I feel it a great privilege to respond to the invitation to write a brief introduction to this, the first volume of the life of the Founder of the China Inland Mission. In doing so I venture, first, to draw attention to the latter part of its title : " The Growth of a Soul." It will be found that this volume brings before the reader an account of the influences which, in various ways and in different degrees, contributed to the formation of the personal character of Mr. Hudson Taylor. At first sight it might appear to some that to devote not less than half of the biography of one who did a great public work, to a description of his preparation for that work, evidences some lack of the sense of due proportion. The authors were fully alive to this aspect of the subject ; but as they studied and pondered over the materials at their disposal, it was impressed upon them, with growing force, that the experience and the career Mr. Taylor furnished a notable illustration of the truth that when God raises up a man for special service He first works in that man the principles which later on are, through his labours and influence, to be the means of widespread rising to the Church and to the world.
Hence, this book has been written not so much as a literary production, likely to be read with an interest such is excited by the biography of a man of distinction in any walk of life, but with the earnest hope that it may of practical service, in illustrating and emphasising the fact that, for the purposes of Christian work, personal character formed on truly Christian lines is the most important factor ; further, that the formation of such a character largely depends upon the choices made by the individual concerned in the opening years of life. The important part which the influences of heredity and early environment had in moulding the personality of Mr. Taylor is ably brought out in this work. The narrative makes it quite clear, however, that these influences in themselves would have been inadequate without a moral response on his part to the claims of truth and duty as they presented themselves to him in his youth.
Led by Divine grace, when still a boy, to see in a Crucified Redeemer the Divinely provided answer, to the problem of his guilt as a sinner, it was not long before he was further led, in a very simple and direct way, to accept the teaching of that Redeemer as his supreme rule of life. It may seem a truism to say that the conduct of the Christian is to be governed by the precepts of Christ ; and yet how many there have been, and it is to be feared still are, who having, in the first flush of new-born faith and love, taken the New Testament as the one and only standard of discipleship, have either broken down under the tests and difficulties of such a course, or have gradually yielded to the deadening influences of conventional standards taught and practised around them. Through the grace of God it was not so with Mr. Hudson Taylor. Having accepted the Holy Scriptures as his rule of life, it was not long before he was led into circumstances that, in various ways, severely tested his fidelity to them ; and it becomes apparent in the biography, that the manner in which he held on his way in spite of great difficulties and the spirit in which he accepted not a little severe discipline were, under God, the main factors in producing a strength and a quality of character, without which the work to which he was called could never have been accomplished.
A good deal is written in the present day as to the need of living our lives and doing our work in a scientific manner. It is to be feared that much weakness and failure in Christian life and service may be traced to a lack of the scientific spirit in our treatment of the Holy Scriptures. We hear much, for instance, of the need of a fuller enduement of spiritual power for the Church and her representatives in the mission-field, if the responsibilities involved by present opportunities are to be adequately met. Is it sufficiently realised, however, in practice, that such enduement, the outstanding instance of which is recorded in the opening chapters of the Acts of the Apostles, was bestowed upon people who during the preceding three years, whatever their faults and limitations, had counted the cost and had, without any reservation, responded, in intention at all events, to the conditions of discipleship laid down by their Lord : so much so that He was able at the close of that time to say to them, " Ye are they who have continued with me in my temptations, and I appoint unto you a Kingdom." Just as the ministry of John the Baptist was antecedent and preparatory to that of our Lord, so the period of personal discipleship-involving as it did an unreserved placing of life and all it included at the disposal of the Divine Master-was essential and led up to Pentecost : nor is there any other path at the present time. Outward circumstances alter with each succeeding age, bringing with them a corresponding modification in the external application of the principles and practice of our Lord ; similarly, their application in the life of each individual will also have a character of its own. But the fact remains eternally true that the path of discipleship is the only road to spiritual power.
I venture to dwell upon this point as illustrated in the life of Mr. Taylor, because experience shows that nothing is easier than, in the words of the Prophet Isaiah, for the " wine to become mixed with water " ; that is to say, for the essential teachings as to conduct given us by Christ, and subsequently by His Apostles in the Epistles, to be toned down and adulterated by the admixture of ideas and maxims, not only foreign to, but repugnant to the spirit of Christianity.
The great truth which is complementary to the fore-going, that it is only in union with Christ by the Holy Ghost that the Christian has the power to carry into practice the precepts of His Lord, also receives powerful illustration in this biography. A single-hearted, unreserved intention to follow the Lord, whilst essential, is by itself as fruitless as the efforts-of Sisyphus. But it is also true that the inworking of Divine grace will never be known in its victorious fulness where there is not such an intention.
It is perhaps the highest tribute to the character of Mr. Hudson Taylor that it is the recollection of what he was, almost more than what he accomplished, which is most treasured by those who were privileged to know and work with him. He possessed qualities both of heart and mind not often found highly developed in the same individual. Whilst it is no exaggeration to say he was literally consumed with a self-sacrificing zeal for the spread of the Gospel, yet he was never hard or unsympathetic towards those who, through various causes, were unable to toil and to suffer as he did : on the contrary, his tenderness and sympathy endeared him to his brethren, and ever cheered those who were disheartened in the fight, or laid aside by illness. His gracious, unassuming manner, his habitual kindness and gentle courtesy, his tact and patience under opposition and ill-treatment, combined to bestow a peculiar charm to his personality.
Though gifted with more than ordinary powers both of thought and action, his true humility, as well as his practical wisdom, were evidenced by his readiness to confer with his brethren, and by the deference with which he weighed the wishes and judgment even of those many years younger than himself. Never perhaps was there a man who, as he went on in life, was more free from the disastrous mistake of despising " the least of his brethren." There can be no doubt that to his habit of carefully weighing the views of younger men was due the receptivity and elasticity which his mind retained to the end of his service.
The fact that Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor are the authors of this book would seem in itself to render a reference to its workmanship superfluous. It seems well, however, to mention that they have bestowed upon it far more than ordinary care and labour, such as a work of this kind would naturally call for, as the sense has deepened in their minds, and in those of others, that there were features in this biography which, if truthfully and adequately prevented, were eminently calculated, with the Divine blessing, to convey lessons of deep and permanent import both to the Christian community at large and also to individuals.
Hence, not only have exceptional pains, involving often much laborious research, been taken to secure the strictest fidelity to truth in every detail of the record, but also no labour has been spared to present in their right proportion and their true light the guiding principles of this remarkable life. It is the sober truth to say that every page, and even every sentence, has been the subject of many earnest prayers for the Divine blessing, and it may be added that the one desire of the authors has been that they may be the means of conveying a message of God which shall touch hearts and alter lives.
D. S. HOSTE
CHINA INLAND MISSION, LONDON, October 19, 1911.
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