Hudson Taylor’s entire career of five decades of missionary service in China was characterized by remarkable faith. In order to prepare Hudson for such faith-stretching service, God allowed him to face a number of faith-growing experiences during his years of preparation before going to the foreign mission field. To follow is one of those incidents.
As part of his training for serving as a medical missionary in China, Hudson lived for a time in Hull, England, where he attended lectures at the medical school and assisted one of the leading surgeons in the city, Dr. Robert Hardey. Once when the doctor was several days late in giving his assistant his quarterly paycheck, Hudson found himself in possession of only a single coin, a half-crown piece.
That Sunday he attended church in the morning and, as had become his custom, spent the afternoon and evening holding evangelistic services in the poorer sections of Hull. Just after he concluded the final service about ten o’clock that night, a man who was obviously very poor approached him and asked if he would come and pray for his dying wife. Taylor readily agreed, and the two set out for the man’s home.
Along the way, noting the man spoke with an Irish accent and supposing him to be a Roman Catholic, Taylor asked, “Why did you not send for the priest?”
“I did, but he refused to come without a payment. My family has no money even for food, so I couldn’t pay him.”
Taylor immediately thought of the single silver coin in his pocket. He also contemplated the fact that he had almost no food of his own back at his lodging. He had enough porridge left for supper that night and breakfast in the morning but nothing for dinner later on Monday.
Suddenly he started feeling anxious, then irritated with the man who had come to him for help. He actually started reproving the poor man: “It is very wrong for you to have allowed matters to get to this state. You should have sought assistance from the appropriate public official.”
“I did,” the man related meekly. “But I was told to come back at eleven tomorrow morning, and I fear my wife might not live through the night.”
They entered a particularly rough section of Hull where saloons and cheap lodging houses abounded. At one tenement they ascended a dilapidated flight of stairs and entered a wretched dwelling. There a scene of abject poverty and woeful misery confronted Taylor. Four or five children stood around the room, their cheeks and temples sunken from malnutrition. On a pallet in one corner lay the exhausted mother. Her tiny baby, only thirty-six hours old, moaned rather than cried at her side.
Taylor’s heart went out to the desperate family. He felt an inner impulse to help relieve their distress by giving them his lone coin but he resisted the prompting. Instead he tried to share words of comfort: “You must not be cast down because, though your circumstances are very distressing, there is a kind and loving Father in heaven who cares about your needs.”
“You hypocrite!” his conscience smote him, “telling these unconverted people about a kind and loving heavenly Father, and not prepared yourself to trust Him without half a crown.”
“If only I had two shillings and a sixpence instead of half a crown,” Taylor thought to himself, “how gladly would I give them the two shillings and keep the sixpence for myself.”
Feeling nearly choked and finding further attempts at verbal consolation impossible, he decided to pray instead. “You asked me to come and pray with your wife,” he said to the husband. “Let us pray.” Kneeling down, he began to recite the Lord’s prayer: “Our Father who art in heaven …” Such an inner conflict raged in Hudson’s heart he could barely get through the prayer. After he finished it he arose from his knees in great distress of mind.
As Hudson stood back up the poor husband and father implored him, “You see what a terrible state we are in, sir. If you can help us, for God’s sake, do!”
Christ’s instruction flashed into Hudson’s mind, “Give to him that asketh thee” (Matthew 5:42). Surrendering to the prompting of God’s Spirit, he put his hand into his pocket and slowly withdrew the single silver coin. Handing it to the poor man, he stated: “It might seem a small matter for me to relieve you, seeing that I am comparatively well off. But in parting with this coin I am giving you my all. Yet what I have been trying to tell you is indeed true—God really is a Father who can be trusted.”
Instantly joy flooded his heart. He could again freely express himself, and inwardly he felt the wonderful truths that he was verbalizing outwardly. Late that night, as he made his way through the deserted streets back to his lodging, his heart was so full that he spontaneously burst out in a hymn of praise to God.
After eating his next-to-last bowl of porridge as a late-night supper, Hudson knelt at his bedside and reminded God of the teaching of Proverbs 19:17: “Dear Father, Your Word promises that he who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord. Would you not allow my loan to be a long one? Otherwise I will have no dinner tomorrow.” Then, being completely at peace, he had a restful night of sleep.
The next morning, while eating his final bowl of porridge, he heard the postman’s knock at the door. A moment later his landlady came in with a small packet for him. Examining the little parcel as he took it, he did not recognize the handwriting. The postmark was blurred so he could not determine where the package had come from.
When he opened the envelope he found a pair of kid gloves folded inside a sheet of blank paper. As he removed these, a gold coin—half a sovereign, worth four times the amount he had given to the poor family the previous evening—fell to the floor.
“Praise the Lord!” he exclaimed as he picked it up. “Four hundred percent for twelve hours’ investment; that is good interest. How glad the merchants of Hull would be if they could lend their money at such a rate!”
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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