Wednesday, August 01, 2007

book review: Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret by Dr. & Mrs. Howard Taylor

Title: Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret
Author: Dr. & Mrs. Howard Taylor
Publisher: Moody Press, Chicago, 1932
Genre: Biography
ISBN: 0802400299

If you worked for someone who told you he was forgetful so you'd better remind him when your pay was due -- would you? That's the situation 18-year-old Hudson Taylor faced when he worked as a doctor's assistant during his medical studies. But this one-year-old Christian decided no, he wouldn't do that. Instead, he determined to pray for God to remind his boss of payday. The result was a few gruel-thin meals but also the development of a faith in God's ability to provide always in time. That faith was already in good shape by the time Taylor first went to China in 1853 at the age of 21.

The book Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret, authored by his son and daughter-in-law, Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor, is full of just such down-to-earth and inspiring stories. The narrative, which encompasses Dr. Taylor's whole life, is made even more lively with many sections in Hudson Taylor's own words taken from letters he wrote.

This is the kind of book that impresses more with its subject than the way it is written, however (though there certainly is nothing wrong with the way it is written). Again and again, Mr. Taylor showed himself to be a man of amazing faith and obedience. Physical comfort and ease didn't count with him as, once in China, he went on journey after missionary journey penetrating ever further into territory untouched by the Gospel. Early on he realized that his western appearance was a barrier to communication. So even though no other missionary did this, he began dressing like the Chinese people, even to growing his hair so he could wear the traditional pig-tail.

In spite of Taylor's faith and spiritual maturity, he was not God's pet. For God dealt with him like He deals with many others -- through difficulty and silence. At only 28, Dr. Taylor and (by then) his wife came home on their first furlough after six years in China, burned out and badly needing a break. There followed five years at home. During these "hidden years" support for the work faltered while his passion to see the Chinese people saved only grew. It was during this time that he sensed he was to launch out in even more faith and start an independent non-denominational mission society. This became the China Inland Mission (still operating today as Overseas Missionary Fellowship).

His life then became even more of a template of faith and prayer. He and his supporters prayed hundreds of missionaries out to China and kept them there with more prayer for monetary support and protection through politically turbulent times. Though personal tragedies dogged his steps and at one point he was bedridden and paralyzed, his faith in God remained strong. His passion for the salvation of China never cooled. And successes came -- sometimes by the hundreds and sometimes by the ones. Here is a story he relates in a letter written in 1874:

Last week I was in Taiping. My heart was greatly moved by the crowds that literally filled the streets for two or three miles, so that we could hardly walk, for it was market day. We did but little preaching, for we were looking for a place for permanent work, but I was constrained to retire to the city wall and cry to God to have mercy on the people to open their hearts and give us an entrance among them.

Without any seeking on our part, we were brought into touch with at least four anxious souls. An old man found us out, I know not how, and followed me to our boat. I asked him in and inquired his name.

"My name is Dzing," he replied. "But the question which distresses me, and to which I can find no answer, is -- What am I to do with my sins? Our scholars tell us that there is no future state but I find it hard to believe them . . . Oh sir, I lie on my bed and think. I think and think and think again, but I cannot tell what is to be done about my sins. I am seventy-two years of age. I cannot expect to finish another decade. 'Today knows not tomorrow's lot,' as the saying is. Can you tell me what to do with my sins?"

"I can indeed," was my reply. "It is to answer this very question that we have come so many thousands of miles. "Listen and I will explain to you what you want and need to know."

If you're wanting a breath of spiritual fresh air, or would like to have your life touched and challenged by a giant of faith, or just want to read a good true story, the classic Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret will not disappoint.

The book is also available to read online.


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