It Is Not Death to Die: A New Biography of Hudson Taylor

Many biographies have been written about Hudson Taylor, including the excellent two-volume bio written by Taylor’s son and daughter-in-law and first published about 100 years ago.  Hudson’s great-nephew, A. J. Broomhall, later wrote a comprehensive 7 volume work on Hudson Taylor and the China Inland Mission. Others have written about Hudson Taylor and his first wife, Maria, about the CIM, and about the CIM martyrs of the Boxer Rebellion.  There have literally been thousands of pages written about the remarkable life and ministry of James Hudson Taylor.

It Is Not Death to Die:  A New Biography of Hudson Taylor by Jim Cromarty is a very good updated biography of Hudson Taylor, missionary to China from the mid 1800’s  to the early 1900’s, and founder of the China Inland Mission.  At 481 pages of text plus end notes, bibliography, and indices, the book is not a quick read.  Cromarty does do a very good job of synthesizing his research and information from previous published works into an easy to understand chronology of Taylor’s life.

As a young man Taylor studied to be a doctor in preparation for his ministry in China.  He lived an exceptionally frugal life to prepare himself for the privations he expected to face in China.  Taylor was convinced that he must learn to trust God while still in his homeland or he would struggle to trust the Lord once he got to China.  A man who walked with God, Hudson Taylor prayed about everything, and trusted that God would literally supply his daily needs.  He decided never to ask any man for financial support, but to cast himself solely upon God to meet all his needs. You will be blessed and amazed at God’s very specific provision for his servant when you read this book.

A British citizen, Taylor grew up in a time when British ways were held dear, even when her citizens lived abroad.  British subjects worldwide dressed, ate, and conducted themselves as much as possible as if they were still in the homeland. After arriving in China, Hudson Taylor quickly saw that the gospel of Christ would not easily move forward since the Chinese feared and avoided foreigners due to their strange appearance and conduct.  He made the controversial decision to live and dress just like the people he was ministering to.  Initially he was mocked, shunned and ridiculed for this choice – not by the Chinese, but by his own countrymen.  Almost immediately after he started dressing and quietly living like the Chinese people he found greater acceptance and increased freedom to preach the gospel.

There are several things I like about this book.  First, Cromarty quotes extensively from the original writings of Hudson Taylor, his family members, and those associated with the China Inland Mission.  To read in his own words the joys, struggles, and challenges of daily living in an unfamiliar culture helps the reader feel a sympathetic connection with this humble missionary.

Second, I like biographies that portray the whole person, weaknesses as well as strengths.  Though written from a sympathetic viewpoint, the book still shows us the frustrations, disappointments, character flaws, and troubles that were part of Hudson Taylor’s life.  Bottom line:  He was an imperfect man who loved God wholeheartedly and whom God chose to use.  This gives every one of us hope!

Third, I like the way Cromarty arranged the chapters so that the reader better understands how intricately the CIM and Hudson Taylor were woven together.  Taylor understood the necessity of face to face encouragement of missionaries on the field and frequently spent his own time, resources, and energy traveling to help, encourage, and mediate for CIM missionaries. He also traveled extensively around the world to represent the mission and ask people to pray for more missionaries for China.  In a sense Hudson Taylor was the CIM (or at least the face of it!) and the CIM was Hudson Taylor.

Fourth, I appreciated the child-like dependence on God that Hudson Taylor displayed. The CIM was a faith mission and Hudson Taylor never once asked for donations or took up an offering at a public gathering.  He asked God directly to provide and trusted that God Himself would move individuals and groups to supply the needs of the missionaries.  Hudson Taylor drew deeply from a close fellowship with the Lord.  By the end of his life Taylor had read through his Bible over 40 times.  He was always quick to pray about matters that concerned him and was equally as quick to offer praise for answers to prayer.

Finally, I was deeply moved by the sacrifices and challenges the missionaries and Chinese believers faced in order to preach the gospel to China’s millions.  Loneliness, deprivations, illness, persecution, abuses, lack of privacy, unsanitary conditions, interpersonal struggles, death, and even martyrdom faced many.  Yet they set aside personal comforts and preferences for the cause of Christ.  Hudson Taylor’s burning desire, and the desire of those who volunteered for missionary service in China, was to reach every inland province and every Chinese person with the good news that Christ died and rose again to save us from our sins.  For some that meant death, but these devoted missionaries believed as Henri Cesar Malan’s poem states, “It is not death to die.” (See hymn text at the end of this blog.)

James Hudson Taylor lived in close communion with the Lord he loved and served faithfully for over 40 years.  Most of his adult life was spent establishing, working in, and overseeing the China Inland Mission.  Reading this book will inspire and challenge believers in their walk with God.

Cromarty, Jim.  It Is Not Death to Die:  A New Biography of Hudson Taylor. Fearn, UK:  Christian Focus Publications, 2008.

It Is Not Death to Die
by H. A. Cesar Malan, 1787-1864
translated by George W. Bethune, 1805-1862

It is not death to die,
To leave this weary road,
And midst the brotherhood on high
To be at home with God.

It is not death to close
The eye long dimmed by tears
And wake in glorious repose
To spend eternal years.

It is not death to bear
The wrench that sets us free
From dungeon chain, to breathe the air
Of boundless liberty.

It is not death to fling
Aside this sinful dust
And rise, on strong, exulting wing,
To live among the just.

Jesus, Thou Prince of Life,
Thy chosen cannot die;
Like Thee, they conquer in the strife
To reign with Thee on high.

5 thoughts on “It Is Not Death to Die: A New Biography of Hudson Taylor

  1. Pingback: Odds and ends « Stray Thoughts

    • Yes, It Is Not Death to Die by Cromarty is long, but engaging and well worth the time it takes to get through it. Hey, at least I didn’t review the 7 volume set on Hudson Taylor by Broomhall. Now THAT’s long!


  2. Pingback: Book Review: It Is Not Death to Die: A New Biography of Hudson Taylor « Stray Thoughts

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