It is hard to peer through the haze of decades and centuries and discern the motives, intents, desires, longings, and passions of great men of history. When Washington crossed the Delaware, what feelings were truly beating within Him? As Alexander the Great marched from kingdom to kingdom, what thoughts motivated his every move, and flittered through every dream? When William Wallace fought upon the fields of Bannockburn, what creed genuinely coursed through his soul? When Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg, what spurred him onward and what affections swelled his breast? It is hard to know. However, the annals of history, the letters, correspondences, personal writings, journals, testimonies from friends, acquaintances and enemies, and other numerous witness give us a structure whereby we can sort of squint our eyes and make out the personality, characteristics, and motives of these persons of renown.
When your life intersects the story of Hudson Taylor, there is a dumbfounding sense of awe. As testimony after testimony piles up and tells the incredible story of how this one man, with a confident faith in his God, literally transformed the inland of China and extended Christianity into a region very inhospitable to anything perceived as an envoy from the Western World. His lasting legacy is one of the most thriving churches in the world: the underground church of China. The organization he founded continues to send missionaries to not only China, but also to many other Asian countries. His descendants remain deeply intertwined with the mission to reach the unreached people groups of Asia. Yet, despite the great pioneering, missionary faith which galvanized a generation of young believers, what was this man’s blazing passion? Was all that he accomplished simply a chance of luck? Were the cards he was dealt somehow a better hand than the average person? Did he monotonously go about a hum-drum routine just to eke out a living upon this earth? The resounding testimony of Taylor’s life was that there was a fiery core within him that burned like a volcano within him and drove him to labor, toil, pray, risk, preach, and pray. If we would desire the impact the world in a similar manner as Taylor did, perhaps we should gaze into the molten hot core of this man’s soul, through the telescope of historic testimony.
During the early days of the formation of CIM, Taylor made this statement as an enunciation of his desire for what this massive undertaking was purposed to accomplish, “Our great desire and aim [is] to plant the standard of the cross. Pg 124” In this short, simple, elementary statement we have the blazing nucleus of this man’s life, soul, ministry, ethos, and passion. If we could peel back the layers of history, and see into Taylor’s heart, we would see that this statement was the fuel for his entire missionary venture.
This modern generation is in desperate need of men with the same passionate axiom waving on the banner of their lives. Scripturally, this is the central standard we must carry into this battle of the ages! Jesus makes this statement in the gospel of John, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me (John 12:32 KJV).” Christ Himself is making an argument for how we are to not just do missions, but how we are to live. The purpose of a Christian’s life is to simply lift up Christ as all-surpassingly glorious, and, as Paul would say, preach Christ crucified! The result of Christ being “lifted up,” i.e. presenting the cross of Christ as a beautiful treasure, is that “all men are drawn unto Him.” Meaning, the purpose of Christianity is summed up in very simply preaching the sufficiency of Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice upon Calvary. The fact that Jesus died once for all to “bring us to God (1 Pt. 3:18 KJV),” means that there is now a revolutionary, transformative power that now works on behalf of those that believe, to justify, sanctify, glorify, and cause them to walk in the righteousness of God. This is the one hope of eternal fellowship with the most delightful Being in the universe. There is no other way into this abundant life of God. Jesus purchased this deep communion with His blood by being lifted up upon that precious tree. As a result of His wrath-absorbing sacrifice, eternal life in Him is offered to all. For He so loved the world that everyone that believes on Him would not perish but could have everlasting life.
Now, the implications this has upon how we do missions is massive. Listen to a few statements by Paul: “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world (Gal. 6:14 KJV).” First, Paul is making the case for how to live as a Christian. We are to live in the powerful reality of the Cross of Christ. Paul’s one boast was the cross. Why? Because what took place there was the purchase in blood of a complete renovation of our lives. The only avenue whereby mankind may be saved is through that bloody tree. Thus, Paul says that the one thing He is going to talk about, boast in, relish, tout as magnificent, shout from the rooftops, scream at the top of his lungs, live his life to show, spend his time on, delight in, tell others about is this all-surpassing treasure of the purchase of the cross. Paul is not preoccupied with just a historical fact; none of the great apostles or saints were. They were, however, consumed with the supernatural transaction that took place on Golgotha’s brow. Christ taking our death and establishing an avenue whereby God may indwell the tabernacle of man’s soul.
Secondly, Paul says, “[…] I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord […] (Phi 3:8a KJV).” Thus, this avenue of access to the Father God, and the purchase of the Indwelling Spirit is so important to Paul (and again all the true people of God), that he has the audacity to say that everything else is loss when compared with the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ. Further, this was so compelling to Paul that he states a few sentences later that he is in a passionate and tireless pursuit of more delight, and deeper, more intimate knowledge of Christ. This, then, has become the focal point of every genuine disciple of the Messiah: a life transformed by the final and sufficient sacrifice of the cross, and the insatiable desire to know and make known the gloriousness of the Crucified Christ.
Finally, in that Revelation of all revelations, the Apostle John writes, “And they [the saints of God] overcame him [the Devil] by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death (Rev. 12:11 KJV).” And right before this the battle cry of the saints is, “Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ […] (Rev. 12:10a KJV).” Thus, the whole congregation of saints across the ages hold up the evidences of Satan’s demise, the blood of the Lamb (i.e. the work of Christ upon the cross), the word of their testimony (i.e. a life that exhibited the transformative power of the cross), and by not loving their lives unto death (i.e. living and dying in such a way that shows the world how valuable the cross is, namely, because they are willing to die for Him). Thus, as God’s men and women hold up the truth of Calvary, their battle cry echoes with that prayer the Lord taught His disciples, “Thy Kingdom come (Luke 11:2 KJV).” God’s saints are so consumed with absolute adoration and love for their King that:
- They are willing to not just give up dreams, desires, comforts, goals, etc. but to actually die in order to show the world how good their Christ is.
- They go into capital cities of Satan and declare his defeat and proclaim the rightful, and only King and lift Him high in His magnificence and appeal to all to swear allegiance to Him!
- Their whole life is consumed with firmly planting that valiant standard of Christ upon every nation tribe and tongue. They burn with a passion to see Philippians 2:9-11 KJV manifested, “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Thus, Hudson Taylor’s desire to plant the standard of the cross, is really just obedience to Christ’s Great Commission, which was to go into all nations and make disciples of the cross. Taylor spent his life delighting and abiding in the realities of the exchanged life purchased by Christ’s incorruptible blood, and in lifting high the irresistibly beautiful excellencies of the Savior.
Now, this golden foundation of Taylor’s life flowed out freely from him in numerous ways. I will leave it to others who are far more qualified and can do a far better job at describing these efforts and effects of his life. However, in this generation we need the stuff of Taylor firmly established within the church. The centrality of the Gospel of Christ in Taylor’s life is the same fuel that has spurred on mission endeavors throughout history, and this century is no different. The banner of King Jesus must be advanced, and His standard must be planted upon souls lost in darkness. We would do well to sit at Taylor’s feet and center our lives upon the same ravishing truth of the Crucified, Risen and Ascended Christ.
Taylor understood humanity’s massive need for the cross. Without Christ a soul is lost and justly condemned to eternal separation from that dear presence of the King. He firmly believed that God’s omnipotent arm would aid His people as they endeavored to advance the Standard of the Conquering King. In regards to this, He once said,
We have to do with One who is Lord of all power and might, whose arm is not shortened that it cannot save, nor His ear heavy that it cannot hear; with One whose unchanging Word directs us to ask and receive that our joy may be full, to open our mouths wide, that He may fill them. And we do well to remember that this gracious God, who has condescended to place His almighty power at the command of believing prayer looks not lightly on the bloodguiltiness of those who neglect to avail themselves of for the benefit of the perishing. Pg 119
God enables His people to successfully accomplish His Great Commission of exalting the Cross. Taylor was simply a living breathing example of a man who actually believed that promise. He believed the word which declares that God can’t lie (see Titus 1:2 KJV). Therefore, he operated his entire life and ministry upon the premise that God would aid and abet him, as he faithfully obeyed the command of God to preach the gospel to every nation. He also realized that this obedience was only done by daily carrying the cross of self-denying, God-exalting holiness. Taylor makes it clear that missions can only be done in accordance with Christ’s word, which commands disciples to carry a cross. He said, “This work will not be done without crucifixion, without consecration which is prepared at any cost to carry out the Master’s command. Pg 244” This is the necessary lifestyle, which true service to the King demands. Taylor lived pre-decided to be fully consecrated and set apart to God and to, at any cost to himself, carry out the edict of making disciples who were utterly enraptured by the riches of grace in Jesus.
This utter satisfaction in God, was the primary reason Taylor passionately served the Chinese for so long. He had tasted of a fountain that satisfied His soul’s thirst. Once he tasted that fountain, it became his life work to point others to that Glorious Fountainhead. He was always saying things like: “If you are ever drinking at the Fountain with what will your life be running over? — Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! Pg 196” When he first experienced the deep joys of abiding in Christ he quickly began declaring to others around him how good and excellent it is to trust in the merits of Christ and to yield one’s life to His life giving Spirit. In a letter to his sister, Taylor writes:
I saw not only that Jesus will never leave me, but that I am a member of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. The vine is not the root merely, but all–root, stem, branches, twigs, leaves, flowers, fruit. And Jesus is not that alone–He is soil and sunshine, air and showers, and ten thousand times more than we have ever dreamed, wished for or needed. […] The sweetest part, if one may speak of one part being sweeter than another, is the rest which full identification with Christ brings. […] And His resources are mine, for He is mine, and is with me and dwells in me. Pgs. 164-165
When someone is able to express with such eloquence the satisfaction it has found in any object, high or low, it reveals the true nature of the soul. Lover’s write poetry. Scholars write treatises. Scientists write theses. Theologians write dissertations. Activists write petitions. And saints of God write of the sufficiency of their King. Henry Scougal once said, the moral excellence and worth of a soul is found in what it loves. Meaning, the soul only rises to the height of its highest love and joy. A soul, therefore, shows its worth by what it values, loves and esteems If a teenage boy lives, breathes, and infatuates about video games, his soul’s worth is rather base and lowly. If a woman is consumed with a passion for social justice and humanitarian causes, while these are virtuous causes, they only lift her soul to the limited height of human achievement. However, if a soul is utterly, completely and irrevocably enthralled by the highest and grandest object possible, that soul becomes an avenue to display that objects supreme worth. Thus, since Taylor’s foremost love was Christ, and because He is the highest, most excellent, most glorious “Object” in the universe, it reveals the radically profound richness of his soul. This man was a profound thoroughfare, upon which the worth and excellency of Christ could cavalcade.
Hence, because Taylor’s soul orbited around the grandeur of the sufficiency of the Christ, and his supreme passion was to plant the banner of the Messiah’s perfect sacrifice upon the highest hills of the land, he consistently cast himself upon the promise of provision made by his King. He had such a lofty view of the perfections of Christ Jesus, that he confidently believed that his God would supply for all his needs. He once made this statement: It is His work [to plant the standard of the cross], not mine or yours, and yet it is ours–not because we are engaged in it, but because we are His, and one with Him whose work it is (Taylor, 170).” In the biographies, records, eye-witness accounts, and personal journals of Taylor, there is testimony after testimony of God’s miraculous provision for this work. Taylor believed that God would furnish CIM with everything it needed, whether financial need or missionaries. Therefore, he went solely to his King with the necessities of the ministry. When they needed food or finance, God provided. When they needed more workers, God raised them up. He proved time and time again, that God supplied for His children.
Further, Taylor believed that this provision of God for the purpose of advancing the glorious standard of the cross, in order to glorify His Name, was not excluded to just certain “men of faith.” He firmly believed and taught that this was for every saint who ventured to cast themselves fully into the work of Kingdom advancement! He declared, “In other words, do not let us consider Him as far off, when God has made us one with Him, members of His body. Nor should we look upon this experience, these truths, as for the few. They are the birthright of every child of God (Taylor, 166).” This should have profound impact upon this modern era of missions. We have the same banner to advance. The same God to glorify. And it is promised within the Word of God, that our King will supply His Soldier-Saints with everything necessary for the advancement of His glory and kingdom! Taylor lived this way in order to prove to his generation, and those who would follow in his stead, that God will provide for His Kingdom advancement.
Finally, is it really possible to live in this utter dependence on God faithfully to the end of one’s life? In essence, can someone consistently live this way for their entire life? Taylor’s death is, perhaps, one of the most profound testimonies of how stunningly outstanding such a long life of faith in God is. What follows is the record of Taylor’s last moments upon this tired globe, as recorded by his children.
In less time than it takes to write, […we saw] dear Father draw his last breath. It was not death–but the glad, swift entry upon life immortal.
“My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and the horseman thereof!”
And oh, the look of rest and calm that came over the dear face was wonderful! The weight of years seemed to pass away in a few moments. The weary lines vanished. He looked like a child quietly sleeping, and the very room seemed full of unutterable peace. (Hudson Taylor and the China Inland Mission, pg. 616-617)
As Taylor’s body was being arrayed in the garments of incorruption, a touching testimony of his immense legacy was proceeding. A young evangelist and his wife had journeyed far to meet the man who had so profoundly impacted their lives. When they arrived, they heard the Taylor was tired and needing rest, so they decided to wait until morning to come and visit. When they heard the news of his death, they came to the house where he was, and asked if they could see him, which was, of course, permitted. While gazing at his benevolent face, and grieving his departure, the young man asked if he could touch his hand. With permission, he gripped the hand that had so often been folded in travailing prayer for the people of China. As he did so, he spoke to Taylor as if he could hear and said in Chinese:
“Dear and Venerable Pastor, we truly love you. We have come today to see you. We longed to look into your face. We too are your little children. You opened for us the road, the road to heaven. You loved us and prayed for us long years. We came today to look upon your face.
“You look so happy, so peaceful! You are smiling. Your face is quiet and pleased. You cannot speak to us tonight. We do not want to bring you back: but we will follow you.” (Hudson Taylor and the China Inland Mission, pg. 617-618)
With such scenes of tender love from his own children, and the people he had labored long and hard for, the earthly body of Hudson Taylor was interred by the mighty Chin-kiang river; where it now awaits the glorious resurrection of the dead. Once more a saint of God had borne a cross of self-denying, God-exalting, soul-saving fervor; and once more a man, who was rather insignificant in the natural realm, showcased to the world the glorious reality of an exchanged life. Taylor saw the standard of the cross as surpassingly beautiful and demanded his life. Thus, his life was consumed with the tremendous pursuit of letting his own life of frailty fade, and he simply became a stage for the exceedingly glorious exquisiteness of the life-transfiguring, nation-transforming, world-staggering, hell-shattering, debt-paying, soul-redeeming power of the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ.