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About this time he was invited to London, by his friend Mr Risden, to supply his place as a temporary lecturer in St Paul's Cathedral, where he acquitted himself with an ability so much above his years, that his fame reached the ears of Laud, at that time Archbishop of Canterbury. By his command Taylor preached before him at Lambeth, and so much was the archbishop pleased with his performance, and his manners, that he resolved to aid him in the prosecution of his studies. Through the special influence of Laud, he was preferred to a fellowship at All Souls College, in the University of Oxford. This was not done without some delay, for the nomination of Laud, although approved by a majority of the electors, was resisted by Sheldon the warden, without whose consent the choice could not be effected. No election accordingly took place, and in such a case, by the regulations of the college, the appointment devolved on the archbishop, who, in January, 1636, established Taylor in the situation by his sole authority.
Enjoying now abundance of leisure, and all the facility for successful study, he applied himself with zeal to his favourite pursuits. To this period of his life, we may chiefly refer those varied and extensive acquisitions, particularly in the ancient authors, which he employed with so much exuberance to illustrate and adorn his future writings. During his residence at Oxford, a report was industriously circulated, that he was inclining to the Romish faith. There seems to
have been no other ground for this report, than his fondness for reading the early fathers, and the polemical divines of that church; but it was likely to operate so much to his injury, that he took some pains to confute it. While at Oxford he preached before the University a public discourse, on the anniversary of the Gunpowder Treason, which was the first of his performances that was published. This is not equal in point of merit to his later writings, yet it contains evidences of the same powerful and fertile mind, and is marked with some of his peculiarities.
By the dedication to this discourse, it appears, that Taylor was, at the time of preaching it, chaplain to the archbishop, and he was shortly after made chaplain in ordinary to the king. In the year 1638, we also find him settled in the rectory of Uppingham, on the presentation of the Bishop of London. The duties of these several appointments must have interferred with his studies at Oxford. In 1639, being then twenty five years old, he married at Uppingham, and resigned his fellowship in the University. He now took up his
. abode amidst the scenes of his parochial labours, and much is said in commendation of the fidelity and zeal, with which he discharged all the duties of his sacred office. Notwithstanding his passion for knowledge, and his studious habits, he was assiduous in ministering to the spiritual wants and temporal comforts of his parishioners. In this respect there seems to have been a close resemblance between him and Dr Priestley.
The period of his residence at Uppingham was apparently a tranquil and happy one. He wrote there his learned treatise in Defence of Episcopacy, which was published by command of the king. But he was destined soon to receive his full share of the troubles of the times. The affairs of Charles the First were approaching a crisis, which left little to sustain the hopes of the adherents to his cause. In quality of chaplain to the king, Taylor was called on to join the army. He left Uppingham in 1642, to which place he never again returned, as his rectory was sequestered ; and we hear little more of him till about three years afterward, when he had retired to Wales. Anthony Wood says,
that he was in the mean time at Oxford, with the king, where he received by royal mandate a doctor's degree, in company with several other persons, whom the king was pleased to honour with these cheap rewards, since he had none more substantial in his power. In the midst of these commotions he must have found leisure, for he wrote his Apology for a Liturgy, a laboured and very learned work, designed as a reply to the Presbyterian Directory, then recently published. Heber infers, from what he thinks good testimony, that Taylor was taken prisoner in the battle of Cardigan, on the 4th of February, 1644. Be this as it may, he was residing in Wales soon after that date, and employed as teacher of a school, in company with a Mr Wyatt. He assisted Wyatt in publishing a
Grammar, for which he wrote a dedication, but neither the success nor duration of the school is known.
In Wales he was fortunate in becoming acquainted with Richard Vaughan, Earl of Carbery, who resided at Golden Grove, Caermarthenshire. For the liberality and kindness of this gentleman, and his wife, the Countess of Carbery, he testifies on many occasions his warmest gratitude. He became a regular preacher at Golden Grove, and received a stipend from his worthy and generous patron. His greatest work, the Liberty of Prophesying, was written at this time, and published in 1647. In his dedication of this work to Lord Hatton, from whom he had received many tokens of kindness at Uppingham, he hints at the calamities to which he had been exposed. These are his words. “In this great storm, which hath dashed the vessel of the church all in 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 me 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 reasons.
And but that he, who stilleth the raging of the sea, and the noise of the waves, and the madness of the 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 preferred by the courtesies of my friends, or the gentleness and mercies of a noble enemy. 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."
The causes, which induced him to undertake the Liberty of Prophesying, and the character of that remarkable performance, may be understood from his own account of it, written ten years after its first publication.
“ Though I have great reason,” he says, “to adore the goodness of God in giving that success to my labours, that I am also obliged to the kindness of men for their friendly acceptance of them, yet when a persecution did arise against the church of England, and that I intended to make a defensative for my brethren and myself, by pleading for liberty of our consciences to persevere in that profession, which was warranted by all the laws of God and our superiors, some men were angry, and would not be safe that way, because I had made the roof of the sanctuary so wide, that more might be sheltered under it, than they had a mind should be saved harmless. Men would be safe alone, or not at all, supposing their truth and good cause was warranty enough to preserve itself, and they thought true; it was indeed warranty enough against persecution, if men had believed it to be truth; but because we had