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

Hudson Taylor’s sacrificial, persevering work to bring the Gospel to China’s millions is revealed in this fascinating account.

  • Byron Snapp,
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Hudson Taylor’s sacrificial, persevering work to bring the Gospel to China’s millions caught the attention and support of men such as Charles Spurgeon and George Mueller. This biography reveals his life in a fascinating account.

Hudson Taylor’s father, James Taylor, longed to be a missionary to China. When doors closed on this desire, he prayed that God would give a son who would take the Gospel to this spiritually-starved land. He did not reveal this prayer to his son, Hudson, who was born in l832. James trained him in a structured, strict home. This disciplined lifestyle would serve Hudson well as a missionary.

Soon after his conversion at seventeen, Hudson began to prepare to go to China by teaching himself the Mandarin language. He also began to study medicine, knowing that such preparation would open many doors for witness on the field. He heard that China’s door to foreigners had opened wider due to a rebellion there. He left his medical studies uncompleted and sailed for China. He arrived several months later in the midst of the rebellion. Once he became settled, the expected encouragement and funding from England failed to materialize. Undeterred, he began journeying inland, aiding the sick and distributing Christian literature.

His early years in this foreign land brought numerous trials. He was denied an opportunity to build a medical complex that would have greatly aided his outreach. He was also robbed. Other missionaries held him in low esteem because he had neither a medical degree nor ordination.

Because of continued lack of funding from the missions group with whom he was connected, Hudson resigned and began work as an independent missionary. Although men often failed him, he had great faith that he served a God who would never fail him.

Drawing from numerous sources, the author, Jim Cromarty, powerfully portrays Hudson Taylor’s labors, the establishment and growth of the China Inland Mission, and the struggles and successes that grew out of his fifty years of ministry in China. Hudson’s love for Gospel advancement resulted in many sacrifices throughout his life. He was often deprived of basic comforts and conveniences. He and those who served with him regularly had to live and sleep in the midst of bedbugs, mice, rats, and cockroaches.

Early in his ministry he made the conscious decision to dress like the Chinese and live among them. This led to later dissension among the missionaries who came to serve with him. He had numerous personnel problems, administrative headaches, and frequent funding needs that required much prayer and many journeys to England to resolve. He had long absences from his family due to the demands, as he saw it, of mission work.

Neither the martyrdom of missionaries, the hatred of Chinese people toward foreigners, or major political unrest could stop the work God was pleased to do through the humble efforts of Hudson and his group of missionaries. Six hundred seventy-two missionaries were laboring throughout China by l896. Eighty thousand Chinese were members of churches. Hudson Taylor’s legacy continues today in that land that continues to be a spiritual battleground for the Gospel.

The author has penned a fine biography. It is a readable account for those who have little acquaintance with this man who lived out his trust in an unfailing God. Reading this volume reminds one of the sacrifices many have made to take the Gospel to China. It is also a reminder that missionaries are sinners and that their sins must be confronted. Tensions on the mission field can come from mission societies as well as from the darkness of lost sinners.

This volume is well worth reading. It is very organized, and I found it to be a real page-turner as Hudson Taylor’s trials, heartaches, and victories were detailed. God certainly answered James Taylor’s prayer to give him a son to send to China.

  • Byron Snapp

Byron Snapp is a graduate of King College (B.A.) and Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div.). He was Associate Pastor at Calvary Reformed Presbyterian Church, Hampton, Virginia, from 1994 until his retirement in December 2014. He is a native of Marion, Virginia.  He has had pastorates in Leakesville, Mississippi, and Gaffney, South Carolina.  He served as Assistant Pastor in Cedar Bluff, Virginia prior to his ministry at Calvary Reformed. He has served as editor of the Presbyterian Witness and was a contributor to A Comprehensive Faith and Election Day Sermons. He is currently a member of Westminster Presbytery in the PCA. He and his wife Janey have 3 children and several grandchildren. 

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