Elder John Taylor (1752–1833) was one of the first Baptists to protest the mission movement among the Baptists in the early 19th century. He and Elder Daniel Parker were the first two to publish writings against the methods of the mission movement. Taylor published his "Thoughts on Missions" in 1819-20. See here
But, though he opposed many of the mission methods then being used, he nevertheless did not deny that sinners were saved and brought to faith by the preaching of the gospel. This I shall show from Taylor's own writings.
Wrote Elder Taylor:
"The place of my nativity was Farquier county, Virginia; and in the year of our Lord 1752, I was born. Through the intemperate use of spirits, and what is generally connected with that kind of vice, my poor father had so far consumed his living, that hard labour was my inevitable lot in my raising. My father had moved to Frederic county, back of the Blue Ridge on the Shenandoah river, where Mr. William Marshall came preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom. At one of his meetings I became alarmed, as noted in his biography. I was then about seventeen years old, and went to that meeting with the same view, that I would have gone to a frolic; for I had heard of the great effect that was among the people under preaching, (for he was a son of thunder indeed) I went to the meeting with no more concern about my soul, than the horse I rode on. About mid way of his preaching, [for I had not noticed a word he said before,] the word pierced my soul as quick and with as much sensibility as an electric shock. In a moment my mind was opened to see and feel the truth of all he said. I felt as if then at the bar of God, and as if condemnation was pronounced against me. It may look strange; but I instantly loved the very truth that condemned me, and instrument that brought it, Mr. Marshall. I had never felt such an attachment to any human being before, and the whole of a quite new quality. That knowledge I had of sin for considerable time, was only what belonged to its practical part."
Clearly Elder Taylor ascribed his regeneration to the preaching of the gospel. He went into the church service a dead alien sinner and came out of it a changed man. He calls Elder Marshall the "instrument" through whom God "awakened" him. He says "the word pierced my soul."
Wrote Elder Taylor:
"Joseph and Isaac Reding, as noted in their biography, lived neighbors to my father. Immediately after their conversion, they began to preach with great zeal through the neighborhood; the purport of which was, ye must be born again, or be damned, or never enter into the kingdom of God. I have perhaps more than once said, that under the preaching of the Redings, the poor rags of my own righteousness took fire and soon burnt me to death; for till now, in reading the law of Moses, I only understood its external demands; but by the removal of the veil of my heart, I discovered the sin of my nature; and that law which required truth and holiness in the inward parts, condemned me for the sin of my heart. The light and goodness I had thought of before, was blown out as with a puff and I was left as a perfect blank of darkness, from which dreadful darkness, all manner of evil was constantly flowing, and with a torrent which it was impossible for me to stop."
Again, Taylor ascribes his change to the Lord using the preaching of his word.
Taylor also wrote:
"I have said, a good motive to the work, and the call of the church, is all sufficient as to a man's authority to preach the gospel. By a good motive to the work, I understand, the man's own soul must be converted, for except he is born again, he cannot have a spiritually good motive, and is what Paul designs, by "the husbandman that laboureth must first be partaker of the fruit." It is this produces a desire in him, after what Paul calls a good work -- this is a feeling sensibibity in him, that "one man's soul is worth more than all the world," and while the love of Christ constrains him, he will very gladly, or readily, spend and be spent, for the salvation of his fellow men."
Notice how Taylor equates being "converted" with being "born again." Also, that he believes that he, as a minister of the gospel, labors "for the salvation of his fellow men."
"My own belief is, that none properly understands the gospel or voice of the shepherd, but his sheep, or the true christian. Therefore the voice of the church is very essential; in the call to the ministry, the bridegroom is out of the way; what the bride does in his absence, should be valid. The church ought to act under great responsibility, being accountable to the chief shepherd at his return; so help us Lord, that we may all have boldness in the day of judgement. The instruments of my encouragement, in my early days. I had three gospel fathers, to-wit : William Marshall, the instrument of my first awakening and conversion; James Ireland, the man who baptized me, and under whose pastoral care I lived for some time; and Joseph Reding, under whose care, and with whom I travelled near ten years, before I was a married man; all these men seemed tender towards me, as if I was their natural Son."
Notice that Taylor believed that the "voice of Christ" was heard through the medium of the gospel and that the "instruments" of his conversion were gospel preachers, the means of his "first awakening and conversion." Does he not mean his regeneration when he speaks of his "awakening" and his "conversion"?
Taylor said further:
"The truth is, God is converting sinners here -- the Gospel now sounds here with sweet invitation to every sinner to seek the salvation of his soul..." (Baptist History Homepage - "A History of Ten Baptist Churches" - The Author's Conversion and Call to the Ministry, By John Taylor)
Clearly this is further proof that Taylor, though at first objecting to mission methods, nevertheless believed that the gospel gave "sweet invitation to every sinner to seek the salvation of his soul." Clearly he was no Hardshell.
Taylor, later in life, recalls his conversion, and wrote:
"I was at his (Thomas Buck) house eight or nine years ago and riding in sight of the old meeting house, now all enclosed, I proposed to ride in and take a look at the old skeleton, which he agreed to; one object with me was to see whether the great White Oak stump, three or four feet over, and its mighty trunk that had always laid there when I resorted to the meeting house -- what made this great stump so sacred to me was, the preacher (Mr. Marshall) stood on it when, I hope, spiritual life was preached into my soul, though it seemed like a blow of death to me -- The case was this, report said that at these new-light meetings, the people hallowed, cried out, trembled, fell down, and went into strange exercises, my object was to see and amuse myself at all this, as I would at other sport; the people were so numerous, that the preacher went to this stump, about six feet from the end of the meeting house, that all might hear; the vast concourse of people took their stand in the snow, there being no seats to sit on -- and while I was amusing and diverting myself, ranging through the company to see the exercise of the people, I had got in near the stump, when this Thomas Buck broke out into a flood of tears and a loud cry for mercy; he being my old playmate, I stared at him for a while with awful [p. 14] wonder, and just at that time my eye and ear were caught by the preaching, the Minister was treating on the awful scene of judgment, and while he dropt these words -- "Oh rocks fall on me, Oh mountains, cover me from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of His wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand?" I felt the whole sentence dart through my whole soul, with as much sensibility as an electric shock could be felt. With my mind instantly opened to understand and love all that the preacher said afterwards, and though every word condemned me, I loved the messenger that brought the awful tidings, I felt as if at the bar of God, and no mercy for me. How willingly would I have cried for mercy, if I could have hoped for any. From that moment, every thing belonging to religion bore an entire new aspect to me. When we got to the old house, it was an entire old waste, the trunk of the oak was quite gone, and the old stump on which the man had preached more than forty years before, but little of it was there; we stood there some time; I placed him where I thought he stood, when he with tears cried for mercy, myself at his elbow where I received the Heaven born stroke I have been speaking of. With grateful hearts we thanked the Lord that we stood there, more than forty years ago..." See here.
"Spiritual life was preached into my soul"! Hardshells cannot read these words of Taylor and think that he would agree with them in denying the use of the gospel in the imparting of spiritual life.
"South Elkhorn Baptist Church was eight miles from where I lived, I seldom went there but at monthly meetings, I now became more acquainted with that old successful man in the ministry, Lewis Craig. This man's orthodoxy mainly lay in salvation through Christ by unmerited grace, with urging repentance on all to whom he preached, he had the most striking gift of exhortation that was perhaps ever in use in Kentucky -- while with him in South Elkhorn, he treated me as a father would a son."
Neither Taylor nor Lewis Craig, among the first Baptist preachers in Kentucky, were Hardshells, for Hardshells do not urge all men to repent for salvation.
"That night either through some indisposition of one of the children, or some similar cause, I slept upstairs by myself, I awoke in the night, with the most agonizing desire for the salvation of my neighbors, that I perhaps ever felt in my life, I called up in my mind the situation of the people, it occurred to me the diligence we had been using in preaching, for several months day and night, I would try to pacify myself, there is ten to be Baptized to-morrow -- It would vibrate again through my soul, but how many more are yet careless and yet in their sins. I would try to pacify myself with, Oh Lord what can I do for them[?] my agony of mind became so increasing I was constrained to leave my bed, and walk the room -- I would say to myself, Oh Lord I could die for them, if that could do them any good. I really was not able to account for this uncommon anguish of heart for the salvation of my neighbors; at length a Scripture occurred to me that I had never taken notice of before, it is in Acts 20 Chapter 20th Verse, where Paul tells the elders at Ephesus among other things, "I taught you publicly and from house to house." This fully accorded with the then feelings of my heart, to go from house to house and warn them to flee from the wrath to come, and pray the Lord to save their souls -- another thought sprang up in my mind, that when the Lord intended to bring the Hebrews from Egyptian bondage, he put it into the heart of Moses to visit his brethren as a prelude to their deliverance Acts 7th Chap. This produced such confidence in my mind that the Lord would bless those visits to the people, that 1 became bathed in joyful tears..." (Baptist History Homepage - Clear Creek Church, By John Taylor, Chapter 5)
No honest Hardshell can read such language and think that old Elder Taylor was a Hardshell. Yes, they will cite Taylor's pamphlet where he preached against the united efforts of Baptists to send and support foreign missionaries, but you will not find them citing these words of Taylor! In the next posting on Taylor, this will be even more evident. Keep in mind also that Elder Wilson Thompson was a fellow minister of Taylor.