The biography of J. Hudson Taylor Written by Peter H. S Lim on 18th March 2003.
“God’s work done in God’s way would yield God’s desired results. . . . To move men through God by prayer alone.” (James Hudson Taylor, 1832-1905)
Sailed from Liverpool to Shanghai, September 1853 Founded the China Inland Mission, June 1865 11th/last trip to China, April 1905
First protestant missionary to venture into inland China
Hudson: “God has called me to spend my life in missionary service in China.” . . . Minister: “And how do you propose to go there?” Hudson: “I don’t know. But I think it likely that I shall need to go as the twelve and the seventy disciples did in Judea, without stick, or bag, or food, or money; relying on Him who had sent them to supply all their needs.” Minister: “Ah my boy, as you grow older you will become wiser than that. Such an idea would do very well in the days when Christ Himself was on earth, but not now.” (Hudson was then eighteen years old.) Many years later, Taylor recalled the incident and wrote: “I have grown older since then, but not wiser. I am more and more convinced that if we were to take the directions of our Master and the assurance He gave to His first disciples more fully as our guide, we should find them just as suited to our times as to those in which they were originally given.” (A Man In Christ pg16-17)
He was faithful to his calling till the end; God is always faithful too.
Hudson Taylor began his work in China just after the opium war. Britain had just taken over Hongkong and Portugal had also just taken over Macau. It was also the beginning of civil war in China. Under such circumstances the ordinary people were faced with much uncertainty and meaninglessness that Hudson brought the gospel in to China through Shanghai. Protestant missionary work has also just entered China. The Catholics had been in China much earlier. Protestant Christianity came to China through the barrel of a gun. This seemed to be the case in other parts of the world too. Is it possible for the Gospel of Love, Joy and Peace to come in to one’s culture or nation in a friendlier atmosphere?
There is much one can learn from studying the life of Hudson Taylor. Even more for those who are considering going in to full-time missionary work. His life of prayer and full obedience and commitment to God’s will is worth following. To Hudson, Christ must not only be preached; He must also be lived out. People must be able to see and feel the Christ in you. He was also humble enough to be among the local Chinese. He resolves to move people through God by prayer alone. Hudson says: “God’s work done in God’s way will yield God’s desired results.” “Few men have been used to touch China for God as Hudson Taylor was. He willingly broke with tradition and adopted Chinese dress. . The principles of simple lifestyle, well-reasoned obedience, confident prayer and patient endurance so clearly describe in this story compel us to examine afresh what it means to be a man in Christ.” (Billy Graham). “Hudson was a teenager when God told him to go to China. Alone, broke and even critically ill, he hung on to that goal, and to God who was sending him. But would God be enough? Alone in inland China, Hudson had lots of chance to find out! There is plenty of danger, adventure and action in this true story of a man who dared to risk all on God.” (Phyllis Thompson.) To know Hudson better I recommend reading A Man in Christ or a shorter version, God’s Adventurer. Both books are published by OMF formerly known as China Inland Mission founder by Hudson Taylor himself in June 1865. There is also a Video on his life.
Before Hudson was born his parents prayed: “Dear God, if you should give us a son, Grant that he may work for you in China.” (A Man in Christ pg1.)
Hudson was born on May 21st 1832. He had Godly parents who were mission minded. They came from Methodist background and their grandparents were friends to John and Charles Wesley. Hudson grew up in Yorkshire and when he was five he heard his father saying: “Why don’t we send missionaries there. That is the country to aim at, with its teeming population . strong, intelligent, scholarly people!” (God’s Adventurer pg34.) He was greatly influence by his father about China and they some times heard him say: “When I am a man, I mean to be a missionary and go to China.” (A Man in Christ pg2.) They would then remember their prayers and were glad. Hudson’s father was very fond of China and often educated his children about China and its developments and contribution to the world. In June 1849 at the age of 17, he prayed to receive Christ in to his life. This happened after much prayer by his mother and his sister Amelia who was also very closed to him. Shortly after this event, Hudson vividly heard God telling him, “go for me to China.” Hudson then started making plans to go for God to China. Life for Hudson would never be the same again. He was committed to his calling till the end.
Hudson’s parents often discussed church and mission matters with their friends in the presence of their children. This made Hudson acquainted with missionary living. They also read the bible together with them and prayed with them daily. Their lives were living examples. They live Christ out for their children to follow. Very importantly they included their children in their weekly church activities. All these godly influence had a great impact on shaping Hudson’s life for the Lord. From their lives we can learn the importance of good and sound Christian parenting. Good parenting need time and effort. We cannot exchange it for any thing else. The church today needs good Christian Parents too. Their children will be our leaders for tomorrow. If we seriously want good church leaders for tomorrow, then we must have quality Christian parents today. Young parents today must be led by God centered principles to be effective at home. We also see God’s sovereignty in His choice for Hudson to go for Him to China. Hudson was in the right family to be prepared in the right way and to also enter China at the right time. God’s timing is always perfect. Hudson’s parents were serious about giving their first born son to God in making His Glory known in China. When we are serious with God, He will take us seriously too.
Like all missionaries, Hudson needed training and preparation. He got to know the Chinese association later to be known as the Chinese Evangelization Society, which was to send him out to China. He subscribed to their magazine known as the Gleaner. He also got to know prominent missionaries and Christian leaders who will later to be his mentor. Two of such persons were George Muller and William Berger. Hudson was impressed with Muller’s faith and decided that he will model his ministry after Mullers’. He moved to London and got some basic medical training. During this period he decided that he would lived by faith and trusted God to provide for his needs. He reckoned that if he could not trust God in London, how would he ever-survived in China so far away from home. While in London Hudson rarely made his financial needs known to anyone except God. God proved Himself faithful. He met all of Hudson’s needs on time. But it was not easy for Hudson. On many occasions, Hudson was tested to his limits. God will come in at the eleventh hour meeting all his needs. Hudson’s faith in the Lord grew. On one occasion Hudson was infected with poison during the cause of his medical training. He was told that he would die soon and was asked to return home quickly to put his affairs in order. However, Hudson was sure that God had work for him to do in China and he clinged on to that and miraculously he survived only by the grace of God. As part of his preparation, he went distributing tracts and often preached to his patients. Finally, on Monday September 19, 1853, Hudson was finally sailing off from Liverpool to Shanghai on board the Dumfries. He didn’t complete his medical training, the call to china was urgent, and he responded to His Master’s call obediently and faithfully. From Hudson we learnt to trust in God for the little things. We also see that faith in God doesn’t come overnight. It has to be build up. Supportive friends and family are also important. They helped give one support and encouragement during difficult times.
Hudson and his mother parted not knowing if they would ever meet again. Hudson saw how much pain it caused his mother to see him leaving. The price for obedience is not cheap. But Hudson felt that compared with God’s love for mankind, the pain he and his mother felt was nothing. If it caused them such pain to part, how much more it would have caused God to send His only begotten Son into our world to give us salvation. On board the Dumfries, Hudson conducted weekly chapel services and also provided medical assistance to the crew. The voyage lasted six months and during this difficult journey Hudson experienced God’s protection over them. They survived a fierce storm and God led them safely on one occasion when the ship was drifting because of the lack of wind. After much prayer by Hudson and the captain God sent a breeze and brought the ship back to its caused.
When finally Hudson arrived in China he was surprised to learn that one of the missionaries he was supposed to meet had died. Another return to America and the only one left was out of town. He was in a dilemma. Not knowing how to speak a word of Chinese, what was he to do? He even didn’t know what the Chinese ate and know how to buy food. By the grace of God, he was brought to the London Missionary Society’s office and there he met an American missionary who help him. After some more disappointments with the CES, Hudson settled down to learn the Chinese language and acquainted himself with missionaries from the London Missionary Society and the Church Missionary Society. He picked up the language quickly and soon was travelling with other missionaries in their work.
Hudson soon decided that he would live on his own among the Chinese people. His goal was always to go inland where no Western missionaries had ever gone. He lived simply and relied on the support from friends and relatives from London. The CES were not sending him enough funds. They were not consistent. Hudson’s training in learning to trust God to meet all his needs proved useful. He often brought his financial needs known to God and at the right time God would always meet them. His friend, William Berger, was one of his regular financial supporters. George Muller often encouraged him through letters and occasional gifts. He was supplied with Chinese bibles and Christian booklets by the London Bible Society for distribution. All these kept Hudson going in China. His love for the Chinese people grew and he decided that he would adopt Chinese customs and put on Chinese clothes. He also put on a pigtail much to the displeasure of the Western community. In doing so, Hudson felt that he could relate better to the Chinese and was accepted as one of them. Despite the pressure and criticism he received, Hudson remained faithful to his caused. It was certainly not easy for Hudson to dress and act like one of the Chinese. The Western missionaries and merchants saw him as a disgrace and a traitor. Even his own dear sister Amelia disapproved of it. They felt strongly that it was below his dignity as an English to dress like one of these “inferior people”. Unmoved by this, he wrote, “If the Chinese costume seems so barbarous to you, the English dress must be no less so to them.. Without it we couldn’t be here for a single day.” (A Man In Christ pg112). We should learnt from Hudson and our Lord Jesus Christ never to regard anyone to be “inferior” to ourselves. We are created in the image of God and to do so is to be insulting God our creator. He sent His one and only Son who is perfect and sinless to come and live among us “filthy, unworthy sinners, and to die on a cruel cross for our sins. He who was sinless died a sinner’s death to give us salvation. How then could we ever consider ourselves better then anyone else? If, with out the grace of God we are no better. But, when salvation has come upon them, then, we are brethren in Christ. Therefore, despise no one and consider no one to be inferior. Certainly a missionary must sometimes be prepared to go on his own. Here we see Hudson humbling himself for the sake of the gospel and his love for Chinese souls.
Another lesson we could learn from Hudson was his willingness to preach Christ and to live Christ out at all cost. On one occasion when Hudson was confronted with beggars trying to rob him in the pretext of giving him protection, he responded by saying: “You listen to me, I don’t want your protection. I don’t need it. I am not a Chinese, and I don’t worship lifeless idols. I worship God, He is my Father, and I trust in Him. He will protect me.” (God’s Adventurer pg73.) On another occasion, when his servant ran away with all his possessions he chose to forgive him. In fact, he was advised to take firm action on this servant. But Hudson thought otherwise, his servant had heard him often preaching about the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. Now is the opportunity for Hudson to practice what he preached. He decided that he would write a letter to this servant. In the letter, Hudson pointed out to the servant that what he did was not right, but that he, Hudson, chose to forgive him. He urged the servant to repent and turned to Jesus Christ for forgiveness and salvation. When Hudson had to spend a night out sleeping in the street, he drew comfort from the words of Jesus. “Foxes have holds, birds have nests, but, the son of man has no where to lay his head on”. Whenever Hudson when inland to a new province to preach, and where there was no Christian hall, He would get permission from monks to preach in their Chinese temples. God always gave Hudson favour with monks and they would allow him to do so. This was his pattern through out his work in China. He had no fear of lifeless idles. Our Heavenly Father is the only one true God, and at His Name, every knee must bow and confess Him as Lord. Hudson is human, like all of us he, too, gone through times of disappointments and depression. Towards the end of 1855, Hudson went through one of these moments. He felt like giving up and returning to London. Thankfully he was helped and received encouragement from other missionaries. He resigned from the CES in October 1855 and the CES was dissolved in 1860. Hudson kept up is friendship with the leaders from the CES. One of them was George Pearse, It’s General Secretary who was later to help him in his mission to inland China. After this he carried on his work in China faithfully and was married to Maria Dyer on 20 January 1858. On one occasion when Hudson had no money left and his cook told him that he was preparing dinner from their last packet of rice, Hudson told him that the time for God to send them money was near. True enough, money arrived almost immediately. He received a gift of fifty pounds and they were encourage and praised God for it. His servant ran out to tell everyone about the miracle. Due to ill health Hudson was forced to return to London reluctantly in July 1860.
Back in London Hudson completed his medical training. He was very concerned about the work in China. He longed to send missionaries into inland China where no Western missionaries had gone. Hudson had since left CES in 1855 and there was no missionaries society that share his dreams of reaching inland China. Hudson was often burdened by the fact that thirty thousand Chinese died each day not hearing the Gospel. He felt that he himself should start the work to inland China. But he had no money and he was also afraid that the young missionaries he sent out would all die in the hands of the Chinese in China. He brought his fears to God in prayer. He then had a feeling of assurance. If all the missionaries he sent out died, he would only be sending them back to their heavenly home earlier for a better life, and the Gospel was preached. At least the Chinese would have opportunity to hear the Gospel. Because, God had been faithful to him all these years, he trusted that God would meet all his financial needs. In June 25 1865 he founded the China Inland Mission which 85 years later was to be known as the Overseas Missionary Fellowship. No salary was to be paid to any missionary joining him. They were required to trust in God to provide for all their needs. Funds were to be shared equally and no debts were to be incurred. In all of his deputation work, Hudson insisted that no offering should be taken. He believed that God would provide faithfully. Hudson defended his beliefs in God on this matter with the following words: “My wish is not that members of the audience should be relieved of making such contribution as might now be convenient, under the influence of emotion, but that each one should go home burdened with the deep need of China, and ask God what he would have them to do. If after thought and prayer they are satisfied that a gift of money is what He wants of them, it can be given to any missionary society having agents in China; or it may be posted to our London office. But in many cases what God wants is not a money contribution, but personal consecration to His service abroad; or the giving up of a son or a daughter — or precious than silver or gold — to His service. I think a collection tends to leave the impression that the all-important thing is money, whereas no amount of money can convert a single soul. What is needed is that men and women filled with the Holy Ghost should give themselves to the work. There’ll never be a shortage of funds for the support of such people.” (A Man In Christ pg177.) Another of Hudson’s requirement was that his missionaries should put on Chinese clothes. His team set off for China on May 26, 1866. Maria returned to the Lord in July 23rd 1870. Hudson then married Jenny Faulding and He faithfully served the Lord till the end. Hudson made his eleventh and last trip to China in April 1905. There he returned to the Lord in June 3rd 1905. His last words to a young missionary were: “There is nothing small, and there is nothing great, only God is great, and we should trust Him fully.” (God’s Adventurer pg110-111, A Man In Christ pg365.)
Since His Trip back to China in 1866, Hudson when through many trials and disappointments. There were occasions when his life and that of his teammates were threatened too. God safely brought them through during such times and their faith were strengthen. Despite Hudson’s busyness, he prayed often and made a point to read the bible once through each year and did so every year. He also read many good Christian literature. He chose to give God top priority in life. He put God first. One reason why some of us feel so defeated in our Christian life may be that, we forget to make God the center of our lives. Nothing can be more important then a close communion with our Lord daily. Only then would we be able to face the challenges each day brings.
Hudson’s willingness to dress like Chinese made it much easier for him to bring the Gospel to them. They accepted him as one of them and were willing to listen to him. Hudson also had a gift of being able to learn the different Chinese dialects very quickly. He was able to speak to Chinese people of different provinces personally in their own dialects. This could be one reason why he was more successful than other missionaries could. Another important fact was Hudson’s great desire to reach the whole of China and Mongolia for Christ. In fact, he was the first Western Protestant missionary to reach most of inland China. I am personally impressed with Hudson’s desire to be among the local Chinese community at all times. Today, we sometimes see missionaries or social workers living apart from their field of work. They are like people who want to get a job done without soiling their hands. We must take the example from Hudson Taylor and apply it in our field of work. Unless one is fully immersed in the community and culture of his mission field, one can never fully comprehend the feelings, fears, desires and expirations of the people he works with.
The most important lesson one must learn from Hudson’s experience is the total desire to trust God fully. Sometimes I feel that today’s prospective missionaries and their sending organization and Churches lack the kind of faith, which Hudson had. We very often want to get all the answers and everything well prepared before setting off. We sometimes leave no room for God to work. Let us not forget our God is the great and mighty God and He created the universe provides for all its needs and therefore He will take care of His faithful servants. All is required of us is total obedience. God tells us in Scripture that the cattles of a thousand hills belongs to Him and we need not provide for Him for He is never poor. All He wants of us is obedience. I am not saying that we need not be responsible or prepared for His ministry. What I am saying is that we must lived the worrying matters to God in prayer. Sometimes, we forget how to step up in faith. This book reminds me of this very matter of stepping up in faith. If we all wait till we have all the answers before we moved, then, we would never moved. God may call someone else.
In conclusion, let me use the words of the great grandson of J. Hudson Taylor: “depend on God’s faithfulness; identify with the people you go to . . . those whom no one else is reaching with the gospel; teach the believers and train their leaders.”(A Man In Christ, Epilogue by James Hudson Taylor III.) I first got to know Hudson Taylor’s story through this great grandson of his in the early 1980s, when I was in my early teens and a young believer. I’m very impress by his faithfulness to God’s calling for him to go to China. Ever since then I have always wanted to model my life and ministry after this great man of God. Peter H. S. Lim” Today is unique! It has never occurred before and it will never be repeated. At midnight it will end, quietly, suddenly, totally. Forever. But the hours between now and then are opportunities with eternal possibilities. Times may be hard and people may be demanding, but never forget that life is special. Every single day is a special day. God is at work in you!” (Charles R. Swindoll)
“The greatness of a man’s power is in the measure of his surrender”
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