James Hudson Taylor (Chinese: 戴德生) (21 May 1832 – 3 June 1905)
Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret
Reflecting on the life of Hudson Taylor
Howard Taylor summarized the entirety of his father’s life with these words:
“God was first in Hudson Taylor’s life—not the work, not the needs of China or of the Mission, not his own experiences. He knew that the promise was true, ‘Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.’”
Inthe history of Christendom, Hudson Taylor’s life is of the remarkable kind. At the lively age of 21, Taylor sailed his body off to China to live where his heart had been born. Thirteen years later, at the age of 34, he started a missionary agency called the China Inland Mission (CIM). Now, we could say much about what happened over the next forty years, but in the end, CIM had commissioned 750 missionaries in China, 700 Chinese were working alongside those and 13,000 had been baptized in the name of Christ. O, the orchards and orchards of fruit that can be attributed to one man’s vision, to one man’s life! “He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers” (Psalm 1:3).
What was Hudson Taylor’ secret? Mental aptitude? Physical endurance? Inherited wealth? No. On the contrary, it was the surrender of these humanly esteemed qualities that made Hudson Taylor the amazing man he was. At a young age Taylor discovered this simple secret: God worked His mightiest when man was at his weakest. For Taylor this secret could only be discovered and proven through prayer. In prayer he
discerned his weakness and discovered God’s might. The more Taylor gave himself to prayer the more he found unspeakable joy for he was entering the very presence of God. One student who witnessed Mr. Taylor praying later in his life said: “I have never heard anyone pray like that. There was a simplicity, a tenderness, a boldness, a power that hushed and subdued me, and made it clear that God had admitted him to the inner circle of His friendship.” The magnitude of his love for the presence of God was evident in his deep distress upon the rare occasions he failed the Lord through the neglect of some spiritual discipline. He became so accustomed to being in prayer and in tune with the Father that “to go without this was to live without sunlight, to work without power.”
A Holy Dissatisfaction
Being in the presence of God (“planted by streams of water”) transformed Taylor. He tasted such an abundance of joy, felt such a blazing, pure love, that he decided to do the only sensible thing—ask for more.
Taylor began to realize the more he could give up of himself—his plans, his thoughts, his desires—the more he would receive from God divine plans, divine thoughts, divine desires.
With that discovery, the young Mr. Taylor put the ‘giving is receiving’ philosophy to the test. He knew he must test his faith—not God’s faithfulness—for he thought it important to learn “…before leaving England, to move man, through God, by prayer alone.” Working as a doctor’s assistant, he determined he would not take it upon himself to remind the Doctor when his wages were due. He would trust God with all
his concerns. This faith-test was further accentuated by the fact that he gave two-thirds of his income to street missions among the poor. At times the test was exceedingly difficult to maintain, yet time after time he turned deeper to God and God proved himself faithful. Taylor knew he was learning invaluable lessons for
the mission field: “If we are faithful to God in little things, we shall gain experience and strength that will be helpful to us in the more serious trials of life.”
The more Taylor grew the more he required of his own faithfulness. At one point in his life, he had become intensely frustrated with not having an even deeper faith. His frustration was relieved when a friend, and the Spirit of God, directed him in a faith awakening. He discovered he had too much striving in his faithfulness and not enough resting in the One who is faithful. More than ever he realized the truth that he
was one with the risen Christ and that which belonged to Christ’s now belonged to him. “Can Christ be rich and I poor?” he asked rhetorically, while teaching these truths to his sister back home in England.
Personal Reflection Taylor’s life reads like that of an apostle. His heart emanates the heat and light of a prophet. His letters to family and friends sound like New Testament epistles. As I read his biography, I couldn’t stop wondering how a man who lived a mere one-hundred years ago could live so much like the giants of the faith I’ve heard
about in Hebrews chapter 11. The more I thought about it, however, the more I became convinced that the reason great and wonderful things were done through this man was because there was so little of him there!
He had decreased, Christ had increased. He pressed, and pressed, and pressed himself to surrender more of Hudson Taylor so he could have more of Almighty God. What a shake up to my little, untested faith. How little of God I settle for!
— Pastor Hartley
“There is a living GOD.
“He has spoken in the Bible.
“He means what He says, and will do all He has promised.”
“Not striving to have more faith, or to increase our faith but in looking off to the Faithful One, and resting in Him.“
“He abideth Faithful.”
CHAPTER 12–THE EXCHANGED LIFE 1869.
From the book
Hudson Taylor and the China Inland Mission
By Howard Taylor: published 1918
…Perhaps I shall make myself more clear if I go back a little. Well, dearie, my mind has been greatly exercised for six or eight months past, feeling the need personally, and for our Mission, of more holiness, life, power in our souls. But personal need stood first and was the greatest. I felt the ingratitude, the danger, the sin of not living nearer to God. I prayed, agonised, fasted, strove, made resolutions, read the Word more diligently, sought more time” for retirement and meditation-but all was without effect. Every day, almost every hour, the consciousness of sin oppressed me. I knew that if I could only abide in Christ all would be well, but I could not. I began. the day with prayer, determined not to take my eye from Him for a moment ; but pressure of duties, sometimes very trying, constant interruptions apt to be so wearing, often caused me to forget Him. Then one’s nerves get so fretted in this climate that temptations to irritability, hard thoughts, and sometimes unkind words are all the more difficult to control. Each day brought its register of sin and failure, of lack of power. To will was indeed present with me, but how to perform I found not.
Then came the question, ” Is there no rescue ? Must it be thus to the end-constant conflict and, instead of victory, too often defeat ? ” How, too, could I preach with sincerity that to those who receive Jesus, ” to them gave He power to become the sons of God ” (i.e. God-like) when it was not so in my own experience ? Instead of growing stronger, I seemed to be getting weaker and to have less power against sin ; and no wonder, for faith and even hope were getting very low. I hated myself ; I hated `my sin ; and yet I gained no strength against it. I felt I was a child of God : His Spirit in my heart would cry, in spite of all, ” Abba, Father ” : but to rise to my privileges as a child, I was utterly powerless. I thought that holiness, practical holiness, was to be gradually attained ‘by a diligent, use of the means of grace. I felt that there was nothing I so much desired in this world, nothing I so much needed. But so far from in any measure attaining it, the more I pursued and strove after it, the more it eluded my grasp ; I till hope itself almost died out, and I began to think that, perhaps to make heaven the sweeter, God would not give it down here. I do not think I was striving to attain it in my own strength. I knew I was powerless. I told’ the Lord so, and asked Him to give me help and strength ;and sometimes I almost believed He would keep and uphold me. But on looking back in the evening, alas ! there was but sin and failure to confess and mourn before God.
I would not give you the impression that this was the daily experience of all those long, weary months. It was a too frequent state of soul ; that toward which I was tending, and which almost ended in despair. And yet never did Christ seem more precious-a Saviour who could and would save such a sinner! And sometimes there were seasons not only of peace but of joy in the Lord. But they were transitory, and at best there was a sad lack of power. Oh, how good the Lord was in bringing this conflict to an end!
All the time I felt assured that there was in Christ all I needed, but the practical question was how to get it out. He was rich, truly, but I was poor ; He strong, but I weak. I knew full well that there was in the root, the stem, abundant fatness ; but how to get it into my puny little branch was the question. As gradually the light was dawning on me, I saw that faith was the only pre-requisite, was the hand to lay hold on His fulness and make it my own. But I had not this faith. I strove for it, but it would not come ; tried to exercise it, but in vain. Seeing more and more the wondrous supply of grace laid up in Jesus, the fulness of our precious Saviour-my helplessness and guilt seemed to increase. Sins committed appeared but as trifles compared with the sin of unbelief which was their cause, which could not or would not take God at His word, but rather made Him a liar! Unbelief was, I felt, the damning sin of the worldyet I indulged in it. I prayed for faith, but it came not. What was I to do ?
When my agony of soul was at its height, a sentence in a letter from dear McCarthy was used to remove the scales from my eyes, and the Spirit of God revealed the truth of our oneness with Jesus as I had never known it before. McCarthy, who had been much exercised by the same sense of failure, but saw the light before I did, wrote (I quote from memory)
” But how to get faith strengthened ? Not by striving after faith, but by resting on the Faithful One.”
As I read I saw it all! ” If we believe not, He abideth faithful.” I looked to Jesus and saw (and when I saw, oh, how joy flowed!) that He had said,” I will never leave you.” ” Ah, there is rest ! ” I thought. I have striven in vain to rest in Him. I’ll strive no more. For has He not promised to abide with me-never to leave me, never to fail me ? ” And, dearie, He never will !
But this was not all He showed me, nor one half. As I thought of the Vine and the branches, what light the blessed Spirit poured direct into my soul! How great seemed my mistake in having wished to get the sap, the fulness out of Him. I saw not only that Jesus would never leave me, but that I was a member of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. The vine now I see, is not the root merely, but all-root, stem, branches, twigs, leaves, flowers, fruit : and Jesus is not only that : He is soil and sunshine, air and showers, and ten thousand times more than we have ever dreamed, wished for, or needed. Oh, the joy of seeing this truth! I do pray that the eyes of your understanding may be enlightened, that you may know and enjoy the riches freely given us in Christ.
Oh, my dear sister, it is a wonderful thing to be really one with a risen and exalted Saviour ; to be a member of Christ ! Think what it involves. Can Christ be rich and I poor ? Can your right hand be rich and the left poor ? or your head be well fed while your body starves ? Again, think of its bearing on prayer. Could a bank clerk say to a customer, ” It was only your hand wrote that cheque, not you,” or, ” I cannot pay this sum to your hand, but only to yourself ” ? No more can your prayers, or mine, be discredited if offered in the Name of Jesus (i.e. not in our own name, or for the sake of Jesus merely, but on the ground that we are His, His members) so long as we keep within the extent of Christ’s credit-a tolerably wide limit! If we ask anything unscriptural or not in accordance with the will of God, Christ Himself could not do that ; but, ” If we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us, and . . . we know that we have the petitions that we desire of Him.”
The sweetest part, if one may speak of one part being sweeter than another, is the rest which full identification with Christ brings. I am no longer anxious about anything, as I realise this ; for He, I know, is able to carry out His will, and His will is mine. It makes no matter where He places me, or how. That is rather for Him to consider than for me ; for in the easiest positions He must give me His grace, and in the most difficult His grace is sufficient. It little matters to my servant whether I send him to buy a few cash worth of things, or the most expensive articles. In either case he looks to me for the money, and brings me his purchases. So, if God place me in great perplexity,` must He not give me much guidance ; in positions of great difficulty, much grace ; in circumstances of great pressure and trial, much strength ? No fear that His resources will be unequal to the emergency! And His resources are mine, for He is mine, and is with me and dwells in me. All this springs from the believer’s oneness with Christ. And since Christ has thus dwelt in my heart by faith, how happy I have been! I wish I could tell you, instead of writing about it.
I am no better than before (may I not say, in a sense, I do not wish to be, nor am I striving to be) ; but I am dead and buried with Christ–aye, and risen too and ascended ; and now Christ lives in me, and ” the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” I now believe I am dead to sin. God reckons me so, and tells me to reckon myself so. He knows best. All my past experience may have shown that it was not so ; but I dare not say it is not now, when He says it is. I feel and know that old things have passed away. I am as capable of sinning as ever, but Christ is realised as present as never before. He cannot sin ; and He can keep me from sinning. I cannot say (I am sorry to have to confess it) that since I have seen this light I have not sinned ; but I do feel there was no need to have done so. And further-walking more in the light, my conscience has been more tender ; sin has been instantly seen, confessed, pardoned ; and peace and joy (with humility) instantly restored : with one exception, when for several hours peace and joy did not return-from want, as I had to learn, of full confession, and from some attempt to justify self.’
Faith, I now see, is ” the substance of things hoped for,” and not mere shadow. It is not less than sight, but more. Sight only shows the outward forms of things ; faith gives the substance. You can rest on substance, feed on substance. Christ dwelling in the heart by faith (i.e. His Word of Promise credited) is power indeed, is life indeed. And Christ and sin will not dwell together ; nor can we have His presence with love of the world, or carefulness about ” many things.”
And now I must close. I have not said half I would, nor as I would had I more time. May God give you to lay hold on these blessed truths. Do not let us continue to say, in effect, ” Who shall ascend into heaven, that is to bring Christ down from above.” In other words, do not let us consider Him as afar off, when God has made us one with Him, members of His very body. Nor should we look upon this experience, these truths, as for the few. They are the birthright of every child of God, and no one can dispense with them without dishonour to our Lord. The only power for deliverance from sin or for true service is CHRIST.