Tuesday, July 7, 2015

FOUND: Original oil paintings of James Brainerd Taylor and family members . . . "O, mamma, how happy I am that his portrait is left us. It will be a precious relic indeed"

After a 17-year, research-filled wait, the original 1828 oil painting (39" x 32") of James Brainerd Taylor (1801-1829) has been located. The June 29, 2015, finding came as a result of a periodic search inquiry on various online search engines regarding James Brainerd Taylor and select family members.

The background to the J. B. Taylor painting is explained in my An Uncommon Christian: James Brainerd Taylor, Forgotten Evangelist in America's Second Great Awakening (University Press of America, 2008, page 142):

"After five sittings and just three days prior to his departure for the South on November, 4, 1828, [Taylor's] portrait was completed in New York City by America's premier nineteenth-century portrait artists, Samuel Lovett Waldo (1783-1861) and William Jewett (1792-1874). In reflecting upon the portrait, Fitch Taylor penned words of tenderness addressed to his parents on April 3, 1829, just five days after James' death: 'O, mamma, how happy I am that his portrait is left us. It will be a precious relic indeed.'"

James Brainerd Taylor (1801-1829)

Age 27 (5 months before his death in Virginia)
October 1828, New York City

Painting (39" x 32") by Samuel Lovett Waldo and William Jewett

Courtesy of Connecticut River Museum

Also located in the same archival collection are the portrait paintings of Taylor's parents, Col. Jeremiah Taylor (1773-1849) and Lucy Brainerd Taylor (1777-1865), and two of his younger brothers, Fitch Waterman Taylor (1803-1865, the compiler/editor of A New Tribute to the Memory of James Brainerd Taylor, 1834) and Samuel Taylor (1813-1873). In all, twelve portraits of members of the five generations of the prominent Taylor family of Connecticut have been located by this Taylor family researcher. William Taylor (born ca. 1625) is the emigrant ancestor and progenitor of this particular branch of Taylors in America, having arrived in Connecticut from Lancashire County, England, in 1647.

The oil paintings are housed in the Stevens Library archival collections at the Connecticut River Museum in Essex, Connecticut. Essex is located along the Connecticut River some fifteen (river) miles south of Middle Haddam, Connecticut, the birthplace of J. B. Taylor.

I plan to include some of the newly discovered portraits in my hopeful third book on J. B. Taylor: Uncommon Christian Evangelism: Lessons for Today from James Brainerd Taylor. Both An Uncommon Christian and the companion volume, my edited anthology Of Intense Brightness: The Spirituality of Uncommon Christian James Brainerd Taylor (University Press of America, 2008), already include over 35 images in each book.

Lucy Brainerd Taylor (1777-1865)

Age 57
1834, New York City

Cousin (3x removed) of the famed missionary David Brainerd (1718-1747)

Painting (30.5" x 34.5") by Frederick R. Spencer
Courtesy of Connecticut River Museum

My research and writing on J. B. Taylor began after buying the Memoir of James Brainerd Taylor, Second Edition (1833) for $10 at a used bookstore in Manchester, Connecticut, in July 1998. In the memoir's frontispiece is a black-and-white engraving of the portrait painting. My research into finding the hoped-for still existent original painting had included phone calls to various art galleries throughout the U.S. that housed art works by the painters Waldo and Jewett, including the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. But it was not until 2015 that I was able to finally locate the original oil painting. Up until now, the only known extant portrait of any of J. B. Taylor's immediate family was a sketch of Jeremiah Humphre Taylor (1797-1882), one of James' two older brothers, that appeared in Henry Anstice's History of St. George's Church in the City of New York, 1752-1811-1911. (See figure 10 in An Uncommon Christian, and figure 10 in Of Intense Brightness.)

Here are the three Hartford Courant newspaper articles (1995, 1997, 2002) that have been posted online and that have provided this independent researcher with new information about this particular branch of the Taylor family of Connecticut. William Taylor (born ca. 1625) is the emigrant ancestor and progenitor of this particular branch of Taylors in America, having arrived in Connecticut from Lancashire County, England, in 1647.

"Portraits of Family Find a Home at River Museum"
March 7, 1995
Hartford Courant

"St. Clements Comes Out of Hiding: Estate Leads Portland's Renaissance"
December 7, 1997
Hartford Courant

"Ask the Courant: St. Clements in Portland, Conn."
July 8, 2002
Hartford Courant

Col. Jeremiah Taylor (1773-1849)

Age 61
1834, New York City

Collateral descendent of Church of England literary giant Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667),
considered the "Shakespeare of Divines"

Painting (36" x 31") by Frederick R. Spencer
Courtesy of Connecticut River Museum

Some of the highlights from the three articles--combined with some information provided by the Connecticut River Museum curator, Amy Trout--include the following:

+ The Taylor family name/line ceased on October 16, 2003, with the death of Prudence Taylor Palmer (1931-2003, born New York City, died Portland, Connecticut). According to her obituary, "As an only child and the last in the Taylor line, Mrs. Palmer inherited much of the Taylor history and memorabilia. She devoted the last of her life to the preservation and distribution of that material."

Mrs. Palmer's preservation efforts included authoring and editing with her husband Theodore Johnson Palmer (1918-2004) St. Clements: The Chronicle of a Connecticut River Castle (1992) and Letters to Harry [Henry Osborn Taylor], 1872-74: Man of Letters (2000), both of which include Taylor family history. And her donating 90 acres (including Taylor Brook) to form the Middlesex Land Trust's Palmer-Taylor Preserve in the Middle Haddam area of East Hampton, Connecticut.

Concerning Portland, Connecticut's St. Clements Castle, it overlooks the Connecticut River and was built in 1902 for New York City attorney Howard Augustus Taylor (1865-1920) and his wife. It remained in the Taylor family until 1970 when it was donated to Wesleyan University. The university then sold it in 1993 to the non-profit Saint Clements Foundation, at which time the Taylor family portraits were donated to the Connecticut River Museum by the Taylor family. Today, the castle/mansion is a popular wedding venue.

+ The paintings of J. B. Taylor's parents, Col. Jeremiah Taylor and Lucy Brainerd Taylor, were completed in 1834 by the New York City-based itinerant portrait artist Frederick R. Spencer (1806-1875). The paintings--in addition to a painting of an anonymous "Son of Col. and Mrs. Jeremiah Taylor"--were loaned by the Taylor family (Mrs. David Taylor of Portland, Connecticut) for display at the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute in Utica, New York, September 2 to November 2, 1969. Though photos of the three loaned paintings were not included in the print publication of the Spencer exhibit, they were mentioned in A Retrospective Exhibition of the Work of Frederick R. Spencer (1806-1875).

Connecticut River Museum (est. 1975)

Essex, Connecticut

Friday, June 12, 2015

America's moral revolution: Uncommon Christian counter-culture among those not celebrating

That which was condemned is celebrated.

That which was celebrated is condemned.

Those who will not join the celebration are condemned.

So the British theologian and journalist Theo Hobson has stated on what a society's moral revolution looks like with a 3-step criteria. (Quoted by American culture commentator, author and seminary president Albert Mohler in Oklahoma's The Baptist Messenger, "The Gospel, Sexuality and the Church," posted March 16, 2015.)

Count the James Brainerd Taylor-inspired Uncommon Christian Ministries as among those not celebrating America's moral revolution but which is rejoicing in Jesus' "words of eternal life" (John 6:68):

"Whoever believes in [the Lord Jesus Christ] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the Son of God."
John 3:18

"There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus."
Romans 8:1

Relatedly, here is an insightful 9-minute video interview with Dr. Mohler on "How to Survive a Moral Revolution." It was given at The Gospel Coalition national conference in Orlando, Florida, April 13-15, 2015. Also available is a written transcript of some highlights of the same interview--see here.

Monday, May 18, 2015

"The Life of David Brainerd [1718-1747]: A Documentary," new DVD

Those familiar with the Second Great Awakening evangelist James Brainerd Taylor (1801-1829) will be interested to know that a new DVD on Taylor's famed First Great Awakening missionary cousin has been released.

"The Life of David Brainerd: A Documentary" by Silvius Motion Pictures sells for $14.99.

The 57-minute DVD can be used individually or for a small group study. Also available is a 44-page companion devotional booklet ($4.49). Both can be purchased online from the distributor, Church Works Media.

Here is the DVD's description by the Cleveland, Ohio-based producer:

Explore the life and influence of David Brainerd (1718-1747), the subject of the most popular book written by Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), America's greatest theologian. The documentary answers the questions, Who was David Brainerd, and why has he had such a lasting international influence? It emphasizes David's sufferings and weaknesses, demonstrating that God loves to use weak things to show off his strength--a much needed emphasis in today's evangelical church.
The DVD includes footage from more than a dozen places where Brainerd lived. It features diary narrations by Tim Keesee (Frontline Missions International) and interviews with exceptional scholars on the topics of David Brainerd, Jonathan Edwards and evangelical spirituality.

One day, it's hoped that a similar documentary DVD and companion devotional will be produced and published on the once equally famous James Brainerd Taylor. (In An Uncommon Christian: James Brainerd Taylor, Forgotten Evangelist in America's Second Great Awakening [2008], see Appendix B, "David Brainerd and James Brainerd Taylor, A Comparative Chart.")

Monday, April 6, 2015

Evangelical Theological Society, annual Midwest regional meeting . . . April 10-11, 2015, Chicago . . . Theme: Sexual Holiness

Though my lecture is not on the important and timely theme of "The Church and Its Call to Sexual Holiness" (1 Thessalonians 4:4b, New Testament) I'll be delivering a lecture at the annual Midwest regional meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society on Friday, April 10, 11:00-11:40 a.m. This year, the meeting is being hosted by Chicago's Moody Bible Institute.

"'Mr. James Brainerd Taylor, I presume?': The American Inspiration Behind David Livingstone's 'Uncommon' Christianity" is a lecture I delivered at various places in 2013, the bicentennial anniversary year of the birth of the famed Scottish missionary-explorer David Livingstone (1813-1873). (See my March 1, 2013, blog post for an online summary of the lecture that is based on my recent research discovery from a Livingstone letter manuscript housed at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh.)

Though a repeat lecture, the presentation does provide an opportunity to inform others about the forgotten "uncommon Christian" evangelist James Brainerd Taylor (1801-1829). And my attendance provides an opportunity to get to know members of my new ETS region. This is my first Midwest meeting since leaving ETS's Pacific Northwest region in 2013.

The lecture is one of fifty-five that are being delivered during the two-day meeting. The topics range from various academic fields, including Historical Theology, New Testament, Old Testament, Same Sex Attraction, Systematic Theology and Theology.

Dr. Robert A. J. Gagnon
The plenary sessions are on "The End of Man: Homosexuality and the Human Telos" (Dr. Douglas K. Blount, Dallas Theological Seminary) and "Homosexualist Readings of Scripture by Two New Testament Scholars, William Loader and James Brownson" (Dr. Robert A. J. Gagnon, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary). This will be my second time hearing from Dr. Gagnon. I had the privilege of hearing him at the ETS-Pacific Northwest annual regional meeting in Tacoma, Washington, in April 2013.

A graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Divinity School and Princeton Theological Seminary, Prof. Gagnon is considered the foremost Evangelical Protestant scholar on the issue of homosexuality in relation to Christianity and the Bible. Among many other writings--in print and online via his website--he is the author of The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics (Abingdon Press, 2001, 522 pages).

For those interested--and via his website and YouTube.com and Vimeo.com--Dr. Gagnon has appeared in many videos, most of which are available online and at no cost. This includes his 7-part online video series "The Bible and Homosexual Practice." Some of his writings and videos have been translated into other languages. Click here ("The Church in a Homosexual Culture") and here ("Same-Sex Temptations in the Church") for 30-minute audio podcast interviews with Dr. Gagnon on John Piper's DesiringGod.org.

From the ETS website, here is the background to this academic society that consists of over 3,000 members. Among other societies and associations, I've been a member of ETS since 2007. The minimum requirement for full membership is a Master of Theology degree (Th.M.), of which I earned in 2005 from Toronto Baptist Seminary.
Founded in 1949, the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) is a group of scholars, teachers, pastors, students, and others dedicated to the oral exchange and written expression of theological thought and research. The ETS is devoted to the inerrancy and inspiration of the Scriptures and the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Society publishes a quarterly journal, the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (JETS), an academic periodical featuring peer reviewed articles, as well as extended book reviews, in the biblical and theological disciplines. ETS also holds national and regional meetings across the United States and in Canada.

Friday, January 3, 2014

"An Uncommon Christian" and "Of Intense Brightness" now available as e-books

As of today (January 3, 2014), Uncommon Christian Ministries is pleased to announce that both An Uncommon Christian: James Brainerd Taylor [1801-1829], Forgotten Evangelist in America's Second Great Awakening (University Press of America, December 2007, 255 pages, Foreword by John F. Thornbury) and the edited anthology companion volume Of Intense Brightness: The Spirituality of Uncommon Christian James Brainerd Taylor (University Press of America, June 2008, 168 pages, Foreword by James M. Houston, Epilogue by Peter Adam) are now available on Kindle and Nook.

The e-books are currently 39-45% off the books' retail price, with the Kindle edition offering the "text-to-speech" feature.

To purchase an e-book edition, see here (Kindle) or here (Nook) for An Uncommon Christian, and here (Kindle) or here (Nook) for Of Intense Brightness. "Sneak preview" sample pages of each book are provided on the online retailers' website.

NOTE: The paper and e-book edition of UCM's third book--Uncommon Christian Evangelism with James Brainerd Taylor (or, God's Co-Worker: 21st-century Evangelism with Uncommon Christian James Brainerd Taylor)--is planned for publication in 2015 or 2016. Stay tuned.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

John F. Thornbury, uncommon Christian pastor, author and fellow admirer of James Brainerd Taylor (1801-1829) . . . 44-year pastorate at the same Pennsylvania church, 1965-2009

As an example of delayed gratification, I finally met in-person a favorite biographer of mine and the author of the Foreword to my An Uncommon Christian: James Brainerd Taylor, Forgotten Evangelist in America's Second Great Awakening (University Press of America, 2007).

On November 20, 2013, I met Dr. John F. Thornbury for lunch in Lexington, Kentucky. Afterward, he invited me to his home where I met his wife (Reta) of 50 years, viewed his personal library, talked about his son (author and president of New York City's King's College, Dr. Gregory Alan Thornbury) whom I had heard speak in Louisville just weeks prior, learned about his bookbinding hobby and prayed for and with him. A blessed time of fellowship it was!

John F. Thornbury (right) and Francis Kyle (left).
Lexington, Kentucky, USA. November 20, 2013.

It was during the early years of my Christian life in Washington State (October 1992- ) and my Canadian student days at Bible college and seminary (1994-2000) that I first learned of Dr. Thornbury. The introduction came through the reading of his biographies David Brainerd: Pioneer Missionary to the American Indians (Evangelical Press, 1996) and God Sent Revival: The Story of Asahel Nettleton and the Second Great Awakening (Evangelical Press, 1993).

Since the famed missionary David Brainerd (1718-1747) was a maternal cousin of James Brainerd Taylor (1801-1829), and since the itinerant evangelist Asahel Nettleton (1783-1844) was a ministerial mentor to Taylor, I was very pleased that in 2006 Dr. Thornbury agreed to write the Foreword to my An Uncommon Christian. To my surprise and delight, he was already familiar with J. B. Taylor and the once-popular Memoir of James Brainerd Taylor (American Tract Society, 1833). If I recall correctly from our conversation, a copy of the 19th-century memoir was given to him as a gift by an older female member of a Kentucky church he pastored in the 1950s or early 1960s. He asked that I sign his 1833 copy, of which I happily complied.

Here is an excerpt from Dr. Thornbury's Foreword to An Uncommon Christian:

The second reason I recommend this book is evangelical and is, of course, related to the first. Kyle refers to James Brainerd Taylor (1801-1829) as "an uncommon Christian" and he obviously was. Today we might refer to him as an "extraordinary" believer, who in his love for the triune God his self-denying spirit, and his intense desire to win the lost, lived above the level that most of us experience. The last part of this book gives credible proofs, based on those who knew him intimately, that he was, if we may so speak, "sold out to God." For many today, even those who hold high offices in the church, their commitment to Christian principles seems almost half-hearted when we look at the standard of behavior set by Jesus and the apostles. Aside from the gross wickedness that has plagued some prominent Christian leaders today, even the best of believers, it seems, are offering to God an alloy of consecration rather than the whole-hearted affection for God, his word, and his church, that the Christian faith deserves.
There is no doubt about it: believers can be instructed, motivated, and inspired by reading the lives of the saints of the past. In the life of James Brainerd Taylor, we see what God's grace can do in the life of one of his children. It shows how, in the midst of great suffering and hardship, a Christian cannot only blossom with the beautiful flowers of piety, but can be happy in the process. In one respect, the subject of this biographical work excelled his maternal relative, who he was so much alike, David Brainerd (1718-1747). He never suffered from the chronic depression that dogged the Indian missionary. Though often plagued by illness and though even at times persecuted for his loyalty to the gospel, Taylor seemed largely to live on the high plateau of joy in the Lord. In this respect, he was like another man, J. Hudson Taylor (1832-1905), who I read somewhere stated with humility, but with profound gratefulness, that for many years not a cloud of doubt had passed between himself and his Savior.

An Uncommon Christian.
University Press of America, 2007.
Foreword by John F. Thornbury.
Because Brainerd, Nettleton and Taylor were all born in Connecticut, the land of my (non-Christian) upbringing (ages 5-20), my interest in them--and their historical eras of the First Great Awakening (1730s and 1740s) and Second Great Awakening (ca. 1790-1830)--was and remains high.

Interestingly, all three studied at Yale in New Haven, Connecticut, but with different outcomes: Brainerd was expelled in 1742, Nettleton was a member of the Class of 1809 and Taylor died while a student on medical leave from Yale Seminary in 1829 (he died and was buried in Virginia).

Concerning Brainerd, Dr. Thornbury pastored near where Brainerd ministered to the Delaware Indians in eastern Pennsylvania. In An Uncommon Christian, I include an 11-page appendix entitled "David Brainerd and James Brainerd Taylor: A Comparative Chart."

In addition to his biographies on Brained and Nettleton, A Pastor in New York: The Life and Times of Spencer Houghton Cone [1785-1855] (Evangelical Press, 2003) is Dr. Thornbury's third biographical work.

His other, non-biographical works include The Doctrine of the Church: A Baptist View (Pilgrim Publications, 1971); Help Us To Pray (Evangelical Press, 1991); A System of Bible Doctrine (Evangelical Press, 2003) and You Want to Get Married! For those who have wedding plans or wish to (self-published, 2008). These works are in addition to his contributions to various books and journals.

What is fascinating about Dr. Thornbury is that his writing ministry was in addition to his family life (he and his wife of over 50 years raised two kids) and pastoring the same Pennsylvania church for 44 years (1965-2009).

After serving churches in Kentucky and leaving Winfield Baptist Church in Winfield, Union County, Pennsylvania, in 2009, he returned to his native Kentucky. Since 2011, he has been serving as the Pastor of Worship at Bellepoint Baptist Church in Frankfurt, the capital city of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

For an insightful August 12, 2009, online interview with Dr. Thornbury, see here. Also, see here for "a handful of brief observations . . . made from afar" regarding Dr. Thornbury's longevity in pastoral ministry. Lastly, a sampling of his sermons (2004-05) can be found here.

John F. Thornbury.
Bellepoint Baptist Church.
Frankfurt, Kentucky, USA.

Dr. John F. Thornbury, Mrs. Reta Thornbury and Dr. Francis Kyle.
Lexington, Kentucky, USA. November 20, 2013.

Recovering Classic Evangelicalism: Applying the Wisdom and Vision of Carl F. H. Henry.
Crossway, 2013.
By Gregory Alan Thornbury, son of John F. Thornbury.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

R. Albert Mohler, Jr., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary . . . celebrating 20th anniversary as president (1993-2013)

The fall semester of 2013 marks the 20th anniversary of R. Albert Mohler, Jr.'s presidency at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

Dr. Mohler is the 9th president of the 154-year-old seminary, the oldest and largest of the six Southern Baptist Convention seminaries.

The anniversary is to be celebrated with gratitude as much kingdom good has taken place at SBTS--and within the Southern Baptist Convention (est. 1845) and the Evangelical Protestant church at-large--through the godly and strong leadership of Dr. Mohler.

The October 15, 2013, chapel service at SBTS honored the milestone. A resolution "of thanksgiving and appreciation" was given to Dr. Mohler by the school's board of trustees. See here to watch the video of President Mohler's 32-minute chapel message on that special day. His message was titled "What Do You Have That You Did Not Receive? (1 Cor. 4:7): Gratitude and Christian Discipleship." A written summary of the chapel message is available online.

In the October 2013 issue of the SBTS campus publication Towers, the insightful article "Twenty years and counting: Mohler reflects on his presidency at Southern Seminary" appears. Click here to read the online version. And see here to read online the entire 28-page issue, including the photo essay "Twelve hours with the president."

Titled "Recovering A Vision: The Presidency of R. Albert Mohler, Jr.," here is a 25-minute documentary chronicling Dr. Mohler's presidency during the past two decades:


+ The SBTS campus is located just 4 miles from Immanuel Baptist Church (est. 1887), my new home and ministry base in Louisville, Kentucky (May 30, 2013- ).

The Conviction to Lead (2012)
+ On October 10-11, 2013, I had the privilege of attending Dr. Mohler's leadership seminar at SBTS. The 2-day seminar was based on his book The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership that Matters (Bethany House, 2012). See here to read a summary of the seminar.

At the end of the seminar, attendees were invited to Dr. Mohler's presidential home to view a portion of his legendary personal library of over 40,000 volumes. This was my second visit to the library, the first being in April 1999 when I visited the SBTS campus to consider their Ph.D. program. With Dr. Mohler himself as the guide, here is a 7-minute video of his library/study from the 2010 Together for the Gospel conference.

+ Dr. Mohler's 20-year SBTS presidency (1993-2013) nearly parallels my Christian life thus far (1992-2013). He at the academic institutional level and me at the personal and ministry level (in U.S., Canada, Israel)--I join him in giving thanks to the Lord for every obstacle overcome, temptation resisted and challenge met during the past two decades.

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Est. 1859
Louisville, Kentucky, USA