Chapter 4: Further Steps of Faith
“I never made a sacrifice.” So begins chapter four, a relaying of Hudson Taylor’s growth in faith in his great God. Dr. Taylor later explains his father’s expression: “what he said was true, for the compensations were so real and lasting that he came to see that giving up is inevitably receiving, when one is dealing heart to heart with God.” The chapter basically consists of four extended quotations from Hudson Taylor’s pen. His son writes, concluding the first paragraph, “The sacrifice was great [referring to Hudson's broken romantic relationship - see chapter 3], but the reward far greater.” After Hudson had given this matter over to the Lord, “a new tone was perceptible about his letters which were less introspective from this time onward and more full of missionary purpose.”
One issue that Hudson wrestled with, as he was preparing for service in China, was his level of faith in God. He doubted whether his faith would be able to endure the pressure and “aloneness” of ministry in China. He writes “when I get out to China, I shall have no claim on anyone for anything. My only claim will be on God. How important to learn, before leaving England, to move man, through God, by prayer alone.”
His desire “to learn…to move man, through God, by prayer alone” was tested during his first winter at Drainside [see: "HTSS: Chapter 3," par. 6]:
At Hull my kind employer [he continued] wished me to remind him whenever my salary became due. This I determined not to do directly, but to ask that God would bring the fact to his recollection, and thus encourage me by answering prayer.
At one time, as the day drew near for the payment of a quarter’s salary, I was as usual much in prayer about it. The time arrived but Dr. Hardey made no allusion to the matter. I continued praying. Days passed on and he did not remember, until at length on settling up my weekly accounts one Saturday night, I found myself possessed of only one remaining coin-a half-crown piece.1 Still, I had hitherto known no lack, and I continued praying.
That Sunday was a very happy one. As usual my heart was full and brimming over with blessing. After attending divine service in the morning, my afternoons and evenings were taken up with Gospel work in the various lodging-houses I was accustomed to visit in the lowest part of the town. At such times it almost seemed to me as if heaven were begun below, and that all that could be looked for was an enlargement of one’s capacity for joy, not a truer filling than I possessed.
After concluding my last service about ten o’clock that night, a poor man asked me to go and pray with his wife, saying that she was dying. I readily agreed, and on the way asked him why he had not sent for the priest, as his accent told me he was an Irishman. He had done so, he said, but the priest refused to come without a payment of eighteen pence, which the man did not possess as the family was starving. Immediately it occurred to my mind that all the money I had in the world was the solitary half-crown, and that it was in one coin; moreover, that while the basin of water-gruel I usually took for supper was awaiting me, and there was sufficient in the house for breakfast in the morning, I certainly had nothing for dinner on the coming day.
Somehow or other there was at once a stoppage in the flow of joy in my heart. But instead of reproving myself I began to reprove the poor man, telling him that it was very wrong to have allowed matters to get into such a state as he described, and that he ought to have applied to the relieving officer. His answer was that he had done so, and was told to come at eleven o’clock the next morning, but that he feared his wife might not live through the night.
“Ah,” thought I, “if only I had two shillings and a sixpence instead of this half-crown, how gladly would I give these poor people a shilling!” But to part with the half-crown was far from my thoughts. I little dreamed that the truth of the matter simply was that I could trust God plus one-and-sixpence, but was not prepared to trust Him only, without any money at all in my pocket.
My conductor led me into a court, down which I followed him with some degree of nervousness. I had found myself there before, and at my last visit had been roughly handled. . . . Up a miserable flight of stairs into a wretched room he led me, and oh, what a sight there presented itself! Four or five children stood about, their sunken cheeks and temples telling unmistakably the story of slow starvation, and lying on a wretched pallet was a poor, exhausted mother, with a tiny infant thirty-six hours old moaning rather than crying at her side.
“Ah!” thought I, “if I had two shillings and a sixpence, instead of half-a-crown, how gladly should they have one-and-sixpence of it.” But still a wretched unbelief prevented me from obeying the impulse to relieve their distress at the cost of all I possessed…
The Conclusion (pdf document) of Hudson Taylor’s test of faith.
What sacrifice are you willing to make to deepen your faith in God? What is your reaction to Hudson’s complete reliance on God (to the point of giving all of his money away)? We will see the theme of complete abandonment return again and again in his life’s story. Questions and biblical principles ought to arise as we read. At the conclusion of the book we will analyze some of these main themes in light of Scripture. For now, observe how they affect young Hudson’s life and consider your own life accordingly.
In chapter five we will see how Hudson Taylor’s “Faith Tried and Strengthened.”
106 years ago this November, J. Hudson Taylor resigned as Director of the China Inland Mission. He left behind a legacy to all believers, particularly those involved in missions works in mainland China. Missions Mandate will highlight Taylor’s life and ministry during the month of November.
Each work day of the month of November I will post a summary of one chapter of Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor’s classic book Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret. Dr. Howard Taylor was the second son of J. Hudson Taylor, and followed in his father’s footsteps as a pioneer missionary, speaker and author.