IT was about this time that a pair of scrolls made their appearance in the sitting-room at Kuen-kiao-teo that were as new as they were perplexing to the little company of Christians and inquirers gathered there on Sunday mornings for worship. Beautifully written in Chinese each character in itself was intelligible, but what could be the meaning of the strange combination, I-pien-i-seh-er ; Je-ho-hua I-la ?
The young missionary who had been ill and confined to his room for a month could have explained. For it was there in quiet communion with God those inspired words had come to him in such fullness of meaning as to make them for ever memorable. Ebenezer and Jehovah Jireh " Hitherto hath the Lord helped us," and for all coming need " The Lord will provide ":-how he rejoiced as strength came back to unfold to his Chinese friends their precious message, leading them on to a deeper knowledge of the infinite God they too were learning to trust.
That little inner circle, small though it was in numbers, was the joy and rejoicing of Hudson Taylor's heart, and the illness that laid him aside during the whole of September was made the most of for prayer on their behalf. Taken out of the busy round of preaching and medical work he was able to give more time, to individual inquirers, amongst whom Mr. Nyi, a business man in the city, was perhaps the most encouraging.
Passing the open door of the mission-house one evening soon after Mr. Jones and his colleague had settled there, he observed that something was going on. A big bell was ringing, and a number of people were passing in as if for a meeting. Hearing that it was a " Jesus Hall," or place where foreign teachers discoursed upon religious matters, he too turned in ; for as a devout Buddhist there was nothing about which he felt more concern than the pains and penalties due to sin, and the transmigration of the soul on its long journey he knew not whither.
A young foreigner in Chinese dress was preaching from his Sacred Classics, and this was the passage he read
As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up : that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son,that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world ; but that the world through Him might be saved.
It is scarcely possible to imagine much less describe the effect upon such a man of such a message, heard for the first time. To say that Nyi was interested scarcely begins to express all that went on in his mind. For he was a seeker after truth, one of the leaders of a reformed sect of Buddhists devoted to religious observances. The story of the brazen serpent in the wilderness, illustrating the divine remedy for sin and all its deadly consequences ; the facts of the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus ; and the bearing of all this upon his own need, brought home to him the power of the Holy Spirit-well, it is the miracle of the ages, and thank God we see it still. " I, if I be lifted up . . . will draw all men unto Me."
Nyi came into the hall that evening one of the vast, the incredibly vast multitude who " through fear of death are all their lifetime subject to bondage " ; and as he sat there listening, hope dawned in his heart, old things for ever passed away and he was conscious of the sunrise that makes all things new.
But the meeting- was drawing to a close ; the " foreign teacher " had ceased speaking.' Looking round upon the audience with the instinct of one accustomed to lead in such matters, Nyi rose in his place and said with simple directness
" I have long sought the Truth, as did my father before me, but without finding it. I have travelled far and near, but have never searched it out. In Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism, I have found no rest ; but I do find rest in what we have heard to-night. Henceforward I am a believer in Jesus."
The effect of this declaration was profound, for Nyi was well known and respected. But no one present was more moved than the young missionary to' whom he specially addressed himself. Many interviews followed, and Hudson Taylor experienced the joy no words can express as he saw the Lord working with him and claiming this soul for His own.
Shortly after his conversion, a meeting was held of the society over which Mr. Nyi had formerly presided, and though he had resigned from its membership he obtained permission to be present and to explain the reasons for his change of faith. Mr. Taylor, who had the pleasure of accompanying him, was deeply impressed by the clearness and power with which he set forth the Gospel. One of his former co-religionists was led to Christ through his instrumentality, and with Nyi himself became of great value to the Kuen-kiao-teo church. Nyi, as a dealer in cotton, frequently had time at his disposal, which he now devoted to helping his missionary friends. With Mr. Jones he went out almost daily, taking no payment for his services, and everywhere winning an entrance for the message he was so keen to bring.
He it was who, talking with Mr. Taylor, unexpectedly raised a question the pain of which was not easily forgotten.
" How long have you had the Glad Tidings in England?" he asked all unsuspectingly.
The young missionary was ashamed to tell him, and vaguely replied that it was several hundreds of years. " What," exclaimed Nyi in astonishment, " several hundreds of years ! Is it possible that you have known about Jesus so long, and only now have come to tell us ? "
" My father sought the truth for more than twenty years," he continued sadly, " and died without finding it.Oh, why did you not come sooner ? "
Hardly had Hudson Taylor recovered from his illness and resumed his former activities when a call came to very different service, as difficult as it was unexpected.
Over on the compound of the Presbyterian Mission his friend Mr. Quaterman was taken seriously ill. A devoted pioneer evangelist, he had remained unmarried during the ten years of his life in China, finding a congenial home with his sister Mrs. Way. His brother-in-law, one of the Presbyterian missionaries, was absent on a journey, and with little children to care for Mrs. Way discovered that her brother was suffering from smallpox. It proved, indeed, to be that dread disease in its most malignant form. The patient had to be isolated, and to her great distress Mrs. Way could not undertake the nursing.
No one else seemed in a position to do so, and the sufferer would have been left to the care of native servants had not Hudson Taylor heard of it. But to him the circumstances were a clear call to go to the help of his friends. He was unmarried, and knew that could he have consulted the one he loved she would not have held him back. As it was he had to leave it to others to tell her, and almost at a moment's notice hastened across the river to take up his sorrowful task.
Night and day he tended the dying man, with no thought of self, doing duty as doctor and nurse in one, that others might be spared the risk of infection.
" He has been taken home to be with Jesus," he wrote a week later, " and great was my privilege in being permitted to minister to the Lord in his person, and to see the power of sustaining grace."
But he did not say how cast upon God he had been all through those terrible nights and days, nor how he felt the strain now that it was over. For the moment, indeed, more pressing considerations occupied him, and he was reminded in a practical way of the scrolls at Kuen-kiao-teo with their precious message.
For hardly had he performed the last offices for his friend before he found himself in an unforeseen dilemma. In his attendance night and day upon the patient he had been obliged to change his clothing frequently, and now all the garments used in the sick room had to be discarded for fear of spreading the infection. A Chinese tailor could soon have provided others, but as it happened the young missionary could not afford a fresh supply. It was not that he had been suffering from shortness of funds. On the contrary, ever since leaving the C.E.S he had received from other sources more than he personally required. But he was sharing all that came to him with Mr. Jones and his family, and recently had sent thirty-seven pounds to a brother-missionary in need. Thus he had nothing laid by to fall back upon, and now the infected garments had to be destroyed he would have been in serious difficulty, but for the resource of prayer.
And just then, strange as it may seem, a long-lost box arrived containing among other belongings all the clothing he had left in Swatow fifteen months previously. For God is a real Father, and still knows His children's needs before they ask Him.
A little incident ? Yes, but one that added meaning to the motto of the Mission that was yet to grow out of the growth of his soul
"Hitherto hath the Lord helped us. The Lord will provide."
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