In the year 1858, Hudson Taylor’s mission in China was beginning to reach some of the Chinese people with the gospel. There was Neng-kuei the basket-maker, Wang the farmer and Tsui the teacher.
One evening, a Mr. Ni passed by the open door where the bell was being rung to announce the time for Bible services to begin. Mr. Ni had never heard the gospel, but he had searched all his life for the truth. He had studied Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism and had found no rest.
He stepped in to hear the religious message. As he listened to the message taken from John 3:14-17 about how Christ became sin for all, he understood many things for the first time.
At the close of the service, he arose and announced that he had finally found the peace he had long sought for and that from henceforth he would be a believer in Jesus. He proved true to his word and became one of the most faithful workers in the mission.
One day, he asked Hudson Taylor, “How long have you had the Glad Tidings in your country?” The missionary reluctantly told him, “Some hundreds of years.” “What!” replied Mr. Ni, “My father sought the Truth and died without finding it. Oh, why did you not come sooner?”
Ad. from Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret by Dr. & Mrs. Howard Taylor.
“As a poor helpless sinner,” Hudson Taylor wrote, Neng-kuei cast himself upon God’s forgiving mercy, and found peace in believing. His love for the Bible was great, and he spent every available moment over its pages. Perhaps it was this that made his Christian life so restful. Wherever he went he carried a blessing with him and many a woman on a back street first heard the message of redeeming love from his lips.
Neng-kuei, too, from the very first was a soul-winner. Not unlike Peter in his fervent, devoted spirit, he also was used to bring the message of salvation to seeking souls whose prayers were known to God alone. One such was daily traversing the streets of Ning-po at this time, in search of a religion of which he knew nothing save that it would bring him peace; and but for a great trial coming into Neng-kuei’s life, he might have been long without finding it.
It was the busy season for basket-makers, and Neng kuei’s master insisted that he must work on Sunday. It was no use reminding him of his agreement, or suggesting that he should call in additional help. No, this idea of resting one day in seven was all very well for foreigners. but, now there was work to be done, Neng-kuei must be broken of it.
“Come to-morrow, or not at all,” was his ultimatum. And the Christian basket-maker knew himself dismissed.
Nor was this the worst of it. For on Monday morning, when he set about seeking other employment, every door was closed. No one wanted workmen, busy season though it was, and Neng-kuei tramped the city in vain.
“The devil is having hard at me,” thought he at last; “but I must and will resist him. If he will not let me have other employment, I will give my time to plucking souls from his kingdom.”
And this he did by spending the rest of the day in distributing tracts, and talking in the streets amid tea-shops with all who were inclined to listen.
Far away from Ning-po, in the beautiful valley of the Feng-hwa river, lay the farming district from which Neng kuei himself had come. There he had learned his trade and married the young wife from whom he had been parted in little more than a year. Her death had been terrible— a death in the dark, like so many thousands, alas, in China every year! Poor Neng-kuei could speak no word of comfort as she was passing from him in anguish and fear. And still there was no voice to tell among all those hills and valleys of Jesus and His redeeming love.
The basket-maker drifted to Ning-po a little later and there found, as we have seen, the Light of Life; but who was to care for Wang the farmer, in the little village of O-zi, when he became concerned about eternal things?
Nut far from Neng~kuei’s farmer home he lay ill and apparently dying, alone in the empty house. The family were all out in the fields, having supplied his needs as well as they could; and there was no one to whom he could turn for help in the great distress of his soul. For Wang regarded death with terror, as introducing the dreaded day on which he must “reckon up accounts.” Somehow, somewhere, he must meet the gods his sins had angered; and the balance to his credit was pitifully small. Whether his heart went out in a longing cry for mercy we cannot tell. At any rate his need was great, and he was dimly conscious of it.
And then a strange thing happened. In the silence of the empty house he heard himself called The voice though unknown was so real that he got up and made his way to the door, but on opening it could see no out. Painfully he crept back to bed, only to hear the same voice a little later calling more urgently Again he rose, and, supporting himself by the walls and furniture, managed to reach the door. But again no one was in sight. Greatly alarmed, he buried his face beneath the coverlet. This was none other than the approach of death!—The dreaded summons of the King of Hell, at whose bar he must shortly appear. And now the voice spoke a third time and told him not to be afraid. He was going, it said, to recover. An infusion of a certain herb would cure his sickness, and as soon as he was able he was to go into Ning-po, where he would hear of a new religion that would bring him peace of heart.
All this was so reassuring that Wang determined to do exactly as he was instructed. He persuaded his wife to prepare the medicine, and to the surprise of all began forthwith to recover. Going to Ning-po, however, was another matter. The city was thirty miles away, and Wang had nothing to live on while seeking the new religion. His farm-produce he could not carry with him, and besides it was all needed at home. The only plan would be to work for his living; and finally the farmer set out to support himself by cutting grass along the wayside and selling it to people who had cattle.
Thus he had managed to earn a scanty subsistence in Ning-po for some time, without finding anything that met the longings of his heart. Under the city-wall and amid the many grave-mounds he gathered a supply of grass day by day, which he sold in the city, but no one paid much attention to his questions about religious matters. Still, Wang was sure that what the voice had told him would come true.
At length one day in a tea-shop——what was that he heard? A simple working-man like himself was leaning across one of the tables, talking with those nearest him. Something about “the Jesus-doctrine” he said, and about sins being forgiven. Greatly interested Wang drew nearer, and listened for the first time. Try to imagine it—to the glad tidings of salvation.
Neng-kuei’s heart was full that day, and. he spoke long and earnestly. Some went out and some came in, but the O-zi farmer never lost a word. When Neng-kuei had finished he introduced himself, and asked many questions.
Seeing his interest Neng-kuei said: “You must draw water yourself from the fountain. There is a book God has given us in which everything is made plain. You shall have a copy and study the matter fully.”
“Alas,” replied the farmer,” I do not know how to read, and I am now too old to learn!“
“Far from it!“ exclaimed his new-found friend. “For with the Glad Tidings an easy method of reading has been brought to us. I did not know a single character when I became a Christian, but now can read the New Testament quite easily. If you like, I will be your teacher. Let us begin at once!“
Wang needed no second invitation. It did not take long to move his few belongings to the house in which the basket-maker lodged, and before the sun went down he had mastered the first six letters of the alphabet, besides acquiring a much fuller knowledge of spiritual things. And how happy they were over the lesson! It is doubtful whether anywhere in the city there were more thankful hearts, for had not the farmer found the treasure he had been seeking, and Neng-kuei a new jewel to lay at his Master’s feet?
No doubt they prayed together that evening over Neng-Kuei’s difficulty in obtaining employment, for which a sufficient reason was found the following day. His former master, angered by his adherence to Christian principles, had sent round to all the basket-makers of the city asking that if this particular workman applied to them on Monday morning they would turn him away. As members of the same Guild they had thought it best to comply. But the promise was for Monday, not for subsequent clays; and the first employer to whom he went on Tuesday was glad enough to engage the clever workman. So Neng-kuei’s troubles, too, were happily ended; and his new master living not far from Bridge Street, he was able to run in during the breakfast-hour and tell his missionary friends all that had happened.
Introduced in this way to the farmer from O-zi, Mr. Taylor hardly knew at first what to make of his story, Bat as time went on the sincerity of the man became apparent to all. He remained in Ning-po for some months, still supporting himself as a grass-cutter, and when he returned to O-zi it was to set apart the best room in his house as a little chapel, in which for fifty years he lovingly and faithfully made known the Gospel.
But this was not the only time Neng-kuei was enabled, through fidelity to Christian principle, to win a soul destined to become specially useful in winning others. Another man named Wang was living in Ning-po at the time who was yet to be numbered among the Bridge Street Christians, and to exceed them all in the fruitfulness of his labours. But as yet he knew nothing of the Master he was to love and serve.
A busy workman, employed from morning till night in painting and decorating houses, how was he to come under the influence of the Gospel ? He had no time to listen to preaching, though he seems to have been religiously inclined, and was no frequenter of tea-shops, his own home being at hand with the attractions of wife and infant child. So the Lord, who had chosen him for His service, sent across his pathway one whom He could trust to be faithful in little things, and who “in season and out of season” would deliver His message.
It was a beautiful house young Wang was in that day, decorating one of the guest-halls. Presently a stir began— servants came hurrying from the inner apartments, a man with a load of baskets was ushered in, and several ladies, richly dressed, came out to give their orders. Of all this the painter on his scaffolding took little notice, but when the ladies began to speak in tones of some annoyance he pricked up his ears to listen.
What! Not make baskets for holding incense? Refuse an order for anything to be used in the service of the gods?”
“Do not be angry, ladies,” replied the simple basket maker. “I am sorry not to comply with your wishes, but I cannot make or sell anything for the worship of idols.”
“And pray, why not?” was the astonished question.
“I am a believer in the Lord Jesus,” Neng-kuei answered respectfully: “I am a worshipper of the true and living God.” And he went on to put before these ladies, who might never hear again, the way of pardon and peace through a dying, risen Saviour.
“What was that you were saying?”
The ladies had grown tired of listening, and had tottered away on their tiny feet. but Neng-kuei’s attention was arrested, as he was about to leave, by a man in working clothes, who went on earnestly; “You did not see me. I am painting up there,” indicating his ladder. “What was it you were saying? I heard, but tell me again.”
That conversation, too, we are left to imagine. We only know that Wang Lae-djuen took the first step that day in a lifetime of devoted service to the Master.
DOWNLOAD THE INSPIRING STORY POWERPOINT “WHERE IS PAUL?”