JAMES HUDSON TAYLOR – by Mike Sweeting 

At a recent coffee morning, I was told that Songs of Praise had interviewed a Chinese church delegation to Barnsley! I hazarded a guess that they were drawn to the birth-place of Hudson Taylor. Phew – I was correct. In fact, the town is now de-signing a ‘Taylor Trail’, due to the sudden spike in tourism. Why? 

Taylor was the son of a Barnsley chemist’s shop owner. “He was ambitious without being proud… He was biblical without being bigoted… He was a follower of Jesus, without being superficial… He was charismatic without be-ing selfish.” —Arthur F. Glasser. In 1853, aged 21, James went from medical and language studies in Hull to a lifetime in China – marrying, living, and 

dying there. In the last century, the Communist Party, seeking to obliterate his memory, built an industrial estate over the Protestant cemetery on the banks of the Yangtze where he was buried. However, when clearance took place in recent decades, his grave was found intact and is now inside a nearby church building. Today, the 40 million Chinese believers in the ‘unregistered’ church-es see Hudson Taylor as their spiritual father. 

Taylor and family refused to wear western clothing or eat western food. He was ostracised by polite European society because of it. He was the first translator of the Bible into Mandarin. He did not seek to establish western denominations in China, hence his popularity with the non-denominational underground churches today. Taylor never took a salary, never gave an appeal for finance; was often sent on his way by bandits because he had nothing to steal. He was probably hell to live with, but exciting too. 

Taylor was the father of 4 daughters, as am I. The affection he and his wife showed to ‘mere daughters’ melted the hearts of many and led to the conversion of the first few thousand of the millions to come. Like Taylor’s daughter, Grace, one of our own daughters contracted meningitis. Unlike Grace, our own Lucy was healed and survived. When 58 of his staff and 21 of their children were killed in the Boxer rebellion, Taylor refused any compensation for loss of life or property – since serving China was such a privilege in the first place! As he said: “If I had a thousand pounds, China should have it—if I had a thousand lives, China should have them. No! Not China, but Christ. Can we do too much for Him? Can we do enough for such a precious Saviour?” This action was a big step in reconciliation after the fighting had died down. 

By the way, you will have heard of one of Hudson Taylor’s trainees, a chap called Dr Barnardo. Taylor also inspired Eric Liddell, hero of the film ‘Chariots of Fire’. Barnsley is now catching on to the fact they have a son who is actually more world-famous than Harry Worth or Arthur Scargill! 

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