Thomas Traherne, The Soul’s Communion with her Savior, Book 1.1.3


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§. 3.

When the Angel came in unto her, and said, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among Women: she cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.[1]

I praise thy Holy Name[2],

O Blessed Jesus,

for the greatness of thine Eternal Love to this Holy Virgin,

 and to all mankind in her[3].

O make me sensible how highly I myself am favor’d in this great transaction[4],

since she was thus blessed among women[5],

that all the families of the farth might be blessed in her Seed[6].

A salutation of such infinite importance

doth worthily deserve to be frequently revolved in our minds[7],

which, being particularly brought to a private family in Jewry[8],

hath prov’d of universal concernment to the whole world[9].

O let me also taste and see [10]

how gracious the Lord hath been to my Soul:

No matter[11] for the favor of men,

so we find Grace with God[12].

[1] This is the next event in the Annunciation referenced in Luke 1:26-38.


            Bless the Lord, O my soul,

and all that is within me,

bless his holy name!

Psalm 103:1

Glory in his holy name;

let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!

1 Chronicles 16:10

Glory in his holy name;

let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!

Psalm 105:3

[3] Traherne is making a parallel in this prayer between Mary and Abraham. In Genesis 12, when God calls Abram, he promises him that in him all the nations of the earth shall be blessed:

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Genesis 12:1–3. That worldwide blessing is in in Abraham’s greater son, Jesus. Mary, being the virgin mother of Jesus is the last link in that chain of blessing.

[4] Traherne here counts himself in the blessing. Mary has been blessed by being the mother of Jesus. The promise to Abraham is fulfilled in the birth of Jesus. The blessing and promised and the blessing fulfilled have now overflowed to Traherne (and so also to us).

[5] After she has become pregnant, Mary travels to visit Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist:

41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

Luke 1:41–43  

[6] Here he relates the promise to Abraham to the earlier promise made to Eve, by referring to Mary’s “seed”:

I will put enmity between you and the woman,

and between your offspring and her offspring;

                        he shall bruise your head,

and you shall bruise his heel.”

Genesis 3:15 (ESV)

[7] To just contemplate the truth of God is itself a good thing for the people of God.  Considering these things, or if you prefer, “meditate on these things” is absent element of our practice.

[8] The ancient Israelites.

[9] The scope of Jesus’ work is truly universal:

And they sang a new song, saying,

                        “Worthy are you to take the scroll

and to open its seals,

                        for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God

from every tribe and language and people and nation,

            10          and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,

and they shall reign on the earth.”

Revelation 5:9–10 (ESV)


            Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!

Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Psalm 34:8 (ESV)


Stop regarding man

in whose nostrils is breath,

for of what account is he?

Isaiah 2:22

[12] “No matter”, idiomatically, “who cares” what anyone thinks of me if I have found favor with God.



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I saw a clip: two zookeepers in China thought of a stunt to celebrate the changing of the year from tiger to rabbit. And so they brought out a cute white bunny and a tiger cub. The men smiled and showed their animals, then placed the bunny near the cub on a decorated perch.

As soon as the tiger was free, it pounced upon the rabbit. A paw the size of the rabbit, knocked on its side and swiped it into the tiger’s jaw.  They tried to separate the two, but it was too late.

Rabbits have a wisdom of their own. They are never to be found in the presence of tigers. They endeavor to never be seen, except by other rabbits. In summer they are the color brush and dirt and rocks. In winter, some become the color of snow. Rabbits are not the peacocks of the world, they are skittish, quick, and concealed.

You will be surprised the first time you watch a rabbit dig a hole. And the hole will quickly be a burrow. Leave alone long enough and you will have a warren, a rabbit city beneath the ground.

Rabbits have no claws to fend off dogs or cats or birds seeking to make them prey (although a mother rabbit will strike as quick as a rattlesnake. She may not have more than some nails for digging and teeth for hay, but she will use them with all the force within her.) The rabbit scurries about beneath the brush, wary at every moment.

Consider a moment and look about, you will see how every weak animal seeks to survive on this planet by speed and wisdom and concealment. Sparrows disappear among the branches of a trees or the leaves upon the ground. They move in clouds, so that no one sparrow can be easily tracked. The skitter about, anxious to survive.

Even insects can hide and dodge with a genius beyond their size. Try grabbing a fly or tracing a gnat on a summer evening as it dips and zags like someone weaving hair.

Predators may seem to have it much better. They are great and powerful, but their prey is elusive. And predators confront predators. Lions fight hyenas for the carcass, and vultures dog the hawk. A great white shark fears nothing, but orcas hunt and eat the apex predators beneath them.

Goats have horns and cattle are large. Where no rancher culls the herd, dangerous bulls will protect the cows. A stampede of buffalo and obliterate a pack of wolves.

Yet, one animal stands out. The lamb is not the color of grass. His mother has no horns. He will never run like a gazelle or fly like a crow. He cannot disappear into a crevice after a snake. He does not pretend to be a poisonous animal. No wolf was ever harmed by a flock of sheep.

How striking then that God speaks of his people as sheep:

        But we your people, the sheep of your pasture,

will give thanks to you forever;

from generation to generation we will recount your praise.

Psalm 79:13  

                      For he is our God,

and we are the people of his pasture,

and the sheep of his hand.

Psalm 95:7

And he is a shepherd:

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

John 10:11.

Think again of the language of the well-known 23rd Psalm:

                      The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

                      He makes me lie down in green pastures.

                        He leads me beside still waters.

Psalm 23:1–2. Those who cause injury to the church are fierce beasts:

Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves

Matthew 10:16.

I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock;

Acts 20:29.

The Puritan Richard Sibbes observed:

For the first, the condition of men whom he was to deal withal is, that they were bruised reeds, and smoking flax; not trees, but reeds; and not whole, but bruised reeds. The church is compared to weak things; to a dove amongst the fowls; to a vine amongst the plants; to sheep amongst the beasts; to a woman, which is the weaker vessel: and here God’s children are compared to bruised reeds and smoking flax.

Sibbes, Richard. The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes. Edited by Alexander Balloch Grosart, vol. 1, James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; W. Robertson, 1862, p. 43. 

The earth is dangerous; even roses have thorns.  The sheep have no protection, except their shepherd. All of their hope is in their shepherd. If a wolf comes, the shepherd alone can stop the wolf. The sheep can only die.

God does not save by increasing our strength. His people never become wolves or bears. Instead, he teaches us to be weak. We are not merely harmless beasts; we are taught to become harmless beasts. In fact, we are not merely to accept our weakness, but to glory in our weakness:

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:8–10. Now there is a paradox. To be weak, seems to be one who has no honor, no glory, no power. How then can Paul glory in his weakness? How is he safe in the power of Christ, when we know how often Paul was imprisoned, degraded, beaten? How can suffering insults or calamities be a means of glory? A great grizzly, fearless of all things in the world is filled with glory. A lion is glorious. A sheep? Sheep are weak and foolish. But sheep have something no shark, no wolf ever had: a shepherd.

Thomas Traherne, The Soul’s Communion with her Savior Book 1.1.2


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§. 2.

O Blessed Jesus, whose Incarnation was so sublime a mystery, that, to usher in a matter of such extraordinary concernment to the world, the Angel Gabriel was sent from God, unto a City of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose Name was Joseph, of the House of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary[1]:

I magnify thy Glorious Name[2],

For making thy Spirits Ministers[3] unto them who shall be Heirs of Salvation[4].

As the Angels and Arch-Angels praise Thee[5],

the Cherubim[6] and Seraphim adore Thee[7],

and all the heavenly Host bow down unto Thee,

not only fitting upon thy Throne,

but even at the lowest Degree of thy Foot-stool[8],

wherunto thou hast voluntarily humbled thyself in thine Incarnation:

So, let me, I beseech thee,

in concurrence with the Celestial Choir,

celebrate this Mystery of thy Love on Earth,

& worship the Majesty of thy Glory in Heaven,

till my Life become Angelical

by rejoicing in Thee and in Thy Salvation[9].

[1] This event is recorded in Luke 1:26-38

[2] 2 Samuel 7:26 (KJV) “And let thy name be magnified for ever, saying, The LORD of hosts is the God over Israel: and let the house of thy servant David be established before thee.” Jesus was the one who established the house of David forever.

[3] Psalm 104:3–4 (KJV)  “Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters: who maketh the clouds his chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind: 4 Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire.”

[4] Hebrews 1:7 (KJV)

7 And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire.

Hebrews 1:14 (KJV)

14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?

[5] Luke 2:8–14 (KJV)  “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

[6] Psalm 80:1 (KJV) “Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth.”

[7] Isaiah 6:1–3 (KJV) “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. 2 Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. 3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.”

[8] Isaiah 66:1 (KJV)  “Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?”

[9] A theme in the Scripture is that we become conformed to what we worship. This is both a positive and a negative change (whether changed into the image of Christ or the image an idol). That prayer is that I become fully conformed to the status of one who without reservation worships God for what he has done in Jesus Christ.

Thomas Traherne, The Soul’s Communion with her Savior Book 1.1.1



[These meditations proceed as follows. First, he notes an aspect of the Savior’s life. Second, he composes a prayer. The whole makes one meditation.]

THE Soul’s Communion WITH HER SAVIOR.

The First Book,

Containing so much of the Gospel History as relates to the Infancy of the Savior Jesus, and that time of his private life which passed before He entered on his public ministry.

Cap. I. Of His Incarnation.

 §. 1.

O holy and ever-blessed Jesus, eternal Son of the eternal God[1], who didst descend from thy Father’s Bosom[2]; from the highest Heavens, thy Royal Throne[3], to this Vale of Misery; that by taking my nature upon Thee[4], Thou mightest not only suffer and satisfy for Me, but also impart Thy Nature unto Me[5].

I praise and magnify thy Name[6],

For this thine unspeakable[7] Love[8].

I adore thee for thine infinite[9] wisdom[10] and goodness[11]:

I am astonished at thy stupendous humility and condescension

to lost and undeserving man[12].

Bow the Heavens,

O Lord, once more, and come down,

touch my heart with thine Almighty Power; and,

having cast out whatsoever may be offensive to thy Sacred Majesty,

fill it with thy blessed presence forever.

[1] This meditation tracks closely with the article of the Nicene Creed concerning the Son: “And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made. Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man.”

Historic Creeds and Confessions. Electronic ed., Lexham Press, 1997.

[2] John 1:14–18 (KJV)  “14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. 15 John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. 16 And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. 18 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”

[3] Hebrews 1:1–3 (KJV) “1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

[4] Hebrews 2:14–17 (KJV) “14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; 15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. 16 For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. 17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.”

[5] 1 Corinthians 15:47–49 (KJV) “47 The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. 48 As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. 49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. “

[6] 2 Samuel 7:26 (KJV) “And let thy name be magnified for ever, saying, The LORD of hosts is the God over Israel: and let the house of thy servant David be established before thee.” Psalm 138:2 (KJV) “I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.”

[7] 2 Corinthians 9:15 (KJV) “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.”

[8] 1 John 4:7–10 (KJV) “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. 9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

[9] Psalm 147:5 (KJV) “Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite.”

[10] Ephesians 3:10 (KJV) “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God”

[11] Romans 2:4 (KJV) “Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?”

[12] Philippians 2:5–11 (KJV)  “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Thomas Traherne, The Soul’s Communion With Her Savior.1


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Thomas Traherne was a 17th Century Anglican pastor, who is now best known as a poet ( He is also known for his Centuries of Meditations ( The work which follows, The Soul’s Communion With Her Savior, does not seem to be available since its original publication in 1685.

THE Soul’s Communion With her SAVIOR.

OR, The History of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Written by FOUR EVANGELISTS, Digested into Devotional Meditations.

The First Part.


Printed for W. Crooke at the Green Dragon

nigh Devereux-Court without Temple-Bar, 1685.


Sir Edwyn Sandys in hisEuropae Speculum[1] observes, That, as one principal means used by the Papacy to countermine the Progress of the Reformation, they took such care to fill all Countries with books of prayer and piety in their own language, that they forbore not to reproach the Protestants[2] (who had upbraided them for confining the people to the dark Devotion of an unknown tongue[3]) with their poverty, weakness, and coldness in that kind, as being forced to take the Catholic Books for their supply therein.[4]

And since the time wherein he made that observation, the Reformed Churches have been too long exposed to the same reproach and inconvenience: for, as it was the highest mark of deplorable servitude, that the Israelites went down to the Philistines to sharpen every man his share and his coulter and his ax and his mattock[5]; so it must needs prov a very dangerous snare to the most religious Protestants that they were constrained to have recourse to the Church of Rome for their best helps to devotion; whose care of souls, in making that necessary provision for piety, carried with it so fair a shew of true sanctity and godliness as invited too many of the unwarily devout, first to a favorable opinion and then to the absolute espousal of her errors and superstition, craftily mingled and recommended in those prayers and meditations that were hammer’d out at her forge.[6]

And what was so a temptation to win her adversaries, may well be thought a more forcible argument to establish and confirm her own friends and abettors[7], to her: So that without a proportionable care to countermine her policy, there could be little hope either of withdrawing any of her members, or withholding many of our own, from her communion.[8]

But now the Church of England hath both expressed herself sufficiently sensible of that defect and made abundant provision for its supply, in compiling and publishing such and such store of books of devotion in her mother-tongue, as neither the Roman nor any of the Reformed can boast of more or better.[9] It may therefore be questioned to what purpose this little tract should be superadded to those many excellent pieces of devout meditation already in print; which makes me judge it requisite to give the reader some short account both of its occasion and design.

A most excellent person, eminent (not to mention her quality, which is very considerable) as well for her devotion as intelligence [understanding], being, by a just and rational conviction of those gross errors and forgeries[10], on and by which the Church (or rather, Court[11]) of Rome hath founded and upheld her greatness, reclaimed from her communion to that of the church of England; to evidence how far she was from being induced thereunto by any other motive besides that of disinterested religion[12], resolved to confine herself to the same strict rules of devotion and abstinence, in the exercise of her protestant principles, whereby she had expressed her exemplary zeal in the popish superstition. And that her soul, in those many hours which she daily allotted for retirement, might not grow languid and dull in the same act either of prayer or reading (as the body is apt to become stiff and unwieldy if long held to the self-same posture or motion) these brief aspirations on the gospel-history were composed to diversify her entertainment, and fill up those Intervals which a pious discretion thought requisite for the better improvement and more orderly disposal of the time set apart for such religious exercises.[13]

And what hath been thus used and approved in the devout solitude of a private closet[14], now appears in public with design to supply the vacant hours of other pious votaries[15], especially at such times as either the wise authority of our superiors, or their own particular resolution, shall dedicate a whole day to the duties of prayer and humiliation.[16]

But lest that different Order where into the several Evangelists[17] have cast their relation of our Savior’s acts and speeches which the Holy Ghost hath thought fit to transfer unto succeeding ages upon record, might occasion a fruitless repetition of any one Ppart, or an unseemly confusion in the whole; I have reduced it to such a Method which Gerard and Chemnitius have digested their Harmony of the Four Gospels[18] into: that the religious peruser  [reader] may more regularly pass through the entire history, or the more readily have recourse to any particular transaction in it which may best suit with the present scope of his devotion. Whereunto if this small essay prov any way serviceable, it will at once recompense my present labor and encourage me to proceed; being ardently desirous to express myself, in communion with my Savior,

A sincere Lover of Souls, P. Traheron.

A General Prayer Preparatory to the ensuing Meditations.

O Father of mercies and God of all consolation[19],

who art the fountain of life and salvation[20],

my soul and all that is within me bless thy Holy Name[21],

 for sending thine only begotten Son into the world[22]

to redeem me and all mankind[23] to thine eternal glory[24].

I beseech Thee withdraw mine affections from this world[25],

that I may serve Thee in Spirit and in Truth[26]:

Enlighten my understanding[27] and reform my will[28],

that my heart may be entirely united to Thee[29],

and (all other business set apart)

as well secretly among the faithful, as openly in the congregation,

adore and praise the God of my Salvation[30].

And since the Mercies of GOD

do at once oblige and encourage me

to present my Soul and Body a Living Sacrifice at thine Altar,

 let this my Reasonable Service be so acceptable unto Thee[31],

that neither Death, nor Life, nor Angels,

nor Principalities,

nor Powers, nor Things present, nor Things to come,

nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature

be able to separate me from the Love of God which is in Christ JESUS our LORD[32].

Give me a clear sight into all the mysteries of his life,

and a due Sense of all the miracles of his love unto death[33],

till I be so ravished with the contemplation of their gracious design upon my Soul[34],

as to count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, and be ready to suffer the Loss of all things, and count them but dung,

that I may win Christ; and be found in Him,

not having mine own righterousness, which is of the Law,

but that which is through the faith of Christ,

the righteousness which is of God by faith;

that I may know Him,

and the power of his resurrection,

and the fellowship of His sufferings,

being made conformable unto His Death.[35]

And let the constant secret meditation of His Life and Love,

His sufferings and glory,

His virtues and graces,

His precepts and promises,

His presence and power,

be the hidden manna of my Soul[36],

its food and refreshment in all conditions;

in afflictions, my support;

in poverty, my treasure;

in reproaches, my glory;

in darkness, my light;

in sickness, my health;

 in trouble, my repose;

in prosperity my defense;

in life and health, my joy and consolation;

that Christ being thus formed in me,

I may (through Him who giveth us the victory)

overcome the vanities of the world,

 the lusts of the flesh,

 and the temptations of the Devil,

 till He become my life in death and my happiness in heaven.



[2] Traherne is using italics to indicate his indirect quotation of Sandys.

[3] One of the critiques raised by the Protestants is that church liturgy and the Bible were Latin, which most people could not understand. However, the Roman church had changed that by creating prayer books written in the common languages of the various countries.

[4] The people had no choice but to make use of such books, even if the books were deficient.

[5] 1 Samuel 13:19–20 (ESV)

19 Now there was no blacksmith to be found throughout all the land of Israel, for the Philistines said, “Lest the Hebrews make themselves swords or spears.” 20 But every one of the Israelites went down to the Philistines to sharpen his plowshare, his mattock, his axe, or his sickle ….

[6] The Israelites were required to hire their enemies, the Philistines, to sharpen their iron tools. Likewise, the protestants were required to go to the “Church of Rome” for their devotional books. Those books contained both piety and also “superstitions” (for example Protestants would not direct a prayer to or through a deceased Christian, a “saint”). By using such books, they came to eventually have a positive view of that Church overall.

[7] An abettor is one who helps. It has no negative connotation here.

[8] If we (the Church of England) are not careful and fail to perform our work as a church, the protestants (in England) will go over to the Church of Rome.

[9] The Church of England has performed its duty and has produced more books in English than any other church.

[10] This is probably a reference to the Donation of Constantine:

[11] A court would designate a political as opposed to a religious power.

[12] Religion has a positive contention: the true faith.

[13] Why was this book written? It was written for a particular woman who had for a while been taken up with the Roman Catholic devotional exercises. However, returning to the Church of England, she wished to have the same diligence in her religious exercise but with Protestant content. This book was written for her. In answer to the question of why another book when there are already many books: He uses the analogy of someone who has been in the same posture for too long, they become stiff. To use the same books only, without variation could lead to rote, mechanical actions: just “going through the motions.”

[14] Matthew 6:6 (KJV) “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”

[15] Someone dedicated to religious service.

[16] A day of fasting an prayer: “The first is self-debasement.—God complains of the Jews’ fasting: they did hang down their heads like a bulrush, (Isai. 58:5,) but their souls did not bow down within them. We call a fast-day a “day of humiliation;” but we have the name, but not the thing, if the soul be not humbled. What is it for the body to wear sackcloth, if pride cover the heart? or to spread ashes under us, if the soul lie not down in the dust? or to fast from bodily food, if the soul be not emptied of self-fulness.” Nichols, James. Puritan Sermons. Matthew Barker, “A Religious Fast.” Richard Owen Roberts, Publishers, 1981, pp. 155–56.

[17] The  writers of the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John.

[18] Harmony of the Gospels by Martin Chemnitz (

[19] 2 Corinthians 1:3 (KJV)  “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;”

[20] Psalm 36:9 (KJV)  “For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.”

[21] Psalm 103:1 (KJV) “Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.”

[22] John 3:16 (KJV) “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

[23] 1 John 2:2 (KJV)  “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

[24] 2 Timothy 2:10 (KJV)  “Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”

[25] 1 John 2:15 (KJV)  “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

[26] John 4:23 (KJV)  “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.”

[27] Ephesians 1:18 (KJV) “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.”

[28] Leviticus 26:23 (KJV)  “And if ye will not be reformed by me by these things, but will walk contrary unto me.”

[29] 2 Timothy 2:22 (KJV)  “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”

[30] Psalm 25:5 (KJV)  :Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.”

[31] Romans 12:1–2 (KJV) “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

[32] Romans 8:37–39 (KJV)  “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

[33] John 15:13 (KJV) “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

[34] Colossians 3:1–4 (KJV) “1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. 2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.”

[35] Philippians 3:7–10 (KJV)  “7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, 9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: 10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.”

[36] Revelation 2:17 (KJV) “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.”

Measure for Measure Act 1, Scene 2d



Enter Lucio and Second Gentleman.

At this point, the scene has run along two rails: First, there was the coarse jesting of Lucio and his friends and the Bawd’s concern about her livelihood. Second, there was the grim scene of a man being paraded mercilessly through public to prison.  Here, those two streams will converge and the primary action of the play will commence.

These two streams of actions are two basic forces which have converged in the figure of Claudio and then his sister.  They themselves will image different elements of this conflict, we can think of them as excesses of liberty and restraint.

Claudio begins as who has balanced the restraint and desire too much to the side of liberty. He is engaged, but has not formalized his marriage before he consummated. His sister balances the two on the side of excess of restraint in her intention to become a nun.  Lucio goes further than Claudio in impregnating a prostitute. Angelo goes further than Isabella. Angelo refused a woman to whom he was engaged.  By saying excess, I think I am taking the part of Shakespeare here: Claudio, his sister, Angelo, and Lucio all resolve their situation by marriage.   The space for sexual desire and restraint is the confine and freedom of marriage.

Lucio comes to Claudio. Again note that Lucio speaks prose and Claudio poetry.


 [120]  Why, how now, Claudio? Whence comes this

 [121]  restraint?


 [122]  From too much liberty, my Lucio, liberty.

 [123]  As surfeit is the father of much fast,

 [124]  So every scope by the immoderate use

 [125]  Turns to restraint. Our natures do pursue,

 [126]  Like rats that raven down their proper bane,

 [127]  A thirsty evil, and when we drink, we die.

What caused this restraint? An excess of liberty. The alliteration of Lucio and liberty draws these two words together:

[122]   From too much liberty, my Lucio, liberty.

Next, Claudio explains his situation in particularly dense and philosophical poetry:

It breaks down into two parallel explanations

[123]   As surfeit is the father of much fast,

[124]   So every scope by the immoderate use

[125]   Turns to restraint. Our natures do pursue,

[126]   Like rats that raven down their proper bane,

[127]   A thirsty evil, and when we drink, we die.

First, an abstract and philosophical explanation:

[123]   As SurFeit is the Father of much Fast,

[124]   So every Scope by the immoderate use

[125]   Turns to restraint.

The first line is held together by an alliterative F, and S ties the first and second line. The idea here is the excess of Thanksgiving dinner. We eat too much, we are stuffed and refuse more food. When we do too much of a thing, we are too full and so we stop. Excess ends in restraint. One of the forces which motivates the action in the play.

The lines then pick up on the R in restraint and repeats and revises the concept: Excess does not end in restraint, it ends in death. We are like rats which gorge (raven down) poison (proper bane), and our thirst is evil: both because it is immoral and because it will kill us. By gulping our desire we kill ourselves:

                                                Our natures do pursue,

[126]   Like rats that raven down their proper bane,

[127]   A thirsty evil, and when we drink, we die.

He lodges this trouble in “our natures”. It is the fault of human being. The irrationality which Christianity would term “original sin”. It is bare guilt for a thing, it is an irrational self-destruction. In this respect, Shakespeare is echoing the language of Romans 1 where sexual sin is explained in terms of God giving human beings over to our desire.

This point makes Shakespeare’s play in some manner incomprehensible to our day. We see desires as innate therefor neither good nor bad, just present. If restraining those desires will result in distress, the desire must be given liberty. Restraint is simply archaic foolishness.

Claudio, who is expressing the moral perspective of the play, says unbridled desire is destructive. By we can also see Angelo’s restraint as excessive. In the lines above, Claudio has condemned Angelo’s abuse in lines allusive of Aeschylus. But we could also see Angelo’s desire for power as itself an excessive desire.


 [128]  If I could speak so wisely under an arrest, I

 [129]  would send for certain of my creditors. And yet, to

 [130]  say the truth, I had as lief have the foppery of

 [131]  freedom as the mortality of imprisonment. What’s

 [132]  thy offense, Claudio?

This is quite funny, because Lucio is calling attention to the fact that Claudio is speaking just elegant poetry. I would send for my creditors, because I could talk myself out of any trouble. And yet, I would prefer the foolishness of freedom “lief have the foppery of freedom” – I’d rather be a free fool—than “morality of imprisonment.”  Lucio has a cribbed and wrong understanding of morality. Not having a sense of the moderation of marriage, he looks upon morality as imprisonment. Perversely, so does Angelo. We could even say the Duke himself was out of balance, because he too was not yet married and had let the morality of the law wither

Edward Taylor, Meditation 43.6


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Sixth & Seventh Stanzas

How spiritual? Holy shall I shine when I

Thy Crown of Righteousness wear on my head?

How glorious when does thou dost me glorify

To wear thy Crown of Glory polished?

How shall I when thy Crown of Life I wear                           35

In lively colors flowerish, fresh, and fair.

When thou shalt crown me with these crowns, I’ll bend

My shallow crown to crown with songs thy name.

Angels shall set the tune; I’ll it attend:

Thy glory’st be the burden of the same.                                            40

Till then I cannot sing, my tongue is tied.

Accept this lisp till I am glorified.


The poem ends with meditation and expectation as to coming to glory:

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. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Romans 8:28–30 (ESV)

The Crowns are emblems of the various graces of heaven: life, glory, righteousness. The previous stanza ends with the prayer that he may receive the crown of life, that it eternal life, and in so receiving it, sin will.  As an aside, it is interesting that fear of sin is linked to the slavery to sin; and so also the hope of life is linked to the cessation of sin:

14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.

Hebrews 2:14–15 (ESV)

Notice also that holiness is linked to radiance, or being glory:

                                    Holy shall I shine when I

Thy Crown of Righteousness wear on my head?

How glorious when does thou dost me glorify

In contemporary idiom, holiness is linked with a narrowness, an aversion to life and happiness, the stringent “church lady” of the skit. But Taylor conceptualizes holiness as a fundamentally different thing: It is not narrow and cold, but “glorious” to be righteous.

But notice that this state of being “spiritual” is not senseless. He describes this with physical terms of a Spring:

How shall I when thy Crown of Life I wear                           35

In lively colors flowerish, fresh, and fair.

This last line has a fine alliteration on “f”.

The reference to “flowerish” may be an allusion to 1 Peter 1:4, quoted above. The word for “unfading” ἀμάραντος (amarantos) means a never-fading flower:

ἀμάραντος [α^μα^]ον, (μαραίνω

A.unfading, “λειμών”  Luc.Dom.9: metaph., “σοφία”  LXX Wi.6.12; “κληρονομία”  1 Ep.Pet.1.4, cf. CIG2942c(Tralles); πνεῦμα prob. in IPE2.286 (Panticapaeum): neut. pl. as Adv., Philostr.Im.1.9

II. Subst. ἀμάραντοντό (but in Lat. amarantus), never-fading flower, IG14.607e (Carales), Poll.1.229; = ἑλίχρυσονDsc.4.57; = κενταύρειον μικρόν, Ps.-Dsc.3.7; = χρυσοκόμηId.4.55.


(Amaranthus, courtesy of Candiru)

More on line 35:

How shall I when thy Crown of Life I wear

There is an ellipsis of “shine” taken from line 31, “Holy shall I shine”.  In line 25 the main verb is missing form “How shall I ____” Thus, “how shall I shine.” The ellipsis is necessary to limit the line to 10 syllables.

Lines 37-38 have a clever bit of punning on “crown”

When thou shalt crown me with these crowns, I’ll bend

My shallow crown to crown with songs thy name.

When you place [crow] upon my head these “crowns”, I’ll bend my head [crown] in a bow to you, and I will praise [crown] your name with song.  

This worship of song will include the angels:

Angels shall set the tune; I’ll it attend:

Thy glory’st be the burden of the same

The burden here cannot be mean a negative weight. Therefore, he must mean the word in a neutral sense, “a great weight”. There is a pun in that: the Hebrew word for “glory” means at base “heavy”, and thus reputation and wealth:

  A. non-theological.

  —1. heaviness, burden Is 22:24 Nah 2:10 (? anticipatory לִכְדוּ לָכֶם, alt. cj. כְּבֵדִים).

  —2. a) riches Gn 31:1 (עשׂה to gain) Is 10:3 61:6 66:12; b) reputation, importance Gn 45:13 Qoh 10:1 (Herzberg 183; alt. honour)

Koehler, Ludwig, et al. The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, Electronic ed., E.J. Brill, 1994–2000, p. 457. And so “glory” is a burden because it is weighty (“gravitas” is an analogical usage)

As is common throughout these poems, the poem ends with a self-reference. Here, Taylor says his poem is not enough to be a “song”: he is unable to sign. He refers to his poem as a “lisp”, which would be the way a child speaks.  His “tongue is tied”:

Till then I cannot sing, my tongue is tied.

Accept this lisp till I am glorified.

There is possibly an allusion here to Calvin’s reference that God must lisp to us, speak to us like children, because we cannot understand better:

For who even of slight intelligence does not understand that, as nurses commonly do with infants, God is wont in a measure to “lisp” in speaking to us? Thus such forms of speaking do not so much express clearly what God is like as accommodate the knowledge of him to our slight capacity. To do this he must descend far beneath his loftiness. Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion & 2. Edited by John T. McNeill, Translated by Ford Lewis Battles, vol. 1, Westminster John Knox

Edward Taylor, Meditation 43.5


, , , ,

Fifth Stanza

A crown of life, of glory, of righteousness,                                 25

Thou wilt adorn with that will not fade.

Shall faith in me shrink up for feebleness?

Nor take my sins by the crown, till crownless made?

Breathe, Lord, thy Spirit on my Faith, that I

May have thy crown of life, and sin may die.                           30


A crown of life, of glory, of righteousness,

Thou wilt adorn with that will not fade.

These lines make rapid allusions to various NT texts:

A crown of life comes from James 1:12, quoted above.

1 Peter 5:4 (ESV)

And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

1 Peter 1:3–7 (ESV)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

2 Timothy 4:8 (ESV)

Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

Taylor is right to take this as a collective crown; the image should not be of one wearing multiple crowns stacked one upon another.  By “crown” the idea is that one is adorned in this way. Each element is responsive to an effect of sin and the fall.

A crown of life answers to death, which is the wage for sin (Rom. 6:23)

A crown of glory answers to the shame of sin.

A crown of righteousness answer to the guilt of sin.

All things in creation are subjected to futility (Rom. 8:20). The rewards of God will be unfading.

Notice that the crowns are not given for merit, but are given because the one who receives these crowns lacks this honor.  However, these crowns are granted upon a condition: not of merit but of faith. Refer back to 1 Peter 1:3-7.

Hence the next line of Taylor’s poem:

Shall faith in me shrink up for feebleness?

These crowns are conditional upon the existence of faith to receive them. These crowns are available to all on the condition of faith, but will my faith fail? Is my faith so feeble (as evidenced by my persistent sin) that it will be unable to lay hold upon these crowns which I so desperately need?

Here we have a pun upon the word “crown”: The top of the head, and the adornment of a king:

Nor take my sins by the crown, till crownless made?

Will I not take my sins by their head, to dispose of them, until I have lost the crown of life/glory/righteousness?  Or by crownless, does he mean he will be deposed? Dead, lost his head? Will never finally deal with sin until it comes to past that I have lost all?

Breathe, Lord, thy Spirit on my Faith, that I

May have thy crown of life, and sin may die.

I made an emendation here. I have two published versions of Taylor’s poems, and both record the first word of the 29th line as “breath”. But Taylor is unquestionably alluding to the act of Jesus after his resurrection as recorded in John:

John 20:21–22 (ESV)

21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

In himself, Taylor sees only the fear that his own faith will fail. And thus he prays that Jesus will breathe upon him and grant him the faith so that he may obtain the crown. Thus, the condition for the gift and the gift itself are both from the Lord.

Again, the crown is not a reward for a sinless life. Rather, the crown is given as victory over the sin:  By gaining the crown he will live.

Edward Taylor, Meditation 43.4


, , , , ,

Fourth Stanza

Why mayn’t faith drink thy health, Lord, o’re

The head of all my sins? And cast her eye                                                    20

In glorifying glances on the door

Of thy free grace, where crowns of life do lie:

Thou’lt give a crown of life to such as be

Faithful to death. And shall faith fail in me?


This stanza begins an argument which will be continued, may I, may I not approach and receive?

I am in this present state of paradox. To use Luther’s famous phrase, the justified sinner; or, if you will, the innocent criminal. What may I do from this position:

May I acknowledge you in a positive manner. In interesting example of this from 1798, in Edmund Burke’s The Annual Register, or a review of History, Politics, and Literature for the year 1978 (published 1800) Chronicle, p. 6, a duke says, “Gentlemen, give me leave to drink your health.”

 Since we are not in the habit of “drinking one’s health” as a toast, it is interesting that the duke requests permission to do so.

Taylor is asking, May I, or why may I not acknowledge you Lord? The difficulty comes with the prepositional phrase, “over the head of all my sins”.  There is a contradiction between the toast and the one giving the toast. It is as if one were to “drink the health” of someone they despised or had sought to destroy.

My faith wishes to drink your health, but there is a trouble here: there is also all my sin.

He then asks a second question: May my faith look toward that door to the room which contains “thy free grace.”

Free grace in Taylor’s theology would be the “impulsive cause” of salvation:

3. The third thing is, how we come to be the children of God?

Ans. There is a double cause of our filiation or childship:

1. The impulsive cause is God’s free grace: we were rebels and traitors, and what could move God to make sinners sons, but free grace? Eph. 1:5. ‘Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children, according to the good pleasure of his will.’ Free grace gave the casting voice; adoption is a mercy spun out of the bowels of free grace; it were much for God to take a clod of earth, and make it a star; but it is more for God to take a piece of clay and sin, and instate it into the glorious privilege of sonship. How will the saints read over the lectures of free grace in heaven?

Watson, Thomas. “Discourses upon Christ’s Sermon on the Mount.” Discourses on Important and Interesting Subjects, Being the Select Works of the Rev. Thomas Watson, vol. 2, Blackie, Fullarton, & Co.; A. Fullarton & Co., 1829, pp. 297–98.

Thomas Brooks deals with the quandary faced here by Taylor:

First the “device of Satan”, the means by which the Christian can be disquieted and fearful:

Device (3). By suggesting to them the want of such and such preparations and qualifications. Saith Satan, Thou art not prepared to entertain Christ; thou art not thus and thus humbled and justified; thou art not heart-sick of sin; thou hast not been under horrors and terrors as such and such; thou must stay till thou art prepared and qualified to receive the Lord Jesus, &c.

Then the “remedy”:

Remedy (2). The second remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly To dwell upon these following scriptures, which do clearly evidence that poor sinners which are not so and so prepared and qualified to meet with Christ, to receive and embrace the Lord Jesus Christ, may, notwithstanding that, believe in Christ; and rest and lean upon him for happiness and blessedness, according to the gospel. Read Prov. 1:20–33, and chap. 8:1–11, and chap. 9:1–6; Ezek. 16:1–14; John 3:14–18, 36; Rev. 3:15–20. Here the Lord Jesus Christ stands knocking at the Laodiceans’ door; he would fain have them to sup with him, and that he might sup with them; that is, that they might have intimate communion and fellowship one with another.

Now, pray tell me, what preparations or qualifications had these Laodiceans to entertain Christ? Surely none; for they were lukewarm, they were ‘neither hot nor cold,’ they were ‘wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked;’ and yet Christ, to shew his free grace and his condescending love, invites the very worst of sinners to open to him, though they were no ways so and so prepared or qualified to entertain him.

Brooks, Thomas. The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks. Edited by Alexander Balloch Grosart, vol. 1, James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1866, pp. 146–47.

Taylor is seeking to avail himself of this remedy: Can my faith lay hold of that door behind which lies your free grace?

Behind that door lies the “crowns of life”:

                                    where crowns of life do lie:

Thou’lt give a crown of life to such as be

Faithful to death. And shall faith fail in me?

The crown of life is offered to the one’s faith perseveres
James 1:12 (ESV)

12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

If I am faithful till the end, I will get this crown. But, will I be faithful until the end? Will that be me?

Another look at the couplet:

Thou’lt give a crown of life to such as be

Faithful to death. And shall faith fail in me?

This stanza has been moving along in iambs, until we come to the last line:

The accent lands on the first syllable, giving us this phrase:

FAITHful to DEATH `- -`

The galloping first line of the couplet stumbles over faithful as it comes to the next line.  The emphasis is all upon “faith”. Faith as the subject-actor of this entire stanza: It is faith that seeks to toast and to look upon the door to free grace.  These things are proper to those who have “faith”. Thus, the abrupt “FAITHful” places the emphasis where it belongs: Is that me?

Edward Taylor, Meditation 43.3


, , , ,

Third Stanza

Pardon and poison them, Lord, with thy blood

Cast their cursed carcasses out of my heart.

My heart fill with thy love, let grace it dub.                                                                  15

Make this my silver studs with thy rich art.

My soul shall then be thy sweet paradise

Thou’st be its rose, and it thy bed of spice.


If the Lord should cleanse his heart, his would be a fit place for the Lord.

He again uses the initial accent to drive home the point. This use of the accent makes the plea more intensive. He furthers that intensity with alliteration on the accented syllables:

PARdon and POIison them, Lord, with thy blood

CAST their CURSED CARcasses out of my heart.

The paired “pardon and poison” is an interesting phrase because both words are appropriate to the prayer: He is asking the Lord to (1) forgive him for harboring sin, and (2) destroy the sin in his heart. Thus, pardon and poison are both appropriate. But, this is the only time I have ever seen these two words paired. A check of google n-gram reports no usage of this phrase.

The blood of Christ was shed for the forgiveness of sins. The ninth chapter of Hebrews discusses this doctrine at length. But how does the blood poison sin?  There is a line, I believe it is in Barth’s commentary on Romans, 6th chapter, that grace pulls up sin by the roots.  Pardon for sin is not merely a forgiveness, but a transformation. (Incidentally, this leads us to one of the great controversial issues in Christian theology: What is the precise relationship between forgiveness and transformation, positional and progressive sanctification?)

The act of being reconciled is inconsistent with sin, “How can we who died to sin still live in it?” Rom. 6:2

The sin having been poisoned would thus be dead and the soldiers now carcasses:

CAST their CURSED CARcasses out of my heart.

I take cursed carcasses to be an allusion to Hebrews 3, which recounts in part the death of the rebellious Israelites following the exodus from Egypt. Those who rebelled were cursed, they were not permitted to enter the promised land and their bodies, carcasses in the Authorize Version used by Taylor, were left outside of the promised land:

14 For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; 15 While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. 16 For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. 17 But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? 19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

Hebrews 3:14–19 (KJV)

He prays that his heart being cleansed of sin may then be properly adorned. It is a space being cleaned and then filled with something better:

My heart fill with thy love, let grace it dub.                                                                  15

Make this my silver studs with thy rich art.

His prayer is that his heart be filled with love and grace (grace being the sanctifying influence of the Spirit).  There is a second movement in the prayer: not merely filled but made into a work of art.  This is one of those self-referential moments in Taylor’s poems where the prayer of the poem is in part manifested by the poem. The poem itself is art: although he reference here is more directly visual art.

This two-step: clean then fill probably is an allusion to this statement from Jesus:

Luke 11:24–26 (KJV)

24 When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. 25 And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. 26 Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.

A heart which is cleansed but not filled with something better is in danger. He is praying not merely for forgiveness but for transformation.

His heart being cleansed and made into art will then be a paradise, a garden (paradise means garden):

My soul shall then be thy sweet paradise

Thou’st be its rose, and it thy bed of spice.

Paradise has an interesting reference to heaven:

Luke 23:43 (KJV)

43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.

But even more to the point of this poem, is the use of the word “paradise” in the passage which is the motto for this poem:

Revelation 2:7–10 (KJV)

7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

8 And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; 9 I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. 10 Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

The imagery here comes from the Song of Solomon, which is an intimate love poem often read allegorically:

Song of Solomon 2:1–2 (KJV)

1 I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys. 2 As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.

Song of Solomon 6:2 (KJV)

2 My beloved is gone down into his garden, to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies.

He prays that the Lord be the chief glory of the heart and the heart a fitting place for such a rose.