Lecture on Depression Part 2


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(Again, notes not text of a lecture. There would be a lot of fill-in between discrete notes)

IV       Causation

There are three potential types of causation for depression: physiological, environment, or spiritual. Often these three elements will affect one-another.

A         Physical Causes of Depression

There are number of physical diseases and physiological conditions which will either cause symptoms of depression or which are associated with depression.

The Mayo Clinic webpage makes the following statements respecting physical causes of depression:

It’s not known exactly what causes depression. As with many mental disorders, a variety of factors may be involved, such as:

Biological differences. People with depression appear to have physical changes in their brains. The significance of these changes is still uncertain, but may eventually help pinpoint causes.

Brain chemistry. Neurotransmitters are naturally occurring brain chemicals that likely play a role in depression. Recent research indicates that changes in the function and effect of these neurotransmitters and how they interact with neurocircuits involved in maintaining mood stability may play a significant role in depression and its treatment.

Hormones. Changes in the body’s balance of hormones may be involved in causing or triggering depression. Hormone changes can result with pregnancy and during the weeks or months after delivery (postpartum) and from thyroid problems, menopause or a number of other conditions.

Inherited traits. Depression is more common in people whose blood relatives also have this condition. Researchers are trying to find genes that may be involved in causing depression.


Since there are actual physical diseases which can cause depression symptoms (remember depression is a description of symptoms, not the diagnosis of a singular disease), it is appropriate to send someone to a medical doctor for a check-up. For instance, heart attack, stroke and thyroid disease are associated with depression.

Brain chemistry:

This is what most people think of as a physiological cause of depression. There have been theories about the relative levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin as a cause of depression. But there is no possible way to measure the relative levels of neurotransmitters, particularly between the salient neurons relative to a state of depression.

This “chemical imbalance” theory of depression has largely been set aside. As was explained in a Harvard Medical School article:

It’s often said that depression results from a chemical imbalance, but that figure of speech doesn’t capture how complex the disease is. Research suggests that depression doesn’t spring from simply having too much or too little of certain brain chemicals. Rather, there are many possible causes of depression, including faulty mood regulation by the brain, genetic vulnerability, stressful life events, medications, and medical problems. It’s believed that several of these forces interact to bring on depression.

To be sure, chemicals are involved in this process, but it is not a simple matter of one chemical being too low and another too high. Rather, many chemicals are involved, working both inside and outside nerve cells. There are millions, even billions, of chemical reactions that make up the dynamic system that is responsible for your mood, perceptions, and how you experience life.


The article goes on to make a case for physiological elements of depression, but the point is that a simplistic “chemical imbalance” theory is simply inadequate.

B         Environmental causes

Depression can be a response to something in one’s environment. And again remember that depression can refer to sadness, fearfulness even anxiety of a sort.

1 Thessalonians 4:13 (ESV)

13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.

Here we have Paul explaining that death can lead to sorrow and that if not rightly understood can lead to a sorrow without hope.

One of the best tests for determining whether a depression is the result of a environmental cause is to ask when the depression began (learned of this test from Charles Hodges, M.D., excellent book, Good Mood Bad Mood). If you receive a response that the depression began shortly after my dad died, you have good evidence of a response to environment

C         Spiritual Depression


There are three types of spiritual depression

1          Depression for unrepentant sin

Ps. 32

2          Depression as a response to a corrective of God

2 Cor. 1:8-10 & 12.

3          Depression

Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes of spiritual depression which comes out a defective theology and thus a misunderstanding of the Christian life.

V         Responses to Depression

The response will be dependent upon the cause.

A         Physical disease

Where there is a diagnosable disease with a discrete treatment, then physical treatment is appropriate.

Aside on antidepressant medication

Antidepressant medication is typically medication meant to affect the “chemical imbalance” in the brain. In private conversation with a well-respected psychiatrist at a major university (he has since deceased), said over dinner, “Sometimes antidepressants work, sometimes they don’t; and we don’t know why.”

There many issues when it comes to antidepressants.

First, if the depression is not physical, then medication is inappropriate.

Second, feeling bad may be unpleasant but it is not necessarily bad. As noted in the citations above for spiritual depression, bad feelings may be means of correction or training.

Consider this passage from Paul:

Romans 5:1–5 (ESV)

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

At the end of verse two, Paul identifies the “hope of the glory of God” as the basis upon which we rejoice. The question then arises, who then do I increase hope? He goes on to explain that painful circumstances which could overwhelm us (as explained in 2 Corinthians) are used as a means to increase hope, in the end.

Third, antidepressants are subject to a substantial placebo effect. For mild to moderate depression, the placebo effect of antidepressant medication appears to be the principle benefit, “The combined effect of these and other biases suggests that the benefits of antidepressant drugs for mild to moderate depression (over and above the placebo effect) may not be clinically significant.” https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/doctor-you/201907/its-time-depression-make-friends-the-placebo

For those who suffer “severe” depression, the medical indications are different.

Fourth, antidepressants have serious side effects. For instance:

In the latest and most comprehensive analysis, published last week in BMJ (the British Medical Journal),a group of researchers at the Nordic Cochrane Center in Copenhagen showed that pharmaceutical companies were not presenting the full extent of serious harm in clinical study reports, which are detailed documents sent to regulatory authorities such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) when applying for approval of a new drug. The researchers examined documents from 70 double-blind, placebo-controlled trials of two common types of antidepressants—selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI)—and found that the occurrence of suicidal thoughts and aggressive behavior doubled in children and adolescents who used these medications.


Aside on electroshock

Electroshock therapy has returned as a therapy in cases of severe depression. In a recent conversation, a psychiatrist explained to me that the current theory is that the electroshock causes a “hard reset” of the neurotransmitters and shows some alleviation of depression symptoms following the treatment.  When I see her next, I’ll ask about her current opinion of the treatment.

B         Spiritual depression

Obviously, exploration of unrepentant sin is appropriate and repentance (Ps. 32 & 51) may be the necessary response to depression. A warning here: be careful of insisting on this point, because it could easily cause despondency in a troubled conscience.

Administration of Hope

Ps. 77 Gives a good example of how to perform this work:

Psalm 77:1–10 (ESV)

The first four verses describe a case of serious depression

          I cry aloud to God,

aloud to God, and he will hear me.

          In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;

in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;

my soul refuses to be comforted.

          When I remember God, I moan;

when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah

          You hold my eyelids open;

I am so troubled that I cannot speak.

At this point, the Psalmist administers a series of questions which force him to realize that he has reason to hope:

          I consider the days of old,

the years long ago.

          I said, “Let me remember my song in the night;

let me meditate in my heart.”

Then my spirit made a diligent search:

          “Will the Lord spurn forever,

and never again be favorable?

          Has his steadfast love forever ceased?

Are his promises at an end for all time?

          Has God forgotten to be gracious?

Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” Selah

10         Then I said, “I will appeal to this,

to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, taking instruction from Psalm 42-43 explained that our trouble lies that we listen to ourselves rather than preach to ourselves. We allow our feelings to cloud and our judgment and we make our emotional state the truth of our condition. He explains that we must turn this on its head must take ourselves by the hand and tell ourselves the truth:

Psalm 42:5 (ESV)

          Why are you cast down, O my soul,

and why are you in turmoil within me?

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,

my salvation


C         Environmental Depression

1 Thessalonians 4:13–18 (ESV)

13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.


Understanding the matter correctly as a means of remedying the sorrow of loss.

Romans 8:28–29 (ESV)

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

Note that “good” is defined in v. 29 as being conformed to the image of Christ (not in getting a new car or a better job or some other possible “good”).

Lecture on Depression, Part 1



(I was out of the country on a counseling conference in Chile.  Here is the first half of my notes from a lecture on depression)

Notes on Depression Lecture


Begin with Psalm 88

Psalm 88 (ESV)

I Cry Out Day and Night Before You

1  O LORD, God of my salvation,
I cry out day and night before you.
2  Let my prayer come before you;
incline your ear to my cry!

3  For my soul is full of troubles,
and my life draws near to Sheol.
4  I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am a man who has no strength,
5  like one set loose among the dead,
like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
for they are cut off from your hand.
6  You have put me in the depths of the pit,
in the regions dark and deep.
7  Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah

8  You have caused my companions to shun me;
you have made me a horror to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
9  my eye grows dim through sorrow.
Every day I call upon you, O LORD;
I spread out my hands to you.
10  Do you work wonders for the dead?
Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah
11  Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,
or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
12  Are your wonders known in the darkness,
or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?

13  But I, O LORD, cry to you;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14  O LORD, why do you cast my soul away?
Why do you hide your face from me?
15  Afflicted and close to death from my youth up,
I suffer your terrors; I am helpless.
16  Your wrath has swept over me;
your dreadful assaults destroy me.
17  They surround me like a flood all day long;
they close in on me together.
18  You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me;
my companions have become darkness.dep


I          “Depression” is an Ambiguous Term.


A         It is ambiguous in terms of what we mean by depression.


1          It can refer to merely feeling down.


2          It can refer to extraordinary pain and inability to act


“The pain of severe depression is quite unimaginable to those who have not suffered it, and it kills in many instances because its anguish can no longer be borne. The prevention of many suicides will continue to be hindered until there is a general awareness of the nature of this pain.”

― William Styron, Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness


3          Therefore, when someone uses the word “depressed”, it is necessary to fully define in fact of that particular person what is meant.


B         It is ambiguous in terms of causation


1          There are multiple physical conditions which are associated with depression


2          There are multiple environmental conditions which are associated with depression


3          The physiological and environmental aspects will often work in conjunction to create the condition


II        It is suffering


It suffering which afflicts us physically and emotionally. The most crushing things about depression is the loss of hope


“That’s the thing about depression: A human being can survive almost anything, as long as she sees the end in sight. But depression is so insidious, and it compounds daily, that it’s impossible to ever see the end.”

― Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation


“It is hopelessness even more than pain that crushes the soul.”

― William Styron, Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness



II        It is not uncommon


A         The “common cold” of psychiatry.


In 2009–2012, 7.6% of Americans aged 12 and over had depression (moderate or severe depressive symptoms in the past 2 weeks).


Figure 1. Percentage of persons aged 12 and over with depression, by age and sex: United States, 2009–2012


Source: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db172.htm



B         It is common even among Christians.


1  Martin Luther suffered from serious physical problems and repeated depression


In a letter to his friend Melanchthon on August 2, 1527, Luther wrote:


I spent more than a week in death and hell. My entire body was in pain, and I still tremble. Completely abandoned by Christ, I labored under the vacillations and storms of desperation and blasphemy against God. But through the prayers of the saints (his friends), God began to have mercy on me and pulled my soul from the inferno below.


2          Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, Vol. 1, Lecture 11, The Minister’s Fainting Fits:


AS it is recorded that David, in the heat of battle, waxed faint, so may it be written of all the servants of the Lord. Fits of depression come over the most of us. Usually cheerful as we may be, we must at intervals be cast down. The strong are not always vigorous, the wise not always ready, the brave not always courageous, and the joyous not always happy. There may be here and there men of iron, to whom wear and tear work no perceptible detriment, but surely the rust frets even these; and as for ordinary men, the Lord knows, and makes them to know, that they are but dust. Knowing by most painful experience what deep depression of spirit means, being visited therewith at seasons by no means few or far between, I thought it might be consolatory to some of my brethren if I gave my thoughts thereon, that younger men might not fancy that some strange thing had happened to them when they became for a season possessed by melancholy; and that sadder men might know that one upon whom the sun has shone right joyously did not always walk in the light.


It is not necessary by quotations from the biographies of eminent ministers to prove that seasons of fearful prostration have fallen to the lot of most, if not all of them. The life of Luther might suffice to give a thousand instances, and he was by no means of the weaker sort. His great spirit was often in the seventh heaven of exultation, and as frequently on the borders of despair. His very death bed was not free from tempests, and he sobbed himself into his last sleep like a great wearied child. Instead of multiplying cases, let us dwell upon the reasons why these things are permitted; why it is that the children of light sometimes walk in the thick darkness; why the heralds of the daybreak find themselves at times in tenfold night.


3          It is reported in the Psalms

See, Psalms 42-43

4          It has been written about extensively by Christians





Glory and Ambition


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Let it be the top of your ambition,

and the height of all your designs,

to glorify God,

to secure your interest in Christ,

to serve your generation,

to provide for eternity,

to walk with God,

to be tender of all that have aliquid Christi,

anything of Christ,

shining in them,

and so to steer your course in this world as that you may give up your account at last with joy, Mat. 25:21, seq.

All other ambition is base and low. Ambition, saith one, [Bernard,]

is a gilded misery,

a secret poison,

a hidden plague,

the engineer of deceit,

the mother of hypocrisy,

the parent of envy,

the original of vices,

the moth of holiness,

the blinder of hearts,

turning medicines into maladies,

and remedies into diseases.

Matthew calls all the world’s glory Δόξαν, an opinion, Mat. 4:8;

and St Paul calls it Σχῆμα, a mathematical figure, 1 Cor. 7:31, which is a mere notion, and nothing in substance.

The word here used intimateth that there is nothing of any firmness or solid consistency in the creature; it is but a surface, outside, empty thing; all the beauty of it is but skin deep.

Mollerus, upon that Ps. 73:20, concludeth, ‘that men’s earthly dignities are but as idle dreams, their splendid braveries but lucid fantasies.’

High seats are never but uneasy,

and crowns are always stuffed with thorns, which made one say of his crown,

‘O crown, more noble than happy.’

Shall the Spirit of God,

the grace of God,

the power of God,

the presence of God,

arm you against all other sins,



and temptations,

as you are by a good hand of heaven armed against

worldly ambition

and worldly glory?

Thomas Brooks

A Golden Key to Hidden Treasures

Shakespeare Sonnet 3 Images and Mirrors


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[1]       Look in thy glass and tell the face thou viewest

[2]       Now is the time that face should form another,

[3]       Whose fresh repair if now thou not renewest,

[4]       Thou dost beguile the world, unbless some mother.

[5]       For where is she so fair whose uneared womb

[6]       Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry?

[7]       Or who is he so fond will be the tomb

[8]       Of his self-love, to stop posterity?

[9]       Thou art thy mother’s glass, and she in thee

[10]     Calls back the lovely April of her prime;

[11]     So thou through windows of thine age shalt see,

[12]     Despite of wrinkles, this thy golden time.

[13]     But if thou live remembered not to be,

[14]     Die single, and thine image dies with thee.


This sonnet continues the theme of the first two: an encouragement to marry and have children.

The distinguishes mark lies with the concept of “image”.  The idea of mirror/image appears in the first & third stanzas as well as the couplet. It also brings in a new element: the subject of the poem is himself the image of another.


First Stanza

[1]       Look in thy glass and tell the face thou viewest

[2]       Now is the time that face should form another,

[3]       Whose fresh repair if now thou not renewest,

[4]       Thou dost beguile the world, unbless some mother.



The first line sets up the conceit for the rest of the poem. The image which he sees in the mirror becomes a separate-self, capable of replication. That face which he sees in the mirror itself should form another face of the same image.


This is a subtle and curious idea: Shakespeare is not saying, Make another “your”. Rather, make another in your image.  In this respect, Shakespeare is following in the language of  the Bible


Genesis 5:3 (Geneva)

Now Adám lived an hũdreth and thirtie yeres and begate a childe in his owne lickenes after his image, and called his name Sheth.


Adam and Eve were created in the image of God. Adam has a son is created in his own image.  And so it is not the man, but the man’s imagewhich is replicated. Thus, it is the face in the mirror which should replicate the image. The man himself will be no more; but the image which appears in the mirror will persist.

[3]       Whose fresh repair if now thou not renewest,

[4]       Thou dost beguile the world, unbless some mother.

This language also harkens back to Genesis. If the man will not renew the image (by having a child), he will “unbless” some potential mother by not sharing a child with her. In this, there seems to be a hint of Eve’s joy in getting a child (after the murder of Abel by Cain):


Genesis 4:1 (Geneva)

1 AFterwarde the man knewe Heuáh his wife, which cõceived & bare Káin, & said, I have obteined a man by yͤLord.


Second Stanza


[5]       For where is she so fair whose uneared womb

[6]       Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry?

[7]       Or who is he so fond will be the tomb

[8]       Of his self-love, to stop posterity?


This stanza fits neatly into two characters: the woman who will not have a child with him and the man who foolishly destroys himself.


So who is the woman so beautiful …


What is an “uneared womb”?  There is an obsolete use of the word “ear” which means to plow:

1 Samuel 8:12 (Geneva)

12 Also he wil make them his captaines over thousandes and captaines over fifties, and to eare his grounde, and to reape his harvest, & to make instruments of waire, and the things that serve for his charets.

The Merriam Webster dictionary offers this instance:


to form ears in growing

the rye should be earing up




(FTLN 0467)      [54]     Caesar, I bring thee word

(FTLN 0468)      [55]     Menecrates and Menas, famous pirates,

(FTLN 0469)      [56]     Makes the sea serve them, which they earand

(FTLN 0470)      [57]     wound

(FTLN 0471)      [58]     With keels of every kind. Many hot inroads

(FTLN 0472)      [59]     They make in Italy—the borders maritime

(FTLN 0473)      [60]     Lack blood to think on ’t—and flush youth revolt.


William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra (Folger Shakespeare Library, n.d.), 39.


Therefore an “uneared womb” would be a woman who had not been “ploughed” – this matches the image of “tillage”.  The image of the field from the previous Sonnet is here returned and applied to the potential mother.


So what woman is there who is so beautiful that she would refuse to be the mother of your children? (She does not want to a farmer in her field. I don’t image this imagery would be very welcome in conversation with a woman today – and I have no idea that it would have pleased a woman four hundred years ago. But he also was not writing to the woman).


[7]       Or who is he so fond will be the tomb

[8]       Of his self-love, to stop posterity?


“Fond” is an old fashioned word for foolish. It was used as late as Wordsworth, “What fond and foolish thoughts”.


Who is someone so foolish that he will be his own tomb, but refusing to bear children?


Third Stanza


This stanza picks up the elements of image from the first stanza and mother from the second stanza:


[9]       Thou art thy mother’s glass, and she in thee

[10]     Calls back the lovely April of her prime;

[11]     So thou through windows of thine age shalt see,

[12]     Despite of wrinkles, this thy golden time.


He himself is the image of his own mother – and replicates her spring. He is a joy to his own mother by recalling to her, her own “April of her prime”.


The “mirror” is here replicated and transformed into a “window” – glass being the common medium of both.


At present, he looks into a mirror and sees his own image. But with a child, he sees through the glass as a window into the image replicated in another human being. There is an advancement in the image.


The language of mother is used to put him into relation. He has come from a mother (like Eve having a son), and he will be like Adam replicating his image.


The Couplet:


[13]     But if thou live remembered not to be,

[14]     Die single, and thine image dies with thee.


If he dies single – without taking a mother to him – he will not be remembered. And that image in the mirror will be nothing being that image in the mirror. He can replicate his image in a mirror only as long as he lives. But he if has a child, the image is replicated outside of the mirror – it becomes visible through a window (as he was visible to his mother).

Shakespeare Sonnet 2


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Notes on the first Sonnet are here.

[1]       When forty winters shall besiege thy brow

[2]       And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field,

[3]       Thy youth’s proud livery, so gazed on now,

[4]       Will be a tattered weed of small worth held.

[5]       Then being asked where all thy beauty lies,

[6]       Where all the treasure of thy lusty days,

[7]       To say within thine own deep-sunken eyes

[8]       Were an all-eating shame and thriftless praise.

[9]       How much more praise deserved thy beauty’s use

[10]     If thou couldst answer “This fair child of mine

[11]     Shall sum my count and make my old excuse,”

[12]     Proving his beauty by succession thine.

[13]     This were to be new made when thou art old

[14]     And see thy blood warm when thou feel’st it cold.


The first stanza raises the issue to be addressed:

[1]       When forty winters shall besiege thy brow

[2]       And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field,

[3]       Thy youth’s proud livery, so gazed on now,

[4]       Will be a tattered weed of small worth held.

The basic idea here is simple enough: When grow older, your physical beauty will wear out. He expands this idea along two lines: The primary image is of a field which has been over used. The field will have forty years, but forty “winters”. There will be no spring or summer to rejuvenate the field, only years of snow and death.

The only hint of planting is in the plowing. Shakespeare makes even this unhelpful. There are not ploughed fields but “trenches”. The use of three accented syllables in a row and the alliteration on the Ds/T underscore the point:


There will be nothing of value in the field at the end, merely “tattered weed”.

But he complicates this image of a field with the image of a “livery”:

Thy youth’s proud livery

Calling beauty the livery of youth makes instant sense: beauty is a custom of nobility worn by the youth. But Shakespeare has body of work which demonstrates a fascination with words. Livery as a custom is out-of-place in an abandoned field.

We could solve this issue by thinking of the livery as the original costume of the field – which is possible.

However, there is another possibility suggested by the origin of the word

  1. 1300, “household allowance of any kind (food, provisions, clothing) to retainers or servants,” from Anglo-French livere(late 13c.; Old French liveree, Modern French livrée), “allowance, ration, pay,” originally “(clothes) delivered by a master to his retinue,” from fem. past participle of livrer“to dispense, deliver, hand over,” from Latin liberare “to set free” (see liberate).

The sense later was reduced to “servants’ rations” and “provender for horses” (mid-15c.). The former led to the meaning “distinctive clothing given to servants” (early 14c.); the latter now is obsolete, unless livery stable (1705) survives. Related: Liveried.

A farm field is something which would yield a living. But over run and unproductive, it would cease to yield a living. The poem’s object has used beauty as a living: he makes a livery off the custom of his beauty. And thus, livery has dual usage.

The concept of livery as costume may suggest the adjective of the fourth line: “tattered”. It is unusual to think of a field as “tattered”; although that makes perfect sense of clothing.

One more thing: note that the winters will “besiege”. They will come as an army; and thus in the livery of a king. You and your livery will lose.

Second Stanza

[5]       Then being asked where all thy beauty lies,

[6]       Where all the treasure of thy lusty days,

[7]       To say within thine own deep-sunken eyes

[8]       Were an all-eating shame and thriftless praise.

The question: What happened to your beauty/your treasure: your costume and living?  What answer will you have then: It lies within these deep-sunken eyes. Here, can’t you see it?

That will merely be “all-eating shame” (a shame which devours everything) and a praise which does not profit.

If you allow your beauty to be lost, you will not merely lose your beauty; you will be covered in praise.

Thus, the first two stanza develop the problem which the poem seeks to resolve.

Note this is the basic structure of persuasion: set up an issue and then provide a resolution. Well, Shakespeare, if you’re so smart; what am I supposed to do? Am I supposed to never get old? How could that happen?

Third Stanza

[9]       How much more praise deserved thy beauty’s use

[10]     If thou couldst answer “This fair child of mine

[11]     Shall sum my count and make my old excuse,”

[12]     Proving his beauty by succession thine

If you had a child, you could point this child (who would be beautiful). This will solve two points: First, you would display your beauty. Second, you prove your present beauty by maintaining it in the future, in this child.

Rather than allowing your beauty to whither, like someone who misuses a farm; but your beauty to use and have a child.

The word “succession” is interesting here. Succession has to do with inheritance (and is used that way in Sonnet 127, the only other use of that word by Shakespeare).  Whether Shakespeare would have made the association of the word to the throne, I can’t tell. Although the question of succession is a theme in some plays.

The Couplet

This is really a brilliant end to the poem, because it picks up the strands of the poem

[13]     This were to be new made when thou art old

[14]     And see thy blood warm when thou feel’st it cold.

Here the winter and forty years of the first line return as “old” and “cold”. Here is the succession and child in “thy warm blood”. The blood is cold in him; just as the forty winters will dig deep trenches in your beauty. But your field will also be productive. The blood which is cold in your body will be warm in the successor’s body: and that blood will be “thy blood”.

Also to return to the besieging winters: A war draws blood; and blood which runs cold is death. But here the besieging army of time will be overcome in the warm blood of a child.

It is a strange at one level to bear a child so that will replace me.

Kuyper, Common Grace 1.4


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In this chapter Kuyper underscores a few points: While God had displayed grace toward humanity immediately after the Fall (a point he will develop at length later in the book), that grace was limited. What God did do was permit human beings to live out the implications of their rebellion until the “earth was filled with violence” (Gen. 6:11) [It strangely seems lost upon humanity that violence is evidence of God’s wrath against sin, because God is not restraining sin. Sin is its own punishment and carries within it, its own sorrow. No matter its original appearance, its trajectory is always the same.]

But at the point of Noah, God imposed a new order upon the world: the physical world would never again be such that a universal flood could occur; the animal world changed and the relationship to animals. Importantly, God also acted to restrain certain temporal aspects of sin. God acted to restrain sin: not fully; but he would to permit it to unleash itself upon the world in full furry until the time of the Son of Perdition.

The rainbow was marked as the sign of the covenant (the bow being a war bow, as in bow and arrow).

This points to the spiritual aspect of this covenant which on its face concerns only physical concerns. The covenant as in place to preserve humanity. The purpose of this covenant, lies “with the elect.”

There has been a failure to consider the significance of this covenant, even among theologians and preachers.

Instead of me


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(From Horatius Bonar):

Many years ago, I was walking with a friend along the pleasant banks of a Scottish river, in one of the early months of summer, when the trees had just begun to show their fresh verdure and to offer us a shade from the sun. A man in rags came up to us begging. We supplied his wants somewhat, and entered into talk with him. He could not write nor read: He knew nothing of his Bible, and seemed not to care about knowing it.

“You need to be saved, do you not?”

“Oh yes; I suppose I do,” he said.

“But do you know the way of being saved?” we asked.

“I dare say I do,” was the reply.

“How, then, do you expect this?”

“I have not been a very bad man; and am doing as many good works as I can.”

“But are your good works good enough to take you to heaven?”

“I think so; and I am doing my best.”

“Do you not know any good works better than your own?”

“I know about the good works of the saints; but how am I to get them?”

“Do you know of no good works better than those of the saints?”

“I don’t think there can be any better.”

“Are not the works of the Lord Jesus Christ better than the works of the saints?”

“Of course they are; but of what use are they to me?”

“They may be of great use to us, if we believe what God has told us about them.”

“How is that?”

“If God is willing to take these works of Christ instead of yours, would not that do?”

“Yes, that it would. But will He?”

“Yes, He will. For this is just what He has told us; He is willing to take all that Christ has done and suffered instead of what you could do or suffer; and to give you what Christ has deserved instead of what you have deserved.”

“Is that really the case? Is God willing to put Christ instead of me?”

“Yes, He certainly is.”

‘But have I no good works to do myself?”

“Plenty; but not to buy pardon with them. You are to take what Christ did as the price to be paid for your pardon; and then, having thus got a free pardon, you will work for Him who pardons you, out of love for His love to you.”

“But how can I get this?”

“By believing the gospel, or good news which tell you about the Lord Jesus Christ: how He lived; how He died; how He was buried; how He rose again—all for sinful men: as the Bible says, ‘Through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him all that believe are justified from all things.’ ”

The beggar stood and wondered. The thought that another’s works would do instead of his own, and that he might get all that this other’s works deserved, seemed to strike him

 Horatius Bonar, How Shall I Go to God? And Other Readings (London: The Religious Tract Society, 1881), 30–32.

Kuyper Common Grace 1.3


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The prior post in this series is found here.

In this chapter, Kuyper takes upon the scope of the Noah covenant: was it with the “church” alone, or was it common to all? First, Kuyer relies heavily upon Calvin’s commentary on Genesis 9, wherein Calvin writes that it was a broad, common covenant with human beings and animals:

Moreover, there is no doubt that it was the design of God to provide for all his posterity. It was not therefore a private covenant confirmed with one family only, but one which is common to all people, and which shall flourish in all ages to the end of the world. And truly, since at the present time, impiety overflows not less than in the age of Noah, it is especially necessary that the waters should be restrained by this word of God, as by a thousand bolts and bars lest they should break forth to destroy us. Wherefore, relying on this promise, let us look forward to the last day, in which the consuming fire shall purify heaven and earth.

10. And with every living creature. Although the favor which the Lord promises extends also to animals, yet it is not in vain that he addresses himself only to men, who, by the sense of faith, are able to perceive this benefit. We enjoy the heaven and the air in common with the beasts, and draw the same vital breath; but it is no common privilege, that God directs his word to us; whence we may learn with what paternal love he pursues us. And here three distinct steps are to be traced. First, God, as in a matter of present concern, makes a covenant with Noah and his family, lest they should be afraid of a deluge for themselves. Secondly, he transmits his covenant to posterity, not only that, as by continual succession, the effect may reach to other ages; but that they who should afterwards be born might also apprehend this testimony by faith, and might conclude that the same thing which had been promised to the sons of Noah, was promised unto them. Thirdly, he declares that he will be propitious also to brute animals, so that the effect of the covenant towards them, might be the preservation of their lives only, without imparting to them sense and intelligence.

John Calvin, Genesis, electronic ed., Calvin’s Commentaries, 1998, Ge 9:8–10. He then makes the observation that God would not again destroy the world by flood.

This raises the question: Why was the world destroyed by flood? Because human beings had become insufferably wicked and destructive that there would be no place for God’s redemptive work. Therefore, God rescues Noah and begins anew. But this time, rather than provide a “redemption” by flood, God will preserve a place for his redemptive work by means of restraint of sin:

that the restraining power proceeding from common grace against sin, has become increased from God’s side after the flood. The beast within man remains just as evil and wild, but the bars around its cage were fortified, so that it cannot again escape like it used to.

 Abraham Kuyper, Common Grace: God’s Gifts for a Fallen World: The Historical Section, ed. Jordan J. Ballor, Melvin Flikkema, and Stephen J. Grabill, trans. Nelson D. Kloosterman and Ed M. van der Maas, vol. 1, Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press; Acton Institute, 2015), 26.

The basic structure and purpose of “common grace” is not and never was to redeem human beings from, but to restrain the outbursts of sin to preserve a humanity for God’s redemptive work. Common grace is a fence which limits the ravages of the curse and sin.