PREPARATION FOR CHINA, IN BARNSLEY AND IN HULL
1850-1852. AET. 17-20.
THUS closed the old year and the old life, and with the dawn of 1850 came a new beginning of things for Hudson Taylor. He was seventeen and a half years of age, and employed as we have seen in his father's shop. Good prospects were opening before him as a chemist, and the powers he afterwards displayed in the development of a great mission would have made him successful in this or any other line of business. But now all was changed. A work of which he knew next to nothing claimed him ; a work that must absorb every energy of his being, and might require the sacrifice of life itself. How to set about it he had no idea ; how even to make preparation was difficult to discover. But the call of God had come, and there could be no looking back. Whatever might be involved, the future held but one thing for him --to do his Master's will in and for China.
But what problems faced him as he thought of it ! He, a mere lad, a chemist's assistant in a provincial town, what could he do for China ? Wrapped in the proud exclusiveness of centuries, there it lay, that mightiest empire of the East -- vast in size and population, shrouded in mystery, fascinating, repellent, appalling in its need, inaccessible in its seclusion. How could he hope to forward there the coming of the Kingdom of God ? " Then go for Me to China." That was definite and final. So he began at once to pray for guidance to learn all he could as to his future field.
And here it is necessary to remind ourselves how very little was known about missionary work and lands even so recently as the middle of last century. China especially was terra incognita. True, five ports had been opened along the coast to the residence of foreigners,(1- The Treaty Ports of Canton, Amoy, Fuchow, Ningpo and Shanghai, opened by the Treaty of Nanking, which concluded the first opium war with England, in 1842.) and the London Missionary Society, for nearly forty years the only British Mission at work in that land, had been reinforced by several newly organised efforts. (2- The order in which the British Societies commenced work in China, up to this point, is as follows 1807. The London Missionary Society ; sending Robert Morrison to Canton.After the Treaty of Nanking1843. The British and Foreign Bible Society. 1844. The Church Missionary Society.1845. The Baptist Missionary Society.1847. The English Presbyterian Mission, whose first representative was the Rev. William Burns ; see Chaps. 25-29.)But they were all in their infancy ; and beyond the Treaty Ports practically nothing was being attempted. In the absence of definite knowledge about the interior, exaggerated rumours were afloat. The wealth and learning of the people and the wonders of their ancient civilisation, as reported by some travellers, were only exceeded by the cruelty and ignorance enlarged upon by others. But travellers of any kind who had penetrated beyond the coast were few and far between.
Of course, no one familiar with the far East was to be found in Barnsley. The circle in which Hudson Taylor had been brought up had no connections there, and even for books upon the subject he hardly knew where to turn. One friend might be able to help him, and that was Mr. Whitworth, the founder and superintendent of the Sunday School, who had recently become connected with the British and Foreign Bible Society. He would know something at any rate about the circulation of the Bible in China, and might possess a copy of the Chinese Scriptures in whole or part. So to Mr. Whitworth he went.
The visit was encouraging, for his old friend was able to give him a copy, in the Mandarin dialect, of the writings of St. Luke. This was a treasure indeed. And from him too he may have heard that Medhurst's standard work on China was to be found in Barnsley, in the library of the Congregational minister.
Moved by desires he could not put into words, the eager lad called upon the gentleman in question. It is interesting to have his own account of the visit, accompanied as it is with a glimpse into his deeper feelings at the time and the earnestness with which he sought to prepare for the future before him.
" It seemed to me highly probable," he said long after, " that the work to which I was thus called might cost my life. China was not open then as it is now. Few missionary societies had representatives there, and few books on the subject were accessible to me. I learned, however, that a minister in my native town possessed a copy of Medhurst's China, and calling upon him ventured to ask a loan of the book.
" This he kindly granted, inquiring why I wished to read it. I told him that God had called me to spend my life in missionary service in that land.
" ` And how do you propose to go there ? ' he inquired.
"I answered that I did not at all know; that it seemed to me probable that I should need to do as the Twelve and the Seventy had done in Judea, go without purse or scrip, relying on Him who had sent me to supply all my need."
Kindly placing his hand on my shoulder, the minister replied, "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."
"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."
"Medhurst's book on China emphasised the value of Medical Missions there, and this directed my attention to medical studies as a mode of preparation.
" My beloved parents neither disapproved nor encouraged my desire to engage in missionary work. They advised me, with such convictions, to use all the means in my power to develop the resources of body, mind and soul, and to wait prayerfully upon God, quite willing, should He show me that I was mistaken, to follow His guidance, or to go forward if in due time He should open the way to missionary service. The importance of this advice I have since had occasion to prove. I began to take more exercise in the open air to strengthen my general health. My feather bed was soon dispensed with, and as many other comforts as possible, in order to prepare for a rougher sort of life. I began also to do what Christian work was in my power, in the way of tract distribution, Sunday-school teaching, and visiting the poor and sick as opportunity afforded." (1-Quoted from his own brief but well-known Autobiography, A Retrospect, from which extracts have already been made.)
His purpose went deep, and from the first he realised that a call to missionary work in China involved the beginning of true missionary-life at home. " A voyage across the ocean," he often said in later years, " does not make any man a soul-winner." So to humble, loving efforts for the good of those around him he gave himself with renewed diligence, and especially to the practice of his life-calling as a fisher of men."
Another form of preparation entered upon with ardour was the study of Chinese, that formidable task requiring, as Milne put it, " bodies of iron, lungs of brass, heads of oak, hands of spring-steel, eyes of eagles, hearts of apostles, memories of angels and lives of Methuselah." 2(2 The Rev. William Milne, who joined Dr. Morrison in 1813. A man of remarkable linguistic gifts, he took a large share in Morrison's literary labours. His lamented death took place in 1822 ; but far and wide, wherever Chinese is spoken, Milne is at work to-day. His well-known dialogue The Two Friends is circulated still by tens of thousands, and is generally regarded as " the most popular tract in China.") Courageous in his inexperience Hudson Taylor set to work, despite the fact that he had neither teacher nor books with the exception of that one little volume of the writings of St Luke. A grammar would have cost no less than four guineas, and a dictionary could hardly have been purchased for fifteen. Needless to say he had neither. But hard work and ingenuity accomplished wonders, as may be judged from the fact that within a few weeks he and the cousin who was with him in the shop had found out the meaning of over five hundred characters.
" The method we pursue is as follows," he wrote to his sister on February 14. " We find a short verse in the English version, and then look out a dozen or more (also in English) that have one word in common with it. We then turn up the first verse in Chinese, and search through all the others for some character in common that seems to stand for the English word. This we write down on a slip of paper as its probable equivalent. Then we look all through the Chinese Gospel for this same character in different connections. It occurs as a rule pretty frequently. And if in every case we find the same word in the English version, we copy the character in ink into our dictionary, adding the meaning in pencil. Afterwards, if further acquaintance shows it to be the true meaning, we ink that over also. At first we made slow progress, but now we can work much faster, as with few exceptions we know all the most common characters. In our dictionary we have four hundred and fifty-three put down as certain, and many others that are not fully proved. About two hundred more we know as certain that we have not copied into the dictionary yet, and many besides that are only probable.
" I have begun to get up at five in the morning," he continued, " and so find it necessary to go to bed early at night. I must study if I mean to go to China. I am fully decided to go, and am making every preparation I can. I intend to rub up my Latin, to learn Greek and the rudiments of Hebrew, and to get as much general information as possible. I need all your prayers."
But in preparing for the future Hudson Taylor did not neglect present opportunities. With his practical turn of mind he saw that something might be done without delay, even in Barnsley, to forward the cause to which his life was given. Go himself he could not, perhaps for years to come ; but he was none the less responsible here and now for the salvation of perishing souls in China. He could pray and lead others to pray, give and encourage others in giving. And just at this juncture a new movement set on foot by Dr. Gutzlaff of Hong-Kong came to his Knowledge that seemed to afford the very channel needed.
For hitherto he had hardly known how to communicate with China. Large as was the field, the Wesleyans had no mission there. Work in the Treaty Ports was being carried on by other societies ; but even then Hudson Taylor longed after the unreached interior-that vast waiting world, still destitute of the Gospel. If only some one were seeking to carry the light farther afield ! But every way seemed blocked. Missionaries were restricted to the coast-board provinces, and the Chinese Christians were so few and far between that even had they been fitted for it none could be spared for this pioneering work.
What was the joy therefore with which Hudson Taylor learned of this new movement, through papers lent him by Mr. Whitworth, and that a society had been organised in London to do the very work on which his heart was set. Interdenominational in character " The Chinese Association," as it was called, aimed at employing native evangelists to co-operate with any existing missions, but chiefly with Dr. Gutzlaff of Hong-Kong in an enterprise that bid fair to solve the problem of how to send the Gospel to the unreached interior. Quite a number were already working under his supervision, and great was the success that seemed to attend their efforts.
Burning with love to Christ and zeal for the advancement of His cause Dr. Gutzlaff had returned from Hong-Kong a few months previously, (1- Dr. Gutzlaff reached Europe early in 1850.) and had commenced in London as a starting-point a missionary crusade of the most remarkable kind. From Ireland to Hungary he passed, proclaiming in all the leading capitals of Europe the duty of the Christian Church toward the unevangelised millions of China. For the first time the need and claims of that great land came home to many a heart, with the result that multitudes were on their knees praying as never before. It was prayer for which Gutzlaff primarily appealed, prayer for the outpouring of the Spirit of God upon China in its age long darkness. But true prayer, potent in itself, is sure to bring about practical results, and in this case quite a number of organised efforts grew up in London and on the Continent that resulted in permanent blessing.
Gutzlaff's piety was deep and real, his schemes were large and his optimism unbounded. He was a man of unusual gifts, and as Interpreter to the British Government in Hong Kong occupied a position of influence. So great was his enthusiasm for the spread of the Gospel that he had risked his life repeatedly in daring attempts to reach the interior, as well as in voyages along the entire coast. (2- Dr. Gutzlaff, wearing Chinese dress, made seven journeys during the years 1831-35 along the Chinese coast, landing at places even as far north as Tien-tsin, and risking his life again and again in earnest efforts to make known the Gospel. Dr. Medhurst, at the request of the L.M.S., made a similar journey in 1835, seven years before the opening of the Treaty Ports.) With considerable experience as a sailor he even engaged himself as mate on a Chinese junk, and at another time as cook, in order to visit places to which no foreign vessels sailed and obtain opportunities for making known the truth as it is in Jesus.(1- See Ball's China, published in 1854, PP. 59,60)Though not strictly speaking a missionary, he lived for one thing only-the extension of the Kingdom of God. To this he devoted his large salary, his remarkable powers of mind and body and all his available time. He wrote and published eighty works in no fewer than eight different languages, including a translation into Chinese of both the Old and New Testaments. He founded " The Chinese Union," a native missionary society whose members were to carry the Gospel far and wide to every part of the eighteen provinces, and he awakened Europe one may almost say with enthusiasm in support of this cause, everywhere organising prayer-meetings and associations to carry on the work. The new society in London was one of these, and immediately claimed the sympathy of Hudson Taylor.
According to tabulated reports brought home by Dr. Gutzlaff, the evangelists of " The Chinese Union " inaugurated six years previously had met with amazing encouragement. They now numbered a hundred and thirty men, engaged in systematic preaching throughout the interior and in the distribution of Christian literature. They had circulated over ten thousand New Testaments, besides many Bibles and countless books and tracts. They wrote long and detailed letters from almost all the provinces of China, telling of journeys even to the borders of Mongolia and Tibet. And last but not least, they had baptized, "upon examination and satisfactory confession of their faith," no fewer than 2871 converts. Such results, within so short a time, could not but arouse the deepest interest.
All through the spring and summer these developments were delighting the earnest lad in Barnsley. An excellent magazine, quite above the average of religious papers, was commenced in March of this year to supply the latest tidings from Dr. Gutzlaff's workers, as well as missionary information from other parts of the world. Hudson Taylor took it in from the first, and the careful study with which he followed it for years formed in itself a valuable education in missionary principles and practice. From its pages he learned of many on the Continent as well as in Great Britain who were engaged in active efforts for the evangelisation of China. The undertakings represented at Barmen and Cassel, the Pilgrim Missionary Institution of St. Chrischona, John Evangelist Gossner and his devoted workers, the Moravians of Herrnhut, and the Missionary Societies of Basel and Berlin all became familiar to him as the months went by. It informed him also of the varied labours of George Muller of Bristol, who during this and the previous year had expended more than £2500 on missionary work in Roman Catholic and heathen lands. This well-directed magazine, in short, was used of God to introduce Hudson Taylor into a new world of Christian enterprise, unsectarian in its character and international in its interests, preparing him while still in his teens for the far-reaching associations of coming years. (1- This interesting paper, The Gleaner in the Missionary Field, seems to have been edited by the Secretaries of the Chinese Association, or, as it was afterwards called, the Chinese Evangelisation Society. Although no names are given, it is easy to recognise Mr. George Pearse of the London Stock Exchange as well as Mr. Richard Ball of Taunton in many of its articles. The latter was a man of literary gift as well as spiritual insight, and both were deeply taught in the Word of God.)
By means of The Gleaner also he was enabled to follow the operations of the new society in London. Its character so impressed him that he ventured after a time upon the following letter, little realising to how much its modest overtures would lead.
21 CHEAPSIDE, BARNSLEY,
July 29, 1850.
To Mr. George Pearse, Secretary of the Chinese Association.
SIR-Some time ago, Mr. Whitworth, the respected Local Treasurer of the Bible Society, directed my attention to the Chinese Association,as advertised in The Watchman, and in The Gleaner in the Missionary Field. I have seen several notices of its usefulness.
Feeling deeply interested in the spread of Christianity among the Chinese, and having determined as soon as Providence shall open my way to devote myself to that extensive and almost unbounded field of Christian enterprise, I wish during the interval to promote the work as much as possible. I have therefore taken the liberty of addressing you as Secretary. I shall be much obliged if you will forward at your earliest convenience a few circulars or collecting cards, as well as any information, rules, etc., calculated to assist me in introducing the work to my friends.
Praying the great Head of the Church, without whose blessing nothing can prosper, greatly to forward your efforts,-I remain, Sir, yours respectfully,
JAMES H. TAYLOR.
But reports had begun to reach England by this time of the doubtful character of Dr. Gutzlaff's organisation, and the reply from Mr. Pearse was evidently discouraging. Further developments tended only to confirm the fear that, with all his brilliant gifts and rare devotion, Gutzlaff sadly lacked common sense and that " discernment of spirits " so necessary in dealing with an oriental people. In a word, he had been systematically swindled, as the German missionary acting as his locum tenens in Hong Kong discovered. Few of his so-called evangelists had travelled beyond Canton, and many of their glowing reports had been concocted in opium-dens a few minutes only from his own door. It was a painful and almost incredible exposure, and no one suffered more from grief and disappointment than the noble-minded leader, who did not long survive the failure of his work.(1-Dr. Gutzlaff passed away at Hong-kong on the 9th of August 1851, devotedly labouring among the Chinese until his brief but fatal illness came on. The Gleaner for January 1852 supplied the following details. Even in his last hours, all his thoughts were directed to the evangelisation of China. He spoke of it with great confidence, and in the delirium of fever frequently expressed bright hopes for the blessing and regeneration of his beloved Sinim. Truly of him it may be said that he departed this life and entered the presence of the Lord bearing the millions of China upon his heart.")
And yet -- had Gutzlaff failed ? His plans miscarried grievously and his projects came to nothing. But prayer and faith cannot fail. More perhaps than any man in his day he had seen the commanding vision-China won for Christ-and had given himself, his all, to bring it to pass. " God buries His workmen, but carries on His work." Gutzlaff died in faith, entering, as was said of him, the presence of the Lord with the millions of China on his heart. And the aims he had never been able to realise, the ideals that seemed to fail-of a native agency and widespread evangelistic work-fell as good seed into other hearts, to bear fruit at last in every part of China.
Long years after, when the China Inland Mission had become a fact in all the inland provinces, its founder loved to refer to Dr. Gutzlaff as in a very real sense the father of the work. It was in any case a remarkable providence that brought this burning spirit with its prophetic vision across the orbit of Hudson Taylor's life just at this time. It could not but be that he was disappointed and in a measure discouraged by the turn events had taken. Among the friends and supporters of Gutzlaff's enterprise, whose interest had been aroused chiefly by his own enthusiasm, there was naturally a swing of the pendulum in the other direction when these disclosures came to light. A strong reaction set in, and for a time it seemed as though the whole movement would flicker out and leave no permanent results. But those whose hearts God had touched felt only the more responsible for the enlightenment of a people so obviously in need of the Gospel. It was a period of sifting that revealed the true character of many in the homelands as well as in China. But out of it all grew clearer knowledge, stronger faith, and a few undertakings of the right sort. Among these were the Moravian Mission to Tibet, with other German efforts, and in London the work with which Mr. Pearse was connected, the society that ultimately sent Hudson Taylor to Shanghai.
And lastly Hudson himself came out of it by the grace of God, more than ever determined to give his life to China. It was a test that might well have turned back one whose " call " depended chiefly on emotion. But, as the following letter shows, it only stirred the Barnsley lad to deeper earnestness and prayer, and served to teach him lessons of inestimable value.
21 CHEAPSIDE, BARNSLEY,
August 7, 1850.
To Mr. George Pearse.
DEAR SIR-I write to acknowledge your kindness in answering my note, to thank you for the Report and to avail myself of your permission to write again for further information.
I think, though the aspect of the Institution is at present in many respects discouraging, we may hope for better days. Notwithstanding that the character of the Chinese seems very unfavourable for the reception of the Gospel, we have the promise that all shall know Him, whom to know is life eternal. We know not what we might have been, had it not been for Christianity. Christ has died that all might turn, repent and live. We who do know the advantage, and experience the renovating influence of religion are bound to propagate the Gospel among all peoples. I think with you that under the supervision of European and American missionaries much good may be done by native agency.
"The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few." We cannot be too much in earnest in the prosecution of this great work. The missionaries should be men of apostolic zeal, patience and endurance, willing to be all things to all men. May the Lord raise up suitable instruments, and fit me for this work.
On Dr. Gutzlaff's return to China, will the Institution be remodelled, or can further frauds be prevented in any way? Have you any collecting books or cards ? If you will kindly forward me a few, or otherwise authorise me to collect, I will endeavour to gather a few pounds if possible. Apologising for troubling you,-I remain, dear Sir, yours respectfully,
J. HUDSON TAYLOR.
Thus amid all the discouragements of a peculiarly difficult time, we see his stedfast figure pressing on.
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