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against the living labours of public men, how we spill that seasoned life of man preserved and stored up in books; since we see a kind of homicide may be thus committed, sometimes a martyrdom, and if it extend to the whole impression, a kind of massacre, whereof the execution ends not in the slaying of an elemental life, but strikes at that ethereal and fifth essence, the breath of reason itself, slays an immortality rather than a life.
O how much more glorious will those former deliverances appear, when we shall know them not only to have saved us from greatest miseries past, but to have reserved us for greatest happiness to come. Hitherto thou hast but freed us, and that not fully, from the unjust and tyrannous claim of thy foes, now unite us entirely, and appropriate us to thyself, tie us everlastingly in willing homage to the prerogative of thy eternal throne .
Then amidst the hymns and hallelujahs of saints some one may perhaps be heard offering at high strains in new and lofty measures to sing and celebrate thy divine mercies and marvellous judgments in this land throughout all ages; whereby this great and warlike nation, instructed and inured to the fervent and continual practice of truth and righteousness, and casting far from her the rags of her old vices, may press on hard to that high and happy emulation to be found the soberest, wisest, and most Christian people at that day when thou, the eternal and shortly-expected King, shalt open the clouds to judge the several kingdoms of the world, and distributing national honours and rewards to religious and just commonwealths, shalt put an end to all earthly tyrannies, proclaiming thy universal and mild monarchy through heaven and earth. Where they undoubtedly that by their labours, counsels, and prayers have been earnest for the common good of religion and their country, shall receive, above the inferior orders of the blessed, the regal addition of principalities, legions, and thrones into their glorious titles, and in supereminence of beatific vision progressing the dateless and irrevoluble circle of eternity shall clasp inseparable hands with joy, and bliss in over measure for ever.
JEREMY TAYLOR was the son of a barber at Cambridge. He was born there August 15, 1613. From the recently founded Grammar School he passed to Caius College as a sizar. At twenty-one he was ordained. Soon after this he was favourably noticed by Laud, who was always remarkable for his encouragement of men of rning and ability. Laud's exertions obtained for Taylor a Fellowship at All Souls' College, Oxford. In 1637, Bishop Juxon appointed him to the living of Uppingham. He followed the fortunes of Charles I during his struggle with Parliament, and, like many other royalists, suffered hardship and poverty during the Commonwealth. In 1655, on account of some expressions in a preface to a well-known book of devotion, he was imprisoned. At the Restoration, he was made Bishop of Down and Connor. Here he laboured incessantly for the advance of his Church, but with small effect. He died at Lisburne, in 1667.
Jeremy Taylor stands high in the catalogue of English divines. His practical writings preserve their popularity, and, in their own peculiar way, possess a remarkable charm. In his sermons we have, upon the whole, the most favourable specimens of his genius. The learning is abundant, sometimes oppressive. Few writers in any age have used quotation so freely. The rhetorical power of Taylor is certainly, as Mr. Hallam has called it, too Asiatic; but the distinct personality of the writer is so preserved, that the reader is attracted in spite of himself.
There are passages in his sermons which will charm so long as imagination and
fancy exert their sway. In The Liberty of Prophesying, he pleaded for toleration and freedom of opinion. The Ductor Dubitantium exhibits him as a master of casuistic morality. His solution of grave difficulties is often far from satisfactory, and the student of Taylor's writings will turn with pleasure to the hortatory and devotional passages which abound in his purely theological writings.
The great preachers of the Gallican Church are the only divines who have equalled Jeremy Taylor in funeral oration. His discourse on the death of Lady Carbery, the wife of a nobleman who had shown him great kindness, is unique in English literature.
He that is choice of his time will also be choice of his company, and choice of his actions; lest the first engage him in vanity and loss, and the latter, by being criminal, be a throwing his time and himself away, and a going back in the accounts of eternity.
God hath given to man a short time here upon earth, and yet upon this short time eternity depends: but so, that for every hour of our life (after we are persons capable of laws, and know good from evil), we must give account to the great judge of men and angels. And this is it which our blessed Saviour told us, that we must account for every idle word: not meaning that every word which is not designed to edification, or is less prudent, shall be reckoned for a sin; but that the time which we spend in our idle talking and unprofitable discoursings, that time which might and ought to have been employed to spiritual and useful purposes, that is to be accounted for.
For must remember that we have a great work to do, many enemies to conquer, many evils to prevent, much danger to run through, many difficulties to be mastered, many necessities to serve, and much good to do, many children to provide for, or many friends to support, or many poor to relieve, or many diseases to cure, besides the needs of nature and of relation, our private and our public cares, and duties of the world, which necessity and the providence of God hath adopted into the family of religion.
And that we need not fear this instrument to be a snare to us, or that the duty must end in scruple, vexation, and eternal fears, we must remember that the life of every man may be so ordered (and indeed must), that it may be a perpetual serving of God: the greatest trouble, and most busy trade, and worldly incumbrances, when they are necessary, or charitable, or profitable, in order to any of those ends which we are bound to serve, whether public or private, being a doing of God's work. For God provides the good things of the world to serve the needs of nature, by the labours of the ploughman, the skill and pains of the artizan, and the dangers and traffic of the merchant: these men are in their callings the ministers of the Divine Providence, and the stewards of the creation, and servants of a great family of God.
God hath given every man work enough to do, that there shall be no room for idleness; and yet hath so ordered the world, that there shall be space for devotion. He that hath the fewest businesses of the world, is called upon to spend more time in the dressing of his soul; and he that hath the most affairs, may so order them, that they shall be a service of God; whilst at certain periods they are blessed with prayers and actions of religion, and all day long are hallowed by a holy intention. . . . . Idleness is the greatest prodigality in the world: it throws away that which is unvaluable in respect of its present use, and irreparable when it is past, being to be recovered by no power of art or nature.