The motto for this meditation comes from the next clause in the “all things are yours” promise of Paul to the Corinthians: 1 Corinthians 3:22 (AV)
“Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours;”
Oh! That I ever felt what I profess.
‘T would make me then the happi’st man alive.
Ten thousand worlds of saints can’t make this less
By living on’t, but it would make them thrive.
Those loaves and fishes are not lessened
Nor pasture overstockt, by being fed.
Summary: If I truly believed that “all things present were mine” (for my good) – I do profess this, but I do not “feel” this. The knowledge is not a sufficient basis to engender the matching emotional response. This promise is so great that if ten thousand others also claimed this promise, the promise would not be in the least diminished. Thus, the poem begins with a statement of implied desire: a desire to feel what he knows to be true. The poem is itself a means to engender this response.
That I ever felt what I profess: This is the necessary confession of all who claim belief: If what we profess is true, then why do not experience the happiness which is the rightful result of that knowledge? Taylor is going to expand primarily upon the theme of providence: that contrary events will still work out ultimately for the good of God’s people. I would then think, Oh, this seemingly bad thing is for my good (and thus my happiness, ultimately).
Can’t make this less: The “this” is the trickiest element in the stanza (perhaps the poem). Normally, a pronoun would refer to some explicit noun within the poem itself. But considering these options does not make sense of what follows: neither his profession, nor his happiness answer to the image of loaves and fishes, or an overstocked pasture. But if we consider the promise which is the motto of the poem, the promise that all things are yours, we can understand what follows: If ten thousand people in addition to me were to claim this promise, they could not exhaust the promise.
Living on it would make them thrive: If we took this promise to heart, if we lived on the promise that all things are mine and that God makes all things for our good, then we would thrive in this world.
I’m currently going through Gonzales’ The Story of Christianity. Early on he makes an observation that the focus of the Lord’s Supper in the primitive church was upon the Resurrection and Ascension, and was thus a joyful event. Our present emphasis is much on the crucifixion, and so the Supper is somber.
When I consider the tone of much of the Church (at least in the circles I can see), the piety is to focus upon Good Friday more than Easter morning. While a frivolous glee would be damaging, I wonder what a well-grounded happiness suffused through-out the church do for the church.
Loaves and fishes: There are stories in the New Testament of Jesus miraculously feeding thousands – which much food left over. Jesus prays in thanksgiving for a small number of fish and loaves and then proceeds to break and serve bread until everyone is filled. In the same way this promise cannot be depleted by being fulfilled.