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Second Stanza

Nature’s corrupt, a nest of passion, pride,

Lust, worldliness, and such like bubs; I pray,

But struggling find these bow my heart aside.

A knot of imps at barley breaks in’t play.                                         10

They do enchant me from my Lord, I find

The thoughts whereof prove daggers to my mind.


He begins with the second stanza with a new sound and an accented syllable:

NAtures corRUPT  `- -`

The second line likewise begins with an accented syllable

LUST, WORLDliness,

The effect is to emphasis “nature” and the sins which compose it.

Nature refers to what a human being is by birth, after the time of Adam, one who is infected by original sin.  “By spiritual Edwards means “sanctified” in opposition to “carnal,” which signifies the natural or unsanctified man.” Smith, John E. “Editor’s Introduction.” Religious Affections, edited by John E. Smith and Harry S. Stout, Revised edition, vol. 2, Yale University Press, 2009, p. 24.

“That naturally we are not the children of God: we are not born God’s children, but made so. By nature we are strangers to God; swine, not sons, 2 Pet. 2 ult. Will a man settle his estate upon his swine? he will give them his acorns, not his jewels: by nature we have the devil for our father, John 8:44. ‘Ye are of your father the devil.’ A wicked man may search the records of hell for his pedigree.” Watson, Thomas. “Discourses upon Christ’s Sermon on the Mount.” Discourses on Important and Interesting Subjects, Being the Select Works of the Rev. Thomas Watson, vol. 2, Blackie, Fullarton, & Co.; A. Fullarton & Co., 1829, p. 294.

Taylor gives this definition of human nature aside from the work of the Spirit,

                        a nest of passion, pride,

Lust, worldliness, and such like bubs

A “nest of passion” is a striking image. It sounds like a nest of snakes.

Bub is likely here a mixture of yeast and meal to promote fermentation: Here, the concoction would be vile indeed.  

When he turns to pray (I pray), he discovers this his mind and attention are drawn elsewhere, after these sins. Thomas Manton preached a sermon, “How May we Cure Distractions in Holy Duties.” He described the problem in this manner:

First, That there is such a sin, sad experience witnesseth; vain thoughts intrude importunately upon the soul in every duty; in hearing the word we are not free (Ezek. 33:31), nor in singing; but chiefly they haunt us in prayer, and of all kinds of prayer, in mental prayer, when our addresses to God are managed by thoughts alone; there we are more easily disturbed. Words bound the thoughts, and the inconvenience of an interruption is more sensible, as occasioning a pause in our speech; and as in mental prayer, so when we join with others, to keep time and pace with the words, unless the Lord quicken them to an extraordinary liveliness, we find it very hard; but how great a sin this is, is my first task to show.

Manton, Thomas. The Complete Works of Thomas Manton. James Nisbet & Co., 1871, pp. 443–44. Nathanel Vincent preaching on prayer wrote something similar:

Take heed of distraction in prayer, and not minding what you ask, or what you are doing, when at the mercy-seat.—It is great hypocrisy, to be present only in body at the sanctuary; the heart, in the mean while, running away after pleasures, coyetousness, vanity: and this exceedingly provokes the Lord to jealousy; and “are you stronger than he?” (1 Cor. 10:22.)

Nichols, James. Puritan Sermons. Richard Owen Roberts, Publishers, 1981, p. 312.  It such a thing which troubles Taylor: he composes himself to pray,

But struggling find these bow my heart aside.

(This painting in the Getty Museum, LA. Artist, Hans Holbein, the Younger (1497-1541) The motto reads, “And so desire carries me along.” The framing for the painting is of a style used for a coat of arms, making the depiction ironic.)

These bubs of sin draw his attention elsewhere. He then goes on to describe this as cluster of devils (“knot of imps”) busy at a game:

A knot of imps at barley breaks in’t play.    

To take an image from Faust, it as if devils at hexensabbat.  The game he chose is appropriate to the imagery:

BARLEY-BREAK, an old English country game frequently mentioned by the poets of the 17th and 18th centuries. It was played by three pairs composed of one of each sex, who were stationed in three bases or plots, contiguous to each other. The couple occupying the middle base, called hell or prison, endeavoured to catch the other two, who, when chased, might break to avoid being caught. If one was overtaken, he and his companion were condemned to hell. From this game was taken the expression “the last couple in hell,” often used in old plays.   Encyclopedia Britanica, 1911 “Barley-Break” https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/bri/b/barley-break.html

The couplet scans as perfect iambs

They do enchant me from my Lord, I find

The thoughts whereof prove daggers to my mind.

Enchant here has a wholly negative meaning: to be enchanted would be to suffer from an evil spell, not a romantic glamor.

The final line returns to the paradox of his situation: These sins cause him to need a Savior. Yet, this sins draw him from his Savior. He finds a compulsion to go after these sins and simultaneously a detestation of the sins to which he is attracted.  They are “daggers” in his thinking.

This underscores a fundamental difference between Taylor’s desire for sanctification and would be recommended in modern therapy. The therapist would consider the problem to be the distress he is feeling in the conflict. Rather than feeling conflicted, he should come to terms with and accept “nature.”

Taylor’s desire to to transcend these desires to seek something better. He wants to “overcome” and receive a crown.

In this sense, we can see that the common therapeutic model and desire to alleviate distress by refusing to reject nature is, at least on the terms laid by Taylor, a religious decision.

The imps of the therapeutic model would be contesting the impulse and thinking of such things as “sin”.