The Life of J. Hudson Taylor: Chapter 17 - Ye Did It unto Me
The trials and difficulties of the year 1870 had passed gradually away, giving place, it will be remembered, to brighter times; but the leader of the Mission, who had undergone so severe and prolonged a strain, was broken down in health, and needed rest and change. In the autumn, therefore, of 1871, after an absence of five and a half years, Mr. Hudson Taylor found himself once again on his way to the homeland. Subsequently to his marriage with Miss Faulding, of Hang-chau; Number 6, Pyrland Road, Mildmay, became their English home, and there the Saturday afternoon prayer-meeting for China was recommenced.
The Mission had now grown to considerable proportions. Almost ten years had elapsed since Mr. Meadows left England for Ningpo, during which time he had been followed by thirty-seven other new helpers, making in all a band of forty who had gone out in connection with the work.
For more than five years of this period, the whole responsibility of the home department had rested with the dear friend at Saint Hill, who, upon the sailing of the Lammermuir, undertook this important share of the work. Well and faithfully had its many obligations been discharged, with generous kindness and unfailing sympathy. The burden, often heavy, had never been grudgingly borne, love for the Master and for the perishing heathen having energized all this service quite as much as the more direct efforts of those upon the field.
Now, however, circumstances combined to make Mr. and Mrs. Berger conscious that the work was growing almost beyond the limits of their strength, and the return of Mr. Taylor to England seemed to afford a suitable opportunity for some modification in the home arrangements.
In addition to dealing with all the correspondence and business details of the Mission, these much-valued friends had found place in their practical and helpful remembrance for every variety of interest in connection with it. Mr. Berger had edited its paper, received and trained its candidates, watched over and generously contributed to its income, and by prayer and faith had strengthened the growing work; while, with nothing less than a mother's tenderness, his devoted wife had spent herself in unwearied labours for the help of the young volunteers at home, and the comfort of each member of the little band across the seas. Not content with writing frequent letters to cheer and encourage them, Mrs. Berger loved to send out carefully selected gifts to brighten those far-away missionary homes; and such was her prayerful and intelligent interest in all that concerned the various stations, that her boxes nearly always contained exactly what was most needed by those to whom they came.
Much sorrow and regret were felt by Mr. and Mrs. Berger themselves and all connected with the Mission in prospect of the inevitable change that for some time had been impending. Realizing how difficult it would be to fill, in any measure, the places thus left vacant, Mr. Hudson Taylor himself undertook to discharge the duties of the home department as long as he should remain in England, looking to the Lord to supply new helpers of His own choosing whenever the time should come for his return to the far East. Early in the New Year the alteration was reluctantly effected, and Mr. Berger wrote as follows to the friends of the Mission:-
"It is difficult to describe the feelings with which I commence this letter. Were it compatible with duty, I would defer writing indefinitely; but this may not be. You will gather from the notice on the face of this paper that the management of the home department of the Mission is about to pass into other hands. Failing strength on the part of myself and my clear wife, combined
work are as warm as ever, and we fain hope that our future efforts on behalf of China, if they be of a less active nature, may not prove less serviceable.
"My relation with dear Mr. Taylor has been one of unbroken and harmonious fellowship, to which I shall ever look back with feelings of satisfaction and gratitude."
For a time Mr. Taylor, almost single-handed, sustained the whole burden of the work; but ere long it became evident to those about him that he was unequal to its growing claims. Just at this juncture a letter was addressed to him, signed by two warm friends of the Mission, Mr. John Challice and Mr. William Hall, urging the old-time warning of Jethro to the burdened Moses, "The thing that thou doest is not good; thou will surely wear away... For this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone;" and coupled with the remonstrance came the kindly. offer of any help the writers could afford.
This interposition led to serious and prayerful reconsideration of the whole question, which by the blessing of God issued in further organization of the work.
"It was determined from the very outset," writes Mr. Taylor, "never to have a committee, but that the government of the Mission should be in the hands of a Director or Directors. Mr. Berger having had the sole charge of the work at home, had been able, looking prayerfully to God for guidance, to act without unnecessary delay in every matter as it arose; while similar responsibility had rested upon me out in the field. I had found great help, however, in matters of gravity from calling together the brethren in China for special conference, thus benefiting by an informal Council. This experience ultimately led to the formation of a Council of Christian friends at home, who agreed to advise with and help me when I was in England, and to act for me during my absences abroad."
The brief but formative years that had now elapsed since the full inauguration of the China Inland Mission had afforded a valuable opportunity for practically testing the principles upon which from the first it had been based. Much of progress and of blessing had already marked the work. Young and inexperienced helpers had developed into men and women "approved in Christ;" openings had been abundantly given on the field, converts gathered in, and native helpers raised up; funds also had been unfailingly supplied in answer to the prayer of faith; and through all experiences of trial and difficulty those engaged in the work had been drawn nearer to one another and to God.
"He has not left us, nor failed us in our need and often in that far-off land, apart from the ordinary privileges of Christian communion, He has made His own Word so exceedingly precious, and has so manifested the tenderness of His unutterable love, as to surpass anything we had previously known.
"Hungry and thirsty, our souls have sometimes almost fainted within us; and weary, very weary, we have been. But when the Lord has spoken to our hearts His invitation 'If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink,' when He has enabled us to ask Him for and then has given us the 'living water,' He has made us so unspeakably happy in His presence, and has imparted such rest, joy, and strength in Himself, that we have experienced a deeper blessedness than some of us ever expected to realize down here, and that words altogether fail to express.
'The love of Jesus, what it is, None but His loved ones know.'
"If it be asked what is the present position of the Mission, and what are the prospects before us, we would reply that, while the work is undoubtedly affected by the unsettled state of Chinese and foreign relations, apparently hindered in many ways, especially in some districts, needing more than ever the wisdom of the serpent as well as the harmlessness of the dove, it is our settled conviction that it is definitely progressing, and that still more it is deepening in ways unseen and to us inappreciable to anything like their full extent.
"Far greater difficulties perhaps may be hidden in the future than any the past has revealed. There can be little doubt that a time of sifting and persecution is coming on which will test and refine the Church of the Living God in China. But we cannot question as to what will be the ultimate issue, nor doubt His sufficiency to sustain us in the hour of need. Trusting in Him, we go forward.
He cannot have taught us to trust in His name, And thus far have brought us to put us to shame.' "*