Thine ordinances, Grace’s wine-vats where
Thy Spirit walks and Grace’s runs do lie
And angels waiting stand with holy cheer
From Grace’s conduit head, with all supply.
These vessels full of Grace are, and bowls
In which their taps do run are precious souls.
In this stanza, he pictures the flow from grace which runs into the souls of those who receive the ordinance, the Lord’s Supper. Grace is poured out as wine.
The entire stanza is a display of the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper. The rite is performed with bread and wine, hence the display of wine as the grace of God.
The praise of the ordinance is not a matter unique to Taylor. Here, is a section from a near contemporary, Thomas Watson:
The gracious soul flies as a dove to an ordinance, upon the wings of delight. The sacrament is his delight. On this day the Lord makes “a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined,” Isa. 25:6. A sacrament day is a soul-festival day; here Christ takes the soul into his banqueting-house, and “displays the banner of love over it,” Cant. 2:4. Here are heavenly delicacies set before us. Christ gives us his body and blood. This is angels’ food, this is the heavenly nectar, here is a cup perfumed with the divine nature; here is wine spiced with the love of God. The Jews at their feasts poured ointment upon their guests; here Christ pours the oil of gladness into the heart. This is the king’s bath where we wash and are cleansed of our leprosy: the withered soul, after the receiving this blessed eucharist, hath been like a watered garden, Isa. 58:11. or like Egyptian fields, after the overflowing of the Nile, fruitful and flourishing; and do you wonder that a child of God delights in holy things? he must needs be a volunteer in religion.
Thomas Watson, A Divine Cordial; The Saint’s Spiritual Delight; The Holy Eucharist; and Other Treatises, The Writings of the Doctrinal Puritans and Divines of the Seventeenth Century. Here we see many of the same elements: wine, love, delight, angels, cups, et cetera.
Here are the particular elements of the scene:
The whole takes place at “Grace’s wine-vats.” The word in the manuscript is apparently “fat,” but vat makes more sense
He then details what is seen there:
First, it is the place where, “Thy Spirit walks.” This is an unusual way to speak of the Spirit. But to have the Spirit here at the head of the understanding of the ordinance is quite understandable for Taylor. As Calvin writes in the Institutes, the Spirit communicates Christ to the recipient:
To summarize: our souls are fed by the flesh and blood of Christ in the same way that bread and wine keep and sustain physical life. For the analogy of the sign applies only if souls find their nourishment in Christ—which cannot happen unless Christ truly grows into one with us, and refreshes us by the eating of his flesh and the drinking of his blood.
Even though it seems unbelievable that Christ’s flesh, separated from us by such great distance, penetrates to us, so that it becomes our food, let us remember how far the secret power of the Holy Spirit towers above all our senses, and how foolish it is to wish to measure his immeasurableness by our measure. What, then, our mind does not comprehend, let faith conceive: that the Spirit truly unites things separated in space
John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion & 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, vol. 1, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 1370. And so, the Supper is indeed a place where the Spirits walks (if you will). This point could be further developed, but this suffices to show what Taylor intends by place the Spirit first at these vats of Grace.
Next, he says this is the place where “Grace’s runs do lie.”
This is the place where grace flows, which matches the remainder of the poem’s image of grace flowing from the throne.
Next, there are angels standing as it were with cups of this heavenly wine, the “holy cheer.” The use of angels is interesting, because angels are not directly associated with the Supper. However, angels are said to be “ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit eternal life.” Heb. 1:14. Their mention also identifies this a spiritual or heavenly scene.
The whole flows from “Grace’s conduit head” – which was identified in the previous stanza as the Father’s throne and the Lord’s heart.
with all supply: this phrase means it is endless: the source for this grace is full-up.
The use of the word “bowls” in apposition to “vessels” makes it plain these are drinking bowls.
And in the end of the scene we see where the grace flows into “precious souls” – those who receive the supper.
At this point, it should be noted that the understanding of the “grace” received by the recipient differs among the various Christian traditions. And so Taylor would not have the same understanding of either the communication grace from God and the reception of grace by the communicant as would a contemporary Roman Catholic theologian.
The first line contains an express pause at the comma after ordinance, but also an unmarked pause after vats:
Thine ordinances – pause – Grace’s wine-vats – pause – where
The “where” sets up the following lines; all that follows answer the question of what is there. Since it is an orphaned foot it rushes on to next line.
The lines scan regularly from thereon.