Missionary Life – James Hudson Taylor

Missionary Life – James Hudson Taylor

James Hudson Taylor was born in Barnsley, United Kingdom on 21 May 1832 to James and Amelia Taylor. His father was a chemist (pharmacist) and Methodist lay preacher. As a young man, Hudson ran away from the Christian beliefs of his parents. However, as a teenager, at 17, when he read an evangelistic tract pamphlet entitled “Poor Richard,” he professed his faith in Christ. Immediately after this, in December 1849, he committed himself to going to China as a missionary. At this time, he started studying the languages of Mandarin, Greek, Hebrew and Latin.

In 1851, he moved to a poor neighborhood in Kinston upon Hull to be a medical assistant with Robert Hardey. He also started distributing gospel tracts and did open-air preaching among the poor.

In 1852, he was baptized by Andrew John Jukes of Plymouth Brethren in the Hull Brethren Assembly. He also convinced his sister Amelia to take adult baptism. In the same year he began studying medicine at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, London, as preparation for working in China. At this time, during the civil war, the Chinese Evangelisation Society was established, and Hudson offered himself as their first missionary to China.

Humble Beginning as a Missionary to China

Before completing his medical studies, Hudson left England on 19 September 1853 and arrived in Shangai, China on 1 March 1854. The voyage was nearly disastrous and lasted about five months. After reaching China, in his first year, there was a turmoil as he was immediately faced with civil war.

However, in the very next year, in 1855, he started preaching in the vicinity of Shanghai. Even though he brought with him medical supplies and skills, he was often poorly received by the people. Therefore, he decided to adopt the native Chinese clothes and queue (pigtail) with shaven forehead to identify himself with the natives and after this, he was able to gain an audience without creating any disturbance. During this time, he distributed thousands of Chinese Gospel tracts and portions of Scripture in and around Shangai. During his stay over there, he adopted and cared for a Chinese boy named Hanban.

After this, Scottish evangelist, William Chalmers Burns, of the English Presbyterian Mission, began work in Shantou, and Hudson joined him there for a period. In 1857, he moved to Ningbo and there he received a letter from George Muller, who assured his support to him; therefore, he and his co-worker John Jones decided to resign from the mission board which had sent them and started working independently.

Family and the China Inland Mission

At Ningbo, Hudson met Maria Jane Dyer who worked at a school for girls which was run by one of the first missionaries to the Chinese, Mary Ann Aldersey. Maria was the orphaned daughter of the Rev. Samuel Dyer of the London Missionary Society, who had been a pioneer missionary to the Chinese in Penang, Malaysia. In 1858, Hudson and Maria got married and had their first baby that died later, in the same year. They took care of an adopted boy named Tianxi while living in Ningbo. In 1859, their first surviving child, Grace, was born. Shortly after her birth, Hudson took over all the operations at the hospital in Ningbo that had been run by William Parker.

In 1860, Hudson and his family sailed back to England for a period to cope with his health problems. There he met with Frederick Foster Gough of the Church Mission Society and translated the New Testament into a Romanized Ningbo dialect for the British and Foreign Bible Society.

In the meantime, in 1862, he completed his diploma (and a course in midwifery) at the Royal London Hospital with the Royal College of Surgeons. In 1865, with Maria’s help, he wrote a book called “China’s Spiritual Need and Claims.” Later, he traveled extensively around the British Isles speaking at churches and promoting the needs of China. During this time, he became friends with Charles Haddon Spurgeon, who pastored the Metropolitan Tabernacle and who became a lifelong supporter of Hudson.

While in England, Hudson and Maria had more children including, Herbert in 1861, Frederick in 1862, Samuel in 1864 and Jane (who died at birth) in 1865. On 25 June 1865, at Brighton, Hudson dedicated himself to God for founding a new society for the China mission. Shortly thereafter, together with William Thomas Berger, he founded the China Inland Mission (CIM). In less than one year, they accepted 21 missionaries.

Expansion of China Inland Mission

Hudson, along with his family and the missionaries returned to China. They made their first settlement in the war-torn city of Hangzhou. He began practicing medical work and continued preaching every day under exhausting schedules. Hundreds came to hear and be treated. It was there that Hudson and Maria had another daughter (Maria Hudson Taylor). Later in 1867, their elder daughter Grace died of meningitis.

In 1868, the Taylors took few missionaries up to Yangzhou to expand mission work there. Unfortunately, due to riots, these missionaries were attacked and as a result the British Parliament called for “the withdrawal of all missionaries in China.” However, later that year, they returned and continued the missionary work. There Maria again gave birth to a baby boy, Charles. In 1870, one of their sons, Samuel died and later, Hudson and his wife decided to send their other three older children (Bertie, Freddie and Maria) to England with Miss Emily Blatchley. In July, Noel was born and died of malnutrition. Maria too suffered cholera and died several days later. Hudson was deeply affected by her death and in 1871, his health began deteriorating. Later that year, he returned to England to recuperate.

Back in England, Hudson recovered and married Jane Elizabeth Faulding (Jennie), who was a fellow missionary since 1866. In 1872, Hudson and Jennie returned to China and there she gave birth to twins – a boy and a girl, in 1873. After two years, once again they were forced to return to England because of the death of the mission secretary and their children’s caretaker, Emily Blatchley.

Later, Benjamin Broomhall, husband of Hudson’s sister Amelia, took over the work of General Secretary of CIM. There in England, during the winter of 1874 and 1875, Hudson was physically paralyzed from a fall. In 1876, after recovering from his physical ailment, he returned to China with 18 new missionaries. Jennie remained in England to take care of the children.

In the next three years, (1876-1878), Hudson traveled throughout China and opened many new mission stations. In 1878, Jennie returned to China and began working to promote female missionary service there. By 1881, there were 100 missionaries in the CIM.

Hudson returned to England in 1883 to recruit more missionaries, and later returned to China working now with 225 missionaries and 59 churches. In 1887, the numbers increased by another 102. Then in 1888, Hudson traveled to the United States and spoke in many places to raise missionaries. There he met Dwight Lyman Moody and became friends with him. Thereafter, Moody actively supported CIM. He brought 14 more missionaries to China from the US that year.

Final Years and Legacy

In 1900, Dixon Edward Hoste was appointed the Acting General Director of the CIM. Finally, in 1902, Hudson formally resigned from CIM. Due to health issues, Hudson and his wife remained in Switzerland. In 1904, Jennie died of cancer in Switzerland. In 1905, Hudson returned to China for the eleventh and final time. There he visited many cities, before dying suddenly while reading at home in Changsha. He was buried next to his first wife, Maria, in Zhenjiang, in the small English Cemetery near the Yangtze River.

After his death, CIM gained the notable distinction of being the largest Protestant mission agency in the world. His sacrificial life and service were a great inspiration to many notable missionaries including Amy Charmichael, Eric Liddell, Jim Elliot, Audrey Wetherell Johnson, as well as international evangelists Billy Graham and Luis Palau.

Hudson spent 51 years in China. The society that he began was responsible for bringing over 800 missionaries to the country who began 125 schools and directly resulted in 18,000 Christian conversions, as well as the establishment of more than 300 stations of work with more than 500 local helpers in all 18 provinces. No other missionary in the nineteen centuries since the Apostle Paul has had a wider vision and has carried out a more systematized plan of evangelizing a broad geographical area than Hudson Taylor.