Maria Jane Taylor (née Dyer, 1837-1870) was born in Penang, Malaya, the youngest child of pioneer missionary Samuel Dyer and his wife Maria. Her father died in 1843, her mother in 1846, both before she was 10. Maria and her older sister Burella were sent back to England and were inseparable, so Maria accompanied Burella when she went to college to train as a teacher, and again when she set sail for China in 1852. Maria was then aged only 16. She married Hudson Taylor (戴德生) in 1858, aged 21. Maria played a key role with her husband in the founding and growth of the China Inland Mission (CIM). Before her death in 1870 at age 33, they had nine children, three dying at birth and two in childhood. The four surviving children all became missionaries with the CIM.
As much as any of the many missionaries that I've written about in this column, I find it impossible to summarise her life in these few paragraphs. I can only highlight some key lessons from her life. I have left several links below and warmly encourage you to discover much more about her there.
1. Her overcoming of life’s hard knocks. Though both parents died so early, she pressed into God to find His significant path for her life. “I was left an orphan in a far-off land. God has been my Father all these years.” “I shall count our physical sufferings light, and our mental anxieties, severe though they were, well repaid if they may work out the further opening up of China to us for the spread of our Master’s kingdom.”
2. Her willingness to suffer for the Gospel. “Their life was difficult, exceedingly difficult, at times, whether through intense skepticism and persecution by the Chinese, or cynicism and opposition from their critics back home in England, or division and insurrection within their team, or the inevitable illnesses that plagued their family and those they loved, or lack of necessary funds so far from any hope of support. Suffering was a dark and persistent thread in the threefold cord of their love. Yet as Hudson once wrote, ‘Difficulties afford a platform upon which God can show Himself. Without them we could never know how tender, faithful, and almighty our God is.’”
3. Her vision to pioneer a path for single women as missionaries. “In her time with the CIM, she was instrumental in training single women to be missionaries in China, when opportunities for women to serve had been previously dependent on having a missionary husband.”
4. Her trust in God. “What, can Jesus meet my need? Yes, and more than meet it. No matter how intricate my path, how difficult my service; no matter how sad my bereavement, how far away my loved ones; no matter how helpless I am, how deep are my soul-longings — Jesus can meet all, all, and more than meet.”
5. The centrality of Jesus in her life. “The source of their strength, sacrifice, and endurance was a profound satisfaction in Jesus above all else.” Indeed she seemed to excel in this area. While Hudson Taylor was struggling, one friend observed that “only Maria was unmoved, wondering ‘what we are all groping after,’ … an experience she had long been living in the enjoyment of. I have rarely met as Christlike a Christian as Mrs. Taylor.” Another said, “It gave her that beautiful calmness and confidence in God (in which) up to that time she so surpassed her husband.”
6. Her service together with her husband. “From the beginning, they were blissfully happy together, and never ceased to cherish anything but the most ardent affection for each other. Their romance never faded. In the early years of the CIM, her hand wrote for him, her faith strengthened his own, her prayers undergirded the whole work and her practical experience and loving heart made her the Mother of the whole Mission”. “Though ‘always ailing,’ … Maria was the one to whom others turned.” “Writing virtually as his deputy, she kept the home office informed of difficulties and advances.”
7. Her certainty in Jesus until the end. Hudson Taylor wrote of her death “When I said, ‘My darling, do you know you are dying?’ She said, ‘I am so sorry, dear,’ and paused. He said, ‘You are not sorry to go to be with Jesus, dear?’ I shall never forget the look she gave me, and as looking right into my eyes, she said, ‘Oh, no, it is not that; you know, darling, there has not been a cloud between my soul and my Saviour for ten years past; I cannot be sorry to go to Him. But I am sorry to leave you alone at this time.’”
Sources for the above and to learn much more about Maria Taylor:
Photo: PD-US, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6869420