Lectionary Lesser Festival (13/08) – Jeremy Taylor

13 Aug
Bishop and teacher of the faith (1667).

Bishop and teacher of the faith (1667).

The picture to the left is that of the Right Reverend Jeremy Taylor, the focus of today’s lessor festival in the Church of England’s lectionary (along with commemorations for Florence Nightingale the nurse and social reformer (1910) and Octavia Hill the social reformer (1912)).

Taylor is sometimes known as the “Shakespeare of Divines” for his poetic style of expression and was often presented as a model of prose writing and it is for this that he is best known for.

Taylor  was born in Cambridge to a barber who educated him before school and then Caius College, Cambridge where he gained a B.A. and an M.A. Ordained in 1633 where his early ministry was as a lecturer at St Paul’s. This brought him to the notice of Archbishop William Laud and into Laud’s patronage. This patronage led to the transfer to All Souls, Oxford but little time was spent there with a preference for London with the Archbishop and as chaplain in ordinary to Charles I. This geographic gap was rectified by the appointment to  the rectory of Uppingham, in Rutland.

With a marriage and close connections to the King and the 2nd Earl of Northampton, it seemed Taylor was a rising star. National politics intervened in the form of the English Civil War in which Taylor became a royalist prisoner. Though it was during this time he published the majority of his writings, continuing on into his move to Ireland.

In Ustler, Ireland, Taylor was appointed to the see of Down and Connor, to which was shortly added the added responsibility for overview of the adjacent diocese of Dromore. As bishop he commissioned in 1661 the building of a new cathedral at Dromore for the Dromore diocese. He was also made a member of the Irish privy council and vice-chancellor of the University of Dublin. Though an important and effective bishop, it is for his sermons and devotional writings for which he is best know.

Many readers, including Charles Wesley a century later, have reported finding these books (particularly  the best known are The Rule and Exercises of Holy Living (1650) and The Rule and Exercises of Holy Dying (1651), usually cited simply as Holy Living and Holy Dying) of great spiritual benefit. Among his other works, Liberty of Prophesying proved to be a seminal work in encouraging the development of religious toleration in the seventeenth century. The principles set forth in that book rank with those of Milton’s Areopagitica in its plea for freedom of thought.

As Bishop, he labored tirelessly to rebuild churches, restore the use of the Prayer Book, and overcome continuing Puritan opposition. As Vice-chancellor of Trinity College, Dublin, he took a leading part in reviving the intellectual life of the Church of Ireland. He remained to the end a man of prayer and a pastor. A fine example and great writings of which we can use to dip into as part of the collective spiritual wisdom of the church’s saints.

To end, the collect for the day:

‘O God, whose days are without end, and whose mercies cannot be numbered: Make us, like your servant Jeremy Taylor, deeply aware of the shortness and uncertainty of human life; and let your Holy Spirit lead us in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.’


One Response to “Lectionary Lesser Festival (13/08) – Jeremy Taylor”


  1. Aug 13 – Jeremy Taylor | Holy Women, Holy Men - 18 July 2014

    […] Lectionary Lesser Festival (13/08) – Jeremy Taylor […]

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