D.E. Hoste: Soldier and Humble Prayer Warrior for Christ

In 1902 D.E. Hoste succeded Hudson Taylor in overseeing the China Inland Mission. He served as the director for 30 years.

Shortly after taking over leadership from Hudson Taylor the Boxer Rebellion took place. By the end of it, 58 members of the Mission team had been brutally murdered, along with 21 of their children.

As a new leader, facing such a massive test, how did Hoste lead the mission at this crucial moment?

At the end of the rebellion, upon the Chinese Government regaining stabilization, they sought to compensate the Mission for their losses and casualties. But for the sake of the Gospel advancing Hoste led the mission to not take the money the government offered. This incredible act of turning other cheek, when all these missionaries had been murdered, led the government to publish a notice locally that in part declared:

“The mission, in rebuilding these churches with its own funds, aims in so doing to fulfill the command of the Saviour of the world, that all men should love their neighbors as themselves…. Contrasting the way in which we have been treated by the missionaries with our treatment of them…” “From this time forward I charge you all…. to bear in mind the example of Pastor Hoste, who is able to forbear and to forgive, as taught by Jesus to do.” (pg. 99)

Through Hoste’s leadership, the Chinese recognized that the missionaries not only taught about Christ but sought to actually live as Christ lived. And bearing with the Chinese was what Hoste and the other missionaries strove to do for the sake of Christ. Hoste said “It will not avail much to preach to the Chinese of access to God through the blood of Jesus, if they find that there is not access to the missionary himself and his home.” Hoste strove to be hospitable towards the Chinese and not be some far off foreigner. And like those before him, he even dressed like the majority of the Chinese culture did.

So who was the man, D.E. Hoste, and how did the Lord mold him to this point in his life to lead the mission in this way?

Before he was 9 years old he could read Greek. He was a military officer at 18, and lived a lost man’s life. The Lord saved him upon when hearing evangelist D.L. Moody preach. Hoste was known for being one of the Cambridge Seven who went to China, this group include the famous athlete of his day, C.T. Studd. Hoste was a man who was gripped with eternity and said, “If this Gospel is true,” “and I know it is, as it has changed my life, I want to make it known where Christ is not known. There are many people in other lands who have never heard it, and the Lord wants them to hear it, for He says so. I want to give my life to this.” (pg. 20-21)

As a believer, he lived as a devoted soldier of Christ. Here is one example: While in China mail days were few and far between, but one day mail arrived and his first impulse was to sit down and read the letters, but “he was arrested by the thought, however, that had he been still in the Army he would not thus have allowed the personal to take first place.” And he thought, “Why should he be more lax in serving as a missionary? Resolutely putting away his letters until lunch-time, he resumed his study.” – pg 44-45 Hoste was a self-disciplined man living as a soldier of Christ.

As you read his biography his humility shines forth.

Consider some examples of his humility:

When Hoste first arrived in China he was serving with Pastor Hsi and Stanley Smith. Smith put himself forward as the leader, Hoste was “ruffled in his spirit” and thought “Why should I serve under him? We were about the same age.” But later “the Spirit of God probed” Hoste, and he was “forced to admit that I did not relish the thought of being under my friend…. The difficulty was in my own heart. It was impressed upon me that unwillingness persisted in would mean my having to part company with the Lord Jesus Christ, who dwells with the humble ones, those who willingly go down. I, therefore, accepted my friend’s suggestion, and we worked happily together.” pg 53 With Stanley Smith leading and not Hoste. Notice what his motivation was? He did not want to part company with Christ and due to pride have distance in his relationship with the Lord.

Hoste said, “When we are tempted to exalt self and resent being put down or overlooked, we need to be aware. Satan said, ‘I will be like the most High.’ Pride and ambition are essentially Satanic characteristics.”

The second example of humility that shone forth from his life is from the content of his letters. They reveal a sincere joy as he recounts the spiritual triumphs of others. This is in contrast to the jealous man who envies the triumphs of others. The person who reads about what the Lord is doing through the lives of others and envies them.

A third example of his humility is how in his leadership he did not want to force people to go against their consciences in the decisions they made. Hoste said, “What is the essential difference between spurious and true Christian leadership? When a man, in virtue of an official position in the Church, demands the obedience of another, irrespective of latter’s reason and conscience, this is the spirit of tyranny. When, on the other hand, by the exercise of tact and sympathy, by prayer, spiritual power and sound wisdom, one Christian worker is able to influence and enlighten another, so that the latter, through the medium of his own reason and conscience, is led to alter one course and adopt another, this true spiritual leadership?” What refreshing examples of humility. This life of sensitivity to the Lord will not be there if ones life is not full of secret prayer.

Now we know that this humility only truly happens when a deep intimate prayer life with the Lord Jesus shines forth as well.

Consider his prayer life.

1. In the biography Thompson records, pg 115, “His knowledge of the personnel of the Mission was extraordinary. When there were over 1,200 members and associates, he knew each one by name, where each one was working, the difficulties of the work in which each was engaged…. And he knew the names of all the children of the Missionaries!” This was not just Thompson’s glamorized perspective on Hoste. As I read other biographies, people who knew Hoste made similar comments.

2. Dan Smith served with China Inland Mission, and in his autobiography he records, “Pilgrim of the Heavenly Way” , pg 44-45, “Another day D.E. Hoste invited me to pray with him… Mr. Hoste prayed — and prayed for four and a half hours. Sometimes he would kneel, then stand, then walk, while he prayed. There were eight hundred missionaries in the Mission. He knew them all by name without looking at a book and all their needs, and the three hundred children of them. As for me, my knees were riveted to the floor. I couldn’t move. I was filled with awe and reverential fear. In this secret place of prayer. Mr. Hoste was at home with God. It was his chiefest pleasure…” Dan smith goes on to say “He would yet pray more. He prayed for many in many countries – for men of every race and for all classes of people. The whole world was on his heart. And this prayer session was no special thing. It was his daily exercise, and I was only in on part of it, albeit a four-and-half-hour part. What a lesson! What a way of teaching it!”

3. The well-known Missionary to the Lisu, J.O. Fraser, was also serving with China Inland Mission. He required a medical operation and thus spent time at the headquarters and his biographer Geraldine Taylor said that for Fraser praying with Hoste was, “among the most cherished privileges of his life to join in those intercessions, and to learn through hours at a time spent on their knees what actual praying may mean in the life of one bearing great responsibility.” (pg 173 Beyond the Ranges)

4. So was prayer and easy task? This man of prayer acknowledges that prayer was no easy task. Hoste said, “It is far more difficult to continue steadfastly in intercession on behalf of those amongst whom we are called to minister than to engage in outward activities for their good. And yet, if the powers of darkness, which are blinding the minds of men and hindering the work of God, are not overcome through sacrificial prayer, little, if anything, is really accomplished.” (pg. 117)

So D.E. Hoste. This man of God was a man of prayer who walked near to the Lord. which showed forth itself in his Christ-like humility that you see in his life. On how we need more men like this today who are living for eternity.

Get the book D. E. Hoste: A Prince with God by Phyllis Thompson