Taylor, Nathaniel William, Dd
Taylor, Nathaniel William, D.D.
an eminent Congregational preacher am. divine, and the grandson of the preceding, was born at New Milford, Conn., June 23, 1786. He spent his early years on a farm, was prepared for college by Rev. Dr. Azel Backus, and graduated at Yale College in 1807, having had twice to relinquish his studies on account of disease of the eves. He was private tutor for a year in Albany and Montreal, studied theology four years with Dr. Dwight, and in 3812 succeeded Moses Stuart in the pastorate of the First Church, New Haven, where he labored with great success for ten years. Of his preaching, Dr. Dutton thus speaks: "The intellectual qualities of his preaching were thorough and profound, yet lucid and scriptural exposition and discussion of weighty themes; a marshalling of comprehensive forces of luminous and enkindled logic, to bear, with compacted and converging unity and climacteric power, on the one question in hand; a full and frank meeting of difficulties; bold, defiant, and powerful grappling with objections; fearless reference, in defense of scriptural doctrine and precept, to reason and common-sense; close ant pungent applications to conscience, and earnest and tender appeals to the heart." Dr. Taylor was considered one of the ablest preachers of his time, and in certain aspects was thought to have had no equal. After he became theological instructor, especially in times of revival, his labors were widely sought by the Church and freely given. In 1822 upon the formation of the theological department in Yale College, he was chosen Dwight professor of didactic theology, which position he held until March 10, 1858, when he quietly and peacefully passed away from earth. It was as a teacher of theology that his influence has been most widely felt. In this field, he was an original investigator, and few men have left a deeper impress upon American divinity. In several important respects lie diverged from the traditional theology of New England. He held that the mind, however affected by sin in intellect, sensibility, or will, is yet a free agent, capable by intellect to perceive and understand the objects and motives of choice, capable by sensibility to feel their influence, and capable by will to choose or refuse any one of them; and that the power of will, by which it makes a given choice, is a power that could in the time and circumstances have chosen differently and oppositely. He repudiated the predicating of the words "predestinated" and "decreed" to God, and substituted the word "purposed." While depravity is universal to the race, it is not to be ascribed to any property, propensity, or disposition of the soul, prior to actual transgression, as sinful in itself, or as the necessary cause of sin, nor to a sinful nature corrupted in or derived from Adam, sin being traced to the constitutional propensity of man for natural good, as perverted by his own moral agency. "Sin comes in as an unavoidable result, so far as divine prevention is concerned, of such materials as God uses, and must use, in a moral universe to wit, free agents." God, having created man moral and responsible, cannot prevent the entrance of sin without contradicting himself. He admitted and taught that sin is among the things which are according to the counsel of God's will, yet only in an indirect and remote sense, God preferring a moral system in which sin is necessarily incidental to the nonexistence of a moral system. As to the originality and soundness of Dr. Taylor's views concerning sin, much difference of opinion has prevailed. Some of his followers have claimed that they are original with him; others quote Whately, Woodward, and Dr. John Young as having enounced views in consonance with his. Dr. Pond charges him with reviving "the old Arminian deistical hypothesis," while Dr. Dutton claims, on the contrary, that "time has fully proved that his mode was altogether best for the refutation of Arminianism." Dr. Whedon says that while Dr. Taylor "vindicated the divine government by introducing into his system the Arminian view of sin, he overthrows his own work by admitting the principle of preordination." At all events, the enunciation of Dr. Taylor's views gave rise to a prolonged and exciting controversy, which was carried on with unusual persistency and ability between himself and his colleagues, on the one hand, and Drs. Tyler, Woods, and other prominent Congregational divines, on the other. Dr. Taylor never admitted that his opinions were heretical, judged by the standard theologians of New England, but labored hard to prove their substantial conformity to the latter. Defended and enforced by his intense earnestness and eloquence, and by his powerful logic, his theology has won many adherents, and so it has been claimed has silently modified, and in a true sense rationalized, the Calvinistic theology. Dr. Taylor attached much importance to the truths of natural religion, and he also laid much stress upon true theories of mind. A correct mental philosophy he deemed fundamental, and elaborated with much care a system of his own. With Dwight and Edwards, he held that all motives find their ultimate ground of appeal ill the desire of personal happiness, and that the idea of right in its last analysis is resolved into a tendency to the highest happiness. As a teacher, Dr. Taylor won the admiration and affection of his pupils, near seven hundred being under his training, and inspired them with enthusiasm and pleasure in the pursuit of their studies. In his social and domestic relations, he was peculiarly attractive and lovely, and peculiarly beloved. As an author, Dr. Taylor is known principally by posthumous works. His controversial articles were contributed principally to the Monthly and Quarterly Christian Spectator and to the Spirit of the Pilgrims. Since his death there have appeared the following, edited by Noah Porter, D.D. Practical Sermons (N. Y. 1858, 8vo): — Lectures on the Moral Government of God (ibid. 1859, 2 vols. 8vo), his greatest and most celebrated performance: — Essays, Lectures, etc., upon Select Topics in Revealed Theology (ibid. 1859, 8vo). See the Congregational Quarterly, 1860, p. 245 sq. (by Dr. Dutton); Allibone, Dict. of Brit. and Amer. Authors, s.v.; Appleton's Cyclopaedia, s.v.; also the Christ. Quar. Spec. vols. 2, 4:5; Spirit of the Pilgrims, vols. 5, 6; New- Englander, Nov. 1859 (by Prof. Martin); Amer. Theol. Rev. 1859, p. 391 sq. (by Dr. Pond); Meth. Quar. Rev. 1859, p. 317, 667; 1860, p. 146, 656- 669 (by Dr. Whedon); Memorial of Nathaniel W. Taylor, D.D. (New Haven, 1858, 8vo), comprising sermons by Drs. Bacon, Dutton, and Fisher. SEE THEOLOGY; SEE TYLER, BENNET.