I often think that God must have been looking for someone small enough and weak enough for Him to use, and that He found me. -Hudson Taylor
This week I finished reading Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret. I’ve been reading more biographies lately, specifically of missionaries and other great men of faith. My interest was piqued when I read Eric Metaxas’ Bonhoeffer but didn’t really become a priority until reading Shadow of the Almighty by Elisabeth Elliot, which I briefly reviewed on Goodreads. I was deeply impacted by both of these men’s heart to know God, approach to life, and lasting legacy. And so I turned my attention to the life of Hudson Taylor.
I’ll confess right now that I didn’t know much about Hudson Taylor himself or the geopolitical and spiritual history of China in the 19th Century before reading this book. In that sense, the book was hugely educational and informative for me. I feel that I have a much better sense of Hudson Taylor’s life, beliefs, and impact, as well as a more complete knowledge of Chinese history (especially as it relates to Chinese believers).
The book was written by one of Hudson Taylor’s sons and daughter-in-law around 1932 and recounts all of his life, from his upbringing and conversion to his death. This lends a few advantages and disadvantages to the book. In the pros column I would say that the book’s comprehensive scope gives a wonderful picture of just how far God took Taylor and the amazing things he used him for. As the decades passed, Hudson Taylor’s belief in what God was able to accomplish continually grew until he was trusting God for answers to prayers that would frankly seem ridiculous without the innumerable assurance of God’s faithfulness he received. In this way, the book functions as a guide to understanding how Hudson Taylor could believe God and an invitation to the reader to trust in the same way.
The other side of the coin is that the book’s scope is just entirely too large to give a detailed account of everything it mentions. Many times it will sum up a missionary journey, a series of events, or even a few years in a few short sentences. In several instances, I found myself wanting more details, more substance, and more meat on the bones of the narrative.
But the authors’ concern is not so much detailing every single occurrence of Hudson Taylor’s ministry as in revealing the heart of the man himself. What was his spiritual secret that enabled him to accomplish all the amazing things he did? What drove him to push ever-deeper into inland China to reach the unreached?
In his own words, Taylor answers that question with a name: Jesus.
What, can Jesus meet my need? Yes, and more than meet it. No matter how intricate my path, how difficult my service; no matter how sad my bereavement, how far away my loved ones; no matter how helpless I am, how deep are my soul-yearnings–Jesus can meet all, and more than meet.
And that is the book’s greatest aspect: a view into a heart blazing for Christ and burdened to share the gospel with the unreached. In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul gives the Corinthian church one of the simplest pictures of discipleship and growth in Christ when he tells them, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”
Hudson Taylor was a man who loved and imitated Christ well. May books like this encourage and embolden us to imitate him and others like him who, in the midst of all their human failings and shortcomings, fell deeply in love with Christ and pursued him with all they had.
What’s a biography that you’ve read lately? What’s a story you’ve heard that inspired or helped you in your pursuit of Christ?