The Life of J. Hudson Taylor: Chapter 8 - Timely Supplies -- Return to England
For three years after leaving the Chinese Evangelization Society, Mr. Hudson Taylor remained in Ningpo, working in association with his loved colleagues, Mr. and Mrs. Jones. Depending upon God alone for the supply of all their needs, they often had opportunity of proving His faithfulness in a way that would otherwise have been impossible; and many a time their hearts were strengthened when, in circumstances of difficulty and trial, some marked deliverance or unforeseen provision testified to the gracious and loving care of Him in whose promises alone they placed their trust. To Mr. Taylor especially these were precious experiences, preparing him more and more fully for the unknown future that God had in store for him.
"Not infrequently," he writes, looking back upon the lessons learned at this time, "our God brings His people into difficulties on purpose that they may come to know Him as they could not otherwise do. Then He reveals Himself as 'a very present help in trouble,' and makes the heart glad indeed at each fresh revelation of a Father's faithfulness. We who only see so small a part of the sweet issues of trials often feel that we would not for anything have missed them; how much more shall we bless and magnify His name when all the hidden things are brought to light!"
In the autumn of 1857, just one year after Mr. Taylor came to settle in Ningpo, a little incident occurred that did much to strengthen his faith in the lovingkindness and ever-watchful care of God.
A brother in the Lord, the Rev. John Quarterman, of the American Presbyterian Mission North, was taken with virulent smallpox, and it was Mr. Taylor's mournful privilege to nurse him through his sufferings and illness to the fatal close. When all was over, it became necessary to lay aside the garments worn while nursing, for fear of conveying the dreaded infection to others. Under these circumstances Mr. Taylor found himself in the perplexing position of not having sufficient money in hand to purchase what was needful in order to make this change; and, as he says, "prayer was the only resource." The difficulty was all laid before the Lord in simple faith; and very soon His answer came in the unexpected form of a long-lost box of clothing from Swatow, that had remained in the care of the Rev. William Burns when Mr. Taylor left him for Shanghai, in the early summer of the previous year. The arrival of the things just at this juncture was as appropriate as it was remarkable, and brought a sweet sense of the Father's own providing.
About two months later we find the following noteworthy extract from Mr. Taylor's journal, which with the subsequent story, will give some idea of the manner of his life and work at this time:-
"Many seem to think that I am very poor. This certainly is true enough in one sense, but I thank God it is 'poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, yet possessing all things.' And my God shall supply all my need; to Him be all the glory. I would not, if I could, be otherwise than I am -entirely dependent myself upon the Lord, and used as a channel of help to others.
"On Saturday, the 4th inst., our regular home mail arrived. That morning we supplied, as usual, a breakfast to the destitute poor, who came to the number of seventy. Sometimes they do not reach forty, at others again exceeding eighty. They come to us every day, Lord's Day excepted, for then we cannot manage to attend to them and get through all our duties too. Well, on that Saturday morning we paid all expenses, and provided ourselves for the morrow, after which we had not a single dollar left between us. How the Lord was going to provide for Monday we knew not; but over our mantelpiece hang two scrolls in the Chinese character -- Ebenezer, 'Hitherto hath the Lord helped us'; and Jehovah-Jireh, 'The Lord will provide' -- and He kept us from doubting for a moment. That very day the mail came in, a week Sooner that was expected, and Mr. Jones received a bill for two hundred and fourteen dollars. We thanked God and took courage. The bill was taken to a merchant, and although there is usually a delay of several days in getting the change, this time he said, "Send down on Monday." We sent, and though he had not been able to buy all the dollars, he let us have seventy on account; so all was well. Oh, it is sweet to live thus directly dependent upon the Lord, who never fails us!
"On Monday the poor had their breakfast as usual, for we had not told them not to come, being assured that it was the Lord's work, and that the Lord would provide. We could .not help our eyes filling with tears of gratitude when we saw not only our own needs supplied, but the widows and the orphans, the blind and the lame, the friendless and the destitute, together provided for by the bounty of Him who feeds the ravens. "O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together... Taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in Him. O fear the Lord, ye His saints: for there is no want to them that fear Him. The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that wait upon the Lord shall not want any good thing -- and if not good, why want it?"
But even two hundred dollars cannot last forever, and by New Year's Day supplies were again getting low. At last, on January 6th, 1858, only one solitary cash remained -- the twentieth part of a penny -- in the joint possession of Mr. Jones and Mr. Taylor; but untroubled they looked to God once again to manifest His gracious care. Enough provision was found in the house to supply a meager breakfast; after which, having neither food for the rest of the day, nor money to buy any, they could only betake themselves to Him who was able to supply all their need with the petition, "Give us this day our daily bread."
"After prayer and deliberation we thought that perhaps we ought to dispose of something we possessed in order to meet our immediate requirements. But on looking round we saw nothing that we could well spare, and little that the Chinese would purchase for ready money. Credit to any extent we might have had, could we conscientiously have availed ourselves of it, but this we felt to be unscriptural in itself, as well as inconsistent with the position we were in. We had, indeed, one article -- an iron stove -- which we knew the Chinese would readily purchase; but we much regretted the necessity of parting with it. At length, however, we set out to the founder's, and after a walk of some distance came to the river, which we had intended to cross by a floating bridge of boats; but here the Lord shut up our path. The bridge had been carried away during the preceding night, and the river was only passable by means of a ferry, the fare for which was two [? The word is missing here in the printed text for the type of cash. -- DVM] cash each person. As we only possessed one cash between us, our course clearly was to return and await God's own interposition on our behalf.
"Upon reaching home, we found that Mrs. Jones had gone with the children to dine at a friend's house, in accordance with an invitation accepted some days previously. Mr. Jones though himself included in the invitation, refused now to go and leave me to fast alone. So we set to work and carefully searched the cupboards; and though there was nothing to eat, we found a small packet of cocoa, which, with a little hot water, somewhat revived us. After this we again cried to the Lord in our trouble, and the Lord heard and saved us out of all our distresses. For while we were still upon our knees a letter arrived from England containing a remittance."
This timely supply was the more providential' and welcome from the fact that Mr. Hudson Taylor's marriage had been arranged to take place just a fortnight from that date -- "in the assured confidence that God, whose we were and whom we served, would not put to shame those whose whole and only trust was in Himself. And this expectation was not disappointed; for the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed, but His kindness shall never be withdrawn from His people, nor His covenant fail."
And so, in the summer of 1858, a young bride was brought home to the little house on the Lake Head Street with thankfulness and rejoicing. Never, perhaps, was there a union that more fully realized the blessed truth, "He that findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and shall obtain favor of the LORD." God had made this marriage, and God blessed it during all the twelve eventful years through which Mrs. Taylor was spared to those that loved her and to China.
Hers had been a life connection with missionary work in that great empire; for her father, the loved and devoted Samuel Dyer, was among the very earliest representatives of the London Mission in the East. He reached Malay Land as early as 1827, and for sixteen years labored assiduously among the Chinese in Penang and Singapore, completing at the same time a valuable font of Chinese metallic type, the first of the kind that had then been attempted. Dying in 1843, it was never Mr. Dyer's privilege to realize his hopes of ultimately being able to settle on Chinese soil; but his children lived to see the country opened to the Gospel, and to take their share in the great work that had been so dear to his heart. At the time of her marriage, Mrs. Taylor had been already living for several years in Ningpo with her friend and guardian, Miss Aldersey, in whose varied missionary operations she was well qualified to render valuable assistance.
Among the remarkable answers to prayer recorded by Mr. Hudson Taylor at this time was one that, early in the year 1859, filled his heart with special thankfulness and praise. Serious illness had entered the little household at Lake Head Street, and she who was the light of his home had been laid low. At last all hope of recovery seemed gone. Every remedy tried had proved unavailing; and Dr. Parker, who was in attendance, had nothing more to suggest. Life was ebbing fast away. The only ground of hope was that God might see fit to raise her up, in answer to believing but submissive prayer.
"The afternoon for the usual prayer meeting among the missionaries had arrived, and I sent in a request for prayer, which was most warmly responded to. Just at this time a remedy that had not yet been tried was suggested to my mind, and I felt that I must hasten to consult Dr. Parker as to the propriety of using it. It was a moment of anguish. The hollow temples, sunken eyes, and pinched features denoted the near approach of death; and it seemed more than questionable as to whether life would hold out until nay return. It was nearly two miles to Dr. Parker's house, and every moment appeared long. On my way thither, while wrestling mightily with God m prayer, the precious words were brought with power to my soul, 'Call upon Me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me.' I was at once enabled to plead them in faith, and the result was deep, deep joy and unspeakable peace. All consciousness of distance was gone. Dr. Parker cordially approved of the use of the means suggested, but upon arriving at home I saw at a glance that the desired change had taken place in the absence of this or any other remedy. The pinched aspect of the countenance had given place to the calmness of tranquil slumber, and not one unfavorable symptom remained to retard recovery to health and strength."
In 1860, in the midst of abundant labors and encouraging results Mr. Taylor's health completely gave way, and much to his sorrow, he was compelled to seek relief in the more bracing climate of his native land. On reaching England he was told by the physician that he must abandon all hope of returning to China, for the present at least.
During this enforced stay in the home-land, which proved to be a period of nearly five years, his time was occupied in seeking in every way possible to advance the interest of the cause which lay nearest his heart. He presented the great need to the people, prepared and sent out five missionaries for which he had been definitely led to ask the Lord before leaving China, and revised and edited a translation of the New Testament in the dialect of the converts he had left at Ningpo.
But of greater importance than all this is the fact that his stay in England was the first necessary step in a chain of providences which led to the founding of the Inland China Mission. When he was in the actual work in China, he had received a vision of the great need of the inland provinces.
In England he found societies ready to undertake the evangelization of the inland provinces. But they argued that under the circumstances it was not the proper time. To Mr. Taylor, with the work of the whole Chinese Empire before him, the crying need of these millions of souls without one ray of hope was burned in upon his heart in such a way that he could only find relief in earnest importunate prayer. He wrote at this time a burning appeal to the church, in a series of papers entitled "China's Spiritual Need and Claims."
It became evident, however, that but little hope could be entertained of inducing any of the existing missionary agencies to undertake the evangelization of the eleven unoccupied provinces; and the vividly realized need of the enormous population of those vast regions, combined with the conviction that there were promises sufficient in the Word of God to meet all the difficulties raised in the way of penetrating them With the Gospel, brought an unexpected climax to the whole matter in the startling reflection: "Well, if you see these things more clearly than others, why not go forward yourself, and trust God to accomplish His purposes through you? Go yourself to Inland China! If power in prayer be granted, what is to hinder your obtaining the men and the means? Five have already been given for the Ningpo work: why not a larger number to meet the greater need?"
It was an overwhelming suggestion, and at first was put away as one that could not be seriously considered; but the thought became persistent, and would not be so easily dismissed. By degrees, face to face with God and the simple promises of the Word, Mr. Hudson Taylor was constrained to confess that there could be no doubt as to the possibility of the undertaking. He could not question the power and willingness of the Lord of the harvest to give the laborers, and sustain them, even through the weakest instrumentality; but certain though it was that by faith the men and the means could be obtained, he was conscious of the very strongest objection to the idea of personally obtaining them.
It was early spring-tide in the year 1865 when this controversy began in his soul; and all through the lovely months of April, May, and June the conflict became ever more intense.
"I saw," Mr. Taylor tell us, "that in answer to prayer the workers needed would certainly be given, and their support secured, because asked for in the precious name of Jesus, which is worthy; but there a trembling unbelief crept in.
"'Suppose that workers are given,' I asked myself doubtfully, 'and that they succeed even in reaching Inland China: what then? Trials will surely come; such conflicts, perhaps, as they have never dreamed of at home. Their faith may fail, and they may even be tempted to reproach one for having brought them into such a plight. Have I strength and ability to cope with such difficulties as these?'
"And the answer, of course, was always 'No!'
"It was just a bringing in of self through unbelief, the devil getting one to feel that while prayer and faith might lead one into the dilemma one would be left to get out of it as best one might. And I failed entirely to see that the Power that would give the laborers would be quite sufficient also to sustain them, under any circumstances, no matter how trying.
"Meanwhile, the awful realization was burned into my very soul that a million a month in China, the heathen were dying without God.
"'If you would pray for preachers,' came the dread conviction. 'they might have a chance of hearing the glorious Gospel; but still they pass away without it, simply because you have not faith to claim for them heralds of the Cross."
Week after week the conflict went on, until at last the pressure upon mind and soul became so intense that sleep almost forsook him, and it seemed as if reason itself must fail. Rest was impossible by day or night. The thought of China's millions was continually before his mind, and of what the Gospel might bring to them of blessing if only they could come in contact with it. And yet he could not yield and accept the position and responsibility that would have ended all the strife.
"How inconsistent unbelief always is," Mr. Taylor continues. "I had no doubt that if I prayed for fellow-workers they would be given me. I had no doubt that in answer to prayer the means for our going forth would also be supplied and that doors would be opened before us in unreached parts of the Empire. But I had not then learned to trust God fully for keeping power and grace for myself, so it was not much to be wondered at that I found difficulty in trusting Him to keep any others who might be led to go out with me.
"Yet what was I to do? The feeling of bloodguiltiness became more and more intense. Simply because I refused to ask for them, the laborers did not come forward, did not go to China; and every day tens of thousands in that vast land were living and dying with no knowledge of the way of salvation."
Summer succeeded spring, and by this time the burden upon his mind began seriously to affect Mr. Taylor's health. He felt unable to speak to others about the matter; and though Mrs. Taylor knew a good deal of the experiences through which he was passing, even to her he said but little, unwilling as yet that she should share a burden so crushing. Prayer was the only resource; and on June 1st, at a weekly gathering of the Lord's people held in Mr. Berger's chapel at Saint Hill, we find Mr. Taylor proffering an earnest appeal for intercession on behalf of China, "that suitable men might be raised up and means provided for the evangelization of the eleven provinces still without any missionary." But he did not even then go so far as to surrender himself to be one of them, and if necessary their leader.
A few days later Mr. George Pearse, seeing how worn and weary Mr. Taylor was looking, pressed him to come down to Brighton and take a rest by the sea. This kind invitation was gladly accepted, though it seemed more than doubtful whether the change of scene would bring any relief of heart. Sunday morning came, June 25th, and to the music of the bells, borne far and wide upon the peaceful air, hundreds of happy churchgoers thronged the quiet streets. But there was one burdened soul that could not join the multitudes on their way to the house of God. The all-absorbing realization in Mr. Taylor's mind, that seemed to darken with its shadow every thought of brighter things, was still that of the need of the vast land to which his life was given.
"More than a thousand souls in China," he remembers, "will be swept into eternity while the people of God, in the gladness of their Christian privileges, are gathered here in their morning services today!"
The incubus of heathendom was upon him, and was almost more than his soul could bear. In distress of mind that seemed to have reached its climax, he left the quiet house and went down the hill to the forsaken beach. It was a lovely summer morning; the tide was out; and far away upon the silent sands he met the crisis of his life, alone with God.
At first there was no light, and the conflict was intense. The only ray of comfort he could obtain was from the strange reflection: "Well, if God, in answer to prayer, does give a band of men for Inland China, and they go and reach those distant regions, and if the worst should come to the worst, and they all die of starvation even, they will all go straight to heaven; and if only one heathen soul is saved it would be well worth while!" But the thought was agony; for still he could not see that God, if He gave the laborers, would be sure to keep them, even in Inland China.
All at once, however, came the further thought: 'Why burdened thus? If you are simply obeying God, all the responsibility must rest with Him, and not with you."
What an unspeakable relief! "Very well," was the immediate, glad reply; "thou Lord, shalt be responsible for them, and for me too!" And the burden from that moment was all gone.
Then and there Mr. Hudson Taylor surrendered himself to God for this service, and lifted up his heart in prayer for fellow-laborers -- two for each of the inland provinces, and two for Mongolia. His Bible was in his hand; and there upon the margin of the precious volume he at once recorded the momentous transaction that had taken place between his soul and God. Few and simple are the words he uses; but oh, how full of meaning!
"Prayed for twenty-four willing, skillful laborers, at Brighton, June 25th, 1865."
"How restfully I turned away from the shore," he adds, "when this was done. The conflict was all ended. Peace and gladness filled my soul. I felt almost like flying up that steep hill by the station to Mr. Pearse's house. And how I did sleep that night! My dear wife thought that Brighton had done wonders for me; and so it had."