The Words of Gardner Taylor. Quintessential Classics, 1980-Present.
The editor, Edward C. Taylor, is dean of Christian Education for the General Baptist Convention of New Jersey. He also is pastor of the New Horizon Baptist Church in Princeton and editor of previous sermons by Gardner Taylor. The editor published The Words of Gardner Taylor to illustrate the sermons of an elder statesman on the gospel and the rich tradition of African-American preaching. It is apparent that the editor is impressed that Gardner Taylor's sermons are important documentation for this valuable African-American experience of preaching.
Gardner Calvin Taylor is emeritus pastor of Brooklyn's Concord Baptist Church, where he served from 1946 to 1990. He preached worldwide, including the Lyman Beecher Lectures and the inauguration of President William Jefferson Clinton in 1993. He is a distinguished professor at the New York Theological Seminary. Taylor is a native of Louisiana. By age thirty, he was noted as a dynamic preacher, church administrator, and religious and community leader. He served on the New York City Board of Education, led the Democratic Party in Kings County, and added some nine thousand souls to the membership of Concord Baptist Church. However, Dr. Taylor's preaching distinguished his career. He preached before the World Baptist Alliance on many occasions, in several foreign countries, and on dozens of radio stations. He received over one hundred honorary degrees.
Taylor's sermons use modern homiletic theory as well as styles of the African-American and nineteenth-century backgrounds. In some ways, he is not disconnected from the African-American history and religious traditions. Such traditions and history may be found in Albert J. Raboteau's Slave Religion (1978); William E. Montgomery's Under Their Own Vine and Fig Tree: The African-American Church in the South, 1865-1900 (1993); and Paul Harvey's Redeeming the South: Religious Cultures and Racial Identifies Among Southern Baptists, 1865-1925 (1997).
However, Taylor takes African-American preaching to a higher evolutionary point through uses of theological reflection, rich language, metaphor, biblical scholarship, content and stories of interest, and powerful delivery to bring his sermons to a point of purpose. The editor gave some editorial revision to provide a modern style, but the messages are Taylor's words. One of his sermons, "Balm in Gilead," is an admitted and admirable amplification of the sermon preached by Taylor's father. "We know at levels deeper than reason that by his wound we are healed, and in his abandonment the way is open for us to be won forever to God. Christ heals our soul's disease, and he is our balm in Gilead."
This is an inspiring and refreshing book to read.--Bobby L. Lovett, Professor of History, Tennessee State University, Nashville, Tennessee.