The Life of J. Hudson Taylor: Chapter 18 - Founding the Western Branch of China Inland Mission
In the closing days of 1872 the members of the Inland Mission were cheered by the return of Mr. and Mrs. Hudson Taylor to the field. In several of the stations at this time special prayer was being made about the needs of the growing work. Very rapid had been its extension during the six years since the arrival of the Lammermuir party, and the responsibility and difficulty of its management had increased in proportion to its enlarging sphere. Already there were sixteen stations and thirty workers, scattered in four provinces; but, far from satisfied with the result, Mr. Taylor and those associated with him turned with ever-deepening desire to the still unreached Beyond.
New Year's Eve was devoted, as usual, to prayer and fasting; and one special petition was that 1873 might witness definite advance towards the evangelization of the far interior -- the nine vast inland provinces without a missionary. "We are not discouraged," wrote Mr. Taylor, "by the greatness of the difficulties, by the smallness of our numbers, or by the fact that F during the past year, with a large and rapidly growing Mission, our faith has been more than ever tried with regard to funds. If God be for us, difficulties are of no account. He can save by few as easily as by many; and it is still true that 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.' Share with us, then, in present prayer, and soon we shall join in grateful praise."
The year thus entered was one of steady work and progress. Eleven new stations and out-stations were opened in the four provinces already occupied, including one at Shanghai, in charge of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Fishe, which from that time became the business center of the Mission.
Two more brethren -- Messrs. Groombridge and Donovan -- came out; but the staff was still insufficient to permit of any advance. Funds also continued low; and towards the end of 1873, in spite of all the hopeful anticipations that had been entertained, it became a grave question as to whether extension should be attempted. Prayer was the only resource; and as the year drew to a close the matter was constantly remembered before the Lord. Meanwhile in England, all unknown to His servants on the field, answers had been given to their petitions. Reinforcements were already on the way.
It had not seemed likely to happen. It had looked all but impossible.
The Council and friends of the Mission at home, in hearty sympathy with the longings of those in China, earnestly desired to send out more laborers and increased funds; but even when an opportunity occurred in the return of Mr. and Mrs. Judd, after a brief furlough, the realization of their wishes appeared distant as ever. None of the candidates were ready to go at once, and even had the men been forthcoming, there was no money in hand to meet their expenses.
Just at this juncture two young brethren from the East London Institute for Home and Foreign Missions* volunteered for China, and were commended to the Council as men for whom the Directors entertained a warm regard, and in whom they placed the fullest confidence. Henry Taylor and Frederick Ballet were ready to start without delay, and were gladly accepted to join the returning party. For the men had not been given without the means to send them forth. A considerable sum of money had just been handed to Mr. Judd, specially for the use of new missionaries and the opening up of fresh work in China, quite apart from other help that he was receiving towards the passage and outfit of his own family. "Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the Lord."
[*This Missionary Institute was founded in 1872 by Dr. and Mrs. H. Grattan Guinness. In twenty-one years of its existence, five hundred and eighty-eight young men and women were sent out to all parts of the world, in connection with thirty different Societies. Messrs. Baller & Taylor, who joined the Inland Mission, were the first of this large band.]
Nor was this all other remarkable answers to the same prayers quickly followed, looking back upon which, Mr. Taylor wrote in the succeeding year:-
"The Lord is indeed our Shepherd. Infinite in wisdom and unbounded in resources, no human needs are ever unforeseen by Him -- though they may often take us by surprise -- and no circumstances can be difficult for Him to meet.
"Often as our faith has been tried with regard to funds, the Lord has ever proved faithful. Beloved brethren and sisters have been marvelously helped when brought very low. One brother, in the absence of funds, was sustained for days (if not weeks) by presents of food from the heathen around him. Another brother and sister were tided over a difficulty by a birthday present made to their child from one of the native Christians. A third was sustained for a time through money given him by a native helper, who had raised it by pawning his own clothes. A fourth in great need received a present of money from a native sister, who in a dream had been directed to aid him, and was helped on several other occasions in ways equally marked. Continually do I receive letters telling me how opportunely the supplies which God has ministered through me have come to hand. Sympathy has not been excited by publishing these letters, nor has our need been made known to man, but to God alone. There are more than a hundred laborers now in connection with the Mission, counting the missionaries and their wives, and the native helpers. Sometimes for weeks together I have not had a dollar of Mission money in hand; yet in His own good time the needed supplies have come. Brethren with their families have urgently requested to return to England when there have been no funds in hand even for the ordinary outlay of the Mission. Prayer has been made; and in remarkable ways, which we cannot now detail, the Lord has supplied the means. We have ever found it a safe thing, and a blessed, to trust in the Living God.
"One very important question, however, was raised by these frequent and increasingly severe trials. Were we to regard them simply as tests of faith? or were we to learn from them that the Lord would not have us attempt any further extension of the work at present? We waited much upon God, and frequently sought His guidance with regard to this...
"During November, December, and the first part of January, I asked the Lord to make it unmistakably clear whether He would have us prepare to commence work in some of the totally unreached provinces or not; and also whether we should seek to occupy more stations in Cheh-Kiang. My mind was assured that we ought to do both; and I felt constrained in prayer to ask the Lord to give us... laborers to extend the work into every unoccupied department and county of Cheh-Kiang, of which there were fifty, and also men and means to commence operations in the nine unevangelized provinces as well.
"While we were thus waiting upon the Lord in China, He was putting it into the heart of one of His stewards at home to devise and execute liberal things for the spread of the Gospel. A letter was received by Mr. Hill, one of the honorary secretaries, dated December 5th, 1873, in which the writer said:-
"'In two months' time I hope to place in the hands of your Council of arrangements the sum of u800, for the further extension of inland China mission work. Please remember, for fresh provinces.'
"Need I say that when a copy of this letter reached me in China it caused our hearts to sing for joy? This generous donation was received in due course; and now, 'assuredly gathering' that the Lord had indeed called us 'to preach the Gospel in the regions beyond,' Mr. Judd has secured premises in Wu-ch'ang, the capital city of Hu-peh and Hu-nan, the latter one of the unoccupied provinces; and he will there (D. V.) superintend the formation of a Western Branch of the China Inland Mission.
"The task before us is a mighty one, and the difficulties can scarcely be exaggerated. But we know Who it is that holds the keys of David. When He opens none can shut; when He shuts none can open."
Shortly after this a further sum of u3,000 was also set apart for Western China, by donors who desired their names to remain unknown. Thus was inaugurated the first decided movement towards the evangelization of those great and populous regions, which through long centuries had lain in hopeless heathen darkness.
The summer of 1874 was spent by Mr. and Mrs. Judd at Wu-ch'ang, the metropolis of Central China, in seeking to establish a basis from which extended journeys could be made to North, South, and West, throughout the interior.
"The child is father to the man," -- true of organizations as well as of individual life.
Extension was at hand. Inland China was soon to be opened to the Gospel. When God works, everything fits in. Men and means were needed for coming enlargements, and He sent them; free access to the interior, and it was given; experienced workers to direct future developments, and these, too, He supplied.
As Mr. Taylor traveled at this time from place to place, visiting stations, consulting senior helpers and encouraging younger ones in the work, how little could even he foresee the needs of the future -- how much less provide for them! But there was One who knew it all. God had His leaders in training; and changes, simple, yet significant, began to appear. Some who were to direct future forward movements were set free for wider spheres; while others, charged with new responsibility, were being educated for difficult duties to come.
Among the most important of these changes was the return of Mr. Stevenson to England for a brief furlough. Many years were to elapse ere he should resume his much-loved work in China. New toils and pioneering efforts awaited him, in seeking to enter -- from Upper Burma -- the western provinces of the great Empire. But all his varying experiences were to prove a precious training and discipline for more important service, still to follow. Since 1886 he has occupied the responsible position of Deputy Director of the Mission in China.
Thus, then we reach the close of the year 1874, and near the termination of a period characterized by extension and change, both in the Home and China departments of the Mission. But before referring to the steps of its final and most important advance, we cannot but notice to the glory of God some very marked providences in connection with the way in which its needs were daily met by Him upon whose faithfulness alone His servants were satisfied to rely.
At the close of 1874 Mr. Taylor writes:-- "You may scarcely realize that our work is now so extensive that it cannot be carried on, without much difficulty and trial, at a cost of less than one hundred pounds a week. This may seem a large sum, but ours is a large work. We have more than fifty buildings-houses, chapels, and schools -- to keep in repair, and for the majority of these we have also to pay rent. More than a hundred laborers are supported, including native helpers. If to these be added the children of the missionaries, the native boys and girls in the boarding schools, and students, there are seventy more mouths to fill daily, seventy more persons to clothe. I need scarcely say that the traveling expenses involved in the work in China, now extended to five provinces, are not small; in addition to those incurred by the return of invalidated missionaries to England. To meet these demands with one hundred pounds a week requires the utmost care and frugality. My own expenses for all purposes at home and here are independent of Mission resources.
"During the months January to March I received from the Hon. Secretaries of the Mission only u442 1s. They were distressed at being able to send so little, and committed the matter in earnest prayer to God, as we did here. Besides this, remittances were sent, through me, to various members of the Mission in China direct, to the value of u260. These sums, not being in any sense donations to the Mission, cannot be entered in our general account, though they so largely help in the work. Still, including even these, the total receipts were far less than the outlay, so that the balances of the previous quarter being exhausted, there were no funds at most of our stations by the end of March,
"On making up my Mission accounts on April 1st, I found that I had 25 dollars, 29 cents (about u5 10s.) in hand; and I knew that most, if not all, the members of the Mission, must be urgently needing funds for their own daily requirements, as well as for the expenses of the work. I constantly cast these cares on God, and hoped that when I reached Shanghai I should find His answer in the shape of remittances; for as I was traveling my letters had to await me there. On the 7th we arrived, and received the letters of several mails. You may imagine the interest with which, after seeking the Lord's blessing upon them, they were read. I found a remittance from the Secretaries of little over u25, consisting wholly of special donations -- u7 for two of the missionaries, and the remainder made up of small sums for the support of particular native helpers. I further learned that there were no funds at home for the general purpose of the Mission. Now I knew that u500 would have been instantly absorbed; that one hundred and seventy mouths had daily to be fed; that the life of Mrs. Stevenson appeared to hang on an immediate return to England; and that there were no more mails due for nearly a fortnight. Realizing all this, need I say that I required the precious resource of again casting all the care on Him who cares for each one of us? In so doing, the assurance that His grace was sufficient for me and for each of the needy ones, filled my heart with love and joy.
"Next morning I awoke about five o'clock, and found the burden coming back again; but, in accordance with Phil. iv. 6, I made my tea quests known to God, and found the promise of the verse following fulfilled. Some of the passages, too, which occurred in the course of my morning s reading seemed to have been written on purpose for me. When my dear wife awoke I told her of the assurance I felt that help was at hand, though I had not the least idea of how the Lord would send it. And so it proved. Before noon a letter reached me, which, having been addressed to Ningpo instead of Shanghai, arrived some days later than the letters of the same mail which had come direct. It contained checks for me to forward inland to many of the members of the Mission, to the value of u260, besides several other sums. These kind gifts greatly cheered me, and relieved me of anxiety concerning the personal wants of those to whom they were sent, though they still left an urgent need, about which we continued to wait upon God. I asked the prayers of some of the members of the Mission with special reference to Mr. Stevenson and his family; and in the full conviction that the Lord would supply the need, their outfits for the voyage were proceeded with.
"On the 13th of April one of our missionaries put into my hand one hundred dollars as a first contribution towards the Stevenson's expenses home, with the words:-
"'At some time or other the Lord will provide. It may not be my time. It may not be thy time. But yet in His own time, the Lord will provide.
"On April 22nd I received from the Honorary Secretaries a remittance of over u100, but, like the previous one, it was all special donations, and left more than nine-tenths of the needy objects untouched. At first I felt rather disappointed, till I reflected that God had ordered the form in which it came, as well as the fact of its coming; and that consequently it must be both right and best. And so indeed it proved in more ways than one, ere many days had passed, reminding me of the words:-
"'Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, But trust Him for His grace,'
and shaming my temporary disappointment. Part of this money was used to refund to one of the members of the Mission 190 dollars which he had advanced before. Adding 10 dollars to it, he now gave me the 200 towards the Stevensons' home-going, together with u15 more. Later, another member gave 50 dollars; three gave 10 dollars each; another 220 dollars; completing, within half a tael, the sum required for the passages to Marseilles, and this deficiency was soon made up by one of the previous donors. For traveling expenses in China, and through France, our brother was supplied by other kind friends; so that all was ready one mail before he was able to complete his preparations and reach Shanghai. Thus once more our confident expectations were not put to shame.
"At the risk of some repetition, I may quote from a letter written to one of the members of the Council about this time:-
"'After proving God's faithfulness for many years, I can testify that times of want have ever been times of special blessing, or have led to them. Never has the work entailed more real trial, or so much exercise of faith, as recently. The sickness of our beloved sister, Miss Blatchley, the needs of my dear children, the state of our Mission funds, the changes required to allow of some going home, of others coming out, and of the further extension of the work, and many other things not easily expressed in writing, would be crushing anxieties if we were to bear them. But the Lord bears us, and them too; and makes our hearts so very glad in Himself alone -- not in Himself plus a bank balance i -- that I have never known greater freedom, from anxiety and care.
"'The other week, when I reached Shanghai, we were in great and immediate need. The English and French mails were both in, and had brought no remittance of general funds, and there were none at home to remit. I cast the burden on the Lord. Next morning, when awaking, I felt a little inclined to trouble; but He gave me the word -- "I know their sorrows; and I am come down to deliver them;" and, "Certainly I will be with thee;" and before 6 a.m. I was as sure that help was at hand as when, at noon, I received a letter containing more than u300, Now our need is again great and urgent, but God is greater and more near; and because He is, and is what He is, all will be, must be, well. Oh! the joy of knowing the living God, of seeing the living God, of resting on the living God! I am but His agent; He will look after His own honor, provide for His own servants, and supply all our need according to His own riches; you helping by your prayers, and by your 'work of faith and labour of love.'
"But to return. We were kept waiting on God till May 5th. When a remittance of u104 odd was received from the Secretaries, of which u100 was for the general purposes of the Mission, none but those who know what it is to bear the burdens of others can tell the joy with which we distributed this small sum, small as Compared with the wants of more than forty stations. A kind friend augmented it by a gift of 6 dollars on the same day, and 26 dollars were also forwarded to me, which had been given to support a girl in the boarding-school. On the 15th, 222 dollars reverted to the funds, which had been temporarily appropriated in February to an object for which it was no longer required; and Mr. Judd, on leaving Nanking for Wu-ch'ang, was able to hand in over 240 dollars, a surplus of funds given him in December, and which had not been needed. In these ways, and by the sale of some stationary and profits on exchange, the most urgent necessities of May were met, leaving us all the promises of God to meet the expenses of June, and nothing else besides.
"I asked urgent prayer of some of the brethren for u500 to cover the manifest and unavoidable outlay of that month. Perhaps never in the history of the Mission have we all been so low together. As it proved, the outlay of the month required above u100 more than the sum I had named; and therefore the Lord, who knows all our necessities better even than we do, supplied this too.
"From the Hon. Secretaries at home I received during the month a sum of over u500; and in China, in ways which I cannot now detail, 290 dollars, 75 cents, besides. On making up the accounts to this date, I found that we had gained by exchange during the half year, including interest for a small fund given for building purposes, 200 dollars, 32 cents. The aggregate of these amounts came to about u100, which was all additional to the money remitted from home; so that not only were the current expenses of the month met, but Mrs. Cardwell and her children were able to return to England, a change which increasing prostration showed to be necessary, leaving me with a balance of 16s. on July 1st.
"You will wonder how my dear fellow-laborers bore the trial connected with their respective stations and their own personal needs during this time; and to show you how lovingly I am encouraged, and how these burdens are borne up before the Lord, I will give you some extracts from the letters of a few. "One writing on June 22nd says:-
"'Yours of the 13th inst. came to hand two or three days ago, but the money did not arrive till this morning. Many, many thanks for it; for, like the rest of the brethren, we have been hard put to it of late. Had it not been for the u15 that -- gave us, I do not know what we should have done; and even with that we found it difficult to make both ends meet. But, praise God, He has not allowed us to want. The money came most opportunely, both for own use and for the work of the Church. We do pray for you -- not talk to God about you, but pray; and He knows it. When you said, "Pray for u500 for this month's expenses," the sum seemed so insignificant when we referred it to God, that I felt ashamed that we should think of it as a difficulty at all. God's inexhaustible riches rose up before my mind so vividly that u500 seemed no more to me than five hundred stones in the street. I have not the slightest doubt that He will give you this, and much more, as soon as His time comes. What I have to watch against is impatience at waiting His time.
"'Some little while ago I had a doctor's bill of 50 dollars sent me. At the time I had only 8 dollars of my own in the world. However, I told the Lord all about it, and felt assured that He would provide, but I did not anticipate the way in which it would done. Some unknown friend paid the bill! Who it can be I have not the slightest idea. The Lord knows; and I pray that He may reward and bless the one who has been so kind to us. Is not God faithful?'
"From another station I received the following, dated June 16th:-
"'Many thanks for your kind letter and the money, which I received safely this afternoon. My last cash (the twentieth part of a penny) was spent yesterday morning, and I was waiting on our Heavenly Father today for money to pay my teacher. Praise His holy Name, He still answers our prayers! How blessed it is to trust Him, and how restful the certainty that "all things work together for good to them that love God.'"
"Another, writing a week later, says:-
"'The money order for ____ arrived here today, and I believe it can be cashed tomorrow at the native banker's... For the first time I was unable to send for the usual quantity of rice for my school children; but neither they nor we have lacked one single meal. Our wants have all been supplied. I cannot help feeling glad that God has sent us this little trial; our common need has drawn us nearer to each other, and at the same time nearer to Christ. Very earliest have been the prayers offered up for you, that the Lord would fulfil all your petitions, and grant you according to your own heart. We are a happy household, sympathizing in one another's joys and sorrows; conscious, too, with a glad consciousness, that Christ is King in home and heart.'
"A fifth correspondent tells me that when the money I sent him on June 12th arrived, they had not a dollar left, and were praying for relief. 'How gracious of the Lord,' he adds, 'to hear our united cry.'
"I might give you more quotations, but these suffice... 'Because Thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of Thy wings will I rejoice.' "
Such, then, were some of the difficulties that were permitted at this time to test with the pressure of an ever-growing need the distinctive principles upon which the Inland Mission had been founded -- principles whose failure had been so confidently predicted by many from the beginning. These trials, however, with their corresponding vindication of the Lord's unfailing care, served only to strengthen the faith that He had given, and more than ever to confirm the confidence of His servants in the one great underlying truth upon which those principles are based -- the truth that, at all times, and under all circumstances, "God alone, is sufficient for God's own work."