Our Spiritual Heritage–Part 1
This issue of The Intercessor is entirely devoted to exploring the spiritual ancestry of the Zerubbabel fellowship by tracing the lives of a chain of pioneer British missionaries who wholly followed God’s call and discovered for themselves "the mystery of the Gospel: Christ in you, the hope of glory."
The centerpiece of this issue is Page Prewitt’s "Our Spiritual Heritage," adapted from a series of talks shared in the summer of 2001. This article attempts to translate Page’s talk to a written account without losing the connection with Page as narrator and guide.
Reading from several biographies, Page guides us through highlights of the lives of a series of pioneer missionaries who blazed a trail of passion and sacrifice to discover, in increasing measure, hidden power of our Total God. Weaving in and out of the biographical material, Page pauses to draw from accounts told her through her personal acquaintance with Norman Grubb and to exhort us, as spiritual heirs of these pioneers, to follow their example and apply in our lives today the truths they poured out their lives to discover.
Our Spiritual Heritage
We possess an inheritance that has come to us by means of the total life surrender and sacrifice of several godly men. The following is an attempt to share with you, our reader, highlights of the lives of these unique individuals.
We will begin with a man whose name is Hudson Taylor. He was born in 1832 in Yorkshire, England. Hudson Taylor was a pioneer missionary who is credited with changing forever the way missions are run. His life story is told in several books. We quote here from one entitled Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret, written by his son and daughter-in-law, Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor.(1)
After spending time in the study of medicine and theology Hudson Taylor went to China under the newly formed China Evangelization Society, arriving in Shanghai in 1854. He stressed only prayer and faith in money-raising and he adopted Chinese dress, an important cultural gesture which we could learn from today .
Hudson Taylor was reared by Christian parents; his father was a pharmacist and Methodist lay preacher. At the age of 17, Hudson Taylor committed his life to Jesus Christ, and from that time until his death in 1905 he lived a life dedicated to bringing the message of Christ’s salvation to the people of China.
"Brought up in such a circle and saved under such circumstances, it was perhaps natural that from the very commencement of my Christian life I was led to feel that the promises of the Bible are very real, and that prayer is in sober fact transacting business with God, whether on one’s own behalf or on behalf of those for whom we seek His blessing."
H u d s o n Taylor is a present-day example of what we should be. God has equipped us for His use in His Kingdom. This does not mean that we have to go to some foreign land to fulfill God’s plan for our lives. Nor does it mean that we were put here to fritter our lives away doing whatever we want to do. It does mean we are to trust Christ to live through us right where we are to reach a lost world with the Gospel.
I recently heard Tony Evans on Christian radio teach on the subject of the parable of the talents. He talked about how God has given the entire human race the same three things: talents, time, and potential. We are not to look at the Joneses and try to live up to what they do and have. Our lives are all about us and not anyone else. It is about what God has given us and what we are doing with it. Ask yourself, are you wasting your time, talent and potential? Are you entertaining yourself ? Are you making yourself happy? Or are you focused on being and doing whatever God chooses for you to be and do? That’s the point of what we’re saying here. As you read on you will become aware of the fact that the men in our heritage were so focused.
Our real heritage is not our mother and our daddy, our grandmother and our granddaddy, and our great-grandmother and great-granddaddy. Our true heritagethe only one that mattersis our spiritual heritage. Our spiritual great-great grandfather was Hudson Taylor. To continue:
the outstanding thing about Hudson Taylor’s early experience was that he could not be satisfied with anything less than the best. God’s best–the real and constant enjoyment of His presence. To go without this was to live without sunlight, to work without power. That he knew the joy of the Lord in those early days is evident from recollections such as the following: a leisure afternoon had brought opportunity for prayer and moved by deeper longings he sought to be in his room alone with God. He had come to the end of himself, to a place where God only could deliver . If God would but work on his behalf, would break the power of sin, giving him inward victory in Christ, he would renounce all earthly prospects, he would go anywhere, do anything, suffer whatever. His cause might be to demand and be wholly at His disposal. This was the cry of his heart: If God would but sanctify him and keep him from falling.
By contrast, today people are very indifferent about sin; some talk about sin but go on with their lives, oblivious to sin’s devastation, not only in their lives but also in the lives of many. Hudson Taylor was very troubled about his sin. He relentlessly implored God to "work on his behalf
break the power of sin and give him inward victory in Christ"not to give him everything in the world he wanted. He continues:
"Never shall I forget the feeling that came over me then. Words could not describe it. I felt I was in the presence of God entering into a covenant with the Almighty. I felt as though I wished to withdraw my promise, but could not. Something seemed to say, ‘Your prayer is answered; your conditions are accepted.’ And from that time the conviction has never left that I was called to China."
That was it. What he took had taken him, to quote Norman Grubb. He was swallowed up in the one desire to accomplish his commission to win the lost to Christ (particularly those in China).
At once he began to prep are, as well as he could, for a life that would call for physical endurance. He took more exercise in open air, exchanged his feather bed for a hard mattress, and was watchful not to be indulgent at table. Instead of going to church twice on Sunday he gave up the evenings to visit the poorest parts of the town, distributing tracts and holding cottage meetings . The study of Chinese, also, was entered upon with ardor. A grammar of that formidable language would have cost more than twenty dollars and a dictionary at least seventy-five [that was equivalent to hundreds of dollars in those days]. He could aford neither. But with a copy of the Gospel of Luke in Chinese, by patiently comparing brief verses with their equivalent in English, he found out the meaning of more than six hundred characters. Those he learned and made into a dictionary of his own, carrying at the same time, other lines of study.
"I have begun to get up at five in the morning" (he wrote to his sister at school) "and find it necessary to go to bed early. I must study if I mean to go to China. I am fully decided to go, and am making every preparation I can. I intend to rub up on my Latin, to learn Greek and the rudiments of Hebrew and get as much general information as possible. I need your prayers."
Several years with his father, a dispensing chemist, had increased his desire to study medicine, and when an opportunity occurred of becoming the assistant to a leading physician in Hull[a city in the north of England]he was not slow to avail himself to it. This meant leaving the home circle, but first in the doctor’s residence and later in the home of an aunt, his mother’s sister. The young assistant was still surrounded with refinement and comfort.
Eventually, Mr. Taylor moved from his family’s home to a very modest home of his own. At that time he began supporting himself. Because he was somewhat linked with a mission and was saying he was going to China, his family thought the mission was giving him support, and the mission thought his family was backing him financially. Consequently, he received no outside financial help. Meanwhile, he learned to live on very little. Surprisingly, he gave away two-thirds of his meager income to others needier than himself.
"Having now this twofold object in view of accustoming myself to endure hardness, and of economizing in order to help those among whom I was laboring in the gospel, I soon found that I could live upon very much less than I had previously thought possible. Butter, milk, and other luxuries I ceased to use, and found that by living mainly on oatmeal and rice, with occasional variations, a very small sum was sufficient for my needs. And this way I had more than two-thirds of my income available for other purposes, and my experience was that the less I spent on myself and the more I gave to others, the fuller of happiness and blessing did my soul become."
London followed Hull and there Hudson Taylor entered as a medical student at one of the great hospitals. He was still depending on the Lord alone for supplies, for though his father and the Society which ultimately sent him to China both offered to help with his expenses, he felt he must not lose the opportunity of further testing God’s promises. When he declined his father’s generous ofer, the home circle concluded that the Society was meeting his needs. It did undertake his fees at London hospital, and an uncle in Soho gave him a home for a few weeks, and beyond this there was nothing between him and want in a great big city, save the faithfulness of God.
Suffice it to say here, that the loneliness and privations that were permitted, the test of endurance–when for months together he lived on nothing but ground bread and apples, walking more than eight miles a day to and from the hospital–and all the uncertainty as to his connection with the one and only society prepared to send him to China without university training, went far to make him the man of faith he was even at this early age.
On the Mission Field
In time, Hudson Taylor was able to go to China. But when he got there, he was saddened to find that no outsiders were permitted into the interior of the country. Missionaries were only allowed in seaport towns. His heart’s desire was to penetrate into inland China.
It took him an inordinate amount of time to find a place to live–there was nothing to buy or rent. Eventually he lived on a riverboat which, along with providing him a place to stay, also served as transportation for the missionary journeys he took around the seaport towns. It was freezing cold in the winter, blazing hot in the summer. The bed he slept on was wood, and he could only look out of the porthole when he was lying down. In the scorching heat of the day he preached in the streets and passed out tracts. When he went back to the boat at night, it was still burning hot. Sad to say, his boat gave him no respite from the heat in view of the fact that it had to be locked at all time–thieves prowled the river constantly and made away with anything they could get their hands on. It is unbelievable to me that a human being could survive the life Hudson Taylor lived. Think about it. Can you imagine what China was like in the 1800’s?
As if his hardships in China were not enough to cause him to give up, he came under attack back in England for his decision to adopt Chinese dress. Needless to say, he went to China wearing Western clothes. At that time, if a business company from a foreign country like Germany or Switzerland came to China and was allowed to build a factory, all its employees had to look totally Chinese. This practice prompted Hudson Taylor to make the very radical decision to do the same. He not only began to wear Chinese clothing, he also dyed his hair and followed the Chinese custom of wearing it in a long pigtail, known as a queue. Wearing the false queue and Chinese clothes was considered very bizarre and unacceptable to folks at home, and it upset them very much. (Later when C.T. Studd joined the China Inland Mission, he did the same thing. In the book C.T. Studd, Cricketer and Pioneer, there’s a picture of C.T. in his Chinese outfit. See page 7.)
In 1860, after eight years in China, Hudson Taylor returned to England on his first furlough. He spent the next five years translating the New Testament. In time he founded his own mission and named it the China Inland Mission.
Only two years after returning to China, he suffered a fall that injured his spine and caused him to be temporarily paralyzed. He spent the winter of 1874 and 1875 back in London, totally bedridden. He had to use a rope to turn himself from side to side. Yet in spite of all his troubles, he never gave up.
Young students interested in him and his work in China would come regularly to sit by his bed and have him teach them. On the wall at the foot of his bed hung a huge map of China. He used it to teach his young pupils and as a manual to keep ever before him his beloved China that he prayed endlessly for. He never let go of his God-given commission to go past the seaport towns and advance into inland China.
Truly great men, great losses must endure, but not one minute more than is absolutely necessary. Great men, and they endure great sufering, are reaching down into the depths of their being marshalling greater energy even as they reach down to rise again victorious. Truly great men know they must depend on God for their strength and direction. Hudson Taylor was indeed one of God’s great warriors.
Crisis of Faith
The thought of the millions in China who were dying daily without a Savior was what drove him on his never-ending quest to reach the inland part of the country.
Meanwhile, a million a month were dying in that great, waiting land–dying without God. This was what burned into his soul. A decision had to be made and he knew it, for the conflict could no longer be endured. It was comparably easy to pray for workers, but would he, could he, accept the burden of leadership?
"Do you know, I now think that this striving, longing, hoping for better days to come is not the true way to holiness, happiness, or usefulness. It is better no doubt, far better, than being satisfied with pure attainments, but not the very best after all. I have been struck with a passage from a book entitled Christ is All. It says, ‘The Lord Jesus received as holiness begun, the Lord Jesus cherished as holiness advancing, the Lord Jesus counted upon as never absent would be holiness complete.’"
It was the exchanged life that had come to himthe life that is indeed "No longer I." Six months earlier he had written, "I have continually to mourn that I follow at such a distance and learn so slowly to imitate my precious Master." There was no thought of imitation now! It was in blessed reality "Christ liveth in me." And how great the difference!instead of bondage, liberty; instead of failure, quiet victories within; instead of fear and weakness, a restful sense of sufficiency in Another. So great was the deliverance, that from that time onward, Mr. Taylor could never do enough to help to make this precious secret plain to hungry hearts wherever he might be.
The next link in our heritage is found in a little out-of-print book called The Cambridge Seven. It starts with one lone missionary in the interior of China–the very region for which Hudson Taylor faithfully prayed for from his sickbed years earlier.
On a spring evening in 1883 a man was riding slowly through the crowded streets of Taiyuan, capital of the province of Shansi in northern China, four hundred miles inland from the sea. [Remember the map and Hudson Taylor’s prayer to reach the China inland?] As his pony threaded its way among the coolies and beggars and merchants, or stood aside for a mandarin’s chair to pass, the rider would now and again acknowledge greetings from passers-by, or smile patiently at the scowls of the ill-disposed. He wore a plain Chinese gown and cap with his hair down in the customary pigtail, and only a second glance showed him to be a westerner Harold Schofield, a brilliant young Oxford doctor [Cambridge and Oxford were two of the greatest universities in the world, and in the class system in England back then anyone who was anyone was educated there.] who had sacrificed his prospects and immured himself in China for the sake of Christ.
Schofield dismounted at the door of his unimpressive house of the China Inland Mission and went inside. After a quick look at the dispensary, lest urgent cases had come while he was out in the villages, he went across the living room and greeted his wife. A meal was ready but he declined it, and after a few moments’ talk Schofield climbed the rickety stairs to his bedroom.
For a few moments he looked out on the street, crowded, noisy and with that constant stench of dung and offal, of unwashed bodies and the mingling smells of the shops and houses. As his eyes travelled down the street towards the river, and then across to the distant hills, he thought once again of the teeming life the city and province–nine million Christ-less inhabitants, and only five or six missionaries among them. He thought of the peasants, toiling in the wheat and rice fields, of the aristocratic mandarins in their palaces and estates, of the women and their cramped cheerless lives, of the countless temples, and gods of plaster, stone or wood. And then his mind turned to home, so far away–twenty days to the coast, six weeks by sea and land to England. [It had taken Hudson Taylor six months to get there.] The Church in Britain cared little for these millions and the vast Chinese Empire, slowly waking from the sleep of ages. Few enough were ready to leave comfort and security to bring them the gospel. And of those who had come, and had penetrated inland, scarcely one was a university man, trained in mind and body for leadership. Yet, Schofield, a prizeman [top scholar] of Manchester, London and Oxford knew from his own experience how greatly such men were needed.
And thus once again he knelt at his bedside and unburdened him-self in prayer. He prayed that God would waken the Church to China’s claims, that He would raise up men to preach His word. Above all, that He would touch the universities and call men of talent and ability and consecrate them to His work in China. It seemed a prayer absurd enough except to faith. When Schofield had left England two and a halfyears earlier at the age of twenty-nine, missionary recruits from the universities had been scarce. Africa and India drew such as there were. His own mission was young and obscure. But the burden was on him; again and again in the past weeks he had found himself drawn aside to pray, leaving food and leisure for prayer to a God who answered prayer.
And thus, as the evening light faded in the little bedroom, Schofield was still on his knees, pouring out his soul for that which he would never live to see.(2)
Harold Schofield was God’s answer to Hudson Taylor’s intercessory call to reach inland China with the Gospel. Schofield’s prayer that God would "call men of talent and ability and consecrate them to His work in China" became visible thirty years later with The Cambridge Seven and those who came after them. The Seven, among whom was C.T. Studd, were from the cream of British society–scholar-athletes from the finest schools in England–and called to be missionary pioneers. They would take the Gospel not only to the interior of China, but to the heart of Africa, and eventually to "the uttermost ends of the earth."
continuing from The Cambridge Seven–just two years later in England:
On 4th February 1885, a wet winter’s night in London, a large crowd was making its way into Exeter Hall on the Strand. Inside, the hall was rapidly filling with men and women of all ages and ranks. Well-dressed ladies in silks and jewelry
whose carriages would be waiting afterwards to carry them back to Belgravia or Mayfair, mingled with flower girls [remember Eliza Doolittle?] and working women in plain dark dresses who had found their way on foot from the East End slums. Smart young city men were sitting besides drab shopmen who, on a superficial glance, might have seemed more at home in a gallery of a music hall.
On the platform were forty Cambridge undergraduates. Above their heads hung a large map of China, stretching from one side of the hall to the other. On the table lay a small pile of Chinese New Testaments. [Who do you suppose translated them?] At the stroke of the hour the Chairman entered, followed by seven young men, slightly older than the undergraduates but all, from their dress and bearing, evidently men of education and position. After prayer, a hymn, and some introductory remarks, the seven young men, whom the world had already dubbed The Cambridge Seven, each rose and told the crowded hall why they were leaving England, the next day, to serve as missionaries in inland China.
One by one they spoke–Stanley Smith of Repton and Trinity [Repton and Eton were the top prep schools in England; Trinity Hall was the living quarters of the upper-crust of British society attending Cambridge University], a former stroke oar of the Cambridge boat [a high-ranking member of the Cambridge rowing crew]; Montagu Beauchamp, of Trinity, a baronette’s son; D.E. Hoste, till lately a gunner subaltern son of a major-general; W.W. Cassels of Repton and St. John’s, a Church of England curate; Cecil Polhill-Turner, an old Etonian, who had resigned his commission in the Queen’s Bays to join the others; his brother Arthur Polehill-Turner, of Eton and Trinity Hall. And lastly, C.T. Studd, the Eton, Cambridge and England cricketer, acknowledged as the most brilliant player of the day. One by one they told how in the past year or eighteen months God had called them to renounce their careers and give themselves for Christian service overseas.
The Cambridge Seven struck with force the consciousness of a generation which set more store on social position and athletic ability. In this diferent age the story of how the Seven was formed, and the prayers of Harold Schofield overwhelmingly answered, is still relevant. Any account of God’s working on the human soul is timeless. But the Cambridge Seven provide particular evidence on the Christian’s growth and grace and on God’s calling to a life work, whether at home or overseas. And if China is again a closed land, though not now without its Christian witness, other lands are open and fields at home are waiting.
The Cambridge Seven emerged when British universities had been stirred to the depths by the work of D.L. Moody, the American evangelist. That seventy years later, in similar circumstances, God may call forth similar bands is the prayer of many.(3)
The first member of the Studd family to surrender his life to Christ was C.T. Studd’s father. This happened when he heard D.L. Moody, the famous American gospel preacher, speak in England. Subsequently, Mr. Studd invited godly men to visit his home with the purpose of their winning his sons to Christ. After his conversion, Mr. Studd moved furniture in his house (which was actually a mansion on the Studd estate) to make room for evangelistic meetings to be held there. The previously-mentioned book, The Cambridge Seven, tells that glorious story. It also tells how, along with C.T., these other men who were in their late teens and early twenties came to the decision to renounce their wealth and elite social position and become missionaries.
It surprised me to read that these men didn’t go to the same place, but were sent to different and remote places away from other English-speaking people. Their stories tell where they went and how they lived. Those stories are unbelievable!
C.T. went to China with Hudson Taylor’s China Inland Mission and was married there. His wife was a member of the Salvation Army in China. They became the parents of four girls who were all born in China. Because of ill health, C.T. left China and went back to London. After that he spent a time in India, where he became so ill with asthma that he had to sleep sitting up.
Called to Africa
When he returned to England, C.T. spent quite a bit of time traveling and speaking. On a trip to Liverpool, he saw the following notice outside a church: "Cannibals want missionaries." Upon seeing it, he made the following response: "Why, they certainly do, for more reasons than one." After that, at the age of 50 and in ill health, he packed up and went to Africa. First he took a bicycle and one other person and went there to make an assessment of the conditions in the area of the country where he was interested in locating. He chose the Belgian Congo as the region where he wanted to begin his missionary conquest. He came back to England for 18 months, and then returned to the heart of Africa and lived there for the rest of his life–15 years–until he died. He never returned to England.
When C.T. was planning to leave for Africa he was backed by a committee of businessmen. But when his doctor intimated that if he ventured into central Africa, he would die, the committee withdrew their sup-port. C.T. responded, "Gentlemen, God has called me to go, and I will go. I will blaze the trail and become a stepping stone that younger men may follow." So he went and gave his life. He loved Africa and its people, and they loved him in return.
On the ship headed for Africa, God gave C.T. the vision that he was going, "Not just for Africa, but for the whole unevangelized world." You can read the whole story in Norman Grubb’s biography, C.T. Studd, Cricketer and Pioneer.
A new committee was formed in London that not only supported C.T. but also kept the mission organized. However, C.T. Studd was the mission. Sadly, in time the members of the committee became troubled by some of his practices. (You can get the story from a little out-of-print book called After C.T. Studd.) Their first concern came when they learned that fellow missionaries brought morphine to C.T., which he used to relieve the pain he suffered from multiple physical maladies. Secondly, they disapproved of a little booklet C.T. authored. This blistering tract was entitled "The DCD." The name of the booklet was adapted from the well-known Army war cry "We don’t care a damn for anything but King and country" to "We don’t care a damn for anything but Jesus." A group of young Christian men signed a pact that this would be their heartbeat: they would care nothing for anything but Christ and His work. They named themselves "The DCDs."
People in England, church people and so forth, were horrified that C.T. would use the word damn. They also questioned his strict handling of the natives. As one should understand, he was stern with them regarding their sin. C.T.’s perspective was that he was living and working in the Congo and the folks at home were totally unknowledgeable about the conditions on the field. He was dealing with a very primitive and undisciplined people. Sin, particularly adultery, was practiced by everyone. It wasn’t just that it was rampant–it was a way of life, and it was C.T.’s responsibility to deal with it. If a man called any woman, she had to submit to his desire at that moment. One of the ways he dealt with their ever-present transgressions was to delay baptism for new converts. Because the committee back in England disagreed both with C.T.’s theology and his practices, they came very close to cutting ties with him completely.
Norman Grubb and Pauline, Norman’s wife and C.T.’s youngest daughter, were serving the mission from London. They were aware of the intentions of the mission board, and were very disturbed about it. They wanted to meet with C.T. one more time and apprise him of the state of affairs on the home front. About that time a letter arrived from C.T. In it he casually mentioned his desire to see them again. They took this suggestion as permission to immediately visit Studd in the Congo. (The trip took months.) When they arrived, he was shocked to see them. He asked quite sternly, "What are you doing here?" They answered that he had written that he had wanted to see them. Their real reason for going w
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 26 No 1
- Intercession Being Gained in Worldwide, Churchwide Commission
- Our Spiritual Heritage–Part 1
- A New Start for W.E.C.
- Excerpt from Summit Living
- C.T. and Colonel Munro
- To Congo with C.T. Studd
- The Cost of Commitment–Colonel Munro
- Excerpt from Summit Living
- A Review of C.T. Studd in the Heart of Africa
- Excerpt from Summit Living
- I Count All Things To Be Loss…
- Words to Live By…
- Our Spiritual Heritage–Part 2