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Fifth Stanza

I have no plea mine Advocate to give.

What now? He’ll anvil arguments great store

Out of his flesh and blood to make me live.

O dear bought arguments: good pleas therefor.

Nails made of heavenly steel, more choice than gold

Drove home, well clenched, eternally will hold.

Notes:

Since a lawyer is limited by the facts of the case (attorneys’ pleas spring from the state/

The case is in), and since this case is so dire, they “knock me down to woe”, the poet has nothing to help:

I have no plea mine Advocate to give.

There is nothing particularly musical about this line: it is a plain statement of fact. And this leaves him with the wholly prosaic question:

What now?

The first line and-a-half of this stanza contain no clever image, interesting musical devices. It is just a clear statement of fact. But when we turn to the Advocate’s work, the stanza becomes “poetic”. This is an interesting rhetorical tactic by Taylor, increasing the rhetorical fireworks when it comes to the Advocate’s work.

How will the Advocate plead for the poet, when the facts are against the poet?

            He’ll anvil arguments great store

Out of his flesh and blood

The image striking: the argument will come from the Advocate’s own “flesh and blood”. Moreover, he will not merely take these arguments, they will be hammered like a blacksmith with iron at a furnace, He’ll anvil arguments.

The picture is grotesque and wonderful: how does not take an hammer and anvil to one’s own body? And yet it is out of the body of the Advocate that the defense is raised.

Here is a central mystery of the Christian claim. All human beings have a body which is ultimate derived from the body of Adam. All people are of one body: “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth.” Acts 17:26 (ESV) Thus, in both a representative and physical sense, all human beings are born “in Adam”.

The Son of God is “made flesh”. (John 1:14) Christ then lives a sinless life, and yet suffers the death allotted to all of Adam’s descendants. Being innocent, and being representative, he bears the weight of the judgment against sin: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24 (ESV) In the end he is vindicated (as evidenced by this resurrection, Romans 1:4). Christ becomes a new Adam. (Rom. 5:12-19) As raised, he stands as a new humanity.

42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

1 Corinthians 15:42–49 (ESV) Much, much more could said on this point from the New Testament. But is without question the doctrine of the Apostles that the physical body of Christ in life, death, burial, and resurrection, becomes the plea for our salvation: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV) The way in which that life of Christ becomes our life is a further discussion. The point here is that Taylor says nothing but what the Bible teaches. In a roughly contemporary work, William Gurnal uses an image which reminds of the language here in Taylor:

“He lived and died for you; he will live and die with you; for mercy and tenderness to his soldiers, none like him. Trajan, it is said, rent his clothes to bind up his soldiers’ wounds; Christ poured out his blood as balm to heal his saints’ wounds; tears off his flesh to bind them up.”

William Gurnall and John Campbell, The Christian in Complete Armour (London: Thomas Tegg, 1845), 6.

These arguments made from the body of the advocate bring life, “to make me live.” As Paul writes: “But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” Romans 4:23–25 (ESV)

These arguments come at great cost, “O dear bought arguments”. They will also work, they are “good pleas.”

Ship’s Nail, courtesy Neil Cummings

The final couplet makes an in ironic use of nails:

Nails made of heavenly steel, more choice than gold

Drove home, well clenched, eternally will hold.

At one level, “nails” references the strength of this argument: They are “heavenly steel.” They are more precious that gold. And they have been fit so well, that the argument will be valid for all eternity: “Drove home, well clenched, eternally will hold.”

The final line contains two pauses, which slows down and underscores the proposition raised: This argument will stand.

The use of nails as the image for the argument then alludes to the basis for the argument: Christ’s sacrificial death. He was nailed to the tree, and in so doing, our sins were nailed to the tree. In this seeming loss, there was victory:

11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Colossians 2:11–15 (ESV)