Edward Taylor


The following critical comment are extracted from a longer text by Donald E. Stanford in The Poetry Foundation archive for Edward Taylor. Online at: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/archive/poet.html?id=6782


On Gods Determinations touching his Elect: and the Elects Combat in their Conversion and coming up to God in Christ together with the Comfortable Effects thereof

In justifying the ways of God to the elect and in exposing the machinations of the devil, Taylor had a number of previous works—such as John Milton's Paradise Lost (1667), John Bunyan's The Holy War (1682), Michael Wigglesworth's The Day of Doom (1662), and Lorenzo Scupoli's The Spiritual Conflict (translated from the Italian in 1613)—which could have served as models for his own poem of spiritual combat. As in Milton's poem, Taylor depicts spiritual combat, and he attempts to explain God's ways of bringing sinners to heaven, but his religious thinking differs from Milton's (Milton was not a Calvinist), and Taylor's homely, colloquial style is quite different from the sonorous and sophisticated blank verse of Paradise Lost. Taylor's poem is closer to Bunyan's prose work The Holy War. Both works are Calvinistic, and both describe in allegorical terms the combat between the soul and Satan. In The Day of Doom Wigglesworth expresses Calvinistic ideas identical to those of Taylor, but his verse, written in awkward fourteeners, is far inferior to Taylor's, and he displays considerably more zest in dwelling on divine wrath and the tortures of the damned in hell than does Taylor, who prefers to emphasize the "comfortable effects" of God's grace to the saved in heaven. Scupoli's Spiritual Conflict emphasizes the necessity of overcoming the passions in cleansing the soul from sin, and the same notion is to be found in Gods Determinations touching his Elect ..., but it is not the central theme of the poem. A possible source for the psychological aspects of Taylor's poem, and one much closer to home, is William Ames's Conscience with the Power and Cases thereof (1639), a copy of which (in Latin) was in Taylor's library. Ames's psychological profile of the devil as one who tempts men to damnation by convincing them they are not of the elect is similar to Taylor's concept of Satan. Sermons and tracts depicting what John Downame called Christian Warfare (1633), that is the clash between personified virtues and vices, were numerous in Taylor's day, and despite what some scholars have suggested, they probably had more influence on the poem than did the morality plays or the Elizabethan drama.

Gods Determinations touching his Elect ... is a dramatization of Taylor's Calvinistic religious beliefs concerning predestination, creation, the nature of God, original sin, saving grace, redemption through faith in Christ, the division of mankind into the damned and the elect, and the joys of eternal salvation. There is some allegory, and the devil reminds us of the personified vices of the morality plays, but the poem is not an exercise in symbolism nor in Neoplatonism. Heaven and hell are depicted as real places. Christ, Satan, and the angels may sometimes take on the physical attributes of real persons. The poem opens with the creation of the physical universe. For Taylor God made the world out of nothing, and he can return it to nothing if he chooses. His cosmology was Ptolemaic and pre-Newtonic. That is, the earth is stationary, and the sun moves around it. "Who in this Bowling Alley bowld the Sun?" he asks in his preface. The answer, of course, is God. The poem proceeds with a depiction of original sin and its effect on man, who is now God's enemy. The two major attributes of God, Justice and Mercy, are personified, and they engage in a debate on the destiny of sinful man, Justice arguing for eternal punishment, Mercy for compassion. Mercy wins the debate for the elect. By becoming incarnate in Christ, he purchases redemption for the elect, who are seen at the end of the poem riding in God's coach up to heaven. The rest of mankind slip down into hell.

The major part of the poem depicts the various methods by which God, through Christ, brings salvation to the elect. Some, the saints, receive grace quickly and easily, but most of the elect, the Converts, come to Christ after varying degrees of difficulty. The struggle for their salvation is dramatically presented as a combat for the souls of the elect between Mercy and Justice on the one hand and the devil on the other. The converts are divided into three ranks—those who are captured by Mercy after a short struggle, those who are captured by Justice after a longer struggle, and those who are finally captured by Justice after a fierce and prolonged battle. The effect of sin on natural man and the combats for his redemption are graphically presented, often in a colloquial, down-to-earth style. Of disobedient man's terror of God's wrath Taylor writes:

Then like a Child that fears the Poker Clapp
Him on his face doth on his Mothers lap
Doth hold his breath, lies still for fear least hee
Should by his breathing lowd discover'd bee.

For the modern reader the most interesting part of the poem, perhaps, is to be found in what Taylor calls "Satans Sophestry," in the devil's psychological warfare against those who may wish to think of themselves as the elect. His temptations range from appeals to the baser passions to the attempt by subtle arguments to insinuate doubts in the soul's assurance of saving faith. One of his most insidious arguments is that, if a person has any doubts at all about the possibilities of his spiritual regeneration, then he is not one of the elect because God is supposed to give the elect assurance of saving faith. On the other hand, if a person believes he is assured of saving faith, then he (poor sinner that he is) is guilty of pride, the cardinal sin, and so damned. Another line of attack is to convince the sinner that his so-called love of God is really love of self (a sin) and that his real motivation is fear of hell and desire for the joys of heaven. A third method of attack is what Taylor calls the "ath'istick Hoodwinke"—that the attributes of the Christian God—his ubiquitousness and his incarnation in "a mortal clod"—are contrary to reason and to common sense and that in fact God does not exist. These arguments and many more were probably suggested to Taylor by such books as William Ames's Conscience with the Power and Cases thereof. Some of the best poetry in Gods Determinations touching his Elect ... is in "Christ's Reply," in which he fortifies the elect against Satan's arguments and arouses their martial ardor to lead the good life. Christ begins:

I am a Captain to your Will,
You found me Gracious, so shall still,
Whilst that my Will is your Design.

and he concludes:

To him that smiteth, hip and thigh,
My foes as his: Walks warily,
I'le give him Grace: he'st give me praise.
Let him whose foot doth hit a Stone
Through weakeness, not rebellion
Not faint, but think on former dayes.

The final lines, in which the saints express their joy in the experience of salvation, are also moving:

In Heaven soaring up, I dropt an Eare
On Earth: and oh! sweet Melody:
And listening, found it was the Saints who were
Encoacht for Heaven that sang for Joy.
For in Christs Coach they sweetly sing;
As they to Glory ride therein.

Unlike Wigglesworth, Taylor, here and in the Preparatory Meditations ..., is more effective when he is depicting the sweetness of God's grace than when he is describing the pains of hell.

Gods Determinations touching his Elect ..., unlike Milton's Paradise Lost, is a "dated" poem, quite obviously of its period. It does not have the universal and permanent appeal of Milton's epic, nor can Taylor at any time equal the skill of Milton's blank verse. The poem is like an anthology of poems written in various meters and in various styles, sometimes colloquial, sometimes ornate, sometimes plain and direct, but it is given coherence and dramatic effectiveness by a single theme (the redemption of the elect) and a single narrative line (the rise of the elect from anguish and despair to the glories of heaven). It is the best long poem written in seventeenth-century America.


On Some of Taylor’s Occasional Poems

At about the same time he was writing Gods Determinations touching his Elect ..., Taylor was also composing a series of occasional poems. Only one can be dated precisely—"Upon the Sweeping Flood Aug: 13. 14, 1683." This, the most powerful of the series, has been widely admired. (Joyce Carol Oates used its title as the title for a collection of her short stories.) The flood, which Taylor refers to in his church record, is given allegorical and religious significance: the storm and flood were sent by God to drown man's carnal love, for the sins of man have acted as a purge on the heavens. Allegorizing natural events, "occurants" as Taylor called them, was habitual among Puritan writers. Several other occasional poems are also allegorical. In the charming "Upon a Wasp Child with Cold," the frozen insect, as he is warmed by the sun, illustrates the action of God's grace on the human soul. In "Huswifery" the central image, the spinning wheel, represents one of God's elect (the poet), and the thread woven by the wheel will be woven by God into a web of glory for the saint in heaven. The spider in "Upon a Spider Catching a Fly" is the devil destroying sinful, natural man, and in "The Ebb and Flow" the tide suggests Taylor's rising and falling expectations of election. Allegory occurs also in Taylor's most moving occasional poem, two stanzas of which, published in Cotton Mather's Right Thoughts in Sad Hours ... (1689), were the only lines by Taylor to appear in print during his lifetime. "Upon Wedlock and Death of Children," written in 1682 or 1683, refers to the deaths of two of his children and to his marriage to Elizabeth Fitch, which he calls a "True-Love Knot." The word knot has the seventeenth-century meaning of "garden" as well as the modern meaning. Because theirs is true love, the knot can never be untied; it is a Gordian knot. From this garden sprang four flowers, two of which grew to maturity, two of which died: "But oh! the tortures, Vomit, screechings, groans, / And six weeks Fever would pierce hearts like stones." But Taylor's grief is assuaged with the acceptance of God's will:

Lord, theyre thine.
I piecemeal pass to Glory bright in them.
I joy, may I sweet Flowers for Glory breed,
Whether thou getst them green, or lets them seed.


On Preparatory Meditations

In 1682 Taylor embarked upon his greatest work, the major poetic achievement of Colonial America. Preparatory Meditations before my approach to the Lords Supper is a series of more than two-hundred poems grouped in two series written "Chiefly upon the Doctrin preached upon the Day of administration" from 1682 to 1725. Unpublished until the twentieth century, they are a private spiritual diary of great significance to our understanding of the religious and psychological history of the period. The poems are uneven in poetic merit and frequently repetitious in theme and diction, but a few of them deserve a place in any anthology of seventeenth-and early-eighteenth-century poetry, together with the poems of John Donne, George Herbert, and Richard Crashaw to which they bear resemblance. For they are written in the metaphysical and baroque style and may properly be considered the last exemplars of the metaphysical school.

In his imagery Taylor frequently made use of the metaphysical conceit of what Samuel Johnson called, in commenting on Donne, discordia concors "a combination of dissimilar images .... the most heterogenous ideas are yoked by violence together." But Taylor is sometimes even more fantastic than Donne. His imagery may be as extravagant as that of Crashaw or the now-forgotten poet John Cleveland, whom Taylor mentions in his poem on Pope Joan. Today we would call such yoking of images surrealistic, as in his famous line "Should Stars Wooe Lobster Claws." The strongest influence from the metaphysical school is George Herbert, an Anglican poet and preacher, widely respected by the American Puritans in spite of doctrinal differences and especially admired by Taylor, who was perhaps at his best when writing under Herbert's influence, as in meditation six of the first series, "Am I thy Gold?"

In his diction Taylor combined the colloquial with the cosmic (again like Donne), employing abstruse theological or philosophical terms with the homely idiom of the farm or the weaver's trade. The line "My tazzled Thoughts twirld into Snick-snarls run" illustrates his fondness for "domestic diction" and also the influence of the sixteenth-century rhetorician Petrus Ramus, the followers of whom eschewed the ornate style and, like Emerson later, preached that the poet should "fasten words to things." Taylor's frequent use of the plain style is Ramist. His occasional employment of the ornate style is derived from the King James version of the Bible, and especially from the Song of Solomon, which Taylor loved and which had a pervasive influence on his last meditations. Taylor also employed, sometimes to excess, the various rhetorical devices of the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century handbooks such as irony, synecdoche, metonymy, meiosis (diminishing), and amplification. He was especially fond of amplification, which combined with ploce (repetition of a word) and polyptoton (repetition of a word root) results in what Yvor Winters has called "a punning piety." In meditation 2.48 he writes with reference to the devil and the powers of darkness:

Their Might's a little mite, Powers powerless fall.
My Mite Almighty may not let down slide.
I will not trust unto this Might of mine:
Nor in my Mite distrust, while I am thine.

In the emblem tradition as it appears in the poetry of Francis Quarles (1592-1644), a poet the Puritans admired, a poem makes a moral, epigrammatic comment on a picture that illustrates a theological or philosophical idea. The tradition is also evident in Taylor's verse, most obviously "Upon a Spider Catching a Fly," where the spider in his web symbolizes the devil. Typology as used in biblical exegesis—an object, event, or person in the Old Testament (the type) foreshadows an object, event, or person in the New Testament (the Antitype)—is also pervasive, especially in the meditations of the second series. The Jewish Passover considered as a type of Christian Communion, or Lord's Supper as Taylor called it, is one of Taylor's favorite constructs.

Taylor's meditations are an important part of a long tradition of meditation writing in verse and prose, beginning, as far as verse is concerned, with Robert Southwell and continuing through John Donne, George Herbert, Richard Crashaw, Henry Vaughan, Andrew Marvell, Thomas Traherne, and, finally, Taylor. Richard Baxter's treatise, The Saints Everlasting Rest (1650), which had considerable influence on meditation writing in verse, advocated an orderly method of meditation involving the three faculties of the soul—memory, understanding, and will (the emotions) in that order. Louis Martz has shown in his introduction to Donald E. Stanford's edition of Taylor's poems that some of Taylor's Preparatory Meditations ... are organized according to this tripartite division. Frequently the Puritan poet appears to be following another threefold pattern—despair as he contemplates the sins of mankind and his own personal sin, joy when he thinks of Christ's promise of redemption to the elect, and hope and resolution when he considers the possibility that he too may be one of the elect. There are also many meditations which appear to have no preset pattern. Taylor was writing at the end of, that is during the decadence of, the meditative tradition, and his poems usually do not have the closely knit logical organization of the best poems of Donne and Herbert.

Taylor wrote these poems, as the title indicates, in preparation for his administration of Communion, which he and his fellow Congregationalists called the Lord's Supper, one of the two Puritan sacraments, the other being Baptism. The Lord's Supper was considered the more important of the two. It was taken with the utmost seriousness by Taylor, who believed that Christ's spirit was really present in the elements. He was a conservative in his attitude toward its administration. He believed that only those members of his congregation who considered themselves regenerate and in full communion with the church should participate in the Lord's Supper, and he was scandalized when Solomon Stoddard (1643-1729), minister of the Congregational church in the nearby town of Northampton, liberalized the communion service and admitted unregenerate persons to it. Participation required preparation on the part of congregation and minister, for he who took Communion while in a state of sin ate and drank his own damnation. Taylor's preparation consisted of prayer and the writing of a preparatory meditation. There was a long tradition as to the necessity of and the method of preparation, and a number of treatises were published on the subject. For example, Thomas Doolittle's A Treatise Concerning the Lord's Supper (ninth edition, 1675) was in the library of Richard Taylor (the poet's brother), and Taylor was probably familiar with it. Doolittle in his directions for preparatory meditation urges the believer to reflect on the love of God demonstrated in man's redemption, on the sufferings of Christ, on the benefits purchased by the death of Christ, and on the believer's sins. He suggests that the believer make a catalogue of his sins, which Taylor often did.

Of the more than 200 meditations, a number appear to be independent or occasional poems, but some form well-defined, coherent groups. The central theme of the forty-nine poems of the first series is love—the divine love of God and Christ for man as proven by Christ's saving grace to the elect and, conversely, the human love that the elect should have for Christ and God. Three unnumbered poems, entitled "The Experience," "The Return," and "The Reflexion," which Taylor placed among his first meditations, graphically depict the minister-poet's love of Christ, and one of them, "The Reflexion," presents what appears to be a mystic moment in which Taylor actually saw a vision of Christ at the Communion table:

Once at thy Feast, I saw thee Pearle-like stand
'Tween Heaven, and Earth where Heavens
Bright glory all
In streams fell on thee, as a floodgate and,
Like Sun Beams through thee on the
World to Fall.

The experience may have been the inspiration for the first series of preparatory meditations.

Meditations 1-30 of the second series are a contemplation of the truths of scripture as seen typologically. Each poem presents a series of parallels, of types and antitypes, to show that persons and events in the life of Christ were foreshadowed in the Old Testament. The theme of what Taylor called "blessed theanthropy," the perfect union of the human and the divine in Christ, unifies the group. Christ is seen as the supreme figure in all human history, and the various personages of the Old Testament—such as Noah, Joseph, Moses, Samson—all foreshadowed Christ.

Taylor's Christological theme is continued in another group of poems in the second series, meditations 31-56, fourteen of which are directly related to his fourteen sermons which have been published in Christographia. In these poems Taylor attacks the various "heresies" which are not in agreement with his view of Christ's perfect humanity and divinity, specifically that of William Sherlock (1641-1707), who argued that the trinity consisted of three "minds" rather than three persons and who denounced what he considered to be excessive worship of Christ as a person, and that of Faustus Socinus (1539-1606), who believed in the unipersonality of God and denied the divinity of Christ. These meditations are more than mere attacks on heresies, however. They are moving and sometimes eloquent statements of Taylor's belief in the perfect humanity and perfect divinity of Christ. Meditations 102-111 are an attack on Stoddardeanism, which Taylor considered almost as dangerous as heresy. In them he vitriolically attacks his fellow pastor, Solomon Stoddard, for allowing all members of the congregation at his Northampton church to partake of the Lord's Supper whether or not they considered themselves regenerate. Stoddard considered the Lord's Supper to be a converting and regenerating ordinance and not a sacrament for the regenerate only as did Taylor. Taylor also preached a series of sermons against Stoddard.

Toward the end of his life Taylor wrote a series of meditations (series two, 115-133) on sequential texts from the Song of Solomon, or Canticles, which many Christians of the seventeenth century considered to be an allegorical poem celebrating the "wedding" of Christ with the members of his church. Taylor adopts the view of Origen, a church father whom he greatly admired, that Canticles may be interpreted as a celebration of the wedding of Christ with the individual soul. In these moving poems, heavily influenced by the diction and imagery of the Bible, Taylor meditates on his union with Christ with almost mystical intensity.

There appears to be little agreement on which of Taylor's many meditations are the best poems. The religious ecstasy of meditation 1.20 on the ascension of Christ has been frequently praised:

God is Gone up with a triumphant Shout
The Lord with sounding Trumpets melodies,
Sing Praise, sing Praise, sing Praise, sing Praises out,
Unto our King sing praise seraphickwise.
Lift up your Heads ye lasting Doore they sing
And let the King of Glory Enter in.

The quiet Herbertian piety of meditation 1.6 has its adherents. But perhaps the most impressive of all his poems is meditation 2.112, which so powerfully and so precisely summarizes the doctrine of Christ's redemptive mission and the elect's victory over death:

Infinities fierce firy arrow red
Shot from the splendid Bow of Justice bright
Did smite thee down, for thine. Thou art their head.
They di'de in thee. Their death did on thee light.
They di'de their Death in thee, thy Death is theirs.
Hence thine is mine, thy death my trespass clears.

How sweet is this: my Death lies buried
Within thy Grave my Lord, deep under ground,
It is unskin'd, as Carrion rotten Dead.
For Grace's hand gave Death its deadly wound.
Deaths no such terrour on th'Saints blesst Coast.
Its but a harmless Shade: No walking Ghost.


On Taylor’s Sermons

On 18 January 1701 James Taylor, Taylor's son by his first wife, died in Barbados. The poet refers to his death in meditation 2.40: "Under thy Rod, my God, thy smarting Rod, / That hath off broke my James, that Primrose, Why?" In the same year Taylor began, on 31 August, a series of fourteen sermons, entitled Christographia, on the nature of Christ's person and the unity of the divine and human natures in Christ. The series was finished on 10 October 1703. In his day, Taylor had a reputation for pulpit eloquence. His Harvard classmate Samuel Sewall wrote in his Letter-Book, "I have heard him preach a sermon at the Old South upon short warning which as the phrase in England is, might have been preached at Paul's Cross," Sewall, who lived in Boston, had access to the best preaching of the day. Taylor's poetry was almost completely unknown in his lifetime, but now that almost all of Taylor's extant poetry and prose have been published, it seems unlikely that his reputation as a preacher will ever equal his reputation as a poet. In his sermons he never exhibits the power and the beauty of the great Calvinist preacher Jonathan Edwards.

In structure and style his sermons are in the tradition of the Puritan preaching of his time. There is usually a three-fold structure—doctrine, reason, and use—or as Taylor put it on the title page of Christographia, each sermon is "Opened, Confirmed, and Practically improved." The purpose of the Puritan sermon was to explain the scripture and to instruct the congregation in the practical application of scriptural doctrine. Taylor came naturally to the plain style he employed, for most Puritan divines preferred it to the learned and ornate style of the Anglican preachers. Yet he was also preaching to a congregation of poorly educated farmers for whom a plain style and at times colloquial diction were necessary. He refers to the Quakers as "the old Clucking hen of antichrist" and to natural man as "a mushroom." In his attacks on Stoddard he refers to the Communion bread: "Hands off: its Childrens bread; a Crumb of it may not fall to dogs. But all of it belongs to every Child in the Family." However, Taylor's talent as a poet sometimes appears in his sermons, especially in passages depicting the sweetness of saving grace and the mystical union of Christ and the believer. […]


A Metrical History of Christianity

Early in the eighteenth century (the exact date has never been determined) Taylor began a long poem which eventually ran to well over 20,000 lines. The first part of the poem presents the sufferings and persecutions of the Christians from the beginning until the twelfth century, and, after a lacuna in the manuscript, there is an account of the martyrdoms of Queen Mary's reign in England. The poem is untitled. Donald E. Stanford, who in 1960 made and later published a transcript of the poem, called it A Metrical History of Christianity. The primary sources are the Magdeburg Centuries (1567-1574) of Matthias Flaccus and the well-known book Actes and Monuments of these Latter Perilous Days, first published in English in 1563 and usually known as The Book of Martyrs by John Foxe. Written in decasyllabic couplets and in eight other verse forms, Taylor's long and frequently tedious poem is uneven in literary merit, varying from the crudest doggerel to exalted hymns to God's grace. There are a few powerful lines on the operation of God's justice, but there are also unnecessarily detailed descriptions of the physical agonies of the martyrs and some extremely vitriolic language in several attacks on the Papacy reminiscent of the pamphlet war of the previous century. […]


Final Years

Taylor was ill and enfeebled in the final years of his life, but he persisted in writing poems until almost the end. "Upon my recovery out of a threatening Sickness," which begins, "What, is the golden Gate of Paradise / Lockt up 'gain that yet I may not enter?," was written in December 1720. In January 1721 he composed "A Valediction to all the World preparatory for Death," a flawed, eccentric, but moving, poem (which exists in several heavily corrected versions). In it Taylor bids farewell to the physical world including the stars, sun, moon, and air, while he eagerly anticipates the joys of singing, above the angels, God's praises in heaven. Throughout the eight cantos he enumerates in vivid detail the pleasures and sorrows of earthly life, including his "study, Books, Pen, Inke, and Paper," all of which he is about to relinquish for his life in a heaven which he believes in and depicts with absolute conviction:

When I've skipt ore the purling Stile with joy
Twixt Swift wing'd Time and Fixt Eternity
And am got in the heavenly strand on High
My Harp shall sing thy praise melodiously.

In order to make his music acceptable to God, he will seek aid from the birds, flowers, and angels:

And first I'de borrow of all birds within
The Woods where they their bagpipes blow make sing
And thence I run to sweet fine flowers whose tune
Is silent given in beauty and perfume
Then at the Angells doore, those happy Friends
And 'treat them me their melodie to lend,
And mix their tunes with mine....

In 1723 Taylor wrote his elegy on Increase Mather (1639-1723), who had died on 23 August. The long title begins "Increase Mather," Mather is praised as a champion of Congregational orthodoxy, and his opponents, especially the Roman Catholics who made Mather "their Maypole Music," are denounced at some length. Timothy Cutler, a rector of Yale University who defected to Anglicanism, is more briefly dismissed: "Cutler's Cutlery gave th' killing Stob." In October 1725 Taylor wrote his last preparatory meditation, which begins: "Heart sick my Lord heart sick of Love to thee!" During his final years Taylor composed a scurrilous attack upon the so-called Pope Joan, the legendary Pope John VIII of the ninth century, who according to some Protestant apologists was a woman disguised as a man. The myth had wide circulation from medieval times through the seventeenth century. The poem is in six versions or drafts and several fragments, indicating that Taylor spent more time on the poem than it was worth.

The exact composition date of "A Fig for thee Oh! Death" is not known, but the handwriting suggests it was a very late poem, and it makes a suitable conclusion to any collection of Taylor's poetry. He begins his poem with an address to Death as:

Thou King of Terrours with thy Gastly Eyes
With Butter teeth, bare bones Grim looks likewise,
And Grizzly Hide, and clawing Tallons, fell,
Opning to Sinners Vile, Trap Door of Hell.
But Death, through Christ's grace, has lost its terror for him. Death can seize only the body,

Till she hath slept out quite her fatall Sleep.
When the last Cock shall Crow the last day in
And the Arch Angells Trumpets sound shall ring
Then th' Eye Omniscient seek shall all their round
Each dust death's mill had very finely ground.
The poem concludes with a vision of the soul and body as two lovers in heaven:

The Soule and Body now, as two true Lovers
Ery night how they do hug and kiss each other.
And join hand in hand thus through the skies
Up to Eternall glory glorious rise.

Taylor died on 24 June 1729 and was interred in the old burying ground at Westfield, Massachusetts. His interesting tombstone, engraved with the face of a primitive angel, fell into disrepair but has now been reconstructed.

There are few contemporary descriptions of Taylor. The most detailed account is by his grandson Ezra Stiles, president of Yale College, who said that he was "a vigorous advocate for Oliver Cromwell, civil and religious liberty .... greatly detested King James ... gloried in King William and the Revolution of 1688.... A man of small stature, but firm; of quick passions, yet serious and grave. Exemplary in piety, and for a very sacred observance of the Lord's Day."

—Donald E. Stanford, Louisiana State University

Most of Taylor's papers are in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University; the Redwood Library and Athenaeum in Newport, Rhode Island; the Boston Public Library, the Westfield Athenaeum in Westfield, Massachusetts; and the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston.