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Fifth Stanza

A crown of life, of glory, of righteousness,                                 25

Thou wilt adorn with that will not fade.

Shall faith in me shrink up for feebleness?

Nor take my sins by the crown, till crownless made?

Breathe, Lord, thy Spirit on my Faith, that I

May have thy crown of life, and sin may die.                           30


A crown of life, of glory, of righteousness,

Thou wilt adorn with that will not fade.

These lines make rapid allusions to various NT texts:

A crown of life comes from James 1:12, quoted above.

1 Peter 5:4 (ESV)

And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

1 Peter 1:3–7 (ESV)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

2 Timothy 4:8 (ESV)

Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

Taylor is right to take this as a collective crown; the image should not be of one wearing multiple crowns stacked one upon another.  By “crown” the idea is that one is adorned in this way. Each element is responsive to an effect of sin and the fall.

A crown of life answers to death, which is the wage for sin (Rom. 6:23)

A crown of glory answers to the shame of sin.

A crown of righteousness answer to the guilt of sin.

All things in creation are subjected to futility (Rom. 8:20). The rewards of God will be unfading.

Notice that the crowns are not given for merit, but are given because the one who receives these crowns lacks this honor.  However, these crowns are granted upon a condition: not of merit but of faith. Refer back to 1 Peter 1:3-7.

Hence the next line of Taylor’s poem:

Shall faith in me shrink up for feebleness?

These crowns are conditional upon the existence of faith to receive them. These crowns are available to all on the condition of faith, but will my faith fail? Is my faith so feeble (as evidenced by my persistent sin) that it will be unable to lay hold upon these crowns which I so desperately need?

Here we have a pun upon the word “crown”: The top of the head, and the adornment of a king:

Nor take my sins by the crown, till crownless made?

Will I not take my sins by their head, to dispose of them, until I have lost the crown of life/glory/righteousness?  Or by crownless, does he mean he will be deposed? Dead, lost his head? Will never finally deal with sin until it comes to past that I have lost all?

Breathe, Lord, thy Spirit on my Faith, that I

May have thy crown of life, and sin may die.

I made an emendation here. I have two published versions of Taylor’s poems, and both record the first word of the 29th line as “breath”. But Taylor is unquestionably alluding to the act of Jesus after his resurrection as recorded in John:

John 20:21–22 (ESV)

21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

In himself, Taylor sees only the fear that his own faith will fail. And thus he prays that Jesus will breathe upon him and grant him the faith so that he may obtain the crown. Thus, the condition for the gift and the gift itself are both from the Lord.

Again, the crown is not a reward for a sinless life. Rather, the crown is given as victory over the sin:  By gaining the crown he will live.