Hudson Taylor is best known as a nineteenth-century pioneering missionary to inland China. Born in Yorkshire, England, on 21 May 1832, Taylor became a Christian at seventeen after reading an evangelism tract. On September 19, 1853 Taylor left England for China. After an arduous ocean voyage of nearly six months, Taylor arrived in China for the first time on March 1, 1854, at the age of twenty-two.
The missions society that Taylor started was ultimately responsible for bringing over 800 missionaries to China who began 125 schools and directly resulted in 18,000 Christian conversions, as well as the establishment of more than 300 stations of work with more than 500 national helpers in all eighteen provinces of China. If Hudson Taylor were evaluated by his life, mission work and legacy he would easily be declared a success in missions. Yet, it is Taylor’s unflappable and absolute reliance upon God that separates him from other adherents to Christianity.
Reliance In Ministry
Taylor was an assertive proponent of prayer, not only by his missionaries, but also on behalf of his missionaries. He believed senders of missionaries should be turning to God regularly and should pray for the missionaries they supported. Taylor once instructed senders to, “Pray for those you send, shield them by prayer.” He believed in a reliance on prayer for goers and senders alike. Herbert Kane stated of Taylor, “He believed in influencing people through God by prayer alone, and demonstrated to the Christian world that it is no vain thing to trust in the living God.”
Hudson Taylor was an early pioneer and advocate of the faith mission movement. Taylor believed he and his missionaries should not request funding for their work from men, but should instead rely completely upon God’s provision to sustain their efforts. Taylor believed, “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supplies.” Hudson Taylor was confident that as long as he was in God’s will and going about God’s work God would certainly provide all the resources needed to see the work completed.
The ministry work of Hudson Taylor was ground breaking in the nineteenth century. His methods were controversial and shocking to fellow missionaries and his supporters back home. Taylor relied upon God and his directions in Scripture. Taylor did not seek, nor did he receive, praise and support from others. He was prepared to accept missionary workers who had no college training and he required his missionaries to identify with the national peoples by, amongst other things, wearing Chinese dress. He was determined not to locate ultimate control of mission operation at home, and insisted that the work be directed from the field.
Reliance In Adversity
Few in history have sacrificed more of themselves for the cause of missions than did Hudson Taylor. He was willing to surrender all that God had given him for the evangelization of the Chinese. Nothing took a greater emotional and physical toll on Taylor than the loss of his family. During his service to China Taylor lost six children and two wives. During 1870 alone, Taylor lost two children and his first wife Maria. Maria’s death shook Taylor deeply, and in 1871, his own health began deteriorating, leading to his temporary return to England to recuperate.
Taylor frequently distributed Chinese language tracts and theology books. These materials were usually given away for free. One evening Taylor and his companion had been robbed and all of their valuables were taken by the robbers except for their theology books, as they were viewed as having no value. Taylor had no money for food or further travel. Upon waking the next morning Taylor was inundated by people asking to buy his books. By the grace and provision of God, Taylor and his companion soon had enough money to eat and be on their way.
On one occasion local authorities had captured Taylor and his companion. On the way to the local magistrate the authorities beat them black and blue, choked them, grabbed them by the hair, knocked them down and insulted them. Taylor and his companion, noticing their beating was drawing a crowd, took the opportunity to hand out the remainder of their Christian literature and share the gospel with the onlookers and their assailers. Taylor states that at that moment, “we reminded each other that the Apostles rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer in the cause of Christ.”
On another voyage, Taylor was attacked by locals who were unhappy with his presence and his proclamations of Christ. The attackers destroyed Taylor’s boat and many of his possessions. Noticing the spectacle had caused an even larger crowd to gather, Taylor took advantage of the situation and preached the gospel to the crowd.
Hudson Taylor suffered the loss of loved ones and coworkers. He endured physical abuse from outside and from inside his own body. Taylor, however, used every trial to demonstrate his trust and reliance upon God. Even in his struggles he brought glory to God.
Reliance On God
Hudson Taylor knew to become a pioneering missionary to inland China he was bound for hardship and struggle. Some have called Taylor one of the greatest missionaries in history. His achievements in the name of Christ were not without trials for himself and those around him. Taylor was never surprised by his challenges. He said, “The work of a true missionary is work indeed, often very monotonous, apparently not very successful, and carried on through great and varied but unceasing difficulties.”
Hudson Taylor’s reliance upon God was a model for all believers. His trust in his Creator did not shield him from pain and suffering. However, Taylor’s dependence on God helped demonstrate a love and mercy only found in a relationship with the Father.