Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret

Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor

This is my fourth time through Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret.  Some books deserve rereading. 

Hudson Taylor was born in 1832 in England and he died in 1905 in China.  He is widely considered one of the greatest missionaries ever, and was the founder of the China Inland Mission.  This Mission focused on sending missionaries to the interior of China, when previously, missionaries were only at the ports on the coast.

What do we learn from Hudson Taylor’s life?

1.     He was a man who lived by faith.  He trusted God for big things, for tough things.  He never asked for money and God provided faithfully, year after year, for an evergrowing ministry.  Sometimes the provisions were remarkable.  Taylor exemplifies what it means to live by faith.

2.     Not surprisingly, Hudson Taylor was a man of prayer.  Prayer and faith always go together.  He was devoted to prayer because he was devoted to God.  He lived a life marked by earnest prayer, fervent prayer, persistent prayer. 

3.     Taylor had a deep heart for lost people, especially the lost people in China.  Before he even went to China, after God had put China on his heart, he wrote these words:  “I feel as if I could not live if something is not done for China.” 

4.     Taylor prioritized time alone with the Father.  His common practice was to spend two hours in Bible reading and prayer, often between 2 and 4am, when he would be undisturbed.  He did this even when he was traveling and staying in crowded rooms partitioned by a curtain.

5.     Taylor shows us how to trust God through suffering.  Three of his children died young and he also lost his much-loved first wife when she was only 33 years old.  Though devastated by each of these deaths, he trusted his God in some amazing ways.

Here are a few quotes or stories from the book that stand out:

“When I get to China,” I thought to myself, “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.”  (p. 23)

“Depend upon it, God’s work, done in God’s way, will never lack God’s supplies.” (p. 86)

“It doesn’t matter, really, how great the pressure is,” he used to say; “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.”  (p. 107)

After the death of his first wife when she was only 33 years old:

“I never witnessed such a scene [wrote one who was present].  As dear Mrs. Taylor was breathing her last, Mr. Taylor knelt and committed her to the Lord, thanking Him for having given her and for twelve and a half years of perfect happiness together, thanking Him too for taking her to His own presence, and solemnly dedicating himself anew to His service.

The summer sun rose higher over the city, hills and river.  The busy hum of life came up around them from many a court and street.  But in an upper room of one Chinese dwelling, from which the blue of heaven could be seen, there was the hush of a wonderful peace …

He and he only knew what my dear wife was to me.  He knew how the light of my eyes and the joy of my heart were in her.  On the last day of her life – we had no idea that it would be the last – our hearts were mutually delighted by the never-old story of each other’s love … and almost her last act was, with one arm round my neck, to place her hand on my head and, as I believe, for her lips had lost their cunning, to implore a blessing on meBut He saw that it was good to take her – good indeed for her, and in His love He took her painlessly – and not less good for me who now must toil and suffer alone, yet not alone, for God is nearer to me than ever.”  (p. 124)

A young man observed Hudson Taylor leading a prayer gathering in London:

“Mr. Taylor opened the meeting by giving out a hymn, and seating himself at the harmonium led the singing.  His appearance did not impress me.  He was slightly built, and spoke in a quiet voice.  Like most young men, I suppose I associated power with noise, and looked for physical presence in a leader.  But when he said, ‘Let us pray,’ and proceeded to lead the meeting in prayer, my ideas underwent a change.  I had never heard anyone pray like that.  There was a simplicity, a tenderness, a boldness, a power that hushed and subdued me, and made it clear that God had admitted him to the inner circle of His friendship.  Such praying was evidently the outcome of long tarrying in the secret place, and was as dew from the Lord.

I have heard many men pray in public since then, but the prayers of Mr. Taylor and the prayers of Mr. Spurgeon stand all by themselves.  Who that heard could ever forget them?  It was the experience of a lifetime to hear Mr. Spurgeon pray, taking as it were the great congregation of six thousand people by the hand and leading them into the holy place.  And to hear Mr. Taylor plead for China was to know something of what is meant by ‘the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man.’  That meeting lasted from four to six o’clock, but seemed one of the shortest prayer meetings I had ever attended.”  (p. 133)

“A leader of the Church of Scotland said to Mr. Taylor:

‘You must sometimes be tempted to be proud because of the wonderful way God has used you.  I doubt if any man living has had greater honour.’

‘On the contrary,’ was the earnest reply, ‘I often think that God must have been looking for someone small enough and weak enough for Him to use, and that He found me.’” (p. 142)

“It was not easy for Mr. Taylor, in his changeful life, to make time for prayer and Bible study, but he knew that it was vital.  Well do the writers remember travelling with him month after month in northern China, by cart and wheelbarrow, with the poorest of inns at night.  Often, with only one large room for coolies and travelers alike, they would screen off a corner for their father and another for themselves, with curtains of some sort; and then, after sleep at last had brought a measure of quiet, they would hear a match struck and see the flicker of candlelight which told that Mr. Taylor, however weary, was poring over the little Bible in two volumes always at hand.  From two to four A.M. was the time he usually gave to prayer; the time when he could be most sure of being undisturbed to wait upon God.  That flicker of candlelight has meant more to them than all they have read or heard on secret prayer; it meant reality, not preaching but practice.”  (p. 165)