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H. Boyce Taylor, Forgotten Baptist Giant
By Ben Stratton

I. An Overview of His Life

      A. Harvey Boyce Taylor came from a family of Baptist preachers.
1. His great-grandfather, Joseph, was a Methodist pastor who became a Baptist while migrating to KY.
2. His grandfather, Alford Taylor, was a close friend of J.M. Pendleton. He baptized over 6,000 believers on the Kentucky frontier. Dozens of those baptized became Baptist pastors in Kentucky.
3. His father, W.C. Taylor, died young but was considered the greatest preacher in Kentucky.
4. His younger brother, W.C. Taylor Jr., served 41 years as a Southern Baptist missionary in Brazil.

      B. Born in 1870 in Ohio County, Kentucky, Taylor graduated from Bethel College and Southern Seminary.
1. Besides student pastorates, his life’s work was the First Baptist Church of Murray, KY (1898-1931).
2. Taylor died in 1932. His grave in the Murray Cemetery reads, “Jesus Paid It All.”

II. Lesson One: The Importance of Teaching Doctrine to the People.

      A. Taylor himself was a man of very strong, conservative doctrinal beliefs.
1. On soteriology, he liked the Philadelphia Confession with a few additions on ecclesiology.
2. On ecclesiology, he was a very strict Baptist. He believed in Baptist perpetuity and rejected open communion, alien immersion, and church union. He did not believe that only Baptists were saved.
3. His motto was, “To make believers out of unbelievers; to make Baptists out of all believers; to make Missionary Baptists out of all Baptists.”

      B. These beliefs were communicated in various ways.
1. Through Taylor’s preaching and teaching at First Baptist Church of Murray.
a. He was a faithful preacher of the Bible, often giving expository messages at Murray.
b. Taylor used the Baptist Church Covenant and regularly practiced church discipline.
2. Through the publication of his weekly 16-page newspaper, “News and Truths.”
a. Started in 1904, the paper was filled with Baptist news, biblical exposition, and doctrine.
b. With a circulation of about 3,000, the paper had a large impact on Kentucky and the South.
3. Through the publication of his various religious books and tracts.
a. He wrote two books: “Why Be a Baptist” and “Bible Briefs Against Hurtful Heresies.”
b. Dozens of evangelistic and doctrinal tracts and books were published and distributed.
4. Through his annual Bible Institutes (conferences) held at FBC Murray each February.
a. Started in 1898, these featured six consecutive days of all-day doctrinal preaching.
b. Speakers included A.W. Pink, T.T. Eaton, Arthur Flake, J.W. Porter, Louis Entzminger, etc.
5. Through the West Kentucky Bible School
a. Founded in 1922, this local church school had more ministerial students than any college in KY.
b. Graduates went on to teach at Boyce Coll., Mid-America BTS, California Baptist Coll., etc.
c. Mid-Continent, Clear Creek, and Lexington Bible College were all founded on the WKBS model.
6. Through over 50 public religious debates with champions from other denominations.

      C. Such strong doctrine had its effect.
1. Even with church discipline, FBC Murray grew from 127 to 524 and built its current sanctuary.
2. Evangelist T.T. Martin said the church had the most families praying at home he had ever seen.
3. Many non-Baptist preachers became Baptists, including Pastor C.W. Ehrhardt of FMC, Murray.

III. Lesson Two: Strong Doctrine Doesn’t Do Away with Missions and Evangelism

      A. While known for his strong doctrine, Taylor balanced this with a love of missions and evangelism.
1. He led the First Baptist Church of Murray to support individual missionaries.
a. The church supported 5-10 missionaries directly (Brazil, Peru, New Orleans, Eastern KY, etc.).
b. Through his direct influence, the first Southern Baptist missionaries went to Peru and Chile.
2. He led the congregation to give faithfully in support of Baptist missions.
a. In 1914, the First Baptist Church at Murray was giving $11.90 to missions per capita. Only the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas, and the Eutaw Place Baptist Church in Baltimore beat that record.
b. In 1929, FBC Murray was the second-leading church in per capita mission giving in Kentucky.
3. He also believed strongly in home missions.
a. He personally encouraged numerous pastors in west Kentucky to move to eastern Kentucky.
b. In 1930, he led Blood River Association to knock on every house in Calloway and Marshall co’s.
4. B.H. Carroll said FBC Murray was “the greatest missionary church and the nearest to the New Testament pattern” he had ever seen! (J.F. Love and J.B. Gambrell said the same thing!)

      B. Although he strongly disliked denominational “machinery,” Taylor’s idea of a “budget plan” of giving for the local church eventually became the Southern Baptist Cooperative Program.
1. While some credit M.E. Dodd and O.E. Bryan for this, both men learned the idea from Taylor.
2. In 1985, a Kentucky Historical Marker was placed at FBC Murray, giving Taylor recognition for this.

IV. Lesson Three: Find the Middle Ground Between Baptist Liberalism and Ecumenical Fundamentalism.

      A. In Taylor’s day, many Baptists had drifted into liberalism or ecumenicalism.
1. On one hand, many Baptists were tolerating and even adapting theological liberalism.
a. By the 1920s, this was widespread throughout most Baptist seminaries and colleges.
b. Sadly, most Southern Baptist leaders like Truett and Scarbrough turned a blind eye to this.
2. On the other hand, there were the “fundamentalist” Baptists who were willing to join together with conservative non-Baptists in order to fight liberalism.
a. These men, like J. Frank Norris, believed in inerrancy but were weak on Baptist distinctives.
b. Taylor was concerned that ecclesiology was left out of their Fundamentals of the Faith.
3. Taylor thought both groups were wrong and encouraged Baptists to avoid each extreme.

      B. With the death of J.B. Gambrell in 1921, Taylor is the leader of this middle-ground group of Baptists.
1. It is amazing to consider what comes out of this fellowship that still affects Baptists today.
a. His students, L.W. Carlin and Frank Carlton helped get Mid-Continent College going in 1949.
b. Clarence Walker takes many of the ideas of Taylor and expands them in the post-WW2 era.
c. Taylor mentored a young west KY preacher named Jagoe Washer, the grandfather of Paul.
d. Another of Taylor’s close co-workers is L.M. Winstead, the great-grandfather of Mark Dever.
e. A.W. Pink is interim pastor at FBC Murray in 1919 & through Taylor, was introduced to many.
f. John R. Gilpin is a devoted admirer of Taylor. He started “The Baptist Examiner” paper in 1931.
• Gilpin baptizes Gary Long, who is the founder of Particular Baptist Press.
• Another of Gilpin’s friends is R.E. Pound. He republished James P. Boyce’s “Systematic Theology” for the first time. Ernest Reisinger buys his stock and continues printing it.
2. Taylor’s influence was so strong it could be felt in this region for two generations after his death.


[Taught by Ben Stratton, at the Solid Rock Baptist Church, Benton, KY, September 14, 2023. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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