1862 - 1948

Mrs. Howard Taylor

Most of us know Mrs. Howard Taylor through her pen.  Perhaps there is no other woman in recent years who has written as extensively and has been read as widely as she.  I had an interesting experience very early in our missionary career.  We had recently been accepted by the mission and strongly recommended by them to take a course in linguistics.  They knew that we would be in a place where the language was tonal and included many sounds  unfamiliar to English speakers-guttural sounds and glottal stops and all the rest.  So we were enrolled in a linguistics course in Biblical Seminary in New York City. On the first day of class the instructor was reading the roll; and with Dreisbach being near the front of the alphabet, our names were called early on.  We sort of went into a neutral mode as all of the other names were being called.  Toward the end of the roll call, we were jolted fully awake when suddenly the name J. Hudson Taylor was read.  J. Hudson Taylor-he died in 1905 and this is 1947?  It happened to be J. Hudson Taylor III. 

His aunt was Mrs. Howard Taylor, who was born on Christmas Day in 1862 and died in 1948.  Her father, H. Grattan Guinness, was a famous evangelist in England, who was greatly used of the Lord in evangelistic work and subsequently founded a school for the training of ministers, and particularly, missionaries.  On the birth of his daughter Geraldine, he wrote this very-fitting little poem:

 

"One cloud remains, that by thy birth

Thou enterest a ruined earth,

My little One.

 

"But thou shalt find with sweet surprise,

Earth but a pathway to the skies,

My little One.

 

"Such is our trust, for, Lord, we give

Thy gift to thee!  O then receive

Our little One. 

 

"Receive her Lord and let her be

Thine own to all eternity-

Thy little One."

 

H. Grattan Guinness

 

And that prayer poem, I believe, was abundantly answered in the life of Geraldine Taylor.  As a young lady she had a burden for the downcast and depressed girls who worked in the factories in the east end of London.  The circumstances under which they worked were terrible.  The living conditions in this degraded part of London were very poor. For a number of years she had a very fruitful ministry among the factory girls, helping to elevate these downtrodden, sweatshop girls who worked in the factories in that part of the great city of London.

In 1888 she felt the call of God to missionary service and, under the China Inland Mission, went to China.

That same year Howard Taylor, the son of Hudson Taylor, also joined the CIM.  He was a very well-trained and talented medical doctor.  For a year or so, he had been traveling with his father up and down England, Scotland, and the British Isles in the business of the China Inland Mission.  In 1888 he likewise joined the mission and went to China.

A sense of the heart of this dear lady may be found in reading the motto that she took for herself and by which she lived throughout her long life-"Live for the glory of God and for the good of many." She was greatly used-perhaps not so much through her personal ministry as through her pen.  Her literary ability was recognized early on, and she was asked by Hudson Taylor to write a history of the CIM, which she did.  This was one of her first books and the beginning of a list of over twenty books written throughout her long lifetime.

A sample of her spirit is found in a letter that she wrote soon after her arrival  in China:  "There is only time, only strength, for one thing, to learn of Him and to make Him known."

It was that same year that Taylor's son Howard joined the mission and arrived in China. He and Geraldine had met in England and were subsequently engaged in China in the year 1890 and married in 1894.  They had a very rich, long ministry in China and around the world.  They were greatly used of the Lord to challenge people for missions, particularly missions in China. They traveled on four continents and spoke widely in Europe as well as in North America (United States and Canada), Australia, and New Zealand and were  acclaimed as mission representatives, not only for the CIM but also for all sound missions taking Christ to those who had never heard.

Geraldine was commissioned to write a two-volume biography of Hudson Taylor.  Her diligence is seen in the fact that it took 13 years of research to gather the material that went into that two-volume set that has greatly challenged many over the years.

A small but quite interesting thing to note is that, by and large, the women of China were illiterate; and it was difficult to reach their minds and hearts. She  used her hand in reaching out to these women:

  • With her thumb she said there is only one true God,
  • With the forefinger, the true God loves us,
  • With the middle finger, the true God can forgive us,
  • With the ring finger, the true God can keep us in peace, and
  • With the little finger, the true God leads us at last to Heaven.

She used that little exercise over and over as they traveled extensively across the great country of China. 

In her research for the two-volume biography of Hudson Taylor, she traveled to every province of China by every means of transportation available in those days and had the opportunity to reach out and be greatly used in ministering to many Chinese women. 

Toward the end of her life she had a little statement that appears in the biography of Geraldine Taylor: 

We must just retire unto God Himself, not retire from our work; retire from our fears and feelings, our hurts and disappointments, our plans and preferences, and above all our self-dependence and self-pleasing unto the strong refuge of His unchanging will and all-sufficient love.

More and more among the GFA personnel we find grey hairs.  We're not retiring from the work. We're continuing in the work that He has committed to us.

Many of the books that Mrs. Taylor wrote are classics in missionary literature.  The first book that I read from her pen was one on Pastor His, a Chinese gentleman and Confucius scholar who, through the ministry of the CIM, had come to faith in Jesus Christ and was greatly used in a unique way.  At that time, opium addiction was a very real problem in China; and he was sort of a native traditional doctor who had a system of treatment that liberated many from the bondage of opium.  Through that ministry he was able to minister to many Chinese men.

There is also the aforementioned two-volume biography of Taylor.  Borden of Yale is another book that came from her pen.  When my wife and I directed the medical missions program at Bob Jones University and took teams to various fields around the world, we required and encouraged our students to get in the habit of reading good literature. One book required of all our team members  was Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret.  Most books are read and then lead a very lonely life on the bookshelf collecting dust.  But this book is a classic that  needs to be read over and again to challenge our hearts for the work of the Lord.

Geraldine Taylor wrote a very challenging biography of John and Betty Stam, a brave young couple who, in 1934, were martyred in the northwest part of China.  She also wrote Beyond the Ranges, one of the first biographies of Fraser in Lisu land.  These and many other books came from her pen and were greatly used for the cause of missions worldwide.

She was a very godly woman who had the practice of rising very early each day-usually around 4:00 to 4:30 a.m.-to spend several hours in prayer, Bible study, and communion with the Lord. It was that close walk with the Lord that inspired her in writing all of these books which have challenged the Christian world to the present day. 

I encourage all who have not read her writings to do so.  The diaries and letters of Geraldine Taylor were thoroughly researched before her niece undertook the task of writing her biography, and she has presented the spirit of this great woman very accurately.

 

JAD  11/30/05