SEPTEMBER AND OCTOBER 1852. AET.20-21
FOG-HORNS were sounding on every hand when a coasting steamer plying between Hull and London made her way slowly up the Thames. It was Saturday evening, September 25, and Hudson Taylor amongst others was expecting to land that night. But the pall of mist only gathered more and more heavily over the great city, until there was nothing for it but to cast anchor and wait till morning. By noon,it was possible to reach the Tower, and most of the passengers went ashore. A quiet Sunday followed for those who remained on board, of which Hudson Taylor was specially thankful in view of the new phase of life opening before him.
How new it was and how great his need of the strength that comes from God alone no one had any idea but himself. Not to his mother, nor even to the sister who spent the last days with him at Drainside had he spoken of the decision taken before leaving Hull that now filled his mind as he paced the deck. His friends and parents knew that he was going up to London to support himself, if possible, while completing his medical studies. They knew that the Chinese Evangelisation Society had offered financial help, and concluded that as he had declined similar offers from bane he must be sufficiently provided for. And so he was by nothing more and nothing less than all the promises of God. He had a little money in his pocket and a few pounds bid by toward an outfit for China. He had a promise also of help with _ his hospital fees, and an invitation to be the guest for a few days or weeks of his bachelor uncle, while looking for a situation. But beyond this there was nothing, humanly speaking, between him and want in the great city in which he was almost a stranger.
Yet this caused him no anxiety as he faced the coming winter. For the future, near as well as distant, he had one all-sufficient confidence. If that could fail, it were better to make the discovery in London than far away in China. Deliberately and of his own free will he had cut himself off from possible sources of supply that he might make full proof, under difficult circumstances, of the promised care of God alone. It was God, the living God he needed ; a stronger faith to grasp His faithfulness, and more experience of the practicability of dealing with Him directly about every need. Comfort or discomfort in London, means or the lack of means, seemed to him a small matter compared with deeper knowledge of the One on whom everything depended. And now had come an unexpected opportunity for putting that knowledge to the test, and he was going forward strong in the assurance that the Lord who had already responded so graciously to his little faith would see and would provide.
Of the way in which he had been led to this position just before leaving Drainside the following is his own account
By-and-by the time drew near when it was thought desirable that I should leave Hull to attend the medical course of the London Hospital.A little while spent there, and then I had every reason to believe that my life-work in China would commence. But much as I had rejoiced at the willingness of God to hear and answer prayer and to help His half-trusting, half-timid child, I felt that I could not go to China with out having still further developed and tested my power to rest upon His faithfulness ; and a marked opportunity for doing so was providentially afforded me.
My dear father had offered to bear all the expense of my stay in London. I knew, however, that, owing to recent losses, it would mean a considerable sacrifice for him to undertake this just when it seemed necessary for me to go forward. I had recently become acquainted with the Committee of the Chinese Evangelisation Society,in connection with which I ultimately left for China, and especially with its secretary, my esteemed and much-loved friend Mr. George Pearse, then of the Stock Exchange, but now and for many years himself a missionary. Not knowing of my father's proposition, the Committee also kindly offered to bear my expenses while in London. When these proposals were first made to me, I was not quite clear as to what I ought to do, and in writing to my father and the secretaries, told them that I would take a few days to pray about the matter before deciding any course of action. I mentioned to my father that I had had this offer from the Society, and told the. secretaries also of his proffered aid.
Subsequently, while waiting upon God in prayer for guidance, it became clear to my mind that I could without difficulty decline both offers. The secretaries of the Society would not know that I had cast myself wholly on God for supplies, and my father would conclude that I had accepted the other offer. I therefore wrote declining both, and felt that without any one having either care or anxiety on my account I was simply in the hands of God, and that He who knew my heart, if He wished to encourage me to go to China, would bless my effort to depend upon Him alone at home.
Enough, that God my Father knows!
Nothing this faith can dim
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice with Him.
And so Hudson Taylor was to find it, although his London experiences were not to be unmixed with trial.
It was with a brave heart, therefore, that he presented himself at Mr. Ruffles' boarding-house near Soho Square, early on Monday morning. Here lived his uncle, Benjamin Hudson, and a cousin from Barton-on-Humber who was apprenticed to Mr. Ruffles, a builder and decorator by, trade. The uncle, a bright, genial man, was not only a skilful portrait-painter, he was something of a poet also,and a clever raconteur with a remarkable memory for " good stories."' He was decidedly popular in the boarding house and among a large circle of acquaintances, including more than one medical man to whom he was willing to introduce his nephew with a view to an apprenticeship. I This uncle, a brother of Mrs. James Taylor's, was the seventh and youngest child of the Rev. Benjamin Hudson. He went to Calcutta, shortly after this period, and made quite a fortune by painting Indian princes and officials, entertaining them the while with amusing stories. The cousin too was friendly, offering to share his room with the new-comer and so lessen expenses, if he decided to remain in Soho. This arrangement Hudson gladly availed himself of, for it was a comfort to belong to some one, and Tom seemed almost like a breath of home.' [1-. It was Tom's elder brother, John Hodson, who had been apprenticed to Hudson Taylor's father in Barnsley for three years, and was now in Hull with Dr. Hardey.] Three long flights of stairs led to this attic-chamber, for part of which he had to pay as much as for the little room at Mrs. Finch's that now seemed so quiet and homelike by contrast. But it was a footing in London, a shelter in the big, busy city that he might call his own.
What a drop in the ocean he felt amid the tides of life now surging around him. All was so new and strange ! He was in anything but a religious circle, surrounded by people who moved in a world of which he knew next to nothing. Business, politics and pleasure-seeking absorbed their attention, and his uncle and cousin did their best to draw him into the same sort of life. They had quite approved his coming to London to study medicine, and were ready in their own way to give him a helping hand. But his point of view annoyed while it perplexed them.
" Talk about trusting God," his cousin would exclaim, " one must trust one's own exertions too ! " Which meant, " Do as everybody else does, and lose no time about it."
Then his unwillingness to bind himself by an ordinary apprenticeship on account of a call to missionary work in China was something they could not understand, especially when it seemed that the Society to which he was looking was more than indifferent about the matter. And this to Hudson Taylor was the most painful surprise of all.
From his own relatives he had not expected sympathy in these things, but. Mr. Pearse, with whom he had been in correspondence for more than two years, understood his position and would be ready with counsel and aid. As soon, therefore, as possible he set out from Soho to find the office of the Society, little anticipating the disappointment that awaited him.
For the Hon. Secretary, as it happened, was much occupied that day and could with difficulty spare time to see him.1- [1 Mr. Pearse, it should be remembered, while acting as Hon. Secretary to the Chinese Evangelisation Society, was at the same time much engrossed la business. It was no lack of interest that made him dismiss Hudson Taylor so curtly, but simply the pressure of other claims, and a failure to realise what this coming to London meant to his young friend.]No, nothing definite was arranged as yet. They were awaiting his arrival. Now that he was ready to begin work at the hospital the matter must be laid before the Committee. This would take time of course. Would he not come to Hackney for a Sunday before long, and talk over things more at leisure ?
Well was it for Hudson Taylor as he returned to his lodgings that he really was depending on God and knew something of His unfailing care. From a helper in the office he had learned that nothing definite could be done until a formal application was laid before the Committee. In all probability the Society would help, as he had been led to expect, but everything must be done in a certain order. The best thing if there were any urgency would be to send in his application at once, so that it might not miss the next Committee meeting on October 7, for they only gathered once a fortnight.
October 7-and it was not yet the end of September. If his case could not be dealt with at the first meeting, he would have to wait another two weeks, and perhaps another. Meanwhile he could take no position ; his store of savings was diminishing ; and what would they say at the boardinghouse where his indefiniteness was a source of amusement already ?
If he had known all this in Hull ! And yet what difference did it really make ? He had not come to London depending on his own resources or on the help of man. If the winds and waves were boisterous, was there not One beside him whose hand was strong to uphold as His word to bring peace ? He knew the end from the beginning ; and since He had been Alpha would surely be Omega, and everything between.
So the application was sent in, and while waiting the issue Hudson Taylor settled down to study as well as he could in the room shared with his cousin. The latter's occupation allowed him to be frequently at home, and his criticisms however good-natured were not a help to quietness of mind. But there is something better than outward ease and comfort, and in entirely new surroundings Hudson Taylor was learning the old lesson-to rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him.
" As to your inquiries," he wrote to his mother on October s, " I will try to answer them as well as I can, But really you know almost as much of my plans as I do. 'For there is nothing certain yet,except-' I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.'
" I have no situation and am not seeking one. I question whether I shall for some months at any rate. But I have commenced study at home. In accordance with Mr. M.'s advice I have written to the Committee formally requesting them to authorise me to attend the London Hospital practice and lectures. But they will have to meet in regular course before I can know the result... .
" London seems to me a trying place. There is so much noise and bustle, so much to distract one all the time. You can have no idea of the difference it makes to be among light, thoughtless, worldly minded people after the quiet I have enjoyed lately. But it is sweet to realise that we are `kept by the power of God'; to be enabled to say with the Apostle, ` Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.'
" I am altogether in the Lord's hands, and He will direct me."
But the uncertainty was not over when the Committee met. Strangely enough, they seem to have considered it necessary to inform themselves further about him ; and all the action taken was the passing of a resolution requesting him to procure an elaborate set of testimonials to be laid before them at their next meeting. It was Hudson Taylor's first experience of the working of a fully organised Society, and though he subsequently came to understand the need for a certain amount of " red tape " in such affairs it was an experience he never forgot in his own dealings with would-be missionaries.
That he was feeling the position keenly may be judged from a letter to his mother on hearing of the above requirements
How sweet it is to be dependent on the Lord for everything... . All, all is best as He sees fit to guide. And He does guide and provide, both in temporal and spiritual matters, as long as we trust in Him....
Never mind results.... Let us leave them all to Him. Never mind if like Abraham of old we have to go out, not knowing whither. He knows. While unbelief sees only the difficulties, faith sees God between itself and them.. .
As to my prospects, I cannot tell you much as yet. The Committee met on Thursday and considered my application, and on Friday night I received a, note from Mr. Bird containing a resolution desiring me to procure certain testimonials by next Thursday week for their further consideration. Now this is a very serious delay, and I intend to see Mr. Pearse to-day, if possible, and talk with him about it. The required testimonials I do not quite understand, and if they are all considered necessary I shall thank the Committee for their kindness and trouble them no further, as I do not see them consistent with my views, Thank God, I am quite as willing to lose as to gain their assistance. If I have time after seeing Mr. Pearse I will add a few lines, if not I will write by a later post.
" Let not your heart be troubled," dear mother. He who has hitherto provided for, protected and guided me, still keeps my mind in perfect peace ... and will do all things well. How sweet it is to be enabled to trust in Him for all. May He ever use us for His glory.
Surely his faith was growing, under these searching tests ! Apart from the Chinese Evangelisation Society what hope had he, humanly speaking, of completing his medical studies or entering upon his life-work ? No other door was open to him, after long years of prayer and waiting. To have been dropped by the Society or compelled to " trouble them no further " might have meant being stranded in London with nothing before him but to take a situation and indefinitely defer going to China. Yet he was " quite as willing to lose as to gain their assistance," if that were the will of God.
He had decided, however, to see Mr. Pearse and come to an understanding about the testimonials. Accordingly he was up early the following morning and went over to Hackney in time to catch the busy Secretary before he left for the Stock Exchange. As he explained his difficulties, Mr. Pearse seems to have understood at last. The result was that the testimonials were seen to be superfluous and only a letter or two required from those who knew him best.
Even so another ten days had to elapse before the meeting of the Committee, and during that time an opening that must have had many attractions was put before him. His father, concerned at the ordeal through which he was passing, wrote offering to take him into partnership with himselfthat he might have a home and " something to depend on." How easy it would have been, with the justification of this letter, to turn aside to an easier pathway. But his purpose never wavered. Holding simply to what he believed to be the guidance of God, he waited as those alone can whose expectation is from Him And before the end of the month faith was richly rewarded.
" I am happy to say that things seem to be assuming a more settled appearance," he wrote on October 24, " and I expect all being well to commence work at the hospital to-morrow.... Please thank Father for his generous offer ... but those whose trust is in the Lord always have something to depend on."
This was not the only answer to his prayers, however, that filled his heart with thanksgiving. Studying as well as he could in that little attic-chamber, he was unconscious that the one who shared it with him was being drawn in spite of himself to the only source of abiding joy and peace. Yet so it was. Tom Hodson, keenly watching his cousin's experiences, found himself face to face with conclusions he could neither escape nor gainsay. Nothing else, perhaps, would ever have made him feel his own distance from God and need of something more real and satisfying than he had ever possessed. But this did. And before the close of the year Hudson had the joy of seeing him brought to " like precious faith " in Christ, and openly taking his stand in the boarding-house as a Christian.
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