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Hudson Taylor

March 2005 | by Jonathan Bayes

Part 2 – part 1 is here

2. Reaping in joy

by Jonathan Bayes

Hudson Taylor landed at Shanghai on 1 March 1854. He quickly discovered that the missionary society that had brought him to China was incompetent. No accommodation had been arranged, finances were inadequate and planning was a shambles. Worst of all, they had completely misread the Chinese situation in their enthusiasm to get workers to the field. To Hudson’s acute embarrassment, it emerged that his society was a laughing-stock.

Nevertheless, he embarked on language study, while trying to support himself by medical work. In this he found himself greatly hampered by being unqualified. He realised now how unwise it had been to ignore the advice of his colleagues.

At that time, most missionary work took place in coastal towns. The policy of Hudson’s society was to advance inland — and Hudson shared that vision. He made many short preaching trips inland, discovering the vastness of unevangelised China.

He encountered many dangers, especially the opposition of mobs who hated ‘foreign devils’. He wrote during those early days, ‘We see no fruit at present, and it needs strong faith to keep one’s heart from sinking’. However, he clung to the promise, ‘They that sow in tears shall reap in joy’.

Criticism

 

Hudson’s journeys convinced him of the need to adopt Chinese dress and hairstyle. When he did so in September 1855 he faced much criticism, not only from western traders but even from other missionaries. The future would vindicate him.

In the midst of the controversy surrounding this decision, Hudson had the joy of baptising his first convert — Gui Hua, a young cook from Shanghai.

Towards the end of 1855 Hudson met a Scottish Presbyterian missionary called William Chalmers Burns, who had already been in China for eight years. It was one of those occasions when two people ‘click’. They became close friends.

The following March they travelled 200 hundred miles south to Shantow. It was a notorious place — violent and evil. There was no Christian witness but opportunities were opening up.

Within a few months war broke out. At the time Hudson was in Shanghai obtaining medical supplies. By the time he returned to Shantow, Burns had been captured and the two never met again on earth. The Shantow work was closed, and Hudson relocated to Ningpo.

 

Ningpo church

 

In 1857 Hudson finally severed his connection with his society. Three years later the society itself disbanded after what someone described as ‘ten years of well-intentioned bungling’.

In Ningpo there was a Buddhist group which had rejected idol worship. During 1858 its leader, Ni Yong Fa, heard Hudson preach, and turned to Christ. He invited Hudson to preach the gospel to a meeting of his group.

After the meeting, Yong Fa asked Hudson, ‘How long has the gospel been known in England?’

When Hudson said, ‘For several hundred years’, Yong Fa exclaimed, ‘What! And you have only now come to preach it to us?’ He went on to make a challenging statement: ‘My father sought the truth for more than twenty years and died without finding it. Why didn’t you come sooner?’

In 1859 a church was founded in Ningpo. It had eight members. By March 1860 its numbers had grown to 21.

 

Return to England

 

By now Hudson could see that many more workers were needed. In God’s providence he had the opportunity to do something about this that July. Sickness compelled him to return to England, where he spent the next 5½ years. He wrote a book, China’s spiritual needs and claims. It was a searching challenge to the English Christian public, and it included the following passages: ‘Can the Christians of England sit still with folded arms while the multitudes are perishing — perishing for lack of knowledge — for lack of that knowledge which England possesses so richly?

‘What does the Master teach us? Is it not that if one sheep out of a hundred be lost, we are to leave the ninety and nine and seek that one? But here the proportions are almost reversed, and we stay at home with the one sheep, and take no heed of the ninety and nine perishing ones!’

On Sunday 25 June 1865 Hudson was in Brighton. Attending worship he could not bear the sight of a thousand or more Christians rejoicing in their own security while millions in China were perishing without Christ. He felt a deep agony of soul.

 

China Inland Mission

 

It was out of that experience that he decided before God to start a new missionary agency. He used £10 to open a bank account in the name of China Inland Mission. Hudson commented, ‘It was £10 and all the promises of God’.

The mission was founded on six principles:

1. It was to be inter-denominational but would stand firm on its commitment to evangelical doctrine.
2. Missionaries would have no guaranteed salary, but would trust the Lord to supply their needs.
3. No appeals for funds would be made.
4. The work would be directed on the field, not from England.
5. The sole aim was to be the speediest possible evangelisation of the whole Chinese Empire.
6. Missionaries would wear Chinese clothes and worship in Chinese-style buildings.

By the time Hudson returned to China in May 1866 the CIM had 26 missionaries in the field, and he had a degree in medicine. A second element in God’s providence in forcing him home for those few years was that he was able to complete his training.

The strategy that CIM adopted was to work first in a provincial capital, plant a church there, and then move out into the surrounding areas.

 

Boxer uprising

 

After one year the number of missionaries had risen to 34 and work was underway in two provinces. By 1869 work had begun in two more provinces. From 1872 the mission made increasing use of Chinese Christians as evangelists.

In 1888 the work became international, as missionaries began to come from the United States and Australia, as well as the UK. Later they would be joined by New Zealanders and people from Continental Europe too.

As the nineteenth century gave way to the twentieth, Christians in China went through a time of testing. On 1 August 1895 two CIM missionaries and eight members of other missions were murdered by members of a Chinese secret society. It was a foretaste of what was to come.

1900 saw the rise of a nationalist movement in the ‘Boxer Uprising’. It was primarily anti-foreign but, because it saw Christianity as a foreign religion, it was also anti-Christian. Chinese Christians were seen as succumbing to foreign influences, and were dubbed ‘secondary devils’.

The uprising resulted in the deaths of 130 missionaries (58 with CIM), 50 missionaries’ children (21 children of CIM people), and over 2,000 Chinese believers.

 

Unfading crowns

 

While this was going on Hudson was away from China recovering from an illness. He was grief-stricken to be absent at such a time of suffering for his colleagues and brethren.

When the news reached him he said, ‘Oh, think what it must have been to exchange that murderous mob for the rapture of his presence, his bosom, his smile. They do not regret it now. “A crown that fadeth not away”. They shall walk with him in white for they are worthy’.

Hudson was well enough to return to China on 17 April 1905. By now the CIM had several hundred missionaries, and the Chinese church numbered over a hundred thousand members. Less than two months later — nearly 100 years ago, on 3 June 1905 — Hudson Taylor died.

 

Road to heaven

 

Literally minutes after his death, a Chinese evangelist who had never met Hudson arrived at his house, eager to meet him for the first time. On discovering that he was too late, he took the hand of Hudson’s dead body and said, ‘Dear and venerable pastor. We truly love you. We have come today to see you. We longed to look into your face. We too are your little children.

‘You opened for us the road to heaven. You loved and prayed for us long years. We came today to look upon your face. You look so happy, so peaceful! You are smiling. Your face is quiet and pleased. You cannot speak to us tonight. We do not want to bring you back, but we will follow you. We shall come to you. You will welcome us by and by.’

That evangelist was part of Hudson Taylor’s legacy — a church established in China. Through Hudson and his colleagues the Lord Jesus Christ had begun to build his church.

It was a church strong enough to survive the horrific storms that would come within half a century, and to emerge victorious through decades of severe trial.