The Life of H. Boyce Taylor
By Elder Roy O. Beaman, Murray, KY
Installment No. 5
His Beliefs and Teachings
What a man believes is very important. "It's what you do, not what you think, that counts," is a false statement. Action follows belief and is modified in its nature by what one believes. Get the world straight on doctrine, and straight conduct will ensue. It is eternally important to believe right on the question of how God saves men and what God would have saved men to do. Brother Taylor subscribed to, defended, and died for this truth. Know the doctrines believed by our dear brother, if you would measure his remarkable life.
News and Truths of July 24, 1908, carried an editorial entitled, "One Hundred Years of Taylor Preachers." Though a bit of this may be repetitious, we prefer to add his own story of what, in part, made him such a strong Baptist. Of this he wrote later, "This knowledge of what some of his ancestry had to go through to become Baptists will help explain why he and other Taylor preachers were so rooted and grounded in the Baptist faith." The first editorial is as follows:
"Last Sunday was the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Alfred Taylor. About the time of his birth, or a few years before, his father, Joseph Taylor, a Methodist Episcopal preacher, was led to study the Bible with a view to examining into the ground of his faith. Upon thorough investigation he found no Bible authority for his Methodist faith, and constrained by the force of truth he forsook the church of his father and became a Baptist. Like Paul he soon became a preacher of the faith of which he once made havoc. This probably occurred sometime between 1804 and 1808.
"From that day to the present that newly embraced faith—the faith once-for-all delivered—has never been without advocates in the Taylor family. His son, Alfred Taylor, was the Pioneer missionary-evangelist of the Green River country. To him more than to any other man are the Baptists due for their strength in the Green River section of our state. Alfred Taylor had three sons—J. S., J. P., and W. C.—and two or three nephews who were Baptist preachers. Two sons, W. C. Taylor and J. P. Taylor, are now preaching the faith their fathers, grandfather and great-grandfather loved so dearly and contended for so earnestly.
"Another little bit of history may serve to explain the depth and intensity of conviction as to the truthfulness of the Baptist position on the part of these Taylor preachers. Of course, Joseph Taylor was positive and decided in his convictions, for he was made a Baptist by the Bible after having preached Methodism for years. His son, Alfred Taylor, married Miss Ann Mahon. Miss Mahon's mother's family were old-fashioned blue-stocking Presbyterians. Her experience in becoming a Baptist, as told by a grandson, J. N. Wiggin, Bloomfield, New Jersey, yet living (in 1908), was as follows: 'She was a staunch Presbyterian, so was her father, Thomas who was very wealthy. After her marriage she decided in her studying that the Baptists were right. She talked to her father about it, and he told her if she left the Presbyterians, he would disinherit her and never enter her home again. She told him she would wait a year and then, if she thought the Baptists were right, she would join them. At the end of the Year she joined Old Midway (Pleasant Hill) Baptist Church. Her father kept his word. He lived by her for years and never again visited her or went about her, and at his death he willed her a cow valued at ten dollars. He had to will that amount or she could break the will."
"If, as has been said, the best time to begin to train a child is with his grandmother, the editor's leaning towards the Baptists may be accounted for by the struggles through which these two ancestors had to pass in becoming Baptists. If in addition to that it be remembered that his maternal ancestry included Methodist preachers and class-leaders of the strictest sect of the Methodists and that his mother became a Baptist after she was grown, from her own investigation of God's word; this may also help some of our readers to know why the Editor has decided Baptist convictions.
"For one hundred years there have been Taylor preachers in Kentucky "epiagonizing" for the faith once-for-all delivered to the saints. May God grant that there may be some descendant of Joseph Taylor and Susannah Mahon preaching this same old faith until the Lord comes again."
Brother Taylor was a one-hundred-percent Baptist. He used to tell that he once quit a girl friend of another denomination because he felt that their differences on doctrine would be a hindrance to him in his ministry if anything matrimonial should occur down the way. He never lacked the courage of his convictions.
"Church truth," as Brother Taylor called it, never failed to have his support. He was a Baptist and a denominationalist who was unashamed of Baptist doctrine and of the stigmas of faithfully preaching them.. No one needed to ask if he were a Baptist; all knew it, some feeling they knew it too well. His preaching, his tracts, his books written and distributed, his debates, and his paper were distinctly Baptistic and mark him out as one of the most uncompromising Baptists of this period.
H. B. Taylor never entered union services with other denominations. He loved men, but he loved the truth too well to compromise it and fellowship error. He knew the truth too well to think that the differences between Baptists and others were not vital. Some contend for unity on essentials, on nonessentials liberty; H. B. Taylor contended for unity on all the truth of God. He showed that support of everything the Bible teaches is essential to full loyalty, and he held that unfaithfulness on church truth leads inevitably to laxity on all other truth.
This is why Brother Taylor never aligned himself with the Fundamentalists, for he held more truth than they. He knew not how to betray the truth on a regenerated church membership, believer's baptism, restricted communion, etc., in order to enter such an organization. He held to the essentiality of all Bible doctrine—the truths necessary to acceptable obedience in life as well as the truths necessary to salvation from sin. He believed that looseness on matters of the believer's obedience would lead to looseness, compromise, and unionism on the salvation truths.
But Brother Taylor was a strict Baptist among Baptists, just as strict as the Bible itself. He preached and wrote constantly against alien immersion, for he felt that the authority for Baptism is lodged by Jesus Himself within Baptist churches whose continuity from Jesus' day can be traced. He was against open communion, for he held that one unscripturally baptized was not eligible to the supper of our Lord. He favored church communion because he regarded the supper as a church ordinance, not as a denominational one. He taught that local Baptist churches are the only ones that can Scripturally and historically, doctrinally and logically claim to be churches of the Lord Jesus. His writings strongly exposed the idea of either a universal visible or a universal invisible church. No man ever lived more to fulfill in his life and teachings this word of Paul than Brother Taylor: "Unto Him be glory in the church by Jesus Christ throughout all ages, world without end."
Here we pause to note another forming element in the doctrinal mold of the mind and heart of Brother Taylor. We refer again briefly to his own testimony, quoted at length in the former article, that he owed much to the discussions in the ministers' meetings which he attended when he first came to West Kentucky.
Brother Taylor studied under Dr. John A. Broadus in the Seminary and he was a close student of the Systematic Theology of Dr. James P. Boyce. His view on the doctrines of grace agreed generally with Doctor Boyce. And added to this must be mentioned his constant reading and study of standard works on theology.
As mentioned above, H. Boyce Taylor not only did much in molding the theological thought of West Kentucky and of Blood River Association in particular, but he was a product of it. No analysis of his life and doctrinal stand is thorough unless it considers this topographical influence. West Kentucky was strong against alien immersion and open communion, and there were many Calvinistic preachers here when, as a young preacher, he came among them.
The chiefest contribution which this contender for Bible doctrine brought to West Kentucky was the mission spirit. The soil was just right; Baptists here never opposed the spread of the gospel; they were untaught. and unled. Brother Taylor preached, taught, and practiced constantly the doctrine of world-wide missions, and they saw in him a leader worthy of the place. That he had opposition is evident, but his untiring missionary zeal and fervor rectified and clarified the issues and made the section more missionary. But, since missions was the doctrine and passion of his life, detailed study of this must wait till later.
Unquestionably the strongest factor, however, in the beliefs and teachings of Brother Taylor was his attitude toward the Bible as the word of God. Its message was for him, because it was inspired, final, full, and perfect. The following statement gives his views of inspiration: "God gave both thoughts and words—not words without thoughts nor thoughts without words—and that every word in the Bible was God-given, God-chosen, God-breathed, and God-inspired." He was never known to apologize for anyone's running over the Bible and proving unorthodox. He knew not how to practice such duplicity—to claim to love the Bible and yet shield those who cut out the heart of its message. We reaffirm that his absolute acceptance of the Bible as the word of God settled his beliefs for him.
What is "Taylorism?" The answers to this question are as varied as the opinions of men. The opposer of God's sovereignty would say it is his doctrine of God's absolute sovereignty and election. The legalists and ritualists would answer that it is his teaching of salvation by the grace of God alone. The worldling would reply that it is his constant preaching against the sins of the day. The fighter of Scriptural church discipline would affirm that it is his contention for a clean and spiritual church. And further, the lodgite would hold that it is his opposition to secretism and lodgism. The evolutionist and modernist would contend that it is his view on creation and inspiration and Miracles. The unionist and compromiser would make answer that it is his stand on church truth. The feminist would assert that it is his teaching on woman's work in the churches. The emotional and sensational evangelist would state that it is his opposition to death-bed stories instead of the gospel of grace, his opposition to boring for tears and pulling through when they are unconvicted and unconverted.
Still further yet, the blind denominational loyalist who says, "I will take what the leaders say and do, whether or no," would declare that it is his exposure of the abuses of the organized work. The Gospel-missioner would tell that it is his support of boards as a Scriptural principle in mission work. The anti-missionaries and o-missionaries would have us know that it is his stand on and consuming zeal for the world-widespread of the gospel. The moralist would report that it is his view on universal, hereditary, total depravity. The idea or thought inspirationist would indicate that it is his contention for plenary and verbal inspiration. The opposer of imputed righteous ness would remark that it is the doctrine of the imputed righteousness of Christ as the only method of justification. And what shall we say more? If a principle is demonstrable by multiplying examples, of which many more could be given, we have proven that "Taylorism" varied with men and times, with men's dislike for, and opposition to, the word of God. Prejudice invented the name as a stigma. It was given to dub a faithful voice of God so as to befog the truth of God, to catch unstable souls, and to intimidate those who stand as he stood. Many proudly said, "I am not a Baptist of the Boyce Taylor type," thereby evincing their dislike for distinctive Baptist doctrine. Many consider it an honor to stand as lie stood on the great doctrines of revealed truth. Would we had more of them.
What is "Taylorism?" Brother W. E. Hunter, of Somerset Kentucky, told in the funeral address that he once asked Brother Taylor the difference between himself and other men. He pithly replied, "I am a literalist." He knew that the Scripures had plain, figurative, and symbolic statements, and meant that he took God at His word without any quibbling or twisting to suit man's opinions.
We, therefore, name three underlying principles that constituted what has been clubbed "Taylorism." First, the finality of what the Bible says. This came first and determined the others. Second, exposure of sin. He heard constantly the righteous Lord crying to him, "Cry aloud and spare not; break up the fallow ground, and sow not among thorns; show my people their sins. My word is a fire to burn out the dross; My word is a hammer to break hard hearts." What else can a man do who has such a commission from his risen Lord? Third, a loyal and conservative denominationalist. He was loyal in declaring the church truth as well as other truth. He was conservative in that he saw the abuses in our own denomination as well as the good.
Among others that might be mentioned, we name five doctrines fruiting from the above principles. The position of H. B. Taylor on these cannot be understood by divorcing them from the principles that gave birth to the contention for them. First, the doctrine of eternal, unconditional, and personal election. Second, the duty to evangelize the world. Note that we have said "evangelize," not "institutionalize," or "educationalize." Third, woman's sphere in the churches. Fourth, the evils of lodgism. These four must wait for fuller treatment in a subsequent article. Fifth, the preaching of distinctive doctrine. This has received treatment earlier in this article and will appear in our study of his writings and debates.
As with every man who has dared to stand against the downward stream of looseness in doctrine and practice, Brother Taylor was often misrepresented, hated, and opposed. He came on the scene at a time when looseness in doctrine needed smiting, and he smote it more valiantly than his daring forbear, Taillefer, smote his foes. One of his first public addresses was on "Doctrine in the Sunday School," preached at or near Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Too many thought that he was a radical in saying that distinctive Baptist doctrines should be taught to children. Often did error seek revenge in slander, opposition, and false charges.
When Brother Taylor preached on God's elective grace, those who wilfully or really misunderstood him charged that he held that men were saved in eternity, when no one ever taught more forcibly that men are saved when they repent and believe. Election is God's act of choice in eternity; salvation is God's consequent act of deliverance in time. He was further called a Hardshell when he held to the Bible doctrine of eternal, unconditional, personal election; but the Hardshells whom he exposed in preaching, writing and oral discussion knew better, as did those who read at all Baptist History, especially the story of the split.
It is rumored by some that Brother Taylor turned Hardshell in his last years; he was ever what they call Hardshell, they who are asininely ignorant of the differences historically between the Missionaries and the Anti-missionaries. He preached, wrote, and taught as well as practiced missions until his dying day. That was the dying prayer and talk in his semiconscious state in the hospital. Judged by his teachings, prayers, and gifts, he did more for missions in the last two years of his life than these falsifiers ever dreamed of doing. But that is how God's noblemen share at the hands of prejudiced men! >b>Missionary to the core and to the last—less than that misrepresents H. Boyce Taylor.
When he preached Total Depravity, men said that he preached infants to hell, but a clearer presentation of infant salvation was never given by any man than, may be found in Brother Taylor's exposition of Romans 5:12-21. When he preached salvation by grace, men said that he left man out, and that was what he meant to do, to place man as helplessly and hopelessly lost before God and in need of Christ alone to save through faith in His finished work on the cross.
When Brother Taylor preached New Testament baptism and New Testament church membership, men said that he held that one had to be a Baptist to be saved, but no one ever preached more strongly that every soul is eternally saved who trusts Christ Jesus whether baptized or not, and of whatsoever or no denomination he may be. When he exposed lodges and secret societies, some falsely reported that he said that all Masons were going to hell, when he said that all who depended on Masonry were going to hell.
When Brother Taylor preached on the eternal security of the believer, men said that he gave the believer a license to sin, but no one ever preached more on the Christian's duty to persevere in a life of obedience out of love for the Saviour, not out of fear of hell. Nor did one's life more consistently exemplify the preserving and transforming power of the risen Christ of God. When lie preached on missions, men said even as early as 1906, the first year of News and Truths, "too much is being said about missions," but he held throughout his life that giving the gospel to men everywhere was the life-mission of every New Testament church and the life-task of every child of God. To this end his life was spent.
Noble soul! Thou art now where the calumny of men reaches not and where misunderstandings are unknown! Rest from thy labors till thy doctrine distills as the dew into the glorious fruiting of thy crown at the judgment seat of Christ! Thou art now awaiting the coming of men from every tongue and nation who will say unto thee, "I was saved because thou didst pray, didst give, didst preach, and didst write the gospel of the grace of God!" Thou dost rest in peace with the God of thy doctrine while thy doctrine goes marching on to smite error and save the lost! Thou hast left us a glorious heritage and reaped a blessed rest!
============[From: T. P. Simmons, editor, The Baptist Examiner, December 15, 1932, p. 6-8. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.] More on H. Boyce Taylor
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