Jeremy Taylor lived in an age of transition. Politicall, England was emerging as a modern state, struggling with its new autonomy and experimenting with representative government. Religiously, the Puritan voices of the radical Reformation battled with the established church to move it from the via media. Intellectually, it was an age in which new philosophical voices were emerging and bards were composing their odes not in the learned classical languages of antiquity but in English. Taylor saw the completion of the Authorized Version of King James near the beginning of his life: an eloquent precursor of the monumental achievements that men like Donne, Milton, and Bunyan would make during his lifetime. Taylor has been called "the Shakespeare of Divines." Like his older contemporary Lancelot Andrewes, he drew on the spirit of the Renaissance. Rich classical allusions, ornate symbolism, and flowing cadences enhance his presentation of the sacred truths of holy writ. His own experience of life made him no stranger to suffering, having buried his first wife and all of his five sons. In his best-known work, Holy Dying, we have not only a fine example of a genre of spiritual literature common to the late Middle Ages, but one of the most moving meditations on death ever written. In it we see a man proclaiming the truths of Christianity, not with the bold speculative originality of mystics like Eckhart or systematic precision of Albert the Great, but with a sheer literary brilliance that enabled him to craft words that shood like windows to the unseen world of which they spoke: words that could awaken and stir that could define and articulate the myriad sentiments and subtleties of the holy life.
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