Here is the rest of the beautiful true story of Hudson Taylor and Maria Dyer’s God-honoring courtship. (You can read part 1 of their courtship story in my April 4, 2018, blog.) Hudson and Maria’s example of trustingly seeking God’s guidance and blessing in their relationship is worthy of consideration.
In June, 1857, Hudson Taylor returned to Ningpo, China, having fulfilled six months of ministry responsibility in Shanghai. He returned with his missionary colleagues, John and Mary Jones, who had encouraged Hudson to let Maria Dyer know of his romantic interest in her and to entrust the outcome to God. Hudson and the Joneses leased a property on Bridge Street, where they could actively carry out evangelistic ministry in a busy part of Ningpo.
Their ministry center was located about a mile from where Maria taught at a Protestant girls’ school under the supervision of the school’s founding director, Mary Ann Aldersey. The overbearing Miss Aldersey had not only discouraged but also forbidden the further cultivation of Hudson and Maria’s mutual interest in each other.
Not long after their return to Ningpo, Mary Jones invited Maria to join her in doing evangelistic work among the Chinese women and to visit with her in her own home. Miss Aldersey, not at all pleased that Maria might encounter Hudson at the Joneses’ house, angrily confronted Mary at a ladies’ prayer meeting.
“I feel I have good reason to be indignant,” Miss Aldersey exclaimed. “Miss Dyer belongs to a different social circle from that of Mr. Taylor. She has a small but reliable income of her own, unlike Mr. Taylor, who so far as I can see has no regular source of income with which to propose supporting a wife. Maria is educated, gifted, attractive, and has no lack of suitors who are far more eligible in my eyes. Now you must promise me that you will do nothing more to forward Mr. Taylor’s suit and that hereafter he will never be allowed to see or speak to Miss Dyer in your house.”
Mary, being careful to keep her own provoked temper in check, responded: “While I cannot commit myself as far as that, Miss Aldersey, I will refrain from throwing the couple together. And I’m completely confident that Mr. Taylor would not seek to take advantage of Miss Dyer’s visits by attempting to see her alone. At the same time, I feel compelled to say, Miss Aldersey, that it is a very serious matter for you to tamper with the affections of two young people.”
One afternoon in the middle of July, that same ladies’ prayer group met at Mary’s home. As the meeting drew to a close, a torrential downpour commenced. Most of the women were able to leave. But two of the missionaries, Maria Dyer and a Mrs. Bausum, were detained as they waited for coolies to come and carry them in sedans through the flooded streets.
As supper time neared, Hudson and John Jones arrived home from the Bridge Street chapel where they had been ministering. When they were told by a servant that Maria and Mrs. Bausum were still there, Hudson immediately wondered whether God had providentially arranged an opportunity for them to meet. “Go into my study,” John recommended, “and I will see if an interview can be arranged.”
When John suggested the meeting to Maria, she responded, “It is what I of all things wish.” In keeping with the conservative conventions of the day, she added, “I should like Mrs. Bausum to be present.”
Despite the fact that a third party heard everything that was said, Hudson could not help but fully and freely express his deep affection to Maria. Then he asked, “Might I write to your guardian, Mr. Tarn, seeking his permission to cultivate a permanent relationship with you?”
Maria readily gave her consent. She then further revealed: “Mr. Taylor, please know that you are just as dear to me as I apparently have become to you. I was compelled by another to reject your earlier proposals, but I have suffered great personal distress as a result.”
Hudson lost no time in writing to her uncle, Mr. Tarn, in Lincoln. Then there was nothing to do but patiently, prayerfully await the response by return mail in about four months. So as not to antagonize Miss Aldersey, the couple agreed not to visit or even write each other until a response was received from Maria’s guardian.
Maria felt obliged to inform Miss Aldersey of Hudson’s correspondence with her uncle. Thoroughly incensed, the matriarch fired off a letter of her own to Mr. Tarn in which she aired all her criticisms of Hudson. She represented him as being “recognized by no one as a minister of the Gospel, fanatical, undependable, diseased in body and mind, and totally worthless”!
At last, near the end of November, Hudson and Maria received the anxiously-awaited letters from Mr. Tarn. The guardian had made careful inquiry of the Chinese Evangelization Society as well as others in London who were acquainted with Hudson, and discovered that all had nothing but the highest commendation for the young missionary. “I cordially consent to my niece’s engagement,” Tarn wrote to Taylor. “My only request is that the marriage should be delayed until Maria comes of age in the New Year.”
So Hudson was able to formally propose to Maria, and she joyfully accepted. They were married on January 20, 1858, four days after Maria’s twenty-first birthday.
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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