Dr. Nathaniel Taylor -- By: William W. Woodworth

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 046:181 (Jan 1889)
Article: Dr. Nathaniel Taylor
Author: William W. Woodworth


Dr. Nathaniel Taylor

Rev. William W. Woodworth

The first time I remember seeing Dr. Taylor was far back in my boyhood. I was then living with an uncle in Durham, working as a small boy could upon a farm. One Sabbath, as I dimly remember, a stranger of comely form, and of grand and musical voice, and of earnestness of manner unwonted in that place, occupied the pulpit. His text was short, and easy for even a small boy to carry away—only the three words of Pilate’s question to Jesus, “What is truth?” Of course the sermon was far above the comprehension of a boy who had not yet entered his teens. But I remember hearing my uncle and others speak of it enthusiastically as “deep” I afterwards heard him preach this sermon, I think, more than once. It is printed in the volume on “Revealed Theology “which was published after his death by his sons-in-law, Drs. Porter and Buckingham. It gives a condensed and comprehensive outline of his views on the principal doctrines of the gospel, considered in their practical relations and bearings. Dr. Ray Palmer tells us,

that “a distinguished Scotch gentleman, who, in passing through New Haven, chanced to hear this sermon, characterized it, in a work which he published after his return, as the ablest sermon he heard in America.”

It was in the year 1831 that I first heard Dr. Taylor with anything like an appreciation of his greatness and his power as a preacher; and even then I was too young and immature to begin to measure him. I was a lad of seventeen, an apprentice learning a trade in Bridgeport, with only such an education as a studious boy who loved his books could pick up by attending three or four months in a year the common schools of Connecticut. But I had just begun to take a personal interest in religion. It was a year more marked by revival power than any other year I have known; probably than any other year of this century. In such scenes Dr. Taylor was in his element. He had been a pastor ten years before he became a theological professor. His ministry had been one of very marked success in winning souls for Christ; and he was sought for, perhaps more than any other preacher in the state, to assist pastors, in various places, in the revivals of that marvellous year, and the years that preceded and followed it. I heard many preachers then, and they preached with great power; but none of them—except, perhaps, Joel Parker, then a young man preaching in the city of New York—impressed me as did Dr. Taylor. I remember some of the sermons with which he used then to sway great congregations, as the trees of the forest are swayed by God’s mighty wind; or at least I remember their texts: “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord;” “Knowing, the...

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