by David Wise

In 1849, William Taylor was sent by his Bishop to be a Methodist missionary in the “uncivilized” territory of California.  His destination was the notorious city of San Francisco.  Taylor would spend seven years laboring on the West Coast, with San Francisco as the home base for his efforts.

The Gospel Does Its Work

The young missionary would typically preach five sermons every Sunday, with the fourth sermon being an open air message in Portsmouth Square at 4 PM.  It was during this fourth message of the day that he would reach literally thousands of souls who had gathered in this central location with the message of full salvation.

When Taylor commenced his ministry in the city, it was known for its violence, debauchery, drunkenness, blasphemy, and overall godlessness.  Portsmouth Square, otherwise known as “the Plaza”, was the epicenter for this corporate rebellion against King Jesus. At the end of Taylor’s time in California, a friend of his named Wilson Flint, wrote a letter to Taylor where he marveled at the miraculous change that came to the spiritual climate of San Francisco in seven short years.

A miraculous change came to the spiritual climate of San Francisco in seven short years.

The Plaza was a primary example of this great shift.  Where once pandemonium reigned, law and order now prevailed.  Where drunkenness and profanity were common, churches and churchgoers were seen on every side.  The Gospel had done its work in San Francisco and Methodism had been true to its call to spread Scriptural Holiness across these lands – even in the “Sodom” of 19th century America.

The Heart of God in the Gospel

William Taylor’s work in California was a product of the Gospel he and every true Holiness preacher has proclaimed, whether past or present. At the heart of the message is the knowledge that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. No son of Adam or daughter of Eve has ever been predestined to the lake of fire.

Though God’s fierce anger burns against evildoers, His love yearns to see broken hearted prodigals return to the Father’s house and be saved to the uttermost.  It is a love that knows nothing of partiality or favoritism.  The invitation is extended to the children of preachers and the children of drug addicts.  It yearns to see men, women, and children of every race brought into this experience of the new birth.

“The three chief mourners at the funeral of any lost soul are the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.” (Taylor)

God’s love made full provision for a salvation that went beyond even the wonder of regeneration and made possible the cleansing of the heart from indwelling sin. San Francisco in Taylor’s day was a gathering place for souls from the four corners of the world and he invited all races and colors to be washed white in the blood of the Lamb.  His strong feelings on this subject can be seen by his statement that “the three chief mourners at the funeral of any lost soul are the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”  A soul that misses Heaven has missed the will of God for his or her life.

The Choice of Man and the Gospel Call

Sadly, not everyone who heard Taylor preach in the churches, jails, and streets of San Francisco responded to the offer of eternal life.  As it was then, so it is now and ever will be.  The gift of freewill is a blessing to some and proves to be a curse to others.  The drawing influences of the Holy Spirit work upon all but not all respond.  This is why some who are blessed from birth with tremendous spiritual privileges reject their godly heritage and go their own way.  This is also why some with severe spiritual handicaps lay hold of the promises of God and become leaders in Israel.

With this in mind, we must look upon each individual soul as one that could, with the grace of God, soar to great heights in the things of the Lord.  In fact, this is what the heart of God desires. The great masses of lost mankind are full of individuals that could do exploits for God if ever they are brought to the knowledge of Him.

 We must bring this Gospel that saves from sin to the masses.

The responsibility for bringing this radical message of full salvation to the unsaved rests with an awakened and revived church that yearns to see the worst of the worst washed in that “fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins.” We cannot make them choose the way of salvation but we must bring this Gospel that saves from sin to the masses that sit in spiritual darkness here in pagan America. Every person ought to have the opportunity to hear the message of salvation proclaimed by a messenger that has clean hands and a pure heart.

​The hour is dark and the spiritual confusion has never been more widespread. Yet, the potential for our message changing lives has never been greater.  May the mantle of William Taylor fall on a rising generation of Holiness preachers and propel us to proclaim this Gospel in our sin ravaged nation but also to the ends of the earth.

About the Author

David Wise pastors at the Berwick God’s Missionary Church and serves on the Home Missions Board. He was elected as editor of the God’s Missionary Standard in 2017.