« ZurückWeiter »
It is uncertain whether he joined the Royal army at Nottingham; but his living at Uppingham was sequestrated in the earliest months of the Civil War; his rectoryhouse was plundered and despoiled; and his family expelled. In these circumstances he was free to follow the King in his various marches; and it is noticeable that he gathered a knowledge of military affairs which afterwards provided him in his sermons with numerous forcible illustrations : He accompanied the royal army to Wales in the beginning of 1664; and at the siege of Cardigan Castle was taken prisoner. With the treatment he received he had, however, no fault to find. He was speedily released; and then for some time gained a laborious livelihood as a schoolmaster at Llanvihangel Aberbythic. “In this great storm,” he writes to Lord Halton, “which hath dashed the vessel of the Church all to pieces, I have been cast upon the coast of Wales, and, in a little boat, thought to have enjoyed that rest and quietness which, in England, in a greater, I could not hope for. Here I cast anchor, and thinking to ride safely, the storm followed on with so impetuous violence that it broke a cable, and I lost my anchor; and here again I was exposed to the mercy of the sea, and the gentleness of an element that could neither distinguish things nor persons. And but that He Who stilleth the raging of the sea and the noise of His waves, and the madness of His people, had provided a plank for me, I had been lost to all the opportunities of content or study. But I know not whether I have been more preserved by the courtesies of my friends, or the gentleness and mercies of a noble enemy; for the barbarous people showed us no little kindness; for, having kindled a fire, they received us all because of the present rain and the cold.' And now
since I have come ashore, I have been gathering a few sticks to warm me; a few books to entertain my thoughts, and divert them from the perpetual meditation of my private troubles and the public dyscrasy ; but those which I could obtain were so few and so impertinent, and unuseful to any great purposes, that I began to be sad upon a new stock, and full of apprehension that I should live unprofitably, and die obscurely, and be forgotten, and my bones thrown into some common charnel-house, without any name or note to distinguish me from those who only served their generation by filling the number of citizens.”
It was about this time that he found a second wife in a Mistress Joanna Bridges, a lady of good means, reputed to have been an illegitimate daughter of Charles I. ; and a friend in Lord Carbery, whose seat of Golden Grove was situated in the vicinity of Taylor's pleasant retreat. Another and still more valuable friend was the learned, pious, and liberal-handed John Evelyn. He continued to carry on his school, assisted by William Nicolson, afterwards Bishop of Gloucester, and William Wyatt, afterwards Prebendary of Lincoln. For the use of their scholars Taylor and Wyatt composed a “ Grammar," which was published in 1647. And though he was without books, “except so many,” he says, “as a man may carry on horseback,” it was now that he wrote his great work, “The Liberty of Prophesying,” in which he proposes to enlarge the limits of comprehension and narrow the bounds of controversy by the adoption of the Apostles' Creed as the standard and exposition of Evangelical Truth-a proposition similar, as Melissom remarks, to one put forward by Erasmus. He who traces its close-linked reasoning, observes its fertility of allusion, and warms himself in the glow and fervour of its poetical imagery, will surely join in the admiration with which Coleridge always regarded it. In itself it justifies his eulogy of its author as “the most eloquent of divines, I had almost said, of men; and if I had, Demosthenes would nod approval and Cicero express assent.” Bishop Heber says :-“On a work so rich in intellect, so renowned for charity, which contending sects have rivalled each other in approving, and which was the first, perhaps, since the earliest days of Christianity, to teach those among whom differences were inevitable, the art of differing harmlessly, it would be almost impertinent to enlarge in commendation.” Had he written no other book, the Christian Church, as Canon Farrar remarks, would have owed him a debt that could never be repaid. The grand cause of religious tolerance has had no mightier champion ; and though his attack failed in its immediate object, it eventually succeeded in establishing religious freedom on an impregnable basis.
In plan this famous treatise is exceedingly simple. Taking the Apostles' Creed as embodying the principal articles of the Christian faith, he declares that all subsidiary dogmas are superfluous or indifferent, and not to be required of believers as indispensable to their salvation. This bold position, Taylor, with some slight misgivings when vexed by the uncompromising hostility of Irish Presbyterianism, maintained throughout his life. “I thought," he wrote in his Epistle Dedicatory,“ it might not misbecome my duty and endeavours to plead for peace and charity and forgiveness and permissions mutual; although I had reason to believe that, such is the iniquity of men, and they so indisposed to receive real impresses, that I had as good plough the sands, or till the air, as persuade such doctrines which destroy men's interests, and serve no end but the great end of a happy eternity, and what is in order to it. But because the events of things are in God's disposition, and I knew them not and because, if I had known, my good purposes would be totally as ineffectual as to others-yet my own designation and purpose would be of advantage to myself, who might, from God's mercy, expect the retribution which He is pleased to promise to all pious intendments; I resolved to encounter with all objections, and to do something to each. I should be determined by the consideration of the present distemperatures and necessities, by my own thoughts, by the questions and scruples, the sects and names, the interests and animosities, which at this day, and for some years past, have exercised and disquieted Christendom.”
We have not at our command adequate space to unfold the various links of the chain of argument which he has wrought out of the purest gold, and embellished with the most precious stones. But we may venture to introduce a specimen or two of his style and method, which, we hope, will send the reader to study the original, if haply he be unacquainted with it. The essence of his reasoning, or, perhaps, we should rather say, the aim and motive of it, may be seen in the following most beautiful parable, or allegory, which comes from the Persian poet Saadi, through the medium of Grotius in his “Historia Judaica”:
“When Abraham sat at his tent door, according to his custom, waiting to entertain strangers, he espied an old
man stooping and leaning on his staff, weary with age and travail, coming towards him, who was an hundred years of age. He received him kindly, washed his feet, provided supper, caused him to sit down, but observing that the old man sat and prayed not, nor begged for a blessing on his meat, he asked him why he did not worship the God of heaven. The old man told him that he worshipped the fire only, and acknowledged no other God. At which answer Abraham grew so zealously angry that he thrust the old man out of his tent, and exposed him to all the evils of the night in an unguarded condition. When the old man was gone, God called to Abraham, and asked him where the stranger was. He replied, “I thrust him away because he did not worship Thee.” God answered him, “I have suffered him these hundred years, although he dishonoured Me; and couldst not thou endure him one night, when he gave thee no trouble?” Upon this, saith the story, Abraham fetched him back again, and gave him hospitable entertainment and wise instruction. “Go thou and do likewise,” adds Taylor, “and thy charity will be rewarded by the God of Abraham."
That generous breadth of sympathy and that fine spirit of liberal piety which inspired our great English divine are seen in his remarks on the practice of Christian Churches towards persons who do not accept their formularies.
“In St. Paul's time,” he says, “ though the manner of heretics were not so loose and forward as afterwards, and all that were called heretics were clearly such and highly criminal, yet, as their crime was, so was their censure, that is, spiritual. They were first admonished, once at least, for so Irenæus, Tertullian, Cyprian, Ambrose, and Jerome,