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.


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,


                        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.


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.


 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.


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.

Politics as Religion


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A few recent articles have made the point that political positions can function as religion: a totalizing story of sin and sacrifice which gives some sort of meaning to existence. First, there Ta Nehisi Coates with a theory of original sin:

What does the philosopher teach? His philosophy can be summed up in a passing phrase from “Between the World and Me”: “I… felt that the galaxy was playing with loaded dice.”

It’s a passing phrase, but a concept that suffuses his work. At a cosmic level, existence itself is slanted against the flourishing of black people. Chance is not really chance. We already know how history will unfold before it happens: black people will suffer because of white people. That’s what being black means. That’s what being white means.

Here is New York Magazine asking if intersectionality is a religion 

It posits a classic orthodoxy through which all of human experience is explained — and through which all speech must be filtered. Its version of original sin is the power of some identity groups over others. To overcome this sin, you need first to confess, i.e., “check your privilege,” and subsequently live your life and order your thoughts in a way that keeps this sin at bay. The sin goes so deep into your psyche, especially if you are white or male or straight, that a profound conversion is required.

The story continues with the obligatory swipe at the Puritans, which demonstrates that most people know nothing more about Puritans that what they can kind of remember from The Scarlet Letter and what they heard about The Crucible — neither of which has anything to do with the Puritans in reality.

Alan Jacobs asks if Wokeness is a Myth:

The term “woke,” for those who have managed to escape it, means being aware of racial, gender, and economic injustice. It is employed today either in mockery of the woke or in ironic reappropriation by the woke, and it is probably irrecoverable for serious use. But “woke” derives from “waking up” to how things are — and that ought to suggest that to commend wokeness is to invite people to participate in a mythical experience.

There is even redemption — sacrifice — required of this religion:

Go deeper into the cult, and the disciplines get more rigorous. Now white women must admit their role in oppressing women of color. This requires some of the groveling that white males must endure. But it offers the same benefit: a sense of forgiveness, and spiritual progress. Likewise black males must atone to women of color. All straights must bow down to gays. Even gays must make amends for their insensitivity to “trans” people. I am not sure to whom “trans” people of color must apologize. But give intellectuals time, and they’ll find someone. Or invent them.

With little work, I could find many more examples and certainly make a broader argument that all sides of political argument easily slide in a religious dimension — or that the arguments are informed by a story of fall, sin, punishment, sacrifice.

This is important to realize: just because a human being rejects some long-standing religious explanation does not mean that human beings change. The basic elements of fall-sin-punishment-sacrifice-possibly some escape/redemption are inherent in how we understand the world.

As a Christian, I would contend they are necessary for us our thinking. Paul argued for a hardwired, if you will explanation:

Romans 1:18–25 (ESV)

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

The Spiritual Chymist, Meditation LIII


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The previous post from this 17th century devotional may be found here

Upon a Counterfeit Piece of Coin


What physicians say of some disease, they are most dangerous which imitate and come nearest unto health, may be applied fitly to adulterous and spurious coins: that the greater resemblance and likeness they have to the true and genuine, the more pernicious and destructive they are to the public, wasting though insensibly not only private estates but the common treasury and riches of a nation.

And therefore, falsifying of coin, which bears the image or arms of the prince (as the general warrant to ratify the goodness of it), has been made a crime of the same complexion with the highest attempt or act done against his person; the same capital punishment being inflicted upon him that is food guilt of the one as is upon him that is guilty of the other.

What can be one more to deter any from such practices then the loss of name, estate, life, in a ghastly and ignominious death? And yet, these severities, which should be as boundaries at the foot of the mountain to keep all from offending (Exodus 19:21-25) are insufficient to restrain the many who love gain, and the hope of secrecy do embolden to run a sad hazard that thy may enjoy the sweet.

Secrecy in sinning, though in some respect it extenuates the sin, as making it less sandals and less contagious, yet it is a powerful attractive to include to the commission of sin.

Joseph’ mistress (Genesis 39:11) was most vehement in her soliciting of him to folly when none of the men of the house were within. The Harlot of Probers mades that as her plea to the young man to harken unto her, That the good man is not at home, he is gone a long journey, he hath taken a bag of money with him, and will come at the day appointed. (Prov. 7: 19-20)

It is that which put an edge upon the covetousness of Achan, to take the goodly Babylonian garment, the two hundred shekels of silver, and the wedge of gold, that he could not do without the privity [knowledge] of any, so that none could charge him with the breach of that strict command which God had given of not taking the accursed thing least they make themselves accursed the camp of Israel accursed and trouble it. [Judges 7:10-26]

But how far more presumptuous are they who adulterate not the coins of princes but the truths of God and stamp his names on their inventions, to give a credit and value to them. Have such workers of iniquity any darkness and shallow of death where they may hide themselves? Do they think that though Kings cannot discover those oft times that violate the dignities of the crown, that they also can escape the knowledge of the Most High? Or is not he as jealous of his Word, which has magnified above all his Name as they are of every piece that carries their image and inscription upon it? Has he not declared himself to be against those that prophecy the deceits of their own heart (Jeremiah 14:14) and use their tongues and say, The Lord says.

Yea, has he not denounced the most dreadful curses against all embalmers or clips of his heavenly coin? To the one he threatens that all the plagues that are written in the Book of Truth (Rev. 22:18); and for the other, he shall take away his part in the book Book of Life, out of the Holy City, and from the things that are written in the Book of God (Rev. 22:19). Who can read such a sentence and not tremble at the thought of it?

And yet though God (as Bernard speaks) A wise exchanger will not take mont that is broken or false; though we cannot mock him, as one man mocks another, how many do take a liberty to mint doctrines and tenet that have only the semblance not the purity and substance of Divine Truth? And upon these they set the Name of God, that they may more easily deceive the incautious

As Pompey built a theater with the title of “temple”, and Apollinaris the Heretic School with the Title of Orthodox: What prevalence such arts in this kind have had, I would [give as an example] the defections of many particular persons, yea of churches [does] abundantly witness. Was not the whole church of Galatia soon removed from him that had called them into the Grace of Christ unto another Gospel (Gal. 1:6). By their false teachers blending the necessity of circumcision with the Gospel and the works of faith. And did no the Corinthians comply more readily with the false apostle than with Paul? Ye suffer [permit it] if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take you, if a man exalt himself, if a man do smite you on the face. 2 Cor. 11:20.

It is the temper and disposition of most to be far more circumspect and jealous of the concernments of their estate than of their faith; and to use both the scale and the test to find out false and light coins, when in matters of faith, the question is seldom made, “Whose image and superscription do they bear?” (Mark 12:16) It is enough if they please fancy or else have the allowance of such whom them have in admiration. Can I then do less than bemoan the slightness and indifference of Christians about the Truth which is the only deposit that God has concredited [deposited with] to the Saints? And awaken both myself and others to buy the truth at any rate, but to sell it or debase it at no rate?

Rob but God once of his truth, and what riches of glory do you leave him? Is not he the God of Truth, and are not you witnesses, chosen by himself, to give testimony unto it? And can you dishonor him more than to make him like the Father of Lies (John 8:44), while you either spread the infection of error to others, or receive it from others into your own bosom? Bethink therefore yourselves, you who deliver the oracles of God, that you be not as lying vanities of the heathen which deceived those that repaired [went] uno them. What comfort can you ever have in departing form the form of sound words (2 Tim. 1:13) and speaking in affected and swelling words which are one of Satan’s lures to seduce into errors?

Who can understand behems greeming of the inward root, or the canting of the familists, of being Godded with God or Christed with Christ? And be you wise, O Christians, in the differencing of such impure gibberish from the holy dialect of the Spirit. Let not such arts, which serve only as the light of the fowler in the night, first to amaze the birds and then to bring them into the net, ensure and captivate you. Keep untainted from errors. The doctrines of the faith that you profess, that you profess, which will be your glory; and the duties that you perform to god from hypocrisy which will be your comfort. Let not your intercourse with heaven be in such services that are only guided with words of piety, which make them specious to men, and wholly destitute of sincerity, which can alone commend you to God.

Would it not be a piece of inexcusable folly for any to heap up a mass of counterfeit coin and then to value himself worth thousands? And is it not far great for men to think that they have laid much treasure in heaven (Matt. 6:20), and rich toward God by prayers that they have made and other services they have done, which will all be found dross and not gold and will produce no return [rather than] the increase of a sore condemnation? O the thoughts are dreadful to think how many will be found poor, miserable, and naked Laodiceans, who comfortably presume that they are rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing (Rev. 3:17).

I cannot therefore but pray,
Lord help me to buy of thee the God tried in the fire
and to get such grace into my heart
that I may never be amongst the number of those who are justly hated by men for hypocrites in the world
and condemned by God for hypocrites in the other world.