The Life of J. Hudson Taylor: Chapter 16 - Ask and Ye shall Receive
The disturbed state of affairs in China continued to cause apprehension and uneasiness until quite the end of the year 1870, and combined with the general sickness and trial in the Mission, continued to make it a time of very special dependence upon God and experience of His sustaining grace. "Dear Mr. Taylor seems kept in perfect peace amidst all the sorrow and difficulty," wrote Mr. McCarthy from Hang-chau,-- a little sentence, but one that speaks volumes, coming as it does in the midst of all those records of trial and bereavement.
It was principally in the river stations, along the valley of the Yang-tse, that difficulties seemed to assume their most serious form. At Gan-king the work was not a little hindered by distressing rumors, exciting an intense hatred of the foreigners and of the doctrines they taught. Mr. Williamson wrote also of disastrous floods caused by the overflow of the great river, and of thousands of poor industrious people deprived of the crops upon which they depended for subsistence, and left to face the awful prospect of starvation during the coming cold of winter.
"With difficulties and discouragements so many, in this one city alone," he adds, "how long will it be ere the other sixty cities of this single province shall hear the glad tidings of salvation?"
In the neighboring province of Kiang-Su, the great city of Nan-king was passing through an even more serious crisis. For a time it appeared as though a rebellion were imminent, and large numbers of native soldiers were gathered on the spot to quell any such uprising. The murder of the viceroy, a man of much influence, and whose presence seemed so sorely needed, added to the gravity of the situation; but in the over-ruling providence of God all these troubles passed quietly away. Writing of the death of this official, Mr. Duncan remarks: "Is it not strange that the viceroy, who had so many soldiers continually guarding him from ,danger, should be thus laid low by the assassin's hand, while we, who seemed so helpless and exposed, should be preserved in safety? Truly 'the angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him, and delivereth them.' "
When the regular time for the examinations came round that year, the city was thronged with no less than fifty thousand strangers; and the missionaries were obliged to keep very much out of sight. Subsequently Mrs. Duncan and Miss Bowyer had to leave for a while, it being considered no longer safe for ladies to reside away from the open ports.
Further inland, at Kiu-kiang, the position of the missionaries seemed equally precarious.
"Among the people," wrote Mr. Cardwell, "the talk is all of war. and rumor is very rife; in fact, we do not know what any day may bring forth. It is given out that on the 28th of the present Chinese month we are all to be killed. Placards have been posted to this effect; and although the authorities have suppressed them, they cannot but indicate the feeling of the people. This hatred has manifested itself in the destruction, quite recently, of the Roman Catholic chapel at a place some thirty miles from here, and information has been received that the cathedral in this city is to go next...
"More than twenty thousand native soldiery are massed at T'ien-tsin, and others are constantly being added to their number. Nan-king and Gan-king are in process of fortification, as well as the Yang-chau creek. There seems a slight lull just at present in the excitement. The Lord reigneth and in Him we trust, praying that we may be enabled to glorify Him in the midst of calamity and war, as well as in times of peace," -- a prayer abundantly answered by His grace.
Early in the following year (1871) these dark war-clouds and threatenings of disaster began to pass slowly away, and increasing probabilities of peace brought in a brighter time. In most of the stations there was promise of coming blessing, and the health of the missionaries ceased to give so much cause for anxiety. Mr. Hudson Taylor himself, however, was still very far from well, and his return to England before long appeared a necessity. The constant burden of all the correspondence and business of the Mission in China, in which up to that time he had had no regular help, was becoming more than any single individual could sustain, and early in the year Mr. C. T. Fishe undertook to render much-needed assistance in this important department. Serious trouble still threatening at Yang-Chau, it seemed advisable that the ladies living in that city should be removed for a while to Chin-kiang. Mr. and Mrs. Judd and Miss Desgraz were therefore obliged, though reluctantly, to abandon the work to which they had become so much attached, and which passed under the able supervision of Mr. Fishe. From Yang-chau they went down to Chin-kiang, and made their home in the native city, where plenty of openings awaited them, both among the Chinese and Tartar populations. Miss Desgraz was soon joined by Miss Bowyer from Nan-king, and in the early summer they went over to occupy new premises that Mr. Hudson Taylor had been enabled to secure for work especially among the women and girls of that great center.
Some interesting facts connected with tins new school-house are worthy of record, as showing how the Lord loves to confirm the faith of His people through very definite answers to believing prayer.
"During the troublous times of 1870," writes Mr. Taylor, "though it was undoubtedly desirable that the brethren should remain at their posts, it seemed to us best to remove our sisters from the more exposed positions to Chin-kiang. While we were in that city the 'Missionary Memorandum' appeared, emanating from the Pekin Government, and seriously urging the removal of all female missionaries from China. This, among other circumstances, led my dear wife and myself to consider whether it would not be well to try the effect of separate work for the benefit of women only, to be carried on exclusively by sisters, and Chin-kiang seemed a favorable place for making the attempt... This was one of the last matters in which my dear wife was interested before her death, and about which we unitedly sought the help of the Lord. There was no hope of renting suitable premises, for during the rebellion Chin-kiang had suffered so severely that there were not nearly houses enough left to meet the requirements of the native population. Whatever was needed would certainly have to be built; and we felt that as the Mission funds at our command were given especially for inland work, we should not be justified in using them for this particular purpose.
"At this juncture my precious wife was removed and I was left alone, no longer able to unite with her in prayer, as for the last twelve and a half years I had been wont to do, pleading the promise that whatsoever two shall agree to ask upon earth shall be done for them of our Father which is in heaven. I felt the privation deeply, and had to ask the Lord, who was comforting me with His own sweet communion, saying often to me, presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest,' to be my partner in prayer too, as well as my high priestly Intercessor. I felt that my faith needed strengthening, and was therefore led to ask the Lord to send in to me personally sufficient means to build the premises required, at the same time carefully avoiding all mention of my desire either to home correspondents or to my fellow-workers in China, that the response might be more manifestly His own.
"Humanly speaking, it seemed very improbable I should thus be supplied with funds. Many of my friends were aware that not only were our private expenses met, both in China and at home, and our passage money to and from England supplied independently of the Mission, but also that for some years past my traveling expenses in both these countries, incurred in the interests of the work, had been defrayed out of moneys received for our own personal use. But none could know of the special need just then upon my heart. And having recently had to send three of my children and Miss Blatchley home to England, my funds in hand were not large. But there are no difficulties to the Hearer and Answerer of prayer.
"I had not long been asking God about this matter when there reached me from a relative of my own -- a minister of the Gospel in England -- a gift of one hundred pounds, with the request that I would take it for my own private use, and not consider it as a contribution to the Mission. For more than eighteen years I had been engaged in missionary work, but never before had so large a sum been given me for my own use, though many considerable donations had been received for mission purposes. Need it be said that I was greatly cheered, and, thanking God, took courage?
"We began at once to make inquiries about a suitable site for building; but before this could be found I had to leave Chin-kiang, committing the matter to the care of others. My absence was prolonged by various circumstances; but in the meantime one of the best possible situations was obtained. The necessary deeds were signed, sealed, and registered -- a matter easily stated, but requiring weeks of careful manipulation on the part of my representative; and on returning to Chin-kiang I was able to commence leveling and enclosing. the ground and putting up some of the outbuildings with the balance left in hand from the purchase money.
"By this time another letter reached me from a friend in England, also announcing, a gift of one hundred pounds, specifying, as in the first instance that it Was for my own private use. I proceeded with the buildings without delay, assured that God would supply all that was needful. And so indeed He did; for a number of smaller contributions came in as they never had done before, and ceased only when I had means sufficient, including, the sum I was able to realize by the sale of furniture and other articles no longer needed, to complete the structure."
The new school-house, given thus in answer to prayer, was nicely situated at no great distance from the river, facing the far-reaching hills that are the charm of that pleasant neighborhood. Early in the summer, as we have seen, Miss Bowyer and Miss Desgraz took possession, and commenced their work among the women and children of the populous district that surrounded them. This whole incident was a great joy and encouragement to all connected with the station, as well as to Mr. Taylor himself, whose faith was thereby not a little strengthened.
In spite of the long-continued difficulties and dangers of this period, and the serious reduction of the working staff of the Mission through sickness at several of the stations, the year 1871 is memorable as having witnessed more extended itinerations than any previously undertaken in connection with the work.