How to have our Faith increased by Hudson Taylor?
Hudson Taylor was the nineteen century founder of the China Inland Mission, now the Overseas Missionary Fellowship. He was born in Barnsley, England, on May 21, 1832 and died on May 1905.
The passages below are taken from Dr & Mrs Howard Taylor’s book “The Spiritual Secret of Hudson Taylor,” published in 1997 by Whitaker House.
Were it not recorded in his own words, it would be difficult to believe, certainly impossible to imagine, such conflict, suffering, almost despair in spiritual things in one who had long and truly known the Lord. Ah, was it not that very fact that made it possible? Nearness to Christ had been to him so real and blessed that any distance was unbearable. So deeply did he love that any clouding of the Master’s face was felt, and felt at once with anguish of heart. It is the bride who mourns the absence of the bridegroom, not one who has been a stranger to His love.
Reaching the little crowded house at Chinkiang, Mr. Taylor made his way as soon as possible to his room to attend to correspondence. There, amid a pile of letters, was one from Mr. McCarthy. We do not know if he was alone as he read it; we do not know just how the miracle was wrought. But—“As I read, I saw it all. I looked to Jesus; and when I saw, oh how joy flowed!”
It was Saturday, September 4, 1869; the house was full, and others were coming; somehow they must be put up and kept over Sunday, for this great joy could not but be shared. As soon as he could break away from his glad thanksgiving, Mr. Taylor went out, a new man in a new world, to tell what the Lord had done for his soul. He took the letters, Mr. McCarthy’s and one from Miss Faulding in the same strain, and, gathering the household together in the sitting room upstairs, told what his whole life was telling from that time onward to the glorious end. Other hearts were moved and blessed; the streams began to flow. From that little crowded home in Chinkiang city, they flowed on and out, and are flowing still—“rivers of living water” (John 7:38). For “whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him,” Jesus said, “shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14 KJV).
And he did more than tell. Pressed though he was with business matters, his correspondence took on a new tone. Here is one of the first letters written with that tide of joy and life more abundant sweeping through his soul. The penciled lines on half a sheet of notepaper show that he was very busy—but how at leisure in spirit!
My dear sister—We had a very happy day here yesterday. I was so happy! A letter from Mr. McCarthy on this subject has been blessed to several of us. He and Miss Faulding also seem so happy! He says: “I feel as though the first glimmer of the dawn of a glorious day had risen upon me. I hail it with trembling, yet with trust.”
The part specially helpful to me is: “How then have our faith increased? Only by thinking of all that Jesus is, and all He is for us: His life, His death, His work, He Himself as revealed to us in the Word, to be the subject of our constant thoughts. Not a striving to have faith, or to increase our faith, but a looking off to the Faithful One seems all we need.”
Here, I feel, is the secret: not asking how I am to get sap out of the vine into myself, but remembering that Jesus is the Vine—the root, stem, branches, twigs, leaves, flowers, fruit, all indeed. Aye, and far more too! He is the soil and sunshine, air and rain—more than we can ask, think, or desire. Let us not then want to get anything out of Him, but rejoice in being ourselves in Him—one with Him, and, consequently, with all His fullness. Not seeking for faith to bring holiness, but rejoicing in the fact of perfect holiness in Christ, let us realize that-inseparably one with Him—this holiness is ours, and accepting the fact, find it so indeed. But I must stop.
Six weeks after these experiences, when Mr. Taylor was rejoicing in the abiding fullness of this new life, a letter reached him from England that specially touched his heart. It was from his sister, Mrs. Broomhall, the intimate friend and correspondent of his early years, who, now with a growing family round her, was sore pressed, as he had been himself, by outward responsibilities and inward conflict rather than at rest in spiritual things. With a great longing to help one so dear to him, Mr. Taylor took up his pen to reply. As he wrote, the whole story of his own extremity and deliverance was poured out in a letter that is so precious:
October 17,1869: So many thanks for your long, dear letter …. I do not think you have written me such a letter since we have been in China. I know it is with you as with me—you cannot, not you will not. Mind and body will not bear more than a certain amount of strain, or do more than a certain amount of work. As to work, mine was never so plentiful, so responsible, or so difficult; but the weight and strain are all gone. The last month or more has been, perhaps, the happiest of my life; and I long to tell you a little of what the Lord has done for my soul. I do not know how far I may be able to make myself intelligible about it, for there is nothing new or strange or wonderful-and yet, all is new! In a word, “Whereas [once] I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25).
Perhaps I shall make myself more clear if I go back a little. Well, dearie, my mind has been greatly exercised for six or eight months past, feeling the need personally, and for our mission, of more holiness, life, power in our souls. But personal need stood first and was the greatest. I felt the ingratitude, the danger, the sin of not living nearer to God. I prayed, agonized, fasted, strove, made resolutions, read the Word more diligently, sought more time for retirement and meditation—but all was without effect. Every day, almost every hour, the consciousness of sin oppressed me. I knew that if I could only abide in Christ all would be well, but I could not. I began the day with prayer, determined not to take my eye from Him for a moment, but pressure of duties, sometimes very trying, constant interruptions apt to be so wearing, often caused me to forget Him. Then one’s nerves get so fretted in this climate that temptations to irritability, hard thoughts, and sometimes unkind words are all the more difficult to control. Each day brought its register of sin and failure, of lack of power. To will was indeed present with me, but how to perform I found not.
Then came the question, “Is there no rescue? Must it be thus to the end—constant conflict and, instead of victory, too often defeat?” How, too, could I preach with sincerity that to those who receive Jesus, “to them gave he power to become the sons of God” (John 1:12) (i.e. godlike), when it was not so in my own experience? Instead of growing stronger, I seemed to be getting weaker and to have less power against sin; and no wonder, for faith and even hope were getting very low. I hated myself; I hated my sin; and yet I gained no strength against it. I felt I was a child of God; His Spirit in my heart would cry, in spite of all, “Abba, Father,” but to rise to my privileges as a child, I was utterly powerless. I thought that holiness, practical holiness, was to be gradually attained by a diligent use of the means of grace. I felt that there was nothing I so much desired in this world, nothing I so much needed. But so far from in any measure attaining it, the more I pursued and strove after it, the more it eluded my grasp, till hope itself almost died out, and I began to think that, perhaps to make heaven the sweeter, God would not give it down here. I do not think I was striving to attain it in my own strength. I knew I was powerless. I told the Lord so and asked Him to give me help and strength, and sometimes I almost believed He would keep and uphold me. But on looking back in the evening, alas!—there was but sin and failure to confess and mourn before God….
All the time I felt assured that there was in Christ all I needed, but the practical question was how to get it out. He was rich, truly, but I was poor; He strong, but I weak. I knew full well that there was in the root, the stem, abundant fatness, but how to get it into my puny little branch was the question. As gradually the light was dawning on me, I saw that faith was the only prerequisite, was the hand to lay hold on His fullness and make it my own. But I had not this faith. I strove for it, but it would not come; tried to exercise it, but in vain. Seeing more and more the wondrous supply of grace laid up in Jesus, the fullness of our precious Savior—my helplessness and guilt seemed to increase. Sins committed appeared but as trifles compared with the sin of unbelief which was their cause, which could not or would not take God at His Word, but rather made Him a liar! Unbelief was, I felt, the damning sin of the world—yet I indulged in it. I prayed for faith, but it came not. What was I to do?
When my agony of soul was at its height, a sentence in a letter from dear McCarthy was used to remove the scales from my eyes, and the Spirit of God revealed the truth of our oneness with Jesus as I had never known it before. McCarthy, who had been much exercised by the same sense of failure, but saw the light before I did, wrote (I quote from memory): “But how to get faith strengthened? Not by striving after faith, but by resting on the Faithful One.”
As I read I saw it all! “If we believe not …he abideth faithful” (2 Timothy 2:13, emphasis added). I looked to Jesus and saw (and when I saw, oh, how joy flowed!) that He had said, “I will never leave [you]” (Hebrew 13:5). “Ah, there is rest!” I thought. “I have striven in vain to rest in Him. I’ll strive no more. For has He not promised to abide with me—never to leave me, never to fail me?” And, dearie, He never will!…
Oh, my dear sister, it is a wonderful thing to be really one with a risen and exalted Savior, to be a member of Christ! Think what it involves. Can Christ be rich and I poor? Can your right hand be rich and the left poor? Or your head be well fed while your body starves? Again, think of its bearing on prayer. Could a bank clerk say to a customer, “It was only your hand wrote that check, not you,” or, “I cannot pay this sum to your hand, but only to yourself”? No more can your prayers, or mine, be discredited if offered in the name of Jesus (i.e. not in our own name, or for the sake of Jesus merely, but on the ground that we are His, His members) so long as we keep within the extent of Christ’s credit—a tolerably wide limit! If we ask anything unscriptural or not in accordance with the will of God, Christ Himself could not do that; but, “If we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: and …we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him” (1 John 5:14-15).
The sweetest part, if one may speak of one part being sweeter than another, is the rest which full identification with Christ brings. I am no longer anxious about anything, as I realize this; for He, I know, is able to carry out His will, and His will is mine. It makes no matter where He places me, or how. That is rather for Him to consider than for me; for in the easiest positions He must give me His grace, and in the most difficult His grace is sufficient. It little matters to my servant whether I send him to buy a few cash worth of things, or the most expensive articles. In either case he looks to me for the money and brings me his purchases. So, if God place me in great perplexity, must He not give me much guidance; in positions of great difficulty, much grace; in circumstances of great pressure and trial, much strength? No fear that His resources will be unequal to the emergency! And His resources are mine, for He is mine, and is with me and dwells in me. All this springs from the believer’s oneness with Christ. And since Christ has thus dwelt in my heart by faith, how happy I have been! I wish I could tell you, instead of writing about it.
I am no better than before (may I not say, in a sense, I do not wish to be, nor am I striving to be); but I am dead and buried with Christ—aye, and risen too and ascended; and now Christ lives in me, and “the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). I now believe I am dead to sin. God reckons me so, and tells me to reckon myself so. He knows best. All my past experience may have shown that it was not so, but I dare not say it is not now, when He says it is. I feel and know that old things have passed away. I am as capable of sinning as ever, but Christ is realized as present as never before. He cannot sin, and He can keep me from sinning. I cannot say (I am sorry to have to confess it) that since I have seen this light I have not sinned, but I do feel there was no need to have done so. And further—walking more in the light, my conscience has been more tender; sin has been instantly seen, confessed, pardoned; and peace and joy (with humility) instantly restored: with one exception, when for several hours peace and joy did not return—from want, as I had to learn, of full confession, and from some attempt to justify self.
Faith, I now see, is “the substance of things hoped for” (Heb. 11:1, emphasis added) and not mere shadow. It is not less than sight, but more. Sight only shows the outward forms of things; faith gives the substance. You can rest on substance, feed on substance. Christ dwelling in the heart by faith (i.e. His Word of promise credited) is power indeed, is life indeed. And Christ and sin will not dwell together; nor can we have His presence with love of the world, or carefulness about many things.
And now I must close. I have not said half I would, nor as I would had I more time. May God give you to lay hold on these blessed truths. Do not let us continue to say, in effect, “Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above)” (Romans 10:6). In other words, do not let us consider Him as afar off, when God has made us one with Him, members of His very body. Nor should we look upon this experience, these truths, as for the few. They are the birthright of every child of God, and no one can dispense with them without dishonor to our Lord. The only power for deliverance from sin or for true service is Christ.
Jesus Does Satisfy
That such blessing should be tested by increasing trials is not to be wondered at. Inwardly and outwardly, the period upon which they were entering was to be one of unprecedented distress. In the work, they were to experience the power of the Adversary as never before, while in personal matters, new and deep sorrows awaited them. But for the preparation of heart which unconsciously to themselves had thus been made, things would have gone very differently both with Mr. Taylor and with the mission.
To begin with, the time had come for breaking up that happy family life which meant so much to Mr. and Mrs. Taylor. They dared not risk another summer for their elder children in China, and the delicate health of Samuel, who was only five years old, made
it clear that he should go with his brothers and sister. This meant separation from four of their little flock, leaving only the baby born after the Yangchow riot to ease the aching loneliness. For some time it was a question as to whether the mother should not go herself, but the necessity for this seemed averted when Miss Blatchley volunteered to take her place in caring for the children. To part from her was almost like giving up a daughter, so devoted had she been in sharing all their experiences. But she truly loved the children, and Mr. Taylor was ready to forgo her secretarial help in order that Mrs. Taylor might remain in China. Plan as he might, they could not see far ahead and could only trust the little party to a care infinitely wiser and more tender than their own.
Very painful it was, as the time drew near, to see the parting begin to tell upon the child about whom they were most concerned. Or was it only that his chronic trouble had increased, and that, with care, the voyage would set him up again? Taking the opportunity of a decided improvement, the family set out from Yangchow. The boats were delayed in starting, and hardly had they got clear of the city when the little invalid showed signs of a relapse. All night long they watched beside him, doing everything that could be done under the circumstances. But at dawn the following morning he fell into a deep sleep, and from the turbid waters of the Yangtze he passed without pain or fear to the better land.
Before a driving storm the parents crossed the river, there more than two miles wide, to lay their treasure in the little cemetery at Chinkiang, and then went on with the others to Shanghai. A few weeks later, after taking them all on board the French mail which was to sail at dawn the following morning, Mr. Taylor wrote at midnight:
I have seen them awake, for the last time in China …. Two of our little ones we have no anxiety about; they rest in Jesus’ bosom …. Though the tears will not be stayed, I do thank God for permitting one so unworthy to take any part in this great work, and do not regret having engaged and being engaged in it. It is His work, not mine nor yours; and yet it is ours—not because we are engaged in it, but because we are His, and one with Him whose work it is.
This was the reality that sustained, and more than sustained them. Never had there been a more troubled summer in China than that on which they were entering. And yet in the midst of it all, with a longing for their little ones that was indescribable, they never had had more rest and joy in God. Of this time, Mr. Taylor wrote:
I could not but admire and wonder at the grace that so sustained and comforted the fondest of mothers. The secret was that Jesus was satisfying the deep thirst of heart and soul.
Mrs. Taylor was at her best that summer, borne up, it would seem, on the very tempest of troubles that raged about them. Sickness was rife in the mission, and before they could reach Chinkiang after parting from the children, news came to them of Mrs. Judd’s being there and at the point of death. After days and nights of nursing, Mr. Judd was almost too weary to bear up, when in the courtyard below he heard sounds of an unexpected arrival. Who could it be at that hour of night, and where had they come from? No steamer had passed upriver, and native boats would not be traveling after dark. Besides, it was a wheelbarrow that had been trundled in. A long day’s journey on that springless vehicle a woman had come alone, and soon he saw the face of all others he could have longed to see. He had thought them far away, but Mr. Taylor, who could not leave the boat on account of another patient, had consented to Mrs. Taylor’s pressing on alone to give what help she could. Nothing but prayer brought the patient through, just as nothing but prayer saved the situation in many an hour of extremity that summer.
It is easy to read, but only those who have passed through like experiences can have any idea of the strain involved. The heat of the summer was excessive, which added to the unrest of the native population. Ladies and children had to be removed from several of the stations, and for a time it seemed as though the Chinese government might insist on their leaving the country altogether. This necessitated much correspondence with officials, both native and foreign, and constant letters of advice and sympathy to the workers most in peril. The accommodation of the little house at Chinkiang was taxed to its utmost, and so great was the excitement, even there, that no other premises could be obtained.
By this time it looked as though all the river-stations might have to be given up. Mr. and Mrs. Taylor were making their home at Chinkiang to be more in the center of things, he sleeping on the floor in the sitting room or passage that she might share their bedroom with other ladies. Yet the troubles of the time were not allowed to interfere with as much work among the people as was possible. Mrs. Taylor, especially, with fewer household and family cares, was seeking to help the little church at Chinkiang. In the hottest days of June she wrote to Miss Blatchley:
We have been holding classes on Sundays and two or three evenings in the week, having two objects specially in view: first, to interest the natives, those who can read, in searching the Scriptures, and those who cannot, in learning to do so; and second, to set an example to the younger members of the mission who know pretty well that we have no lack of work. It may be a practical proof to them of the importance we attach to securing that the Christians and other natives about us learn to read and understand for themselves the Word of God.
The joy that had come to Mr. Taylor in a deeper apprehension of living, present oneness with Christ seems in no wise to have been hindered by the troubles of the time. The pages of his letter book reveal, in fact, not so much the endless difficulties as the full tide of blessing that carried him through all. Though no detail is overlooked in the business part of the correspondence, letter after letter is taken up with that which was far more important. To Miss Desgraz, for example, he wrote in the middle of June after a careful letter about Yangchow affairs:
And now, my dear Sister, I have the very passage for you, and God has so blessed it to my own soul! John 7:37-39: “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.” Who does not thirst? Who has not mind thirsts or heart thirsts, soul thirsts or body thirsts? Well, no matter which, or whether I have them all—“Come unto Me and” remain thirsty? Ah no! “Come unto Me and drink.”
What, can Jesus meet my need? Yes, and more than meet it. No matter how intricate my path, how difficult my service, no matter how sad my bereavement, how far away my loved ones, no matter how helpless I am, how hopeless I am, how deep are my soul yearnings—Jesus can meet all, all, and more than meet. He not only promises me rest (See Matt. 11:28-30)—ah, how welcome that would be were it all, and what an all that one word embraces! He not only promises me drink to alleviate my thirst. No, better than that!
“He who trusts me in this matter (who believeth on Me-takes me at my word), out of him shall flow…:’ (See John 7:38.)
Can it be so? Can the dry and thirsty one not only be refreshed, the parched soil moistened, the arid places cooled, but the land be so saturated that springs well up, streams flow down from it? Even so! And not mere mountain torrents, full while the rains last, then dry again …but “out of his belly shall flow rivers” (John 7:38)—rivers like the mighty Yangtze, ever deep, ever full. In times of drought, brooks may fail, often do; canals may be pumped dry, often are; but the Yangtze never. Always a mighty stream; always flowing, deep and irresistible!
How sorely the lesson would be needed by his own heart, in days that were drawing near, he little knew when writing, but the blessed Reality did not fail him.
* * * *
Mr. and Mrs. Taylor’s hearts were filled with love and joy in receiving, meanwhile, a new gift from God. Born on July 7,1870, this little one was her fifth son and called forth all the pent-up love of his parents’ hearts. But the earthly joy of this moment was not to last.
An attack of cholera greatly prostrated the mother, and lack of natural nourishment took its toll upon the child. When a Chinese nurse could be found, it was too late to save the little life, and after one brief week on earth he went back to the home above in which his mother was so soon to join him.
She chose herself the hymns to be sung at the little grave, one of which, “0 Holy Savior, Friend Unseen,” seemed especially to dwell in her mind.
Though faith and hope are often tried,
We ask not, need not, aught beside;
So safe, so calm, so satisfied,
The souls that cling to Thee.
They fear not Satan nor the grave,
They know Thee near, and strong to save;
Nor fear to cross e en Jordan’s wave,
While still they cling to Thee.
Weak as she was, it had not yet occurred to them that for her, too, the end was near. The deep mutual love that bound their hearts in one seemed to preclude the thought of separation. And she was only thirty-three (he was thirty-eight). There was no pain up to the very last, though she was weary, very weary. A letter from Mrs. Berger had been received two days previously, telling of the safe arrival at Saint Hill of Miss Blatchley and the children. Every detail of the welcome and arrangements for their well-being filled her heart with joy. She did not know how to be thankful enough and seemed to have no desire or thought but just to praise the Lord for His goodness. Many and many a time had Mrs. Berger’s letters reached their destination at the needed moment; many and many a time had her loving heart anticipated the circumstances in which they would be received, but never more so than with this letter.
“And now farewell, precious friend,” she wrote. “The Lord throw around you His everlasting arms.”
It was in those arms she was resting.
At daybreak on Saturday, July 23, she was sleeping quietly, and Mr. Taylor left her a few moments to prepare some food. While he was doing so she awoke, and serious symptoms called him to her side. He later wrote:
By this time it was dawn, and the sunlight revealed what the candle had hidden—the deathlike hue of her countenance. Even my love could no longer deny, not her danger, but that she was actually dying. As soon as I was sufficiently composed, I said,
“My darling, do you know that you are dying?”
“Dying!” she replied. “Do you think so? What makes you think so?”
I said, “I can see it, darling. Your strength is giving way.”
“Can it be so? I feel no pain, only weariness.”
“Yes, you are going home. You will soon be with Jesus.”
My precious wife thought of my being left alone at a time of so much trial, with no companion like herself, with whom I had been wont to bring every difficulty to the throne of grace.
“I am so sorry,” she said, and paused as if half-correcting herself for the feeling.
“You are not sorry to go to be with Jesus?”
Never shall I forget the look with which she answered, “Oh, no! It is not that. You know, darling, that for ten years past there has not been a cloud between me and my Savior. I cannot be sorry to go to Him, but it does grieve me to leave you alone at such a time. Yet …He will be with you and meet all your need.”
But little was said after that. A few loving messages to those at home, a few last words about the children, and she seemed to fall asleep or drift into unconsciousness of earthly things. The summer sun rose higher and higher over the city, the hills, and the river. The busy hum of life came up around them from many a court and street. But within one Chinese dwelling, in an upper room from which the blue of God’s own heaven could be seen, there was the hush of a wonderful peace. Of this, Mrs. Duncan wrote:
I never witnessed such a scene. As dear Mrs. Taylor was breathing her last, Mr. Taylor knelt down—his heart so full—and committed her to the Lord; thanking Him for having given her, and for the twelve and a half years of happiness they had had together; thanking Him, too, for taking her to His own blessed presence, and solemnly dedicating himself anew to His service.
It was just after nine o’clock in the morning when the quiet breathing ceased, and they knew she was “with Christ; which is far better” (Philippians. 1:23). [256-272]