Freud, The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, “Forgetting Proper Names”

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(The painter whose name Freud could not remember):

800px-Signorelli,_Luca_-_selfportrait_alone

Freud argues that it is not merely forgetting but “substituting” which is interesting: I search for the name of X, I substitute the name Y — and that substitution “persists”.  This process of substituting one name for another “follows regular and predictable paths.”

To demonstrate this procedure, Freud gives an example of how this once happened with him. While having a conversation with a stranger about Turks in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Freud remembered something a friend had told him about those people involving sex and death. Nothing thinking it appropriate to make such a statement in a conversation with a stranger, Freud repressed the information.

Then he later tried to remember the name of a painter. He could not remember the name of the painter, but instead he “remembered” the name of two other painters. There was some association between the names of the “other” painters and the information he had repressed about Bosnia.

First, he represses information A.

Second, he cannot recall information B.

Third, he substitutes information C (which has some association to A) in place of B.

As for the association between C and A, there may be some “external” relationship there is also [often] “some connection of content.”

He is careful to admit that not every act of forgetting follows this pattern: sometimes there is a “simple” forgetting, “While proper names are sometimes forgotten for simple reasons, they are also sometimes forgotten for reasons motivated by repression.”

(One of the paintings Freud was viewing when he could not remember the name:)

1024px-Luca_Signorelli_001

Kierkegaard: Freedom of Choice in Either/Or

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408px-Kierkegaard_portrait

Volume 2 of Either/Or is composed of two long, often tedious [the first letter, “Aesthetic Validity of Marriage” can be particularly slow, repetitious, dull], meandering, letters from Judge Vilhelm to man of volume 1 (which includes the famous Diary of a Seducer).  A primary aspect of this volume is to convince the seducer of the primacy of marriage (over a life of well… seduction).  He argues that one should choose to be ethical.

There is an aspect of irony in all this, because Kierkegaard is arguing to Regina Olson (as has been noted by many) about marriage after he had broken off his engagement to the young lady.

He argues that marriage is no duty — because it is a duty of love, which is something thus done willingly (and then as he makes this argument, he seems to almost contradict himself).  Thus, the ethical choice is one of freedom. By way of contrast, the one who lives merely for pleasure has no freedom, because he has made no choice — he has no ability to even reflect upon anything.

I have received second-hand or so some ideas of Kierkegaard and existential choice: an act whereby one chooses in some manner and thus secures some sort of meaning in life. Now, I am not an expert in the history of existential philosophy, nor have I traced all the movements in the area from Kierkegaard through Sartre and Jasper. But what I have seen — and this is perhaps the fountainhead of the concept is this section from Equilibrium in volume two of Either/Or:

That which is prominent in my either/or is the ethical. It is therefore not yet a question of the choice of something in particular, it is not a question of the reality of the thing chosen, but of the reality of the act of choice….As an heir, even though he were heir to the treasure of all the world, nevertheless does not posses his property before he had come of age [an allusion to Galatians 4:1-2], so even the richest personality is nothing before he has chosen himself, and on the other hand even what one might call the poorest personality is everything when has chosen himself; for the great thing is not to be this or that but to be oneself, and this everyone can be if he wills it.

He then goes on to explain that the aesthetic man is one not merely lives for pleasure, but one who lives immediately, without an act of choice, “the aesthetically in a man is that by which he is immediately what he is; the ethical is that whereby he becomes what he becomes.”

But because the aesthetically man is merely what he is — not having chosen something else — is “enmeshed”. He has “no time to tear [him]self loose.” This is in contrast to the ethical man (the writer of volume 2), “I am not enmeshed, either by my judgment of the aesthetical or by my judgment of the ethical; for in the ethical I am raised above the instant — I am in freedom — but it is a contradiction that one might be enmeshed by being in freedom.”

The act of choosing, ‘imparts to man’s nature a solemnity, a quiet dignity, which is never entirely lost.”

The man who merely wants to enjoy life finds himself at the mercy of “a condition which either lies outside the individual or is in the individual in such a way that it is not posited by the individual himself.” For in the inside, he gives the example of a young girl “who for a brief time prides herself upon her beauty, but soon it deceives her.”

For the man who lives constantly for some pleasure outside himself, he gives Nero as the example — nothing is able to sate him, “all the world’s cleverness must devise for him new pleasures, for only in the instant of pleasure does he find response, and when that is past he gasps with faintness.” [His discussion of Nero is particularly interesting.]

But something still troubles Nero, he cannot “break through.” He has a place which terrifies anyone who sees it – he cannot bear for anyone to look into his eyes. “He does not possess himself; only when the world trembles before him is he tranquilized, for then there is no one who ventures to lay hold on him. Hence this dread of men which Nero shares with everyone personality of this sort.”

This seems to match the diary of the seducer, who works out the desire for the woman — but cannot permit her to actually be with him — he cannot make the ethical move to marry (marriage is the constant background of volume 2).

“At least we can both learn that a man’s unhappiness is never due to the fact that he has not the outward conditions in his power this being the very thing which would make him unhappy.” — This leads to melancholy:  “But melancholy is sin, really it is a sin instar omnium, for not to will deeply and sincerely is sin, and this is the mother of all sins.”

(It continues on through many twists in turns on the nature of despair for the aesthetic man. Later, in Equilibrium, he writes, “For no intoxication is so beautiful as despair, so becoming, so attractive, especially in a maiden’s eyes (that you know full well), and especially if one possess the skill to repress the wildest outbursts, to let despair be vaguely sensed like a distant conflagration, while only a glimpse of it is visible outwardly.”)

On the other hand is the ethical choice which willing embraces duty: it is here that marriage as the basis of the argument makes sense. He is not merely telling the young man to stop being a cad, grow up and get married — he is explaining that choosing a duty to love another is not a burden but an act of love. To choose to love is an imposed duty, but it is not burden because love is the expression and obtaining of desire: “If I attach my  closely in friendship to another person, love is everything in this case, I recognize no duty; if love it is at an end, then friendship is over. It is reserved for marriage alone to base itself upon such an absurdity.” [Here is an example of the maddening paradox of this essay — it is long, twisting and the author never seems to be completely clear even to himself. He makes a point and then argues out another way.]

A historical irony lies here: if this is indeed the basis for the idea of the existential choice of which I heard and read in 20th century philosophers (and their cheaper imitators), then that choice was originally a choice offered by a moralizing older man (a judge no less), to a younger, carefree man to get married!

Edward Taylor, Meditation 25, “Why Should My Bells”, Stanza 5

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Dost thou adorn some thus, and why not me?

I’ll not believe it.  Lord, thou art my chief.

Thou me commandest to believe in thee.

I’ll not affront thee thus with unbelief.

Lord, make my soul obedient:  and when so,

Thou sayst, “Believe,” make it reply, “I do.”

Paraphrase: You adorn — give your righteousness and forgiveness — to some; why would you not give the same to me?

The next phrase “I’ll not believe it” is ambiguous. It could me, I will not believe that you would adorn others and not me. Or, it could mean, I can’t believe that you will so adorn me. Or, I will not believe that you could adorn me.  This paradox gets to the crux of the stanza.

In relationships between persons, believe is the means by which love is given and received. For example, imagine two young people who each secretly love the other. Their love is real, but it is uncommunicated. Now imagine that one says to the other, “I love you.” The beloved must believe the love is real to receive the love. If the beloved thinks this is a joke, a farce, a lie, he can never receive the love. The love is real but uncommunicated. Unless and until the beloved believes the love is real the love cannot be communicated.

The same mechanism lies at the heart of Christianity: the love of God is communicated by the means of belief. This ambiguity of the line plays the need and hesitancy of faith.

The poet then turns to prayer, make me believe in accordance with your command.

Allusions:

There are biblical allusions and an allusion to Augustine’s Confessions.

The command to believe:

Mark 1:14–15 (ESV)

14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

Belief and obedience. Some put obedience and belief as opposites. Taylor would not have held to such a position.

First, Taylor would have held a position consistent with Chapter XIV, Saving Faith Westminster Confession:

  1. By this faith a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God himself speaking therein [John 4:42; 1 Thess. 2:13; 1 John 5:10; Acts 24:14]; and acteth differently upon that which each particular passage thereof containeth; yielding obedience to the commands [Rom. 16:26.], trembling at the threatenings [Isa. 66:2.], and embracing the promises of God for this life and that which is to come [Heb. 11:13; 1 Tim. 4:8.]. But the principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.

Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, with a History and Critical Notes: The Evangelical Protestant Creeds, with Translations, vol. 3 (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1882), 630–631.

There is also a famous parallel in Augustine which sparked the Pelagian controversy:

NOW is all my hope nowhere but in thy very great mercy. Give what thou commandest, and command what thou wilt [da quod iubes et iube quod vis]. Thou imposest continency upon us; and when I perceived, as one saith, that no man can be continent unless thou give it, this also was a point of wisdom, to know whose gift it was. By continency verily are we bound up and brought into the one,* from which we were scattered abroad into many: for too little doth he love thee, who loves anything together with thee, which he loves not for thee. O thou Love which art ever burning, and never quenched! O Charity, my God! kindle me I beseech thee. Thou commandest me continency: give me what thou commandest, and command what thou wilt.

Augustine of Hippo, St. Augustine’s Confessions, Vol. 2, ed. T. E. Page and W. H. D. Rouse, trans. William Watts, The Loeb Classical Library (New York; London: The Macmillan Co.; William Heinemann, 1912), 149–151.

To further understand Taylor’s thinking, a passage from John Calvin’s commentary on John 6:44 might help:

Unless the Father draw him. To come to Christ being here used metaphorically for believing, the Evangelist, in order to carry out the metaphor in the apposite clause, says that those persons are drawn whose understandings God enlightens, and whose hearts he bends and forms to the obedience of Christ. The statement amounts to this, that we ought not to wonder if many refuse to embrace the Gospel; because no man will ever of himself be able to come to Christ, but God must first approach him by his Spirit; and hence it follows that all are not drawn, but that God bestows this grace on those whom he has elected. True, indeed, as to the kind of drawing, it is not violent, so as to compel men by external force; but still it is a powerful impulse of the Holy Spirit, which makes men willing who formerly were unwilling and reluctant. It is a false and profane assertion, therefore, that none are drawn but those who are willing to be drawn, as if man made himself obedient to God by his own efforts; for the willingness with which men follow God is what they already have from himself, who has formed their hearts to obey him.

John Calvin, John, electronic ed., Calvin’s Commentaries (Albany, OR: Ages Software, 1998), Jn 6:44.

Scansion:  The interesting usage in this stanza is the repetition of an accent on the first syllable:

 Dost thou adorn some thus, and why not me?

 I’LL not believe it.  Lord, thou art my chief.

THOU me commandest to believe in thee.

 I’LL not affront thee thus with unbelief.

 LORD, make my soul obedient:  and when so,

 THOU sayst, “Believe,” make it reply, “I do.”

More “Religions”

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I previously posted on politics as religion.  Here is yet another example:

Siegel: Liberalism has taken on a religious aspect. It’s a belief system, and not a system that represents political interests. Liberalism is seen as a source of grace, in religious terms. It is hard to talk to people, when you are effectively suggesting they are not among the blessed (or, to use Thomas Sowell’s phrase, the ‘anointed’), that they are in fact mistaken. Trump is wrong about many things, but you can argue with Trumpism. But it is very hard to argue with contemporary liberalism, especially in its West Coast incarnation.

Just prior to the Super Bowl, the Washington Post wrote on football as Tom Brady’s religion. This is nothing new. The Aztecs played a purposefully religious: “The Aztec ball game had a lot of ritual significance. It was mean to mirror the ball court of the heavens, this being the ball court of the underworld where the sun passed each night.” The games of the ancient Greeks were religious affairs such as the Olympics or Isthmian Games.

Sporting events as religious ceremony has been noted many times:

As Wann and collaborators note, various scholars discuss sport in terms of “natural religion,” “humanistic religion,” and “primitive polytheism” pointing out that “spectators worship other human beings, their achievements, and the groups to which they belong.” And that sports stadiums and arenas resemble “cathedrals where followers gather to worship their heroes and pray for their successes” (1, p. 200). Meanwhile, fans wear the team colors, and bear its flags, icons, and mascots whilst literally singing its praises.

Sport as Religion. Or as The Atlantic writes, “In short, if you look hard at sports, you can’t help but see contours of religion.”

 

 

Edward Taylor, Meditation 25, “Why Should My Bells”, Stanza 4

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But, my sweet Lord, what glorious robes are those

 That thou hast brought out of thy grave for thine?

They do outshine the sunshine, grace the rose.

 I leap for joy to think, shall these be mine?

 Such are, as wait upon thee in thy wars,

 Clothed with the sun, and crowned with twelve stars.

Paraphrase: The poet who is “naked”(except perhaps a winding sheet) and a “blot”. The poet whose bell should chime the Lord’s praise hears the bell toll his own death. Here he naked looks upon the Lord’s grave (who died for him). The Lord arising from the grave brings glorious robes to clothe the poet –and such robes are for all who wait upon the Lord’s wars.

Biblical and Doctrinal Allusions: This stanza describes perhaps the crown jewel of protestant — particularly evangelical (in its classic since, not in the vague, not terribly Christian sense used in the United States) Christianity: penal substitutionary atonement. Put as plainly as possible: sinful human beings exchange their sin and shame for Christ’s glory. Christ bears their sin into his grave and gives to them the glory he has earned in overcoming death.

This doctrine appears in so many places that it is difficult to know precisely which passages Taylor has in mind. There is no particular passage which has precisely these combination of images.  Here are some elements of this stanza:

Sharing in Christ’s Death and Glory:

Romans 6:3–4 (AV)

3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Raised from the dead in glory:

1 Corinthians 15:42–43 (AV)

42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: 43 It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power:

 

Conquering death:

Romans 6:9–10 (AV)

9 Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. 10 For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.

Robes Brighter than the Sun:

Matthew 17:1–2 (AV)

1 And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, 2 And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.

The Sun, Moon and Stars

This is a reference to the woman of Revelation 12:

Revelation 12:1–2 (AV)

1 And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: 2 And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.

Waiting with New Robes

A particularly appropriate allusion is found in martyrs of Revelation 6:

Revelation 6:9–12 (AV)

9 And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: 10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? 11 And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled. 12 And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;

They are given white robes and are told to waiting until the remaining martyrs (from the wars?) are fulfilled. Such wars are obviously not political wars of any sort.

Allusions in contemporary pastoral work. I cannot say for certain what particular books Taylor had in possession. But, the Puritan ministers of Taylor’s age and before had a tendency to use certain common tropes. This particular trope of receiving a robe is well-attested prior to Taylor and it appears in Jonathan Edwards, in the same location as Taylor and somewhat later than Taylor.

Richard Sibbes used the image of being dressed in Christ’s robes at death:

Why then should we be afraid of death? For then there shall be a further degree of glory of the soul, and after that a further degree of body and soul, when our bodies shall be conformable to the glorious body of Christ, when they shall be spiritual, as it is in 1 Cor. 15:44. I beseech you, therefore, let, us learn this to comfort ourselves against those dark times of dissolution, when we shall see an end of all other glory. All worldly glory shall end in the dust, and lie down in the grave; when we must say that ‘rottenness is our father,’ and the ‘worm our mother,’ Job. 17:14. We can claim no other kin in regard of our body, yet then we shall be more glorious in regard of our souls. Christ shall put a robe of glory upon us, and then afterward we shall be more glorious still.

Richard Sibbes, “The Excellency of the Gospel Above the Law”, in The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart, vol. 4 (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; W. Robertson, 1863), 287. Published originally in 1639.

This reference combines the image of the robes with death and with the wait of the Revelation 6 martyrs:

Secondly, That though our bodies lie rotting in the grave, yet that our souls shall be happy and blessed, which was Paul’s comfort: 2 Cor. 5:1, ‘For we know that if this earthly house of our tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building given us of God, not made with hands, but eternal in the heavens.’ So Rev. 6:11, the souls which lay under the altar, crying, ‘How long, Lord’? were comforted with the long white robes given unto them; the present blessed estate of their souls

Richard Sibbes,  “The General Resurrection” in The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart, vol. 7 (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; W. Robertson, 1864), 326. Published 1629.

Jonathan Edwards combines all of the images present in this stanza in a single paragraph:

This suffering state of the church is in Scripture represented as a state of the church’s travail, John 16:20–21 [“… ye shall weep and lament.… A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come”]. And Rev. 12:1–2 [“And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun.… And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered”]. What the church is in travail striving to bring forth during this time, is that glory and prosperity to the church that shall be after the fall of Antichrist, and then shall she bring forth her child.3 This is a long time of the church’s trouble and affliction, and is so spoken of in Scripture, though it be spoken as being but a little season in comparison of the eternal prosperity of the church. Hence the church under the long continuance of this affliction cries out, as in Rev. 6:10, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, [dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth].” And we are told that, “white robes [were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled].”4 So in the twelfth [chapter] of Daniel, sixth verse, “How long shall it be to the end of these wonders?

Jonathan Edwards, “Sermon Twenty,” in A History of the Work of Redemption, ed. John F. Wilson and John E. Smith, vol. 9, The Works of Jonathan Edwards (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 1989), 373–374.

Scansion: The most interesting line in the stanza reads:

They do outSHINE the SUNSHINE, GRACE the ROSE. There are three accented syllables in a row bridging the pause. The “outshine” and “sunshine” repetition is interesting: the repetition of vowels and consonants makes it difficult to say the words quickly. The slight variation creates a rhyming effect.  The use of a cretic (‘-‘) in the final foot brings the entire movement to a stop (this is underscored by the period at the end of this line). It puts great emphasis upon the glory of the robes given. The robes are brighter than the sun, more beautiful than a rose. Such is the glory which Christ gives His. This is the key movement of Christianity: the merit lies all and solely in Christ. It is all borrowed glory; and once given, the glory acts to transform.

Edward Taylor’s Meditation 25, “Why should my bells”, Stanza 3

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When I behold some curious piece of art,

 Or pretty bird, flower, star, or shining sun,

Pour out o’reflowing glory:  oh!  my heart

 Aches seeing how my thoughts in snick-snarls run.

 But all this glory to my Lord’s a spot

 While I instead of any, am all blot.

 

Paraphrase: I am taken by many lesser glories, a work of art, beauty in nature (it should be noted there here is an example of nature being seen as beautiful by a man living on the edge of a dangerous wilderness — and before the Romantics), my heart is taken with the glory. My thoughts become overwhelmed with these lesser sights. But all such glory is nothing compared with God’s glory; while I am on who is marked by the utter absence of glory.

 

Snick-snarl: What a wonderful phrase. An essay entitled, ” The Lincolnshire Dialect in the Eighteenth Century” defines it as follows, “Snick Snarl, a, curling up (particularly burnt leather). [Wright defines as “a tangle in thread etc.”].” http://www.cantab.net/users/michael.behrend/repubs/lincs_dialect_18c/pages/main.html It’s one of the words that sound like its meaning.

 

Scansion:  The third and fourth line have a jerky movement which slows the reading and forces attention on the meaning: The first word “pour” has an uncertain weight. It could be read POUR out or Pour OUT.  The phrase “o’reflowing glory: oh!”, while regular o’reFLOWing GLORy, OH, has an interesting effect based upon the assonance the repetition of O, including OR, twice. It is impossible to say the phrase quickly. One must to even say the words. It is made more difficult to pronounce because the scansion is regular, “overflowing glory” would much easier and quicker.

Another interesting movement runs from line 3 to 4, “OH! my HEART/ACHES, the emphasis thus thrown on “aches”.

 

Biblical Allusion: While there is a generic allusion to the beauty of God and stain of sin on man [by the way, a study should be made of whether Taylor, who was a friend of Jonathan Edward’s father, communicated any of this doctrine of glory to Edwards — who was overwhelmed with God’s glory], there appears to be a specific allusion to Hebrews 1:

Hebrews 1:1–3 (AV)

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;

The Greek which underlies the English is

Hebrews 1:3 (SBLGNT)

3 ὃς ὢν ἀπαύγασμα τῆς δόξης καὶ χαρακτὴρ τῆς ὑποστάσεως αὐτοῦ, φέρων τε τὰ πάντα τῷ ῥήματι τῆς δυνάμεως, διʼ αὑτοῦ καθαρισμὸν τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ποιησάμενος ἐκάθισεν ἐν δεξιᾷ τῆς μεγαλωσύνης ἐν ὑψηλοῖς,

Which has the idea of effulgence or radiance. If there is an “overflowing glory” and effulgence of glory in the creature, how much more glory in the Creator.

Edward Taylor’s Meditation 25, “Why Should My Bells” (stanza two)

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Its true:  and I do all things backward run,

 Poor Pillard I have a sad tale to tell:

My soul stark naked, rolled all in mire, undone.

 Thy Bell may toll my passing peale to Hell.

 None in their winding sheet more naked stay

 Nor Dead than I. Hence oh!  the Judgment Day.

 

Paraphrase: It is true, I am completely backward, undone, almost unreal. And I have a sad tale to tell. I was completely without any righteousness of my own (naked, explained below) and on my way to Hell. There has never been a man more ruined, more deserving of judgment than me.

Background for the figure of naked and dead:

The primary reference is to Jesus words’ in Revelation 3:

Revelation 3:14–22 (ESV)

14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.

15 “ ‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ ”

That image is further explicated later in Revelation:

Revelation 19:6–8 (ESV)

The Marriage Supper of the Lamb

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

                        “Hallelujah!

                        For the Lord our God

the Almighty reigns.

                      Let us rejoice and exult

and give him the glory,

                        for the marriage of the Lamb has come,

and his Bride has made herself ready;

                      it was granted her to clothe herself

with fine linen, bright and pure”—

for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

The image of being “naked” is the picture of one guilty and without defense. Clothing is granted righteousness. This image appears elsewhere in the words of Jesus.  Jesus told a parable about coming to a wedding feast. A man has appeared in wedding but he is not properly dressed for the event and thus is thrown out:

Matthew 22:11–14 (ESV)

11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

This parallels the language of Revelation 19 where the garments are given (or not as the case may be) to make on fitting to present at the eschatological joy.

In the story of the Prodigal Son, the wayward son, when he comes home is granted a robe and ring to make him fit for the celebration:

Luke 15:22–24 (ESV)

22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

This usage combines both the picture of clothing the unworthy and the dead being naked (implied of the son, albeit figurative).

Thus, Taylor’s use of being naked (which will be matched in the fourth stanza by Christ providing robes to the naked poet) has deep roots in Christian thought. We are called to a feast, but can only attend if we are properly dressed. If we come without the necessary robes (the righteousness of Christ), we will be rejected. To come to this feast and to be clothed as to be as one who was dead but now is alive. To refuse to understand our need is to be still dead and naked.

 

The bell: the bell which was to chime  the praise of Christ here appears to be toll the death knell of the poet.

 

Pillard:  I cannot find a reference beyond the French which means looter or spoiled. Poor ruined one may be an appropriate gloss.

 

Scansion: One notable rhythm:  NONE in their winding sheet more naked stay. The heavy accent on the first syllable acts like a double underscore. That “none” sounds like a bell toll. As the funeral proceeds, the bell tolls out “NONE, NONE” — this is the chief of sinner.

Edward Taylor’s Meditation 25, “Why should my bells”

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Taylor’s mediation “25” begins as follows:

Why should my bells, which chime thy praise, when thou
My shew-bread, on thy table wast, my King,
Their clappers, or their cell-ropes want even now?
Or those that can thy changes sweetly ring?
What is a scar-fire broken out?  No, no.
The bells would backward ring if it was so.

This poem will speak to the poet’s inability to rightly praise God, he “cannot unscrew [open] love’s cabinet” (which holds his love and praise). It begins with this strange discussion of bells. (That image of bells will appear later as possibly tolling the poet’s death).

The first trick will be to understand the introductory question. It will help to understand the whole to break the subordinate clause:

Why should my bells, which chime thy praise, [when thou
My shew-bread, on thy table wast, my King,]
Their clappers, or their cell-ropes want even now?

Paraphrased: Why should these bells lack a clapper or rope when they should being playing in praise to you?

The rhythm is regular until the final turn of line three “even now”. That accent on the first syllable of “EVen” forces one to stop and underscores the point: At this moment — when I should be praising — I cannot.

The second line contains the image of “shewbread”:

Bread of the Presence. Loaves of bread placed on a special table in the sanctuary or Holy Place of the tabernacle and later in the temple. Two other terms in the OT are used to describe the “bread of the Presence,” which means bread that has been set before the Lord’s face (Ex 25:23, 30; 35:13; 39:36; 1 Kgs 7:48; 2 Chr 4:19). The term “showbread” (kjv shewbread) refers to the arrangement of the bread in rows on the table (1 Chr 9:32; 23:29; 28:16; 2 Chr 2:4; 13:11; 29:18). The term “continual bread” refers to its perpetual offering (Nm 4:7).

David W. Wead, “Bread of the Presence,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 379. By referring to the “shewbread” being on the Lord’s table, it is most likely that Taylor is referring to Lord’s Supper.

Thus, here at the moment where I am contemplating the great gift of God, I find that my praise lacks voice.

Robert Nares Glossary (1859) of idioms and phrases of Shakespeare and contemporaries explains “scar-fire” as “scar-fire or scarefire: an alarm of fire. The cry fire! fire!” It could also refer to the fire itself.

Example,

THE SCARE-FIRE.
by Robert Herrick

WATER, water I desire,
Here’s a house of flesh on fire ;
Ope the fountains and the springs,
And come all to bucketings :
What ye cannot quench pull down ;
Spoil a house to save a town :
Better ’tis that one should fall,
Than by one to hazard all.

Thus, the lines

 What is a scar-fire broken out?  No, no.
 The bells would backward ring if it was so.

Could mean there was a question as to whether a fire had broken out, or an alarm of fire. Either would support the meaning.

Why cannot the poet praise God? Is it because some fire had broken out and destroyed the bells? No, that would be impossible. The “backward” will be picked up in the next stanza.

Stephen Charnock: Can a bare thought without an action be a sin?

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Can a bare thought be evil?  Charnock in his essay The Sinfulness and Cure of Thoughts makes this observation:

First motions: those unfledged thoughts and single threads, before a multitude of them come to be twisted and woven into a discourse; such as skip up from our natural corruptions, and sink down again, as fish in a river. These are sins, though we consent not to them, because, though they are without our will, they are not against our nature, but spring from an inordinate frame, of a different hue from what God implanted in us. How can the first sprouts be good, if the root be evil? Not only the thought formed, but the very formation, or first imagination, is evil. Voluntariness is not necessary to the essence of a sin, though it be to the aggravation of it. It is not my will or knowledge which doth make an act sinful, but God’s prohibition. Lot’s incest was not ushered by any deliberate consent of his will, Gen. 19: 33, 35, yet who will deny it to be a sin, since he should have exercised a severer command over himself than to be overtaken with drunkenness, which was the occasion of it? Original sin is not effectivè voluntary, in infants, because no act of the will is exerted in an infant about it; yet it is voluntary subjectivè, because it doth inhærere voluntati. These motions may be said to be voluntary negatively, because the will doth not set bounds to them, and exercise that sovereign dominion over the operations of the soul which it ought to do, and wherewith it was at its first creation invested. Besides, though the will doth not immediately consent to them, yet it consents to the occasions which administer such motions, and therefore, according to the rule, that causa causæ est causa causati, they may be justly charged upon our score.

And:

 They [sinful thoughts] are contrary to the law, which doth forbid the first foamings and belchings of the heart, because they arise from an habitual corruption, and testify a defect of something which the law requires to be in us, to correct the excursions of our minds: Rom. 7: 7, ‘I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.’ Doth not the law oblige man as a rational creature? Shall it then leave that part, which doth constitute him rational, to fleeting and giddy fancies? No; it binds the soul as the principal agent, the body only as the instrument. For if it were given only for the sensitive part, without any respect to the rational, it would concern brutes as well as men, which are as capable of a rational command and a voluntary obedience, as man without the conduct of a rational soul. It exacts a conformity of the whole man to God, and prohibits a deformity, and therefore engageth chiefly the inward part, which is most the man. It must then extend to all the acts of the man, consequently to his thoughts, they being more the acts of the man than the motions of the body.

And:

We are accountable to God, and punishable for thoughts. Nothing is the meritorious cause of God’s wrath but sin. The text tells us, that they were once the keys which opened the flood-gates of divine vengeance, and broached both the upper and nether cisterns, to overflow the world. If they need a pardon— Acts 8: 22, ‘If perhaps the thought of thy heart may be forgiven thee’—( as certainly they do), then, if mercy doth not pardon them, justice will condemn them. And it is absolutely said, Prov. 12: 2, ‘That a man of wicked devices,’ or thoughts, ‘God will condemn.’ It is God’s prerogative, often mentioned in Scripture, to ‘search the heart.’ To what purpose, if the acts of it did not fall under his censure, as well as his cognisance? He ‘weighs the spirits,’ Prov. 16: 2, in the balance of his sanctuary, and by the weights of his law, to sentence them, if they be found too light. The word doth discover and judge them: Heb. 4: 12, 13, ‘It divides asunder the soul and spirit,’ the sensitive part, the affections, and the rational, the understanding and will; both which it doth dissect, and open, and judge the acts of them, even the thoughts and intents, ἐνθυμήσεων καὶ ἐννοιῶν, whatsoever is within theθυμὸς, and whatsoever is within theνοῦς, the one referring to the soul, the other to the spirit.

 

Be Still and Know that I am God (maybe not what you thought that meant)

19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

Romans 3:19-20. On this passage, R.C. Sprout writes:

The point he is making is that every human being is under the law of God to some degree, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.

Paul is drawing a courtroom scene, and God is sitting on the bench. The indictment is being read to the defendant—fallen man. Can you imagine being brought into a courtroom, having an indictment read and then having the judge say to you, How do you plead? As you start to give a defence, suddenly the judge cuts you off in mid sentence and says, You may not speak! There is a certain sense in which the judgment scene of the human race will happen like that.

In Psalm 46, the Psalmist says, Be still, and know that I am God. That passage is often cited as if it were an invitation to enter in to a quiet and tranquil mood of peacefulness, in which one can contemplate the wonders and majesty of God. But that’s not the force of this psalm. The Psalmist is using, in Hebrew, very strong language. What he is having God say, literally, is, Shut up! Be quiet! Stop it! and know that I am God.”

R. C. Sproul, The Gospel of God: An Exposition of Romans (Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 1994), 70–71.