“The Experience of M. Taylor. [Written by herself.]”
Arminian Magazine December 1791, v. XIV, pgs. 613-619
I was born in the year 1753, in the Isle of St. Christopher’s. My father died when I was about five years of age. I was his thirteenth child, and the only girl; my mother endeavoured to bring me up in the strictest morality, and in the fear of God; but she had no objection to what is commonly called innocent amusements, and harmless diversion. I had bad health, and therefore was very peevish, and naturally fretful; so that I was greatly indulged by my mother and the rest of the family. I was fond of dancing and card-playing, and soon became eminent for both. I made no distinction of days: on the Lord’s day I went to Church at ten o’clock, repeated the prayers with as much devotion as others did; but in the afternoon I would dance or play at cards. My mother indeed forbad our playing at cards on the Sabbath, but we would go out of her sight and continued in this practice; yet I never did it without a dread on my spirit, insomuch that I was often led to pray to quiet my conscience.
When I was about sixteen, I found a spirit of resentment reigning in me, with self-will, which I endeavoured to smother;
and was thought by all who knew me to be a very good natured person. About this time we had a dance at our house on Saturday night, and danced until it was near day; then made a party at cards, and about nine o’clock our Minister called upon us, and seemed as much surprised at our Sunday morning’s amusement, as we were at seeing him. The sight of him and the words he spoke, made a greater impression on me than all the Sermons I had heard him read. I was convinced of having done wrong, and was ashamed to appear at Church. I was afraid to read the Bible. There was something so terrific in the Revelations, that I gave over reading any thing but Novels, Histories, and Play-books: yet I would not go to bed without saying prayers, neither would I sleep by myself, as I had a constant slavish fear on my spirit.
In the year 1772, we had a most tremendous hurricane, in which I perceived the wrath of God, and was greatly terrified. This made me more in earnest to save my soul. I had a great desire to receive the sacrament, but I feared I could not keep the covenant, and therefore should eat and drink my own damnation. When I spoke to those who I thought knew better than myself, they said that I was very good. Here I rested, expecting on my death-bed to be forgiven. In the year 1775, my mother died, at which time I determined to give myself to the Lord. In that year I went ot England with a gentleman and lady, with whom I was acquainted, expecting I could be a better Christian in that land than at home. On board the ship, the lady made me read a book which made great impressions on my mind; but after we got to London we had no time to go to church, as too many pleasures interfered. We went to Kensington one Sunday to dinner. I went in the afternoon to prayers, and felt a satisfaction for having waited on the Lord; but I never had an opportunity of going to Church of Chapel in London.
In December 1776, we went to France, where was a new field of pleasures. I was like a bee roving from flower to
flower, to suck the sweets; but at last found them all empty and vain. From the Play-house I went to the Card Table, and then to the Ball, but I refused dancing on the Lord’s day; and when Monsieur Labbey asked my reason, I replied, “it is sinful, and they do not dance in England on the Lord’s day.” He assured me there was no sin in it. I then asked him to be my partner; he said he would with pleasure, but his habit forbad him. He with the rest of the company prevailed on me, so I danced. For five years I continued in this life of dissipation; yet with the strictest regard to my character; and all this time I would contend with the Catholicks about religion.
We returned to England in 1782, and spent the Winter at Bath, where I heard the Methodists preach. I do not know that I was any ways affected by them; but was much taken with the singing, which was solemn and pleasing. I got acquainted with some families, who were called Methodists; but I was a great plague to them, for I took cards in my pocket when I went to visit them, to entice them, and when they visited me I could have the Card Table or Fiddle in readiness; but they bore with me, and were fond of my company. They would get me a ticket whenever I liked to go in with them, and I would seem very attentive, but never was affected under the word. As soon as I returned home, I made a jest of what I had heard and seen; and the Play-house took up more of my attention than the Chapel.
In 1783, we went to American, and had a dreadful passage; and on the 29th of May we gave up all hopes of ever seeing land again. Now I saw my error, in not profiting during the time I was at Bath, to make my own calling and election sure. I prayed that the Lord would spare me until I was fit to die. He was pleased to deliver us out of this danger, and I now began to discern the mercies of the Lord to me in every period of my life, and reflect on them with a sense of my unworthiness. I prayed as usual with the book, as I never was
without my Prayer-book in my pocket, and was remarked for picking up every bit of an old Bible or Prayer-book that I saw when I was a child.
We staid one year in America, during which time I kept myself from making any acquaintance. I read my Prayer-book when I was not engaged with my lady, and while we travelled on a dangerous road I was always praying. I was laughed at for so doing, yet I did not mind it; but often reproved Mr. P——-s for swearing, taking the Lord’s name in vain, and depending so much on himself. They often called me a Methodist, a name I did not deserve. For ten months I kept myself from any kind of diversion; but when we came to Charlestown, I was again enticed to dance, an amusement which I could never withstand, if the company was agreeable. I went to four dances, and at last was taken ill of a fever and ague, about the time of our leaving the place. We sailed notwithstanding my illness, as the Doctor thought the sea air would be beneficial to my health; but I continued ill the whole time. After twenty-eight days passage, we arrived at St. Kitt’s, in the year 1784. I was five months in this state of health, before I began to recover. I now began to find something pleasing in the Bible, and said, I would begin and read it through with attention; but I had so many hindrances, I did not get through it at the time appointed. I frequented the Church oftener, and read the Bible when I came home, but still loved dancing, and would dance the horn-pipe to please my sister and other female friends.
It is remarkable that I had the Methodists so much in my mind, that I prayed the Lord would send us one here; and soon after, in the beginning of the year 1787, I heard that Doctor Coke was arrived with two Ministers, and that one of them was to be stationed here. I was very glad of it, without having a thought of joining the Society. They waited on the President who lived near us, and the called on us; but at the first sight of them I was seized with a palpitation of the heard,
which seemed to affect my whole body, so that I could not put the needle into my work. My nieces took notice that I had not much to say to them, and did not know what was the matter with me, nor did I know myself.
On Sunday there was preaching at the Court-house. I went and heard Mr. Hammet at four in the afternoon, and Doctor Coke at seven in the evening. I did not hear them again until Mr. Hammet returned from St. Eustatius, on which night was my last dance. I went to hear him thrice, but the crowd was so great, I could scarce hear him. However I heard the hymn to my profit, for as he repeated
“All ye that pass by, to Jesus draw nigh,
To you is it nothing that Jesus should die?”
These words came with power to my heart, and truly convinced me that I was a sinner before God. I had almost fallen down with confusion and grief, but was supported by the people standing so close together. I desired a friend to ask him when he would have a private meeting, as there was no comfort in such crowd. He fixed on Saturday night, for which I waited with impatience, and was there first. He was glad to see me, but I could not break through to tell him my uneasiness. He sung, “Come ye sinners, poor and wretched:” Ah! Thought I, he invites me.” I joined the Society that night, but desired it might not be mentioned, lest I should incur the displeasure of my friends.
On Sunday whilst he was preaching, I said to myself, what kind of man is this, who can tell me all that I have done? I went at every preaching time, and returned home more heavy laden than when I went. This stirred me up to pray, and at times I felt the drawings of the Lord with such comfort, that I thought my sins were pardoned, but when I met in Class I found guilt still remain. Mr. Hammet said, “unbelief keeps many from the blessing; but the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” I now prayed for
true belief in the Lord Jesus. On Good Friday I fasted and prayed, and saw my sins worse than ever. I asked Mr. H—- if I should come to the Lord’s table? I thought I should find mercy there, though I was not worthy; for my advocate was with the Father.
After returning from Class-meeting, I was determined to give up all, to forsake friends and relations, and to follow my Lord. When I got home I went into m chamber heavy lade, sick of sin, and of the world. I read three or four chapters and found my faith increase. I then called upon the Lord with my whole heart, and thought, “Though he slay me yet will I love him, and if I die, it shall be at his feet calling for mercy.” I thought if I knew where to find the Lord, I would go and wash his feet with my tears, and wipe them with the hair of my head. I lay down but could not rest. I got up and would not lay down again until I was delivered. I thought of Jacob whilst I was on my knees, and about four in the morning the Lord spoke peace to my soul; after which I fell into a sweet sleep, and woke praising the Lord. I could now withstand persecution and all that was said to me. I had gained the pear of great price, and all things seemed to be put under my feet.
On Sunday morning being Easter-Day, I arose at four o’clock, being the first time I waited on God so early. On standing by asked me when I had seen the morning start last? “Ah! Said I, about two months ago, when I was serving my old master; but now I am come on another errand to my loving Master;” and I did not go in vain, for I returned home rejoicing with a full assurance that God had for his dear Son’s sake pardoned all my sins. This was a glorious day indeed, for I found the love of God shed abroad in my heart: I loved every body; sung and prayed: and when the family would persecute me, I exhorted them to quit the vain things of this world, to leave the husks, and come to Jesus where they would find substantial food.
I thought I should never mourn, nor feel trouble again; but now my warfare began: Satan tempted me to doubt of the blessing; by relations and acquaintance persecuted me; and my evil heart was prone to start from the living God. I watched, and prayed to the Lord for grace to subdue my evil tempers, and to renew my heart. When Mr. Harper came to us, I was just giving way to carnal reasoning; but surely the Lord speaks through his Ministers to the needy souls. I now determined to double my diligence; and blessed be the Lord he soon gave me to see myself by his own light, and that my heart was my greatest enemy. I cried to the Lord, “Cleanse my heart from inbred sin.” Like David, I watered my pillow with tears by night, and I poured out my soul to the Lord in silent cries. I found my faith increase by these words, “They that be whole need not a Physician, but they that are sick:” and when the Lord visited my soul with that portion of grace, I thought I should have fallen down, but I cried, “Good Lord support me:” and the next woman that stood by me fell down and wept bitterly.
Thanks be to my dear Redeemer, I have continued in the faith, going on in my labours of love, in simplicity and sincerity; and while I am endeavouring to water the souls of others, I find my own abundantly watered from the fountainhead. I have received great blessings at the Lord’s table. Surely the Lord is in this place. I can behold his works with wonder, love, and praise, while I sink into humility at my own nothingness. There is now a free and open intercourse betwixt God and my soul. I am enabled to cast all my care upon him, firmly believing that he careth for me. I have discerned love in all his dealings and dispensations towards me, even from my youth up until now. He has taken away the root of sin, and I find constantly the witness of the Spirit, as well as the constant tranquility of mind. My soul cries out for love, and hungers and thirsts for more, and to be more united to him who is my all in all.