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Second Stanza

How do thy angels lay before thine eye?

My deeds both white and black I daily do?

How doth thy court thou panellst there them try?

But flesh complains. What right for this? Let’s know

For right or wrong, I can’t appear unto’t.

And shall a sentence pass on such a suit?

How can I appear before the tribunal of God? How even do angels appear before God?  This first question is a bit obscure, but I believe it an allusion to a question from Job. And that allusion provides an opening to understand this stanza.

The story of Job concerns the Accuser (“the satan”) appearing before God. He twice challenges God concerning Job saying that Job only obeys because God is good to Job. God permits the accuser to strip Job of his children, his wealth, his physical well-being. Job’s friends appear to comfort Job and tell him: You are being punished because you have sinned. You need to repent.

I have heard in a series of lectures that Job’s friends take on the position of the accuser against Job. Part of the evidence come Job 4, where the first friend Eliphaz claims to have heard a mysterious spirit tell him that God finds no one right:

Job 4:12–21 (AV)

12 Now a thing was secretly brought to me, and mine ear received a little thereof. 13 In thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falleth on men, 14 Fear came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones to shake. 15 Then a spirit passed before my face; the hair of my flesh stood up: 16 It stood still, but I could not discern the form thereof: an image was before mine eyes, there was silence, and I heard a voice, saying, 17 Shall mortal man be more just than God? shall a man be more pure than his maker? 18 Behold, he put no trust in his servants; and his angels he charged with folly: 19 How much less in them that dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust, which are crushed before the moth? 20 They are destroyed from morning to evening: they perish for ever without any regarding it. 21 Doth not their excellency which is in them go away? they die, even without wisdom.

The argument goes: God does not find even the elect angels pure before his eyes – which us,  who are made of dust? The stanza alludes to this question: It is not as depressing as Job, the poet merely asks, What is the judgment of God on the angels (Eliphaz says God condemns the angels, which goes beyond the evidence). And if God judges the angels, what about someone like me whose actions are not all virtues: some of my acts are good, some bad.

This then leads to the development of Taylor’s thought:

But flesh complains. What right for this? Let’s know

For right or wrong, I can’t appear unto’t.

And shall a sentence pass on such a suit?

Stated vernacularly: “how is this fair?” How can God judge when: I’m flesh, what I am I to do? This also is Job’s question in response to the condemnation of his friends:

Job 9:1–12 (AV)

1 Then Job answered and said, 2 I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God? 3 If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one of a thousand. 4 He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered? 5 Which removeth the mountains, and they know not: which overturneth them in his anger. 6 Which shaketh the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble. 7 Which commandeth the sun, and it riseth not; and sealeth up the stars. 8 Which alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth upon the waves of the sea. 9 Which maketh Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades, and the chambers of the south. 10 Which doeth great things past finding out; yea, and wonders without number. 11 Lo, he goeth by me, and I see him not: he passeth on also, but I perceive him not. 12 Behold, he taketh away, who can hinder him? who will say unto him, What doest thou?

What we have in this stanza is an abbreviation of Job’s quandary: Who can stand before God’s judgment? And if that is so, then what can I do?  Taylor does not go as far as Job’s friends, but he does see the ultimate judgment which is coming and asks, how will I survive this judgment?

As Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress says to Evangelist:

He answered, “Sir, I perceive, by the book in my hand, that I am condemned to die, and after that to come to judgment, Heb. 9:27; and I find that I am not willing to do the first, Job 16:21, 22, nor able to do the second.” Ezek. 22:14.