Other literary forms
Edward Taylor is best known today for his poetry. To his congregation at Westfield, Massachusetts, however, he was far better known for his sermons. He did apparently write the moral sequence of thirty-five poems, “God’s Determinations,” as a guide for members of his congregation, who were unable to assure themselves that they had achieved the state of grace. Even so, the Westfield minister did not intend that his poems should ever be published. There is some indication, however, that he did plan to publish some of his sermons, particularly those gathered together by Norman S. Grabo as Edward Taylor’s Treatise Concerning the Lord’s Supper (1966); these eight sermons attack Solomon Stoddard’s liberal position regarding the admission of persons to the Eucharist who were not always certain they possessed the gift of God’s grace.
The fourteen sermons collected, again by Grabo, as Edward Taylor’s Christographia (1962) deal with two major issues: first, that the “blessed Theanthropie,” God’s Son united with man in the body of Jesus of Nazareth, was a necessary condition created by God to redeem the elect among humankind; and second, that this God-man constitutes the perfect model after whom each of the saints should construct his life. These fourteen sermons correspond precisely in subject matter to poems 42 through 56 of the “Preparatory Meditations,” second series. All these published sermons are necessary reading for serious students of Taylor’s poetry; they reveal his public attitudes toward many issues with which he grapples in his private poetry. In 1981, there appeared a three-volume set, The Unpublished Writings of Edward Taylor (Thomas M. Davis and Virginia L. Davis, editors), which includes Taylor’s church records, minor poems, and additional sermons.
In 1977, an extensive holograph manuscript of thirty-six sermons, dating from 1693 to 1706, was recovered. These as-yet-unpublished sermons treat “types”: events, persons, or things in the Old Testament that represent or shadow forth similar events, persons (particularly Jesus of Nazareth), or things in the New Testament. Taylor’s Diary has been published (1964, F. Murphy, editor); he kept this record during his journey to New England and until he located at Westfield, after graduation from Harvard in 1671. The style of the Diary is candid and immediate; one almost shares with Taylor his vividly described seasickness.