Jeremy Taylor, Burkean

In the Preface (6) to The Apology for Authorised and Set Forms of Liturgy, Jeremy Taylor provides this description of the English Reformation:

For to the churches of the Roman communion we can say that ours is reformed, to the reformed churches we can say that ours is orderly and decent; for we were freed from the impositions and lasting errors of a tyrannical spirit, and yet from the extravagancies of a popular spirit too; our reformation was done without tumult, and yet we saw it necessary to reform; we were zealous to cast away the old errors, but our zeal was balanced with consideration and the results of authority: not like women or children when they are affrighted with fire in their clothes; we shaked off the coal indeed, but not our garments, lest we should have exposed our churches to that nakedness, which the excellent men of our sister churches complained to be among themselves. 

We might describe this as a Burkean account of the English Reformation.  It finds an echo in Burke's emphasis on the ordered nature of the Revolution of 1688, contrasted with the Revolution in France:

In truth, the circumstances of our Revolution (as it is called) and that of France are just the reverse of each other in almost every particular, and in the whole spirit of the transaction. With us it was the case of a legal monarch attempting arbitrary power; in France it is the case of an arbitrary monarch beginning, from whatever cause, to legalize his authority. The one was to be resisted, the other was to be managed and directed; but in neither case was the order of the state to be changed, lest government might be ruined, which ought only to be corrected and legalized. With us we got rid of the man, and preserved the constituent parts of the state. There they get rid of the constituent parts of the state, and keep the man. What we did was in truth and substance, and in a constitutional light, a revolution, not made, but prevented. We took solid securities; we settled doubtful questions; we corrected anomalies in our law. In the stable, fundamental parts of our Constitution we made no revolution,—no, nor any alteration at all. We did not impair the monarchy. Perhaps it might be shown that we strengthened it very considerably. The nation kept the same ranks, the same orders, the same privileges, the same franchises, the same rules for property, the same subordinations, the same order in the law, in the revenue, and in the magistracy,—the same lords, the same commons, the same corporations, the same electors (from Burke's speech in the House of Commons, 9th February 1790: all other quotes from Burke are from Reflections on the Revolution in France).

Just as Taylor saw the English Reformation as balancing the call for reform with the need for order in the ecclesiastical polity, so Burke counselled the French civil polity that 'reformation' of their constitution could have combined recognition of the need for reform with the requirement for order:

Through the same plan of a conformity to Nature in our artificial institutions, and by calling in the aid of her unerring and powerful instincts to fortify the fallible and feeble contrivances of our reason, we have derived several other, and those no small benefits, from considering our liberties in the light of an inheritance. Always acting as if in the presence of canonized forefathers, the spirit of freedom, leading in itself to misrule and excess, is tempered with an awful gravity ... You might, if you pleased, have profited of our example, and have given to your recovered freedom a correspondent dignity. Your privileges, though discontinued, were not lost to memory. Your Constitution, it is true, whilst you were out of possession, suffered waste and dilapidation; but you possessed in some parts the walls, and in all the foundations, of a noble and venerable castle. You might have repaired those walls; you might have built on those old foundations. 

Like Taylor, Burke regards the tyrannical and the popular not as opposites but as different expressions of a shared rejection of constitutional order:

These old fanatics of single arbitrary power dogmatized as if hereditary royalty was the only lawful government in the world,—just as our new fanatics of popular arbitrary power maintain that a popular election is the sole lawful source of authority.

As with Taylor's concern that an excessive, popular reform would leave "exposed our churches to ... nakedness", so Burke pointed to "the new conquering empire of light and reason" leaving the polity naked:

All the decent drapery of life is to be rudely torn off. All the superadded ideas, furnished from the wardrobe of a moral imagination, which the heart owns and the understanding ratifies, as necessary to cover the defects of our naked, shivering nature, and to raise it to dignity in our own estimation, are to be exploded, as a ridiculous, absurd, and antiquated fashion.

Now, of course, to call Taylor a Burkean is to reverse the historical chronology.  What can be said, however, is that Taylor's account of the English Reformation, with his concern for order, his suspicion of popular tumult, his conviction that unrestrained reform would leave the church 'naked', finds significant echoes in Burke's response to the Revolution in France.  This should not surprise us.  As John Milbank reminds us, Burke was articulating a political theology which was "the legacy of Richard Hooker". Taylor was a part of this legacy, articulating its wisdom and defending its vision even as the ecclesiastical and civil polities were assaulted by a tumultuous and extravagant spirit of reform, characterised by (to use words from Burke) "the nakedness and solitude of metaphysical abstraction", tearing down the order which secured the liberty and the good of both polities.

To describe Taylor as a Burkean, then, despite the chronological inaccuracy, is to say that Burke stood in the same Hookerian tradition, seen in Taylor, of understanding the right ordering of the ecclesiastical and civil polity, an order Taylor saw exemplified in the Reformation of the Church and Realm of England, challenged by the tumults in these Islands in the 1640s and by the Revolution in France, then drawing forth from Burke a classic statement of its concerns and vision.


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