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MEMOIR OF THE REV. JOSEPH TAYLOR.
(To the Editors of the Wesleyan-Methodist Magazine.) An account of Mr. Taylor, drawn up by the Rev. Francis A. West, and used at the time when funeral sermons were preached on occasion of his decease, was kindly communicated to the writer. To this he has added such other information, from different sources, as it was in his power to obtain ; and he now commits these memorials of departed worth to the Editors, in the hope that, imperfect as they are, they will not prove unedifying.
JOHN HANNAH. Didsbury, May 3d, 1850.
To prepare a memoir of the late Rev. Joseph Taylor, which shall contain incidents of his history, as well as sketches of his exemplary character, is not an easy task. Relations and friends, who might have been expected to supply the facts of his earlier life, have now, with few exceptions, passed away. From this source, therefore, but little assistance can be derived. Nor can Mr. Taylor's private papers be made available ; for it appears to have been a practice with him to destroy his own manuscripts, almost entirely, every three years. Few and scanty, howeyer, as the materials for a biographical record may be, they deserve to be collected and arranged. Occasional fragments, or traces, which recall the memory of true Christian excellence, and which disclose the progress of heavenly grace in one of its most willing subjects, cannot fail to administer instruction and encouragement to them who are also seeking to “serve their generation by the will of God.”
Joseph Taylor was born, in the year 1779, at the village of Walton, near Brampton, in the county of Cumberland. At the early age of four or five years, he had serious impressions of his guilt and sinfulness, which seem never to have been effaced. He was trained by an affectionate grandmother with great moral care, and may be said, like Obadiah, to have “ feared the Lord from his youth.” When he had reached the age of about sixteen, the parish in which be lived was first visited by Methodist Preachers. He attended their ministrations, with a heart not indisposed or unprepared for the reception of the truth. By the blessing of God on their labours, he was led to the attainment of what to the latest hour of his life he prized beyond all VOL. VI.-FOURTH SERIES.
treasure,—"the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord;” and he at once surrendered himself, without reserve, to Him whom he rejoiced to call “ TAE MASTER." The first-fruits of Methodism in his native village, and for some time the only members of the Society there, were an elderly female and himself. It is not improbable that this circumstance, added to the fact of his having spent his childhood under the care of his estimable grandmother, may have conduced to the formation of that habit of cheerful seriousness which accompanied him all his days. He was remarkable, in afteryears, for the respectful regard which he entertained for elderly and intelligent Christian females ; and he had peculiar pleasure in their society.
The way by which Divine Providence conducted him into his first sphere of important ministerial service, was rather extraordinary. It is related that, in the year 1803, he accompanied a young friend from his own village to Liverpool, in the expectation of seeing that friend depart as a Missionary to the West Indies ; but that, when the Rev. Dr. Coke, to whom the care of the Foreign Missions was then especially confided, saw them both, he was so much impressed with the superior fitness of Mr. Taylor for the work, that he gave him the preference. Mr. Taylor was accordingly directed to prepare for his departure as a Missionary.—He appears to have spent an interval of some considerable length at Manchester and Liverpool. At Manchester he sojourned for the space of about a month, in the house of the late Mr. and Mrs. Broadhurst, where a public meeting for prayer was at that time held every day. From his intercourse with that eminent Missionary Dr. Coke, and with others to whom he was now introduced, (one of whom was the late Rev. Robert Lomas,) he could not fail, by the blessing of God, to derive many lessons of experimental and practical wisdom. He had seen little of the world, and enjoyed comparatively few opportunities of acquiring knowledge of men and things, in the seclusion of his native home: but he was endued, in no ordinary degree, with the gift of sagacity; his fàculties of observation were vigilant and active; and, wherever he was, he could learn something that might be turned to profitable account.
Mr. Taylor was ordained by Dr. Coke, April 1st, 1803; and he sailed from Liverpool for the West Indies on the 29th of May next ensuing, in company with another Missionary. Their voyage was pleasant. With the consent of the captain, who behaved well to them, they preached every Lord's-day to the sailors, and frequently had prayer in the cabin. At length, after a passage of forty-two days, they reached Barbadoes on July 10th. It was a Sabbath-day. The newly-arrived Missionaries repaired to the Wesleyan chapel, and entered it during the morning service, just when the first lesson for that service was in the course of being read. The lesson was the fifteenth chapter of the first Book of Samuel, which speaks of the rejection of Saul for his disobedience to the voice of the Lord iu the case of Amalek. So powerfully did Mr. Taylor feel the responsibility attached to his having been set apart for the work of God,-and so completely was he, for a short time, overwhelmed with a fear of being, like Saul, rejected,—that, in a flood of tears, he poured out his very soul before the Lord for His sustaining and preserving grace. At the conclusion of the lesson, the Missionary who was conducting the service recognised his two friends. Leaving the pulpit, he hastened to them, and saluted them before the whole congregation. And they fell on each other's necks, and wept.
At Barbadoes, Mr. Taylor was kindly received and entertained by a pious black woman. But he did not remain there more than ten or eleven days; for, on the 21st of the same month, he obtained a passage in the fleet for the small island of Nevis, where his regular course of Missionary services began. Touching at the island of Antigua by the way, he had the pleasure of an interview with the Rev. John Baxter, whom he found just recovered from an attack of the yellow fever. He landed at Nevis, July 28th, where he joined the Rev. Edward Turner, at that time the only Missionary on the island. Mr. Turner took knowledge of him as “a young man of deep piety” and hopeful promise. “Praised be the Lord,” writes Mr. Taylor to Dr. Coke from “ Charles-Town, Nevis, August 1st, 1803,” “I am very well in body and mind, and do not feel much inconvenience from the heat. I believe I am just where the Lord would have me to be.” To some of his friends at Brampton he says, in a letter dated September 12th, the same year,—"I cannot say that I repent of one step which I have taken; but, believing that my 'steps' have been ordered by the Lord,' I continue to trust in Him. We meet the people," he adds, “every morning at six, and have meetings every night in the week. This, with visiting the sick and well, is perhaps employment enough.” But he had now entered upon that course of unwearied toil, in public and in private, for which he continued to be so exemplary until the very powers of nature failed.
From Nevis Mr. Taylor removed to Trinidad; but he was reappointed to Nevis in the year 1805. He afterwards prosecuted his indefatigable labours in St. Vincent's, St. Bartholomew's, Tortola, and the other Virgin Islands; and, in the year 1810, had full liberty granted him by the Conference to return to England whenever he pleased. The character which he acquired in the West Indies was deservedly high. “Mr. Taylor," writes the Rev. Charles Hodgson from Tortola, July 15th, 1808, “is a blessed young man. The Lord is with him, and his word is with power. He has been a great blessing to me.”* Many others could have delivered a similar testimony.
* A farther extract from Mr. Hodgson's letter, which affords an instance of what sometimes occurred on the West Indian islands in former days, may be added in a note :-“The principal Magistrates of Tortola,” says Mr. Hodgson, “ have seats in our chapel, and constantly attend preaching. They are very familiar with us. A few weeks ago, the Commander-in-chief of the Windward Islands, General W., and his staff, were here. They all attended the chapel. Mr. Taylor preached ; and the next day we received a letter from the King's Counsel, (a good friend of
But he was constantly attentive to the state of his own heart. “My health is good,” he writes to the Rev. Robert Lomas, May 12th, 1806, “and I enjoy the favour and presence of my Lord day by day. Bless His name !” “Since I was with you in Manchester,” he writes to the same, July 19th, 1806, “I have got more knowledge of men and things; and, what is far better, more experience of the mercy and faithfulness of our blessed Lord.”—“I bless the Lord,” he writes to the same, August 13th, “that since I saw you, Ile has given me to enjoy His blessing and presence. IIad I been more faithful, Ged would have made me more holy and useful. IIowever, Ile bas graciously preserved me, I trust, from turning to the right hand, or to the left. He enables me to testify that He has my whole heart, and that the purpose of my soul is to live wholly to Him.”—“In regard to myself,” he writes to Dr. Coke, March 10th, 1807, “my Lord gives me to feel His service to be my delight and reward. I bless His name that He preserves me day by day. lle gives me to love Himself, His people, and His cause in general. If I know myself, my desire is to be wholly His every moment; and I trust He will save me to the end from sin and its consequences.” “I love God and His work,” he writes to Mr. Lomas, June 11th, the same year. “I wish to be found approved in His sight; and I do know whom I have believed,' and feel His power to save.” Is it surprising that a man so devoted to God and His cause should be eminently and extensively successful ?
At one of his appointments in the West Indies, he was accustomed, after the labours of the day, to sleep in a room adjoining to the chapel, with no human being near. A good black woman would prepare his supper, and then leave him alone with God. He often referred to these nights as seasons of sweet and happy communion with heaven. To him it was not solitude to be alone. During the earlier part of his residence abroad, he appears to have enjoyed vigorous health, with but few interruptions. Afterwards, however, he was more than once brought to the margin of the grave by fever and ague ; and he was also exposed to great perils by sea. When he referred, in his subsequent life, to these times of affliction and jeopardy, he would lift his eyes and hands upward, and with strong feeling repeat the stanzas,
“Oft hath the sea confess'd Thy power,
And given me back at Thy command ;
Safe in the hollow of Thine hand.
ours, and a communicant,) informing us that the General and President were highly pleased with the sermon. Mr. Taylor and myself waited upon the General. He received us with great kindness, talked with us about an hour, and declared himself quite satisfied with all our proceedings. We were invited to dine with him and his officers : we went accordingly, and were treated with all possible attention and respect. We were desired to ask a blessing, and to return thanks, which we did, all standing up,- the General himself setting the example. Our company consisted of all the principal officers, civil, naval, and military, then upon the island.”