The Life of J. Hudson Taylor: Chapter 9 - The New Mission
From that time the matter began to take form. The papers on China that were in course of preparation were soon completed, and it was decided to publish them under the title of "China's Spiritual Need and Claims." Prayer and sympathy were sought among the Lord's people on behalf of the new Mission; and Mr. Taylor gave up his work in connection with the revision of the Ningpo Testament, in order to be more free to go from place to place for meetings, as the way might open.
But it was down in Sussex, in the quiet country home of Mr. and Mrs. W. T. Berger, at Saint Hill, that most of the actual work was done. Here the foundations of the future Mission were deeply laid in long and prayerful conference over important principles of the Divine Word; while the illumination of the Holy Spirit was sought, in conscious dependence and need, from Him who alone is the Great Worker. Here plans were pondered in connection with the many details of the responsible and difficult undertaking that was to be; and here faith was strengthened and power realized in pleading for the full and suitable supply of every need. Grace and guidance, men and means, faith and the fullness of the Spirit for this service, all were sought and found by this little company of men and women on their knees, who had been taught to trust in the simple promises of God; and trusting, to obey.
Those were hallowed seasons of sweet and precious fellowship; days long to be remembered by each one of that little group -- the four who were never all "to meet again until, their earthy service ended, they should enter into the rest that remains for the people of God.
But it was not all plain sailing, even after the call of God had been obeyed, and the responsibility of carrying the Gospel to Inland China definitely accepted. There were serious questions to be considered, prominent among which was the problem of how to attempt an auxiliary effort which should be helpful to all previously existing agencies and injurious to none. Twenty or more societies were already at work in the field; and although their efforts were almost entirely confined to the seaboard provinces, they were rendering much-needed and very important service, upon which God had set the seal of His marked approval. Mr. Taylor and those associated with him were anxious from the very first that any effort they might be led to make might not for a moment appear to conflict with the work of these older organizations, and still more so that it should not actually divert help of any kind from already familiar channels. Such a result they felt would be no gain either to China or to the cause of God; and their earnest desire and prayer was that a method might be given them that should draw out fresh laborers, who probably might not otherwise have reached the mission field, and open up new channels of pecuniary aid. But this was a matter of no easy attainment. Already there were societies seeking in vain for laborers and agencies in need of increased funds. Where, then, were new missionaries and fresh sources of income to be found?
Again, another very serious difficulty was raised by the question as to whether, granted that men and means were forthcoming, the interior of China would prove to be open to our efforts. Nominally it had been so ever since the treaty of Tien-tsin, concluded more than seven years before; but would it practically be possible to travel and reside in those distant regions? Would the missionaries have needful protection? And should they even succeed in penetrating the remote provinces of Central and Western China, how could letters and money be transmitted to them, in their lonely outposts, far in the heart of heathendom?
Such were some of the problems requiring solution; and many an hour of prolonged waiting upon God was needed, combined with no little earnest and prayerful conference with experienced workers both in the home and foreign fields, ere light began to penetrate these matters of difficulty. But the light, when it did dawn, was from His presence, with whom is no darkness, perplexity, or doubt; and it shone clear and bright upon the pathway He had marked out for His servants' feet.
"All these questions so puzzling to us," writes Mr. Taylor, "we simply met by asking one another: 'When the Lord Jesus gives a definite command, is it for us to reason whether it be possible to obey?' The terms of His great Commission are explicit: He would have the Gospel preached in all the world, to every creature: and He answers all objections, and meets every possible difficulty from the very outset, by once and for ever assuring us that fullness of power is His, both in heaven and on earth, and that He who is true, and can neither fail nor forget, is with us always, even to the end of the world. The dangers and difficulties in our way we knew to be neither few nor small; but with Jesus as our Leader we could not fear to follow on. We expected that all the trials we must meet, while leading to a deeper realization of our own weakness, poverty, and need, would also constrain us to lean more constantly, to draw more deeply, and to rest more implicitly on the strength, riches, and fullness of Christ. We knew that our experience would be, in the world, tribulation; but in Him, peace -- perfect peace. And we were assured that if times of trial and danger were to be most conducive to the glory of God, the good of those engaged in the work, and the truest interests of His cause, that at such times either His delivering power would be most conspicuously displayed, or His sustaining grace would prove sufficient for the weakest of His servants in the fight."
And so in prayerful dependence upon God all these difficulties were patiently met and pondered, until by degrees a simple, definite plan began to unfold itself, based upon a few broad principles -- principles so far differing from those adopted by other missionary agencies as to be in themselves a sufficiently clear line of demarcation between the sphere already occupied both at home and in China by older workers and that now proposed for the new Mission.
It was decided in the first place to form the new association upon a broadly catholic basis, inviting the sympathy and co-operation of all the Lord's people, irrespective of denominational differences. By this means it was hoped to avoid the danger of drawing upon the resources of any one special body of Christians either for men or means and to raise a testimony also to the essential unity of the Church of Christ, in which there are "diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all."
And then, as regards the fellow-laborers to be sought and accepted in connection with the work, the supreme importance of spiritual qualifications, rather than intellectual, social, or any other, was from the first distinctly recognized. From the careful study of the Word and the experience of his own missionary life in China, Mr. Hudson Taylor was fully convinced of the power of the Spirit of God to work through a great variety of agencies, and of the need that exists for widely differing qualifications in the various classes of workers.
"The man who would attempt," he writes, "to build a house without an architect would not be a very wise person; but it would be quite as great a mistake to say, 'Because architects are needed we will have none but architects.' And so in missionary effort. Men who have had a valuable curriculum of study are comparatively few, and the number able and willing to devote themselves to missionary work is altogether insufficient. But, more than this, there is much to be done in the service of missions that others are better fitted to undertake. God has adapted each one to his own special calling. A bricklayer will build better than an architect; but the architect will superintend and make plans better than the bricklayer. It is only in the combination of willing, skillful workers, suited to every department of service, that the cause of God can advance as it might and should."
Far from undervaluing educational advantages and intellectual attainments, Mr. Hudson Taylor and those associated with him esteemed them highly, at their true worth; but they felt also, and felt deeply, that a large class of much-needed workers was being kept back from entering the mission field, simply because the value of their different qualifications was not sufficiently recognized.
"God has His own universities," continues Mr. Taylor, "and His ways of training men for service... I hold it sheer infidelity to doubt that God gives to every one of His children, without exception, those circumstances which are, to him, the highest educational advantages he can improve, and which will best fit him for his own work. Let us see to it that we do not reject God-given men simply because they may have been brought up in widely differing social circles."
Spiritual qualifications, therefore, were sought in the candidates as more important than any other; and it was hoped that a class of workers might thus be drawn into the field for whom up to that time there had been but few openings and little welcome.
And in the third place, the difficulty as to a possible deflection of funds from old-established channels was met by a very simple but radical change in the ordinary method of obtaining an income for the support of missionary work.
To begin with, it was decided once and for all never to go into debt. The funds received would be used as they were needed; but beyond this not one penny more. And as a natural outcome of such an understanding, no regular salaries could be promised to the workers. Whatever sums of money the Lord might be pleased to send would be prayerfully appropriated to the various objects of the work, the personal needs of the members of the Mission being proportionally met. If none came in at home, none could be forwarded to China; but if, on the other hand, more was received than usual, more would be sent on.
In speaking of the proposed operations of the new Mission this fundamental principle was especially emphasized, and only those men and women encouraged to volunteer who were fully prepared to prove their faith in the God they desired to preach among the heathen by willingly going forward to Inland China "with no other guarantee for their support than the promises they carried within the covers of their pocket Bibles."
Upon this important subject Mr. Taylor says:-
"We might, indeed, have had a guarantee fund if we had wished it; but we felt it to be unnecessary, and likely to do harm. Not only is money given from mixed motives to be dreaded; money wrongly placed may also prove a serious hindrance to spiritual work, especially should it lead the confidence of any to rest in the material rather than the spiritual, the finite instead of the infinite supply. We can afford to have as little as the Lord may see fit to give, but we cannot afford to have unconsecrated money or money in wrong positions. Far better to have no means at all, even to purchase food with; for there are plenty of ravens in China, and the Lord could commission them again to feed His servants day by day.
"The Lord is always faithful, although at times He may see fit to try the faith of His people, or their faithlessness rather. We sometimes cry, 'Lord, increase our faith!' Did not the Master, in substance, reply, 'It is not greater faith that you need, but -- faith in A Great God. If your faith was small even as a grain of mustard seed, it would suffice to remove mountains?' We need a faith that rests continually upon A Great God, expecting Him always to keep His own word and to do exactly as He has promised.
"As regards trusting the Lord for the daily supply of our needs in connection with this Mission, had He not said, 'Seek ye first the kingdom... and all these things shall be added unto you'? If any brother did not believe that God spoke the truth, it would be far better for him not to go to China to propagate the faith; and if he did believe it, surely the promise sufficed. Again, we had the assurance that 'no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly.' If any did not mean to walk uprightly, it would be better for them to stay at home; but if they did purpose so to walk, they had in that one word all that could be necessary in the shape of a guarantee fund. God owns all the gold and silver in the world, and the cattle upon a thousand hills; His children need have no lack."
Men and women, therefore, were sought for Inland China who had been used of God in winning souls at home, who were possessed of the spiritual grace that is the best and highest qualification for missionary service, and who were willing to prove their call of God to the work and their faith in the truths they preached by relying on Him alone who had sent them to supply their every need.
It was deeply felt from the first that not many men and not large means were the supreme necessity; but just "to get God's man, in God's place, doing God's work, in God's way, and for God's glory." For if in all its details the work was according to His mind and will, the needed supplies would be sure.
"Our Father is a very experienced one," continues Mr. Taylor. "He knows very well that His children wake up with a good appetite every morning, and He always provides breakfast for them. and sees to it also that they do not go to bed supperless at night. 'Thy bread shall be given thee, and thy water shall be sure.'
He had no difficulty in sustaining two or more millions of Israelites in the wilderness for forty years. We scarcely expect that He will send two million missionaries to China; but if He should do so, He would have abundant means to Sustain them all. Let us see to it that we keep God before our eyes, that we walk in His ways, and seek to please and glorify Him in all things great and small. Depend upon it, God's work, done in God's way, will never lack God's supplies.
"When the supplies do not come in, it is time to inquire what is wrong. Surely something is amiss somewhere. It may be only a temporary trial of faith; but if there be faith, it will bear trying; and if there is none, it is well that we should not be deceived. How easy it is with money in the pocket and food in the cupboard to think that one has faith in God! But oh! when our faith fails, His faithfulness stands sure.... He does not break His word nor cast off His children in their hours of trial and weakness. No! He is always gracious, always tender. 'If we believe not, yet He abideth faithful; He cannot deny Himself.'"
Trusting thus in God alone, it was felt to be unnecessary to make direct appeals to any but Himself for needed aid. Thus it was recognized as a general principle of the Mission that all its needs were to be brought before the Lord in faith and prayer; and that though, when it seemed desirable, they might also be more publicly mentioned, anything of the nature of solicitation for money was to be carefully avoided. Further, it was also decided to adopt the plan of making no collection at meetings held in connection with the Mission-partly with a desire to avoid the danger of drawing away contributions from other channels, and partly in order to leave upon the minds of the hearers as deep an impression as possible of individual responsibility with regard to the claims of heathendom.
It was felt that very frequently the value of the impression made at missionary meetings was largely lost in consequence of the collection contributed to at the close. Those whose hearts had been burdened with a sense of their own personal responsibility in connection with the needs of which they had heard were too apt to purchase relief by giving, on the spot, more or less liberally to the collection; after which, feeling that they had done their part, it was easy to go away and forget the matter amid the pressure of other claims. If money was the great necessity, such a result might be considered satisfactory; but where the object desired is nothing less than to bring hearts into truer sympathy with God, and so to deepen the work of grace in the lives of His own people as naturally to produce the missionary spirit, anything short of full personal consecration, leading to sacrifice and definite service, could hardly be considered an adequate outcome of the meetings.
"We do not appeal for men or money. The thing we do appeal for is love to God and a walk that pleases Him. Nothing is of any value that is not the outcome of hearts brought near to God. Let men see God working; let God be glorified; let souls be made holier, happier, nearer to Him, and they won't want to be asked to help. A consecrated shilling, given from love to God, is worth far more to us than an unconsecrated sovereign."
So it was decided to have no collection at the meetings, and to issue no appeals for support, but just to wait upon the Lord for the supply of every need, and to trust Him to incline the hearts of His own people to send in, unasked, just as much or as little as He would have them send.
From all this it will be seen that the broad underlying principle upon which the whole superstructure of the new Mission was based may be expressed in one word -- the simple, sublime, all-enabling word, Faith; -- faith that links our nothingness with almighty power, that inspires "prayer, and is ready to meet every difficulty with the assured conviction that "God, alone, is sufficient for God's own work." But besides possessing a ground-work of very definite though simple principles, the new Mission was started upon a well-defined, straightforward plan. There was no haziness as to its object, or the Way in which that object was to be obtained; and the plan was as simple as were the principles of which it was the result. Eleven provinces of Inland China, with a population of more than one hundred million precious souls, were entirely without the saving Light of Life. The Master's command was plain: "Preach the Gospel to every creature." The aim of the Mission, therefore, was to carry the glad tidings of salvation in His name to all these distant regions, and to plant in every one of the then unevangelized provinces at least two heralds of the Cross. A basis of operations being needed near the coast, it was decided to commence work in the province of Cheh-Kiang, hoping from the already existing nucleus of the Ningpo Mission to extend first to the unreached districts close at hand, and thence farther afield.
It was also thought well for the new workers to adopt the native dress, and to seek, in bringing the Gospel to the Chinese, to do so as nearly as possible in the way in which they might carry it one to another. Any advantage or influence that could have been gained among them from wearing our own national costume was neither valued nor desired, it being clearly recognized that spiritual blessing is obtainable only by spiritual power.