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The previous post on this poem may be found here.

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I am to Christ more base than to a King
A mite, fly, worm, ant, serpent, devil is,
Or can be, being tumbled all in sin,
And shall I be his spouse? How good is this?
It is too good to be declared to thee
But not too good to be believed by me.

This stanza repeats the theme of the previous two stanzas: the wonder that God should love human beings; that Christ should join himself to such as us. There are two movements which must take place to fully appreciate what the poet does here: the first is to fully understand what he does in the poem itself. The second is to move past our natural prejudice in favor of ourselves.

The stanza breaks neatly into two; the break taking place in the middle of the fourth line (the 34th line of the poem). The first portion reads:

I am to Christ more base than to a King
A mite, fly, worm, ant, serpent, devil is,
Or can be, being tumbled all in sin,
And shall I be his spouse?

The them of this section is the sheer improbability that Christ should love the poet. There are three aspects of this: First, there is the comparison of Christ to a king and the poet to a loathsome creature. Second, the reference to “being tumble all in sin.” Third, that such a one should be brought into intimate relationship.

Technically, the second line is the key here: The first line sets up the comparison Christ equals a King. The second stays to ten syllables but then crams it full of stresses:
a MITE, FLY, WORM, ANT, SERpent, DEVil is. The lien can only be read very slowly and then tails off. The idea picks up in the third line OR can be, which comes along as an afterthought. Of these vermin, ants, worms, and serpents appeared in the previous stanza.

We miss the horror here if we don’t stop to realize what life is like without houses which are sealed against the weather, and screens, and traps, and poisons, and medicines and antidotes. Imagine being invested with mites or worms and being unable to rid your body of the beasts infecting you. Imagine ants and flies getting into and spoiling all of the food which you could have. Imagine fearing that a snake would strike unaware and kill. And most moderns could not imagine any sort of devil that did not exist only in horror movies and was capable of being driven off with a crucifix. When you read this line, you must have a sense of disgust, fear and an uncanny horror.

The purpose of this bestiary is to evoke the sensation which should be stirred by the real reason for wonder: sin. Why should God have anything to do with those in sin? We are supposed to real revulsion and then that explained by the word “sin”:

Psalm 5:4–6 (AV)
4 For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee. 5 The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity. 6 Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing: the LORD will abhor the bloody and deceitful man.
We fail to understand what is happening here as long as we think of sin solely in terms of discrete actions. Yes, sin entails discrete acts of sin. But is also a status offense (as such things are called in the law). It is like being an illegal alien in a country: the status is an offense even without additional bad acts. The Mosaic covenant aims at this concept by the matter of being ritually clean or unclean. Many things which were morally neutral were unclean. Likewise inanimate objects could be “holy” because they were dedicated to God.

To be tumbled in sin is to be subsumed it: to be repulsive, unclean.

And yet, it is precisely such repulsive people who are brought into intimate union with Christ. The poet cannot understand it, but for all that, he will not reject it but believe it:

How good is this?
It is too good to be declared to thee
But not too good to be believed by me.

We see in this a hint at why “belief” is at the core of receipt of justification, right standing with God. To believe this gift is to receive it with joy and thankfulness. It is not a bare historical opinion that some event took place. It is a joyful reception of something marvelous being offered.