Christ Is All
In August 1869, J. Hudson Taylor of the China Inland Mission read the book Christ is All: The Gospel of the Pentateuch by Henry Law, published in 1867 in London. It was a hardbound book of some 276 pages and quite heavy. Hudson Taylor left the book at the mission station at Hang-chow in inland China, and returned to the mission's headquarters and his home at Chin-kiang. We pick up the story now, adapted from the book Hudson Taylor and the China Inland Mission (published 1918) by Howard Taylor:
In the old home at Hang-chow Mr. [John] McCarthy was sitting writing. The glory of a great sunrise was upon him -- the light whose inward dawning makes all things new. To tell his beloved friend and leader about it was his longing, for he knew from his own experience something of the exercise of mind through which Mr. Taylor was passing. But where to begin, how to put it into words he knew not, and the day was full of pressing duties. He wrote:
"I do wish I could have a talk with you now about the way of Holiness. At the time you were speaking to me about it, it was the subject of all others occupying my thoughts -- not from anything I had read, not from what my brother had written even, so much as from a consciousness of failure; a constant falling short of that which I felt should be aimed at; an unrest; a perpetual striving to find some way by which I might continuously enjoy that communion, that fellowship at times so real, but more often so visionary, so far off! ... Do you know, dear brother, I now think that this striving, effort, longing, hoping for better days to come, is not the true way to happiness, holiness or usefulness: better, no doubt far better, than being satisfied with our poor attainments, but not the best way after all. I have been struck with a passage from a book of yours left here, entitled Christ is All. [See footnote]. It says:
"The Lord Jesus received is holiness begun; the Lord Jesus cherished is holiness advancing; the Lord Jesus counted upon as never absent would be holiness complete.
"This (grace of faith) is the chain which binds the soul to Christ, and makes the Saviour and the sinner one. ... A channel is now formed by which Christ's fulness plenteously flows down. The barren branch becomes a portion of the fruitful stem. ... One life reigns throughout the whole.
"Believer, you mourn your shortcomings; you find the hated monster, sin, still striving for the mastery. Evil is present when you would do good. Help is laid up for you in Christ. Seek clearer interest in Him. They who most deeply feel that they have died in Christ, and paid in Him sin's penalties, ascend to highest heights of godly life. He is most holy who has most of Christ within, and joys most fully in the finished work. It is defective faith which clogs the feet, and causes many a fall."
"This last sentence I think I now fully endorse. To let my loving Saviour work in me His will, my sanctification is what I would live for by His grace. Abiding, not striving nor struggling; looking off unto Him; trusting Him for present power; trusting Him to subdue all inward corruption; resting in the love of an almighty Saviour, in the conscious joy of a complete salvation, a salvation 'from all sin' (this is His Word); willing that His will should truly be supreme -- this is not new, and yet 'tis new to me. I feel as though the first dawning of a glorious day had risen upon me. I hail it with trembling, yet with trust. I seem to have got to the edge only, but of a sea which is boundless; to have sipped only, but of that which fully satisfies. Christ literally all seems to me now the power, the only power for service; the only ground for unchanging joy. May He lead us into the realisation of His unfathomable fulness."
"August 21: How then to have our faith increased? Only by thinking of all that Jesus is, and all He is for us: His life, His death, His work, He Himself as revealed to us in the Word, to be the subject of our constant thoughts. Not a striving to have faith, or to increase our faith, but a looking off to the Faithful One seems all we need; a resting in the Loved One entirely, for time and for eternity. It does not appear to me as anything new, only formerly misapprehended."
Life was, if anything, specially full and busy for Mr. Taylor at this time. He had returned from his journey round the older stations to an endless succession of duties that kept him on the move between Yang-chow and Chin-kiang. Both were in a sense the headquarters of the Mission, and the growing church in the former and the demands of the printing-press in the latter filled every moment that could be spared from account keeping, correspondence, and directorial matters. There had recently been baptisms in Yang-chow, and Mr. Judd was glad of all the help Mr. Taylor could give in caring for the young converts. The heat of summer had told upon all the party, and Mr. Taylor himself had been laid aside by severe illness in the middle of August. Now, early in September, he was recovering, and trying to overtake the work that had accumulated. The Cordons had come over from Soo-chow to consult him about their movements; the Duncans were on their way from Nanking for special conference; others were coming and going on various matters, and there was a good deal of proof-reading on hand. Mrs. Judd also was dangerously ill, and required Mr. Taylor's attention as a doctor. It was no time, surely, for an outstanding crisis in spiritual things!
Yet, oh, how deep the heart-hunger, in and through all else! That did not diminish. It seemed to increase, rather, with all the need there was to minister to others. Leaving a full house in Chin-kiang, Mr. Taylor had run up to Yang-chow to see his patient, and was returning now alone by a little boat chosen less for comfort than for speed. It was early in the morning, and he was eager to be in Chin-kiang, where Mrs. Taylor was, in time for breakfast, so as not to lose a moment of the day for work. Coming down the Grand Canal and crossing the Yangtze (two miles wide) he had quiet for thought -- thought and prayer. Were it not recorded in his own words it would be difficult to believe, certainly impossible to imagine, such conflict, suffering, almost despair in spiritual things in one who had long and truly known the Lord. Ah, was it not that very fact that made it possible? Nearness to Christ had been to him so real and blessed that any distance was unbearable. So deeply did he love that any clouding of the Master's face was felt, and felt at once with anguish of heart. It is the bride who mourns the absence of the bridegroom, not one who has been a stranger to His love.
Reaching the little crowded house at Chin-kiang, Mr. Taylor made his way as soon as possible to his room to attend to correspondence. There, amid a pile of letters, was one from Mr. McCarthy. We do not know if he was alone as he read it: we do not know just how the miracle was wrought. But -- "as I read, I saw it all. I looked to Jesus; and when I saw, oh how joy flowed!"
It was Saturday the 4th of September ; the house was full, and others were coming; somehow they must be put up and kept over Sunday, for this great joy could not but be shared. As soon as he could break away from his glad thanksgivings, Mr. Taylor went out, a new man in a new world, to tell what the Lord had done for his soul. He took the letters, Mr. McCarthy's and one from Miss Faulding in the same strain, and, gathering the household together in the sitting-room upstairs, told out what his whole life was telling from that time onward to the glorious end. Other hearts were moved and blessed; the streams began to flow. From that little crowded home in Chin-kiang city they flowed on and out, and are flowing still -- "rivers of living water." For "whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him," Jesus said, "shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life."
And he did more than tell. Pressed though he was with business matters, his correspondence took on a new tone. Here is one of the first letters written with that tide of joy and life more abundant sweeping through his soul. Books and medicines were needed from Yang-chow, and in sending for them Mr. Taylor gave directions so detailed that all needless trouble would be spared. The pencilled lines on half a sheet of notepaper show that he was very busy -- but how at leisure in spirit!
Chin-Kiang, September 6, 1869.
My dear Sister -- We had a very happy day here yesterday. I was so happy! A letter from Mr. McCarthy on this subject has been blessed to several of us. He and Miss Faulding also seem so happy! He says: "I feel as though the first glimmer of the dawn of a glorious day had risen upon me. I hail it with trembling, yet with trust."
The part specially helpful to me is: "How then to have our faith increased? Only by thinking of all that Jesus is, and all He is for us: His life, His death, His work, He Himself as revealed to us in the Word, to be the subject of our constant thoughts. Not a striving to have faith, or to increase our faith, but a looking off to the Faithful One seems all we need."
Here, I feel, is the secret: not asking how I am to get sap out of the vine into myself, but remembering that Jesus is the Vine -- the root, stem, branches, twigs, leaves, flowers, fruit, all indeed. Aye, and far more too! He is the soil and sunshine, air and rain -- more than we can ask, think, or desire. Let us not then want to get anything out of Him, but rejoice in being ourselves in Him -- one with Him, and, consequently, with all His fulness. Not seeking for faith to bring holiness, but rejoicing in the fact of perfect holiness in Christ, let us realise that -- inseparably one with Him -- this holiness is ours, and accepting the fact, find it so indeed. But I must stop.
Returning to Yang-chow to see his patient, Mr. Taylor became the bearer of his own glad tidings.
"When I went to welcome him," recalled Mr. Judd, "he was so full of joy that he scarcely knew how to speak to me. He did not even say, 'How do you do?' but walking up and down the room with his hands behind him, exclaimed "'Oh, Mr. Judd, God has made me a new man! God has made me a new man!'"
That midnight conversation and the change that had come over his beloved leader greatly impressed the younger missionary. He too had seen these things theoretically, as so many do, without really apprehending them.
"I have not got to make myself a branch," he could never forget Mr. Taylor saying. "The Lord Jesus tells me I am a branch. I am part of Him, and have just to believe it and act upon it. If I go to the bank in Shanghai, having an account, and ask for fifty dollars, the clerk cannot refuse it to my outstretched hand and say that it belongs to Mr. Taylor. What belongs to Mr. Taylor my hand may take. It is a member of my body. And I am a member of Christ, and may take all I need of His fulness. I have seen it long enough in the Bible, but I believe it now as a living reality."
Simple as it was, the new point of view changed everything.
"He was a joyous man now," added Mr. Judd, "a bright, happy Christian. He had been a toiling, burdened one before, with latterly not much rest of soul. It was resting in Jesus now, and letting Him do the work -- which makes all the difference! Whenever he spoke in meetings, after that, a new power seemed to flow from him, and in the practical things of life a new peace possessed him. Troubles did not worry him as before. He cast everything on God in a new way, and gave more time to prayer. Instead of working late at night, he began to go to bed earlier, rising at five in the morning to give two hours before the work of the day began to Bible study and prayer. Thus his own soul was fed, and from him flowed the living water to others."
Six weeks after these experiences, when Mr. Taylor was rejoicing in the abiding fulness of this new life, a letter reached him from England that specially touched his heart. It was from his sister, Mrs. Broomhall, the intimate friend and correspondent of his early years, who now with a growing family round her was sore pressed, as he had been himself, by outward responsibilities and inward conflict rather than rest in spiritual things. With a great longing to help one so dear to him, Mr. Taylor took up his pen to reply. As he wrote, the whole story of his own extremity and deliverance was poured out in a letter so precious that it is given in full, despite the risk of some repetition:
October 17, 1869:
So many thanks for your long, dear letter... I do not think you have written me such a letter since we have been in China. I know it is with you as with me -- you cannot, not you will not. Mind and body will not bear more than a certain amount of strain, or do more than a certain amount of work. As to work, mine was never so plentiful, so responsible, or so difficult; but the weight and strain are all gone. The last month or more has been perhaps, the happiest of my life; and I long to tell you a little of what the Lord has done for my soul. I do not know how far I may be able to make myself intelligible about it, for there is nothing new or strange or wonderful -- and yet, all is new! In a word, "Whereas once I was blind, now I see."
Perhaps I shall make myself more clear if I go back a little. Well, dearie, my mind has been greatly exercised for six or eight months past, feeling the need personally, and for our Mission, of more holiness, life, power in our souls. But personal need stood first and was the greatest. I felt the ingratitude, the danger, the sin of not living nearer to God. I prayed, agonised, fasted, strove, made resolutions, read the Word more diligently, sought more time for retirement and meditation -- but all was without effect. Every day, almost every hour, the consciousness of sin oppressed me. I knew that if I could only abide in Christ all would be well, but I could not. I began the day with prayer, determined not to take my eye from Him for a moment; but pressure of duties, sometimes very trying, constant interruptions apt to be so wearing, often caused me to forget Him. Then one's nerves get so fretted in this climate that temptations to irritability, hard thoughts, and sometimes unkind words are all the more difficult to control. Each day brought its register of sin and failure, of lack of power. To will was indeed present with me, but how to perform I found not.
Then came the question, "Is there no rescue? Must it be thus to the end -- constant conflict and, instead of victory, too often defeat?" How, too, could I preach with sincerity that to those who receive Jesus, "to them gave He power to become the sons of God " (i.e. God-like) when it was not so in my own experience? Instead of growing stronger, I seemed to be getting weaker and to have less power against sin; and no wonder, for faith and even hope were getting very low. I hated myself; I hated my sin; and yet I gained no strength against it. I felt I was a child of God: His Spirit in my heart would cry, in spite of all, "Abba, Father": but to rise to my privileges as a child, I was utterly powerless. I thought that holiness, practical holiness, was to be gradually attained by a diligent use of the means of grace. I felt that there was nothing I so much desired in this world, nothing I so much needed. But so far from in any measure attaining it, the more I pursued and strove after it, the more it eluded my grasp; till hope itself almost died out, and I began to think that, perhaps to make heaven the sweeter, God would not give it down here. I do not think I was striving to attain it in my own strength. I knew I was powerless. I told the Lord so, and asked Him to give me help and strength; and sometimes I almost believed He would keep and uphold me. But on looking back in the evening, alas! there was but sin and failure to confess and mourn before God.
I would not give you the impression that this was the daily experience of all those long, weary months. It was a too frequent state of soul; that toward which I was tending, and which almost ended in despair. And yet never did Christ seem more precious-a Saviour who could and would save such a sinner! ... And sometimes there were seasons not only of peace but of joy in the Lord. But they were transitory, and at best there was a sad lack of power. Oh, how good the Lord was in bringing this conflict to an end!
All the time I felt assured that there was in Christ all I needed, but the practical question was how to get it out. He was rich, truly, but I was poor; He strong, but I weak. I knew full well that there was in the root, the stem, abundant fatness; but how to get it into my puny little branch was the question. As gradually the light was dawning on me, I saw that faith was the only pre-requisite, was the hand to lay hold on His fulness and make it my own. But I had not this faith. I strove for it, but it would not come; tried to exercise it, but in vain. Seeing more and more the wondrous supply of grace laid up in Jesus, the fulness of our precious Saviour -- my helplessness and guilt seemed to increase. Sins committed appeared but as trifles compared with the sin of unbelief which was their cause, which could not or would not take God at His word, but rather made Him a liar! Unbelief was, I felt, the damning sin of the world -- yet I indulged in it. I prayed for faith, but it came not. What was I to do?
When my agony of soul was at its height, a sentence in a letter from dear McCarthy was used to remove the scales from my eyes, and the Spirit of God revealed the truth of our oneness with Jesus as I had never known it before. McCarthy, who had been much exercised by the same sense of failure, but saw the light before I did, wrote (I quote from memory):
"But how to get faith strengthened? Not by striving after faith, but by resting on the Faithful One."
As I read I saw it all! "If we believe not, He abideth faithful." I looked to Jesus and saw (and when I saw, oh, how joy flowed!) that He had said, "I will never leave you." "Ah, there is rest!" I thought. "I have striven in vain to rest in Him. I'll strive no more. For has He not promised to abide with me-never to leave me, never to fail me?" And, dearie, He never will!
But this was not all He showed me, nor one half. As I thought of the Vine and the branches, what light the blessed Spirit poured direct into my soul! How great seemed my mistake in having wished to get the sap, the fulness out of Him. I saw not only that Jesus would never leave me, but that I was a member of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. The vine now I see, is not the root merely, but all-root, stem, branches, twigs, leaves, flowers, fruit: and Jesus is not only that: He is soil and sunshine, air and showers, and ten thousand times more than we have ever dreamed, wished for, or needed. Oh, the joy of seeing this truth! I do pray that the eyes of your understanding may be enlightened, that you may know and enjoy the riches freely given us in Christ.
Oh, my dear sister, it is a wonderful thing to be really one with a risen and exalted Saviour; to be a member of Christ! Think what it involves. Can Christ be rich and I poor? Can your right hand be rich and the left poor? or your head be well fed while your body starves? Again, think of its bearing on prayer. Could a bank clerk say to a customer, "It was only your hand wrote that cheque, not you," or, "I cannot pay this sum to your hand, but only to yourself"? No more can your prayers, or mine, be discredited if offered in the Name of Jesus (i e. not in our own name, or for the sake of Jesus merely, but on the ground that we are His, His members) so long as we keep within the extent of Christ's credit -- a tolerably wide limit! If we ask anything unscriptural or not in accordance with the will of God, Christ Himself could not do that; but, "If we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us, and ... we know that we have the petitions that we desire of Him."
The sweetest part, if one may speak of one part being sweeter than another, is the rest which full identification with Christ brings. I am no longer anxious about anything, as I realise this; for He, I know, is able to carry out His will, and His will is mine. It makes no matter where He places me, or how. That is rather for Him to consider than for me; for in the easiest positions He must give me His grace, and in the most difficult His grace is sufficient. It little matters to my servant whether I send him to buy a few cash worth of things, or the most expensive articles. In either case he looks to me for the money, and brings me his purchases. So, if God place me in great perplexity, must He not give me much guidance; in positions of great difficulty, much grace ; in circumstances of great pressure and trial, much strength? No fear that His resources will be unequal to the emergency! And His resources are mine, for He is mine, and is with me and dwells in me. All this springs from the believer's oneness with Christ. And since Christ has thus dwelt in my heart by faith, how happy I have been! I wish I could tell you, instead of writing about it.
I am no better than before (may I not say, in a sense, I do not wish to be, nor am I striving to be); but I am dead and buried with Christ -- aye, and risen too and ascended; and now Christ lives in me, and "the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself for me." I now believe I am dead to sin. God reckons me so, and tells me to reckon myself so. He knows best. All my past experience may have shown that it was not so; but I dare not say it is not now, when He says it is. I feel and know that old things have passed away. I am as capable of sinning as ever, but Christ is realised as present as never before. He cannot sin; and He can keep me from sinning. I cannot say (I am sorry to have to confess it) that since I have seen this light I have not sinned; but I do feel there was no need to have done so. And further -- walking more in the light, my conscience has been more tender; sin has been instantly seen, confessed, pardoned; and peace and joy (with humility) instantly restored: with one exception, when for several hours peace and joy did not return -- from want, as I had to learn, of full confession, and from some attempt to justify self.
Faith, I now see, is "the substance of things hoped for," and not mere shadow. It is not less than sight, but more. Sight only shows the outward forms of things; faith gives the substance. You can rest on substance, feed on substance. Christ dwelling in the heart by faith (i.e. His Word of Promise credited) is power indeed, is life indeed. And Christ and sin will not dwell together; nor can we have His presence with love of the world, or carefulness about "many things."
And now I must close. I have not said half I would, nor as I would had I more time. May God give you to lay hold on these blessed truths. Do not let us continue to say, in effect, "Who shall ascend into heaven, that is to bring Christ down from above." In other words, do not let us consider Him as afar off, when God has made us one with Him, members of His very body. Nor should we look upon this experience, these truths, as for the few. They are the birthright of every child of God, and no one can dispense with them without dishonour to our Lord. The only power for deliverance from sin or for true service is Christ
[Editor's note: This quotation is NOT from Stephen Tyng's Christ is All (1849) but is loosely quoted from Henry Law's Christ is All: The Gospel of the Pentatuch (1867). Dan Augsburger in an email to Peter Wade wrote:
'One can search all of Stephen Tyng's book electronically (which I have) and will find no reference to "holiness begun" and only one reference to the word "chain." While all of the above are found in Henry Law's book Christ is All: The Gospel of the Pentateuch , [Leviticus] page 55 (published 1867).
Here is Law's quote:
"The grace of faith springs up: This is the chain, which binds the soul to Christ, and makes the Saviour and the sinner one. A channel is now formed by which Christ's fullness plenteously flows down. The barren branch becomes a portion of the fruitful stem. Christ's vital juices permeate the whole. The limbs receive close union with the head, and one life reigns throughout the total frame.
Reader, would you be holy? The way is only one. All other roads lead down to deeper mire. Christ must come in. All is dark death, except where Jesus lives. All is pure life and loveliness, where Jesus reigns. Draw near and nearer to the Gospel-page. There gaze on Christ, till the soul's features melt into His likeness. the Gospel heard, and read, and loved, are the bright wings on which the Spirit flies. The Spirit's presence brings the Saviour near. The Saviour welcomed, is all Holiness begun. The Saviour cherished, is all Holiness advancing. The Saviour never absent, is Holiness complete. Holiness complete, is heaven's full blaze.
Believer, this subject has a warning voice. You mourn short-comings. You find the hated monster sin still striving for the rule. Evil is present, when you would do good. Help is laid up for you in Christ. Seek clearer interest in Him. Faith sows the seeds. Assurance brings in golden sheaves. They, who most deeply feel, that they have died in Christ and paid in Him sin's penalties, ascend to highest heights of godly life. He is most holy, who has most of Christ within, and joys most fully in the finished work. It is defective faith, which clogs the feet, and causes many a fall."]