The second “conclusion” or introductory point is “The believing sinner is the subject of gospel-repentance.”
First, only a sinner can repent, because repentance is a turning from sin. Thus, before the Fall, Adam could not repent. Repentance “is the work of a transgressor.”
Second, repentance is only the work of one who believes, who is seeking grace. To merely see one’s sin, to merely experience conviction is insufficient make for repentance. The sinner will repent only if he “see[s] a pardon procured for sin committed.”
Faith and unbelief thus stand as the basic components of one’s spiritual life toward God: “Faith must be the formal qualification of a gospel-penitent, as the very foundation and fountain of true repentance; unbelief is the very ground of impenitency, and lock of obduracy.” That last phrase is great, “lock of obduracy” a lock which cannot be moved or altered.
Faith permits a certain sort of understanding. When faith looks upon its proper object, the sight becomes an argument in favor of seeking the pardon: “Hence it is that the objects of faith become arguments, and the promises of grace persuasions, to repentance.” Faith argues for repentance.
Here he makes an interesting argument, “The approach of “the kingdom of God” is the only argument urged by John the Baptist, and our Saviour, to enforce repentance. (Matt. 3:2; 4:17.) The Gospels begin with Jesus and John the Baptist saying repent, the kingdom of God is at hand. The text does not record a different basis upon which one is to repent: God is here, repent.
When the cross is seen by faith, it shows the proof of the sight by repentance.
He then enters into the argument of the order of salvation: does faith or repentance come first?
In terms of cause and effect, faith must come before repentance. But in terms of our personal experience, the order is opposite: we repeat and then have the knowledge of our faith. “In order of sense and man’s feeling, repentance is indeed before faith; but, in divine method and the order of nature, faith is before repentance, as the fountain is before the stream.”
So faith makes plain to the sinner, his state of sin and need for pardon. Faith looks upon Christ. The sight of Christ by faith, draws out repentance because the sight of Christ provokes hope of pardon matched with the knowledge of sin.
The first lines are easily handled: Sin is the rust that keeps the chest of love closed. Simply remove the rust and oil the lock, and love will flow out to the Lord.
My wards is a bit obscure. It must be a reference to the facets of the lock which will open with the key: trig, move quickly. The presentation of God to the soul will awaken the soul. The image of love leaping upon the Lord is surprising. It seem almost irreverent.
The last two line present the sort of linguistic complications which often mark the “metaphysical” poets:
Giving hand receive again: Who is the giver and who the receiver here? The giving must be God, even though the poem has no clear identification. But in terms of relationship, God must be the one who give. The giving hands will then receive the love the receiver, who is the poet. The receiver’s heart is his heart. His heart is adorned with love as a wreath.
It must needs be: The necessity here is propriety not logical: it is right that you receive love from me. That makes clear sense, although this particular stanza is less successful than some others.
The previous post on Kuyper’s Common Grace, volume 1 may be found here.
Now on to the first question of chapter
Genesis 3:22 (ESV)
22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—”
What then is meant by the statement that the tree from which Adam and Eve were not to eat was the tree of the “Knowledge of Good and Evil.” The obvious answer, at least when we consider the frequency with which it is raised, is that the knowledge is the knowledge of experience. How could Adam and Eve “know” evil without being evil? I could know about arson or embezzlement or any number of crimes, without knowing what is like to commit such crimes. And perhaps the experience of evil would give me a different knowledge of the “good.”
Kuyper says that the held this position until he faced two objections with the explanation could not meet. Before we come to the objections, I would like to stop at Kuyper’s epistemic modesty, “it is fitting that one not begin by rejecting the work of one’s predecessors but by associating oneself with it.” Abraham Kuyper, Common Grace: God’s Gifts for a Fallen World: The Historical Section, ed. Jordan J. Ballor, Melvin Flikkema, and Stephen J. Grabill, trans. Nelson D. Kloosterman and Ed M. van der Maas, vol. 1, Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press; Acton Institute, 2015), 236.
What then are the objections. The first derives from the word of God respecting the effect of Adam and Eve eating from the tree, “they have become like one of us, knowing good and evil.” God cannot have experiential knowledge of evil, therefore, the comparison does not work. Thus, the knowledge cannot mean “experiential” knowledge.
The second objection is that sinning gives us no experience of “good.” But I believe that objection can be met by merely stating experiential knowledge of evil throws experiential knowledge of good (which Adam did have prior to eating) into relief and thus one gains a sort of experience of good with could not be had before.
Kuyper suggests that the knowledge here refers to not the experience of the thing but the choice:
4 Let us choose what is right;
let us know among ourselves what is good.
Job 34:4 (ESV) In this passage, choose is parallel to know, as right is parallel to good. He gives as an example, “For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” Genesis 18:19 (ESV) The ESV does the work for Kuyper, because the word translated “chosen,” “For I have chosen him” is the word ydh: the verb commonly translated as “to know.” The KJV (for instance) has “For I know him.”
This at least makes the argument plausible: that we should understand ydh (commonly translated “to know”) as to choose. The next test is whether that translation makes sense of Gen. 3:22
Kuyper further clarifies this use of “know” for “choose”: I know a thing, I evaluate, I then choose. Does that make sense of Gen. 3:22? Yes, the human being – rather than accept the valuation of God as to good and evil – has appropriate this power to himself.
Thus, the probation of Adam was, Will you allow God to make the determination of what is good or evil? Will commit moral valuation to me, or will you seek to make this determination yourself.
The tree thus provokes conscience, because conscience can only have play if there is a potential conflict between moral choices.
This leads to an understanding of human psychology. First, there is the evaluation. The evaluation of a thing as good or bad then brings the will to act based upon that judgment. However, that determination is subject to a further judgment of God. Conscience rightly working concurs with God on the moral valuation of a behavior, “Conscience is a conflict between two judgments: the judgment of man himself and that of God.” (242)
Such a determination corresponds well to the use of similar language by Paul:
Romans 1:28 (ESV)
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.
The first verb in that sentence, “see fit” comes from a verb which means to test and approve [dokimazo]
δοκιμάζωc: to regard something as genuine or worthy on the basis of testing—‘to judge to be genuine, to judge as good, to approve.’ μακάριος ὁ μὴ κρίνων ἑαυτὸν ἐν ᾧ δοκιμάζει ‘happy is the man who doesn’t cause himself to be condemned by what he judges to be good’ Ro 14:22; καθὼς οὐκ ἐδοκίμασαν τὸν θεὸν ἔχειν ἐν ἐπιγνώσει ‘since they did not approve of retaining the knowledge of God’ or ‘… of acknowledging God’ Ro 1:28. For another interpretation of δοκιμάζω in Ro 1:28, see 30.98.
The word translated as “debased” mind means “not” tested or approved. If you will not evaluate God correctly, you will be evaluated as condemned. By not accepting God’s evaluation of good and evil, we become evaluated as evil (or we have a mind that cannot properly evaluate). This is then matched by Romans 12:1-2
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:1–2 (ESV). Notice verse 2, you will be given the Spirit and thus in this transformation will begin to be able to test things to discern (by testing discern is the same verb dokimazo as used in Romans 1:28.
By eating the of the tree, Adam rejected God’s evaluation and was cast from the Garden. Romans 1:28 explains that having rejected God’s evaluation we are evaluated as debased (or we are unable to judge) and only in renewal of our mind can we begin to regain a right evaluation (by following God’s valuation).
In chapter Book 1, chapter 2, Gregory states that a pastor’s life should match the pastor’s doctrine. This is a statement which has been repeated many times throughout the history of the church.
Gregory writes, “There are some also who investigate spiritual precepts with cunning care, but what they penetrate with their understanding they trample on in their lives: all at once they teach the things which not by practice but by study they have learned; and what in words they preach by their manners they impugn.”
He then lists out the effects of this incongruence. First, rather than protecting the flock, the flock is ruined, “the shepherd walks through steep places, the flock follows to the precipice.” While put in a different manner, one of my students made the observation that a pastor can lead or hinder the flock. The pastor can limit the spiritual health of the congregation.
Second, the pastor’s unholy life damages the doctrine he preach. The image here is taken from sheep drinking at a stream. I found this image quite effective in showing the way in which the pastor’s conduct can hinder doctrine. The pastor drinks from a pure stream but then “foul the same water with their feet is to corrupt the studies of holy meditation by evil living. And verily the sheep drink the water fouled by their feet.”
Third, this wrong is rarely stopped, because the position of the pastor protects the pastor from criticism. “For him, when he transgresses, no one presumes to take to task; and the offense spreads forcibly for example, when out of reverence to his rank the sinner is honoured.” Having just finished Kruger’s Bully Pulpit, I can see the parallel to abusive pastor who uses his position to protect him from criticism.
Fourth, the incongruence is a danger to the pastor, because he incurs greater judgment: “Whoever shall offend one of these little oneswhich believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the seaMatthew 18:6. By the millstone is expressed the round and labour of worldly life, and by the depth of the sea is denoted final damnation. Whosoever, then, having come to bear the outward show of sanctity, either by word or example destroys others, it had indeed been better for him that earthly deeds in open guise should press him down to death than that sacred offices should point him out to others as imitable in his wrong-doing; because, surely, if he fell alone, the pains of hell would torment him in more tolerable degree.” Obviously James 3:1 would apply, “we who teach will be judge with greater strictness.”
A comment from McCheyne’s Memoirs made from the perspective of the pastor is fitting here:
“We speak much against unfaithful ministers, while we ourselves are awfully unfaithful! Are we never afraid that the cries of souls whom we have betrayed to perdition through our want of personal holiness, and our defective preaching of Christ crucified, may ring in our ears for ever? Our Lord is at the door. In the twinkling of an eye our work will be done. “Awake, awake, O arm of the Lord, awake as in the ancient days,” till every one of thy pastors be willing to impart to the flock, over which the Holy Ghost has made him overseer, not the gospel of God only, but also his own soul. And oh that each one were able, as he stands in the pastures feeding thy sheep and lambs, to look up and appeal to Thee: “Lord, Thou knowest all things! Thou knowest that I love Thee!” Robert Murray McCheyne and Andrew A. Bonar, Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne, (Edinburgh; London: Oliphant Anderson & Ferrier, 1894), 169–170.
Brings forth a birth of keys to unlock Love’s Chest, 5
That Love, like birds, may fly to’t from its nest.
(World’s largest wine tun)
Such is my Lord, and more. But what strange thing
Am I become? Sin rusts my lock all o’re.
Though he thousand keys all on a string
Takes out, scarce one, is found, unlocks the door. 10
Which ope, my love crincht in a corner lies
Like some shrunk crickling and scare can rise.
To “tun” to store in a tun, a cask.
Vaper: turn to vapor? (There is a contemporary definition of the word meaning one who “vapes.)
Crinch: An obsolete dialect form of “cringe”. The idea being to grind or to be a small ground down bit. Here the meaning is to be folded or cramped into a corner.
Crickling: something small, shrunken
The Motto as printed mistakenly reads Revelation 3:22, but quotes from
Revelation 3:21 (KJV)
21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
This comes at the end of the seven “letters” which Jesus sends to seven churches. In addition to various warnings and commendations, Jesus makes promises to the church. This is the final promise to the churches. To sit on the throne with does not mean two people physically sitting in the same chair but rather sharing in one’s inheritance and power. To this extent the promise echoes:
Romans 8:14–17 (KJV)
14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
Apples of gold this line is an allusion to Proverbs 25:11 “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.”
Here “shrined” must mean placed.
Enchant the appetite, make mouths to water. The sight of something delicious stimulates the appetite. A side note: I just finished teaching the chapter on motivation for introductory psychology. The textbook reports the finding that sensory exposure to food can stimulate the appetite. Apparently Taylor happened upon this scientific discovery some years earlier.
And loveliness in lumps tunn’d and enshrined
In jasper cask, when tapped, doth briskly vaper.
These lines function as a repetition of the concept from the first two lines: When exposed to something beautiful or desirable, the effect to create positive response. I must admit that the use of the word “lump” with a positive connotation is difficult for modern ears but the sound of the line is excellent. There the repetition of “l” loveliness/lumps. The repeated “u” “lumps tunn’d”. The repetition of the “t” and “d” tunn’d/tapped creates a near rhyme. The “enshrined” parallels the “shrined” of the first line.
The last word “vaper” must then parallel the conceit of a positive response (mouths to water = vaper), but I am not quite certain of Taylor’s meaning.
Perhaps it means to turn to vapor which then leads to the next image:
doth briskly vaper:
Brings forth a birth of keys
Here the subjective effect of the sight moves from taste/appetite, to vapor, to mental state which is akin to keys which open a chest. The move between psychological states and concrete images is something.
One could either find the shift between mental states and physical objects too remote and dissonant to be effective. But as I work with this idea, I like the movement here. I come to a sight. The sight strikes and creates a strong desire. That desire is a key which will open a chest.
In that manner I find the movement of images effective: Desire certainly can be a power which opens “Love’s Chest.” In fact, it is hard to conceive of love without desire for the beloved:
Brings forth a birth of keys to unlock Love’s Chest, 5
That Love, like birds, may fly to’t from its nest.
The sight of this chest creates strong desire in me, which opens this chest. This chest, “love’s chest” welcomes love to enter, like a bird it will there.
The difficulty of Taylor’s images can either be taken as a needlessly difficult puzzle, or as a faithful representation of manner in which ideas move from one-association to another. The poem is not impenetrable. Rather the difficulty can lie in the difficulty of tracing another human being’s thought.
What is interesting, is that we do not know yet what Taylor has seen. The references to the apples of gold or loveliness in lumps are stand-ins for what he has actually come to see. But that is not revealed until the first line of the second stanza:
Such is my Lord, and more.
We can now fill-in the movement of thought. The sight of my Lord creates such desire, that it opens a chest for love to enter and remain. The Second Meditation refers to a soul as a cabinet wherein the Lord could be present as something of inestimable value.
This then leads to an overarching theme of Taylor’s poetry: the beauty/holiness/wonder of the Lord when brought into contrast with the unworthiness of the poet. There is an absurd difference between the greatness of God and the sinfulness of the man.
The next movement of the story should “obviously” be he will open his life to this beauty. But instead, sin has intervened. The key of desire cannot open the chest for love, because Sin rusts my lock all o’re
Here his imagery becomes a bit confused but still consistent in its emphasis:
Though he thousand keys all on a string
Takes out, scarce one, is found, unlocks the door. 10
The rhetoric around the death of Michael Servetus is extraordinary. On one hand, it seems that John Calvin dragged a peaceable, intelligent, urbane scientist to the stake with his bare hands; forcibly tied the man of the world to the post and lit a fire using nothing more than burning hatred and malevolent intent. On the other hand are those, deny any relationship between the execution and the pastor. (The weight of popular opinion lying far more heavily in favor of Calvin being a murderous beast.)
If you think I overstate the case, an internet search will set you straight.
If anyone would actually be concerned with the facts rather than accusations of this matter, I have found no better resource than Jonathan Moorhead’s Trial of the 16th Century, Calvin & Servetus. Dr. Moorhead seeks to neither castigate nor defend the participants. Rather, he performs the far more useful historical task of seeking to understand the participants on their own terms.
Moorhead understands his task as follows:
Since the writing of history is an ethical responsibility, it is important to be cautious of anachronism. To judge another culture and time based upon one’s own is unfair, and is a violation of the golden rule to treat others as one wants to be treated. As such, anachronistic judgments are unethical. Each time period must be judged by the prevailing laws of the time, not those of the future. Primary evidence of this, as previously mentioned, is Scripture itself. Charity is thus needed to evaluate those with whom we agree theologically, and those with whom we do not. (Moorhead, Jonathan. The Trial of the 16th Century: Calvin & Servetus (pp. 91-92). Christian Focus Publications. Kindle Edition.)
I found Moorhouse to meet this test quite well. First, he cites to his evidence and does not go beyond his evidence. I never found him inflammatory nor did I see evidence of trying to excuse anyone. Second, he puts the primary “problem” for contemporary understanding of this execution front and center. We find the execution of someone for heresy disturbing, at least. However, in the 16th Century, execution for heresy was a common place throughout Europe and was approved by all governments and leading religious figures. Moorhead provides numerous quotations from Protestant leaders, so that no contemporary Protestant reader can try to foist this opinion onto some other group nor try to turn Calvin in a 21st Century figure.
Third, Moorheads spends considerable time placing Calvin and the Servetus into historical context. While I have general knowledge of the 16th Century and know some general trends, what I did not know was the immediate context for Calvin and Servetus on the days in question.
Calvin was in the midst of a conflict with the political leaders in Geneva when the events of Servetus took place. There was significant history between Calvin and Servetus. Servetus had his own context which intersected with Calvin resulting in an outcome that neither man could control.
The context and forces pressing upon the people involved extended beyond Calvin or Servetus. Geneva, and the Reformation, were faced with pressures and decisions which went beyond the immediate question of what this City was to do with this heretic. The decisions made in Geneva had effects throughout Europe.
This third element, the particular context for these particular people at this particular time, goes a long to help understanding why other heretics were simply banished, while Servetus was executed.
At the end of the book Moorhead add a helpful Appendix which summarizes the 22 steps in his analysis. For instance, point 1, “Imperial law stated that Anabaptism and denying the Trinity were heresies punishable by death.”
The book was well written and to the point. While one learns a great deal about Calvin, Servetus, as well the political and religious world of the 16th Century, the focus always remains upon the central issue(s), “Did Calvin want Servetus to be executed? Did he try to lure him to Geneva to be killed? Was Calvin the Pope of Geneva that dictated the direction of the trial? Did he murder Servetus?”
I have purposefully not disclosed the conclusions which Moorheard reaches in this book, because I want you to read it. I highly recommend this volume.
In Puritan Sermons, Volume 5 (James Nichols) we find the sermon of Zachary Crofton, A.M., “Repentance not to be Repented” defines repentance as follows: “Repentance is a grace supernatural, whereby the believing sinner, sensibly affected with and afflicted for his sin as committed against God, freely confessing, and fervently begging pardon, turneth from all sin to God.” (372)
On the first element, a “supernatural grace” Crofton makes a distinction which is not often heard: repentance is the principle animating the action, not the action itself: “it is a habit, power, principle, spring, root, and disposition; not a bare, single, and transient action.” (373) He then furthers this point by adding repentance is distinct “from all penitential acts: sighing, self-castigation, and abstinence from all sinful actions, are fruits and expressions of repentance, but not the grace itself.”
As such, it is easier to understand his insistence that repentance is a supernatural grace given by God. This grace, that is gift of God, causes the human being to act in accordance therewith, “The power and principle is divine; but act and exercise of repentance is human: God plants the root whereby man brings forth fruit worthy repentance.”
The first of Luther’s 95 theses was, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” When thought of as action, the statement seems difficult to understand. However when understood as a principle, a disposition (as is in Crofton), such a life of repentance makes sense, “Repentance is not the work of an hour, or a day; but a constant frame, course, and bent of the soul, on all renewed guilt flowing afresh, and bringing forth renewed acts.” (373)
It is a principle which when exposed to guilty responds with penitential action. It is a relationship to sin of abhorrence. Notice also that repentance differs from mere guilt at being exposed to the law. Instead, repentance is a supernatural gift of the Gospel:
“Repentance is not the result of purest nature, nor yet the effect of the law; but a pure gospel-grace; preached by the gospel, promised in the covenant, sealed in baptism, produced by the Spirit, properly flowing from the blood of Christ; and so is every way supernatural.” (374)
I remember reading years a quote (and I cannot remember the source), someone making the observation that we care more for the training of plumbers than pastors, because we do not think a pastor can hurt us. That quotes comes to mind, when reading this introduction to Gregory the Great’s Book on Pastoral Care:
No one presumes to teach an art till he has first, with intent meditation, learned it. What rashness is it, then, for the unskilful to assume pastoral authority, since the government of souls is the art of arts! For who can be ignorant that the sores of the thoughts of men are more occult than the sores of the bowels? And yet how often do men who have no knowledge whatever of spiritual precepts fearlessly profess themselves physicians of the heart, though those who are ignorant of the effect of drugs blush to appear as physicians of the flesh!
That phrase “physicians of the heart” raises a point. I wonder how rarely that particular aspect of pastoral care is thought of when it comes to pastoral work. On one hand, there are those who delegate this duty to academic psychology, which at best will have a truncated understanding of a human being (how does one “scientifically” apprise the spiritual state and the eternal nature of a human being?). On the other are those who seem to think the heart can be cured by laying propositions upon one as if bare ignorance of a proposition were the whole of human trouble.
After rehearsing the requirement that pastors must have requisite skill and knowledge to their work, he then states that ignorance will not act as a defense:
Yet this unskilfulness of the shepherds doubtless suits often the deserts of those who are subject to them, because, though it is their own fault that they have not the light of knowledge, yet it is in the dealing of strict judgment that through their ignorance those also who follow them should stumble. Hence it is that, in the Gospel, the Truth in person says, If the blind lead the blind, both fall into the ditch Matthew 15:14. Hence the Psalmist (not expressing his own desire, but in his ministry as a prophet) denounces such, when he says, Let their eyes be blinded that they see not, and ever bow down their back Psalm 68:24. For, indeed, those persons are eyes who, placed in the very face of the highest dignity, have undertaken the office of spying out the road; while those who are attached to them and follow them are denominated backs. And so, when the eyes are blinded, the back is bent, because, when those who go before lose the light of knowledge, those who follow are bowed down to carry the burden of their sins.
He ends with a fairly straightforward prayer of anticipation and request for help to continue ot praise.
The sound pun on “Î” is clever: “while I eye”. We have three uses of the sound in three words. We have the repetition in the next line: “as I, I’ll”
To “eye” the place prepared, is to think about the place prepared by Christ. This is a reference to motto for the poem, John 14:2. Christ has told his disciples that he will be leaving, which has grieved them. He comforts them with the promise that he goes to “prepare a place” for them. Taylor takes that promise (which was not merely to the disciples then present), and looks upon that place in his mind’s eye.
That place is someone like the poet, who has already lamented his unworthiness before God. And yet, he has this promise: he will wait until Christ comes for him, “as tis declared.”
What can do but offer this poem as a means to give Christ glory,
Here is a key to understanding this poem:
I would do more but can’t.
He is looking about for how he can repay this graciousness? He cannot do anything but give glory to God by offering God praise. Which has been the point of the poem. And so he repeats his prayer from the previous stanza, requesting help from God to give praise to God:
Lord help me do
That I may pay in glory what I owe.
The glory of praise does not increase the glory of God, and yet God permits the praise.
This prayer is not merely directed back to the instant praise and poem, but also requests future help. Obviously, this would include Taylor’s other poems, but it also speaks to all instances upon which he can praise.
Having examined the impossible goods of the Lord to pay his debt and set him free from the debtor’s prison of death by overing the debt from the prison, the grave, what can be said. This makes no “sense”: What does God obtain from saving me from my own rebellion.
In trying to make sense this, the poet can do no more but turn to his reason, which would seek to explain all and tell his reason to stand back and just admire:
Reason, lie prison’d in this golden chain.
Chain up thy tongue and silent stand awhile
The repetition the word “chain” and the repetition of the image of the prison work well here. The Lord has set me free from the prison, so you stand here imprisoned and be silent. The chain is golden because it is so wonderful, but it is a chain of goodness and release. William Ames had years previous published his “Golden Chain” to speak of God’s salvation and predestination. The image of a golden chain of salvation was taken up by other Puritan writers:
The gracious purpose of God is the fountain-head of all our spiritual blessings. It is the impulsive cause of our vocation, justification, glorification; it is the highest link in the golden chain of salvation. What is the reason that God has entered into a covenant with fallen man? it is from his eternal purpose.
Thomas Brooks, The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart, vol. 5 (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1867), 316–317.
To give just one more instance:
Again, tell me, O despairing soul, is not the grace of God free grace, is not man’s salvation of free grace?2 ‘By grace ye are saved,’ Ephes. 2:8. Every link of this golden chain is grace. It is free grace that chose us, Rom. 11:5. Even so then at this present time also there is ‘a remnant according to the election of grace.’ It is free grace that chooses some to be jewels from all eternity, that chooses some to life, when others are left in darkness.
Thomas Brooks, The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart, vol. 2 (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1866), 375.
By referring to this salvation as a golden chain is thus unique to Taylor. But what Taylor does with this image is turn it upon reason which would seek a reason for God’s love. That golden chain of salvation is a golden chain which chains up the mouth of reason.
It has nothing more to say.
Reason seeks to capture and limit and make a thing comprehensible. But this love is to be praised, not to be parsed and understood.
He then explains to his Reason to rather receive what is being given:
Let this rich love thy love and heart obtain
It reminds me of John Donne’s Poem The Canonization which begins
For God’s sake hold your tongue, and let me love
I do not know if Taylor was familiar with this particular poem, but the progression of images is similar.
And yet, it does not stand in complete silence: but rather than explain he praises:
To tend thy Lord in all admiring style.
Receive this love, then praise: “tend thy Lord” and how so, “in all admiring style.”
He then turns to the Lord with a prayer asking for help to praise the Lord:
Lord screw my faculties up to the skill
And height of praise as answers thy good will.
Lord give me the powers (screw up my facilities). This means to tighten up to prepare. As Lady Macbeth says to her wavering husband: “But screw your courage to the sticking place.”
Prepare and make ready by abilities. Do not let them fail. Make me able to provide the praise which makes the good which you have done me.
This means then that the poem and the act of prayer in the poem are self-referential. Lord help me praise you. The poem is itself the praise which he prayed to receive.
This is an interesting facet of Taylor’s poetry: the degree to which the poem references itself. The preceding stanzas of the poem, which were all praise to the goodness of God are the praise for which he prays at the end of the poem.