Excerpts from

Hudson Taylor: The Growth of a Soul

By Howard Taylor (Hudson Taylor's son)

Published by Chinese Inland Mission, 1911 


No book has touched my heart more deeply than The Growth of a Soul, which describes childhood, youth and early ministry of Hudson Taylor. Anything but a life of ease, he learned to trust and follow God through one difficulty after another. As a young teen, he heard the call to China, and he never wavered from that goal. Forsaking family and normal comforts, we chose to live among the poor and broken -- wanting nothing more than to learn to trust His Lord to meet all physical and spiritual needs.

I did an Internet search for this wonderful book and found a used copy that I now treasure. After just finished reading Chapter 15, I wanted to share it with you -- especially this quote -- a warning fit for our times:

"'Never,' as Hudson Taylor put it, 'is one more helpless than in a sailing ship with a total absence of wind and the presence of a strong current setting toward a dangerous coast. In a storm the ship is to some extent manageable, but becalmed one can do nothing ; the Lord must do all.'"

From Chapter 21: Our Plans for Usefulness

(Including the young missionary's 2nd, 3rd and 4th journey into the interior)

December 1855

SECOND JOURNEY: January 1855 At any rate he set out on January 25, travelling in his own boat. A few miles south of Shanghai, a tributary stream was reached, leading to a district little known to foreigners. Lying between the Hwang-poo river and the coast, the region was one infested with smugglers, and even its larger centres of population had rarely if ever been visited with the Gospel. It was a favourite resort of desperate characters throughout that borderland between two provinces...

[This dangerous region] might well have been avoided by the solitary evangelist had he desired an easy task. Travelling oil far into the night, however, he was conscious of a Presence that precluded fear, and robbed the unknown of its possible terrors.

Far from promising must have seemed the awakening when they found themselves next morning frozen in between high, snow-covered banks, the water covered with a thick coating of ice. To the uninitiated it may sound interesting enough to pole one's way along such a river, breaking a channel for the boat a foot at a time. But any one who has spent long days and nights on a leaky junk, under similar conditions, will not be anxious to repeat the experiment, except for the ends Hudson Taylor had in view.

And these ends were in no wise hindered by the slow progress that was all they could make. Accompanied by a servant to carry books, the young missionary went ashore and walked from hamlet to hamlet. His dress, speech and occupation everywhere aroused the intensest interest, and great was the eagerness to obtain his beautifully bound and printed books. 1- {1-Pah-ko ts'ien ih pun, " Eight cash a copy," is a phrase that early becomes familiar to the missionary who in these days presents his Scriptures for sale rather than free distribution. And certainly they are a wonder at the price (one farthing), printed in clear, large type, and attractively bound in tinted paper covers.}That he was giving these away was not the least part of the wonder, and as village after village turned out to meet him, the schoolmaster or some promising student was put forward to secure as many as possible. It was casting bread indeed " upon the waters," but very definite was his faith in the promise, " It shall accomplish that which I please and . . . prosper in the thing whereto I sent it."

Two governing cities were visited on this journey, besides many villages, and a market-town whose population equalled that of both cities combined. It was lonely, trying work, for the people were rough, and the crowding dangerous, and in reading the journal one is surprised at the thoroughness with which it was done. Every street in Chwan-sha was visited, for example, and in each of the suburbs ; all the reading men he could find being supplied with Gospels and tracts. In several temples also addresses were delivered. There was no companion to fall back upon, and unless he preached himself the people might never hear. So looking to the Lord for help, Hudson Taylor made the most of his few sentences, following up long days ashore with hours of medical work and private conversation on the boat at night.

In Nan-hwei, ... the crowds were especially turbulent, and a Sunday spent there was memorable both to himself and the local authorities. Alarmed at the news that a foreigner was approaching, orders had been issued to close the principal gate of the city, and keep it locked and barred until after he had withdrawn. Knowing nothing of this defensive movement, Hudson Taylor spent the night outside a gate of secondary importance, unnoticed in his little boat, and early on Sunday morning passed in and went about his work. Meanwhile a sharp look-out was kept on the opposite side of the city, and it was a crestfallen messenger who bore tidings to the Ya-men 2 { 2- The Ya-men is the residence of the local Mandarin.}that the foreigner was already within its walls. Greatly taken aback, the Mandarin sent to learn all he could about the intruder ; and when it proved that he was alone and unarmed, a well-behaved person whose stay would be of short duration, his fears were dispelled, and the East Gate shortly after was reopened to traffic.

The excitement of the people, however, was not so easily allayed, and after a brave attempt at preaching Hudson Taylor had to retire before overwhelming crowds. Knowing that those who were interested would follow him, he took refuge on his boat at a little distance from the city. And a busy day he had of it-receiving the hundreds who came, supplying all who could read with Christian literature, giving medicines to the sick, telling over and over again the main facts of the Gospel, and answering endless questions as to personal matters. Several educated men paid him a visit, two of whom warned the boatmen that it was not safe for a foreigner to be in that district alone and unprotected. But Hudson Taylor, overhearing the conversation, assured them that he had no fear, for the Great God,Creator and Upholder of Heaven and earth, never fails to keep watch over those who put their trust in Him.

So real was this faith that he did not even hesitate, the following day, when urged to go he knew not whither to visit a dying woman. He had just completed a morning's work in the city, and upon reaching the boat found several men from a distance, one of whom had brought a chair and bearers to carry him back to see his suffering wife. They were all earnest in their entreaties that he would accompany them, so in spite of the risk involved in going off with entire strangers, the young missionary set out.

Mile after mile they hurried over the frozen paths until almost benumbed with cold he wondered whether it would be possible to get back that night. Even so he seems to have had no fear. Yet how easily the whole thing might have been a trap ! In that lawless part of the province, with the country in the disturbed state in which it was, nothing was more likely than that he should be seized and held to ransom, or even tortured and killed as a hated foreigner. But, as he had written home the night before

I knew that I was where duty had placed me, unworthy as I am of such a position, and felt that though solitary I was not alone.

The visit proved interesting when their destination was reached. The poor woman was suffering from dropsy, and though great relief could have been afforded under suitable circumstances, it was not possible to operate where she was. Mr. Taylor urged her husband to take her to Shanghai, regretting that he had no hospital into which he could promise to receive her ; and after making what arrangements he could for her comfort, he explained to them simply and fully the message he had come so far to bring. Of course all the village and surrounding hamlets turned out to look and listen, so that his audience was considerable, nor had they ever heard the tidings of redeeming love.

As he was leaving, the husband came up with a fine fowl tied by the legs, which he presented to the " foreign doctor," with many apologies for the insufficiency of his offering. And it was his turn to be surprised when the stranger begged him to set it free, saying with many thanks, that his medicine, like his message, was " without money and without price." Tired though he was on reaching the boat, he had the joy of knowing that in one more home and district the name of Jesus was as ointment poured forth-a sweet fragrance at any rate to God.

Two days later, on the last of January, he was leaving the market-town of Chow-pu, anxious to reach Shanghai that night. But though the boatmen travelled on till nearly morning, it was not until late on February 1 they dropped anchor at their starting-point. Then there were provisions to unload and carry home to replenish Mrs. Parker's supplies before Hudson Taylor could give attention to a matter that was specially on his heart.

A few weeks previously, three men of his acquaintance had been seized in the North Gate house, dragged out of bed in the middle of the night, and handed over as rebels to the local authorities. Upon hearing of it the young missionary had at once sought their release. But though assured that they would soon be at liberty, no charge having been proved against them, the poor fellows were only hurried from prison to prison, everywhere starved and tortured to make them confess alleged crimes. Again and again Hudson Taylor had appealed on their behalf, but as long as there was any chance of extorting money the case seemed hopeless. Now, returning encouraged from his journey, he went once more and to his great joy was successful. The men still lived, and before long he had the satisfaction of seeing them in such comfort as their homes could afford.

But how small a thing it seemed to relieve the sufferings of one group of people amid all the horrors that were going on ! Shanghai was in a worse condition than ever, if that were possible. After more than a year of desultory fighting, the Imperial forces seemed roused at length to take the city. A large new camp quite near the Settlement had cut off the last hope of relief on the landward side, and among the beleaguered garrison famine and disease were doing their deadly work. Terrible indeed was the strain of those days for foreigners and natives alike, for it was only too evident that a wholesale massacre would be the end of the tragedy before their eyes.

Even in the Settlement the position was one of danger. The attempts of the French to take the city had been unsuccessful, and by their manifest futility had impaired the prestige of all the European forces.

" It is openly announced," wrote Hudson Taylor on February 3, " that foreigners are no longer to be feared.... Added to this, the Imperial soldiers are nearer and more numerous than ever, their new Camp being hardly more than a stone's throw from this house. Dr. Parker has already told you of a ball and shell thrown into our compound. . . . So you see we are safe only as protected by Him who is the Shield as well as Sun of His people."

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The entire 1911 book is posted (without any copyright since it is more then 50 years old) at http://www.worldinvisible.com/library/hudsontaylor/hudsontaylorv1/hudsontaylorv1tc.htm