World Changer Wednesday: Hudson Taylor (1832-1905)

A Call to Forsake It All 

Drawn by Andy Gutierrez


Sometimes the Lord gives special insight to children. Hudson Taylor at the age of five that the Lord was calling him to be a missionary to China. During the nineteenth century, China was dark. According to tradition, the gospel was brought to China in the first century by the apostle Thomas. The first Christian church was erected at Xi’an in 638 but history points out that when the Tang Dynasty was overthrown in 845, Christianity seems to have disappeared until the thirteenth century.

Hudson Taylor’s life is one that should encourage Christians to step out in faith to fulfill the commands of God. His life’s work was motivated by the love of his fellow man. His heart’s desire was to see Christ glorified in the salvation of sinners, particularly the Chinese.

Hudson was born into a God-fearing family, but he was not saved until he was 17. From that time forward, he worked tirelessly to be prepared to go to China. Hudson Taylor is a world changer because he was willing to forsake it all to answer the call of Christ to preach the good news in China. He was a man who was resolved, who prayed fervently, and who left an impact. 

He Was Resolved:

Like Daniel in the Bible, who when taken captive by the Babylonians was resolved in his heart that he would not defile himself, so did Hudson Taylor as a boy resolve in his heart at the age of five that he was going to China. His philosophy was simple: There is a living God. He has spoken in the Bible. He means what He says and will do all that He has promised.”

Sharing the gospel with the lost in China consumed his thoughts and was his motivation in life. He would read whatever book he could get his hands on that dealt with China. He would go on very little food to prepare his body and mind to go without. He slept on the floor knowing what would await him in China and he started to learn Mandarin Chinese.

At the age of 21 he left without finishing school and made his way to China. It was not an easy trip. In fact, most would have thrown in the towel and headed back home. The trip took five months but in March of 1852 he landed in Shanghai not knowing anyone and barely speaking the language.

He did things differently. There were other missionaries in China at this time, mostly in the major city of Shanghai. They dressed in their western clothes and were not as ambitious with the gospel. Hudson Taylor thought differently. Instead, he put on the cultural dress of the Chinese at the time. He worked tirelessly on learning the language. He desired that they would have the Bible in Mandarin, and he desired for mission groups to be set up in all the provinces of China though many of the governmental leaders in China were against the work of missionaries. He was willing to be placed in danger for the sake of the gospel.

Hudson went without much and was spent for the gospel. As Jesus told apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). These words would be a sweet reminder for Hudson Taylor. 

He had resolved in heart to obey his calling in his life. He knew it was the Lord that brought him to China and it was the Lord that would sustain him every step of the way. Years later, even after the success of mission work in China, upon hitting other obstacles and the possibility of not being able to return to China (the borders would be closed to the gospel), he would reflect and say, “My soul yearns, oh how intensely, for the evangelization of the hundred and eighty million of these unoccupied provinces [in China]. Oh, that I had a hundred lives to give or spend for their good!” 

Mr. and Mrs. Taylor lost their daughter Gracie in 1867 when they were in China.

Another hard setback was during the Boxer Rebellion of 1900 when several thousand Christians were killed. Many were Chinese Christians and some were even part of the Inland China Mission. This was very hard for Hudson Taylor to bear and as he was already suffering in age; it was hard for his body to handle the news of what was taking place in the land he longed for and the people whom he greatly loved. However, he would cling to God’s grace and sovereignty.

There were many pressures from the result of the Boxer Rebellion. It was a dangerous time to be a foreigner in China. The support for the missionaries was dwindling. Hudson Taylor had to constantly seek the Lord in England in asking for support. He was penniless and had hundreds of people depending on his leadership while they lived in dangerous China. He would be known to say, “It doesn’t matter, really, how great the pressure is. It only matters where the pressure lies. See that it never comes between you and the Lord—then, the greater the pressure, the more it presses you to his breast.”

It is true that it does matter how one responds to trials. When we are tested, our response should be to draw close to the Lord. 

He Was a Man of Prayer:

Along Hudson Taylor’s journey he was placed into situations where he could only trust in God for protection and provision. There are countless stories of God coming through for him, whether it was providing some income when it was needed or protection from an angry mob.

While facing difficulties he would write, “He wants you to have something far better than gold, and that is a helpless dependence upon Him, that He may have the privilege (the right) of supplying your needs day by day out of an unseen treasury.”

The Impact:

Hudson Taylor would travel all throughout Great Britain and the United States not only sharing his story and seeking support, but to raise up men and women who would answer the call as missionaries to China.

I don’t know if we can calculate the exact impact of Hudson Taylor, who is a world changer. He went to China by himself but at the end of his life there were 205 mission stations, 850 missionaries, and 125,00 converts in China. The Inland China Mission continues today as the Overseas Missionary Fellowship. Just like tossing a rock into still water, the ripples continue and grow wider and wider from the impact. His ministry has grown. Though China today may be closed to Christianity, it is thriving with many house churches and Christians who put themselves at risk for the gospel daily.

What is remarkable is that after World War II, the Christian church seems to have grown despite the rise of communism, and the church has remained underground. It has been estimated that today there are more than 100 million Christians now active in China. Where once China was the recipient of missionaries, China is now sending out missionaries to other places like America and Europe. 

Today there is still a need to go out.

Jesus has given us the Great Commission: to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:18–19). The main thrust of the passage in Matthew is to make disciples wherever we live but some will be called to missions. As Christian parents, we must count the cost even if that means our children one day leaving home and going overseas for the sake of the gospel (Luke 14:25–33). There is a need and there are still people groups in the world that are lost and need to hear the gospel. It is good for us to share the stories of men and women like Hudson Taylor and others who paved the way for modern missions. 

Recommended Readings:

• It Is Not Death to Die by Jim Cromarty

• Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret by Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor

 

One thought on “World Changer Wednesday: Hudson Taylor (1832-1905)

  1. Pingback: The Importance of Looking at Church History | Pastor Jonathan Lee

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