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The previous post concerning this poem may be found here.

Yet shall my mouth stand ope, and lips let run
Out gliding eloquence on each light thing?
And shall I gag my mouth and tie my tongue,
When such bright glory glorifies within?
That makes my heart leap, dancing to thy lute?
And shall my tell tale tongue become a mute?

Lord spare I pray, though my attempts let fall
A slippery verse upon thy royal glory.
I’ll bring unto thine altar th’best of all
My flock affords. I have no better story.
I’ll at thy glory my dark candle light
Not to descry the sun, but use thy light.

This poem makes no sense without an understanding of the theological commitments which underlie the expression.

The poet has been going back and forth between the desire to praise the glory of the exalted Christ and the realization that anything said cannot come up to what he has seen. As St. Paul said of his vision, that “he heard things that cannot be told, which man not utter” (2 Cor. 12:4).

In this section of the poem, the poet subtly moves onto another aspect of Christian theology: human beings as the “image of God”. There is enormous debate as to what is meant by this language concerning the creation of human beings from Genesis 1:26, “Let us make [Adam — the human being; which is defined in Genesis 5:1-2 as both male and female; the word “man” might lead a contemporary reader astray here] in our image.”

Yet, as Richard Lints explains, “An image reflects by virtue of having certain characteristics. A mirror has a physical set of qualities by which it is possible to see reflections in the mirror….Human kind reflects divine being. the language of ‘image’ draws attention to this reflection of and relationship to God as the defining aspect of humankind in creation.” (Identity and Idolatry, p. 60).

Here, the poet is looking upon the glorified Christ — both God and man and thus the perfect image, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exit imprint of his nature” (Heb. 1:3). In looking on the exalted Christ, the poet is looking upon the glory of God displayed.

To come into contact with this glory is to irradiate the poet: he becomes charged and overcharged with glory and is transformed by this sight: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” 2 Cor. 3:18.

This glory and the transformation into a being glory is the promise of the Christian life (see, e.g., 1 Peter 1:7; Romans 8:28-290. However, prior to the resurrection, the human being is simply unable to bear but it will become so (1 Cor. 15:42-49).

The poet as he looks upon the glory finds that the “glory glorifies within.” He cannot keep quiet because the effects of the glory are overwhelming — but his fear is that he ability is not sufficient to speak fitting words. Therefore, he prays for help, “Lord spare I pray … a slippery verse”: yes, I lack the ability to speak, though overwhelmed, but you can transform my speech and give me adequate words.

This pray seems to allude to the reference in Romans 8:26, that, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words.”

The glory and praise which the poet returns are mere dim returns of what has been received:

I’ll at thy glory my dark candle light
Not to descry the sun, but use thy light.

My candle does overcome the sun, but rather merely borrows the light.

He refers to this praise by using explicitly “sacrificial” language. Taking language from first covenant which required sacrifices, the poet promises to bring the best sacrifice is “flock affords.” He speaks of his song as if it were a sheep or goat

I’ll bring unto thine altar th’best of all
My flock affords.

But in doing this, he alludes to the “sacrifices” which are appropriate under the new covenant, “Through him, then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” Heb. 13:15.

He then ends with his praise:

First, he notes that however glorious the throne and surrounding it pales in comparison to the glory inherent in Christ himself:

A golden throne who banisters are pearls
And pommels choicest gems: carbuncles-stayed
Studded with precious stones, carv’d with rich curls
of polished art, sending out flashing rays
Would him surround with glory, throne’d therein.
Yet this to the throne a dirty thing.

The true throne of the Son is the “heart” of his Father. And the true glory of heaven is the glory of his person:

Oh! glorious sight! Lo, how bright angels stand
Waiting with hat in hand on him alone
That is enthroned, indeed at God’s right hand [Heb.1:3]
God’s heart itself being his happy throne.
The glory that doth from this person fall
Fills heaven with glory, else there’s none at all.

The glory of heaven is derivative of the glory of Christ. The glory of the creation derives from the greater glory of the Creator. The praise and worship of the creature is to reflect this glory.