He Practiced Faith
[Editor’s note: In the following material, Dr. F. Howard Taylor, son of J. Hudson Taylor, gives an account of the faith and work of George Duncan who served as a missionary with China Inland Mission under the direction of Hudson Taylor. Dr. Taylor prefaces the story with an overview of his father’s confidence and reliance upon the faithfulness of God.]
“Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed” (Psa. 37:3).
After my father’s (J. Hudson Taylor) conversion at seventeen, and when he had yielded himself utterly to God – to do what He chose, to go where He pleased – he began at once to practice faith. And that was how a man naturally weak and even timid became a spiritual athlete, a giant of faith.
No athlete ever grows strong by just thinking about it. He must exercise; and he must subordinate other things to his ambition, if he would succeed. So, no Christian ever grows strong in faith by just thinking or talking about it. He must practice faith.
At the great crisis of his life sixteen years later, when God wanted my father to set about the evangelization of inland China, he was ready. And he discovered just then that our Lord’s meaning of Mark 11:22 was “Hold fast the faithfulness of God,” in the sense of count on, reckon on, His faithfulness. It was a new and wonderful light to him on the meaning of faith in God. It was not so much the greatness of his personal faith that mattered, if he had faith at all, so much as the greatness of God, His dependability, His faithfulness.
From that day on my father banked on God’s faithfulness. And never did he present an inspired promise at the bank of heaven, in the name of the Lord Jesus, without getting what he was authorized to claim. Practicing faith in Him who abideth faithful, he was never put to shame.
In 1867, a young missionary named Duncan attempted what might well have been regarded as impossible. He was a tall, wiry Scotsman. He had been in China only a year, and in those days a [mission] station was seldom opened without a riot. But he felt called to open Nanking, even then one of the greatest cities in China, and later its capital. How could a man with little of the language, and little experience, hope to succeed in opening Nanking? He consulted the director of the Mission, my father, about the matter – saying that he felt God had been laying it on his heart.
After some hesitation and very definite prayer, he was encouraged to go forward. A couple of weeks’ journey in a houseboat brought him to his destination, and there he was at last, alone with a heathen servant, in that great, proud, ancient city. The authorities were surprised to hear a foreigner had come, and determined to make it impossible for him to stay. They invited him to the city hall, entertained him with hospitality and Oriental courtesy, while police officers were hurrying all over the city warning innkeepers that if they dared to harbor the foreigner their inns would be razed to the ground and they themselves cast into jail.
As the day wore on, Duncan bade his civic hosts farewell, and essayed to find a lodging. But hotel after hotel seemed to be full. No room, not even a bed was to be had. At length, as twilight was deepening into dusk, he found himself at the central “Drum Tower.” Accosting the Buddhist priest in charge, he said he was a stranger in their “honorable city,” would it be convenient for him to stay the night in the tower – of course for a consideration. No civic threat had come to the priest, and he was glad to turn an honest penny. Duncan’s bedroom on the second story was open to the four winds – there was no difficulty about ventilation – and the rats ran over his wadded quilt in the night. But little did such trifles matter to the pioneer. All day long he went about his Master’s business, getting a hearing wherever he could, and night after night he slept in that airy bedroom.
A couple of weeks later, on a quiet back street, he found a carpenter willing to rent half his shop, if the stranger would pay in advance and would meet the cost of the partition and necessary furniture which, of course, the carpenter would make. Duncan’s little room, so acquired, had a six-foot frontage and went back twenty feet. Such was the first missionary home and chapel in Nanking! Benches along either side of the narrow room and a table and chair at the far end was his entire equipment. But even these things made considerable inroads into his limited supply of funds. Meanwhile my father was making every effort to remit further supplies to Nanking, but found it impracticable. Often he got up in the night to pray for his friend.
“Trust in the Lord, and Do Good…”
There came a day when Duncan’s man had to spend the last dollar for food. That morning, before the missionary went out for his day’s work, the cook, in great distress, said to him: “What shall we do now, the money has come to an end?” With a quiet smile, the missionary replied as he departed: “We shall trust in the Lord, and do good; so shall we dwell in the land, and verily we shall be fed.”
After supper that evening the cook evidently had something on his mind. “Sir, I have saved up $5.00 from my wages and I want you to take it and use it.” Looking at him closely, Mr. Duncan replied, “Are you thinking that funds will soon be coming from Mr. Taylor and that then I shall repay you? If so, that would be a loan, and as you know, we never go into debt.”
“No,” replied the man, “I have been listening to you each evening in the little chapel, and I have determined to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus. This is my first gift to Him for His work.” So on this unexpected five dollars, the missionary and his man lived as long as [they] could make it last. But naturally it came to an end; and the cook, a very young believer, said, “What shall we do now, your money is gone and mine too?”
“What shall we do?” replied the missionary. “We shall trust in the Lord, and do good; so shall we dwell in the land, and verily we shall be fed.” With an untroubled heart, strong in faith, Duncan went about his work as usual.
“...And Verily Thou Shalt Be Fed”
Some days previously another pioneer missionary had come to consult my father from a newly-opened station in another part of China. “Mr. Rudland,” he said, “these matters of yours are not very pressing, and I am concerned about our Brother Duncan. I fear he must be at the end of his resources. Would you be so kind as to carry him a roll of dollars?” A little boat was hired, and commended to God. Rudland set out on his errand. With a remarkably favorable wind he made rapid progress, till the boatman said, “Foreign teacher, I think your God must be the God who controls the wind and waves” – affording the missionary an excellent text for his message. But after a couple of days they came to a bend where the grand canal had burst its banks, and its bed was dry. Going ashore to make inquiries, Rudland found they had reached a point opposite to Nanking, and that by traveling overland he could be there in two days. He arrived in Nanking on the afternoon of the very day when the cook’s last dollar was spent.
There was no difficulty in finding the home of the only foreigner in Nanking. But when the cook opened the door he nearly fell on Mr. Rudland’s neck for joy. Forgetting his Chinese politeness, he blurted out, “Have you brought any money? We’re at the very end of everything!” Rejoicing in God’s timely provision, the young convert soon provided the traveler with hot water for a wash, and a cup of tea, and then asked for a dollar to go out marketing.
When supper was ready, the cook stationed himself at the door to await Mr. Duncan’s return. Towering head and shoulders above most of the citizens, it was easy to see him several blocks away, and the cook ran as fast as he could go to carry the good news. Unsurprised, the missionary put his hand on the man’s shoulder and replied, “Didn’t I tell you? It is always right to trust in the Lord, and do good; so shall we dwell in the land, and verily we shall be fed.”
– From a tract.