HUDSON TAYLOR

Born MAY 21 , 1832

James Hudson Taylor in 1865. [PD-1923]

James Hudson Taylor in 1865. [PD-1923]

In his book China’s Spiritual Needs and Claims, Hudson Taylor made an observation using Jesus’ parable of the shepherd with 100 sheep. He said that instead of leaving the 99 to rescue the one lost sheep, “we stay at home with the one sheep, and take no heed to the ninety and nine perishing ones!” Throughout his life Hudson carried the burden of rescuing China’s  “perishing sheep.”

Hudson Taylor arrived in Shanghai, China, as a 21-year-old bachelor. Upon his death in 1905, the missions organization he founded, China Inland Mission, had 825 missionaries serving at 300 posts throughout the country’s 3,704,427 square miles.

CANDIDATE FOR SERVICE

His parents were Methodists of Yorkshire, England– James and Amelia Taylor. They prayed for a son who would someday serve God in China. When he was born, they named him James Hudson Taylor. Through him, God would answer their prayers.

Hudson came to personal faith in Jesus Christ at age 17. One day, like many teens before and since, he felt bored. He searched through his father’s library for something to read. A pamphlet caught his eye. He planned to read the religious tract until he lost interest in it.

But miles away, his mother felt compelled to pray for her son. She determined to pray intently for his salvation until her burden to do so lifted. When she felt peace from God and stopped praying, Hudson had finished reading the pamphlet and had prayed for God to take control of his life. A few months after his prayer of surrender, Hudson sensed God calling him to China.

A MISSIONARY’S HEART

The single 21-year-old arriving in Shanghai in 1854 knew God had a purpose for him. He’d survived a raging storm at sea that had all but destroyed the ship he was on. Hudson went to work, using his medical training and learning the language well enough to preach.

Hudson Taylor being Robbed [PD-1923]

Hudson Taylor being Robbed [PD-1923]

But there were problems to overcome. The organization that sent him wasn’t always on time with finances. Once, his medical supplies were destroyed in a fire. Then his servant stole his luggage. After that, some Chinese men pretending to help him robbed him.

To be better received, Hudson chose to look more like the people he ministered to. He donned robes that Chinese teachers wore and grew the back of his hair to make a pigtail. The one thing he could not hide nor change was the color of his blue eyes. Other mission-aries ridiculed him. Their acceptance didn’t matter to him as much as the acceptance of those who needed to hear the gospel. Hudson would surrender anything he needed to better serve God in China. In his own words, “Christ is either Lord of all, or He is not Lord at all.”

At that time, Shanghai was one of only a few coastal cities that allowed foreigners. Treaties between China and England didn’t permit travel into China’s interior.  Hudson longed to take the gospel to those multitudes who lived further inland.

FAMILY MAN

Hudson and Maria Taylor. [PD-1923]

Hudson and Maria Taylor. [PD-1923]

He moved to Ningpo to start a mission. There, he met Maria Dyer (a daughter of deceased mission-aries) who worked in a school for Chinese girls. Hudson and Maria married in 1858. That same year, the Treaty of Tienstin opened the way for foreigners to travel anywhere within the country’s borders. It would be ratified in 1860. The door to preach inland had finally opened.

However, Hudson’s health wasn’t good. He’d pushed himself too hard to, among other things, translate the New Testament into the Ningpo dialect. The physical and emotional strain demanded he rest. Hudson took his family to England, where he did plenty of things other than rest.

TWENTY-FOUR TO REACH THOUSANDS

On June 25, 1865, Hudson was attending church in Brighton, England. He got up and left the service. He strolled along the beach, feeling heavily burdened for the millions in China who had never heard of Jesus. kneeling in the sand to pray, Hudson asked God to give him “twenty-four willing, skillful laborers” (two for each province of China that had no Christian witness).

Brighton, England. Painting by Frederick William Woledge. [PD-art]

Brighton, England. Painting by Frederick William Woledge. [PD-art]

A year after his prayer on the beach, Hudson had his twenty-four workers. They agreed to the requirements their leader saw would make them most effective. Unlike other missionary organizations, they would draw workers from a variety of denominational back-grounds. Nor did candidates have to meet rigid educational requirements. They were expected to identify with the Chinese by dressing like them. They would be sent to locations where the gospel had not previously been preached.

Workers were also not to solicit funds for their work. Hudson believed “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.” Thus, the China Inland Mission (CIM) was born.

That same year Hudson shared his vision with the rest of the world. When his book China’s Spiritual Needs and Claims was published it sold no less than 10,000 copies.

China's Spiritual Need and Claims cover. [PD-1923]

China’s Spiritual Need and Claims cover. [PD-1923]

STRUGGLING TOWARD SUCCESS

The first 20 years of China Inland Mission wasn’t easy. Not everyone who signed up could handle the cultural adjustments and ministry pressures. Hudson had to relieve a key co-worker for working against him. Other missionary groups in China questioned Hudson’s practices. In 1867, he and Maria lost a child. In 1869, London’s House of Lords debated whether or not to allow missionaries to remain in China. The worst blow of all came in 1870 when Maria died during childbirth.

China’s anti-foreigner Boxer rebellion took its toll. The turn-of-the-century attack on non-native residents resulted in the deaths of 130 Protestant missionaries. More than half of those killed—58 missionaries and 21 children—belonged to China Inland Mission.

When the smoke cleared, Hudson didn’t seek grievances against the government. He lived by the belief  “All our difficulties are only platforms for the manifestations of His grace, power and love.”

A MISSIONARY ARMY

The Cambridge Seven [PD-1923]

The Cambridge Seven [PD-1923]

Hudson kept requesting more mission-aries for China. In 1884, 76 new workers arrived. The following year, CIM became widely known because of “The Cambridge Seven.” They were well-to-do young men who relinquished their social status to take the gospel to China. That made them celebrities and caused England to cast an eye toward the work of CIM. In 1886, Hudson made an appeal for 100 new missionaries. The following year, 102 were ready.

Since 1871, something else had bolstered Hudson to face the challenges of operating the China Inland Mission. That year, he married CIM worker Jeannie Faulding. They worked as a team for 33 years.

JOB WELL DONE

While CIM faced a series of difficulties during its first 20 years, the next 20 years and beyond have been fruitful. In 1897, the 44th year after Hudson Taylor arrived in Shanghai, 80,000 Chinese lived the Christian faith.

Hudson Taylor [PD-1923]

Hudson Taylor [PD-1923]

When he retired in 1903, Hudson had fulfilled his call. He’d taken the gospel message from a few coastal cities to inland China. He’d successfully placed missionaries in each of China’s provinces. When he passed away in 1905 in Hunan, China, Hudson had revolutionized missionary service in the massive country.

Hudson Taylor’s vision lives on in the ministry currently known as OMF (Overseas Missionary Fellowship) International. He also continues to inspire Christians with the many statements he made about living as God’s servants. One of those phrases, which James Hudson Taylor lived by example, is “The Great Commission is not an option to be considered; it is a command to be obeyed.”

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LET ME KNOW:  How has Hudson’s story informed, encouraged, or otherwise helped you? I welcome your comments.

Bibliography————————————————————————————————————

  • Fisk, Samuel. Forty Fascinating Conversion Stories. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1993.
  • Larsen, Timothy, ed. Biographical Dictionary of Evangelicals. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003.
  • Woodbridge, John D., ed. More Than Conquerors. Chicago, IL: Moody, 1992.
  • “Hudson Taylor & Missions to China.” Christian History. Issue 52, 1996.

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About William E. Richardson

I'm married to a wonderful woman named Deb. We're the parents of a son and daughter who bring great joy to our lives. I currently pastor the Assembly of God church in Afton, Iowa.
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