Taylor, George (1792-1837)
MEMOIR OF MR. GEORGE TAYLOR,
Late of Brindley,
By Mr. Thomas Bateman of Chorley.
As the records of holy and useful lives, and happy and triumphant deaths, have frequently, under the divine blessing, been instrumental of much good, in building up believers in their most holy faith — awakening the careless — reclaiming backsliders, and stirring up the lukewarm, it is hoped the following will not only be acceptable but useful to a considerable number of the readers of the P. M. Magazine. It may be regretted that the subject of the following remarks left behind him no written account of himself; from which, various incidents in his early life, — many particulars connected with his awakenings for sin, — his conversion to God, and his connexion with the Christian Church, unknown to the writer, might have been introduced; which would, not only have insured a more correct likeness, but, by means of which, in quoting his own words, he, being dead, would yet speak.
In the absence of these, it is to be feared, the present sketch will be found imperfect; and the writer is pained with the idea of the character of so distinguished an individual losing any of its lustre by passing through his hands. Indeed, had there been an attempt made under more favourable circumstances, this would not have appeared. But this attempt was made, because there seemed no alternative between it and none, and because it did not seem right to suffer so distinguished an individual to escape from our world unnoticed and unobserved, to sink into the sepulchre of his fathers, and rest with the silent dead, without, at least, attempting to register his name and record his memory in the archives of that Connexion, of which he had long been so distinguished, so honourable, and so useful a member.
“It were profane
To quench a glory lighted at the skies,
And cast in shadows his illustrious close.”
The whole must now be left to HIS blessing, without which,
“In vain the poet sings, or the world hears;
If HE regard not, though divine the theme,
‘Tis not in artful measures, in the chime,
And idle tinkling of a mistrel’s lyre,
To charm his ear, whose eye is on the heart.”
George, son of John and Mary Taylor, was born March 15, 1792, at Houghton, in the parish of Bunbury, in the county of Chester. Of his early years I have little to record, that would be of utility to the reader. His mother says, he was remarkably dutiful and obliging to his parents, and loving and affectionate to his sister and brothers. When sent to school he was very studious, and anxiously sought to acquire the rudiments of education. His parents being respectable farmers, he was brought up to labour in that line of business; and, under their instruction and influence, formed habits of industry, carefulness, and sobriety, that have very seldom been excelled. He was brought up in the established religion; and early taught to revere the sanctity of its doctrines, its worship, and sanctuary; yet be had a great predilection for Methodists and Methodism, so called : and occasionally attended the preaching of the Wesleyans in the neighbourhood where he then resided. But whether any peculiar impressions were made on his mind by their means, or what were his views of inward religion at this time, I cannot say, beyond that, after leaving school, he often expressed a wish to leave the bustle of the world, to retire into the woods or some lonely recess, and spend his life in solitary seclusion. Thinking, by these means, he could best devote himself to the glory of God, be more holy and more happy. What a mistake! He thought of hiding his talent to make it bring forth usury, — of placing his candle under a bushel to give light: forgetting the apostolic precept, “To do good and to communicate (instruction and assistance to your fellow men,) forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” Though at this time, he was strictly moral in his conduct, so much so, as touching the outward law, to be proverbially blameless; yet it is evident, he was a stranger to the saving grace of God, and unacquainted with that holy feeling, which, in after-life, like a secret spring, urged him on to action, and led him to aim, with a burning zeal, at the accomplishment of bold and daring deeds.
About the year 1812; the family, consisting of himself, his father, mother, one sister, and two brothers, removed to a farm at Brindley, in the vicinity of Burland, where he continued to reside until his death; and where his aged mother, having braved the storms of nearly fourscore winters, — long ago separated from the husband of her youth, by a sudden stroke, and now by the death of her son, rendered still more lonely, still resides.
It was soon after this period, that I first became acquainted with him; and though he was considerably my senior in years, yet between us an intimacy grew up, — a friendship was formed, which no circumstances in after-life were ever suffered to break off, or ever alloy; But which increased in stability, utility, and value to us both, until his removal hence. For such a friend, and such friendship as this, what a debt of gratitude I owe to Providence,
“I loved him much but now I love him more.
How blessings brighten as they take their flight!”
But though the bud of friendship is thus immaturely blighted, I cannot sorrow as one without hope, while I anticipate its fairer and lovelier blossom, beyond the reach of storms, in a milder clime for ever. Indeed such was the urbanity and suavity of his manners, — the vivacity of his deportment, — the vividness and brilliancy of his wit, — his ready turn of mind, linked with a certain playfullness of temper, as furnished him with facilities to please and profit. Hence, he was an interesting and agreeable companion to all that were favoured with his friendship.
Sometime after they came to Brindley, his father was removed hence by a sudden and unexpected stroke, not having made those family arrangements, or adjusted his temporal affairs in that manner which serious thought and prolonged opportunity would no doubt have suggested. In consequence of this calamity, the laws of the country placed in the hands of Mr. Taylor, by birthright, a power which he might have exercised to the injury of his widowed mother, and other members of his family; and which, no doubt, some would have done, and thought it but right; but instead of looking upon this event as a profitable privilege, which an unexpected and calamitous contingency had placed within his reach, and exercising it to individual advantage, he, with scrupulous integrity, looked upon it, and sacredly employed it to the advantage of the whole family, in a way and manner, which as to sinister views and designs, removed him above the reach of suspicion; and in the mind of his family and friends, established his honest and upright intentions, on a basis at once conspicuous and firm as a mountain of brass. On this subject, a friend and relation well acquainted with the family, and family affairs, thus remarks:
‘But few persons have been better acquainted with the late Mr. G. Taylor than myself: I have had the honour and happiness of his friendship for forty years last passed; and for the last twenty years of his life, I have been intimately acquainted with his objects and pursuits. Being left fatherless at one stroke, be was frequently called upon to transact the business of this life for the family and others; and I can say with confidence, I never knew him in one instance, to deviate from the strict line of integrity.’
It was in the spring of the year 1819, that the Primitive Methodists first visited this neighbourhood. And this event not only formed a very important era in the life of Mr. Taylor, but were the picture of the neighbourhoods round about, to be fairly drawn, the spring and summer of 1819, would form a very conspicuous, important, and commanding feature in that picture. Many of the inhabitants seemed at once to awake from a scene of moral turpitude, a deep and deadly slumber; and not a few were stirred up to seek the Lord. And though the district is rural, and the population remarkably thin, I have often seen, at those times, after the labours of the day were closed, seven or eight hundred met together on Chorley green, for purposes of devotion.
It was at the first of those meetings held on Chorley green, that Mr. T. first attended these means. At which time and place he was made the subject of divine impressions, although it appears that he, like many others, attended out of curiosity. The congregation being very large, and the principal religious exercises being in the center, he got on an eminence as be said to see how they made Methodists. But the arrows of conviction, directed by an unerring band, found a way to his heart, and he came down with another enquiry, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
I well remember meeting with him in the assembly at that time. To paint the scene that surrounded us requires a master hand. Numbers were on their knees or stretched on the ground under deep convictions, groaning the sinners only plea, God be merciful to me. Numbers, in whose hearts the law of kindness was written, were on their behalf besieging the throne of grace; numbers were entering into liberty and joining with other numbers in singing the songs of Zion; while a multitude, filled with admiration, astonishment and surprise, were saying “Who hath seen it after this sort.”
“Well, my friend,” said I, “what do you think of this?” Though I did not expect from him such an answer as from the thoughtless and profane, yet he gave me such a one as I did not expect, one that convinced me, at once, he had begun to sorrow after a godly sort. He knelt down among the mourners, and wept in the bitterness of his soul. Prayer was offered up for him. He did not, however, obtain consolation at that time; but he continued earnestly seeking and devoutly enquiring, “Where is God my Saviour, who giveth songs in the night?” But instead of deliverance from the weight under which he was oppressed, his burden became intolerable to bear. This conviction for sin increased, became more poignant, and lacerating, until many a night his-sleep departed from him, and he lost all relish for his daintiest food. He feared lest he had committed the unpardonable sin. That mercy’s merciful hand would never be stretched out to assist him. And thus he continued to write bitter things against himself until his grief became excessive, and unbroken and unmitigated sorrow of heart, his companion. The advice and assistance of praying friends seemed unavailable, while the failings and follies of his past life pursued him like a spirit, and seemed to urge him on to the brink of despair. Thus the tide of his troubles continued to rise, and the storm to beat upon him with incessant fury, until such was the state of his agitated mind, that some of his friends actually became alarmed for his welfare, and feared lest, in an evil hour, under the malignant power of temptation, he should be led to do a deed which his soul abhorred. He was, however, all this time in the hands of a merciful Providence, which was wisely bringing him by a way which he knew not.
Perhaps some who read this account will feel surprise, that a person whose inflexible integrity had been so unimpeachable, and whose moral conduct so irreproachable, should still be doomed to wade through such deep waters of conviction, and in drinking the cup of bitterness, should thus be forced to drink it to the very dregs. This is not always the case. But it has been remarked, that when God is about to raise a person up to fill a peculiar station in the Church, and ‘stand a waymark in the way to bliss’ it is often so. Mr. T. is not a solitary proof of this fact. Saul of Tarsus is evidently another. And by his deep and pungent conviction for sin, it is intimated that God was teaching him how great things he must suffer for his name’s sake.
The time of Mr. T’s. deliverance at last approached, and the thick and dense darkness began to give way, and to be succeeded by presages of a brighter and happier day. The Wesleyans were in the way of holding an annual Love-feast at Lea Hall, a few miles distant from Nantwich, on Whitsunday. Though as far as I know, Lea Hall was not peculiar for Methodism, yet this annual Love-feast had risen into notice. Many frequently attended and found it a feast of love indeed, a time of the Son of man with power. The night before this Lovefeast in 1819, Mrs. T. asked her son to read her a chapter in the bible. She did this in order to divert his mind from the deep melancholy which was still brooding over it. He took up the bible to do so; but his feelings soon overcame him, and he could proceed no further. He then took the book and retired to a private room, to weep and pray. His mother followed him, and sought by every means in her power to still the tempest that was raging in his beating bosom.
“But thus far and no farther, when addressed
To the wild waves or wilder human breast,
Implies authority that never can,
That never ought to be the lot of man.”
His sister returning from the market at the time, enquired for him; being informed of his retreat, she went to his room, where she found him giving way to inconsolable grief. “George,” said she, “there is a Lovefeast at Lea Hall to-morrow, and you are invited to attend.” In relating his experience afterwards, he often said his sister’s naming the Love-feast went through his heart. The term Lovefeast itself seemed to arrange and settle, in some sort, his confused ideas. He felt an elatement of mind, a hope springing up in his fluttering breast, rather more like joy than he had known for some time past. The next morning he set out for this Love-feast; and while there he received a measure of consolation. It has been said by some, and no doubt thought by others, that he there fully obtained the blessing which he sought, and was fully assured of his acceptance with God. But this, I believe, was not exactly the case. If he was at all enabled to read his title to a better world, it was not very clear. The characters were scarcely legible. Hence, in reading it he was obliged to ponder and spell. But he was not satisfied with this; he pursued his object therefore with renewed exertions. Encouraged by what he had already obtained, he more earnestly pushed the battle to the gate. And one day, soon after this, when engaged with God in mighty prayer, in a field, these words were forcibly applied to his heart.
“Thy sins are forgiven, accepted thou art.
He listened,—and heaven sprung up in his heart.”
That moment his chains fell off — his soul was free. His state of agitation was succeeded by the peace of forgiven sin and the smile of an approving conscience. The night of darkness and storm retired, and a serene and cheerful morning arose upon the soul, a happy prospect of perpetual day.
“This done the raging storm was heard no more,
Mercy received him on her peaceful shore:
And justice, guardian of the dread command,
Dropped the red vengeance from his willing hand.”
Being now renewed in the spirit of his mind, he at once devoted himself to God, and joined himself to his merciful Deliverer, in the bonds of a holy and perpetual covenant, never to he disannulled. And in pursuing him from this eventful period through the after years of life, it is not mine to record the wayward wanderings of one sometimes in the way, and sometimes out, “neither hot nor cold;” No! though a traveller through the wilderness of this world, amidst a crooked and perverse generation, he ever managed with an admirable dexterity to keep his face toward the land of promise. And though in the cause of God his active mind became ever employed, like the planets in their orbits, in perpetual motion; yet he was never retrograde.
“His watchword was onward, and onward he went.” If he darted not upward with the velocity of the eagle, he at least imitated her steadiest flight. The signal deliverance he had experienced made such a durable impression on his mind as enabled him to fell and show that
“A soul redeem’d demands a life of praise;
Hence the complexion of his future days.
Hence a demeanor holy and un-speck’d,
And the world’s hatred, has its sure effect.”
Having now joined himself to the Lord, we have next to view him joining himself to his people. To decide upon this subject aright, he appears to have had some difficulty. And as it forms so important a feature in his character, we must examine it with attention. For some time he had much trial of mind, whether to join the Wesleyans, or P. Methodists, having received a measure of good in each community. In this state he continued until the following event took place, which in his own mind settled the point at once and for ever. And as it so materially affects his conduct in this case, whatever delicacy I may feel, I think it right to introduce it. The Wesleyans having a lovefeast at Nantwich, several of Mr. T.’s friends invited him to attend. He went with another man, who, like himself, had just set out for heaven. When he came to the chapel door, and was about to enter, the preacher who was about to lead the lovefeast, stepped up and said to Mr. T., “You shall not come in here, you are a Clowesite.” “Sir,” replied he, “I have a desire to save my soul, and if I can get to heaven I shall not be asked to whom I belong.” Here some of his friends interfered, and so far succeeded as to cause the preacher to consent to his coming in. But the preacher would by no means admit his friend. Mr. T. therefore chose rather to be excluded with, then separated from his friend; and they both left the chapel without entering. This, he often said, was one of the greatest trials of mind he ever met with. It appeared so widely different from religion in his own view, that he could not possibly reconcile it. And being but a babe in Christ, this was a blow which made him stagger. When he retired to rest at night, his sleep departed from him; and on the morrow, when about his business, he could have no peace until he went to Nantwich to reason the case with the preacher single handed; and before they parted, they knelt down together and invoked the blessing of heaven upon each other. What object the Rev. gentleman could have in view in excluding him, it is difficult to say. Supposing he had admitted him, would there have been any danger of those who related their Christian experience casting their pearls before a swine? Or giving the children’s bread to a dog? With regard to the charge of his being a Clowesite, if at all, was not altogether correct Had he submitted to personal inclination, I judge he was nearer being a Wesleyan. He had already begun to attend their class meetings. Several of his friends also whose counsel had great weight with him, were Wesleyans; add to this the bias of his own mind was that way. And I strongly suspect that had he received the right hand of fellowship at that lovefeast, a Wesleyan he would have been. But who that beheld his career in the Christian church, after this, can help thinking that the finger of God was in the affair. As it is uncertain what was the view of the preacher in excluding him, it is unsafe in me to offer judgment; the reader shall therefore have Mr. T’s view of it in his own words:
“At that time I was halting between two opinions. I had received a measure of good among the Wesleyans, and a measure of good among the P. Methodists; and which of the two to join I could not decide. I felt no personal ambition to gratify, no sordid desire to please; my object was singly and solely to glorify God, by joining that people among whom I might be the most holy and the most useful. When I went to that lovefeast, the balance thus hung in trembling suspence, and had I been offered a world I could not say in favour of which it would fall. The preacher perhaps knew this, and fancied that by excluding me, he should help me to a decision, and bring me over to them at once. Blessed be God, he did help me to a decision, but not perhaps as he anticipated, for an inward impression, forcibly wrought upon my mind, of the P. Methodists, I was enabled to say at once, ‘This people shall be my people, and their God my God.’”
Thus he decided. And though perhaps no person knew so much of his mind as I did, we not only frequently took sweet counsel together, and walked to the house of God in company, but in devising means for the welfare of the circuit, the connexion, and the church of God, we often burned our lamps at the hour of midnight together, yet I had never the slightest reason, from any thing he said or did, to think that he regretted his decision; but rather gloried in his choice. Thus he became a P. Methodist, and was soon attached to the cause he had espoused, with all his heart. He entered spiritedly into it, and laboured much to promote its interests. Yet he was no bigot. There are those in different communities, who can bear testimony that, though an affectionate, zealous, and faithful member of a spiritual family, he was not an evil-designing or illnatured neighbour. He heartily desired and anxiously laboured for the whole household of faith. And thus not only cultivated an acquaintance with, but secured the affectionate regard of various members of other communities. Thus showing that,
“Were love in these, the world’s last doating years,
As frequent as the want of it appears,
Relenting forms would lose their pow’r or cease,
And e’en the dipp’d and sprinkled live in peace:
Each heart would quit its prison in the breast,
And flow in free communion with the rest”
At the time of the lovefeast, just alluded to, I believe no societies were formed in this neighbourhood. But soon after this, S. Turner, after preaching on Burland Green, gave notice ‘That he should go to Bro. Darlington’s, and would gladly receive the names of any who wished to join their little band!’ Numbers rushed in until the house was filled, to give in their names, some of whom scarcely ever met in class afterwards. But Mr. Taylor, with that deliberation and caution, which marked his conduct in all the important acts of his life; having begun to build and having counted the cost, in raising each successive stone in the foundation, was inclined to act with care. Instead therefore of rushing forward and acting with careless precipitance, it was rather his to ponder the path of his feet. He did not therefore go into the house; but a friend came out and asked him if he would not join them. He said, “‘I saw all Israel scattered upon the mountains like sheep without a shepherd,’ If I join, where is our leader?” It was said the preacher will lead us until the Lord raise up a leader among ourselves. Though he did not join them that night, he did do so a few days afterwards; and in a short time was selected as the leader of this infant church; which important and responsible office he held with faithfulness and integrity, to the hour of his death. He was also the leader of another class or two for some time.
At this time the cause was spreading with amazing rapidity from village to village, and neighbourhood to neighbourhood. The harvest was truly rich and plenteous, but the labourers scattered and few. Every talent therefore was in requisition. And each individual was called up to action. Mr. T. was requested to preach. He consented, and an appointment was made for him at a place which was then substituted for Chorley, there being no place at Chorley, large enough to contain the congregation, which then attended. Many prayers had been offered up for this meeting, and expectation ran high. From what I knew of Mr. T.’s adroitness and ready wit, I fancied as a preacher he would be a star of considerable magnitude. The time come. He stood up in the congregation with trembling limbs — weeping eyes — and a beating bosom, manifesting a deep anxiety that sinners should be brought to Christ, ‘Himself but newly found in him.’ After singing and prayer, he gave out his text, ‘Go ye out into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.’ &c. He proceeded with his subject for about two minutes, when he could say no more. A friend present gave out a verse which was sung. He then made another attempt which was equally fruitless. The seal of silence was again imposed upon his lip, and he stood before the people with not a word to say. Never can I forget this event. Though near twenty years have rolled round since it took place, his appearance is still fresh in my memory; and even while I write his image flits before my vision with peculiar vividness. The congregation all seemed to sympathise and feel. There was scarcely a heart unaffected, or an eye in which the big tear was not seen glistening. And though disappointed of hearing a sermon, I hesitate not to say that many returned from that meeting better satisfied then they have often done after hearing an eloquent, learned, and laboured harangue. Thus his first attempt at preaching was an abortion. And some might perhaps think that discouraged by this, he would try no more. But the fire was burning in his bones. He had the love of souls at heart; and for Zion’s sake he could not hold his peace. And accordingly the next sabbath he made another attempt, to a select number of friends at his mother’s house, with a little more success. After this, as a preacher, he went onward pursuing the noiseless tenor of his way. And though in this capacity, it must be acknowledged, he did not excel, yet even as a preacher he was generally acceptable and useful in his own circuit; for his congregations knew that if they were not listening to an eloquent orator, they were to a faithful, staid, and established Christian; who not only, now and then stood up before them to instruct and warn, but constantly preached to them by the silent oratory of a blameless life. Hence in the pulpit it was rather his to be loved for his value, then admired as an ornament; for
“Church ladders are not always mounted best,
By learned Clerks or latinists profess’d;
Our needful knowledge, like our needful food,
Unhedg’d lies open in life’s common field,
And bids all welcome to the common feast.”
But in the Christian church there are various offices, requiring various talents; and in filling some of these, Mr. T manifested peculiar talent. And in discharging the responsible duties reposed to his trust, such was his fidelity zeal, and integrity, that he shone forth with unsullied lustre. The utility and profiting raised him to an eminence so peculiar and conspicuous as commanded the admiration of many within, and not a few without the pale of the church to which he belonged. Soon after his joining society, Tunstall circuit having become very extensive, was divided into several branches, of which Burland was one. Mr. T. was selected as steward; and under his watchful eye and fostering care, the branch flourished.
In process of time Burland was made a circuit Mr. T. was still the steward, which important situation he retained to his death. To promote the welfare of the circuit he made many sacrifices, endured many trials, surmounted many difficulties, and laboured with all his heart. He was not only a pillar, but the chief pillar in the circuit. Their house was made the common home for the preachers, and not only the friends of our own connexion, but the friends of Jesus generally of every name, ever met with a hearty welcome, under the shade of this hospitable roof. On one occasion, Mrs. T. having expressed some doubts that their liberality would injure their temporal affairs, “Mother,” said he, “if you think that we cannot afford to keep the preachers so much, sooner then they shall suffer lack, I will gladly take up with two meals per day.” Their liberality, however, was continued ; but instead of injuring their temporal affairs, he has often told me that since they took in the preachers, a kind Providence had more than doubled their property. Thus they proved that giving a cup of cold water to a disciple shall not lose its reward.
“Religion’s all, descending from the skies,
To wretched man, the goddess in her left,
Holds out this world, and in her right the next”
When any thing unpleasant took place among the preachers or members that threatened the well-fare of the circuit, such was his concern, that his sister says they soon knew about it, though he said not a word. He assumed such a sorrowful countenance, so often retired into private, and even refused his necessary food, until, as far as he could, he had settled the affair. Such was his knowledge of the usages of the connexion, and such his skill for maintaining rule and order, that the circuit generally left all its affairs in his hands, with the utmost confidence; and allowed him to exercise such a power, and in such a manner, as perhaps not one in a thousand ought to do. To him the circuit looked up, as to a counsellor, a friend, a father; and in the management of its internal concerns, from his judgment and decision, there was seldom a necessity for appeal. Under the notice and influence of such a vigalent and faithful friend as this, no wonder that Burland circuit has always flourished, until it has become not one of the least among the tribes of our Israel.
With regard to his labours in the circuit, Bro. Hallam bears the following testimony: “From the midsummer of 1830, to that of 1833,I laboured in Burland circuit, during which time I was intimately acquainted with Mr. G. Taylor; and the more I knew of him, the more I respected him. His responsibility in the circuit was very great, he being, for many years, a class leader, local preacher, circuit steward, and circuit book steward; which offices he sustained with credit to himself, and advantage to the circuit. The financial affairs of the circuit being principally in his bands, he had, on many occasions, to sacrifice much time in attending to them; and frequently, after a hard days labour, would sit up a great part of the night, adjusting the accounts. This greatly relieved the travelling preachers, and allowed them more time for ministerial labours. The Burland circuit has, from its infancy, been greatly preserved from embarrassment — has greatly relieved its chapels, and has also contributed largely to various distressed chapels in different parts of the connexion. In regard to the funds of the connexion, the printed minutes will testify that Burland circuit has on different occasions, largely contributed towards their support. And in these beneficient acts Mr. T. had a main hand.
“Being a great family visitor, he was frequently called upon to visit persons at a considerable distance; and whether by night or by day, he, if possible, obeyed the call. If not he took care that some one else did. In cases of trial and difficulty, whether temporal and spiritual, he might always be consulted with confidence; and generally his advice was found to be of great service. Of this I am witness. His liberality in supporting the cause of God will be a lasting monument of praise.”
Sometime ago he, in connexion with a few others, formed a plan for visiting the inhabitants of Burland, and the neighbourhood round about, on Sabbath mornings before the prayer meetings at nine o’clock; or on the week nights after the labours of the day were closed. They went from house to house, passing by the door of none whether rich or poor, or whatever their creed might be; and briefly exhorted and prayed with each family. If they were only three of them they usually went together, but if four they divided two and two, but went in the same direction, taking house for house. Some fruit has already appeared from these works of mercy and labours of love. In addition to this Mr. T. was in the constant practice of visiting the sick and sorrowing, far and wide, both rich and poor. On these occasions the law of kindness ever dwelt upon his lips, and frequently in the chambers of disease and languishment, “Where helpless anguish pours its moan, And lonely want retires to die,” he might be seen pointing the sufferer to the sinners only hope; or comforting the afflicted Christian with the promises of the gospel.
To the preachers in the circuit, and especially those commencing their career he was a nursing-father, leading them onward to the work, and encouraging them in it.
Yet in all these works of mercy he seemed proof against the desire of human praise. He made no ostentatious show — no vain and senseless parade — no empty attempts to ‘shine in borrowed plumes.’ His plainness and simplicity were striking. He was not only one of the old fashioned, but one of the best fashioned Christians. His ruling principle seemed to be, to do good and lend to his fellow men, looking for nothing again, that he might have treasure in heaven. Hence it was not his to attract the attention of every wanderer, like the roaring of a mighty cataract, by noise and show; but like stiller streams, which winding their silent course, oft water fairer meadows; and rightly to know his value, a person must draw near to him — look steadily at him — and be well acquainted with him. His natural disposition was remarkably timid, and diffident; but after his conversion, inspired by grace, he ever manifested in the cause of God a sort of sainted daring. When any opposed the truth either by word or deed, he seldom failed to reprove them, whether rich or poor, though it might awake their indignation, or threaten his temporal welfare. In such a cause he could not fear. ‘Truth bade him look on men as autumn leaves, and all they bleed for as the summer’s dust.’
Let none suppose from what has been said, that for the sake of a friend and because of friendship I exaggerate, or that I am attempting to hold up to them a perfect model; or in sketching his character, to represent one altogether devoid of failing and weakness. It becomes a faithful biographer to tell the truth; the whole truth even of his friend. From this I shrink not.
“He had his spots, and spots are in the sun,
To err is human:
‘Tis vain to look in men for more then man.”
The only failing, however, which deserves notice here, was a certain irritability of temper, which led him sometimes to speak unadvisedly, and to act precipitantly. This failing he often deplored, and, by the grace of God, was enabled in a great measure to overcome it, long before his removal hence. I know it will not suffice in this point to mention the great trials of mind through which he had to pass; yet I think it may be fairly proved that ‘e’en his failings leaned to virtue’s side.’ For I seldom knew him betrayed into this spirit, except when he saw or fancied he saw the cause of God in danger; and a prompt and spirited interference necessary. And on some occasions even while a stranger would think he was acting rashly, or reproving too hastily, a friend better acquainted with him, would discover the big tear start in his eye, and the feeling of brotherly affection heating in his bosom.
It was not to his own circuit, or to his own neighbourhood only, that his valuable labours were confined. When he first joined society, the connexion comparatively speaking was but in its infancy. It had not attained to that maturity and stability which it now has. Hence in forming rules and devising means for its future welfare, the exercise of skill and caution were necessary. Mr. T. not only loved the cause which he had espoused with all his heart, but he had such a skill and discernment in the management of its affairs, that he proved a valuable acquisition to the rising cause. He frequently attended the district meetings and Conferences, where he was often listened to with marked attention, and was generally respected and highly valued for his works’ sake. Hence when a deed of settlement was formed, Mr. T. was chosen as a permanent member of the Conference, his name being placed on the Deed Poll.
Mr. Taylor having his mind deeply imbued, even in the midst of health, with that startling verity, ‘In the midst of life we are in death,’ happily escaped that dilemma into which so many fall, who ‘Give to time eternity’s regard, and dreaming take their passage for their port.’ He was ever measuring himself by the standard of the sanctuary; and seeing that his feet were ever approaching the threshold of the narrow house where dwells the multitude, he put not far away the evil day, but looked .upon death and eternity as always hemming him in on every side. Oh! how unlike the conduct of the multitude, who, thoughtless and unconcerned, will not be persuaded of death’s approach, though hoary age or affliction has introduced him to their door.
“Tell me, some God! my guardian angel, tell
What thus infatuates?
He knocks, they hear him, and yet they will not hear.”
Thus Mr. T. went on, ‘a burning and a shining light.’ And as he was to appearance a strong athletic man, hopes might well be entertained that the circuit and the connexion would long partake his valuable services. But, alas! Providence had otherwise ordered it. What is human must decay.
“Death loves a shining- mark, a signal blow;
A blow, which, while it executes, alarms,
And startles thousands with a single fall.
Thus runs his dread commission: strike
but so, As most alarms the living by the dead”
The spring of 1837, therefore, brings us to the closing scene of his life. On the Sabbath before the district meeting held at Ludlow, (in Shropshire,) as we were each pursuing our labours of doing, or at least attempting to do good, we met together. In the course of our conversation I perceived he possessed not that buoyancy of spirits so common to him, but seemed to be labouring under some deep depression of mind. Fancying that it might arise from some sore temptation or keen trial, I made no remarks to him on the subject. In speaking of Burland chapel, however, he made one remark of which I have often thought since. He observed, had its erection been delayed a little longer, we should have had a better chance of obtaining freehold land. But, added he, if my services have been of any use to it, it has been built none too soon; for had it been delayed much longer it most likely would not have had them. From this I have thought that he had even then some presentiment of his approaching dissolution: ‘Shall I hide from Abraham the thing which I do?’ When we parted, he earnestly entreated me to pray much for him. He then went to Burland chapel to preach, where it was remarked he seemed more than ever in earnest, in faithfully warning his neighbours and friends to ‘flee from the wrath to come.’ He seemed as though he could not leave them: and on this occasion took two texts, and preached two sermons; a thing which he had not been known to do at Burland before. On the Friday after this, he set out for the district meeting. He remarked to his mother, that he had never before set out on such an errand with such a heavy heart. When he came to Whitchurch he was disappointed of a coach, and was further told, that unless he could get to Shrewsbury by such a time he would not get a coach to Ludlow that day. Not being a very swift traveller, he had to walk beyond his common pace, and just arrived at Shrewsbury in time; where he got upon the coach all in a perspiration, and soon afterwards felt very cold. When he returned from this meeting he complained of being unwell; but no danger being apprehended, and he continuing to go about, no medical aid was sought for some time. On the 30th of April I had an appointment at Burland. I received a message from Mr. T., stating that he was so unwell he could not come to chapel, but wished me after preaching to come to him, he having something particular to communicate. I felt assured now that he was unwell indeed: for it was not a trifling matter that kept him from public worship. His life was a living comment on those words, ‘Lord, I have loved the habitation of thine house, and the place where thy honour dwelleth.’ At the close of the service, however, I received another message by his brother, which removed the necessity of my seeing him that night. From the statement his brother gave me of him, I felt considerable alarm; and advised him by all means to procure for him immediate help.
May 1. This day medical aid was called in. The doctor told his friends that he was in a very precarious state, dangerously ill, being labouring under a severe attack of inflammation from head to foot. These heavy tidings soon spread far and wide. Much sympathy was manifested, and many prayers were offered up to God on his behalf. But, alas! the decree was gone forth. By a law much surer than that of the Medes and Persians. His doom was unalterably sealed, and nothing could change the Divine purpose, which was about to say to his long tried and faithful servant, ‘Come up hither.’ Prayer, therefore, even the prayer of faith, which has so often prevailed, even to the opening and shutting of heaven, the arresting of the sun in his course, the stemming of the torrent, and hushing the rising storm, was here unavailable. Bro. Jackson and Cornes visited him in the afternoon of this day. They found him very ill but very happy. He told them of his journey to the district meeting, – of the great trials of mind he laboured under previous to starting. He said this affliction was the fruits of that journey, and it was unto death. But he added with much emphasis, “I do not repent going. I am even thankful that I did go. I felt a deal of the presence of God at the meeting. I bless the Lord for it. Many were converted, and I came home a new man.” And he joined in prayer with more than usual fervour.
May 2. He was very ill indeed, but his soul seemed to rise above the affliction of his body; and when his pains abated a little, he stretched out his arm and said, It was ten thousand times ten thousand mercies that the Lord had done so much for him. He was astonished at the goodness of God. Worlds upon worlds could not do for him what the Lord had done.
His sister, who lives at a distance, came to see him in the course of the day. He was very glad to see her, and asked how long she would stop with him. Until you are better, said she. He then took her by the hand, and said, “it will be but a few days, my dear sister, but a few days; for this affliction is unto death.” Seeing her weep, he said, “Weep not for me. I don’t weep. I am in the hands of the Lord; let him do what he seeth good. He has taken care of me for these forty-five years, and I know he will not leave me at the last. None that ever trusted in him were confounded. None ever prayed to him in vain.”
May 3. This morning his affliction was of such a nature that his medical attendant ordered him to be kept as quiet as possible, and but few to converse with him, or even see him. To a particular friend that visited him he said, there was not a shadow of hope to be encouraged respecting his recovery. And then, after a pause, he added, “All is well, all is well. God has of late remarkably poured out his Spirit upon me.” His friend said, “Then he has been preparing you for this sore affliction.” “He has,” was the reply. “The fear of death is gone.” He then added, “What if I had my religion to seek now, what must I do?”
This night I saw him for the first time in his affliction. I was forcibly struck with the ravages disease had made upon his robust frame in so short a time, and felt a powerful impression that his days were numbered. He stretched out his hand and laid hold of mine. The tear started in his eye, and his beating bosom seemed the seat of feeling too big for utterance. After a short silence on both sides, I said, “My friend, how are you?”
He replied, “Ill, dangerously ill.”
“How do you feel your mind?”
“At perfect peace, stayed upon the Lord.”
“Have you any doubts as to your future destiny?”
“No; blessed be God, not a doubt.”
“Do the truths of that gospel you have so long preached to others, support you now?”
“Yes; I have lately had so much of the love of God, and such a settled peace within, that I have thought something more than common was about to befall me.”
He then began to talk of the affairs of the circuit and the connexion, which still lived in his affection. Indeed his attachment to the cause of God was ‘Firm as an iron pillar, — strong and stedfast as a wall of brass.’ Remembering, however, the injunction of the doctor, I sought to leave him as soon as convenient. He called me back, however, three different times before I left the house, having something more which he wished to say.
May 4. I saw him again this day. He was heavily afflicted, but still in the same happy state of mind. Perceiving me touch his pulse, which was then beating very high, indicating a deal of false strength and great excitement in his frame, he said, ” My friend, what do you think of me?”
I said, “You are in the Lord’s hands.”
He replied, “Yea, I know it, and he is about to cut me down at a stroke.”
I said, “Well, be it so; now had you an opportunity of choosing for yourself, would you have it otherwise?”
He said, “No! Good is the will of the Lord, be it done unto me even as thou wilt. I have not,” said he, “ settled my temporal affairs as I should have done; when I am gone you must assist my brother in adjusting them, both as regards the circuit and the family.”
Assuring him that nothing should be wanting which I could do, he seemed satisfied. When we parted he said with much earnestness, “Pray for me.” “I will carry you,” said I, “in the arms of faith to the feet of the Redeemer.” He said, “I am there already. The streams of the sanctuary now water my soul.” I left him praising God in strains of holy extacy.
May 5. When Bro. Jackson entered his room this morning, he said, with much emphasis, “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day and for ever.” He was now labouring under a complication of disorders. Inflammation, fever, and an abscess in his throat. It was thought necessary, therefore to call in the aid of a physician, in order to render him all the assistance human skill could do. When the medical gentlemen were consulting together in his room, he asked them their opinion of him. They encouraged him to hope for recovery. He then told them his opinion; It was, that he should die, and soon too. They told him not to fear. “Fear,” said he, “I have no fear; for death to me has lost its sting. Thus,
“Faith builds a bridge across the gulph of death;
To break the shock, blind nature cannot shun,
And land thought smoother on the other side.
Death’s terror is the mountain faith removes.”
May 6. This day his medical attendants having recourse to an operation which gave him much pain, he said, “This is hard work.” And then looked upward as though claiming the promise, said “But thou hast said, as thy day is, so shall thy strength be. Bless thee, bless thee for ever.” At another time he was earnestly engaged in prayer, and prayed as in an agony; and from the manner of expressing himself, it appeared as though he thought he was in his class.
May 7. Sabbath morning Bro. Nicholle visited him; and he seeing him weep, said, “Weep not for me. I am very ill, but very happy. All is well. Thank the Lord. Pray for me.” I saw him about noon, he was considerably altered for the worse; and I thought without a change he could survive hut a few hours. He asked me where I was going, and made many enquiries about the circuit. Towards night be had a change and was much better.
May 8. I visited him this morning in company with his medical attendants; he was vastly altered for the better since yesterday. The doctors seemed in better spirits, and I was endeavouring to hope, surely the bitterness of death is past. But, alas! before night he relapsed, and the last lingering hope, if a hope it might be called, of his convalescence, which I tried to maintain, was extinguished. A young man that had once been in his class, came to see him. Mr. T. asked him if he was happy. He said he was not. He then exclaimed, “I am happy though thus afflicted. I feel the love of God shed abroad in my heart. I am happy, bless the Lord.” He then warned the young man to get made happy before it was too late. He said, “I sometimes feel so happy, that I scarcely know whether I am in the body or out; but I now feel I am in the body, but I shall soon have done with this poor tabernacle.” He made mention of his funeral sermon, and who should preach it. He also mentioned several favourite hymns. A friend having just given him some refreshment, asked him what he should like next. He said, “More sinners converted to God.” At another time he said, no doubt alluding to some temporal affairs, “Some time ago I was looking at things as difficulties before me, and wondering how I should be able to surmount them. The Lord saw it, he knew it, and he is now about to make a way for my escape out of them all at once.”
May 9. It was now evident that his end was drawing nigh. He seemed more than ever like a shock of corn ripe for the Heavenly Garner. Though it was with difficulty he could speak at all, yet when he did speak it was the language of holy triumph ‘Undamped by doubt, undarkened by despair.’ He now happily found his latest foe under his feet at last; and, with holy rapture, exclaimed, “I have conquered death through the blood of the Lamb. I see the crown before me. I am just about to lay hold of it.”
“Conqueror through him I soon shall seize,
And wear it as my due.”
To his sorrowing family and sorrowing friends who visited him, he spoke the language of peace and consolation, assuring them of his unshaken confidence and bright prospects; and he exhorted them all to follow him to a better world,
“Where all is assurance and peace.
And sorrow and sin are no more.”
Thus he comforted his very comforters, and suffered with all the majesty of woe. Towards night, after a long silence, as though engaged in deep reflection or holy communion with happier spirits, he wished he could but have an hour’s conversation with those that surrounded him. But this was, alas! denied. Perhaps he had in his heart a tale unutterable. To Bro. Jackson he said, when entering his room, (alluding, no doubt, to the close of his life), “Thou art come to see the end of time.” He then told them he should not die that night.
May 10. This was the last day of his life. He could scarcely speak through the day, but what he did say was in the same spirit as before. In the morning he said, with much emphasis, “My soul’s hope is in God, I shall yet praise him.” The last words he said were, “Bless the Lord.” And then, lifting up his hands as in token of victory, he repeated several times, “Bless the Lord, O my soul.” And then the faltering accents died upon his lips, and his tongue that had so often communicated instruction and consolation to others, was sealed in the silence of death. And about seven o’clock at night, without a sigh or even a struggle, our lamented friend changed worlds, in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life, through Jesus Christ.
“Its flight his spirit took, its upward flight,
If ever soul ascended.”
One of the doctors said he would die of suffocation; the other, that he would die in a paroxism of mental or bodily disorder. But neither the one nor the other was the case. He proved that
“Jesus can make a dying bed,
Soft as downy pillows are.”
Hence his sun, fair and bright, set without a cloud. His exit was gentle as falls the morning dew; calm and unruffled as the zephyrs that fan the meadows on a summer’s evening. ‘Let me die the death of the righteous, and let ray last end be like his’
“Servant of God well done,
Rest from thy lov’d employ;
Sing, while eternal ages run,
Thy Master and his joy.”
A friend well acquainted with Mr. T. bears this testimony of him. “There are few men whom I have known, that I formed so high an opinion of as Mr. Taylor. Taking him as a whole, the world has lost a corrector of its abuses; his neighbours a ready, kind, and obliging friend; the churches an ornament and useful member, but more especially that section of the church to which he belonged; a sorrowing brother and sister one of the kindest and best of brothers; and an aged mother; the stay and comfort of her life!”
Of his honesty, integrity, and uprightness, I always formed a high notion. But since his death, having had to examine all his papers, and follow him through a life of business, in order to arrange, adjust, and settle his affairs, I must say in this particular, — ‘Take him for all in all, I ne’er shall look upon his like again.’
Thus, having just passed his forty-fifth year, he was cut down in the bloom of life and the midst of usefulness, ‘Like blossom’d trees o’erturned by a vernal storm.’ But his peace was made, his warfare accomplished, and his labours done. And though we have suffered an irreparable loss, yet,
“Who can now lament the lot
Of a saint in Christ deceased?”
For the last sixteen or eighteen years I have visited many in their last hours; but it has never been my lot to visit one who had such an unshaken confidence, a brighter prospect, or a more complete conquest over death; and but one that I consider as coming near his standard. He had indeed nothing to do but to die. He could ‘talk with threatening death and not turn pale.’ And even amidst the swellings of Jordan, hope held up his head. And through faith he maintained a firm and unshaken hold of Jehovah. And his soul rose in confidence even amidst the wreck of his earthly dwelling. But what can I more, for, —
“The death-bed of the just is yet undrawn,
By mortal hand; it merits a divine:-
Angels should paint it, angels ever there.”
The Sunday but one after his death his funeral sermon was preached in Burland chapel. Numbers attended from various parts of the circuit. The chapel was crowded almost to suffocation, and it was said that there were as many without as within. Funeral sermons were also preached at all the principal places in the circuit, and numerously attended. Numbers mourned his death as though he had been their mother’s son. Indeed one general feeling of grief seemed to pervade the whole neighbourhood, both among professors and profane. It has been the lot of but few similarly circumstanced to descend to the grave so universally respected, or so deeply regretted.
(Approved by the Quarter day Board.)
Edward Jones, President
Thomas Wood, Secretary
Primitive Methodist Magazine, 1838. Pages 249-253; 294-300; 370-376.