« VorigeDoorgaan »
make a returne to your so kind and friendly letter ; when I shall tell you that I have passed through a great cloud which hath wetted mee deeper than the skin. It hath pleased God to send the small
poxe and fevers among my children ; and I have, since I received your last, buried two sweet, hopeful boyes; and have now but one sonne left, whom I intend, if it please God, to bring up to London before Easter, and then I hope to waite upon you, and by your sweet conversation and other divertisements, if not to alleviate my sorrow, yet, at least, to entertain myself and keep me from too intense and actual thinkings of my trouble. Deare Sir, will you doe so much for mee as to beg my pardon of Mr. Thurland, that I have yet made no returne to him for his so friendly letter and expressions. Sir, you see there is too much matter to make excuse; my sorrow will, at least, render mee an object of every good man's piety and commiseration. But, for myself, I bless God, I have observed and felt so much mercy in this angry dispensation of God, that I am almost transported, I am sure, highly pleased with thinking how infinitely sweet his mercies are when his judgments are so gracious. Sir, there are many particulars in your letter which I would faine have answered; but, still, my little sadnesses intervene, and will yet suffer mee to write nothing else : but that I beg your prayers, and that you will still own me to be,
“ DearE AND HONOURED Sir,
'JER. TAYLOR. 5 Feb. 22, 165 6-7.”
“TO JOHN EVELYN, ESQUIRE. “ DEARE SIR,—If dividing and sharing griefes were like the cutting of rivers, I dare say to you, you would find your streame much abated; for I account myselfe to have a great cause of sorrow, not onely in the diminution of the numbers of your joys and hopes, but in the losse of that pretty person, your strangely hopeful boy. I cannot tell all my owne sorrowes without adding to yours; and the causes of my real sadnesss in your losse are so just and so reasonable, that I can no otherwise comfort you but by telling you,
have very great cause to mourne: so certaine it is that griefe does propagate as fire does.
You have enkindled my funeral torch, and by joining mine to yours, I doe but
Ι encrease the flame. • Hoc me male urit,' is the best signification of my apprehension of your sad story. But, Sir, I cannot choose, but I must hold another and a brighter flame to you, it is already burning in your heart; and if I can but remove the darke side of the lanthorne, you have enoughe within you to warme yourselfe, and to shine to others. Remember, Sir, your two boyes are two bright stares, and their innocence is secured, and you shall never
hear evil of them agayne. Their state is safe, and heaven is given to them upon very easy termes; nothing but to be borne and die. It will cost you more trouble to get where they are ; and amongst other things one of the hardnesses will be, that you must overcome even this just and reasonable griefe; and, indeed, though the griefe hath but too reasonable a cause, yet it is much more reasonable that you master it. For besides that they are no loosers, but you are the person that complaines, doe but consider what you would have suffered for their interest : you (would) have suffered them to goe from you, to be great princes in a strange country : and if you can be content to suffer your owne inconvenience for their interest, you command [commend] your worthiest love, and the question of mourning is at an end. But you have said and done well, when you looke upon it as a rod of God; and he that so smites here will spare hereafter: and if you, by patience and submission, imprint the discipline upon your own flesh, you kill the cause, and make the effect very tolerable ; because it is, in some sense, chosen, and therefore, in no sense, insufferable. Sir, if you doe not looke to it, time will snatch your honour from you, and reproach you for not effecting that by Christian philosphy which time will doe alone. And if you consider, that of the bravest men in the world, we find the seldomest stories of their children, and the apostles had none, and thousands of the worthiest persons, that sound most in story, died childlesse : you will find it is a rare act of Providence so to impose upon worthy men a necessity of perpetuating their names by worthy actions and discourses, governments and reasonings. If the breach be never repaired, it is because God does not see it fitt to be; and if you will be of his mind, it will be much the better. But, Sir, you will pardon my zeale and passion for your comfort, I will readily confesse that you have no need of any discourse from me to comfort you. Sir, now you have an opportunity of serving God by passive graces; strive to be an example and a comfort to your lady, and by your wise counsel and comfort, stand in the breaches of your owne family, and make it appeare that you are more to her than ten sons. Sir, by the assistance of Almighty God, I purpose to wait on you some time next weeke, that I may be a witnesse of your Christian courage and bravery; and that I may see, that God never displeases you, as long as the main stake is preserved, I mean your hopes and confidences of heaven. Sir, I shall pray for all that you can want, that is, some degrees of comfort and a present mind; and shall alwayes doe you honour, and faine also would doe you service, if it were in the power, as it is in the affections and desires of,
“ DEARE Sir,
“ JER. TAYLOR. “Feb. 17, 1657-8."
It seemed to be a favorite task with Taylor to write such letters of condolence to his friends. In the Preface to his Holy Dying, there is an admirable Epistle Dedicatory to Richard, Earl of Carbery, on the occasion of his Lady's death. The solemn, and majestic, yet graceful expressions of Taylor on such occasions, make us think of him as a willow, standing at the door-way of a house where sorrow was many years since bidden as a constant inmate, and this beautiful tree, with its pensile and trailed branches, though flung by every passing wind in the carelessness of grief, returns constantly to the bending attitude of sorrow. “My Lord,” says the pious and faithful Bishop,
“I am treating your Lordship, as a Roman gentleman did St. Augustine and his mother; I shall entertain you in a charnel house, and carry your meditations awhile into the chambers of death, where you shall find the rooms dressed up with melancholic arts, and fit to converse with your most retired thoughts, which begin with a sigh, and proceed in deep consideration, and end in a holy resolution. The sight that St. Augustine most noted in that house of sorrow, was the body of Cæsar, clothed with all the dishonours of corruption, that you can suppose
in a six months' burial. But I know, that, without pointing, your first thoughts will remember the change of a greater beauty, which is now dressing for the brightest immortality, and from her bed of darkness calls to you to dress your soul for that change, which shall mingle your bones with that beloved dust, and carry your soul to the same quire, where you may both sit and sing for ever. My Lord, it is your dear Lady's anniversary, and she deserved the greatest honour, and the longest memory, and the fairest monument, and the most solemn mourning: and in order to it, give me leave, my Lord, to cover her hearse with these following sheets. This book was intended first to minister to her piety; and she desired all good people should partake of the advantages which are here recorded : she knew how to live rarely well, and she desired to know how to die; and God taught her by an experiment. But since her work is done, and God supplied her with provisions of his own, before I could minister to her, and perfect what she desired, it is necessary to present to your Lordship those bundles of cypress, which were intended to dress her closet, but come now to dress her hearse. My Lord, both
your Lordship and myself have lately seen and felt such sorrows of death, and such sad departure of dearest friends, that it is more than high time we should think ourselves nearly concerned in the accidents. Death hath come so near to you, as to fetch a portion from your very heart; and now you cannot choose but dig your own grave, and place your coffin in your eye, when the angel hath dressed your scene of sorrow and meditation with so particular and so near an object : and, therefore, as it is my duty, I am come to minister to your pious thoughts, and to direct your sorrows, that they may turn into virtues and advantages.”
There has doubtless been a great degree of indiscriminate praise lavished upon Taylor's writings, for the name of Jeremy Taylor is associated in the minds of many with the perfection of the English tongue. It is true, without doubt, that the simplicity of his heart, and the beauty of his thoughts, and the air of pensive reflection which pervades his pages, has, in a great measure, disarmed criticism of its severity. In regard to the character of his intellectual powers, Bishop Heber remarks:
“ The powers of Taylor's mind were not devoted to the investigation of fresh fields of science, or to enlarge the compass of the human intellect, by ascertaining its legitimate boundaries. He was busied through life in defending truths already received, or in clearing away errors by which those ancient truths had been disfigured."
He was not a logical so much as a rhetorical reasoner, carrying his points by means of striking illustrations, and gaining assent from the heart by appeals to its consciousness. To this are added a host of strange allusions to persons and events. In regard to many of them we are half inclined to suspect that they had their existence only in his or some other mind, though they are introduced with the soberness of truth, and relied upon in confirmation of a subject. They are frequently so quaint, and sometimes so ridiculous, that they do no credit to the writer's understanding, though we must bear in mind the great fondness of the readers of that age
for such matters. Learned references are brought forward, one aster another, to establish a truism. Curious incidents in the lives of the ancients are interspersed without measure. In the chapter on Contentedness, in the Holy Living, we open to a place where, in illustration of the truth that splendid fortunes have many interruptions and allays, he tells us that Pittacus was a wise and valiant man, but at a large dinner party, his wife, in a fit of passion, overset the table, whereupon the good man remarked, that “
every man had one evil, and he was most happy that he had but that one alone.”
“ And this consideration is also of great use to them, who envy at the prosperity of the wicked, and the success of persecutors, and the baits of fishes, and the bread of dogs. God fails not to sow blessings in the long furrows, which the ploughers plough upon the back of the church: and this success, which troubles us, will be a great glory to God, and a great benefit to his saints and servants, and a great ruin to the persecutors, who shall have but the fortune of Theramenes, one of the thirty tyrants of Athens, who escaped, when his house fell upon him, and was shortly after put to death with torments by his colleagues in the tyranny."
He tells us that it is useless to live in continual fear of death.
“For if you fear death, you shall never the more avoid it, but you make it miserable. Fannius, that killed himself for fear of death, died as certainly as Porcia, that ate burning coals, or Cato that cut his own throat."
Speaking of restitution for unintentional injuries he says,
“And when Ariarathes, the Cappadocian king, had, but in wantonness, stopped the mouth of the river Melanus, although he intended no evil, yet Euphrates being swelled by that means, and bearing away some of the strand of Cappadocia, did great spoil to the Phrygians and Galatians; he therefore by the Roman senate was condemned in three hundred talents, towards reparation of the damage. Much rather therefore, when the lesser part of the evil was directly intended.”
We are also told, when he speaks of “care of our time,” either for the sake of illustrating his subject or his own lore,
“ Thus Nero went up and down Greece, and challenged the fiddlers at their trade. Æropus, a Macedonian king, made lanterns. Harcatius, the king of Parthia was a mole-catcher : and Biantes, the Lydian, filed needles. He, that is appointed to minister in holy things, must not suffer secular affairs and sordid arts to eat up great portions of his employment: a clergyman must not keep a tavern, nor a judge be an innkeeper : and it was a great idleness in Theophylact, to spend his time in his stable of horses, when he should have been in his study, or the pulpit, or saying his holy offices. Such employments are the diseases of labor, and the rust of time which it contracts, not by lying still, but by dirty employment.”
The style of Taylor abounds in Latinisms, and he frequently shows his erudition by the use of a literal instead of VOL. I.