“Immediately the words ‘It is finished’ suggested themselves to my mind.
‘What is finished?’
And I at once replied, ‘a full and perfect atonement and satisfaction for sin. The debt was paid for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.’
Then came the further thought, ‘If the whole work was finished and the whole debt paid, what is there left for me to do?’
And with this dawned the joyful conviction, as light was flashed into my soul by the Holy Spirit, that there was nothing in the world to be done but to fall down on one’s knees and accepting this Saviour and His salvation praise Him for evermore.”Hudson Taylor describing his conversion
I can say quite confidently that Hudson Taylor’s biography, written by his son and daughter-in-law, has molded my life more than any other book other than the Bible. The condensed version is known as Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret, but I recently purchased the full two-volume set, called Hudson Taylor In Early Years: The Growth of a Soul and Hudson Taylor and the China Inland Mission: The Growth of the Work of God.
Below are just a few of my favorite quotes from Taylor’s life.
Shortly after his conversion, Taylor was led to dedicate his entire life to God, specifically to mission in China. But though the experience was a powerful one he would never forget, that didn’t mean his own striving after holiness would be without struggle:
“Nothing can have been more real than his consecration; nothing plainer than the disappointment that followed when he discovered his inability to do and be what he would. …
At such times two courses are open to the perplexed and troubled soul. One is to abandon the ideal, and gradually sink to a low-level Christian life in which there is neither joy nor power. The other is just to go on with the Lord.”The Growth of a Soul, 72-73.
At the age of twenty-one, Hudson boarded a ship for Shanghai, without knowing a soul there. Standing on board the deck as the ship entered the Chinese port, Hudson was bombarded with a thousand questions:
“These and a thousand other questions engage the mind … But the most important question of all is, ‘Am I now living as near to God as possible?”The Growth of a Soul, 201.
It is Hudson Taylor’s prayer life, recorded by his children, that has particularly impacted me. His faith and constant desire for nearness to Christ inspires me. But he also prayed another prayer — usefulness — that has begun to mold the way I pray.
“Certainly nothing is more significant in the life before us than the longing for usefulness and likeness to the Lord he loved. Not honour or success, but usefulness, ‘widespread usefulness,” was his constant prayer.”The Growth of a Soul, 238.
How do we discern God’s will, especially if we are facing closed doors and obstacles?
“If we are really waiting on God and doing his will, hindrances that are not removed are safeguards, keeping us from mistaken courses, and bringing about the preparation of spirit necessary in ourselves before His best can be given.”The Growth of a Soul, 311.
Taylor’s engagement to Maria, an orphaned missionary girl he met in China, was a rocky one. Maria was forced, against her will, to write him a letter refusing him, and Hudson was left waiting for months before she was able to communicate her real affection. But during those months, God was working:
“He was winning the depths of his sorrow just the blessing it was meant to bring.”The Growth of a Soul, 425.
During this time, he also wrote to his sister:
“To think that even the sweetest, dearest of earthly ties but faintly shadows forth the love of Jesus to His redeemed … to me … is it not wonderful? …. Oh, how can we love our precious Jesus enough, how do enough for Him! … Soon will He call us to a wedding-feast, the marriage supper of the Lamb Not as guests, but as the bride shall we take our place with joy, arrayed in the spotless robe of His righteousness.
The time is short. May we live as those who wait for their Lord, and be ready with joy to meet Him.”The Growth of a Soul, 427.
I can’t help sharing Taylor’s description of his breakthrough (what the book refers to as his spiritual secret) that became a foundation to the rest of his ministry and the founding of the China Inland Mission:
“When my agony of soul was at its height, a sentence from a letter from dear McCarthy was used to remove the scales from my eyes …. ‘But how to get faith strengthened? Not by striving after faith, but by resting on the Faithful One.’
As I read I saw it all! ‘If we believe not … he abideth faithful.” I looked to Jesus and saw (and when I saw, oh, how the joy flowed!) that He had said “I will never leave you.”
‘Ah, there is rest!’ I thought. ‘I have striven in vain to rest in Him. I’ll strive no more. For has He not promised to abide with me—never to leave me, never to fail me?”Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret, 262. (You can read the entirety of the story behind this letter here.)
Finally, this sentence stuck out to me and has been imbedded in my mind ever since. Earlier this year, I wrote a post on this quote, thinking through what it looks like to grasp the reality of the world and the even greater reality of our God.
“He seemed to live in such a real world and to have such a real, great God.”Maria Taylor, describing her soon-to-be husband
If you haven’t read Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret, I would urge you to do so. Or better yet, pick up his full biography! I promise that while you may have to weed through many details of Chinese history, the treasures you’ll find will be worth it!
For the gospel,