Heroes of Faith: Hudson Taylor

“One does not surrender a life in an instant. That which is lifelong can only be surrendered in a lifetime.” Jim Elliot

There are valuable lessons in focusing on past heroes of faith. They were men with passion of soul for the perishing. They caught the vision and offered themselves willingly, even jeopardizing their lives for the salvation of the lost. With purpose and passion, they pursued and served their Master and Lord. What they knew they loved and practiced. They were committed men and women, and by their consecrated lives inspired others.

This brief consideration of one of the most widely-used missionaries in China’s history, Hudson Taylor, should have a special place in our hearts. Hudson Taylor’s life and sacrifice produced more missionaries than any other, and his character left indelible footprints on the sands of time.

His conversion

His conversion was remarkable. He had a godly influence, but in his early teens he became skeptical and worldly. He lived for this life and became a popular young teenager, guilty of scoffing and swearing. At the age of 17, in the mercy of God, he found himself in his father’s library searching for a book to read. His eyes fastened upon a book entitled, The Finished Work of Christ. Remembering the words “It is finished,” he asked himself the question, “What was finished?” That afternoon, God saved him through faith in the mighty sacrifice for sins once offered by the Lord Jesus on the Cross. It is amazing that while this happened his mother was 75 miles away visiting her mother. On the same afternoon that her son was saved, she experienced an intense yearning for her son’s conversion. She turned the key on her door and resolved not to leave until she got an answer. After a few hours she got an answer and was assured of his salvation. Upon her return home, Hudson told her of his conversion. She said, “I know my boy. I have been rejoicing for two weeks!”

His crisis

On Dec. 2nd, 1849, shortly after salvation, Hudson became dissatisfied with his spiritual progress. His first love and zeal for souls had grown cold. He got alone with his God about his spiritual condition. This is the answer to leaving first (chief) love to Christ.

From this unforgettable experience he began to distribute tracts, and held cottage meetings. With the aid of a copy of Luke’s gospel in the Mandarin dialect, he studied the Chinese language. He also borrowed a book and began to study Greek, Hebrew, and Latin. Then, in 1851, Hudson moved to a noisy suburb of Darwinshire, a neighborhood on the edge of town. Here he was preparing for a greater work as he was disciplined to self-denial, spending time as a self-appointed medical missionary in cheerless streets where low wages, large families, drunkenness, and brutalized wives were the norm. He exchanged a feather bed for a hard mattress! His employer asked Hudson to remind him when his salary became due, which he never did! One day in a poor home with evidently starving children he prayed for them but had no rest until he gave the family his last coin. He went home happy. He had made this situation a test to prove the “God (who) will provide.” The postman arrived the next day with a letter and he received 400 percent profit. What a lesson! One night at 10 PM his rent was due and his employer came by with his back wages! These are the experiences that produce the man of faith and equip him for greater work in the future.

His call

While alone with God, he made a promise that he would go to China! In September, 1853, Hudson sailed from Liverpool, England, the only passenger on the sailing vessel. It was an unforgettable experience as they encountered a tempestuous voyage and twice were within a few feet of being wrecked. As the vessel was becalmed near New Guinea, swift currents carried them toward sunken reefs near the shore; the captain despaired and said, “Our fate is sealed!” Cannibals were eagerly awaiting with delight with fires burning ready! Hudson and a few others prayed, the Lord heard, and sent a strong breeze that sent them on their way. Finally, Hudson Taylor arrived in China, reaching Shanghai on March 1, 1854. He proved once again, “Whatsoever ye ask in My Name, that will I do.” He was only 21 years of age when he arrived in China! God wants youth, the prime of life, not the end of life!

The conditions in China were not anticipated and he became forlorn, homesick, and miserable! The military situation in China was uncertain with a possibility of civil war looming. Life became unsafe! Then the idleness of missionaries was appalling to him; they were critical of him, with sarcastic remarks.

A year later he commenced a preaching tour. He touched many places and was almost near death except for Divine intervention. He visited 78 villages, only seven of which had ever seen a missionary. He preached, removed tumors, and distributed books. He crossed the path of that other faithful missionary, William Burns, and they both moved 1000 miles south, suffering hardships not only by the response of an embittered people, but by the drying up of their funds. Their faith was tested to the limit.

Tropical summer caused exhaustion and he was in great weakness. At that time, he also endured the rejection of a proposal by a Miss Sisson. These additional trials tormented his mind and wrenched his soul.