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Seventh & Eighth Stanzas

What shall I do, my Lord? What do, that I
May have thee plead my case? I fee thee will
With faith, repentance, and obediently
Thy service against satanic sins fulfill.
I’ll fight thy fields while live I do, although
I should be hacked in pieces by thy foe.

Make me thy friend, Lord, be my surety: I
Will be thy client, be my advocate.
My sins make thine; thy pleas make mine hereby.
Thou wilt me save, I will thee celebrate.
Thou’lt kill my sins that cut my heart within:
And my rough feet shall thy smooth praises sing.

The poem ends with a prayer and praise, with a petition and a promise. The seventh stanza begins with “What shall I do”. The 8th with “Make my thy friend.” Thus, 7 is the potential, 8 the actuality.

What shall I do, my Lord? What do, that I
May have thee plead my case?

Here is the last hesitation in the poem. After this point has been resolved, he will proceed with confidence that his trouble will be resolved. What can I offer to God that he should provide me such a defense?

This question and the answer he will provide echoes the prophet Micah:

Micah 6:6–8 (ESV)

What Does the LORD Require?
6 “With what shall I come before the LORD,
and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
8 He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?

What shall I do to come before God? The same scheme is here: What shall I do to receive christ as my Advocate? I fee thee will. “I fee thee” means I will pay you. A lawyer receives a “fee.” That is still the idiom of an attorneys’ payment.

   How will he pay?

With faith, repentance, and obediently
Thy service against satanic sins fulfill.
I’ll fight thy fields while live I do, although
I should be hacked in pieces by thy foe.

The language which follows is martial and political. The concept of faith is not a bare belief that something will be true, but rather an act of fealty to a King. I will submit my life to you. I will give you my faith, I will repent of not doing so, I will live in obedience in constant warfare with my sin: even if it should kill me.

This sort of language is not out of step with the general tenor of the Puritan (rough) contemporaries of Taylor. There is another way to understand Taylor’s promise at this point. In the current edition of Credomag, there is a discussion of how Jonathan Edwards understood saving faith. This might provide an alternative understanding to Taylor’s (and Edwards’) thinking on the question of faith:

“Edwards’s variance with his tradition on the issue of sola fide is seen even more clearly when we face the role of obedience in justification. In Part 1 of this series, I quoted Miscellany #218, entitled “Faith, Justifying,” where Edwards states the following:

“‘Tis the same agreeing or consenting disposition that according to the divers [sic] objects, different states or manner of exertion, is called by different names. When ‘tis exerted towards a Savior, [it is called] faith or trust…when toward unseen good things promised, faith and also hope; when towards a gospel or good news, faith; when towards persons excellent, love; when towards commands, obedience; when towards God with respect to changes, ‘tis properly called resignation; when with respect to calamities, submission.

“Edwards sees no difficulty blurring the distinction between faith and obedience. The Reformed tradition, on the other hand, held that faith alone, apart from obedience, apprehends Christ for justification in him. While faith alone justifies, faith is “not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces.””

If the idea more clearly expressed in Edwards is found in Taylor in a less developed form, then the idea in some form was “in the air” in some fashion and found its way to Edwards. I do not know the answer to the question, beyond suggesting there is a possibility of something here. It will be something to consider more carefully in future readings.

Make me thy friend, Lord, be my surety: I
Will be thy client, be my advocate.

Here he moves to the direct petition. But notice that he begins with “friend.” The love comes before the advocacy. God loves us first. “For God so love the world he gave ….” God’s love comes first in time. Moreover, James 2 tells us the obedient Abraham who believed God “was called a friend of God.” James 2:23.

A surety pays another’s debts. Forgiveness of debt is another way to consider sin: The parable of the unforgiving servant Matthew 18:21-35 speaks of forgiving sin in terms of forgiven debt.

We then finally come to the direct petition which has been the thrust of the poem, “be my advocate.” He does not doubt that the petition will be granted.

My sins make thine; thy pleas make mine hereby.

This is an allusion to

2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV)

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

The direct substitution: Christ takes on our sin. In exchange, his righteousness pleads for us. To be righteous here has the sense of being declared to be innocent of a charge. Christ stands ready to plead our case:

1 John 2:1 (ESV)

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

Thou wilt me save, I will thee celebrate.

This is an allusion to:

Psalm 50:15 (ESV)
and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.

We call upon God for salvation. God will deliver us. We will praise him. Interestingly, God will save him from God.

Thou’lt kill my sins that cut my heart within:

If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Rom. 8:13) This is best line in the poem, both for sound and sense. There is the sharp consonants lt/k/c/t and the internal rhyme sins/within. God will kill that which is killing me.

And then we end with the self-reference to the poem (my rough feet) as itself the praise promised above.

And my rough feet shall thy smooth praises sing.

Thus, the poem ends with the certainty that the Advocate has in fact made and will make the defense. The poem is the evidence of the pardon obtained.