The Life of J. Hudson Taylor: Chapter 15 - Thick Darkness Where God was
During the year 1869 a station was opened in the hitherto unoccupied province of Gan-hwuy, in the city of Gan-king, by Mr. and Mrs. Meadows. During that time they were attacked by a mob, their house completely demolished, and robbed of all their earthly possessions, they were compelled to leave the city. However, the rioters were punished by the authorities and they were soon invited to return. This they gladly did, and remained for fifteen years the only Protestant missionaries in this province of thirty-nine million souls.
Another prominent station was also opened in the province of Kiang by Mr. Cardwell, under Mr. Taylor's direction.
Thus closed the year 1869, and the first four years of the existence of the China Inland Mission,-- commenced with prayer and faith and all the promises of God; concluded with prayer answered to the measure of His own "exceeding abundantly," faith honored and strengthened, having passed through many an exercise and triumphed in many a conflict, and promises tried and proved, put to the test of experience in ever-varying and increasing needs, and never once found to fail -- proved always reliable, always sufficient.
In January, 1866, when the first "Occasional Paper" was published, the work in China was confined to one station only, Ningpo, in Cheh-Kiang; and the Mission staff consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Hudson Taylor at home, four missionaries in the field, and three others on their way thither -the Lammermuir party not having sailed, and the Inland Mission, properly so-called, being only in process of organization.
Four years later, early in 1870, the missionaries in connection with the work numbered thirty-three, occupying thirteen stations and eight out-stations in four provinces -- two of which, Gan-hwuy and Kiang-si, had previously been entirely unevangelized, with the exception of the city of Kiu-kiang, in which the Rev. V. C. Hart was laboring.
Nor do these facts represent all the growth and blessing that resulted by the grace of God from the early efforts of those first four years. Better far than territorial extension was the gracious spiritual enlargement that signalized the work. For whereas the number of native Christians in connection with the Ningpo Mission at the commencement of that period was between fifty and sixty only, at its close no less than one hundred and sixty were gathered into Christian fellowship at twelve of the different stations, not including the inquirers and candidates for baptism, of whom there were a considerable number. And in estimating the significance of such results it should be borne in mind that in most of these centers the work was still quite in its initial, and therefore least productive, stages, and that much time had necessarily been spent in acquiring the language of the people and obtaining free access to their homes and hearts.
Many also had been the gracious answers to prayer, and the remarkable providences By which the Lord had supplied all the temporal necessities of His servants. Their faith was not indeed without its trials, but these only served to emphasize the unfailing faithfulness of God, in whom they put their trust.
Upon this subject Mr. Berger wrote, early in the year 1868:-
"Hitherto we have lacked nothing for carrying on the Mission, the Lord having sent in all needed supplies. To Him and to His people would we tender our warmest thanks. Only quite recently the gift of an anonymous donor arrived so opportunely that I cannot but notice it, for his or her joy and that of others.
"On January 1st our funds were getting low, and we were led to ask God to remember our need. This was at one p. m. At four o'clock the same afternoon one hundred pounds reached us anonymously, refreshing and encouraging us all; and by the fourth of the month no less than three hundred and ninety pounds had come in. Truly 'all things are possible to him that believeth.' Our balance now in hand (on February 15th, 1868), is seven hundred and twenty pounds, every liability being discharged up to the present time. We are still praying the Lord of the harvest to send forth more laborers into His harvest."
Do we require evidences for the existence of the God of the Bible? Surely they are not lacking here. During the first four years after the sailing of the Lammermuir party, we find that without a single appeal or even request for money, simply in answer to quiet waiting upon God in prayer and faith, needs had been met that scarcely any one knew of at the time, except Himself, and a sum of considerably over fourteen thousand pounds had been received, the free-will offering of those whose hearts the Lord had moved to sympathy with Himself in caring for the welfare of His servants in their difficult though blessed work.
"Thus tenderly," wrote Mr. Berger, "is He teaching us to put our trust in Him. Can we, dear friends, be sufficiently grateful to God for such evidences of His loving favor and approval of this service? And we do not desire any other reward for our efforts on behalf of China's millions. The need is so vast, and the laborers are so few. Let us more fervently than ever entreat our Father in heaven to multiply the workers, both native and foreign, as well as to increase the Churches a thousand-fold. Even then both men and Churches would be all too few.
The year 1870, sadly memorable in the annals of Modern Europe as a period of bloodshed and warfare upon the battlefields of France, was signalized in China also, and especially in the story of its missions, by very widespread danger and alarm, and by difficulties hitherto unparalleled in connection with the excitement that prevailed among all classes of the population.
Early in the summer occurred the terrible massacre of T'ien-tsin, when the French Consulate and the Roman Catholic Cathedral and orphanages were entirely destroyed; and no less than twenty Europeans, including the Sisters of Mercy, were murdered by the enraged populace under circumstances of great atrocity. This event seriously added to the portentous nature of the crisis, and in many places, including several stations of the Inland Mission, danger appeared imminent. Added to these trials and difficulties were others also, of a more personal nature, that combined to mark this period as one of testing and discipline hitherto unequaled in the history of the work.
"Not without sacrifice and loneliness," wrote Mr. Berger at this time, "the husbandman goes forth to commit the precious seed to the cold bosom of the earth -- there to die; but in hope, however, distant, of its upspringing again, and of a glorious, and abundant recompense.
"Harvest must be preceded by seed-time; and the kind and quantity to be reaped will depend upon the sowing... Our present efforts for China's spiritual welfare must be considered in this light; and though at times the clouds and storms, so feared and yet so necessary, do seem to threaten our most cherished hopes of success, we need not fear, for 'we shall reap if we faint not.'"
The story of this memorable year is best told, as follows, in Mr. Hudson Taylor's own words, to the touching simplicity of which nothing could be added by another pen:-
"The work, that had been steadily enlarging and extending up to this time (1870), was now about to pass through a period of much trial and sifting, nor were we to lose our share of the precious discipline. He had taught us to pray, 'Thy will be done.' Some of us pleaded as never before that that will might be written on our hearts and manifested in our lives, and that His work, not ours, might be carried on and deepened among the native Christians. And the Lord answered our requests.
"After prayerful waiting upon God, it was evident to my beloved wife and myself that the departure of all our children for England, except the youngest, could not longer be delayed. I urged her to accompany them, for we both saw that my duty was clearly to remain in China for the time being; but she prayerfully concluded that He would have her also to remain. The outfits of four were prepared, and the day of our departure from Yang-chau to see them off to England was fixed. But a sudden aggravation of the chronic ailment of our beloved little Samuel took place; and on February 4th the tender Shepherd came to us seeking this little lamb. Our bleeding hearts responded, 'Take him, blessed Saviour; Thou art worthy.' We knew that it was not our will that was being done, that He was fulfilling our prayer, and we were made satisfied with Jesus.
"On the 23rd of the next month we parted from the three children and Miss Blatchley. I admired and wondered at the grace which so sustained and comforted the fondest of mothers. The secret was that the Lord Jesus was satisfying the deep thirst of heart and soul.
"We hurried back to Chin-kiang, to find Mrs. Judd, as it seemed, in a dying state. This was in April. Anxious days and weary nights of watching followed, our hearts aching for the beloved brother whose bereavement seemed so near, and for the dear child whom we almost felt to be already motherless. We asked our precious Saviour to write on our hearts -- on the hearts of the tried husband and of the suffering wife -- His own 'Even so, Father,' and He did. The prayers of many were, however, answered, and our dear sister was raised up and restored to us again. We had the deep joy of knowing that in this too His will was done, not ours only.
"In our annual letter, asking for special united prayer on May 26th, the privilege of abiding in Christ, and His promise that His grace should be sufficient, His strength made perfect in weakness, were especially dwelt upon. And very soon after we were placed in a position to feel our own weakness, and in which no other strength than His could have sufficed.
"In the previous history of the Mission we had already known something of trial in one and another of the stations; but now in all simultaneously, or nearly so, a widespread excitement seemed to shake the very foundations of native society. It is impossible to describe the alarm and consternation of the people when first they believed that native magicians were bewitching them, nor their indignation and anger when they were told that these insidious foes were the agents of foreigners. It is well known how in T'ien-tsin they rose up and barbarously murdered the Romish Sisters of Charity, the priests, and even the French consul. What, then, restrained them in the interior, where our brethren were all alone and far away from any protecting human power? Nothing less than the mighty hand of God, in answer to united, constant prayer, offered in the all-prevailing name of Christ. And the same power kept us satisfied with Jesus -- with His presence, His love. We knew that in these dangers and sorrows and apparent interruptions to the work it was not our will that was being accomplished, and we were the more sure that He was fulfilling the petition 'Thy will be done.'
"In the month of June we heard, with deep sorrow, of the bereavement of our beloved friends the Rudlands, at Hang-chau, whither they had gone for change. With hearts still bleeding from our own loss, we sympathized with them, and prayed the LORD to give them also the rest, the peace, the joy, which we had found in full submission to, and acquiescence in the will of God.
"A brief note of my dear wife's to Mrs. Rudland at this time, one of the last ever penned by her to whom the Mission owes so much, will not only be valued by the many who knew and loved her, but may perhaps bring comfort to some other tried heart. It was dated from Chin-kiang.
'June 15th, 1870. 'My Dear Mary,-
'I cannot write much; but I send a line to tell you that our hearts grieve and our eyes weep with you. May you be able to realize your precious little one as safely nestling in Jesus' own arms, for that more than anything will help to assuage the bitterness of the painful separation.
'"'Them which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him." They will yet be restored to us; they will be ours again -- ours forever. And then we shall be able to understand why they were separated from us here; then shall we be able to say from the very depths of our hearts, "Our Jesus has done all things well." Meanwhile, let us believe this. By His grace we will not doubt either His wisdom or His love. Let us cling to Him when His waves and His billows go over us. Accept much love and sympathy from us to you both, and believe me,
'Yours very affectionately, 'Maria J. Taylor.'
"On the night of July 5th my dear wife had an attack of cholera. Though excessively prostrated in body, the deep peace of soul, the realization of His own loving presence, the joy in His holy will with which she was filled, and which I was permitted to share with her, I can find no words to describe. On the seventh a son was born to us. 'I should like him to be called Noel,' she said; 'for although the word itself does not mean peace, it reminds me of Noah, which has that meaning.'
"On the 20th this precious little one breathed its last.
"Three days later I was watching at the bedside of my dear wife. At four o'clock in the morning the day dawned, and unmistakably I saw the shadow of death upon her face. She awoke rejoicing in the Lord, and gave me a bright smile.
"I said, 'My darling, do you know that you are dying?'
"She answered, with a look of surprise, 'Can it be so? I feel no pain, only very weary.'
"'Yes,' I answered. 'you are dying; you will soon be with Jesus.'
"My precious wife thought of my being left alone at this time of trial, having no companion like herself, with whom I had so long been wont to bring every difficulty to the Throne of Grace. She said, 'I am so sorry;' and then paused, as if half correcting herself for venturing to feel sorry.
"'You are not sorry to go to be with Jesus?' I responded.
"Never shall I forget the smile she gave me, as, looking right into my eyes, she said, 'Oh no! it is not that. You know, dearest, that for ten years past there has not been a cloud between my soul and my Savior. I cannot be sorry to go to Him. But I grieve to leave you alone at this time. Perhaps I ought not to be sorry though, for He will be with you, and will supply all your need.'
On July 23rd this beloved one also slept in Jesus. I scarcely knew whether she or I was the more blessed, so real, so constant, so satisfying was His presence, so deed my delight in the consciousness that His will was being done, that that will which was utterly crushing me was good, was wise, was best.
"The next two months were months of personal sickness and prostration; and my beloved youngest child, the only one remaining with me, was brought very near to the grave. But God in tender pity spared him. Mrs. Gough, of Ningpo, kindly took charge of the precious little one for me; and to both Mr. Gough and herself I owe a deep debt of gratitude for their love and sympathy and kindness.
"By the time my dear child was somewhat recovered fresh difficulties arose, the state of Mrs. Crombie's health requiring her immediate return to England and that of Mr. Crombie. The infant Churches to which they had ministered imperatively called for supervision. Mr. Williamson had therefore to leave the needy province of Gan-hwuy and give himself to that important work, for which his previous knowledge of the Ningpo dialect specially qualified him. On my return to Chin-kiang, after seeing off these dear friends for England, I found Mr. Duncan very low indeed with inflammation of the lungs, which for a time threatened to prove fatal.
"Thus wave after wave of trial rolled over us; but at the end of the year not a few of us were constrained to confess that we had learned more of the lovingkindness of the Lord through these experiences than in any previous year of our lives.
"Perhaps, also, more was really accomplished during this time in teaching the native Christians not to lean upon the arm of foreign protection for support, but upon God alone, on whom, as they could not but see, the missionaries themselves had solely to depend in the hour of trial and danger."
Oh! how wonderfully life loses all fear to the soul that has been, called apart, alone, into some thick darkness, and has found God there. "Morning dawns from His face"; and what light is like the light that rises upon those who "touch God's right hand in the darkness, and are lifted up and strengthened?"
Surely there is a more profound connection than we sometimes discover between the "sufferings" and the "consolation, between the "loss" welcomed for Jesus' sake and the eternal gain that follows after, as harvest follows sowing. That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection" still stands between that willing self-emptying on the one hand, and the deeper fellowship with His sufferings" on the other, for which even the heart of an apostle craved. Shall we shrink then, from anything that rather, that if He withhold any earthly blessing, it is only that He may bestow "all spiritual blessings," and remember that He is dealing. with us not for our profit merely, but for the good of many and the glory of His own great name, not for time only, but for eternity.