PREACHING IN BARNSLEY.
Incidents in the life of James Taylor, (died 1795) great grandfather of James Hudson Taylor.
Long before this, however, he had been privileged to “make full proof of his ministry in truly apostolic ways. Down on the Old Bridge and in the Market Place he had been in danger of his life once and again while preaching in the open air. Pelted with stones and refuse, struck down and dragged through the mire, he had been rescued at the last moment Â— only to preach again.
Returning from a meeting on one occasion he was accosted by a couple of men who appeared to be friendly. Engaged in conversation with one of them he did not notice the movements of the other, who suddenly rubbed into his eyes a mixture of pounded glass and mud calculated to blind him for life. Sightless and in desperate pain Taylor was wholly at their mercy, and there is no knowing what might have happened had not Joseph Beckett coming down Church Street at the time hastened to his assistance. Seeing the magistrate the ruffians made off, but not before Mr. Beckett had recognised one of them, a professed infidel and no friend to the Methodists in Barnsley. Poor Taylor was taken home in great suffering, and it was fully three months before he could return to work again. His employer urged him to take out a summons, having himself witnessed the occurrence. But James would not hear of it.
“No,” he said, “the Lord is well able to deal with them. I would rather leave it in His hands.”
This did not satisfy the magistrate, however, who decided to carry the prosecution through on his own account. In the witness-box the culprit denied the charge, calling upon God to strike him blind if he had had anything to do with the outrage. Shortly after, all Barnsley knew that he had lost his sight. For the rest of his life he had to be led by a dog through the familiar streets, and ultimately sunk into extreme poverty. His accomplice also was obliged to confess that nothing ever prospered with him from the time of their cruel attack upon James Taylor.
Such experiences in common with others of a less serious character afforded abundant opportunity for putting into practice the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount, opportunities not lost upon James Taylor and his fellow-Methodists.
It was an eloquent sermon he preached in Eastgate, for example, when an angry woman ran after him, frying-pan in hand. She had seen the good man go by wearing a light-coloured overcoat, and thought it an excellent opportunity of provoking him into a quarrel. Coming up behind, she vigorously rubbed the greasy, sooty utensil all over the back of his tidy garment, using her tongue meanwhile to the amusement of onlookers. But it was her turn to be discomfited when Taylor turned round with a smile, suggesting that if it afforded her satisfaction she might grease the front as well. Covered with confusion the woman retired, but the incident was not easily forgotten.
It is said that on his deathbed the infidel above-mentioned sent for the man he had injured, hoping to find comfort in his prayers. But eager as he was to help his former enemy, James Taylor could not pray. He tried and tried again, but his cry seemed to return from an unanswering heaven. The solemn words then came to mind: “He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.” To see an unrepentant soul pass into eternity was far more terrible to him than all the persecutions he had endured.
Extracted from Hudson Taylor in Early Years.