Book Review: A Retrospect

First published in 1894 this book is compiled from the journals and letters of J. Hudson Taylor, the 19th century missionary to China. Taylor spent 51 years as a pioneering missionary in China and changed the way many view missions today.

This short book covers from Taylor’s conversion in 1849 to the beginning of his second voyage to China in 1866. During this period he hears and heeds his call to missions, spends seven years in China, resigns from his mission society, returns to England, forms his own mission society and returns to China. The true beauty of this book is that these pivotal and influential years are documented in Taylor’s own words.

In the second half of the 19th century Hudson Taylor completely bucked conventional wisdom in the world of missions. Many of his peers spent much of their time bringing “civilized” culture to other countries ahead of the gospel. Taylor, on the other hand, immersed himself in the Chinese culture. He lived, talked, dressed, ate and traveled like those he came to serve. Other missionaries and many senders viewed him as too radical and denounced his efforts. Taylor was revolutionary in the way he financed missions, treated female missionaries and addressed the spiritual needs of the Chinese people.

This book provides an honest and insightful look into the thought process of one of the most successful and significant missionaries in modern history. The sincere words of this transparent man are a benefit to goers and senders alike. He displays his fears, self-doubt, uncertainty and unflappable faith in Christ for all to see.

While this is not the most popular book on Hudson Taylor it is the most honest. It is a rare and precious glimpse into the heart of one of God’s greatest missionaries.