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The Life of J. Hudson Taylor: Chapter 5 - Early Missionary Experiences


      "Landing in Shanghai on March 1st, 1854, I found myself surrounded with difficulties that were wholly unexpected. A band of rebels, known as the 'Red Turbans,' had taken possession of the native city, against which was encamped an Imperial army of from forty to fifty thousand men, who were a much greater source of discomfort and danger to the little European community than were the rebels themselves. Upon landing, I was told that to live outside the Settlement was impossible, while within the foreign concession apartments were scarcely obtainable at any price. The dollar, now worth about three shillings, had risen to a value of eight-and-ninepence, and the prospect for one with only a small income of English money was dark indeed. However, I had three letters of introduction, and counted on advice and help from one especially of those to whom I had been commended, whose friends I well knew and highly valued. Of course I sought him out at once, but only to learn that he had been buried a month or two before, having died from fever during my voyage!

      "Saddened by these tidings, I inquired for a missionary to whom another of my letters of introduction was addressed; but a further disappointment awaited me -- he had left for America. The third letter remained; but as it had been given by a comparative stranger, I had expected less from it than from the other two. It proved, however, to be God's channel of help. The Rev. Dr.

      Medhurst, of the London Mission, to whom it was addressed, introduced me to Dr. Lockhart, who kindly allowed me to live with him for six months. Dr. Medhurst procured my first Chinese teacher; and he, Dr. Edkins, and the late Mr. Alexander Wylie gave me considerable help with the language.

      "Those were indeed troublous times, and times of danger. Coming out of the city one day with Mr. Wylie, he entered into conversation with two coolies, while we waited a little while at the East Gate for a companion who was behind us. Before our companion came up an attack upon the city from the batteries on the opposite side of the river commenced, which caused us to hurry away to a place of less danger, the whiz of the balls being unpleasantly near. The coolies, unfortunately, stayed too long, and were wounded. On reaching the Settlement, we stopped a few minutes to make a purchase, and then proceeded at once to the London Mission compound, where, at the door of the hospital, we found the unfortunate coolies with whom Mr. Wylie had conversed, their four ankles terribly shattered by a cannon ball. The poor fellows declined amputation, and both died. We felt how narrow had been our escape.

      "At another time, early in the morning, I had joined one of the missionaries on his verandah to watch the battle proceeding, at a distance of perhaps three-quarters of a mile, when suddenly a spent ball passed between us and buried itself in the verandah wall. Another day my friend Mr. Wylie left a book on the table after luncheon, and returning for it about five minutes later, found the arm of the chair on which he had been sitting shot clean away. But in the midst of these and many other dangers God protected us.

      "After six months' stay with Dr. Lockhart, I rented a native house outside the settlement, and commenced a little missionary work among my Chinese neighbors, which for a few months continued practicable. When the French joined the Imperialists in attacking the. city, the position of my house became so dangerous that during the last few weeks, in consequence of nightly recurring skirmishes, I gave up attempting to sleep except in the daytime. One night a fire appeared very near, and I climbed up to a little observatory I had arranged on the roof of the house, to see whether it was necessary to attempt escape. While there a ball struck the ridge of the roof on the opposite side of the quadrangle, showering pieces of broken tile all around me, while the ball itself rolled down into the court below. It weighed four or five pounds; and had it come a few inches higher, would probably have spent its force on me instead of on the building. My dear mother kept the ball for many years. Shortly after this I had to abandon the house and return to the Foreign Settlement -- a step that was taken none too soon, for before the last of my belongings were removed the house was burnt to the ground.

      "Of the trials of this early period it is scarcely possible to convey any adequate idea. To one of a sensitive nature, the horrors, atrocities, and misery connected with war were a terrible ordeal. The embarrassment also of the times was considerable. With an income of only eighty pounds a year, I was compelled, upon moving into the Settlement, to give one hundred and twenty for rent, and sublet half the house; and though the Committee of the Chinese Evangelization Society increased my income when, after the arrival of Dr. Parker, they learned more of our circumstances, many painful experiences had necessarily been passed through. Few can realize how distressing to so young and untried a worker these difficulties seemed, or the intense loneliness of the position of a pioneer who could not even hint at many of his circumstances, as to do so would have been a tacit appeal for help.

      "The great enemy is always ready with his oft-repeated suggestion, 'All these things are against me.' But oh, how false the word! The cold, and even the hunger, the watchings and sleeplessness of nights of danger, and the feeling at times of utter isolation and helplessness, were well and wisely chosen, and tenderly and lovingly meted out. What circumstances could have rendered the Word of God more sweet, the presence of God more real, the help of God more precious? They were times, indeed, of emptying and humbling, but were experiences that made not ashamed, and that strengthened the purpose to go forward as God might direct, with His proved promise, 'I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.' One can see, even now, that 'as for God, His way is perfect,' and yet can rejoice that the missionary path of today is comparatively a smooth and an easy one.

      Before the end of his first summer in China Mr. Taylor was able to go as helper with more experienced missionaries on inland evangelistic tours. On some of these he had some very interesting experiences, and endured some severe persecutions which can not be narrated here. The next year he formed the happy acquaintance of Rev. Wm. Burns and spent a number of months as his colaborer. Of this time Mr. Taylor writes:

      "Those happy months were an unspeakable joy and privilege to me. His love for the Word was delightful, and his holy, reverential life and constant communings with God made fellowship with him satisfying to the deep cravings of my heart. His accounts of revival work and of persecutions in Canada, and Dublin, and in Southern China were most instructive, as well as interesting; for with the spiritual insight he often pointed out God's purposes in trial in a way that made all life assume quite a new aspect and value. His views especially about evangelism as the great work of the Church, and the order of lay evangelists as a lost order that Scripture required to be restored, were seed-thoughts which were to prove fruitful in the subsequent organization of the China Inland Mission.

      "Externally, however, our path was not always a smooth one; but when permitted to stay for any length of time in town or city, the opportunity was well utilized. We were in the habit of leaving our boats, after prayer for blessing, at about nine o'clock in the morning, with a light bamboo stool in hand. Selecting a suitable station, one would mount the stool and speak for twenty minutes, while the other was pleading for blessing; and then changing places, the voice of the first speaker had a rest. After an hour or two thus occupied, we would move on to another point at some distance from the first, and speak again. Usually about midday we returned to our boats for dinner, fellowship, and prayer, and then resumed our out-door work until dusk. After tea and further rest, we would go with our native helpers to some tea-shop, where several hours might be spent in free conversation with the people. Not infrequently before leaving a town we had good reason to believe that much truth had been grasped; and we placed many Scriptures and books in the hands of those interested."

      At a place called Black Town after preaching for some time and seemingly accomplishing considerable good, they were suddenly attacked by a band of ruffians and, only through the providence of God, narrowly escaped with their lives.

Back to J. Hudson Taylor index.

See Also:
   Publishers' Note and Preface
   Chapter 1 - The Power of Prayer
   Chapter 2 - The Call to Service
   Chapter 3 - Life in London
   Chapter 4 - Voyage to China
   Chapter 5 - Early Missionary Experiences
   Chapter 6 - Man Proposes, God Disposes
   Chapter 7 - Settlement in Ningpo
   Chapter 8 - Timely Supplies -- Return to England
   Chapter 9 - The New Mission
   Chapter 10 - Launching Forth
   Chapter 11 - Christmas in China
   Chapter 12 - Safe in the Arms of Jesus
   Chapter 13 - New Developments
   Chapter 14 - The Yang-Chau Riot
   Chapter 15 - Thick Darkness Where God was
   Chapter 16 - Ask and Ye shall Receive
   Chapter 17 - Ye Did It unto Me
   Chapter 18 - Founding the Western Branch of China Inland Mission
   Chapter 19 - The Lowest Ebb, and the Turn of the Tide
   Chapter 20 - Closing Events

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