Despite imprisonment and the death of his wife and son, Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667) never lost his deep faith and profound love of Christ. He wrote numerous devotional and theological works, the most famous of which are Holy Living and Holy Dying. The following selection is taken from Holy Living.
The Acts of Faith Are:
1. To believe everything that God has revealed to us; and when once we are convinced that God has spoken it, to make no further inquiry but humbly to submit; ever remembering that there are some things that our understanding cannot fathom, nor search out their depth.
2. To believe nothing concerning God but what is honorable and excellent. Faith is the parent of love, and whatever faith entertains must be apt to produce love to God; but he that believes God to be cruel or unmerciful, or a rejoicer in the unavoidable damnation of the greatest part of mankind, or that He speaks one thing and privately means another, thinks evil thoughts concerning God. We would hate a man for such things, and therefore such thoughts are great enemies of faith, being apt to destroy love. Our faith concerning God must be as He Himself has revealed and described His own excellencies. In our discourses we must remove from Him all imperfection, and attribute to Him all excellency.
3. To give ourselves wholly up to Christ in heart and desire, to become disciples of His teaching. It means standing in the presence of God but as fools, that is, without any principles of our own to hinder the truth of God; but eagerly drinking in all that God has taught us, believing it infinitely, and loving to believe it. For this is an act of love, reflected upon faith; or an act of faith, leaning upon love.
4. To believe all God’s promises, and that whatever is promised in Scripture shall on God’s part be as surely performed as if we had it in possession. This act makes us rely upon God with the same confidence as we did on our parents when we were children, when we had no doubt but that whatever we needed we should have it, if it were in their power.
5. To believe also the conditions of the promise, or that part of the revelation that concerns our duty. Many are apt to believe the article of remission of sins, but they believe it without the condition of repentance, or the fruits of holy life. To do so is to believe the doctrine other than God intended it. For the covenant of the Gospel is the great object of faith, and that supposes our duty to answer His grace; that God will be our God so long as we are His people. Anything other than this is not faith, but flattery.
6. To profess publicly the doctrine of Jesus Christ, openly owning whatever He has revealed and commanded, not being ashamed of the word of God, or of any practices enjoined by it; and this, without complying with any man’s interest, not regarding favor, nor being moved with good words. Not fearing disgrace, or loss, or inconvenience, or death itself.
7. To pray without doubting, without weariness, without faintness, entertaining no jealousies or suspicions of God. Rather, faith means being confident of God’s hearing us, and of His answering us, whatever the manner or the timing may be. Faith believes that if we do our duty, His answer will be gracious and merciful.
The servants of Jesus maintain these acts of faith in varying degrees. Some have it but as a grain of mustard seed; some grow up to a plant; some have the fullness of faith. Nevertheless, even the smallest amount of faith must be a persuasion so strong that it moves us to undertake all the duties that Christ built upon the foundation of believing.
What Is Hope?
Faith differs from hope, in the extension of its object, and in the intention of degree. St. Augustine describes their differences this way: Faith pertains to all things revealed, good and bad, rewards and punishments, of things past, present, and to come, of things that concern us, and of things that concern us not. But hope has for its object only things that are future, are good, and that pertain to ourselves. The certainty of hope is less than the adherence of faith. To illustrate, faith tells me that it is infallibly certain that there is a heaven for all the godly and that heaven will include me if I do my duty. However, to believe that I shall enter into heaven is the object of my hope, not of my faith. It is only as sure as my perseverance in the ways of God.
The Acts of Hope Are:
1. To rely upon God with a confident expectation of His promises, ever esteeming that every promise of God is a storehouse of all the grace and relief that we can need in the instance for which the promise is made. Every degree of hope is a degree of confidence.
2. To esteem all the danger of an action, and the possibilities of failure, and every mishap that can intervene, to be no defect on God’s part, but either a mercy on His part, or a fault on ours. For then we shall be sure to trust in God, when we see Him to be our confidence, and ourselves to be the cause of all failures. The hope of a Christian is prudent and religious.
3. To rejoice in the midst of a misfortune or seeming sadness, knowing that this may work for good, and will, if we are not found lacking. This is a direct act of hope, to look through the cloud and see a beam of the light from God. This is called in Scripture, rejoicing in tribulation,” when “the God of hope fills us with all joy in believing.” Every degree of hope brings a degree of joy.
4. To desire, to pray, and to long for the great object of our hope, the mighty price of our high calling. Hope is to desire the other things of this life as they are promised-that is, only so far as they are necessary and useful to us in order to further God’s glory and the great end of souls.
Love is the greatest thing that God can give us, for He Himself is love. Love is also the greatest thing we can give to God, for in it we also give ourselves, and carry with it all that is ours. The apostle calls love the bond of perfection. It is the old, and it is the new; it is the great commandment, and it is all the commandments. For love is the fulfillment of the Law. It does the work of all other graces. The love of sin makes a man sin against all his own reason and all the advice of his friends. Similarly, the love of God makes a man chaste even without the laborious arts of fasting and exterior disciplines. It makes him temperate in the midst of feasts. It is a grace that loves God for Himself, and our neighbors for God. The consideration of God’s goodness and generosity, the experience of those profitable and excellent gifts from Him, may be, and most commonly are, the first motive of our love. But once we have entered into God’s love, and have tasted the goodness of God, we love the spring for its own excellency, passing from lust to reason, from thanking to adoring, from sense to spirit, from considering ourselves to a union with God. This is the image and little representation of heaven; it is beatitude in picture, or rather the infancy and beginnings of glory.
We need no incentives to move us to the love of God. There is in God an infinite nature, immensity or vastness without extension or limit, immutability, eternity, omnipotence, omniscience, holiness, dominion, providence, bounty, mercy, justice, perfection in Himself, and the end to which all things and all actions must be directed, and will at last arrive. Our appreciation of these things is heightened when we consider our distance from all these glories: our smallness and limited nature, our nothingness, our inconstancy, our brief age, our weakness and ignorance, our poverty, our mistakes and lack of consideration, our disabilities and disaffections to do good, our harsh natures and unmerciful inclinations, our universal iniquity, and our necessities and dependencies.
God is a torrent of pleasure for the voluptuous; He is the fountain of honor for the ambitious; and He is an inexhaustible treasure for the covetous. Fulfillment of our vices can truly and really be found nowhere but in God. [That is, true love of God will replace our earthly vices.] How much more so, then, will our virtues find a proper object in love of God. It is certain that this love will turn all into virtue. When all has been summed up, and it is asked whether someone is a good man or not, the answer is not found in what he believes, or what he hopes, but what he loves.
The Acts of Love of God Are:
1. Love does all things that may please the beloved person. It performs all his commandments. “This is love, that we keep His commandments.” Love is obedient.
2. It does all the intimations and secret significations of his pleasure whom we love. Great love is also pliant and inquisitive in the instances of its expression.
3. Love gives away all things so that the lover may advance the interest of the beloved person. It relieves all whom the loved one would have relieved. He never loved God who would quit anything of his religion in order to save his money. Love is always liberal.
4. It suffers all things that are imposed by its beloved, or that can happen for his sake, or that intervene in his service. Love does this cheerfully, sweetly, willingly-expecting that God will turn them into good, and instruments of joy. “Love hopes all things, endures all things.” Love is patient and content with anything, so long as the lover can be together with his beloved.
5. Love is also impatient of anything that may displease the beloved person, hating all sin as the enemy of its friend. For love contracts all the same relations, and marries the same friendships and the same hatreds. Any fondness for a sin is perfectly inconsistent with the love of God. Love is not divided between God and God’s enemy. We must love God with all our heart; that is, give Him a whole and undivided affection, having love for nothing else but such things that He allows and that He commands or loves Himself.