CHAPTER 19--THE FAITHFULNESS OF GOD--1875-1876. AET- 43-44-

" THERE are commonly three stages in work for God," Mr. Taylor would sometimes say : "first impossible, then difficult, then done." The project, of reaching the nine unopened provinces with the Gospel had not yet passed beyond the first stage. It was still, to all appearances, impossible. Despite the stipulations of the Treaty of Tientsin, ratified as early as 1860, the interior was inaccessible as ever. Passports, besides being practically unobtainable, meant little or nothing of protection, and the European who would venture far from the beaten track had to take his life in his hand. As an evidence of the almost insurmountable obstacles, one has but to recall that after nearly seventy years of work in China, Protestant missions were still confined to few, very few centres-thirty-nine stations only being occupied by the representatives of all societies.

" To some it may seem almost incredible," Mr. Taylor wrote in an early number of China's Millions, " that outside the thirtynine places named on the page opposite there, is not one Protestant missionary to be found in any of the thousands of Chinese cities, in any of the tens of thousands of large towns, or in any of the hundreds of thousands of villages, with their millions of perishing inhabitants. Yet such, alas, is the case."

And, strangely enough, even since the appeal for the Eighteen the situation had become decidedly more difficult. For the British exploring party sent to open up communication with Western China had met with tragic disaster. On the mountainous frontier of Yun-nan, a member of the expedition, Mr. Augustus Margary, had been treacherously murdered with the connivance of the Chinese authorities, and the latter would give neither apology nor the reparation international justice required. As month by month the negotiations were prolonged at Peking, relations became increasingly strained in high places, which meant that foreigners were in added disfavour all over China. It certainly was not the moment, as far as human probabilities were concerned, for anything like advance. And yet the appeal for eighteen pioneers had gone out; the men were being given ; and, "assuredly gathering" that the Lord's time had come, faith was strong in many hearts.

In the first issue of China's Millions (July 1875) Mr. Taylor had written on this subject

It was nine years on the 26th- of May since the Lammermuir party sailed for China.... We have needed all the time since then to gain experience and to gather round us a staff of native workers, through whose aid we are occupying some fifty stations and out-stations in five provinces. We believe, however, that the time has come for doing more fully what the Master commanded us ; and by His grace we intend to do it-not to try, for we see no scriptural authority for trying. " Try " is a word constantly on the lips of unbelievers. " We must do what we can," they say;, and too often the same attitude is taken up by the child of God. In our experience, to try has usually meant to fail. The Lord's word in reference to His various commands is not " Do your best," but "Do it " ; that is, do the thing commanded. We are therefore making arrangements for commencing work in each of these nine, provinces-without haste, for " he that believeth shall not make haste," but also without unnecessary delay.... " If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat of the good of the land." "Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it."

Among the " treasures of darkness " that had come to Mr. Taylor in 1870 had been a new conception of the scope and meaning of faith, upon which a flood of light had been thrown by a passage in his Greek Testament. . A letter to Mrs. Berger toward the close of that year of bereavement (November 18) showed that he had already-made the discovery which was to be a mine of wealth through all his later life, but gave no clue as to how it had-come about, It was just in his usual reading, as he often related, that he was struck with the words, " Ekete pistin Theou." How strangely new they seemed ! " Have (or hold) the faithfulness of God " : surely it was a passage he had never seen before ? Turning to the corresponding words in English he read (Mark2:22) : " Have faith in God." Ah, that was familiar enough ; and something within him whispered, " the old difficulty ! " How gladly would he have and increase in faith in God, if only he knew how! But this seemed entirely different. It laid the emphasis on another side of the matter in a way he found surprisingly helpful. It was not " have " in your own heart and mind, however you can get it, " faith in God," but simply " hold fast, count upon His faithfulness " ; and different indeed he saw the one to be from the other.1-{1 As to the correctness of this modified translation, Mr. Taylor noted For the rendering `God's faithfulness,' see Rom. 3: 3, where ' the faith of God evidently, means His faithfulness. The verb translated 'hold,' is thus rendered in Matt. 21: 26, 'all hold John as a prophet.' In the corresponding passage in Mark 11:32, it is rendered ' count'; and in that in Luke 20: 6, a different Greek verb is used, which well illustrates the meaning, 'They be persuaded that John was a prophet.' Let us see that in theory we hold that God is faithful ; that in daily life we count upon it ; and that at all times and under all circumstances we are fully persuaded of this blessed truth."} Not my faith but God's faithfulness-what a rest it was.

And now, just five years later, the subject was filling his mind as he faced the seemingly impossible situation before the Mission. He knew that the impossibility was only seeming, and for his editorials in the new magazine had chosen the title " China for Christ." In the fourth of these papers, which dwelt upon the definite plan before the Mission for evangelising all the inland provinces, he wrote (November 1875):

Want of trust is at the root of almost all our sins and all our weaknesses ; and how shall we escape it but by looking to Him and observing His faithfulness ? ... The man who holds God's faithfulness will not be foolhardy or reckless, but he will be ready for every emergency. The man who holds God's faithfulness will dare to obey Him, however impolitic it may appear.Abraham held God's faithfulness and offered up Isaac, " accounting that God was able to raise him from the dead." Moses held God's faithfulness and led the millions of Israel into the waste, howling wilderness. Joshua knew Israel well, and was ignorant neither of the fortifications of the Canaanites nor of their martial prowess, but he held God's faithfulness and led Israel across the Jordan. . . . The Apostles held God's faithfulness, and were not daunted by the hatred of the Jews or the hostility of the heathen.... " And what shall I more say ? for the time would fail me to tell " of those who, holding God's faithfulness, had faith, and by it " subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained. promises ... out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens ? "

Satan, too, has his creed : Doubt God's Faithfulness. " Hath God said ? Are you not mistaken as to His commands ? He could not really mean just that. You take an extreme view, give too literal a meaning to the words:" . . . How constantly, and, alas, how successfully are such arguments used to prevent whole-hearted trust in God, whole-hearted consecration to God! ... How many estimate difficulties in the, light of their own resources, and thus attempt little and often fail in the little they attempt! All God's giants have been weak men, who did great things for God because they reckoned on His being with them....

Oh! beloved friends, if there is a living God, faithful and true, let us hold His faithfulness. . . . Holding His faithfulness, we may go into every province of China. Holding His faithfulness, we may face with calm and sober but confident assurance of victory every difficulty and danger ; we may count on grace for the work, on pecuniary aid, on needful facilities, and on ultimate success. Let us not give Him a partial trust, but daily, hourly serve Him, counting on His faithfulness.

For ten years this had been, in the main, the attitude of the Mission, when in the spring of 1876 the first anniversary services were held to report progress. Mr. Taylor was by this time well enough to move about with the help of a strong walking-stick, and the new, young, earnest life that had come into the work with the outgoing pioneers was felt by all its friends and supporters. No more striking evidence could have been given of the place it was coming to hold in the sympathies of the Lord's people than the large and representative gatherings that filled the Mildmay Conference Hall. But remarkable as were the meetings, how little could the speakers really tell of all that had filled those first ten years-all that had been experienced of the love and faithfulness of God ! Statistics are not without their meaning, however, and it was with joy Mr. Taylor pointed out on the large map twenty-eight stations in five provinces in which churches had been gathered-six hundred converts having been baptized from the beginning. Of these, more than seventy were devoting their lives to making known the Gospel, and in them lay the chief hope of the future, specially as regarded the evangelisation of the unreached interior. Sixty-eight missionaries had been sent to China, of whom fifty-two were still connected with the Mission. Means for their support had never failed-though that also which is " more precious than gold " had not been lacking- the trial of your faith." Without a collection or an appeal of any kind for funds, fifty-two thousand pounds had been received, and the Mission was not and never had been in debt.1-{1 " We have never had to leave an open door unentered from lack of funds," said Mr. Taylor's Report on this occasion ; " and although the last penny had not unfrequently been spent, none of our native agents or foreign missionaries have ever lacked the promised ' daily bread.' Times of trial have always been times of blessing, and needed supplies have never failed" or come too late.}

How much of prayer and practical self-denial lay behind these facts the Report did not reveal, but the candidates at Pyrland Road could have supplied some details not lacking in interest. Preparing, themselves, to face danger and sacrifice in the work to which the Lord was calling them, it meant everything to have the encouragement of their leader's example. In him they found faith, not as a finished product to be obtained they knew not how, but as a practical, growing experience. They could see his faith lay hold upon God more and more, see him daily pay the price of spiritual power and fruitfulness.

It was a great delight to be with him in those days;" said Mr. Broumton. " He used to call Easton and me to his room for long talks about China, giving us advice as to how to go about our pioneering journeys, with many an illustration from his own experience. His interest in the outgoing of the Eighteen was intense:" ,

Of his first visit to Pyrland Road, while Mr. Taylor was still an invalid, another wrote: 1{1 The Rev. C. G. Moore, for many years a member of the China Inland Mission.}

Who that has known it can ever forget his bright, winning greeting ? It captivated you in a moment. He led me to his study, which was also the " office " of the Mission. It was the back room on the ground floor, and could be entered from the front sitting-room by large folding doors. Shall I say I was shocked, or surprised, or both ? At any rate I had an absolutely novel experience. The room was largely occupied with packingcases and some rough shelves set along one of the walls. Near the window, which looked out on the dreary back-gardens, was a writing-table littered with papers. In front of the fireplace where a fender is usually found was a low, narrow, iron bedstead, neatly covered with a rug-Mr. Taylor's chief resting-place by night and by day. I hardly think there was a scrap of carpet on the floor, and certainly not a single piece of furniture that suggested the slightest regard for comfort or appearances.

Mr. Taylor offered no word of apology or explanation, but lay down on his iron bedstead and eagerly plunged into a conversation, which was, for me, one of life's golden .hours. Every idea I had hitherto cherished of a " great man " was completely shattered : the high, imposing airs, and all the trappings were conspicuously absent ; but Christ's ideal of greatness was then and there so securely set in my heart, that it has remained through all the years, up to this moment. I strongly suspect .that, by his unconscious influence, Mr. Hudson Taylor did more than any other man of his, day to compel Christian people to revise their ideas of greatness... .

I mention these details because they throw light upon some of the important principles upon which Mr. Taylor based his life and service. He profoundly- realised that if the millions of China were to be evangelised, there would have to be a vast increase in self-denial and self-sacrifice upon the part of Christians at home. But how could he ask and urge others to do what he was not practising himself ? So he deliberately stripped his life, on all sides, of every appearance of self-consideration and self-indulgence. .

And it was just the same in China ; but there an additional principle came into action. He would not ask those who worked with him to face hardships he himself was not willing to endure. He never used his position as Director of the Mission to purchase for himself the least advantage or ease. He made it his, under all circumstances, to live in that spirit and practice of self-sacrifice which he expected to find in his brethren on the field. However hard his lot might be in China, every missionary knew that Mr. Taylor had suffered in the same way, and was ready to do so again. No man could suspect, at any time, that while he himself was bearing the cross, his leader, under more favourable circumstances, was shirking it. Herein was one explanation of the remarkable and affectionate attachment to Mr. Taylor on the part of so many in the Mission.

And now he was going back-back to China to speed the pioneers, as he fully hoped and expected, on their far inland journeys. A gracious answer to the prayers of many years had made this possible, in. the coming of his beloved sister and her husband, Mr. and Mrs. B. Broomhall, into the home department of the work. Long before the Mission came into existence he had written to them from, China (June 1860)

I have not given up hope of seeing you . . . I believe you will yet come. I believe you will be sent by God. And a happy work you will find it. We have only the Lord to look to for means, for health, for encouragement-and we need no other.,He gives us all ; and He best knows what we need.

How real was the faith involved in joining the Mission, when at length the way opened, may be judged from the fact that they had by that time a family of ten growing boys and girls. But this was perhaps one of their chief qualifications. What hearts are so large and what hands so free for others as those filled with love and service in which self has no part. Number 2 Pyrland Road, which became the home of Mr. and Mrs. Broomhall, soon radiated an atmosphere of helpfulness, spiritually and in other ways, that made it for many a long year the best loved centre of the Mission. Number 6 was still Mr. Taylor's home, but the two were practically thrown into one, the intervening house being occupied for offices and candidates. Mr. Taylor's little back room was now exchanged for a more cheerful study, and a Secretary was installed in the person of Mr. William Soltau, who took over much of his work. Barely waiting to see these arrangements completed, however, and to give time for the preparation of the party of eight who sailed with him, Mr. Taylor set out early in September (1876), notwithstanding the war-cloud that hung heavily over the eastern horizon.

For the negotiations that had dragged on so long at Peking had come at last to a stalemate. Nothing would induce the Chinese Government to give satisfaction of any sort for the murder of Mr. Margary ; and the British Ambassador, having exhausted diplomatic resources, was on the point of retiring to the coast to put the matter into the hands of the Admiral. It seemed impossible that war could be averted, and there were many among the friends of the Mission who strongly advised against Mr. Taylor's going out.

" You will all have to return," they said. " And as to sending off pioneers to the more distant provinces, it is simply out of the question."

It was indeed a critical juncture. After years of prayer and preparation, evangelists for the unentered provinces had been given ; had gone to China, and having acquired some knowledge of the language were ready to set forth. Could it be that the iron gate of the last ward-having opened thus far-was again to close, leaving the prayer of faith unanswered ? Mr. Taylor did not think so. Indeed he felt as sure that God's time had come, as he was that the men had been given. He was fully aware that in event of war, not the pioneers only, but all his fellow-workers might have to leave their inland stations. That matters could not look more threatening was obvious. Even before he sailed, though this he may not' have heard, Mr. Thomas Wade had actually left Peking to make way for the commencement of hostilities. Every effort had failed, and a war that might close the country entirely to missionary effort was all but begun.

But no, prayer had not failed. In the third-class cabin of the French Mail, as in the prayer meetings at Pyrland Road, fervent ' supplication was going up to God that He would overrule the crisis for the furtherance of His own great ends. With Him it is never too late. At the last moment, utterly improbable as it seemed, a change came over the Peking Foreign Office. More alive to the situation than his fellows, the Viceroy Li Hung-chang hurried to the coast, overtaking the British Ambassador just in time to reopen negotiations ; and there, at Chefoo, was signed the memorable Convention which threw open the door of access at last to the remotest parts of China. This was the news that awaited Mr. Taylor on his arrival in Shanghai, the agreement having been signed within a week of his leaving England ; and already three parties of the Eighteen had set out and were well on their way to the interior.

"Just as our brethren were ready," he wrote, " not too soon and not too late the long-closed door opened to them of its own accord."

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