« VorigeDoorgaan »
taking; and the papers which Mr. Nicholson left at his death, and which, in themselves, do not appear to have been either numerous or important, have eluded all the inquiries of the present writer, as well as of his learned and amiable friend, Archdeacon BONNEY.
Of the Life which the Archdeacon has himself given to the world, it is sufficient to say, that it would have precluded the necessity of all succeeding labourers in the cause, had not a more detailed and critical examination of Taylor's writings been contemplated than fell within the scope of his plan; and had not a hope been excited of obtaining additional information from traditions and documents, which were previously not accessible.
A critical examination of the author's genius and writings was rendered expedient by the opportunity which it afforded of discussing, in a connected view, the merits and peculiarities of a writer so voluminous; by the propriety of discriminating between his many beauties, and his occasional, though unfrequent, aberrations from a correct taste and judgment; and sometimes, also, though still less frequently, of detecting and obviating his departure from the usual and orthodox faith of Christians. Of the manner in which this task has been performed, it is for the public to decide. The writer cannot plead want of time; he is not conscious of any want of diligence; and he has had abundant opportunity to examine such of Taylor's works, as
were not previously familiar to him. The warmer admirers of his author will, perhaps, sometimes condemn him as unjust and captious in his criticisms; while others may accuse him of a too indiscriminate praise, and of blindness to the imperfections with which these beautiful compositions are impaired and spotted. If these charges are both brought against him, he will seek no better defence than the balance of conflicting censures. But he will admit, that, of the two, he has most dreaded the latter danger, as the one most injurious to the interests of literature and religion, and that to which an ardent admirer of TAYLOR's excellencies is, naturally, most liable.
From the works thus censured or extolled, it was obviously necessary to select particular passages in illustration of the principles laid down, or in justification of the criticisms hazarded. If those quotations should be thought too long or too frequent, let it be remembered that many may, perhaps, be tempted to read them in a compendious form, who would, without some previous introduction to the author's beauties, have been little inclined to search for them through fourteen closely printed volumes. And let it be observed that, though some of the passages in question may have been extracted to make good a censure, or on account of their eloquence or their singularity,- a still greater anxiety has been felt to bring forward those, which contain the most useful precepts of sound sense and practical holiness.
That the wise, and moderate, and eminently Christian spirit of JEREMY TAYLOR; his unshaken fidelity to the civil and religious institutions of his country; his unwearied industry; his inexhaustible learning; his zeal for the essentials of the Catholic faith; his abhorrence of unprofitable and vexatious grounds of difference; his piety, his toleration, and his humility, may ever find imitators and rivals in that Church which he loved and adorned; whose deep depression did not subdue, and whose triumph did not too far elate him,-is the hope and earnest prayer of one, who has been accustomed to find, in his writings, a source of the purest gratification here, and a guide to brighter hopes hereafter.
JEREMY TAYLOR, D.D.
The life of a student is passed within a narrow circle; and of the men whose writings are most widely read and admired, the personal history is often enveloped in the deepest obscurity. Nor, even of those individuals, whom the zeal of their friends or the malice of their enemies have enabled or compelled to act a more conspicuous part on the theatre of contemporary distinction, have the lives been often diversified with many singular events, with great deliverances, or surprising vicissitudes. Their days have been quietly busied in producing those effects which only have made their histories worth inquiring after, - effects for which it was necessary that their habits should be retired and uniform. Nor can we wonder, therefore, that whoever undertakes the biography of a scholar or a theologian, has ordinarily but little to relate which is certain, and less which is interesting or extraordinary.
In some respects, indeed, the fate of JEREMY TAYLOR was distinguished from the general lot of men of letters. So far from his life being retired or monotonous, he seems to have passed much of it in a crowd ; and it is one of the circumstances which lead us most to wonder at the fertility and force of his genius, not only that, in so few years, he wrote so many books, but that these books were, many of them, composed under circumstances the least favourable to research or abstraction.
It was his fortune, at an early age, to attract the notice of those whose patronage, however favourable to his interests or his renown, had a natural tendency to withdraw him from the usual scenes of literary or parochial labour. He was favoured by Laud in the zenith of his power, and trusted by king Charles, when he had become the more venerable from adversity. During the Usurpation, though esteemed and pitied even by his enemies, he was destined to encounter a more than usual share of confiscation and imprisonment; and, at the restoration of the royal family, and while yet in the full vigour of his years and his abilities, he was raised to the highest honours which lie within the compass of his profession. But, during the calamities which agitated an empire, the escapes and sufferings of a private individual were too insignificant to attract much contemporary faine; and Taylor's sufferings were of the kind which, by impoverishing their victim, removes him still more from the notice and knowledge of the world. His subyequent promotion, though it fixed him in the country where he had found his best asylum, was, in itself, a banishment from the society of public men and the theatre of national politics; and his latter days were spent in the alternate and unobtrusive labours of the pulpit and the closet, in preparing himself and others for that heaven, whither his desires had been from his earliest years directed.
It will not, then, be expected, that, after the lapse of almost two centuries, I shall have been able to supply many interesting details of a life thus spent and thus concluded, or that many important gleanings remain which had escaped the almost contemporary inquiries of Wood, or the accurate industry and zealous researches of Mr. Bonney. Yet the time is not long passed since unusually abundant stores of information existed, and since those stores were in the possession of a person eminently qualified to employ them to the best advantage. The late William Todd Jones, of Homra, in the county of Down, esquire, Taylor's lineal descendant in the fifth degree, and who inherited no small portion of his talents and characteristic eloquence, was employed, at one period of his life, in collecting and arranging materials for the biography of his distinguished ancestor. Mr. Jones possessed, among many other interesting documents, a