James Hudson Taylor
May 21, 1832 - June 3, 1905
Founder of the China Inland Mission in 1865by Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
“Why didn’t you come sooner?”
Hudson didn’t know what to say. The older man had studied with him for several days now and had readily accepted Jesus Christ as his savior. In fact, Hudson had been overjoyed at this man’s eagerness to hear the Message. But how could he answer this burning question?
“I could not come sooner.”
“But how long have your people known this Truth?” the man inquired.
Hudson searched his mind for the right words, but they didn’t come. How could he say it?
“We have known this Truth for many centuries.” He said bluntly.
The man’s jaw dropped and his eyes widened. After a heartbeat, his arm shot out and gripped Hudson’s shoulder hard.
“My father has spent his whole life searching for this Truth,” the man’s voice sounded strangled with shock, “and so have I also searched. But you have known for centuries?” the man paused and then spoke those words again, pleading for an answer, “why did you not come sooner?”
On May 21, 1832, James Hudson Taylor was born in Yorkshire, England to an eloquent and able Methodist preacher and his gentle wife. As Hudson grew older he engaged as an assistant to a physician in Hull, and subsequently studied medicine at the London Hospital. Unknown to himself, his father, who had been deeply interested in China, had prayed that his son might go to that land as a missionary. It seemed that God also wished for Hudson to travel this path. A great interest was awakened in China through the Taiping Rebellion, which was then supposed to be a mass movement toward Christianity. This was coupled with exaggerated, but wonderful reports concerning China’s accessibility. And, lo and behold, the China Evangelization Society was founded. Not long after its opening, Hudson Taylor took up the yoke of God and offered himself to this Society. Hudson Taylor sailed for China on September 19, 1853. He had not even finished his medical studies.
From 1854 – 1860, Hudson worked in Swatow, Ningpo, and Shanghai. Ministering to the Chinese was a tough job. In those days, foreigners were not allowed into China’s interior; they were only allowed in five Chinese ports. Hudson, however, was burdened for those millions of Chinese people who had never heard of Christ, yet his sponsoring Society could not penetrate through the “walls” China had set up. So Hudson would work in other places, sometimes with the older missionaries of other societies. But during the six years of his occupation in China, Hudson retired from the China Evangelization Society, which subsequently ceased to exist, and continued as an independent worker, trusting God to supply his needs. Finally free to follow God’s spiritual “nudges”, Hudson dressed like a Chinese (even attaching a pigtail), ignored the political restrictions, and traveled along the inland canals, preaching the gospel. While his ministry continued, Hudson visited many places and God gave him blessings wherever he went. For instance, in Ningpo, Hudson met and married Miss Maria Dyer, daughter of the Rev. Samual Dyer of the London Missionary Society. Afterwards he grew ill and at a time when tremendous opportunities were opening up in China. His bad health forced him, with his wife and new daughter, to return to England.
Hudson was discouraged by this turn of events, but soon saw the advantage of his situation. While in England, recovering his health, Hudson was able to complete his medical studies which had been left unfinished in his haste to reach China. He also revised a Chinese New Testament and organized the China Inland Mission (CIM). The Mission’s goal was to bring the gospel where it had never been brought before. In other words, Hudson was determined to penetrate the places where China had forbidden foreigners from interacting with her people. And when his health improved, Hudson took his family and headed back to China in 1866 with over a dozen new missionaries. Yet the sufferings and hardships multiplied and Satan attacked viciously: Hudson’s daughter died from water on the brain, the family was almost murdered in the Yang Chow Riot of 1868, and Maria, Hudson’s wife, died in childbirth. Even with all these heartbreaks and fears, the CIM continued its work and by 1895 the Mission had 641 missionaries plus 462 Chinese helpers at 260 stations. Under Hudson Taylor’s leadership, CIM had supplied over half the Protestant missionary force in China. Though success was sweet, it had been achieved only with great sacrifices. One example is the Boxer Rebellion of 1900, 56 of these missionaries were martyred, and hundreds of Chinese Christians were killed.
Hudson’s ministry continued. He wrote many books as well: Union and Communion (1893); A Retrospect (1894); Separation and Service (1898); and A Ribband of Blue, and other Bible Studies (1899). He also remarried in 1871 to Jennie Faulding Taylor, another C.I.M. missionary. Hudson Taylor had lived a good life and would have kept preaching the gospel for centuries had old age not caught up with him first. In 1905, he died in Changsha, the capital of the previously anti-foreign province of Hunan. His remains were interred at Chinkiang, by the side of his first wife and those of his children who had died in China.
There is no doubt that God had a hand in Hudson Taylor’s life. Not only did Hudson throw himself into God’s work, but he also had an abounding faith in God’s faithfulness. His favorite text always soothed away every doubt he had ever had: “And whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, that will I do, that the father may be glorified in the Son.” Hudson believed in God and in the work that he had been given. More than anything, he wanted everyone to have a chance to experience the joy that he felt. His life has affected God’s ministry in such a way that we still feel the effects today. Because of Hudson Taylor’s initiative and dream, China was truly “opened” to the Word of God. We should all express the faith and fire that Hudson showed while he lived.
“At home, you can never know what it is to be absolutely alone, amidst
thousands, 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...and
then to have the love of Jesus applied to your heart by the Holy Spirit...this
is precious, this is worth coming for”
~James Hudson Taylor
Thompson, Phyllis. God’s Adventurer. USA: OMF, 1954.