Hudson Taylor was the eminent nineteenth century pioneer missionary to inland China. The story of Hudson’s Christian conversion through the prayerful influence of his mother is somewhat well known and quite extraordinary. But that is only part of the story in a broader series of events that comprised God’s gracious and remarkable workings to draw Hudson Taylor to Jesus Christ as his Savior. Here’s the rest of the true story:
Hudson’s parents, James and Amelia Taylor, were devout Methodists in Barnsley, Yorkshire, England. James was an apothecary and an evangelistic preacher. James and Amelia provided their children with a sound homeschool education (which included the study of Latin and French) and were also diligent in teaching them about spiritual matters.
When Hudson was fifteen years old he started working as a junior clerk at one of Barnsley’s banks. The people he worked with were worldly in their outlook and skeptical toward spiritual things. They ridiculed his old-fashioned notions about God, which led him to question his conservative Christian upbringing. Adopting their perspective, he concluded he could live any way he chose, because there was no God to whom he must answer.
At that point, however, the Lord providentially allowed Hudson to develop an infection in his eyes which forced him to resign his position at the bank. He went to work for his father but now was unsettled and unhappy. James Taylor, not knowing about the spiritual struggle raging within Hudson, became irritated at his moodiness. Hudson’s mother, however, was more sensitive to her son’s struggles and began to pray more earnestly for his spiritual welfare.
Several months later, about a month after Hudson’s seventeenth birthday, he had an afternoon free from responsibility and found himself looking for something to read to pass the time. He spotted a small basket of pamphlets in the parlor and searched through them until he found a Gospel tract that looked interesting. Picking it up, he thought, “There will be a story at the beginning, and a sermon or moral at the close. I will take the former and leave the latter for those who like it.” He started reading with “an utterly unconcerned state of mind” about his spiritual condition or his relationship with the Lord.
Unbeknown to him, at that very moment his mother was kneeling in prayer, pleading with God for his salvation. She had gone to visit her sister in Barton-upon-Humber, some fifty miles away, and that afternoon had found herself with little to do. After noon dinner she went to her room where she was determined to remain in prayer for Hudson’s conversion until she felt certain her request had been granted.
As she fervently prayed, Hudson read about a coal miner in Somerset who was dying of tuberculosis. Some Christians visited him and shared the Gospel through a series of Scripture verses. The miner was struck by the Bible’s teaching that Jesus bore our sins in His own body on the cross. When the dying man was told about Christ’s cry of “It is finished!” from the cross, he comprehended its significance with regard to the complete provision that had been made for his own salvation and that day prayed to become a Christian.
As Hudson further pondered that declaration of Jesus from the cross, he asked himself, “What was finished?” Immediately the answer to his own question leaped to mind: “A full and perfect atonement and satisfaction for sin. The debt was paid by the substitute. Christ died for my sins.” Then came the further thought, “If the whole work was finished and the whole debt paid, what is there left for me to do?”
Hudson later wrote of that moment: “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 my knees, and accepting this Savior and His salvation, to praise Him evermore.” He immediately knelt down and asked Jesus to become his Savior.
Meanwhile an assurance came to the heart of Hudson’s mother that she no longer needed to continue praying. She began to praise God for the firm conviction, which she was sure was from the Holy Spirit, that her son had been converted. Two weeks later she returned home, and Hudson greeted her at the door, exclaiming, “Mother, I’ve such good news for you!”
“I know, my boy,” his smiling mother responded, throwing her arms around his neck. “I’ve been rejoicing in your news for a fortnight!” Seeing her son’s surprise and perplexity, she added: “It was not from any human source that I learned this. I know when you were converted, and it was in answer to my prayers.”
Some time later Hudson picked up and opened a notebook which he thought was his own but which actually belonged to his younger sister Amelia. His eye landed on a single sentence: “I will pray every day for Hudson’s conversion.” From the date that accompanied the journal entry, he realized his sister had been praying daily for his salvation for a month at the time he was converted.
God is still very much in the business of working – sometimes in quite unusual ways – to draw people to saving faith in Jesus. He even does so with some who are drifting from Him and seemingly little concerned about spiritual matters. May we be encouraged by this to redouble our efforts to pray for and witness to those who still need to come to know Christ as their Savior.
If you happen to be one of those individuals who need the Savior, may God graciously lead you to realize that Jesus accomplished everything on the cross to bring about our salvation. And may you trust wholly in Christ as your Savior.
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You can learn much more about Hudson’s life of exceptional Christian faith and service in my book Hudson Taylor, Gospel Pioneer to China. I think you’ll find (as I certainly have) his outstanding example both instructive and encouraging in your own relationship with and service for the Lord.
Copyright 2018 by Vance E. Christie