Baptist History Homepage
The Life of H. Boyce Taylor
Elder Roy O. Beaman, Murray, Ky.
Installment No. 3

      Harvey Boyce Taylor, Sr., was born in Ohio County, Kentucky, September, 29, 1870, and died in the Baptist Memorial Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee, May 31, 1932, being in his sixty-second year. He was the oldest child of Elder W. C. Taylor, Sr. and F. A. Stevens, whose lives and lineage our former articles traced. The other children are Prof. A. A. Taylor, a teacher in Central High School, Memphis, Tennessee, and W. C. Taylor, Jr., a missionary in Brazil since 1915.

      The name of Brother Taylor suggests two prominent Kentucky Baptists and was interestingly chosen. At the birth of their firstborn, the happy father called over to the equally happy mother the names of such Baptist stalwarts as Broadus, Williams, Boyce, and others. The mother chose "Boyce" because she felt it could not be turned into a nickname, which her family history led her to dislike. When Boyce was in school at Auburn, Kentucky, he developed a dislike for a single name, for some of the children would call him "B. Taylor." He therefore, chose William, the first part of his father's name. At the birth of W. C. in Mayfield, Kentucky, the failing health of her husband led to the mother to choose his initials for him whom she rightly thought would be their last child. William Boyce was asked to drop the William of his name out of deference to his baby brother, as it was self-assumed anyway. Elder W. P. Harvey had as it was self-assumed anyway. Elder W. P. Harvey had been in the Taylor home and had taken a fancy to the oldest child. Brother Taylor, therefore, named himself Harvey Boyce in honor of Brother Harvey. He wore the names worthily.

      That he was worthy of such a name is indicated by the fact that the wide-spread love and admiration of the people led over one hundred parents to choose "Boyce" as the name of their fair sons. One of the first things he did after his book, "Why Be a Baptist," came from the press was to send an autographed copy to all his namesakes whose whereabouts he could find. And he found they were not all Baptists, though he sent that wish with the book, of course.

      Brother Taylor once showed that he had lived in nine Kentucky counties—Ohio, Warren, Logan, Graves, Christian, Union, Carroll, Jefferson, and Calloway. When he was quite young, his father removed from the log house in Ohio County, where his firstborn was born, to Warren County within seven miles of Bowling Green. Later, the family located in Auburn, Logan County, and when Boyce was about twelve in Mayfield, Graves County. When his father's break in health came, he removed to Russellville, Logan County. Later, Brother Taylor lived in Christian and Union Counties; probably teaching school, in Carroll doing pastoral work, in Jefferson studying in the Seminary and in Calloway working at his life's task.

      Boyce Taylor was converted and baptized into Auburn Baptist Church in the fall of 1879 during a meeting in which his father was aided by the noted J. S. Coleman, a son in the ministry of the boy's grandfather, Alfred Taylor. The nine-year-old lad presented himself for church membership and baptism. His father asked him to wait until he could talk with him. The boy came the next evening and was refused as before. His father requested Dr. Coleman to converse him, and the preacher reported thus, "Brother Taylor, that boy is as much saved as I am." Deacon Ford heard the story and reported as strongly. Mrs. Taylor's sister talked with him as he came from school and reported favorably. Mrs. Taylor was yet cautious, desiring not to deceive the child, and said, "Why then don't you think your child is saved?" The answer was, "She [He] has not been taught in in the home as your boy has." His third attempt to join the proved successful. This lasting impression, coupled with a conviction of scriptural principle, made Brother Taylor regard highly and preach strongly the importance of church membership and believer's baptism. He was wont to say, "The kind of salvation I got made me want to join the church."

      An editorial in News and Truths on his forty-first birthday (September 29 1911) gives fitting testimony to his experience of grace: "Born anew when only nine years old, through all these years that friend that sticketh closer than a- brother has never once failed or forsaken. His mercies have been new every morning. His goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life. He has known my frame and remembered that I was dust and borne long with my frailties and faults and follies and sins. His grace has always been sufficient. Others have misunderstood, He never has. Others have forgotten that even a Pastor and Editor needed a hand held out in pity, a kind word or smile; He never once forgot or failed to send seasonable help. When criticisms and censure have been most bitter and relentless, His presence has been most real. When disappointments have come, He has always shown them to be his appointments and for my good. Few and evil have been the years of my pilgrimage, but the Lord has been mindful of me, slow to anger and of plenteous mercy. When the tongue of calumny or slander has risen against me, the Lord has been my shield, my fortress, and my rock of defence. Innumerable evils have compassed me about, yet the Lord has sustained. By the grace of God I am what I am; and I hope that His grace has not been bestowed upon me in vain; but that through grace the once delivered faith has been kept and the truth of the gospel has been proclaimed. To Him I owe my all for redeeming grace, justifying grace, renewing grace, sanctifying grace preserving grace, working grace, and witnessing grace. Recognizing His ownership and my stewardship of time, money, talents, gospel, and faith I earnestly covet the prayers of all that I may minister the same as a good steward of the manifold grace of God."

      In January 1880, following his conversion in the preceeding autumn, the youth was seized with a ten-weeks spell of typhoid. Deacon Blakely of Auburn Church was the only one who did not give up all hopes of his recovery and said that the boy would live to make a Baptist preacher. Brother Taylor often drew a spiritual lesson from the treatment of cold baths which his father gave him. Fifteen minutes of two hours were spent in reducing a temperature of 106 to 103. The boy complained that he was afraid of the cold water; his father told him to trust him, providing in later years a lesson of trust in God. The child even argued that his father would not do such if he were his father and loved him; the father protested that he was doing it for the good of his son because he did love him. How rich the lesson he later drew of how we misunderstand our heavenly Father's chastisement, how we push aside the hand of love that dips us in life's trials for our spiritual good, how we complain that our lot would be different if our Father loved us! How richly the deacon's faith has been rewarded!

      When our Brother was about fourteen, he got into doubts about his condition. He went forward for prayer in a service of Mayfield Baptist Church. Some one read or quoted to him 2 Timothy 1:12, "I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day." Joy was soon his because he saw the truth of the promise. He often said that he had never doubted his salvation in Christ from that day. This experience had a determining influence in his life. He saw that the testimony of Jesus Christ assures of salvation, that "good feelings" are the result of assurance, not the ground. He never preached anything to stir the feelings but Jesus Christ and His word of truth. His high regard for the testimony of God on all questions on which it speaks came in embryo or was augmented by this lasting impression. 2 Timothy 1:12 remained to his dying day a much loved and used prooftext and sermon-text.

      H. B. Taylor worked at many tasks as one of his crisp editorial sentences concerning himself demonstrates : "He has farmed, been a book agent, taught school, clerked in a grocery store, at a soda fountain, in a book store, and a post-office, been connected with four papers in various capacities, and preached the gospel." After his father's death and during his school-life at Bethel College, he cropped one summer with his uncle Silas Stevens in Ohio County. He worked at the soda fountain of Roland Clark, at the book store of George Clark, and at the post-office in Russellville to aid him through school.

      "Between college and seminary days Boyce. Taylor taught school in Fayette and Ohio Counties, Kentucky." We adopt two pertinent articles from News and Truths (July, 1914) describing a meeting he held at Cooper's Schoolhouse in Ohio County, just about a mile as the crow flies from the spot where he was born. His friends and relatives claimed that he owed it to them to return every year because of the start which they gave him. This he did for a number of years. He preached out of doors under the shade of the trees under which he used to play. At some services more than half of the audience was related to him by blood or marriage, and the house was too small to accommodate the crowds. "It was there that the Editor's father taught school many years before his marriage and the blushing blue-eyed girl who later became his wife went to school to him." It was there that the same blue-eyed girl taught three or four spring schools before her marriage. It was there long years later that their firstborn also 'taught school many years ago. Only three of the pupils of those former days were present during the meeting. They were scattered from the mountains of Kentucky to El Paso, Texas, and some were dead. Strange to say that of the former pupils present one was a Baptist one a Campbellite, and one a Catholic. He felt pleasant and unpleasant memories because of the ravages of time, error, sin and death. He observed the prevalence of deadly heresies, sabbath desecration, and widespread worldliness, the utter lack of spirituality in many of God's children, and the lack of vital godliness in the rising generation.

      Brother Taylor once told the Bible School how he gained the pupils iii one of his early schools. The failure of former teachers to solve a certain problem lent suspicion that the new boy would fall down too. His immediate solution of the problem made him the community hero and thus obviated the disciplinary troubles of his predecesosrs. [sic]

      At the death of W. C. Taylor, Boyce was eighteen years of age and W. C., Jr., was in his nineteenth month. The problems of support and school created many problems. The burdens fell rather heavily on the shoulders of the firstborn son. He had a great part in training his baby brother and years later helped ordain him to the ministry and support him in Brazil. The kindness of Mayfield Church has already been detailed. At the death of Elder R. W. Mahan in February, 1908, Brother Taylor wrote thus of his close West Kentucky friend of his father, "When W. C. Taylor died R. W. Mahan for four years sent a contribution each year to his widow to help his boys through Bethel College."

      During his school days Brother Taylor was walking one day on the sidewalk. He had outgrown his trousers, and when he passed some women, he overheard the remark "He surely is a fat boy." His soul was as sensitive to such as any of ours is, yet he told it to the Bible School one day with laughter.

      Brother A. F. Williams of Bethel College visited W. C. Taylor the day before he died and heard in half audible tones these words, "Brother Williams, you encouraged me to come to Russellville. I thank God that I did so, and now I am going. I leave my boys in care of you brethren. Raise them for God, to be upright, useful, and honest." The life of H. B. Taylor exemplified the dying wish of his godly father.

      We cannot do better than set after the above entrustment these words from News and Truths of April 19, 1907: "It was with genuine sorrow that we heard last week of the death of Prof. A. F. Williams. We learned to love him years ago when a student in Bethel College. Through his recommendation to Brother H. W. Harding the editor was called to the pastorate of Murray Baptist Church. Through all these years he has been an unfailing friend."

      H. B. Taylor was not lacking in scholastic attainments. He was a close student all his days and possessed a very logical and analytical mind. He gained his A.B. and M.A. degrees from Bethel College and his Th.M. degree from the Seminary at Louisville. Broadus was still living, and Brother Taylor often referred to his matchless teaching. His D. D. degree was conferred on him later by Hall-Moody Institute, Martin, Tennessee. Many people do not know that he had these degrees because he always preferred to be called "Brother" or "Elder." He studied Hebrew at the Seminary but regretfully neglected it when his pastoral work at Murray became heavy. He took courses in Classical, New Testament, and Modern Greek and continued his use of Greek until his death, preferring, however, because of his modesty usually to quote the translations and comments of recognized scholars instead of his own; yet he never became a tiresome quoter of others in his preaching or teaching. Murray and elsewhere knew that a learned man lived among us, but never one who made less display of his knowledge or trusted God more fully for wisdom.

In early life Brother Taylor had impressions for missionary work in Brazil. Inexplicably to him these impressions became more and more indistinct; yet his missionary spirit and practice grew by leaps and bounds. In November, 1914, his brother W. C. surrendered to go to Brazil and wrote his mother of his decision. His mother at first said, "Lord, I can't give my baby boy to go that far away." Instantly she was reminded of her promise to the Lord years before when Boyce was talking of going to Brazil. Bereft of her husband, she felt she needed her oldest son in rearing the other boys and promised, therefore, her youngest son to Brazil if the Lord would retain her oldest son in this country. The pliable soul of the mother relented saying, "Take him, Lord," and now rejoices that she has a missionary son in Brazil.

      For many years Mrs. Taylor has lived with her firstborn son in Murray. She testified in his presence some years ago that he had never spoken unkindly to her through all the years she made her home with him. Enviable record! If the earlier years are a prophecy of the later years, rich pictures await us in the studies which are to follow.


[From: T. P. Simmons, editor, The Baptist Examiner, November 15, 1932, p. 5-6. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

Installment 4 - H. Boyce Taylor
Baptist History Homepage