The Life of J. Hudson Taylor: Chapter 12 - Safe in the Arms of Jesus
During the early part of the first summer, Mr. Taylor, with a number of helpers, made a journey up the river, preaching the Gospel in many towns, and leaving missionaries at two large cities -- Yen-chau and Lau-k'i.
The heat of that first summer in Hang-chau was very great, and not long after the ordination of Wang Sien-seng, feeling that they could be spared for a while from the city, Mr. and Mrs. Hudson Taylor, who were much needing rest, took a little party with them, and went away for a few days by boat among the quiet hills to a temple in which they had rented accommodation. Of this brief summer journey -- so memorable, as it proved, in the unerring providence of God -- Mr. Taylor and others give the following touching record:-
"It was Saturday night when we reached our destination, and too late for the party to land; so we spent Sunday in our boats. Towards evening, as the sun was beginning to set, we went on shore, and my dear children and I walked together to the woods, that we might have some quiet prayer under the shade of the trees. On the way my eldest child, a little girl of only eight years, saw for the first time a man making an idol. The sight grieved her to the heart. She looked into my face and said, 'Oh, papa, that man does not know Jesus! He would never make an ugly idol like that if he knew Jesus. DO tell him about Jesus!' I had not so much faith as to the result of the message as my dear child had; but I stopped and told the man the story of God's great love in the gift of His Son. Then we went on our way; and the man went on making the idol.
"After we had gone a little distance we sat down under the trees, and I said to my dear child, seeing that her heart was burdened, 'What shall we sing, Gracie dear?' She said, 'Let us have "Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me."' We sang the hymn, and then I said to her, 'Will you pray first?' She did so; and I never heard such a prayer as she offered. She had seen the man making an idol; her heart was full; and she prayed to God on his behalf. And the dear child went on and on, pleading that God would have mercy on the poor Chinese, and would strengthen her papa to preach to them. I never was so moved; my heart was bowed before God; words fail me to describe it.
"Next morning I was summoned away to see a sick missionary at a distance, and had to leave my loved ones. When I came back my dear child was ill and unconscious; and she never recognized me again. Those prayers for the poor Chinese were almost the last words I heard her speak."
"Very solemn and touching were the hours that passed as we watched around her dying bed," writes one who was present. "Mr. Taylor began hymn after hymn, though sometime; his voice almost failed; and clear Mrs. Taylor, wearied with watching, bent over the unconscious little one she so tenderly loved."
To a dear friend at home, whose heart was one With theirs in joy and sorrow, Mr. Taylor wrote:-
"I know not how to speak to you, nor how to forbear; I seem to be writing almost from the inner chamber of the King of kings. Surely this is holy ground! I am striving to pen a few lines from beside the couch on which my darling little Gracie lies dying... Our flesh and heart fail, but God is the strength of our heart and our portion forever.
"It was no vain or unintelligent act when, knowing this land, its people, and climate, I laid my precious wife and children, with myself, on the altar of consecration for this service. And He whom so unworthily and with much weakness and failure we have been seeking to serve... has not left us now. 'Ebenezer' and 'Jehovah-Jireh' are still precious words."
And then later:-
"Beloved brother, the Lord has taken our sweet little Gracie to blossom in the purer atmosphere of His own presence. Our heats bleed; but..."
"When all was over," continues Miss Bowyer, "it was truly wonderful to see the calmness with which preparations were made for returning to Hang-chau; and at midnight -- three hours later -- Mr. and Mrs. Taylor, Miss Blatchley, and Mr. Williamson started with their precious charge and reached the city at dawn, no one suspecting what they carried.
"We all followed next day. Our loving Father, who had ordered everything so wisely and well, though He was not pleased to spare the trial, granted us cooler weather, which has continued ever since. I never saw anything look so lovely as dear little Gracie did the evening following her death. It was the sweetest expression of countenance one could behold on earth... May God sanctify this and every other trial for the deepening of His own work in our souls and the furtherance of His cause in this land!"
The year 1867, that had commenced with such earnest prayer for the extension and progress of the work, closed, by God's blessing, with the opening of the important city of Wunchau to the Gospel, having witnessed also the successful occupation of Siao-shan, T'ai-chau, and Nan-king.
"During this year, therefore, the number of our stations was doubled; and while, at its commencement, the distance between the most remote of the four we then possessed was only four day's journey by ordinary conveyance, its termination found Mr. Duncan at Nan-king fully twenty-four days' journey from Mr. Stott at Wun-chau." And the Mission, moreover, had crossed the border of the only province in which it had hitherto been located, extending its operations, through Mr. Duncan's efforts, into Kiang-Su.
And while prayers for the growth and outward development of the work had been so remarkably answered, spiritual blessing and power were also given, and deeper heart-longing experienced for the salvation of precious souls.