BUT disappointment in the work was not the only thing that came to test the reality of Hudson Taylor's call to China. Even before his eyes were opened, through the failure of Gutzlaff's plans, to the darker side of missionary experience he was overtaken by trial of a very different kind, that went with him through long months and years, bringing the strongest influences to bear against unquestioning obedience. It was a test of faith, a call to sacrifice, perhaps the hardest that can come in a young man's life. And it began so soon -with that same Christmas of 1849.
For then it was, almost immediately after he had come to know the will of God for his future, that a countercurrent set in, as powerful as it was unexpected. He had just received a wonderful baptism of love and power, and was entering with unreserved consecration upon his lifeservice. And at that very point the tempter met him, met him with suggestions so natural and attractive that it seemed hardly possible they could be contrary to the mind of God. And yet those suggestions, had he followed them, would have led far away from China and effectually hindered the Lord's first, best plan for his life.
It was as will be anticipated a question of " falling in love," seriously, tremendously, and for the first time. But why not draw a veil over matters so intimate, especially if they were to end in disappointment ? That certainly would be the easier course and one we would willingly pursue but for the constant recurrence of the same danger in other lives. For many a young, intending missionary has made shipwreck upon the rocks that threatened Hudson Taylor now, and it may be that his experience will be used of God to safeguard some whose peril is known to Him alone.
It all began with the Christmas holidays and an ordinary friendship arising out of his sister's return from school. For Amelia did not come alone. The young music-teacher to whom she had become much attached during the term accompanied her, and added not a little to the brightness of the family-circle that already included their cousin from Barton-on-Humber.
To Hudson and his sister this reunion was delightful after their first long parting, and many were the hours spent in fellowship and prayer such as only young hearts know. To no one else could he speak so freely of the things that mattered most, and there was much to talk over concerning his new-found joy in the Lord as well as his call to China. And when the little sister discovered that some one else was beginning to take a first place in his affections she rejoiced unselfishly. Life would not be so lonely far away from home.
But Hudson saw difficulties ahead. True it had not occurred to him that the one he loved might be quite unsuited for the life he hoped to live in China. She was a Christian, a Methodist, and so bright and gifted that he could not imagine her to be lacking in missionary devotion. As a matter of fact Miss V. was decidedly attractive, and in addition to some musical training had a voice so sweet that it was a constant pleasure to those around her. She was happy among her new friends, and interested especially in the son of the household. But while sympathising to a certain extent with his feelings about China, there was a something lacking, and she would gladly have held him back.
This of course he did not realise, or if he felt it intangibly from the first he was far from admitting even to himself that it might prove a serious obstacle. No, the difficulties he felt, and felt increasingly as time passed on, arose from the uncertainties of his position and his lack of means,prospectively, to support a wife. Had there been any opening before him he might have had more hope. But how he was to go to China he had no idea, nor how he would be supported there. He knew of no society that sent out unordained men, unless perhaps the Chinese Association, and that soon came into such low water financially that it seemed doubtful whether it could continue to exist. The collapse of Dr. Gutzlaff's enterprise was seriously affecting missionary interest in China. On the whole it seemed more than likely that he would have to be a self-supporting missionary, or go in simple faith, trusting the Lord who sent him to provide. But that precluded any thought of marriage, at any rate for a long time to come. And meanwhile his lips were sealed. Someone else was sure to love her. Every one must who was near her and free to win her love. No one could care as he did ! That was beyond question. And yet, with such prospects or lack of prospects before him he must be silent.
This was the ground, then, on which the conflict commenced : not so much a struggle between love and duty, though it came to that at last, as a long fight of faith with questionings and fears. " No good thing will He withhold." Would it prove really true ? Surely his heart's desire was a good thing : yet how was it to be accomplished ? Could he leave all in the hands of God and simply trust-nothing but uncertainty ahead ?
The year that followed was full of perplexity and pain, in the midst of which his spiritual life was deepening, as may be seen from frequent letters to his sister who had returned to school.
" Dear Amelia," he wrote in September, " remember me in all your prayers. Never did I feel a greater need of watchfulness and prayer than at present. Praised be God, I know that the blood of Jesus cleanses from all sin ; but I feel my own weakness, my own nothingness. Without His aid I cannot stand for one moment ; but I look to the Strong for strength ; and though he that trusteth in man shall be disappointed, blessed are all they that put their trust in the Lord.I realise this blessedness. I feel that I can trust Him with all my concerns. I can and do 'praise Him for all that is past, and trust Him for all that's to come.' He has promised to withhold ' no good thing' from those that walk uprightly. I do love Him, and am determined to devote myself, body, soul and spirit, to His work.
" I have a stronger desire than ever to go to China. That land is ever in my thoughts. Think of it-three hundred and sixty million souls, without God or hope in the world ! Think of more than twelve millions of our fellow-creatures dying every year without any of the consolations of the Gospel. . . . Barnsley including the Common has only fifteen thousand inhabitants. Imagine what it would be if all these were to die in twelve months ! Yet in China hundreds are dying, year by year, for every man, woman and child in Barnsley. Poor, neglected China ! Scarcely any one cares about it. And that immense country, containing nearly a fourth of the human race, is left in ignorance and darkness.
Shall we whose souls are lighted
With wisdom from on high ;
Shall we to men benighted
The lamp of Life deny ?.....
" Pray for me, dear Amelia, that I may have more of the mind of Christ ; that I may be guided in all things by His Spirit and made very useful. Pray for the cause of God and expect an answer. Pray on for China. .. .
" You say ` let us leave all in the hands of God.' You are right. `The Lord God is a sun and shield : the Lord will give grace and glory no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly.' But remember His own word, ` I will yet for this be enquired of by the house of Israel to do it for them.' Make it a matter of prayer, Love, and then leave it in the hands of God our Father. I have prayed about it, and I am sure I can trust God. He will do all things well. God knows what is best, and we must learn to welcome His will, which is ` good, acceptable and perfect.' "
He was very busy at this time, rising early every morning for study. Latin, Greek, theology and medicine occupied every available moment even during business hours, and Sunday brought opportunities of ministry to others. Sharing a room with his cousin made it difficult to obtain much privacy, but " I go into the warehouse, stable, or anywhere," he wrote, " to be alone with God. And some most precious seasons I have. . . . Do your best to keep hold of Jesus. And if in an unguarded moment you should fall, humble yourself before God. ` If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.' We cannot be perfect as angels who have never sinned, nor as Adam before he fell. Sin always has had and always will have a power over us, if we look not to the Lord for strength. Yet, though we are vile in ourselves, we may be made `pure in heart' through the all-prevailing blood of Jesus. Washed in His blood we are even now `whiter than snow.' But it must be constant washing. Grace we every moment need. Oh seek this grace, strive for it, and may God bless you with ` a pure heart' for Christ's sake."
As the unstudied correspondence of a lad of only eighteen with a sister several years younger the above quotations have a special interest, and so also has the following letter bearing more directly upon the matter that was exercising his heart.
My DEAR AMELIA-I have to write to you at sundry times and in divers places, here a little and there a little... .
In your last note you suggest that it might be a good plan to write to the Chinese Association and ask whether they could send me out as a married man. You must excuse my differing from you in opinion. I think that to do so would be to effectually prevent them. They would naturally conclude that I wanted to get married without means, and that I hoped they would insure me from the consequences of such conduct. It would not do to write to them at all at present.
I have not, as you know, the slightest idea how I shall go. But this I know, I shall go, either alone or married. . . . I know God has called me to the work, and He will provide the means. But as you see I cannot send the information you desire. It is not reasonable to suppose that Miss V. would be willing to go and starve in a foreign land. I am sure I love her too well to wish her to do so. . . . You well know I have nothing, and nothing (financially) to hope for. Consequently I can enter into no engagement under present circumstances. I cannot deny that these things make me very sad. But my Father knows what is best. " No good thing will He withhold." I must live by faith, hang on by faith, simple faith, and He will do all things well.
Think not I am cold or indifferent. But what can I do ? I know I love her. To go without her would make the world a blank. But I cannot bring her to want. Oh, pray for me ! It is enough to distract me. May God bless and enable me to trust Him fully.
Through waves, and clouds, and storms,
He gently clears thy way
Wait thou His time, so shall this night
Soon end in joyous day.
I trust it will be so : God grant it may !
You say you are sure I might win her if I could see my way to provide for her. But you see I cannot. And if I could, how do you know that I might have her ? Do let me know, for I am so anxious about it. You say I should ensure this best by being sent out. Very true. But who is to send me ? The Wesleyans have no station in China. . . . The Established Church have one or two, but I am not a Churchman . . . and would not do for them. The Baptists and Independents have stations there, but I do not hold their views... . The Chinese Association is very low in funds. So God and God alone is my hope, and I need no other.
Except the Lord conduct the plan,
The best-concerted schemes are vain
And never can succeed.
With you I could wish, were it possible, that the matter should be decided at Christmas. But what reason have you for thinking it might if circumstances were favourable ? Do you suppose she thinks or knows that I love her ? Or does she, think you, care about me ? Do answer these questions plainly.-Your affectionate brother,
J. H. TAYLOR.
A reply seems to have come from his sister that perplexed while it encouraged him.
" I wonder how often I have read and reread your letters," he wrote a fortnight later, " especially the last. As I do so, my mind is filled with conflicting hopes and fears. But I am determined to trust in God."
Thus winter passed slowly by, and with early spring came a first step toward China. It was now more than a year since the purpose of God had been made known to him,and he felt the time had come for more definite preparation for his life-work. Five years in his father's business had made him quite at home in dispensing medicines and even prescribing for ordinary ailments. He needed still to earn his own living, but felt that as assistant to a doctor in good practice he might at the same time make progress with his medical studies. It seemed but a small step in the direction desired, but it was all that was open to him, and the Lord would guide as to what was to follow.
" I am determined," he wrote to his sister, " to be more than ever His, and to redouble my diligence to make my calling and election sure. Continue to pray for E. Pray in faith and leave the results with God... . I am determined not to waste time any more in writing letters as I have done, but to endeavour in all things to be about my Master's work. May He help me. . . . It is my desire in all my ways to acknowledge Him : and He shall direct my path.
" Now that I have decided to leave home, I want you to ask that the Lord will guide me into a suitable situation, where I may get and do good and become fitted for China. . . ."
Shortly after this he had occasion to write again to Mr. Pearse in London. The letter is worth quoting, as illustrating his careful attention to detail, and sense of stewardship in connection with money given for the Lord's work, even the smallest sums.
21 CHEAPSIDE, BARNSLEY, March 31, 1851.
Mr. George Pearse.
DEAR SIR-You will almost think I have forgotten the Chinese Union and have not its interests at heart, on account of my long silence. Such, however, is not the case, although from pressure of business I have not been able to devote to it the attention it deserves. I have collected rather more than two pounds. Please send me word as to how I shall remit this sum to you. If I send a post office order it will cost sixpence ; but I can get it placed to your credit at Glynn & Co. or any other London banker's for two or three pence. Meanwhile I will do all in my power to get a few more subscribers, as the interests of China lie very near my heart. May I be fitted to engage in this great work. Please excuse haste, and-Believe me, yours in our Risen Lord,
J. H. TAYLOR.
Had Mr. Pearse replied that the money might be sent by post office order, as the difference of two or three pence was a small matter, it is doubtful whether he would have heard much more from Hudson Taylor. To him every penny was a trust to be used for his Master. " A little thing is a little thing," he often quoted in later life, " but faithfulness in little things is a great thing." Mr. Pearse, however, appreciated his inquiry, and wrote mentioning a bank through which the money might be forwarded ; to which the Barnsley lad replied, "I have paid through our Bankers £2 : 5 to your credit at Messrs. Jones, Lloyd & Co., Lothbury, according to your directions, and you will receive it on Monday. Please acknowledge the receipt of this sum, that I may be able to show the subscribers that it has been remitted. Have you a Report, or any other publication telling of the work done by your Society, and how the funds are applied ? ... I enclose a list of the contributors. The amounts are small, but I have no doubt that when more is known about the Society and its operations I shall be able to collect more."
The field truly is great, and the means at present employed for its cultivation appear very inadequate. But . . . it is " not by might nor by power " but by the influence of the Holy Spirit alone that good can be accomplished, and God often makes the weak things of this world to confound the mighty. He and He only can raise up and qualify suitable labourers and own and bless those already on the field... .
I have devoted myself to missionary work in China in obedience I believe to His call, and am at present studying medicine and surgery that I may have more opportunities of usefulness and perhaps be able to support myself when there. This, however, I leave in His hands, believing that if I seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness all these things shall be " added " according to His promise.
Any suggestions you may be able to give me as to means for promoting the cause or fitting myself for more extensive usefulness would be thankfully received by-Yours in our Risen Lord,
J. H. TAYLOR.
Mr. Pearse was evidently interested. He seems to have consulted his Committee and to have written intimating that the Society might be willing to help in the expense of a medical education if they considered Mr. Taylor a suitable candidate for China. This letter with its inquiries as to his religious views, education, etc., called forth the following reply. Though long, it is given in full, as manifesting the spirit that actuated the young intending missionary, a spirit at once appreciative, dignified, independent and humble.
21 CHEAPSIDE, BARNSLEY, April 25, 1851.
To George Pearse, Esq., Hackney.
DEAR SIR-I have not been able hitherto, from press of business, to answer your kind favours of the 17th and 21st inst., and am sorry :hat, in haste, I neglected to enclose the list of contributors. Herewith you will receive it.
I feel obliged to you for mentioning the work on China, which I shall endeavour to procure ; and am grateful to your Committee for their kindness in promising access to a London hospital and lectures.I fear, however, that I shall not be able to avail myself of these privileges, as I have no means of supporting myself in London, and may not be able to obtain a situation there that would allow sufficient time to make use of them.
I have for some time past been looking out for employment in a Surgery, as I think that would afford better opportunities than I at present enjoy for acquiring medical and surgical knowledge. My present position is perhaps as favourable as most with regard to opportunities for self-improvement. It consists chiefly in prescribing and dispensing, and we have the privilege of reading during business hours if all the work is done. But the number of anatomical and similar works that I have access to is limited, and their price is very high, placing many altogether beyond my reach. So that apart from the benefit to be gained from practical surgery, the acquirement of the theory would be facilitated by the situation I am seeking.
As you are so kind as to interest yourself in my case, I may now perhaps state the reasons that make me think myself called to the work of evangelisation in China.
From my earliest childhood I have felt the strivings of the Holy Spirit, and when about fourteen years of age I gave my heart to God. About six months after that time I went into a bank as clerk, and remained about nine months, when I had to leave on account of my sight, which was injured through much writing by gas-light. The others in the bank were worldly men, and religion was seldom spoken of without a sneer. I began to place too great a value on the things of this world and to neglect private prayer. Religious duties became irksome to me and I fell from grace. But God in His infinite mercy caused my eyes to fail, and I was obliged to leave.
I continued in a state of religious unconcern until June 1849, when God was pleased to strike home a conviction of my sinful and dangerous state while I was reading a tract accidentally left by a friend. I have not the slightest doubt but that this was in answer to the prayers of my parents, and of my sister, who had even made a memorandum a month or two previously to the effect that she would never cease praying for me until I was saved, and that she believed her prayers would be answered before long. I thank God that through His grace I was enabled to resolve never to rest until I found peace with Him through our Lord Jesus Christ. Shortly afterwards it pleased Him again to cause His face to shine upon me, and I was enabled by faith to realise the merit of His atonement.
About Christmas 1849, I am sorry to have to say, that notwithstanding all the love the Saviour had manifested to me, I began to slacken in my closet duties. A spiritual lethargy seemed to have crept over me. I did not enjoy communion with God as heretofore, and felt something was wrong, so wrong that I feared I might fall away from grace and be finally lost. Earnestly I cried to God to show me the hindrance and take it away, promising Him, if He would only save me completely, that I would do anything in His cause He might direct.
Never shall I forget the feeling that came over me then. Words can never describe it. I felt that I was in the very presence of God, entering into covenant with the Almighty. I felt as though I wished to withdraw my promise, but could not. Something seemed to say " Your prayer is answered, your conditions are accepted." And from that time the conviction has never left me that I was called to China.
I obtained all the works I could on that interesting country, and read them as I was able. I see there an unbounded field of usefulness, and there by the grace of God I mean to go. I feel my own salvation depends on it. May I be made the humble instrument of much good.
Mr. Whitworth, the respected Local Treasurer of the Bible Society, lent me several numbers of The Watchman in which were papers on China. There I first saw a notice of your Society. Afterwards, seeing more about it in The Gleaner, I ventured to write to you in the hope of being able to do a little to forward the cause.
I obtained through Mr. Whitworth a copy of the writings of St. Luke in Chinese, and discovered the meaning of many characters by comparing passages with the aid of an English Concordance. I also procured a copy of Marshman's Clavis Sinica. Medhurst's Grammar was ordered but could not be procured. But I found I could not with advantage continue the study of the language without a Dictionary, which I was not able to afford. So I thought I should do more good by studying necessary subjects such as Anatomy, Physiology, Medicine and Surgery, which accordingly I have done.
I will now endeavour to answer your questions:
I. Some of the reasons that make me think, nay, make me sure (for I have no doubt on the matter) that I am truly converted to God are as follows
The things I used formerly to delight in now give me no pleasure, while reading the Word, prayer and the means of grace, which were formerly distasteful to me, are now my delight.
Once the world was all my treasure,
And the world my heart possessed
Now I taste sublimer pleasure
Since the Lord has made me blest.
I know I have passed from death unto life because I love the brethren. The Spirit of God bears direct witness with my spirit that I am His child. My mind is kept in perfect peace because I trust in Him. And I feel no doubt that should I be called hence, when this earthly tabernacle is dissolved I have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. I feel I am but a stranger here. Heaven is my home . . . I know that in myself there is nothing that can merit Heaven. I am a poor, helpless, hell-deserving sinner. But in Him all fulness dwells. I am, praised be God, a sinner saved by grace.
II. My age will be nineteen on the 21st of May 1851. Of course I am unmarried.
III. As to the general state of my health : I have never had any serious illness, but cannot be called robust. I have never been better than at present, and intend to take more care of my health than I have previously done, having often neglected exercise for weeks together in order to have more time for study.
IV. My occupation has been, since Christmas 1845, with the exception of nine months spent in the bank, that of assistant to my father, who is a chemist and druggist.
V. My education was carried on at home until I was eleven years of age. Then I went to school, and continued there until I was thirteen, when the master resigning without arranging for an efficient substitute, I left at the Christmas vacation and came into the shop. Besides the regular routine of study, I worked at Latin, Euclid and Algebra, in which I took great interest. Since then I have had access to a tolerably good library, and have acquired the rudiments of Greek as well as of Anatomy and Physiology.
VI. With regard to denominational views : at first I joined the Wesleyan Methodists, as my parents and friends were members of that body. But not being able to reconcile the late proceedings with the doctrines and precepts of Holy Scripture, I withdrew, and am at present united to the branch Society.
Apologising for thus intruding upon your time-I remain, dear Sir, yours in our beloved Redeemer,
JAMES HUDSON TAYLOR.
Meanwhile his prayers for guidance were being answered through an opening that occurred in Hull for an assistant to one of the busiest doctors there. An aunt on his mother's side was married to a brother of this Dr. Hardey, and it was probably her influence that secured the position for her nephew in Barnsley. In many ways it seemed the very thing he needed, and from his point of view was none the less desirable for being within easy reach of Barton, where Amelia and the young music-teacher were still in Mrs. Hodson's school. It was not London, nor did it enable him to avail himself of the aid Mr. Pearse and his Society had offered. But it was the way providentially opened after much prayer, and as such was thankfully accepted.
On one of the last days before leaving Barnsley, Hudson spoke for the first time in public. This was at Royston, within sight of the fine old church in which James and Betty Taylor had been married. There on his wedding-day the stone-mason had first confessed his allegiance to a new Master, and there seventy-five years later came the great grandson who bore his name to give his first public testimony to that Master's saving grace.
" On Tuesday I went to preach at Royston," he wrote to his sister the following day. " The room was crowded ; there would be from fifty to sixty present. I never was so blessed in my life. We had a prayer-meeting afterwards in which ten or twelve took part. One little girl of about thirteen came to the penitent-form and professed to find peace. She is young, but Jesus can keep her."
Thus the quiet years of life at home drew to a close, and early in May the separation came that meant so much for both Hudson and his mother. Full well they knew it was but the beginning of that longer parting toward which their faces were set. But they spoke much of the joy and privilege of suffering for Jesus' sake and trusted Him about the sorrow.
It was on his nineteenth birthday that after a brief visit to his grandparents in Hull the new apprentice took up his duties with Dr. Hardey. The day was naturally a busy one, not till nearly midnight did he find time for the few lines to his sister that could not be omitted.
" From what I have seen of my situation: he wrote. I think I shall like it exceedingly. Of course I felt very strange and awkward at first, but I have begun to be more at home now and to know better where to find things and what to do."
And then his thoughts carried him away from his new surroundings and across the Humber to the quiet, old-world township in which his dear ones lived. How near he was to them at last ! His heart beat quick with hope as he realised that almost any day he might see them.
" I am to have an hour to myself at dinner and another at teatime," he continued eagerly. " I almost think I shall be able to run over to Barton sometimes in the evening, by a little arrangement and being willing to stay over-time when needed.. .
" Go on praying for me and all the others. You cannot think how happy I feel in my Saviour's love. Oh, He has loved me, the chief of sinners ! I love Him for it. He has hitherto granted all my prayers and He will grant me more before midsummer. `The crooked shall be made straight.' You understand, Love. Farewell."
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