Profiles in Christian Character – James Hudson Taylor (5)

Having returned to China with his family, Hudson Taylor immersed himself once more in the prodigious task of sowing the Gospel seed in the vast field to which God had called him. Added to the difficulties already encountered on previous campaigns, the heartache of separation from his growing family was keenly felt. Gracie had been born in China prior to their return to England. Three sons and a daughter had been born during their furlough. It was hard to say good-bye to these little ones and leave for lengthy trips to the interior. In January, 1867, Hudson wrote to his mother: “It is an easy thing to sing, ‘I all on earth forsake.’ It is not very difficult to think, and honestly though ignorantly say, ‘I give up all to Thee and for Thee.’ But God sometimes teaches one that that little word “all is terribly comprehensive.” A marked “Papa” became a constant companion on his trips.

Gracie’s Death

The summer of 1867 was brutally hot. The temperature reached 103 degrees indoors and the Taylors moved their children to the hill country to find some relief. It alarmed them to note Gracie’s worsening condition. Hudson conveyed the awful news to a beloved friend in England: “I am trying to pen a few lines by the couch on which my darling little Gracie lies dying … (of) hydrocephalus…It was no vain nor unintelligent act when, knowing this land, its people and climate, I laid my wife and children, with myself, on the altar for this service. And He whom so unworthily, with much of weakness and failure, yet in simplicity and godly sincerity, we are and have been seeking to serve… has not left us now.”

Gracie, the Taylors’ eldest child, died that summer of ’67. Months later, Hudson Taylor wrote to his mother: “Except when diverted from it by the duties and necessities of our position, our torn hearts will revert to the one subject, and I know not how to write to you of any other. Our dear little Gracie! How we miss her! As I take the walks I used to take with her tripping at my side, the thought comes anew like a throb of agony, ‘Is it possible that I shall never more feel the pressure of that little hand, never more hear the sweet prattle of those dear lips, never more see the sparkle of those bright eyes?’ And yet she is not lost. I would not have her back again. She is far holier far happier than she could ever have been here. ”

Two years later, in 1869, the Taylors came to the painful decision that it would be better for the health of their children if the four older ones were sent back to England in the care of a beloved friend. Just before their departure, Samuel, their five-year-old son, died of cholera.

The Valley of Baca

On July 7,1870, Maria gave birth to Noel, her fifth son and the Taylors’ seventh child. Their joy quickly turned to deep concern when Maria fell ill and was unable to properly nurse the child. Noel died after one brief week. Neither Hudson nor his wife realized, at the time, how weak Maria really was, nor how soon she too would be in heaven. But as the days passed she continued to weaken. On Saturday, July 23rd, 1870, it was apparent that her departure was near. As Hudson knelt by her side, she said, “I feel no pain, only weariness … I am so sorry. It does grieve me to leave you alone at such a time. Yet He will be with you and meet all your need.” Heartbroken, Hudson prayed, committing her to the Lord and thanking Him for the twelve-and-a-half years of happiness they had had together and solemnly dedicating himself anew to the service of God. At 9 am, Maria passed into the presence of her Lord.

Thus, within a little more than three years, a daughter, two sons and now his wife had gone to be with Christ. For them it was far better; but for Hudson, with three of his children in England and a little child in China, the loneliness and sense of loss was tremendous. He wrote to a friend, “I cannot describe my feelings; I do not understand them myself. I feel like a person stunned with a blow, or recovering from a faint, and as yet but partially conscious. But I would not have it otherwise … My Father has ordered it so – therefore I know it is, it must be, best … I feel utterly crushed and yet ,strong in the Lord and in the power of His might’…”

The words of a hymn became specially precious to him. Often at two or three in the morning the soft refrain could be heard as Taylor would be quietly singing it to the Lord:

“Jesus I am resting, resting in the joy of what Thou art.
I am finding out the greatness of Thy loving heart.”

Amid much personal grief and loss, Hudson Taylor’s vision of a China, illuminated by the Gospel, remained undimmed. “My soul yearns, oh! how intensely,” he wrote, “for the evangelization of the 180 millions of these unoccupied provinces [nine of which were without a Gospel preacher]. O that I had a hundred lives to give or spend for their good!” Soon he himself was traveling again into the interior with the Gospel. Entering a town or city, he and his fellow-workers would preach the Gospel, distribute literature, and try to obtain a room where inquirers could come with their questions. These rooms were called “Gospel Halls” or “Jesus Halls.”

When he heard of Chinese converts reached through the labor of others, he wrote his mother, “I cannot tell you how glad my heart is to see the work extending and consolidating in the remote parts of China. It is worth living for and worth dying for.” When some of these converts began, themselves, to devote much of their time to the spread of the Gospel among their own countrymen, his joy was boundless. He recorded his sentiments: “…The future hope for China lies, doubtless, in them (native workers). I look on foreign missionaries as the scaffolding round a rising building; the sooner it can be dispensed with the better – or rather, the sooner it can be transferred to other places, to serve the same temporary purpose.”

Not only did he rejoice unselfishly in the blessing seen by others, but he viewed the work as one, God’s work, and fervently prayed for its extension and growth. When he met two missionaries returning from the interior where there had been great danger and rabid xenophobia, fear of foreigners, he said, “I have prayed for you thousands of times.” What deeply impressed the two returning evangelists was this: far from being an exaggeration, they knew it was true.

“For Jesus Sake”

Eighteen months after Maria’s home-call, Hudson Taylor married a second time – a missionary named Jennie Faulding. Once when he and Jennie were apart because of the work, she wrote, “Every day I look at the little Bible marker you gave me with the words, ‘For Jesus sake’, and I am thankful for the reminder. It is not for your pleasure or mine that we are separated, nor for money-making nor for our children’s sake. It is not even for China or the missionaries or the mission. No, for Jesus’ sake. He is worthy…”

Hudson Taylor mirrored her sentiments, for he said, “If I had a thousand lives, China should have them [all]. No! Not China, but Christ. Can we do too much for Him?”

NEXT MONTH: Hudson Taylor’s Home-call.