his headquarters.
Time and again the CES failed to send money for Taylor’s expenses, thus he had to rely entirely on the Lord for his support. But, without fail, God’s provision always came, usually just in time, from friends and Christians in England who backed his work through their prayers and gifts. Hudson told his sister Amelia, “Christ is either Lord of all, or He is not Lord at all.”
The early years of Hudson Taylor’s mission work in China were very lonely. Several missionary associates looked down on him because he lacked education degrees and ordination, while a few even called him “a nobody.” Fellow-missionaries ridiculed him when he started to dress like the Chinese instead of wearing standard English attire. But Hudson Taylor had come to realize that by dressing like the Chinese, doors were opened to him that otherwise would have been closed.
Love and Marriage
Hudson’s life in Ningpo changed after he met and fell in love with Maria Dyer, the daughter of deceased missionaries to China. Maria’s heart for China was just as big as her future husband’s. Although obstacles prevented their wedding for two years, they were finally married on January 20,1858, two weeks after Maria turned twenty-one. In July of 1859 their first child was born—Gracie Dyer.
In 1860 Hudson Taylor became so ill that he was forced to return to England with his little family for treatment. What was to have been a short furlough turned out to be nearly a six-year interlude, but God was behind every moment of their time away from China.
During his stay in England, Hudson completed his studies and receive his medical degree. He also devoted time to translating the New Testament into the Ningpo Chinese dialect, as well as writing a book China’s Spiritual Need and Claims. Over ten thousand copies of his book were sold within months.
One Sunday morning in 1864, Hudson walked out of a church service and onto the beach at Brighton. There, he prayed that God would raise up 24 missionaries to return with him to China. That Sunday morning experience also led him to establish the independent and interdenominational organization called the China Inland Mission. The next day he opened a bank account for the Mission with a mere thirty British pounds.
Hudson Taylor was determined that the China Inland Mission would be built on JEHOVAH-JIREH, meaning “God will provide.” All mission members would dress as the Chinese did. The mission would not appeal for nor borrow any money. It would, instead, trust the Lord to open the pockets and purses of committed men and women.
It was during this time that he gained the attention of wealthy men such as William Berger and preachers such as Andrew Bonar, George Muller and Charles Spurgeon. Spurgeon raised over 13,000 pounds for the new China Inland Mission, while Muller became a life-long supporter.
Back to China with 24 Missionaries
Hudson and Maria, along with Gracie and the three other children who were born to them while on furlough, headed back to China on May 26, 1866. They were accompanied by 16 of the 24 missionaries that God had raised up to join them. The other 8 missionaries had already made their way to China.
Back in China the Taylors again faced countless hard- ships and challenges, but none more painful than the death of their first-born Gracie in the summer of 1867. She was such a precious child who shared her parents’ love for the Chinese people.
One day as Gracie was walking with her father, they encountered a man carving an idol. Gracie pleaded, “Oh papa, that man does not know Jesus, or he would not be making idols. Do tell him about Jesus.” After her father witnessed to the idol-maker, they walked on and sat under a tree where Gracie prayed for the idol-maker. Hudson later wrote: “She had seen the man making an idol, and she prayed to God on his behalf. I was so moved by her prayer...words fail to describe it.”
In 1868 the Taylors moved their headquarters to Yangchow but found a growing hostility to their presence. Their home was ransacked and burned and they were forced to flee for their lives. Their son Charles Edward was born in November of 1868, but that was little consolation as the threats and tensions grew stronger the following year.
In 1870 Hudson and Maria Taylor decided they should send their children back to England for schooling, save for the youngest Charles. Sending them home would free the children from numerous dangers and hardships. As the Taylors traveled the several hundred miles to meet the ship that would carry their children and a guardian back to England, five-year-old Sammy, who was heartbroken over the coming separation, took ill and died.
The deaths of Sammy and Gracie made the agony of parting with their three other children almost more than either Hudson or Maria could bear. However, within months their decision to send the children to England proved correct and in perfect timing when Maria suddenly died of cholera after giving birth to a baby boy who lived only a week. Hudson Taylor then had four graves in China—his wife and three of his children.
In a moment of great anguish, Hudson received a letter from a friend in England who pointed him to the infinite power of the Holy Spirit. A fresh anointing brought healing and strength to the heartbroken missionary. From that time forward Hudson called it “the exchanged life,” wherein He would live only through the life of Christ.
Hudson explained to his sister in a letter: “It is a wonderful thing to be really one with Christ. Think what it involves. Can Christ be rich and I poor? Can your head be well fed while your body starves? Could a bank clerk say to a customer, ‘I cannot pay this sum to your hand but only to your self’? No more can your prayers or mine be discredited if offered in the name of Jesus; that is, on the ground that we are His, members of His body.”
Hudson became ill and returned to England in 1871. It was then he married his second wife, Jennie Faulding, a 28-year-old missionary with the China Inland Mission. Together they had two children and shared 33 wonderful years together. Jennie was every bit as dedicated and committed to the work in China as was Maria.
After his second marriage Taylor found it necessary to alternate his time between China and England in order to provide leadership to the broader work of CIM. Again and again he looked to “prevailing prayer to the Lord of the Harvest” for more workers to be called to China. On one occasion he boldly prayed for 100 new workers, and the Lord sent him 102.
In 1888 Hudson Taylor visited America. Later when he returned to China, 14 young American men and women returned with him. In 1900 Hudson addressed a large gathering at Carnegie Hall in New York that included President William McKinley.
Not unlike today, Hudson Taylor also had to battle false teachings in the ranks of the CIM. Timothy Richard, a missionary in the Shanxi province, began renouncing the exclusive claims of Christianity. Another missionary proposed they should be more open to ancestor worship. Hudson met these and other doctrinal challenges head-on, and dismissed the compromising missionaries.
Throughout the years the financial aspects of the mission work in China were met without appeals or borrowing, but always under challenging circumstances. Over the mantle in Hudson Taylor's home were two scrolls written in Chinese characters— Ebenezer, “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us,” and Jehovah Jireh, “The Lord will provide.”
In a letter to his sister, Hudson wrote, “We have 27 cents in our account and all the promises of God.” A short while later he received a check for 2,400 pounds from an anonymous donor. And still on another occasion after hearing that the London office had received only 50 of the 750 pounds required, Taylor commented to his wife, “Now we shall see what God will do.”
Hudson was especially amused one day when he received a small gift from a lad in Cambridge, along with a note that said: “If you are not dead yet, I want to send you this money that I’ve saved up for the boys and girls of China to love Jesus.”
In 1900 the Boxer Rebellion swept China, targeting foreign mission- aries. Anguish again filled the heart of Hudson Taylor as he was told that of the approximately 130 missionaries who had been put to death by Chinese rebels, 58 were part of the China Inland Mission.
Hudson’s wife Jennie died unexpectedly, July 30, 1904, while they were on a visit to Switzerland. The couple had actually gone there so that Hudson might recover from a serious illness that he was experiencing.
James Hudson Taylor returned to China for the 11th and final time in February 1905, but he lived only three months after his arrival. The great missionary went home to be with the Lord June 3, 1905 at the age of 73. Shortly after Hudson Taylor’s death, a Chinese evangelist and his wife entered the room where the great missionary died and said, “Dear venerable pastor, we love you. We are your children. You opened for us the road to heaven. You loved us and prayed for us long years.” Surely, they represented countless Chinese who were brought to Christ through the ministry of Hudson Taylor and the China Inland Mission.
At the time of Hudson Taylor’s death, the China Inland Mission had 849 missionaries on the field, in each one of China’s provinces. He was buried in Chinkiang beside his first wife Maria. The work of China Inland Mission ended in China in 1949 when the Communists took control of the country. Its name was changed in1964 to the Overseas Missionary Fellowship.