Hudson Taylor and Maria

Imagine a group of expats working in China in the 1850s. Two of the young people fall in love. The young man asks the girl’s guardian for permission to marry her—and receives a resounding “No.”

This was Hudson Taylor’s experience. He had come to China as a missionary in 1854. He had been interested in someone else back in England. After a lot of correspondence and angst, he finally accepted the fact that this woman would never consent to go to China.

A few years later, he met Maria Dyer. She and her sister were orphans under the care of a single lady missionary in China. As Hudson and Maria grew attracted to each other, Hudson sent a letter to Maria’s guardian requesting Maria’s hand in marriage.

The guardian, Miss Aldersey, not only said no: she stood over Maria while requiring her to refuse Hudson and request him to never broach the subject again.

Part of Miss Aldersey’s objection was that Hudson was not a “gentleman” by the standards of rank at that time. But more than that, Hudson was unwittingly and not on purpose a polarizing figure at the time.

Anti-foreign sentiment was high in China then. Just the presence of Europeans could start a riot in some areas. On top of that, their foreign ways were a distraction. Once while Hudson was speaking, a man watched him in rapt attention. Hudson thought the gospel was finally breaking through to someone. But the listener questioned him, not about his message, but his jacket: why in the world did it have decorative buttons that didn’t fasten to anything, and what a silly waste was that.

Hudson decided to dress as a Chinese. He shaved his head except for a patch at the back to have extension woven in for the long queue fashionable at the time. He dressed in the style of a Chinese teacher.

And it worked. He could move about freely, and the Chinese were not immediately put off by him. It didn’t take them long to realize he was a foreigner, but his integration into their way of life went a long way toward furthering his mission. In later years, his dress and demeanor also helped establish the fact that he was not trying to establish an English church or convert people to English ways, but to Christ.

But much of the European community found his actions eccentric or even harmful.

By the Victorian standards at the time, Hudson couldn’t just rush over to Maria’s house to talk things out or ask her to meet him at a coffee shop. But as God arranged things, they found a few moments alone together while at a mutual friend’s house. When he found that Maria did love him, he felt he could pursue their engagement.

John Pollock tells their story in Hudson Taylor and Maria: A Match Made in Heaven. He begins with Hudson’s salvation story and leading to China, then he details their work together.

I love the passages describing Maria’s influence on Hudson. “Her religion had been more orderly; she served to steady Hudson’s faith while he deepened hers” (p. 113). Furthermore:

Maria tempered without quenching his zeal, was largely responsible for the common sense and balance characteristic of Taylor at the height of his powers. She made him take holidays. Under the influence of her less mercurial yet gay temperament he shed those moods of melancholy; he could discuss every matter with her and forget to be introspective. He became more assured, grew up.

Though his was the finer intellect, Maria had a more thorough education. She improved his cumbrous style, teaching him to write good English though she never cured him of split infinitives.

Together they had such a reservoir of love that it splashed over to refresh all, Chinese or European, who came near them (p. 114).

Hudson Taylor had not intended to start a new mission agency. But while home in England recovering from some physical problems, he wanted to recruit more people to go into the interior of China. Most missionary effort was on the coast, leaving the biggest part of the country unreached.

The agency under whose auspices Hudson had come had failed him miserably, leading him to resign them while still in China.

Between the new recruits and Hudson’s experiences, the necessity for a new mission agency became apparent. The pressure on Hudson was excruciating until finally, after a friend’s sermon, he realized:

If we are obeying the Lord, the responsibility rests with Him, not with us. Thou, Lord! Thou shalt have the burden. All the responsibility lies on Thee, Lord Jesus! I surrender. The consequences rest with Thee. Thou shalt direct, care for, guide me, and those who labour with me (p. 141).

Thus the China Inland Mission was born. Taylor needed those assurances for the rocky path ahead.

One of Hudson’s mottoes was “Move man, through God, by prayer alone.”

In later years Hudson said, “As a rule prayer is answered and funds com in, but if we are kept waiting the spiritual blessing that is the outcome is far more precious than exemption from the trial (p. 125).

Another of his principles was this:

Pray ye to the Lord of the harvest that he will send forth labourers unto the harvest.’ Taylor decided that the divine method of riding missionaries did not lie in ‘elaborate appeals for help, but, first, earnest prayer to God to thrust forth labourers, and, second, the deepening of the spiritual Life of the Church, so that men should be unable to stay at home‘ (p. 128).

Although I don’t think this was meant to be a theme in Pollock’s book, one factor that stood out to me was that many of Hudson’s main problems were not with anti-foreign sentiment or the government: his most trying problems came through other Christians. The criticism of his Chinese dress, the division over his proposal to Maria (one of the leaders refused to give him communion over the issue!), the new recruits grumbling and fussing like the Israelites in the wilderness, dissension in the ranks, people spreading disinformation, and armchair commentators from afar touting uninformed opinions about everything he did, all weighed on him. He tried to be gracious, and he was not above rebuke or correction. But a lot of the opposition to his work and methods was fleshly and burdensome.

I also noticed with him as with Jim Elliot, whose story I reread a few weeks ago, that in their twenties, they were not at their most mature state (who is at that time?). For instance, in Hudson’s youthful zeal, he “suffered scruples about putting on a life jacket” during a storm at sea because he felt it showed “lack of faith in God’s power to intervene.” In later years, “he laughed at such extravagance. ‘I believe I can trust the Lord in some respects as much as I ever could, but I am a good deal modified in some of my views and do not think it right to neglect proper precautions'” (p. 84). But they still had a willingness to do God’s will no matter the cost to themselves and to think outside the box. They both grew in wisdom with more experience of walking with God.

After a particularly lengthy and trying period in his early days, he wrote to someone:

At home, you can never know what it is to be alone—absolutely alone, amidst thousands, as you can in a Chinese city, without one friend, one companion, everyone looking on you with curiosity, with contempt, with suspicion or with dislike. Thus to learn what it is to be despised and rejected of men—of those you wish to benefit, your motives not understood or respected—thus to learn what it is to have nowhere to lay your head, and then to have the love of Jesus applied to your heart by the Holy Spirit—His holy, self-denying love, which led Him to suffer this and more than this—for me; this is precious, this is worth coming for (pp. 81-82).

Sadly, Hudson and Maria only had twelve married years together. Pollack ends the book a little abruptly right after Maria’s death. He has a recommendation elsewhere in the book for the rest of Hudson’s life story. I had not read the one he mentioned, but I’ve read others. the classic is a large two-volume set written by Taylor’s son and daughter-in-law (though Pollock asserts that the daughter-in-law revised and left out some things, it’s still a great set). Even though I was familiar with much of Taylor’s life, I was blessed by going over parts of it again in this book.

Though this book was originally written in the 1960s, the style of writing seems much older to me. But the book is easily readable and well worth one’s time.

(Sharing with Grace and Truth, Senior Salon, Hearth and Soul,
InstaEncouragements, Booknificent, Carole’s Books You Loved)

Laudable Linkage

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Here are some thought-provoking reads discovered this week.

Regeneration, HT to Challies. “We’ve dropped being born again from our vocabulary as evangelicals as it smacks of being American from the 1950s and yet the doctrine of regeneration couldn’t be more vital. If you’ve not been born again/regenerated you cannot enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3,5 which fulfils Ezekiel 36:25,26). If you don’t understand regeneration you will misunderstand the whole of the gospel.”

The Race. I could identify with this both as a mother watching a child race and as someone who will never cross any finish line first. “I have a feeling that it isn’t only the Olympic gold medalists who bring God pleasure when they run, limp, or crawl across a real finish line.”

Rescued, Resilient, and Resisting—Even in a Pandemic. I love this post from Michele about riding out the end of the pandemic with a “Resolve to finish well. Foiling Satan’s attack on our human tendency to ‘yield just when … relief was almost in sight,’ let us rather lean in to the struggle against impatience or petulance.”

On the Question Every Heart Asks: Why? HT to The Story Warren. “It is comforting to know that even Solomon in his wisdom, also asked why.”

The Counsel and Care of the Elderly, HT to Challies. “Society feeds the pride of young men and women by telling them that they can change the world–regardless of God-given giftings, intellect, upbringing, associations, providential encounters, guidance, or hard work. Society tells us that the elderly are a burden to progress. While there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9), ours is an increasingly narcissistic culture. This is nowhere more evident than in our disdain and disregard of the elderly.”

The Risky Upside of Missionary Biographies. And some advantages. I shared some others a few years ago in Why Read Biographies?

When Amazon Erased My Book, HT to Challies. Scary.

There were a number of posts on emotions this week:

Dealing with Anger. “Most of us will agree that when we get angry we lose much more than our temper. We say or do terrible things that we regret later, and we wish we could take them back.”

Engaging Our Emotions, Engaging with God, HT to Challies. “God doesn’t call us to avoid or squash our emotions (as Christians often suppose). Neither does he call us to embrace them unconditionally (as our culture often urges). Rather, he calls us to engage them by bringing our emotions to him and to his people.”

Lament Is for Little Ones, Too, HT to The Story Warren. “These psalms typically follow a threefold structure: tell God how you feel; ask for help; respond in trust and hope. We can use this pattern to help our children learn to lament to God all that they are feeling.”

31 Days of Missionary Stories

I’ve seen that several bloggers are participating in a 31 Days series hosted by Nesting Place. The basic idea is to choose a topic that you write about each day of October. I thought, “Hmm, that sounds interesting…but what in the world would I write about?” Then it hit me this morning: I love to read missionary biographies or stories: when I first started my blog I did a series for a few weeks on different missionary stories or anecdotes, and I have been doing the same in a church ladies’ newsletter for years. What a great opportunity to share some of those here! Some times it will be an overview of a person’s life: some times it will be just one incident or anecdote.

Why missionary stories? Because it increases my faith to see men and women “of like passions as we are” who learn, grow, overcome, and are used by God. I wrote more about reading missionary biographies before, and an excerpt from that is:

We learn history for a number of reasons, among them: to better understand our current times, to appreciate our heritage, to avoid repeating mistakes. There are heroes in our national history who inspire us to a love of country and duty and courage. There are heroes of our spiritual heritage who inspire us in love and dedication to God and to greater faith in remembering that the God they served and loved and Who provided for and used them is the very same God we love and serve today and Who will provide for us and use us. Though times and culture change, human nature at its core doesn’t change much, and God never changes.

This poem, which I first saw in Rosalind Goforth’s book, Climbing, embodies my own thoughts and feelings as well.

Call Back!

If you have gone a little way ahead of me, call back-
It will cheer my heart and help my feet along the stony track;
And if, perchance, Faith’s light is dim, because the oil is low,
Your call will guide my lagging course as wearily I go.

Call back, and tell me that He went with you into the storm;
Call back, and say He kept you when forest’s roots were torn;
That when the heavens thunder and the earthquake shook the hill.
He bore you up and held where the very air was still.

O friend, call back, and tell me for I cannot see your face;
They say it glows with triumph, and your feet bound in the race;
But there are mists between us and my spirit eyes are dim,
And I cannot see the glory, though I long for word of Him.

But if you’ll say He heard you when your prayer was but a cry,
And if you’ll say He saw you through the night’s sin-darkened sky-
If you have gone a little way ahead, O friend, call back-
It will cheer my heart and help my feet along the stony track.

I hope you’ll join me as we look to those who have gone on before us and learn from them.

I’ll be using this post as a directory to list the posts in the series.

Day 1: This post
Day 2: Rosalind Goforth; Answer to a Mother’s Prayer.
Day 3: Adoniram Judson’s Conversion.
Day 4: Adoniram Judson’s biography: To the Golden Shore.
Day 5: John Paton, Missionary to Cannibals.
Day 6: Darlene Deibler Rose: Missionary POW.
Day 7: Gracia Burnham and God’s Grace in Captivity.
Day 8: Isobel Kuhn Learns to Put God First.
Day 9: Isobel Kuhn’s Marriage: Whom God Hath Joined.
Day 10: Don Richardson: How to minister to a culture that values treachery?
Day 11: Amy Carmichael: With All Our Feebleness: Victory Through Pain and Illness.
Day 12: Amy Carmichael Learns to Die to Self.
Day 13: Amy Carmichael and Singleness.
Day 14: Gladys Aylward: The Small Woman With Big Faith.
Day 15: Mary Slessor and the Power of a Woman’s God.
Day 16: Spirit of the Rainforest: A Yanomamo Shaman’s Story
Day 17: Eric Liddell: Olympian and Missionary.
Day 18: Dr. John Dreisbach: Modern Missionary Statesman and Surgeon.
Day 19: The “Cambridge Seven
Day 20: William Carey: “Attempt great things for God. Expect great things from God.
Day 21: Rosalind Goforth, A Woman “Of Like Passions” As We Are.
Day 22: J. O. Fraser: Pianist and Engineer Turned Missionary.
Day 23: Dallas and Kay Washer, Candles in the Darkness.
Day 24: Margaret Stringer: Missionary to Cannibals With a Merry Heart and a Faithful Spirit.
Day 25: Clint and Rita Vernoy: On Ethnocide and Raising Children in the Jungle.
Day 26: Verda Peet: Sometimes I Prefer to Fuss.
Day 27: Jim Elliot’s Journals.
Day 28: Hudson Taylor, Pioneer Missionary.
Day 29: Not Only Preachers Are Called To Be Missionaries.
Day 30: Different ways to support and encourage missionaries.
Day 31: Thoughts on pedestals and missionary biographies with a list of my favorites.

You can see what other people are writing about for this 31 day challenge here: there are nine different categories.

(Photo courtesy of MorgueFile)