CHAPTER 3- THERE WRESTLED A MAN WITH HIM--1865, AET.33.

AMONG those who attended the prayer meeting at Beaumont Street, none were more interested in the Ningpo Mission than the tall silent merchant and his wife who came up from their beautiful ,home in Sussex. As the owner of large starch works Mr. Berger was a busy man, but his chief interest lay in the extension of the Kingdom of God. Brought up in the Church of England he had been converted early in life under unusual circumstances. At an evening party he was talking with a girl of his own age when, to his surprise, she introduced the subject of religion. So evident was her sincerity, and the joy she found in Christ as a personal Friend and Saviour, that the young man was deeply moved. In the midst of that gay company he realised the emptiness of all the world can give, apart from the one thing needful. No special sense of sin seems to have come to him till later, but then and there he received the Lord Jesus as his Saviour, " and went behind the drawing-room door to hide his tears of thankfulness."

He was still under forty when he met Hudson Taylor for the first time, then a lad of twenty-one on the eve of sailing for China, and was attracted by his spirit.1-{1 As much was to grow out of this association, it is interesting to recall that the introduction was through a mutual friend, Mr. George Pearse of the stock Exchange, Secretary of the Society that was sending the young missionary to China, who, after the Hackney Meeting one Sunday morning, took Hudson Taylor and his friend (later on his brother-in-law), Mr. B. Broomhall, to dine with the Bergers, then living at Hornsey Rise.}Correspondence increased the interest, and when the missionary was invalided home seven years later, no warmer welcome awaited him, outside his family circle, than the welcome of Mr' and Mrs. Berger to Saint Hill. 1-{1 The beautiful mansion near East Grinstead to which they had moved from London.} From that time their house was open to him and his, and the prolonged task that kept him in London-served to deepen the friendship.

With more experience of the world as well as in spiritual things, Mr. Berger was fitted to be just the adviser Hudson Taylor needed, and in his gentle wife Mrs. Taylor found almost a mother's sympathy. Saint Hill, indeed, became a real oasis to all the family at Beaumont Street. How good it was to escape at times from the squalid surroundings of Whitechapel to the hills and lanes of Sussex I The fine old house and grounds, sloping down to a little lake with meadows beyond, were a paradise to the children, quite apart from the good cheer Mrs. Berger's hospitality provided. It was a perfect friendship ; and with no family of their own, the Bergers had room in their hearts for all the interests of the Mission.

As time went on and Mr. Taylor became increasingly burdened about the need and claims of inland China, Mr. Berger shared with him much of the exercise of heart involved. He knew of Mr. Taylor's efforts to induce various societies to extend their operations to those waiting provinces, and was in sympathy with his thought of utilising a class of labourers hitherto little drawn upon. But it was in the growing sense of personal responsibility that the chief bond of union lay. Accompanying Mr. Taylor to a farewell meeting for a young worker. about to join Mr. Meadows, he was surprised to find a small poor church, without a single influential member, undertaking the whole of his support. The joy with which they were making sacrifices brought to Mr Berger a new sense of the privilege of giving and suffering for Jesus' sake, and the earnestness of Mr. Taylor's address moved him to a definite resolve. Rising at the close of the meeting he said that what he had seen and heard overwhelmed him with shame because he had done so little, comparatively, for the cause of Christ. It filled him with joy also ; and he had determined that night to do ten times more, yes, by the help of God, a hundred times more than he had hitherto attempted.1-{1 It is interesting that this experience took place on March 13, 1865, little more than three months before Mr. Taylor himself met the crisis of k's life on the sands at Brighton.}

Thankful as Mr. Taylor must have been for this step forward, how little either he or Mr. Berger can have anticipated the developments for which provision was thus being made 1 Yet they were near -at hand. For to himself also matters were assuming a new urgency. Added to the consciousness ever present with him of passing souls in China, had come another thought

" They perish-a thousand every hour of the day and night-and this while to me, as to every believer, is given power to ask in prayer whatsoever we will ; to ask without limit in the name of Jesus."

Little wonder the burden was intolerable!

By this time a change had come in his immediate surroundings. A growing interest in the Ningpo Mission and an increasing number of candidates made it necessary to seek larger quarters. A home had been found in Coborn Street, a couple of miles farther east, where Mile End merges into the more residential neighbourhood of Bow, and side streets aspire to modest gardens shaded by welcome trees. One would hardly have thought that number 30, with its one window beside the hall-door, could have offered any serious difficulty through excess of size ; but the entry in Mr. Taylor's journal was as follows

Sept. 28 (1864) : Revision five hours. Went with Mr. Gough to seek a house:, found the way closed in all but one direction.The house seemed too large for us, but Mr. Gough offered to pay the difference between it and our present rent.

A week later the result was recorded

Oct. 5 : Revision two and a half hours.... We prepare for moving to-morrow. Prayer was answered in our finding a man who would help us to remove reasonably.

Oct. 6: Came to 30 Coborn Street, Bow. Paid eighteen shillings for removing. Took Truelove to Bryanstone Hall,and lectured on China.

Eighteen shillings for the transport of all their worldly belongings ! And not only so : a day sufficed for packing, it would seem, and even less for settling into the new home. For Mr. Taylor " lectured on* China " within a few hours of taking possession, and thereafter, as may be seen from the journal, the revision and other work proceeded just as usual. What a light it casts upon the largeness of his aims and the lowliness of his spirit !

Here, then, a fresh start had been made in October 1864, the sitting-room, extending from front to back on the groundfloor, being much appreciated for the prayer meeting which was increasing in numbers. The revision of the Ningpo Testament was still the main task, though Mr. Gough was expecting to complete it single-handed, as the time seemed near for Mr. and Mrs. Taylor's return to China. Candidates were coming and going, and new cycles of interest, were opening up.

" We need your prayers," Mr. Taylor wrote to his mother at the beginning of 1865. " The responsibility resting upon us is increasing very much. I must have more grace and wisdom from above or shall utterly fail. May He Who giveth `more grace' grant me to live increasingly in His light. We have received a hundred pounds toward the expense of outfit, etc. ;pray for what more may be needed, perhaps nine hundred or a thousand pounds"

-for he was hoping to take with him six or seven new missionaries.

And then, just as all seemed ready for advance, an unexpected happening changed the current of events and closed the way again indefinitely. A fine new steamer was about to sail for China, and the owner, hearing of Mr. Taylor's party, offered free passages to a couple of missionaries. Two of the young men were ready in time and embarked at Glasgow ; but a stormy voyage down the Irish Channel so upset one of them that he turned back from Plymouth, fearing he had mistaken his calling. This was of course, a keen disappointment to Mr. Taylor, who was concerned also that the passage and outfit should be lost. Right nobly a young farmer from Aberdeenshire stepped into the gap, putting off his marriage, which was about to take. place, that he might redeem the situation. He had been long engaged, and it was naturally felt that his fiancee, also-an accepted candidate, should follow him as soon as possible. Funds and a suitable escort being provided in answer to prayer, she a sailed a fortnight later, and Mr. Taylor was left minus four of his prospective party. Of the remainder, strange to say, one wanted more time for preparation, a second was unable to free himself from home claims, and a third had not fully made up his mind about going ; so there was nothing for it but to pray and wait until the way should open.1-{1 With the sailing of the bride-elect the prayer was fully answered which had been going up since 186o, for five additional workers for the Ningpo Mission. The five thus sent out were : Mr. Meadows (who had already lost his wife in China), Miss Notman, Messrs. Barchet and Crombie, and Miss Skinner (Mrs. Crombie).}

Meanwhile, moreover, Mr. Taylor had been drawn into a new undertaking, which was absorbing time and thought. Early in the year the pastor of the church to which he belonged (who was editor also of the Baptist Magazine) had asked for a series of articles on China with a view to awakening interest in the Ningpo Mission. These Mr. Taylor had begun to prepare, and one had even been published, when Mr. Lewis returned the manuscript of the next. The articles, he felt, were weighty, and should have a wider circulation than his paper could afford.

" Add to them," he said earnestly ; " let them cover the whole field and be published as an appeal for inland China."

This seemed incompatible with Mr. Taylor's many engagements, but when his departure was unexpectedly delayed he saw the opportunity and set himself to take advantage of it. Even before his party had been broken up, the study necessary for these papers was bringing to a crisis the exercise of mind through which Mr. Taylor had been passing. Compiling facts as to the size and population of every province in China, and making diagrams to show their neglected condition, stirred him to a desperate sense of the sin and shame of allowing such a state of things to continue. Yet what was to be done ? The number of Protestant missionaries, as he had discovered, was diminishing rather than increasing. Despite the fact that half the heathen population of the world was to be found in China, the missionaries engaged in its evangelisation had actually been reduced, during the previous winter, from a hundred and fifteen to only ninety-one. This had come to light through his study of the latest statistics, and, naturally, added fuel to the fire that was consuming him. But he had done all that was possible. No one would move in the matter He must leave it now, until the Lord But somehow that was not the final word. .

Leave it, when he knew that he, small, weak, and nothing as he was, might pray in faith for labourers and they would be given ? Leave it, when there stood plainly in his Bible that solemn word, " When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die ; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life ; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood will I require at thy hand " !

"I knew God was speaking," he said of this critical time. " I knew that in answer to prayer evangelists would be given and their support secured, because the Name of Jesus is worthy. But there unbelief came in.

" Suppose the workers are given and go to China: trials will come ; their faith may fail ; would they not reproach you for bringing them into such a plight ? Have you ability to cope with so painful a situation ?

" And the answer was, of course, a decided negative.

"It was just a bringing in of self, through unbelief ; the devil getting one to feel that while prayer and faith would bring one into the fix, one would have to get out of it as best one might. And I did not see that the Power that would give the men and the means would be sufficient to keep them also, even in the far interior of China.

" Meanwhile, a million a month were dying in that land, dying without God. This was burned into my very soul. For two or three months the conflict was intense. I scarcely slept night or day more than an hour at a time, and feared I should lose my reason. Yet I did not give in. To no one could I speak freely, not even to my dear wife. She saw, doubtless, that something was going on ; but I felt I must refrain as long as possible from laying upon her a burden so crushing-these souls, and what eternity must mean for every one of them, and what the Gospel might do, would do, for all who believed, if we would take it to them."

The break in the journal at this point is surely significant. Faithfully the record had gone on for two and a quarter years ; but now-silence. For seven weeks from the middle of April, lovely weeks of spring, there was no entry. First and only blank in those revealing pages, how much the very silence has to tell us ! Yes, he was face to face with the purpose of God at last. Accept it, he dare not ; escape it, he could not. And so, as long ago, " there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day."

It was Sunday, June 25, a quiet summer morning by the sea. Worn out and really ill, Hudson Taylor had gone to friends at Brighton, and, unable to bear the sight of rejoicing multitudes in the house of God, had wandered out alone upon the sands left by the receding tide. It was a peaceful scene about him, but inwardly he was in agony of spirit. A decision had to be made and he knew it, for the conflict could no longer be endured.

" Well," the thought came at last, " if God gives us a band a of men for inland China, and they go, and all die of starvation even, they will only be taken straight to heaven ; and if one heathen-soul is saved, would it not be well worth while ? "

It was a strange way round to faith-that if the worst came to the worst it would still be worth while. But something in the service of that morning seems to have come to mind. God-consciousness began to take the place of unbelief, and a new thought possessed him as dawn displaces night.:

Why, if we are obeying the Lord, the responsibility rests sit Hint, not with us 1

This, brought home to his heart in the power of the Spirit, wrought the change once and for all.

` Thou, Lord," he cried with relief that was unutterable, " Thou shalt have all the burden! At Thy bidding, as Thy servant I go forward, leaving results with Thee."

For some time the conviction had been growing that he ought to ask for at any rate two evangelists for each of the eleven unoccupied provinces, and two for Chinese Tartary and Tibet. Pencil in hand he now opened his Bible, and with the boundless ocean breaking at his feet wrote the simple memorable words : " Prayed for twenty-four willing skilful labourers at Brighton, June 25, 1865."

" How restfully I turned away from the sands," he said, recalling the deliverance of that hour. " The conflict ended, all was joy and peace. I felt as if I could fly up the hill to Mr. Pearse's house. And how I did sleep that night! My dear wife thought Brighton had done wonders for me, and so it had."

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