THE hospital at last ! It was now the end of October 1852, three years almost from the December day that had brought Hudson Taylor his definite call to China. Ever since that time he had had medical study in view as the best preparation he could make for future usefulness. With little help and in spite of many obstacles he had persevered, making considerable progress with the practical side of his work. But now the broad highway lay open before him-the lectures, the wards, and all the* advantages of a city hospital.
Not that " The London " of those days, on its broad expanse of Mile End Waste, was anything to compare with the noble institution that stands there now. Still, it could accommodate even then from three to four hundred inpatients, and its students had the benefit of an unusually large practice among the teeming population of the East End. It was a new world indeed to the north-country lad, and one in which no little courage was needed to maintain the standing of a consistent Christian.
But it is not so much with his outward experiences we are concerned, during this period in London, as with the development of his inward life-the growth of both faith and faithfulness amid the circumstances of his providential way.
That his temporal needs were met is manifest, for he was able to live on at Soho even after his little store of savings had been expended.
" I must not now attempt to detail," he wrote, " the way in which the Lord was pleased, often to my surprise as well as delight, to help me from time to time."
Many answers to prayer were given that are not recorded, and from this point of view the winter was a rich one, although we have it on his own authority that his spiritual life was not as bright as it had been in Hull. But, though there was less joy in the Lord, apparently, and less consciousness of His presence, the wonderful reality did not fail.
Owing to heavy rains, the season was specially depressing Much of the East End was flooded, with serious results for those who lived near the river or whose employment kept them in the damp, foggy streets. And Hudson Taylor, for a considerable part of every day, was among their number. Lodging at Soho for the sake of remaining with his cousin, he was fully four miles from the hospital in which most of his work was done. This meant a walk of at least two hours daily, from Oxford Street to Whitechapel, and back across the City to Oxford Street again. There was no " Tube " or " Underground " available. The only public conveyance was the old-fashioned omnibus with its three penny fare each way, a price that was quite prohibitive. So there was nothing for it but to walk.
For the young medical student was economising very strictly. How far this was necessary or desirable, it is not for us to say. He was inexperienced as yet in a life of faith, and felt it a matter of conscience to deny himself everything that could be done without, partly with a view to helping others.
" To lessen expenses," he wrote, " I shared a room with a cousin, four miles from the hospital, providing my own board ; and after various experiments I found that the most economical way was to live almost exclusively on brown bread and water. Thus I was able to make the means that God gave me last as long as possible. Some of my expenses I could not diminish, but my board was largely in my own control. A large twopenny loaf of brown bread, purchased daily on my long walk from the hospital, furnished me with supper and breakfast ; and on this diet with a few apples for lunch I managed to walk eight or nine miles a day, besides being a good deal on foot attending the practice of the hospital "
Remember it was winter, the month of November, just the most cheerless time of all the year. Trudging home long after dark, how tempting the restaurants would look to the tired, hungry student who had had no dinner for many a day ! Did the baker guess, who sold that large twopenny loaf of brown bread, why his customer always waited to have it cut in half ? Only half could be taken that night for supper : the remainder had to suffice for the morrow, and experience had proved how very hard it was to make such a division impartially. When at first he tried it for himself, supper had so much the advantage of breakfast that the lad often went hungry the following day. The baker, however, was disinterested, and laid him under obligation by settling the question on the spot.
Brown bread, apples and water, at a cost of threepence a day-a diet worthy of a Bedouin Arab, minus the fragrant coffee, and more suited to his tranquil surroundings. But for a delicate lad amid the stress and strain of London life it left much to be desired.
And all the while it was the greatness of the inward way that told upon him most. Hunger and weariness of body were of little moment compared with the longing of his soul. It was the end in view that meant so much-China in its unutterable need, and what he could do to meet it ; God and His purposes of blessing, to be apprehended only by faith and prayer.
Meanwhile he was getting on well with his work in the hospital.
" No," he wrote in reply to his mother's inquiries, " my health does not suffer.. On the contrary, every one says how well I look, and some even that I am getting fat ! Though this, I believe, can only be perceived by rather a brilliant imagination. The walks do not fatigue me as they did at first. But the profane conversation of some of the students is utterly sickening, and I need all your prayers.
"How precious the assurance,' Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end' ! He never forgets, He mesa tires.... The future, as you say, is all in His hands, and where else would we wish it ? "
Yet even as he wrote the words he was in a position that might well have given rise to anxiety, and was entering on a period of trial more severe than any he had previously known. As a background to this experience with which the year terminated, and of which he wrote as follows, precious indeed was the assurance, " He never forgets, He never tires."
One incident I cannot but refer to, that took place about this time. The husband of my former landlady in Hull was chief officer of a ship that sailed from London, and by receiving his half-pay monthly and remitting it to her I was able to save her the cost of a commission. This I had been doing for two or three months, when she wrote requesting that I would obtain the next payment as early as possible, as her rent was almost due, and she depended upon that sum to meet it, The request came at an inconvenient time. I was working hard for an examination, in the hope of obtaining a scholarship which would be of service to me, and felt that I could ill afford the time to go during the busiest part of the day to the city and procure the money. I had sufficient of my own in hand to enable me to send the required sum, and made the remittance therefore, purposing as soon as the examination was over to go and draw the regular allowance with which to refund myself..
Before the time of examination the medical school was closed for a day on account of the funeral of the Duke of Wellington, and I had an opportunity of going at once to the office, which was situated in a street off Cheapside, and applying for the due amount. To my surprise and dismay the clerk told me that he could not pay it, as the officer in question had run away from his ship and gone to the gold diggings.
" Well," I remarked, " that is very inconvenient for me, as I have already advanced the money and I know his wife will have no means of repaying it."
The clerk said he was very sorry,. but could of course only act according to orders. So there was no help for me in that direction ! A little more time and thought, however, brought the comforting conclusion to my mind that-as I was depending on the Lord for everything, and His means were not limited, it was a small matter to be brought a little sooner or later into the position of needing fresh supplies from Him. So the joy and peace were not long interrupted.
Very soon after this, possibly the same evening, while sewing together some sheets of paper on which to take notes of lectures, I accidentally pricked the first finger of my right hand, and in a few moments forgot all about it. The next day at the hospital I continued dissecting as before. The body was that of a person who had died of fever, and was more than usually disagreeable and dangerous. I need scarcely say that those of us who were at work upon it dissected with special care, knowing that the slightest scratch might cost our lives. Before the morning was far advanced I began to feel weary, and while going through the surgical wards at noon was obliged to run out, being suddenly very sick-a most unusual circumstance with me, as I took but little food and nothing that could disagree with me. After feeling faint for some time, a draught of cold water revived me and I was able to rejoin the students, I became more and more unwell, however, and during the afternoon lecture on surgery found it impossible to hold the pencil and continue taking notes. By the time the next lecture was over, my whole arm and right side were full of pain and I was both looking and feeling very ill.
Finding that I could not resume work, I went into the dissecting room to bind up the portion I was engaged upon and put away my apparatus, and said to the demonstrator, who was a skilful surgeon
" I cannot think what has come over me," describing the symptoms.
" Why," said he, " what has happened is clear enough.. You must have cut yourself in dissecting, and you know that this is a case of malignant fever."
I assured him that I had been most careful and was quite certain that I had no cut or scratch.
" Well," he replied, " you certainly must have had one " ; and he closely scrutinised my hand to find it, but in vain,
All at once it occurred to me that I had pricked my finger the night before, and I asked him if it were possible that a prick from a needle at that time could have been still unclosed. His opinion was that this was probably the cause of the trouble, and he advised me to get a hansom, drive home as fast as I could and arrange my affairs forthwith :
" For," said he, " you are a dead man,"
My first thought was one of sorrow that I could not go to China ; but very soon came the feeling, " Unless I am greatly mistaken, I have work to do in China and shall not die." I was glad, however, to take the opportunity of speaking to my medical friend, who was a confirmed sceptic, of the joy that the prospect of soon being with my Master gave me, telling him at the same time that I did not think I should die, as unless I were much mistaken I had work to do in China, and-if so, however severe the struggle, I must be brought
That is all very well," he answered, " but get a hansom and drive home as fast as you can. You have no time to lose, for you will soon be incapable of winding up your affairs."
I smiled a little at the idea of driving home in a hansom, for by this time my means were too exhausted to allow of such a proceeding, and I set out to walk the distance if possible. Before long, however, my strength gave way, and I felt it was no use to attempt to reach home by walking. Availing myself of an omnibus from Whitechapel Church to Farringdon Street, and another from Farringdon Street onwards, I reached, in great suffering, the neighbourhood of Soho Square, behind which I lived. On going into the house I got some hot water from the servant, and charging her very earnestly-literally as a dying man-to accept eternal life as the gift of God through Jesus Christ, I bathed my hand and lanced the finger, hoping to let out some of the poisoned blood. The pain was very severe. I fainted away, and was so long unconscious that when I came to myself I found I had been carried to bed.
An uncle of mine who lived near at hand had come in, and sent for his own medical man, an assistant surgeon at the Westminster Hospital. I assured my uncle that medical help would be of no service to me, and that I did not wish to go to the expense involved. He quieted me on this score, however, saying that he had sent for his own doctor and that the bill would be charged to himself. When the surgeon came and learned all particulars, he said,
" Well, if you have been living moderately you may pull through, but if you have been going in for beer and that sort of thing there is no manner of chance for you."
I thought that if sober living was to do anything, few could have a better chance, as little but bread and water had been my diet for a good while past. I told him I had lived abstemiously and found that it helped me to study.
" But now," he said, " you must keep up your strength, for it will be a pretty hard struggle." And he ordered me a bottle of port wine every day and as many chops as I could consume.
Again I smiled inwardly, having no means for the purchase of such luxuries. This difficulty, however, was also met by my kind uncle, who sent me at once all that was needed.
I was much concerned, notwithstanding the agony I suffered, that my dear parents should not be made acquainted with my state. Thought and prayer had satisfied me that I was not going to die, but that there was indeed a work for me to do in China. If my dear parents should come up and find me in that condition, I must lose the opportunity of seeing how God was going to work for me now that my money was almost come to an end. So, after prayer for guidance, I obtained a promise from my uncle and cousin not to write to my parents, but to leave me to communicate with them myself. I felt it a very distinct answer to prayer when they gave me this promise, and I took care to defer all communication with Barnsley until the worst was over. At home they knew that I was working hard for an examination and did not wonder at my silence..
Days and nights of suffering passed slowly by ; but at length, after several weeks, I was sufficiently restored to leave my room ; and then I learned that two men, though not from the London Hospital, who had had dissection wounds at the same time as myself, had both succumbed, while I was spared in answer to prayer to work for God in China.
One day the doctor coming in found me on the sofa, and was surprised to learn that with assistance I had walked downstairs.
"Now," he said, " the best thing you can do is to get off to the country as soon as you feel equal to the journey. You must rusticate until you have recovered a fair amount of strength, for if you begin your work too soon the consequences may still be serious."
When he had left, as I lay very exhausted on the couch, I just told the Lord all about it, and that I was refraining from making my circumstances known to those who would delight to meet my need in order that my faith might be strengthened by receiving help from Himself in answer to prayer alone. What was I to do ? And I waited for His answer.
It seemed to me as if He were directing my mind to the conclusion to go again to the shipping office and inquire about the wages I had been unable to draw. I reminded the Lord that I could not afford to take a conveyance, and that it did not seem at all likely I should succeed in getting the money, and asked whether this impulse were not a mere clutching at a straw, some mental process of my own rather than His guidance and teaching. After prayer, however, and renewed waiting upon God, I was confirmed in my belief that He Himself was directing me to go to the office.
The next question was, " How am I to go ? " I had had to seek help in coming downstairs, and the place was at least two miles away. The assurance was brought vividly home to me that whatever I asked of God in the name of Christ would be done, that the Father might be glorified in the Son ; that what I had to do was to seek strength for the long walk, to receive it by faith, and set out upon it. Unhesitatingly I told the Lord that I was quite willing to take the walk if He would give the strength. I asked in the name of Christ that the strength might immediately be given ; and sending the servant up to my room for my hat and stick, I set out, not to attempt to walk, but to walk to Cheapside.
Although undoubtedly strengthened by faith, I never took so much interest in shop windows as I did upon that journey. At every second or third shop I was glad to lean a little against the plate glass, and take time to examine the contents of the window before passing on. It needed a special effort of faith when I got to the bottom of Farringdon Street to attempt the toilsome ascent of Snow Hill ; but there was no Holborn Viaduct in those days, and it had to be done. God did wonderfully help me, and in due time I reached Cheapside, turned into the by-street in which the office was found, and sat down much exhausted on the steps leading to the first floor, which was my destination. I felt my position to be a little peculiar, sitting there on the steps so evidently spent, and the gentlemen who rushed up and downstairs looked at me with an inquiring gaze. After a little rest, however, and a further season of prayer, I succeeded in climbing the staircase, and to my comfort found in the office the clerk with whom I had hitherto dealt in the matter, Seeing me looking pale and exhausted he kindly inquired as to my health, and I told him that I had had a serious illness and was ordered to the country, but thought it well to call first and make further inquiry, lest there should have been any mistake about the mate having run off to the gold diggings, " Oh," he said, " I am so glad you have come, for it turns out that it was an able seaman of the same name that ran away. The mate is still on board ; the ship has just reached Gravesend and will be up very soon. I shall be glad to give you the half-pay up to date, for doubtless it will reach his wife more safely through you. We all know what temptations beset the men when they arrive at home after a voyage." But before giving me the sum of money, he insisted, on my coming inside and sharing his lunch. I felt it was the Lord indeed who was providing for me, and accepted his offer with thankfulness. When I was refreshed and rested, he gave me a sheet of paper to write a few lines to the wife, telling her of the circumstances. On my way back I procured in Cheapside a money-order for the balance due to her, and posted it ; and returning home again felt myself now quite justified in taking an omnibus as far as it would serve me.. Very much better the next morning, I made my way to the surgery of the doctor who had attended me, feeling that although my uncle. was prepared to pay the bill it was right for me now that I had money in hand to ask for the account myself; The kind surgeon refused to allow me as a medical student to pay anything for his attendance, but he had supplied me with quinine which he allowed me to pay for to the extent of eight shillings; When that was settled, I saw that the sum left was just sufficient to take me home ; and to my mind the whole thing seemed a wonderful interposition of God on my behalf.
I knew that the surgeon was sceptical, and told him that I should very much like to speak to him freely, if I might do so without offence ; that I felt that under God I owed my life to his care, and wished very earnestly that he himself might become a partaker of the same precious faith that I possessed. So I told him my reason for being in London, and about my circumstances, and why I had declined the help of both my father and the officers of the Society in connection with which it was probable that I should go to China. I told him of the recent providential dealings of God with me, and how apparently hopeless my position had been the day before when he had ordered me to go to the country, unless I would reveal my need, which I had determined not to do; I described to him the mental exercises I had gone through ; but when I added that I had actually got up from the sofa and walked to Cheapside, he looked at me incredulously and said,
" Impossible ! Why, I left you lying there more like a ghost than a man."
And I had to assure him again and again that, strengthened by faith, the walk had really been taken.
I told him also what money was left to me and what payments there had been to make, and showed him that just sufficient remained to take me home to Yorkshire, providing for needful refreshment on the way and the omnibus journey at the end.
My kind friend was completely broken down, and said with tears in his eyes,
" I would give all the world for a faith like yours." I on the other hand had the joy of telling him that it was to be obtained without money and without price,
We never met again. When I came back to town restored to health and strength I found that he had had a stroke and left for the country, and I subsequently learned that he never rallied. I was able to gain no information as to his state of mind when taken away, but I have always felt very thankful that I had the opportunity, and embraced it, of bearing that testimony for God. I cannot but entertain the hope that the Master Himself was speaking to him through His dealings with me, and that I shall meet him again in the Better Land. It would be no small joy to be welcomed by him when my own service is over.
The next day found me in my dear parents' home. My joy in the Lord's help and deliverance was so great that I was unable to keep it to myself, and before my return to London my dear mother knew the secret of my life for some tithe past. I need scarcely say that when I went up again to town I was not allowed to live, as indeed I was not fit to live, on the same economical lines as before my illness; I needed more now, and the Lord did provide.
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