The Life of H. Boyce Taylor
By Elder Roy O. Beaman, Murray, KY
Installment No. 4
His Family And Personal Life
The influences that entered into the early life of Brother H. B. Taylor bloomed in blessed fruition in his later years. His deep experience of grace only laid the foundation for the miracle of grace, the lover of grace, and the preacher of grace that be became. His studious youth produced the untiring and ever-learning scholar that he was. His father's death lent him that independence and self-reliance that made him a leader of men for God.
September 29, 1897, his twenty-seventh birthday, Brother Taylor was married to Maimee Peay. daughter of Dr. J. M. Peay, a well-known Baptist preacher. Elder W. C. Pierce, now of Cattlettsburg, Kentucky, and a brother-in-law to the bride, said the ceremony [was] at the residence of the bride's sister, Mrs. J. A. Smith, in Russellville, Kentucky. Her father was a son in the ministry of Alfred Taylor, grandfather of Brother Taylor.
Since his wife has played such an important part in his life, we think a sketch of her will interest all lovers of Brother Taylor. And it was uniquely fitting that one of such preacher lineage as Brother Taylor should find a wife from a preacher's family. Their fathers were both sons in the ministry of Elder Alfred Taylor, both had a preacher brother and a preacher son, both died the same year in Russellville, Kentucky, and both were buried in the cemetery at Russellville.
John M. Peay, father of Mrs. H. B. Taylor, was born in Rutherford County, Tennessee, May 19, 1832, a century ago, and died in Russellville June 24, 1888, at the age of fifty-seven. "His ancestors were Baptists, two or three generations back, at least. "William Keele, his maternal grandfather, was a Baptist minister and was pastor of old Garrison Church in Coffee County, Tennessee, for fifty-six years." (Spencer, A History of Kentucky Baptists). He removed to Butler County, Kentucky, in his youth, and "after attending the common schools, be finished his education under the supervision of Dr. J. S. Coleman at Beaver Dam, Ohio County, Kentucky" (Cathcart, Baptist Encyclopedia). He was baptized into the fellowship of Sandy Creek Baptist Church, by Elder Alfred Taylor, in October, 1853, and licensed to the ministry by the same church in 1854 at the age of twenty-two. The Baptist Church at Beaver Dam ordained him to the ministry in September, 1857. He was pastor of the Baptist church at South Carrollton, Kentucky, twenty-four years (1858-1882). and held other pastorates. After 1882 he was pastor of Bethel and other churches in Christian County Kentucky.
Cathcart wrote thus of Brother Peay in 1881: "He is a powerful and practical preacher, and has been a very successful pastor. He is a vigorous writer and has published several works which have met with popular favor. He is also senior editor of The Student, an educational journal published in South Carrollton." Spencer wrote in 1881 as follows: "As a preacher, Mr. Peay would hardly be regarded an orator, yet his delivery is forcible and effective. He analyzes his subject with close discrimination, and few men more thoroughly exhaust the matter in a text. He is a thorough Baptist, and, like Coleman under whom he studied three years and with whom he was intimately associated in the ministry twenty-four years he is always ready to preach and defend his doctrines. He has proved himself a strong oral debater. In preaching talent and in point of success, both as a pastor and an evangelist, he ranks close to Alfred Taylor and J. S. Coleman."
Brother Taylor often loved to quote the instruction of J. M. Peay to I. N. Strother, who as a young preacher was studying under Brother Peay—"Learn a little, tell a little; learn a little more, tell a little more; ever learning, ever telling." J. M. Peay had a young brother, Richard Dawson Peay, M. A., who was a Baptist preacher and who was co-editor of The Student. Mrs. Taylor's oldest brother, J. H. Peay, who died in California in October, 1910, was a Baptist preacher. Miss Frances Peay, a distant relative of Mrs. Taylor, married Dr. G. W. Leavell, a Baptist missionary in China since 1915. Governor Austin Peay of Tennessee was a distant relative of Mrs. H. B. Taylor.
These words in News and Truths December 17, 1909, are fitting here: "We are sorry to chronicle the death of Brother W. J. Williams. He was the editor's pastor many years ago in Russellville. It was under his ministry that the editor's wife was saved while yet a schoolgirl. We yet remember, as among the best we ever heard, his sermons on grace preached, after his resignation, in the church at Russellville."
Mrs. Taylor received an A.B. degree from Logan College, Russellville, Kentucky, and studied one year in the Louisville Seminary while Brother Taylor was there. Mrs. Taylor was a stay to her busy husband throughout their married life of almost thirty-five years. She did much in getting out News and Truths, especially in the earlier years of the publication. She taught Bible Reading and Bible Grammar ten years in the West Kentucky Bible School and still continues her work. Once she remarked to the writer, upon telling of her early and thorough training in English Grammar, that God surely foresaw that she would help Bro. Taylor in the Bible School. She will be remembered by her book, "Pioneers of the Cross in the Southand."
But Brother Taylor would doubtless have her remember- ed more as the partner in all his victories and defeats, joys and sorrows, and as a homemaker and the mother of his two children—H. Boyce, Jr., city editor of the Jacksonville Journal, Jacksonville, Florida, and Mrs. Frances Taylor Watson, wife of Professor Barney Watson of the Biology Department of Milton College, Milton, Wisconsin. He was passionately fond of his two living grandchildren—Florence Olive Taylor, age eight, and Barney Taylor Watson, age twenty-two months— and never ceased to speak of one little granddaughter who went on before him to heaven.
H. Boyce Taylor taught his children to memorize passages of Scripture since he believed Proverbs 22:6 (R. V.), "Train up a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old he will not depart from it." A scrap-book belonging to Boyce, Jr., contains the catechism the fond father taught his son, and the answers are spelled out so that the baby pronunciations are preserved. He fondly loved his children and said once that he spent more in their earlier years for books for them to read than for any other item pertaining difinitely [sic] to them. He took them out of the Murray school when he believed evolution was taught there and sent them to Georgetown College, Georgetown, Ky., from which institution both later graduated. No nobler wish could be felt for his children than that they ever remember the teachings and example of such a noble father.
The home of our brother was ever a home of hospitality, for especially for Baptist preachers. Beggars often came there, for it was known that he never turned anyone away unhelped visitors unfed. He often entertained more than his share of the visitors to the Murray Bible Institute; many are they who have pleasant memories of their stay in his home. The West Kentucky Bible School has met from its beginning, November 7, 1941, in his home and will continue to do so.
The social gatherings of the classes of the Murray Baptist Sunday School met in his home to enjoy his jovial spirit. It should be said for those who did not know this side of his nature that no one enjoyed such occasions more than he, nor entered more fully into them. He regretted that his burdensome and numerous tasks left him so little time for this side of life. His presence at the W. K. B. S. picnics many of his students will never forget. He enjoyed fun, but never was a preacher freer from jokes than he. Through the years many friends brought food supplies of all kinds to Brother Taylor. He never failed to show deep appreciation for these gifts. We quote his characteristic words from News and Truths November 18, 1914, respecting one of these gifts: "The Editor and family are indebted to Deacon T. W. Vories of Cove Hill Church in Carroll County for a crate of honey. Cove Hill Church was the first church of which the Editor was ever pastor. Deacon Vories still remembers how we used to sweeten up when we spent our vacation in his home back in our seminary days, though it has been eighteen years since we were there. But we still like honey just as well as we did then; but we like better than honey the fact that our former deacon still remembers us after all these years. Blessings on him and his good wife and daughters."
Brother Taylor had a high and holy regard for marriage and was called upon to marry many couples. The beautiful ceremony used by him and formed largely by him would prove, if published, a Scriptural tonic against the loose views of many on matrimony. To him the Word of God was final on all subjects on which it speaks.
Though Brother Taylor ranked high as a preacher and always commanded a good hearing, he was a very modest man. Once when he was on program with some of the denominational leaders at Jackson, Tenn., in 1912, he editorialized thus: "The Editor felt like a small dog in highoats." Note here the words of Laurence Zarilli, an employee of Murray Church, in News and Truths January 5, 1912: "You are the modest Cincinnati, the silent Dante, the loving John, and the acting Stonewall Jackson. You don't want folks to know your doing. You are too busy to answer a long social letter, but you heart is full of love for all of God's children and you surprise them by your actions. We never forget you at a throne of grace."
H. B. Taylor ever continued to study and learn. Witness these words in News and Truths February 26, 1913, respecting the quarterly fifth Sunday meeting of our association: "The editor well remembers how much help they were to him when he came to West Kentucky a green and raw recruit from the Seminary. He knew a great deal that he had learned in books but he knew very little about how to go up against the errors of our day and meet the sophistries of Campbellism and other opposers of the truth. He learned more about our distinctive doctrines from the ministers' meetings he went to than from a three years' course at the Seminary. The Editor never' goes but he learns something worthwhile."
And there was his own personal study. He kept it up throughout his life. Though multiplying tasks and failing health were his, only last winter he was prosecuting his studies. He always marked a book that lie read, approving or disapproving, thus summarizing and clarifying the message of the book. His Bibles were full of his own way of making notes thereon and underscoring select passages. He was well abreast of the happenings of our day, for he scanned regularly the current papers both religious and secular. The following quotation from the Aug. 19, 1914, issue of News and Truths, commending "The World's Debt to the Baptists." by Dr. J. W. Porter, shows the avidity with which he often read: "We took it with us on the trip we are now on. Last Saturday night after church we picked it up to read a while before we went to bed. It so fascinated. thrilled and held us that we read two-thirds through it before we laid it down; and would not have laid it down then but we felt that we owed it to the Master and to those to whom we were to minister the next day to get sufficient rest to render acceptable service. We finished it the first thing next morning."
Though Brother Taylor's friends and foes were many, yet Brother W. E. Hunter, of Somerset, Kentucky, well said of his fast friend in the funeral address these words: "He is one among the few men whom I have ever known who loved his enemies. I believe he fulfilled that Scripture which says, 'Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you.' I do not claim perfection for him, he was far from being a perfect man, and no one knew it better than he."
This story, told by Brother Robert Jones, Murray Church Missionary to Brazil, in the chapel of the West Kentucky Bible School February 9, 1926, is in point here. In concluding an inspiring address, he congratulated the students on their opportunity to study under Brother Taylor, acknowledged his indebtedness to his boyhood pastor for a concept of theology which later studies had never modified but rather confirmed, and told for our felicitation this story. He and some Texas friends, while riding in a car, were discussing H. B. Taylor. Some things said were favorable, some unfavorable. As they made a curve, the car and their lives were endangered, and one brother remarked as they were getting over the shock, "Suppose we change the subject," and it was changed. God will punish the slanderous tongue.
Jeremy Taylor, the noted divine and a distant relative of H. B. Taylor, once wrote thus: "Some friendships are made by nature, some by contact, some by interest, some by souls." Taylor had all these classes of friends. He was wont to say that it was hard to lose some friends who could not follow on into the deeper things of the soul as his Lord led him into a deeper fellowship with Him, the Friend above all friends to H. B. Taylor. He thought much of the tract, "Others May, You Cannot," thousands of which he distributed.
He loved his friends devotedly. One of the arrows that caused his death was disappointment in long-standing friends; like his Saviour, he knew the treachery of friends. We close this article with a quotation from News and Truths September 29. 1911: "He has never been anywhere that he has not had unfailing friends and just as unfailing foes. He makes due acknowledgment to both for help in many ways—for his foes have helped him in some ways more than his friends. No man ever had friends who stuck to him closer or more true and tried, even under sore testing."
[From: T. P. Simmons, editor, The Baptist Examiner, December 1, 1932, p. 7-8. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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