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One Hundred Years Ago

Category Articles
Date June 14, 2005

On June 3, 1905, at Changsha, the capital of Hunan province in China, James Hudson Taylor, the founder of the China Inland Mission (now the Overseas Missionary Fellowship) died. Hunan was the last province of China to be opened to the gospel. He was taken and buried at Chinkiang beside his wife Maria and four of their children. At that time CIM consisted of 825 missionaries in some 300 stations across China. What was to happen in that nation in the next century was certainly astounding. For years it was dominated by Mao and under his misrule 70 million people died – significantly more than that normally attributed to the second world war. Mao: The Unknown Story by Jung Chang and John Halliday (Cape) now reveals some of the horrors of that man’s influence. The church was persecuted but not extinguished; like the burning bush it flamed but was not consumed. Today the Chinese church flourishes, and so much of that is due to the faithful foundation laid by Hudson Taylor.

Consider Hudson Taylor’s wrestlings 150 years ago. He was a medical student at the London Hospital. Robert Morrison and William Milne had gained a foothold in China for missionary work. Should he go and join them? He wrote in his journal (as G.F.H. Hall recounts in a fine series of articles in The Gospel Magazine); “I knew God was speaking. I knew evangelists would be given and their support secured, but there unbelief came in. Suppose the workers are given and go to China: trials will come; their faith may fail; would they not reproach you for bringing them into such a plight?

“Can you cope with such a situation? The answer was ‘No’.

“It was the bringing in of self, through unbelief; the devil getting one to feel that prayer and faith would bring one into the fix, one would have to get out of it as best one might. I did not see that the Power that would give the men and the means would be sufficient to keep them also, even in the interior of China.

“A million a month were dying in China without God. This was burned into my very soul.”

“For two or three months the conflict was intense. I scarcely slept more than an hour at a time, and I feared I should lose my reason. To no one could I speak freely, not even my dear wife. The burden was crushing these souls, and what eternity must mean for every one of them, and what the Gospel would do for all who believed.”

Then there is a break in Hudson Taylor’s journal for seven weeks. He was face to face with the purpose of God at last. Accept it, he dare not, escape it he could not. The crisis broke on a Sunday in Brighton. Worn out and really ill, Hudson Taylor had gone to friends for a rest. He went down to the beach alone, in agony of spirit in the midst of a peaceful scene on the empty beach. A decision had to be made, for the conflict could no longer be endured.

“Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee” (Psalm 55:22)

The burden is God’s. The thought that came to him was this: “If God gives us a band of men for inland China, and they go, and all die of starvation even, they will only be taken straight to heaven; and if one heathen soul is saved, would it not be worth while?” Then another thought came to him: “If we are obeying the Lord, the responsibility rests with Him, not with us!

He cried out with relief, “Thou, Lord, Thou shalt have all the burden. At Thy bidding, as Thy servant, I go forward, leaving results with Thee.”

On the fly-leaf of his Bible he wrote: “Prayed for twenty-four willing, skilful labourers at Brighton, June 25th 1865.”

In his journal he wrote: “The conflict ended, all was joy and peace. My dear wife thought Brighton had done wonders for me, and so it had.”

Back in London the next day he went to the bank and opened an account for the China inland Mission with a £10 deposit.

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