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.