« PreviousContinue »
- Oft from the margin of the grave
Thou, Lord, hast lifted up my head ;
The fever own'd Thy touch, and fled.” On a review of all that was past, he could truly say, “I will sing of mercy and judgment: unto Thee, O Lord, will I sing.”
He had not been quite three years in the West Indies, when he made the following judicious remarks in a letter to his dear and honoured friend, the late Rev. Joseph Entwisle :- “ Thanks be to our gracious Lord, though I have not known these islands long, nor have been acquainted with any but two, yet I have known a goodly number brought to experience the favour and peace of God, and not a few die happy. It appears, from what I have seen of these countries, that it is far more safe to write about the happy dead than the converted living. Persons, as well as things, are very changeable here. And though God's grace does not change, though Jesus our Lord is 'the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever,' yet those who enjoy His grace are more liable to change here than in the parts whence I came. The work, in general, is not so deep. Few will be prevailed on to improve their minds in useful knowledge, and indeed few have it in their power so to do. And here is a general inclination towards luxury, especially to the drinking of spirituous liquors, which often overcome those who had clean escaped.””
While he resided abroad, he was united in marriage to a young person of deep and unaffected piety, the dear and faithful partner of all his joys and sorrows for several following years. He had six children. Five of these he consigned, in meek submission, to an early tomb. But children that die are found, not lost. They rest in their own Shepherd's care, lambs of His heavenly fold and pasture. The one who survived departed this life some considerable time before his father.
It was in the month of June, 1811, after an absence of eight years, that Mr. Taylor returned to England. On his arrival, he spent a few weeks at Bristol; and he was appointed successively to Southampton and Canterbury. He next removed to Bristol, where he remained three years. They who knew him in these several spheres of ministerial labour, can bear ample testimony to his indefatigable zeal in the discharge of every duty, public and private; and to the various success with wlich he was favoured. The first time that the compiler of these papers had the pleasure of seeing him, was at the formation of the Auxiliary Missionary Society for the Bristol District in the year 1815. He was then in the full strength of life, and prepared for any service to which the church might call him. From his practical ability, his knowledge of Missionary affairs, and his affectionate interest in their prosperity, he was admirably qualified even then for the posts which he afterwards most honourably and usefully occupied.*
* Shortly after his return from the West Indies, Mr. Taylor had mourned the loss of the “ wife of his youth,” and the mother of all his children. In 1816 he was united to the excellent lady mentioned on page 681.
When Mr. Taylor closed the regular term of his labours at Bristol, in the year 1818, he received an appointment as one of the three General Secretaries for the Wesleyan-Methodist Missions. The colleagues with whom he had the honour of being associated, were the Rev. Jabez Bunting and the late Rev. Richard Watson.
Mr. Taylor was the resident Secretary, and was the first Minister set apart for this work from the customary labours of a Circuit. He had charge of the former Missionary establishment at 77, Hatton-Garden. The order, punctuality, economy, and unweariable diligence with which he discharged the manifold duties now resting upon him, were worthy of all his character. But the pressure of business in a new office, and amidst the calls and engagements which that office involved, was so great that his strength often failed him. It appears to have been at that time that he sustained an injury in his constitution, from the distressing effects of which he never entirely recovered. At the end of three years, he wished, if it were thought right, to be released from farther service at the Mission-House; but he was prevailed upon, by considerations which he could not resist, to remain there for three years longer. Ile then retired, in the year 1824, but was requested by the Conference to accept the office of General Treasurer for the Missions in conjunction with the late Joseph Butterworth, Esq.,an office which he continued to hold by successive re-appointments, first, with Mr. Butterworth, and then, with the late Lancelot Haslope, Esq., for the space of six years. It is scarcely necessary to add that, in all his labours for Christian Missions at home, he maintained the spirit which had animated him in his Missionary labours abroad; and that he served the cause of Christ, in this sphere of duty also, with wisdom now more matured by age and experience, with zeal unabated, and with a fidelity which nothing could shake.
The testimony of the Rev. Henry Davies, who sojourned for several months in the Mission-House during the time that Mr. Taylor was resident Secretary, may fitly be inserted here :-“Of his conduct as the head of the household it would be difficult to speak in terms too commendatory. Having himself experienced a Missionary's feelings and mental exercises on leaving his home and friends, he knew how to succour and counsel young men placed in such circumstances, and to lessen their anxieties. He was communicative and familiar, full of useful information and instruction, entertaining and cheerful, yet grave and dignified. He was tender of faults, and looked with great complacency on every disposition and habit of life which afforded promise of usefulness. His home was a model for Missionaries ; and, in its lessons, it has no doubt been invaluable to them on their settlement in a foreign land, -suggesting to them how they should order their own households, and become living examples of domestic religion to others. On many grounds I am led to believe, that the effect of his example, and of his truly patriarchal counsels, was to give intensity to the Missionary ardour which had moved the young men, then residing in his house, to offer themselves to the service of the church,- to enlarge and elevate their views of the greatness and probable consequences of the holy work upon which they were about to enter, and to impress upon them the necessity of their being, above all things, MEN OF God.”
“My opportunities of observing Mr. Taylor," writes the Rev. Elijah Hoole, who resided several months at the Mission-House in the year 1819, “were considerable, as I was constantly employed in the office with him. I was struck with his uniform and fervent piety. The devotional character of his whole life was to me remarkable. His diligence was exemplary. He rose early, and was never unemployed during the day. He used to say, that the Lord's servant ought to labour for his Master as many hours in the day as a man would for an earthly master. He joined the young men in their studies at five o'clock in the morning, -and at least one morning in the week would employ himself with us in the preparation of sermons for the Sunday. The regard and reverence felt towards him secured perfect order and silence in these morning studies, which are probably remembered by all who joined in them. I often went with him to his preaching appointments in and about London. He preached with great earnestness. His anxiety to see fruit of his labour appeared to take away his desire for food. He often said he saw more fruit of his labour in one Sunday in the West Indies than he did in three months in London, and that it was much better work to be a Missionary than to be in the Secretary's office. He was careful always to act and speak as became a Minister of Christ. He greatly admired Herbert's poetry, and would often quote lines describing how the Parson’ should live and act. He had a lively imagination, and a keen sense of the ridiculous; but restrained both within the limits tolerated by a tender conscience. He loved piety, and admired its influence, in the humblest walks of life. He reverenced the aged and pious poor, and would say, 'Such a one is great in the sight of the Lord.' His manners and appearance commanded the respect of men dignified by office and title. His courtesy, and full intelligence on all subjects connected with his work, enabled him to send them away, on their visits to the Mission-House, satisfied with their interviews with him. It was his practice to meet the Missionaries and their wives in class every Saturday; and he seems never to have failed of gaining their confidence and affection.”—Sometimes he had as many as fifteen young Missionaries under his care at once.
On retiring from the office of Missionary Secretary, he was stationed in the London North (or City-Road) Circuit, where he spent three years; and he then, for the same space of time, had the superintendency of the Second London West (or Hinde-Street) Circuit. The course of pulpit and pastoral service which he pursued in these important provinces of ministerial labour, was constant and untiring, even beyond his strength; for he now suffered, at intervals, from severe indisposition, though he made but few complaints. From London he was removed, in the year 1830, to Bristol North, where he again passed three years of acceptable and useful service, during the last of which he had the Superintendency of the Circuit. But
here his health was at one time so much impaired that he was compelled for a season to suspend his labours. He was re-appointed to City-Road, London, in the year 1833, where he a second time remained three years.
During this period, he was raised by the suffrages of his brethren to the highest official post in the Connexion. At the Conference of 1831, he was elected President; and the duties which were thus assigned to him he performed with indefatigable industry and patience, with faithfulness, and with great practical wisdom. But the year of his Presidency was one of peculiar difficulty and trial. Not only did the Conference over which he presided determine an important case of discipline, the records of which occupy a spicuous place in the Minutes of that year ; but it also proceeded to the establishment of the Theological Institution, which was made the innocent occasion of strife and manifold contention. The occurrences of that season cannot soon or easily be forgotten. Toilsome days and sleepless nights were the President's lot. It was to him a period, not only of immense labour, but of perpetual and wearing anxiety. His constitution then received a shock severer than any that had preceded it, and one from which he never fully recovered. But he was prodigal of health and strength in the service of Christ and His church. It is scarcely necessary to say, that not a few aspersions were thrown even on his blameless character. But the witness of his own conscience, the unanimous approval of his brethren, and the cheer of his Master's smile, were to him an ample recompense. In no place were the exertions called forth by this crisis more exhausting, or the duties imposed more difficult, or the consequences of dissension more painful, than in the town of Manchester. But his conciliatory though firm deportment, and the wisdom and power of his pulpit-services in that trying conjuncture, were acknowledged by those who differed most widely from him ; and are the subject, on the part of his friends, of grateful remembrance to this day.
A testimony of deepest respect and love, in relation to Mr. Taylor's course of life at this time, is borne by one who resided in the house with him as his Assistant, and who had the most favourable opportunities of acquiring an intimate knowledge of his principles, his spirit, and his daily walk. “ Those who knew him best,” says Mr. Thornton, "and saw him most, at the date of those proceedings which issued in various acts of discipline, cannot fail to remember the eminently religious spirit in which he, as President, bore his conspicuous part, and sought to guard the highest interests of a spiritual church. unhesitatingly say that, though I saw him on many of the most trying occasions, when he was harassed by everything most calculated to provoke, I never could observe a temper or feeling inconsistent with holy living, or unsuitable to the hour of holy dying. During this period he was often greatly debilitated by sickness, and more than once, to the apprehension of his own circle, very near the invisible world; but he indicated, in each of these exigencies, the peaceful frame that prepared him either for earth or for heaven."
“I refer not, at any length,” Mr. Thornton also writes, “to those characters of his,-self-consuming zeal, stern fidelity, true patriotism to all our greater interests, and tenderest kindness to the young of the flock,—which must have been admired wherever he was known. But, in the review of his services,—ever unostentatious, but ever untiring, and often rendered amid peculiar suffering,-his surviving friends may apply to Mr. Taylor the beautiful monumental tribute earned by one of his forerunners :
“Thy labours of unwearied love,
From London he removed, in the year 1836, to the Worcester Circuit, where he remained two years. This was, in many respects, a favourite appointment. The state of the work, indeed, required active and persevering effort on his part. But he was received with affectionate esteem. Ile administered the most seasonable counsels and admonitions, preached the word with his wonted zeal and fidelity, promoted meetings for prayer, and patiently waited for success. The temper in which he entered on this new sphere of labour, is forcibly expressed in a letter addressed to the Rev. Peter M‘Owan, in September, 1836 : “My great business, I feel, is to get more of the spirit of power and of a healthful mind. To live entirely under His influence, and to walk with God at all times, are my object and aim. But I want to prize and pursue these more ardently and steadily. The latter part of Phil. iii. 12, But I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus,' is a text dear to my heart, both to preach on, and to live.” Some time afterwards he writes to the same friend,"I read more than formerly, and prize and profit by devotional retirement. In my nearer approaches to the grave, my mind is thankful, and blessedly weaned from earth. It only wants more of heaven.—My ministerial work, as far as the effort goes, was never more comfortable ; and, did I see fruit, it would be truly joyous. The Bible is more endeared than I ever recollect it to have been. As my health admits, I endeavou to assist the brethren in the poor Circuits around. But I can only do little. I give thanks that others, who are able, are employed."
Late in the year 1836, he suffered considerable injury by the sudden fall of his horse, as if shot. But he recovered from this; and, for some time after his arrival at Worcester, seemed greatly to improve in health. It was here, however, that, in the year 1837, he was called to endure the heaviest domestic affliction. Mrs. Taylor, without premonition, had a severe apoplectic seizure, which, after a season of painful suffering, issued in her removal to a better life. Mr. Taylor has himself narrated some of the circumstances attendant on this mournful event, in a letter to his friend, Mrs. David Brown, of London. After some previous remarks, he writes,—" Friday, though about an hour's sleep was obtained early, was a day of much