Taylor, Dr John

Presbyterian minister of Arian leanings, born at Scotforth, Lancaster. He attended a Dissenting academy in Whitehaven and was ordained at Derby in 1716. Between 1733 and 1757 he exercised an outstanding ministry in Norwich. His attack on the traditional doctrine of Original Sin in The Scripture Doctrine of Original Sin, Proposed to Free and Candid Examination, (1740, 3rd edition 1750) provoked a response from John Wesley in The Doctrine of Original Sin according to Scripture, Reason and Experience (1757). In a fourth edition of his treatise, published posthumously in 1767, Taylor added a reply to Wesley. There is little doubt as to who had the best of the argument. Though Wesley regarded Taylor's teaching as 'poison' and 'worse than open Deism', he referred to him as 'that great man' and as 'a person of uncommon sense and learning'.

Taylor's magnum opus was his two-volume Hebrew Concordance (1754-56). His Paraphrase with notes on the Epistle to the Romans (1745) with a 'Key to the Apostolic Writings', was highly regarded even into the next century. Adam Clarke drew heavily on it in his own Commentary, acknowledging his debt to 'Dr. Taylor of Norwich, a divine who yielded to few in command of temper, benevolent feeling, and deep acquaintance with the Hebrew and Greek scriptures'. The University of Glasgow awarded him a DD in 1757 in recognition of his biblical scholarship. In 1757, after a distinguished ministry in Norwich, culminating in the opening of the Octagon meeting house in Colegate, Taylor joined the nascent Warrington Academy as divinity tutor, where his closing years were rendered miserable by contention and ill-health. He died at Warrington on 5 March 1761.


'Enough has been said, and extracted from this remarkable book, to exhibit the author's case against the doctrine of Original Sin as it was held and taught at that time. Not only did his formidable biblical scholarship enable him to undermine its alleged foundation in Scripture; his recognition of the need for good sense in religion and of the role of reason in the formation of doctrine, enabled him to see clearly, and express trenchantly, the downright absurdity of it. As he says, by this doctrine "we are made Sinners we know not how, and therefore must be made sorry for, and repent of, we know not what."'

G.T. Eddy, Dr. Taylor of Norwich (2003) p.83

  • Alan P.F. Sell, Dissenting Thought in the Life of the Churches (Lewiston, NY, 1990), Ch. 7
  • G. Thackray Eddy, 'Sartor Resartus; or Taylor new-tailor'd', in Epworth Review, 26:2 (April 1999) pp.88-98
  • G. Thackray Eddy, 'Formica contra leonem: an eighteenth century conflict reassessed', in Methodist History, 38 (1999-2000), pp.71-81
  • G. Thackray Eddy, Dr. Taylor of Norwich, Wesley's Arch-heretic (Peterborough, 2003)
  • Herbert B. McGonigle, Christianity or Deism? John Wesley's response to John Taylor's Denial of the Doctrine of Original Sin (Sheffield, 2012)
  • Randy L. Maddox (ed.), The Works of John Wesley, vol.12, Doctrinal and Controversial Treatises (2012), pp.121-47
  • Oxford DNB

Entry written by: GTE
Category: Person
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