Many years ago I read Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret (Dr and Mrs Howard Taylor, Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, 1989) It was just what I needed. It was full of treasured stories and letters and mostly focused on the events in his life when he learnt several important spiritual lessons. These lessons were to be significant as they resulted in much work being done in China to bring people to Christ. It was a book of highlights of his spiritual walk and personal life in his ministry in China.

Then this past school holidays, I started another Hudson Taylor book: The Biography of James Hudson Taylor by Dr and Mrs Howard Taylor (Overseas Missionary Fellowship, 1965) which is more detailed than the first one but so full of treasures yet again.

For those of us who have read books about Hudson Taylor or heard of him, we come away from reading, marveling at this man and the ability he had to put up with some tough, difficult and very often, sorrowful circumstances. We know for sure that God was pivotal in Hudson Taylor being the missionary he was; that God was foremost in his thoughts and reasons and actions. We know that Hudson Taylor was a sinner, a human like all of us but the way he pursued the life that God had planned for him was unique. He was made to be a missionary. And so with that in mind, I’d like to propose a statement to make us think on this man.

Hudson Taylor’s missionary life was like it was for two reasons: Firstly because of his parent’s training and teaching and secondly because of his own personality, drive, and behaviour.

So now I plan to let the book itself back up my proposal with quotes from the authors or sometimes even Hudson Taylor.

1. Discipline, details, and duty

His mother…

“She early inspired them [the children] with a taste for reading and to her accuracy and thoroughness may be traced the unusual attention to detail that characterized her son in later years.” (p. 11)

And then

personal neatness she taught them in the same practical way.” (p. 11) with the use of a work basket always ready and a bookcase that contained one purposely empty shelf so items being used at the table could be put away at a moment’s notice when the table was needed for another reason. “The mother’s gentle discipline had much to do with the happiness of Hudson’s childhood. (p. 12)

His father…

The children lived in touch with their father almost as much as with their mother and he felt himself no less responsible for their training. Though he was stern and even quick tempered at times, the influence James Taylor exerted in the life of his son can hardly be overestimated. He was decidedly a disciplinarian. But without some such element in his early training who can tell whether Hudson would ever have become the man he was? With James Taylor, to keep the children moderately happy and good tempered was not the point. He was a man with a supreme sense of duty. The thing that ought to be done was the thing he put first, always. Ease, pleasure, self-improvement, he had to take whatever place they could. Ha was a man of faith but faith that went hand in hand with the works of the most practical kind. His children must be doing their duty getting through their daily tasks, acquiring habits that alone could make them dependable men and women in days to come. (p. 13)

Done, done done!

Hudson Taylor was seventeen when he realized that Christ’s work on the cross was finished and the whole debt of sin was paid and there was nothing left for him to do.

Henceforward He rejoiced in conscious acceptance with God, not on the ground of anything he could do or be but simply because of what the Lord Jesus is and has done. “Not I but Christ” brought freedom, joy and rest. (p. 18)

This turning point in his life meant that “the unspeakable value of years of steady discipline in a Christian home” now positioned him “to make rapid progress” (p. 18). “The Bible was no strange book to him… prayer was no unwonted effort and… the Holy Spirit had comparatively, a free field in his heart” (p. 18).

2. Direction, devotion and dying


Hudson early made up his mind to go to China as a missionary, and his interest in the land was increased by a little book called China which he read and reread until he almost knew it by heart. (p. 15)

One result of this definite consecration was that he began to care about the welfare of others. If he could not preach as yet, he could at any rate give away tracts and invite people to the House of God… He and Amelia [his sister] went out as soon as tea was over [on a Sunday evening] and made their way to the poorest parts of the town. They became familiar figures, passing from door to door, handing tracts to all who would receive them. (p. 19)

On 2 December, 1849, Hudson had a troubled heart. He was overwhelmed with his own failure and unworthiness and was seeking the Lord in prayer.

And then, alone upon his knees, a great purpose arose within him. If only God would work on his behalf, would break the power of sin and save him, spirit, soul and body, for time and eternity, he would renounce all earthly prospects and be utterly at His disposal. (p. 22)

For distinctly, as if a voice had spoken it, the command was given, “Then go for Me to China.” … “Your prayer is answered: your conditions are accepted. All you ask and more, far more, shall be given. There shall be deeper knowledge of the Lord; fellowship in His sufferings, His death, His resurrection; a life of inner victory and power.” (p. 23)

The call of God had come, and there could be no looking back. Whatever might be involved, the future held but one thing for him- to do his Master’s will in and for China. So he began at once to pray for guidance and to learn all he could about his future field. (p. 25)

After much thought and prayer, I was led to leave the comfortable home and pleasant circle in which I resided and engage a little lodging in the suburbs, a sitting room and bedroom in one, undertaking to board myself. I was thus enabled to tithe the whole of my income; and while one felt the change good deal, it was attended with no small blessing. More time was given in my solitude to the study of God’s Word, to visiting the poor and to evangelistic work on Sunday evenings than would otherwise have been the case. (p. 43)

Only here and there in His own training schools were those the Lord could count upon: and in a quiet lodging at Drainside was such a man. With all his youth and limitations, Hudson Taylor desired supremely a Christlike character and life. As test after test came that might have been avoided, he chose the pathway of self-emptying and the cross. He was in attitude that did not hinder blessing. (pp. 45, 46)

At this stage of the book, he’s not even twenty years old! Hudson Taylor’s life even before he was officially a missionary in China was distinctive. It really is all about how this man pursued his life. We have to concur that the value of Hudson Taylor’s childhood training stood him in good stead but it was also his own manner and character using the God-given abilities he had, that made him the man he became.

What do you think?

this is part 1 of 2 in the series
Hudson Taylor

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About Alana Milson

Alana is a primary school teacher. She and her husband, David lived in Cairns for over 17 years but are now living in Cape York in a remote Aboriginal community. Alana enjoys teaching in many different capacities, reading missionary biographies and pursuing biblical womanhood.


  1. Laura 13 October, 2010 at 2:03 pm - Reply

    I have a biography on Taylor in the States that I haven’t gotten to so thanks for yours here. Wow, good to get the challenge about his young life and training and how he went about applying it. Thanks for your insights! Whatever happened to his sister Amelia? And I like his mom’s idea with the empty shelf. :)

  2. Steve 15 October, 2010 at 12:16 am - Reply

    Good post Alana, I always enjoy reading missionary biographies. As you point out, it’s interesting to see how they became great missionaries and what aspects we can take on board for our benefit.

    Looking forward to the next installment.

  3. Lyn 17 October, 2010 at 11:01 pm - Reply

    “As test after test came that might have been avoided, he chose the pathway of self emptying and the cross.” How human to instinctively choose to avoid tests and follow the pathway of self preservation. And he was only a teenager! … choosing to be emptied of his own desires. The ego is what defines most teens. He was radical and truly Christs person. As Major Ian Thomas says in the title of one of his books ‘All of Him in all of me’.
    I avoid even little things like taking the kids outside on a hot day for a walk around the oval because it will be uncomfortable. I am very concerned for my own comfort. My self is way too full.

  4. Hezza 25 November, 2010 at 10:26 pm - Reply

    this character you explain of hudson’s sounds familiar in my own grandfather who was a missionary in africa… so young yet so deep and God centred in his thinking… i should read more about both men! thanks, again! xxx

  5. Jessica 28 December, 2011 at 12:33 pm - Reply

    The OMF biography of Hudson Taylor has inspired me too. Thank you Alana, for sharing your insights of this servant of Christ!

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