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"A Goodly Heritage" (8): J Hudson Taylor 1832-1905

R W Cargill, St Monans

Hudson Taylor was the man who would expand far into the interior of China the work which Robert Morrison had established on the coast half a century before. His vision and pioneering work through the China Inland Mission (CIM) enabled the gospel of the grace of God to reach many thousands who had never heard it.

The CIM was begun in 1865 when 21 people left the relative comfort of Britain for the hardships of China. This beginning came out of a deep experience Hudson Taylor had with God, an intense struggle in prayer while alone on Brighton beach. He had prayed for enough missionaries to send two into each of the provinces of inland China. In 1881 he prayed for another 70 missionaries and 76 went. In 1886 he prayed for 100 within a year, and soon another 102 were ready to go. Today, millions of Chinese believers are testimony to the sacrifices of these servants of God and of those who followed them, and to the abiding power of the Word of God in spite of the 20th century attempts to eradicate Christianity in China.

From the start it was understood that all CIM personnel would depend entirely upon God for financial support. No income was guaranteed. Needs would only ever be made known to God in prayer. Hudson Taylor's life and service as well as his motivation and support were rooted in the power of prayer which he proved over and over again. He claimed the promise of John 14.13: "Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son".

Early Life

Hudson Taylor was born in the mining town of Barnsley in Yorkshire on 21st May, 1832 into the family of James Taylor, a pharmacist and Methodist preacher, and Amelia (née Hudson). In his early youth he rebelled against his Christian upbringing, until one day, going aimlessly into his father's study, he found a tract which arrested his attention. Convicted of his sinfulness he was saved while his mother was 80 miles away, at that very hour agonising in prayer for his salvation.

His parents had a deep interest in mission work in China, and had been praying that their son would actually go there. This prayer too was answered when he announced in 1849 that this was to be his life's work. A contact with Edward Cronin who had been in Baghdad with A N Groves encouraged him.

First he moved to Kingston upon Hull as a medical assistant, preparing himself for a life of faith and service. He lived frugally, preaching in the open air in the poorer parts of the town and distributing many gospel tracts, while studying Mandarin, Greek, Hebrew, and Latin in his spare time. When he was 20 he was baptised by Andrew Jukes in the assembly of believers in Hull. He then studied medicine at the Royal London Hospital as further preparation for China.

To China's Hardships

He offered himself to the recently founded Chinese Evangelisation Society as their first missionary. Leaving Liverpool on 19th September, 1853 on board the clipper Dumfries, he arrived in Shanghai 23 weeks later after a nearly disastrous voyage.

In China, he found civil war raging. His first year was beset with difficulties. He started preaching and distributing tracts around Shanghai, but found out that he was being called a "black devil" because of the black overcoat he wore! So he adopted Chinese dress and the pigtail hairstyle. Many, including fellow missionaries, criticized him for this. But he in turn believed it was not right for them to spend so much of their time as translators to businessmen and diplomats. His burden was to get the gospel into the interior of China and so he set off down the Huangpu River distributing Bibles and tracts.

Next, in 1857, the society became unable to support its missionaries, so he resigned. A letter from George Müller at this critical time helped him to see that he could and should trust God for everything he needed. A little later all his medical supplies were destroyed in a fire, and on a journey he was robbed of nearly all he had.

He married Maria Dyer, daughter of missionaries in China, who was working at a school for girls in Ningbo. Their first baby died in 1858, then Grace was born a year later. The Taylors took over the work of the hospital in Ningbo when Dr William Parker could not continue. The church there grew to 21 members, but by 1861 Hudson became seriously ill (probably with hepatitis) and had to return to England to recover.

During the next five years he continued with Bible translation. He also completed his medical diploma and took a course in midwifery. He travelled extensively and wrote papers promoting an awareness of China's great needs. Four more children were born before all the family returned to China with 16 new missionaries on 26th May, 1866 on the tea clipper Lammermuir. Twice the ship was nearly wrecked, and they survived two typhoons, but at last they arrived in Shanghai on 30th September.

In a letter to his sister Amelia he had written, If I had a thousand pounds China should have it — if I had a thousand lives, China should have them. No! Not China, but Christ. Can we do too much for Him? Can we do enough for such a precious Saviour?

More Trials in China

Once back where his heart was, it was an exhausting schedule of medical work and preaching every day. Hundreds came to hear and be treated. In 1868 they travelled to Yangzhou to start a new work, but the mission premises were attacked, looted and burned during a riot. This led to outrage at home and some criticism of the CIM and Taylor himself. Some members of the British Parliament called for the withdrawal of all missionaries from China. However, they continued in Yangzhou and saw many converts.

Another daughter, Maria, and a son Charles, were born, but then Grace died of meningitis. This sad trial helped to bring more harmony within the group when they saw how he placed the needs of his fellow workers above concern for his daughter. In July, 1870, baby Noel was born but he died of malnutrition. Worst of all Maria herself died from cholera several days later. Her death was the heaviest blow to him. He became ill and returned to England to recuperate.

He then married Jane ("Jennie") Faulding who had been with the CIM, and they returned to China in late 1872. In Nanjing Jennie gave birth to stillborn twins. During the winter of 1874 he was back in England, nearly paralysed after a fall on a Chinese river boat. But when able he preached throughout the country, profoundly influencing many including the famous cricketer C T Studd who was converted along with two of his brothers. He was one of "The Cambridge Seven" who would go to China in 1885.

Jennie remained with the children while he went out with more missionaries. The Chefoo Convention between Britain and China in September, 1876 gave missionary work in China a legal status. So he was able to travel more freely and saw many missions stations established. Jennie returned to China in 1878 and began promoting aspects of women's missionary service there. With so many to reach, Taylor arranged for unmarried women to go into the interior, something new which again had its critics!

He returned to England in 1883 and recruited more missionaries. Back in China there would now be 225 missionaries and 59 churches. Five years later he travelled to the United States, and 14 American missionaries joined them soon afterwards. He met Cyrus Scofield and Dwight L Moody who became active supporters of the work of the CIM.

News of the dreadful Boxer Rebellion in 1900 and the resulting disruption of missionary work distressed Taylor greatly. The CIM suffered more than any other mission - 58 missionaries and 21 children were killed. But that only led to additional growth and further interest in missions in China.

Due to failing physical and mental health, Hudson Taylor, now over 70, went to Switzerland, semi-retired along with his wife. She died there of cancer in 1904. After that he returned to China for the eleventh and final time, visiting Yangzhou, Zhenjiang and other cities.

He died suddenly at his home in Changsha while he was reading. He was buried next to his first wife, Maria, in a cemetery at Zhenjiang near the Yangtze River. It was destroyed by the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution and industrial buildings were built over it. But his lasting memorial is the goodly heritage he left, remaining effective far beyond his lifetime and beyond the boundaries of China.

To be continued.


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