Saturday, October 8, 2011

Elder John Taylor II

The following citations are from Elder John Taylor's "Thoughts on Missions" with my comments upon them.

Taylor wrote (emphasis mine SG):

"But it was not hard to see, that he was a man of great subtlety. The Saviour directed his disciples to similar measures to gain souls to himself, but Luther's object was to get money."

First, this supports the other citations I have given from Taylor which showed that he believed that "effectual calling" was by means of the gospel. Surely the mention of "gaining souls to himself" is a reference to saving sinners and Taylor affirms that this was done by "similar measures" to those of Luther Rice and the missionaries. Of course, Taylor indicts the motive of Luther, affirming that Luther was not truly interested in gaining souls to Christ but only to "get money."

Taylor wrote:

"Their shameful trade of begging, disgusts the people wherever they go. They will beg for money to print the Luminary; they will beg for money to build and finish their fine meeting house, when half the churches in the country have no house of any sort to worship God in; they will beg for money to educate young men in Dr. Staughton's Theological school, to make more Missionaries; they will beg for supplies in their own families, both in food and furniture; in short, their whole trade is begging.

It is always to be understood, that one part at least of the success of missions, is the getting plenty of money."

Taylor's objection to Rice and the missionaries chiefly lay in the practice of calling upon the churches to financially support preachers, missionaries, and other worthy causes. Taylor's objection stemmed from the fact that it had been the practice of Baptist ministers to say nothing about money. It is a fact that many Baptists in Taylor's day did not believe that the ministers ought to say anything about Christians supporting the church and religious causes with their money. Taylor represented an extreme view and the Hardshells would suffer from this extreme view throughout their history.  Yet, hypocritically, many Hardshells have asked (begged?) for money to support their numerous periodicals and Associations, not to mention building meeting houses.

Taylor wrote:

"Perhaps some of the people are over severe against Mr. Rice, though I have not heard him charged with many vices. But two that I recollect have come to my ears. The first is the love of money; the second is his prodigious appetite at a table."

One suspects that Elder Taylor is being judgmental and repeating hearsay. Was he jealous of Rice? Did he feel threatened by him and the young missionaries? He admits that he had not heard any serious charges of vice, though he is willing to accuse Rice of insincerity, of only preaching for money.

Taylor wrote:

"In the first charge, it will be conceded that he manifests the greatest thirst for money of any man we ever saw, except men of the same fraternity. As to the second charge, although I heard a friend of his say, (and by the bye, a missionary agent) that he was the greatest glutton that ever was in Kentucky, I incline to be more favorable; for I have often been at the same table with Mr. Rice, and never observed any thing uncommon, except that in a jocular way, he inclined to take a cut from every dish on the table. But from accounts, his greatest performance at the table, is in the articles of coffee and tea. Being not much in the use of these articles, I am not as good a judge as others; but the ladies often make themselves merry on the number of dishes that he can go might be well to curtail his appetite a little, to stop the mouths of gainsayers. But it is probable that poor Luther, after all his show and exertions, is not a very self-denied man, without which, none can be the disciples of Christ."

Surely this is unworthy of Elder Taylor and demonstrates that he had a grudge against Rice. Why did he not talk to Rice at the table and discuss these things with him instead of judging him on hearsay? Surely he should have known that Rice was not raising money for himself but for the support of preachers. The spirit manifested by Taylor is unworthy of a minister of the gospel.  How any Hardshell today can justify these condemnations by Taylor is amazing.

Taylor wrote:

"I wish not to be censorious, for some of my best friends are great zealots for those missionary movements."

He doesn't wish to be censorious? His whole diatribe against missions is nothing but censure!

Taylor wrote:

"I did signify in the early part of this essay, that part of the distresses of my old age, was the plan now set on foot by some of the Baptists, for patrimonial, theological education; and the object of all this is to make preachers, preachers of a certain grade, Missionary preachers. And this produces a new clue for begging or teasing the people for more money, with this pretext, we will make more preachers for you, as if Jesus Christ did not know how to make preachers for his own use among men."

Surely Taylor, like all those who objected to theological education, charged more upon their opponents than was fair. None of the early Baptists who supported theological education believed that they were making preachers or usurping the work of Christ. That was a false charge, a straw man. The early Baptists in London and in the Philadelphia association had long encouraged theological education and had proposed that "if there be any in the churches who had a calling to preach" and were hindered in being able to give time to studying the scriptures, then these, and these alone, were the ones to be helped by education.

Taylor wrote:

"When Jesus Christ needs a scholar in his harvest field, he calls whom he will, as Saul of Tarsus; but mostly uses those who were neither prophets nor the sons of one, as he did Amos. In the schools of the prophets, their pupils were called their sons; but their education was very different from what is aimed at now. It is said, Christ kept his disciples with him three years before he sent them out to preach. If this was true, it was not to learn literature. Nothing is more absurd than to say, that a man cannot understand the Scriptures, but by a knowledge of the original languages in which they were written. This is some of the doctrine of those Theologians, by which they would destroy our confidence in all translations, and thereby take our Bible from us."

Again, one suspects that old Elder Taylor, like many of the frontier preachers, felt threatened by such training of the young preachers. The argument by Taylor about God calling those who got their education before becoming preachers has often been repeated by Hardshells. Hassell says the same in his history. Is Taylor saying that preachers ought not to study the original languages of the Bible? That God does not want them to become scholars after he calls them?  Also, Taylor says that those in favor of theological education were arguing that one could not understand the scriptures apart from studying the original languages, but again, this is false. What they said was that it would help them to better understand the scriptures. Who can deny that this is true?

Also, one can see the seeds of "King James Version Onlyism" in these words of Taylor.

Taylor admits that Jesus trained his disciples before he sent them out on their commission. The apostles followed in this example. Paul taught young preachers. So did Peter. So did the early churches. Hardshells will say that they want Jesus to teach them in his school, as if Jesus can't teach them through the apostles, or through the church, or through the older ministers. 

Further, Taylor seems to be mostly against the the curriculum of the schools than to the schools themselves.  After all, he mentions the school of the prophets.  He says the education was different, as if he is not objecting to schools for preachers, as such, but against what they are taught.  He is arguing against methods of education, not against education.

Taylor wrote:

"Nothing can offer a greater insult to the Baptists, than to beg of them money, and thereby send them a new race of preachers, such as they have not been used to."

Why did Taylor view it an "insult to the Baptists" to exhort the churches to support their preachers so that they might be better informed of the scriptures and do a better job in their calling? Besides, it was not a new thing for Baptists to promote ministerial education and to support missionary preachers.

Taylor wrote:

"Their hands are too delicate either to make tents, or pick up a bundle of sticks, to make a fire to warm themselves as Paul did; and of course, must be the same kind of shameless beggars, that all Missionaries that I have seen, now are."

Again, this is a false charge. Many of the instructions given to the first missionaries sent out by the new theological schools concerned how to work with their hands! Clearly there existed in Taylor and others a prejudice against preachers who were not like themselves.

Taylor wrote:

"The Missionaries have many hooks by which they rake the world for money...Money and power is the watch-word of the whole scheme; aiming at Lordship over God's heritage."

It is ironic that Taylor could set himself up as a judge of the heart and motives of all missionaries and yet accuse the missionaries of being "lords over God's heritage." Was he not acting as such a lord and judge in his condemnation? Was he not jealous of the support the missionaries got, when he himself had received so little during his lifetime? Was he not manifesting a guilty conscience for his own failure to teach the people about supporting the church and ministry with their money?

Taylor wrote:

"I have expressed myself in the foregoing sheets, with all the plainness that I think one friend should speak to another. Perhaps some things may appear harsh; but I know, that for all the men that I have brought in review, I have a sympathizing friendship. It is probable they think they are doing right, though of their sincerity, I have strong doubt. Happy should I be hereafter to find myself mistaken, and these men what I wish them to be, the faithful servants of Christ. But my great doubt concerning them arises, both from the scriptures and all the observation and experience I have had for near fifty years."

He spoke to the missionaries as a "friend"? Who is he trying to convince, besides himself? He admits to being "harsh" in his words but feels justified in doing it. He says "Happy should I be hereafter to find myself mistaken," and from what we will see, he did later make some acknowledgments along this line, repenting of many of the things he wrote in his attack on missions and missionaries. How does he think he is being friendly to say that he doubts the sincerity of the missionaries and of his Baptist brethren who supported missions and theological schools? Is he God so as to be able to judge the hearts of all missionaries as he does?

Taylor wrote:

"My object is, if possible, to drive these presuming men out of Baptist associations; for there they crept in unawares, with no more right than the false brethren of whom Paul speaks; for they are a motley tribe at best. I wish it understood, once for all, that when I insinuate corruption among American Baptist Missionaries, I do but sparingly mean men of my own State..."

How could Taylor legitimately claim that Rice was wanting to be a lord and judge over Baptists when he is clearly doing that very thing in the invectives he has uttered? Who is he to judge the hearts of the missionary preachers and to call them all "false brethren"? Yes, he was indeed "harsh."

In his book "John Taylor: Frontier Baptist Preacher," James R. Duvall wrote:

"Taylor is usually mentioned in any discussion of the anti-mission movement among Baptists because of a booklet he wrote in 1820. It is interesting that neither William Cathcart, editor of The Baptist Encyclopedia (1881) nor Sylvester Hassell, historian of the Predestinarian Baptists, mentions John Taylor as being associated with the anti-mission movement...Taylor later said he probably made a mistake in writing the pamphlet. Larry D. Smith was the first to point out that Taylor was opposed only to "mission societies;" he was never opposed to missions. As the writer in The Baptist Encyclopedia says, "He traveled and preached extensively and probably performed more labor, and was more successful than any other pioneer Baptist preacher in Kentucky." Hassell's History is over 1,000 pages and he claims some for the "Primitive" cause who were not anti-mission, but he does not claim John Taylor."

It is quite interesting that Hassell did not mention Taylor as a leader in the anti-mission movement. Is this not because Taylor later recanted much of what he said?

"When he wrote his "Missions" pamphlet in 1820, he gave a copy to the local (Northbend) association, which they "received for the purpose of examining the same," but they made no further comment, neither that year nor in any following year. He was invited to preach for the association that year and at later times when he attended. The Elkhorn Association meeting at Great Crossings Baptist Church, in 1820 reported in their Minutes,

Bro. John Taylor presented to the Association a pamphlet, written by himself, on the subject of missions, which was referred to the committee on arrangement." At a later session of the body, "after much discussion it was agreed to strike out that item from the arrangement, and return the pamphlet to the author."

Mr. Taylor presented this booklet to the Long Run Association with vitually the same response. John Taylor's influence on Boone County Baptists far exceeded the seven years he resided and preached in the county. He was one of two Baptist ministers invited to preach at the funeral of Absalom Graves in 1826; Graves was the leading missionary advocate among Baptists in Boone County."

Thus, it appears that Taylor's pamphlet was viewed negatively by the old Baptists, and for good reason.

See here for Duvall's work

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