A.C. Dixon, Biblical Counseling, Confession, Desire, Discipleship, Edward Taylor, fawn, Isaiah, Isaiah 57:15, poem, Poetry, Prayer, Psalm 51, Psalms, Puritan Poetry, Repentance, Self-Examination, The Reflexion, weakness
The entire poem may be found here: https://memoirandremains.wordpress.com/2012/09/20/edward-taylor-the-reflexion-1/
Taylor also identifies the cause on which he cannot obtain the blessing he seeks. However, he does not go immediately to the cause. In the first stanza he begins the explanation:
Be n’t I a bidden guest? Oh! sweat mine eye.
O’reflow with tears: Oh! draw thy fountains dry.
He calls on his heart to weep for the loss of the enjoyment which he can see, which knows exists and which he does not experience. However, he does not yet explain why he cannot obtain that blessing.
In the second stanza, he develops his loss a bit more. At the end of the second line (line 8 in the poem), he asks, “Why?” The answer which begins is cryptic:
Shall thy sweet leaves their beauteous sweet upclose?
As half ashamed my sight should on them lie?
The blessing is there before him, but it seems to retreat when he looks upon it. The Rose folds in upon itself in “shame” to be seen by Taylor.
The third stanza draws the matter out further. It turns out that the reason blessing does not come does not lie in God’s willingness to bestow blessing, but in the poet’s ability to receive blessing:
Had not my soul’s – thy conduit — pipes stopped been
With mud, what ravishment would’st thou convey?
Taylor’s sin prevents his receipt of blessing. God would give, but Taylor cannot receive. The pipe has been filled with “mud”.
What then is the solution for Taylor’s loss? At this point, the first hint in the first stanza returns with explanation: Taylor must weep for his sin to so clean the soul and thus make room for the receipt of grace:
Let Grace’s golden spade dig till the spring
Of tears arise, and clear this filth away.
Lord, let thy spirit raise my sighings till
These pipes — my soul — do with thy sweetness fill.
Taylor must repent of his sin to become fit to receive the blessing of God. Notice in particular that Taylor does not owe penance to God, merely sorrow. In so praying and thinking, Taylor is perfect consonant with Psalm 51, which is the great Psalm of repentance. Two passages in the Psalm seem particularly appropriate to these lines:
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. 9 Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. 12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Psalm 51:7–12 (AV)
16 For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. Psalm 51:16–17 (AV)
Perhaps the key element of Taylor’s repentance is that he seeks the Lord in his repentance. He is not sorry for some temporal punishment received; rather he is sorry that he has his God. Thus, Taylor ties sin to the loss of God and thus the loss of joy. Conversely, holiness is happiness because it permits unfettered communion with God. Therefore, Isaiah 57:15 seems to also lie behind Taylor’s desire and repentance: He knows that God cannot resist us in our humility:
For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. Isaiah 57:15 (AV)
This quotation by A.C. Dixon seems appropriate here:
“A dear friend of mine who was quite a lover of the chase, told me the following story: ‘Rising early one morning,’ he said, ‘I heard the baying of a score of deerhounds in pursuit of their quarry. Looking away to a broad, open field in front of me, I saw a young fawn making its way across, and giving signs, moreover, that its race was well-nigh run. Reaching the rails of the enclosure, it leaped over and crouched within ten feet from where I stood. A moment later two of the hounds came over, when the fawn ran in my direction and pushed its head between my legs. I lifted the little thing to my breast, and, swinging round and round, fought off the dogs. I felt, just then, that all the dogs in the West could not, and should not capture that fawn after its weakness had appealed to my strength.’ So is it, when human helplessness appeals to Almighty God. Well do I remember when the hounds of sin were after my soul, until, at last, I ran into the arms of Almighty God.” — A. C. DIXON.