The Life of J. Hudson Taylor: Chapter 10 - Launching Forth
Thus Christmas again drew near, bringing the close of 1865. Six months had now elapsed since that summer Sunday on the sands at Brighton, When, alone with God, Mr. Taylor had definitely consecrated his all to the evangelization of Inland China, and had prayed for fellow-laborers for each of the unoccupied provinces. Much progress had been made since then; and now, at the close of the year, he found himself in the position of having many of the workers needed, men and women ready to go forth trusting in God alone, and looking to Him for grace and strength to meet all difficulties that might arise; but the necessary means to provide for their passage and outfit expenses had not yet been supplied.
The new Mission was fairly launched, and was already becoming known throughout a wide circle of Christian friends, before whom its faith principles had made it from the first a marked movement. Many courageous boasts had been made of its confidence in God alone, that Heavenly Father in whose great faithfulness and love His children so delighted to put their trust; and yet as the time drew near for the actual departure of the first band, for that final going forth, not knowing whither they went, a strange sense of utter helplessness and need became deeply felt by those upon whom God had placed the responsibility of the work.
"One experienced," says Mr. Hudson Taylor, "a very real sympathy with Moses, the man of God, in that hour of peril and perplexity when the Lord, seeing through all outward appearances of courage and quiet faith, said to His tried servant, 'Wherefore criest thou unto Me?' But had he cried? The people had not heard him. He alone who reads the heart had measured the deep sense of need that lay behind those strong assurances of faith with which he had rallied the faltering courage of Israel's host. 'Wherefore criest thou unto me?' Moses knew that he had cried. And we knew, as the year drew to a close, how often our hearts similarly had gone up to God in the presence of a strongly felt need. We seemed at this point to have come to such an utter plunge into the dark, counting solely upon His faithfulness and power; and we deeply realized the importance of waiting much upon the Lord.
"The last day of the year, therefore, was set apart as a special season of fasting and prayer, in which a few friends joined. The numbers gathered were not large, but an intense sense of reality that can never be forgotten characterized those earnest dealings with God. All felt it, and realized the supreme need to be that each member of that little group should be fully kept in touch with the Lord, that He might work unhindered to His own glory. So marked was the blessing given that from that day to this, December 31st has continued to be observed in the same way throughout the Mission, both in China and at home."
Just at this juncture it was thought desirable to publish a little pamphlet, to be introductory to a series of "Occasional Papers," which should record the future progress of the work. A first issue was prepared early in the New Year, in which, after a brief account of the help and guidance so far given, the writer concluded:-
"It now remains to speak of the prospect immediately before us. The Lord having graciously removed obstacles that had so far hindered the return to China of Mrs. Taylor and myself with our dear children, we are now preparing to leave England by May 15th, or as soon after as a suitable ship can be found. A party of ten brethren and sisters will accompany us, if the Lord provide the means, as they fully believe themselves called to the work, and we have every reason to hope that they will labour happily and usefully in China. To meet the expenses of the outfit and passage of so large a party funds to the amount of fifteen hundred or two thousand pounds, according to the number going, will be required."
This little paper was put into the printer's hands early in February; but owing to delays in engraving the design for the cover, more than a month elapsed before it was ready for circulation; and in the meanwhile the Lord Himself interposed, and by a very remarkable providence met the whole need.
On February 6th, when the first "Occasional Paper" was sent to press, special prayer was made at noon that the Lord would graciously incline the hearts of His people to send in fifteen hundred or two thousands, to meet the expenses of those whom He wished to have included in the
outgoing party. Up to that time the donations for the year had amounted to a little over one hundred and seventy pounds -- not a small sum to receive in only one month and six days, entirely unsolicited, save of God. But thankful though they were for this aid, the outgoing missionaries could not but feel that they must wait upon the Lord to do still greater things, or it would be impossible for a company of ten or sixteen to leave in the month of May. They agreed therefore that daily united prayer should continue to be made at noon, to keep this matter before the Lord in simple faith. One month and six days later, on March 12th, the completed issue of the little pamphlet for which they had been waiting was delivered from the printer's; and before it was put into circulation, at the prayer meeting of that day, Mr. Hudson Taylor brought in the Mission cash-book, and cast up the receipts that had been entered during the interval, to see how matters stood. It was found that in this period, throughout the whole of which special daily prayer had been ascending, considerably over nineteen hundred and seventy pounds had been received, unasked of any, save God alone. Thus the need was met almost before they were aware, and that without even the circulation of the little paper that was to have made it known.
This gracious answer to prayer made it impossible to publish the pamphlet just as it stood, for the wants it mentioned had already been supplied. A colored slip was therefore inserted in each copy, stating that funds for the passage and outfit of the whole party were already in hand, the response of a faithful God to the believing petitions of His people.
"We were reminded of the difficulty of Moses, not a very common one in the present day, and of the proclamation he had to send throughout the camp, that the people should prepare no more for the building of the tabernacle. May it not be that, if there were less solicitation for money, and more dependence upon the power of the Holy Ghost, and upon the deepening of the spiritual life of the Church, the experience of Moses would be a more frequent one in every branch of Christian service?"
After the publication of the first "Occasional Paper," containing the above-mentioned notice, the donations steadily decreased, so that within the next similar period of one month and six days only five hundred and twenty-nine pounds came in, "showing that when God had met the special need the special supply ceased also. Truly there is a living God, and He is the Hearer and Answerer of prayer." An exact comparison of the facts will further emphasize this remarkable interposition of Divine providence, and show with added clearness how definitely prayer "moved the arm that moves the world," and obtained God's own direct and unmistakable response.
From January 1st to February 6th, a period of one month and six days, the donations received amounted to u170 8s. 3d.
From February 6th to March 12th, also a period of one month and six days, donations were sent in to the amount of u1974 5s. 11d.
From March 12th to April 18th, a third period of the same length, the receipts fell again to u529.
And the only difference that distinguished the second period from the first and third was that during all that month daily united prayer was being made to God that He would be pleased to send in the fifteen hundred or two thousand pounds needed.
No obstacles now remained to hinder the departure for China of the band that had been provisionally accepted to sail in May, and final preparations were at once proceeded with. The party consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Nicol, five brethren, and six sisters, besides Mr. and Mrs. Hudson Taylor's own family, including Mary Bell, who went out as mother's-help, and the gifted and devoted Emily Blatchley, who had for many months rendered very valuable assistance in the correspondence, outfitting, and general work of the Mission. Miss Bausum also, who was going to assist her mother, Mrs. Lord, of Ningpo, became their companion for the voyage. Thus the whole party, including children, numbered two-and-twenty; and in those days it was no easy matter to find a vessel bound for China that had accommodation to spare for so many. However, in this matter also the Lord undertook for His people, and provided not the ship only, but one of His own "exceeding abundant" blessings with which Hi loves to encourage the hearts of those who put their trust in Him. The incident is given as Mr. Hudson Taylor has recorded it:-
"In the month of April I was asked to give a lecture on China at Totteridge, a village no great distance from London, and willingly consented to do so, on condition that there should be no collection, and that this should be announced on the bills. Mr. Puget, who invited me and who kindly presided as Chairman, said that he had never before heard such a stipulation. He accepted it, however, and the bills were issued for May 2nd.
"With the aid of a large map, something of the extent, population, and deep spiritual need of China was presented to the people, many of whom were evidently much impressed. At the close of the meeting the Chairman said that at my request it had been intimated on the bills that there would be no collection, but he felt that there were many present who would be distressed and burdened if they had not the opportunity of contributing something to the good work proposed. He trusted that, as the suggestion that such gifts should still be received emanated entirely from himself and expressed the feelings of many in the audience, I should not object to it. I begged, however, that the condition already agreed upon might not be altered, pointing out that the very reason adduced by our kind Chairman was to my mind one of the strongest for not making any collection. My desire was not that those present might be relieved by giving then and there such contributions as might be convenient under the influence of present emotion, but that each one should go home really burdened with a sense of China's deep need, and go to ask of God what He would have them do. If, after thought and prayer, they were satisfied that a pecuniary contribution was all He wanted of them, this could be given to any society having missionaries at work in China, or might be posted to our London address. But perhaps, in many cases, what God was asking was not a money contribution, but personal consecration to His service abroad, or the gift of a dear son or daughter, more precious far than gold.
"I added that I thought the tendency of a collection was to leave upon the mind the impression that the all-important thing was money, whereas no amount of money could convert a single soul. The supreme need was that men and women filled with the Holy Spirit should give themselves to the work, and for the support of such there would never be a lack of funds.
"As my wish was evidently strong, the Chairman kindly yielded and closed the meeting. He told me, however, at the supper-table that he thought I was sadly mistaken, and that notwithstanding all I had said some little contributions had been put into his hand for the Mission.
"Next morning at breakfast my kind host came in a little late, and said he had passed a restless night. After the meal was over he asked me into his study, and handing me the contributions given him the previous evening, remarked: 'I thought yesterday, Mr. Taylor, that you were in the wrong about the collection; but now I am convinced you are right. As I considered in the night that stream of souls in China, ever passing onward to the dark, I could only cry, as you suggested, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" I believe I have obtained the guidance I sought; and here it is.' He handed me, as he spoke, a check for five hundred pounds, adding that if there had been a collection he would have given a few guineas towards it, but that this check was the result of having spent no small part of the night in prayer.
"I need scarcely say how surprised and thankful I was for the gift. A letter had reached me at the breakfast-table that very morning from the shipping agents, in which they stated that they could offer us the whole passenger accommodation of the Lammermuir. I went on my way home to see the ship, found it in every way suitable, and paid the check on account. Thus did the Lord encourage our hearts in Himself."
And now the time drew near when the long anticipated departure for China was to become an actual fact. Much had happened during the five and a half years that had been spent in England; and it was with feelings of wonder and gratitude that the returning missionaries paused to remember, and exclaim, "What hath God wrought?" Before them lay an unknown future; but the same guiding hand and ever-watchful love would lead them there; only "goodness and mercy" should follow them through all the days that were to come.
And now it only remains to mention the last steps in the full inauguration of the Mission, and the sailing of the good ship Lammermuir with the first company of those who went out at this time. And this takes us back once again to the quiet home at Saint Hill, where so much of the initial work was done, and where, in Mr. Berger's drawing-room, the new organization received its name.
One of the most serious considerations, of course, in connection with the formation of the work upon its free and non-denominational basis, without any committee or even council to begin with at home, might have been the question of representation in England, when Mr. Hudson Taylor and his companions should have sailed for China. Who would correspond with candidates, receive supplies, forward reinforcements, and attend to all the hundred and one other necessary duties connected with the home department of the work? But the Lord had not forgotten this special need, nor had He failed most graciously to supply it. He had His willing, skillful helpers ready; and when the time came Mr. Berger took over the home affairs of the Mission.
"The thing grew up gradually," Mr. Taylor tells us. "When I decided to go forward, Mr. Berger kindly agreed to carry on the home department of the work after our leaving England. We were much drawn together, and were thoroughly of one mind in it all. It was naturally understood that I was to be responsible, as Director, for all our operations in China; and he, as naturally, assumed the position of Director at home. Neither of us asked or appointed the other; it just came to be so in the providence of God. And as to our principles of association among the missionaries themselves, they were equally simple. We had no written agreement at first, but merely a verbal understanding that each would act under my direction. We felt we had to learn, in working, how to work. We simply came out as God's children, at God's command, to do God's work, depending on Him alone for supplies; and our purpose was to wear the native dress and go to the interior. We realized that we were called of God to commence a great work, nothing less than evangelization in all the eleven unoccupied provinces of Inland China. The already existing Mission in Ningpo and its vicinity we proposed to utilize as a basis of operations, to be extended by the blessing of God into each of these neglected regions; and the whole work, having evangelism in the interior as its special object, was designated the China Inland Mission."
Thus, then, we come, in the closing days of May, to the final preparations, the farewell meetings, and the last long parting from home and loved ones, that made those bright spring days so memorable to each one of the outgoing missionary band. Seven men, ten women, and four little children; picture them in all their weakness, their poverty, inexperience, and faith, going forth to such a mighty task, to carry the Gospel of God's love to the unreached millions of the vast and populous provinces of Inland China, with no wisdom and no resources, no protection, no provision or reward, except in God -- except in God. Truly "they went forth not knowing whither they went," with no certain prospect upon arrival in China, not knowing who would receive them -- knowing and trusting God alone, believing that He who had unmistakably led and guided them thus far would certainly continue to provide.
"Who is sufficient for these things? Utter weakness in ourselves, we should be simply overwhelmed with the immensity of the work before us, and the weight of the responsibilities involved, were it not that our very weakness and insufficiency give us a special claim to the fulfillment of His promise who has said, 'My grace is enough for thee; My strength is made perfect in weakness.' Very earnestly would we entreat those of the Lord's dear people who are precluded from going themselves to the high places of the field to fulfil the service to Moses of Aaron, and Hur, and by prayer and supplication in the spirit, with all perseverance, to draw down upon, from our Great Captain, that blessing we so ardently desire.
"Brethren, Pray For Us."
Saturday morning, May 26th, dawned bright and clear at last, and the good ship Lammermuir lay in the London Docks all ready to start on her long journey eastward. A voyage to China in those days was by no roans so simple a matter as it is now, and the little company of travelers had to look forward to at any rate four months of ship-board life ere they could reach the land of their longings. Many were the prayers that went up from full hearts in the stern cabin of that outward-bound vessel as the last good-byes were said and the pioneer band commended to God for their distant and difficult sphere of labor.
The parting was a solemn and touching occasion. "Our hearts," wrote Mr. Berger, "were too full to allow of many words. It was a trying time, but all were sustained. "We parted, to meet again in the presence of Jesus, if not in this poor world. And now may daily prayer he made to our Heavenly Father for the preservation, spiritual prosperity, and harmony of this company of His dear children, who have gone forth in His name to declare the unsearchable riches of His Son to the perishing millions in China."
Of the following day Mrs. Taylor wrote:-- "We were anchored most of Sunday, on account of contrary winds. We had a little service in our stern cabin, and Captain Bell has given Mr. Taylor permission to have public service every Sunday morning at a quarter to ten. He wishes it to be in the saloon, as the sailors will be more likely to attend than if we were on deck. I should like
you to be able to take just a peep at us, to see how happy we all are. The Lord graciously keep us so! The captain and crew number thirty-four, which, with our party, makes fifty-six on board."
The Start Point light was the last glimpse of the shores of England; and on the second Sunday, when Cape Finisterre faded from view, Europe also was fairly left behind. Madeira was sighted in the dim distance; and getting into favorable trade winds, good progress was made towards the Cape. At the end of August, more than three months from the time they first set sail, the Lammermuir entered the Sunday Straits, and the lovely tropical forests of Anjer came in sight. Here for the first time the travelers were able to leave the ship, and a delightful day was spent on shore in the pretty native town and Dutch settlement.
"We landed under a beautiful banyan tree, and set out for the post-office. The ground we trod was strewn with coral, and we passed plenty of palms, orange trees, and bananas. Most of us got letters... We sat down in the post-office -- a large cool room -- and read our treasures."
The rest of the day was spent in enjoying the shady woods and pleasant beach of the settlement, and making acquaintance with its interesting population of Malays and Chinese. In the evening "we had tea at the hotel, being waited on by Chinese servants; and then, after resting in the garden and singing some hymns, we went back to the boat, tired out with our long, happy day."
Letters were posted at Anjer, telling of mercies received during the first part of the voyage; among them a communication from Mr. Taylor to the friends at Saint Hill, giving the following interesting account:-
"It would be difficult for me to convey to you in writing any adequate idea of the goodness of God to us all. This has been a voyage full of evidences of His loving care. We have met with nothing but kindness from Captain Bell and his officers, and have had every facility for carrying on our Chinese Studies, and for seeking in proper times and ways the spiritual good of the crew. The weather has been wonderfully fine; we have had very few storms, and no intense cold or heat...
"But our great joy is in the spirit of harmony and love which now prevails and daily increases, not only in our own party, but among the crew, of whom twenty have already professed to put on the Lord Jesus Christ since we left our native land. Three others confessed to have been believers before sailing, leaving eleven for whose conversion we still pray and labor. I can give you but little idea of the precious answers to prayer we have received, and of the change wrought in some of these men. Four of them were Romanists; now they are resting in the finished work of the Lord Jesus and prizing His precious words. Both the mates and all four of the midshipmen are included in the number converted. We hope to see the others brought in ere long; for did we not ask God to gather together a crew to whom He would bless His own Word before the men were engaged? and will He not continue to answer prayer as He has already done? I wish you could have been with us sometimes when we have received special answers to prayer. Our joy has literally overflowed, and we have longed that our friends at home could know one-half of the blessing God has poured out upon us. As is often the case, some who have been brought in seemed among the most unlikely -- men who, at the first, manifested the strongest opposition to the Gospel. And these, who were a terror to the rest of the crew, are now seated at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in their right minds. Others, again, being foreigners and knowing very little English, seemed discouraging cases; but the Lord has opened their hearts."