We learn through fiction because we encounter in it the translucent images the writer has cunningly projected out of an intuitively grasped fund of experience not dissimilar to our own, only shaped, defined, ordered, probed in ways we never manage in the muddled and diffuse transactions of our own lives. The figures of fiction need not be verisimilar in an obvious way to embody such truths, for exaggeration or stylization may be a means of exposing what is ordinarily hidden, and fantasy may faithfully represent an inner or suppressed reality.
….What I should like to stress is that fiction is a mode of knowledge not only because it is a certain way of imagining characters and events in their shifting, elusive, revelatory interconnections but also because it possesses a certain repertoire of techniques for telling a story.
This is a horrifying poem in many ways. Although written from a profoundly pagan point of view (that life is a sort of force which of its own runs through all living things and our life is ultimately impersonal and not our own), the moral of the poem is as critical of lust as the most passionate turn or burn preacher.
The poem begins with a phrase which may be an imagining which may be a wish or a fear.
To be encompassed by the brilliant earth.
I hope to be, I fear to be, I may be; I am fascinated by, or I am in terror of, this encompassing. The use of the verb “encompassed” provides the ambiguity. For instance, if we change the verb to “buried” or “crushed,” we could easily see the negative. If we read “blanketed” of “cradled,” we could see this as a good. But encompassed denotes a state without providing a connotation to relieve the ambiguity.
Moreover, there is an ambiguity as to whether the poet considers his own, another’s, or the abstracted idea, of the state of encompassing.
The phrase the brilliant earth is one of the paradoxical turns one finds in Dylan. The earth by nature is not “brilliant”: it does exhibit light. There are a few ways we could take this phrase.
The easiest way to “understand” the phrase would be to reject it as nonsense. If we were to find this phrase in a textbook on dirt we would have to think of the phrase as somehow in error.
However, since we are reading a work of creative literature, and a poem by Dylan Thomas in particular, we charitably consider this as a deliberately paradoxical phrase; perhaps along the lines of a Zen koan. If this phrase is not to be taken as a deliberate contradiction nor a “literal” description of glowing dirt, what could Dylan’s point be?
It might be there is a sort of “brilliance” in the earth which is not immediately the subject of apprehension. It might be a metaphorical brilliance: The earth is living or active in some sense and exudes something which could be described as “brilliant”. It might be a reference to the effect upon the poet: somehow the earth has made in me the sensation that the earth is brilliant.
We could also conclude that “earth” has reference which is not precisely inert dirt in the field. What this reference could be is unclear at this point.
Of course, the metaphorical use could entail both elements.
And thus at the end of the first line, we are in a state of necessary ambivalence.
The line scans as follows:
to BE encompassed [pause] by the BRILLiant EARTH
The two halves of the line are held together by the alliteration of “B” on either side of the pause: Be Brilliant
The second line
Breathing on all sides pungently
This line connects to the prior line as follows:
The “B” of “Breathing. This point is emphasized by the accent on the first syllable.
The entire line also functions as an appositive to the “brilliant earth”: The “brilliant earth [is] breathing.”
The description of the earth “breathing” complicates the problem of the first line in describing earth. So we now know the earth is “brilliant” and “breathes”. How this could be so is not yet clear. But by the addition of “breathing” tells us that somehow the earth is alive. The brilliance is just glowing dirt: this living entity.
The prepositional phrase, “on all sides” complements “encompassing”. This does not answer who is encompassed by the earth (the poet or another).
Someone is now on all sides experiencing a living, breathing earth. Moreover, this experience is intimate: the earth is close enough, one can experience this “pungent” breathing.
Into her vegetation’s lapping mouths
Where does the vegetation have a mouth? Does the earth breathe into the roots or the leaves?
This also changes the tenor of the adverb “pungently”. Rather than emphasizing the earth’s bad breath, it seems to emphasize the pointedness of the earth’s action.
The vegetation is pictured as an animal lapping at the water: but here, rather than water it is the breathing earth.
At this point, the poem takes a dramatic turn:
Must feel like such encroachment
As edges off your nerves to mine,
The relationship between the mouths and the breathing earth is pictured as an “encroachment”: it is a forcible entrance, or a least an unwelcomed entrance.
At this point, the metaphorical language of a brilliant, breathing earth becomes another step removed from experience: the earth and the plants mouths are not “your nerves to mine”.
The first clause, “as edges off” modifies the “encroachment”.
We have now moved from actual plants and earth to the poet and someone else. Precisely what is taking place here is not exactly clear, but the relationship between this poet and, we can presume at this point, a lover is extraordinarily intimate.
This also raises a theme which runs through other poems by Thomas such as
The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age
This concept of there being a continuous correlation between the life of plants and nature and his own life. Because of this theme, it is perhaps wrong to understand the current poem (To be encompassed ….) is not using the language of earth and plants as merely a conceit: a metaphor to dress-up the relationship between the poet and lover, but rather to express something which Thomas contends is inherent in the relationship.
He is pointing out something which is intimate, but also (he sees) as impersonal. Walt Whitman makes a similar argument in Song of Myself:
Urge and urge and urge,
Always the procreant urge of the world.
It is as if Thomas is speaking to her and removing the personal him and her from the equation and contending for a deeply impersonal intimacy. He even describes this intimacy as something which “love” or “look” (there knowledge and notice of one-another) as trammeling upon the intimacy:
The hemming contact that’s so trammelled
By love or look,
The contact is not profound, rather it is “hemmed.” The intimacy of the two is the intimacy of plants in the soil. It is not even animalistic, but rather vegetable. It does not sound passionate or even desirable: breath is pungent, the intimacy an encroachment. The brilliant earth thus comes back not as a joyous brilliance but rather a description of energy: as if life were a thing like gravity which just acted without personality.
The trammeling is further explicated in these lines:
In death or out of death,
Glancing from the yellow nut,
Eyeing from the wax’s tower,
Or, white as milk, out of the seeping dark,
The exact references of these lines are unclear to me. The first line “In death or out of death” make sense, because this force is not something confined to persons, but a force which courses through nature with or without Thomas’s existence.
I can’t make out the “yellow nut,” unless it is some reference to birth in the way that a wax tower which would melt with heat is a reference to death. That life-death-life movement would make sense of nut and wax, and then white seeping from dark: a force of life which moves through opposites and moves through people without any person being their own life.
The poem ends with this horrifying lines:
The drooping as you close me in
A world of webs
I touch and break,
I touch and break.
The lover’s closeness is “drooping” she closes in on him in a manner which he describes as “a world of webs”. This intimacy is no loving relationship, rather it is a black widow coming into the kill the male with whom she mates. This moment of procreation will he is death:
“I touch and break.”
To touch her is to be destroyed.
This moment of dispassionate lust, a lust which is independent of either the poet or the woman, results in profound disillusionment. It something forced upon them both, something which love or true intimacy can only ‘trammel’ upon. They are forced into this “encroachment” which overwhelms them. In the end, she comes to him as a spider who destroys him as soon as she touches him.
Thomas decidedly does not call this lust “sin”: sin would be too volitional an understanding. But the result of this lust is certainly death.
This then leads us back to the first line of the poem: On the first run through, one lover encompassing the other is the “brilliant earth”. The brilliant earth is the human being made of earth and animated by the “green force”. But here at the end, we return to the earth and now it is a tomb: he has been buried. The procreative act is also the entombing action. Life runs through the human, running the puppet from life to death to life and so on.
So I hated life
Because what is done under the sun is grievous to me
O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. Take with you words, and turn to the Lord; say unto him, Take away all iniquity, &c.—Hos. 14:1, 2.
The whole frame of godliness is a mystery, Col. 1:26.
(The italicized sections are comments upon Sibbes’ sermon) And here is the greatest mystery:
the graciousness and abundant tender mercy of God towards miserable, wretched, and sinful creatures; even in the height of their rebellion, appointing such a remedy to heal them.
This is the subject of Hosea 14. Historical background for the chapter. In a time of apostacy, we read these
many excellent and heavenly encouragements; also many earnest incitements to repentance and returning to the Lord, with free and gracious promises, not only of pardon and acceptance, but of great rewards in things spiritual and temporal to such as should thus return.
‘O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God, for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.’
‘Take with you words, and turn to the Lord; say unto him, Take away all iniquity,’ &c.
At this point, Sibbes lays out the elements of the Lord’s call to repentance. This paying attention to the particular elements of a passage, noting the grammatical, logical, and psychological elements, is a commonplace among Puritan works:
In this chapter we have,
1. An exhortation to repentance, with the motives enforcing the same: ‘O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God,’ ver. 1.
2. The form: ‘Take with you words, and say unto the Lord,’ &c., ver. 2.
3. A restipulation, what they should do: and return back again, having their prayers granted. 1. Thanksgiving: ‘So will we render the calves of our lips.’ 2. Sound reformation of their beloved sin: ‘Ashur shall not save us,’ &c.; with the reason thereof: ‘For in thee the fatherless findeth mercy,’ ver. 3.
4. God’s answer to their petitions. 1. In what he will do for them: ‘Heal their backsliding, love them freely, and be as the dew unto Israel;’ with the reason thereof: ‘For mine anger is turned away from him,’ ver. 4. 2. What he will work in them, a proportionable speedy growth in height, breadth, and depth: ‘He shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon,’ &c.; which mercy is further amplified by a blessing poured out also upon their families: ‘They that dwell under his shadow shall return,’ ver. 5–7.
5. There is set down a further effect of this repentance and gracious work in them, a sound and strong well-rooted indignation against their former darling sins; ‘Ephraim shall say, What have I any more to do with idols?’ backed with a strong consolation: ‘I have heard him and observed him,’ &c., ver. 8.
6. The diverse event and issue of this God’s so gracious dealing, is shewed both in the godly and wicked. 1. The wise and prudent understand and know that the ways of the Lord are right, and shall walk in them; but, 2. ‘The transgressors shall fall therein,’ ver. 9.
Having considered the overall passage, Sibbes now turns to the first sentence:
‘O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God, for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.’
Every word hath his weight, and, in a manner, is an argument to enforce this returning.
Here he breaks out the elements of the sentence. Notice that when he takes the first word “Israel,” he does more than note this is the subject of the sentence. He thinks, why this word here? Why does God begin with the vocative “Israel” to begin his call to repentance. To understand the importance of this, consider the alternative ways God could have begun this call. Or think of an individual: You could address an individual in a number of ways from formal to familiar to affectionate.
‘O Israel!’ Israel, we know, 1, is a word of covenant. Jacob was Israel, a prince and wrestler with God, as they also ought to be. Therefore he enforceth, You also ought to return, because you are Israel.
And, 2, It was also an encouragement for them to return, because God so acknowledgeth them to be Israel, and will be gracious unto them, though they were such hideous sinners.
Next element: Return. In this passage, Sibbes alludes to Augustine’s Confessions:
‘Return,’ saith he, ‘unto the Lord Jehovah,’ who is the chief good. For when a man returneth to the creature, which is a particular, changeable good, unsatisfying [to] the soul, he is restless still until he come unto Jehovah, who is the all-sufficient, universal good, who fills and fills the soul abundantly.
Therefore, ‘return’ to him who is the fountain of all good, and giveth a being unto all things, and not to ‘broken cisterns,’ Jer. 2:13.
He is Jehovah, like himself, and ‘changeth not.’
There is another element to this beckoning return:
And then he is thy God. Therefore, return to him who is thy God in covenant, who will make good his gracious covenant unto thee, and did choose thee to be ‘his people before all the nations of the world.’ This, therefore, is also an encouragement to return.
What is the necessity of this return. Note how the logical elements of the text are laid out: There is a command and a rationale:
‘Thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.’ Therefore, because thou art fallen by thy iniquities, and thine own inventions have brought these miseries upon thee, and none but God can help thee out of these miseries, seeing he only can, and is willing to forgive thy sins and revive thee, therefore,‘O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God, for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.’
He then comes to a doctrinal observation:
Now, in that he forewarneth them of the fearful judgments to come, which were to fall upon them unless they were prevented by true repentance, hence in general it is to be observed,
That God comes not as a sudden storm upon his people, but gives them warning before he smites them.
Proof of the point:
This is verified in Scripture. [He here lists Gen. 18:20-21, Ex. 11, Amos 4:12, Matt. 23:37.]
Here Sibbes answers a question: Why does God give warning first? Spurgeon would at this point say, “Someone will ask the question, Why does God give warning after warning before he brings judgment?” Sibbes provides two answers: God’s nature and his care:
The reason hereof is, his own nature. ‘He is a God of long-suffering,’ Exod. 34:6. He made the world in six days, yet hath continued it six thousand years, notwithstanding the many sins and provocations thereof, ‘his mercies being over all his works,’ Ps. 145:9.
2. And partly from a special regard to his own dear children, these terrible threatenings not being killing and wounding, but, like Jonathan’s warning arrows, who, though he shot, yet meant no other harm to David save to forewarn him of harm, 1 Sam. 20:20.
Having raised a doctrinal point, he now brings an application: If God is gracious in warning, then we must be wise in heeding those warnings:
Use. Let us, therefore, observe God’s gracious and mild dealing in so much mercy, who giveth us so many warnings by his servants, and lesser judgments which we have had amongst us; let us take notice and believe, so as belief may stir up fear, and fear may provoke care, and care stir up endeavours to provide us an ark, even a hiding-place betimes, before winter and worse times come upon us.
Hence issueth another general point, that
The best provision for preventing of destruction is spiritual means.
To understand this point, we must understand primary and secondary causes: If I strike a cue ball with a stick and the cue rolls and hits the eight ball: my stick is the primary cause of the cue ball striking the eight ball, it comes first in time. The cue ball is the proximate and immediate cause, but the cue was set in motion earlier. This gives a rough approximation of the manner in which God’s agency stands behind created agencies. Sibbes point is that we concern ourselves with the cue ball and ignore the stick: we concern ourselves with the immediate problem and ignore God.
God himself is a spirit, and spiritual means reach unto him who is the first mover of the great wheel of all the affairs of this world. It is preposterous to begin at the second cause. We trouble ourselves in vain there, when we neglect the first. We should therefore begin the work in heaven, and first of all take up that quarrel which is between God and our souls. If this be done first, we need not fear the carriage of second things, all which God, out of his good providence and gracious care, will frame to work for good to his, Rom. 8:28, for whose sakes, rather than help should fail, he will create new helps, Isa. 4:5. Wherefore, in all things it is best to begin with God.
And so, if I am in distress, my first concern should be with God who has sovereignty over all things in my circumstance. God will work out all things for good.
In this stanza, he pictures the flow from grace which runs into the souls of those who receive the ordinance, the Lord’s Supper. Grace is poured out as wine.
The entire stanza is a display of the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper. The rite is performed with bread and wine, hence the display of wine as the grace of God.
The praise of the ordinance is not a matter unique to Taylor. Here, is a section from a near contemporary, Thomas Watson:
The gracious soul flies as a dove to an ordinance, upon the wings of delight. The sacrament is his delight. On this day the Lord makes “a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined,” Isa. 25:6. A sacrament day is a soul-festival day; here Christ takes the soul into his banqueting-house, and “displays the banner of love over it,” Cant. 2:4. Here are heavenly delicacies set before us. Christ gives us his body and blood. This is angels’ food, this is the heavenly nectar, here is a cup perfumed with the divine nature; here is wine spiced with the love of God. The Jews at their feasts poured ointment upon their guests; here Christ pours the oil of gladness into the heart. This is the king’s bath where we wash and are cleansed of our leprosy: the withered soul, after the receiving this blessed eucharist, hath been like a watered garden, Isa. 58:11. or like Egyptian fields, after the overflowing of the Nile, fruitful and flourishing; and do you wonder that a child of God delights in holy things? he must needs be a volunteer in religion.
Thomas Watson, A Divine Cordial; The Saint’s Spiritual Delight; The Holy Eucharist; and Other Treatises, The Writings of the Doctrinal Puritans and Divines of the Seventeenth Century. Here we see many of the same elements: wine, love, delight, angels, cups, et cetera.
Here are the particular elements of the scene:
The whole takes place at “Grace’s wine-vats.” The word in the manuscript is apparently “fat,” but vat makes more sense
He then details what is seen there:
First, it is the place where, “Thy Spirit walks.” This is an unusual way to speak of the Spirit. But to have the Spirit here at the head of the understanding of the ordinance is quite understandable for Taylor. As Calvin writes in the Institutes, the Spirit communicates Christ to the recipient:
To summarize: our souls are fed by the flesh and blood of Christ in the same way that bread and wine keep and sustain physical life. For the analogy of the sign applies only if souls find their nourishment in Christ—which cannot happen unless Christ truly grows into one with us, and refreshes us by the eating of his flesh and the drinking of his blood.
Even though it seems unbelievable that Christ’s flesh, separated from us by such great distance, penetrates to us, so that it becomes our food, let us remember how far the secret power of the Holy Spirit towers above all our senses, and how foolish it is to wish to measure his immeasurableness by our measure. What, then, our mind does not comprehend, let faith conceive: that the Spirit truly unites things separated in space
John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion & 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, vol. 1, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 1370. And so, the Supper is indeed a place where the Spirits walks (if you will). This point could be further developed, but this suffices to show what Taylor intends by place the Spirit first at these vats of Grace.
Next, he says this is the place where “Grace’s runs do lie.”
This is the place where grace flows, which matches the remainder of the poem’s image of grace flowing from the throne.
Next, there are angels standing as it were with cups of this heavenly wine, the “holy cheer.” The use of angels is interesting, because angels are not directly associated with the Supper. However, angels are said to be “ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit eternal life.” Heb. 1:14. Their mention also identifies this a spiritual or heavenly scene.
The whole flows from “Grace’s conduit head” – which was identified in the previous stanza as the Father’s throne and the Lord’s heart.
with all supply: this phrase means it is endless: the source for this grace is full-up.
The use of the word “bowls” in apposition to “vessels” makes it plain these are drinking bowls.
And in the end of the scene we see where the grace flows into “precious souls” – those who receive the supper.
At this point, it should be noted that the understanding of the “grace” received by the recipient differs among the various Christian traditions. And so Taylor would not have the same understanding of either the communication grace from God and the reception of grace by the communicant as would a contemporary Roman Catholic theologian.
The first line contains an express pause at the comma after ordinance, but also an unmarked pause after vats:
Thirdly, To exercise ourselves to godliness, implieth to persevere in it with constancy to our dissolution.
1. It is like a man’s labor.
Here he again uses an analogy of one’s work to both illustrate and prove his point. It is interesting in considering this analogy for a modern reader, because we are directed not to working until we end or our life, but rather to retire.
Men follow their trades, and open their shops, till death shut their eyes, and gives them a writ of ease; men pursue their earthly works, till death sound a retreat, and command their appearance in the other world. Many a one hath breathed out his last in the midst of his labour: his life and his labour have ended together.
This verse is a passage which I have to realize does not reference one’s vocation but the calling in the service of the Lord.
‘Let every man abide in the calling whereto he is called,’ saith the apostle, 1 Cor. 7:24.
Then cites to an interesting passage from Psalm 104. There are number of instances of the Lord’s management of the natural world, the moon and sun, the night animals, and then the sun rising and the animals returning. Finally, “Man goes out to his work and to his labor until evening.”
They who make religion their business, are constant, immoveable, and do ‘always abound in the work of the Lord.’ Their day of life is their day of labour;’ the sun ariseth, and man goeth to his labour until the evening,’ Ps. 104:23.
Death only is their night of resting, when they die in the Lord; then, and not till then, they ‘rest from their labours.’
2. They start and finish strong.
Saints are compared to palm-trees, because they flourish soon; to cedars, because they continue long; they often set out with the first, but always hold on to the last.2 The philosopher being asked in his old age why he did not give over his studies, answered, When a man is to run a race of forty furlongs, he will not sit down at the thirty-ninth, and lose the prize. The pious soul is faithful unto death, and enjoyeth a crown of life. As Cæsar, he is always marching forward, and thinks nothing done whilst anything remains undone.
3. They are constant in their work.
He begins this aspect of perseverance with a quotation from the letters to the Church of Revelation. The Lord addresses seven churches, which he either praises or chastises for various points of their conduct. The first church addressed, which begisn with a commendation: their “toil and patient endurance”; their labor in which they have “not grown weary”.
As they are fervent in their work, so they are constant at their work. The church of Ephesus had letters testimonial from heaven; ‘For my name’s sake thou hast laboured, and hast not fainted,’ Rev. 2:3.
His reference to “baths” must be to warm springs of some sort. While the physics in the end is mistaken (there is nothing in the water of the springs which makes them warm: they merely have a constant supply of heat from the earth beneath), the analogy is plain. It is in the nature of spring to be warm. It is thus in the nature of a godly man to be constant setting toward godliness.
Water in the baths is always warm; as long as there is water, there is heat. Not so our ordinary water; though this may be warmed by the fire at present, yet if taken off it returns to its former coldness, nay, it is colder than before, because the spirits which kept it from the extremity of cold, are by the fire boiled out of it. The reason is plain; the heat of the baths is from an inward principle, and therefore is permanent; the heat of the latter is from an external cause, and therefore is inconstant.
At this point, he begins a series of comparisons and contrasts. The gist of these comparisons is that an action which does not flow from an “inward principle” will not be continuous in its operation.
First comparison: a godliness based upon conscience:
That warmth of piety which proceeds from an inward principle of a purified conscience, is accompanied with perseverance; but that profession which floweth from an outward motive, where men, as chameleons, take their colour from that which stands next them, their religion from those they have their dependence upon, is of short duration.
A constancy based upon sincerity:
A man that minds religion by the by is like Nebuchadnezzar’s image, he hath a head of gold, but feet of clay. His beginning may be like Nero’s first five years, full of hope and encouragement, but afterwards, as a carcase, he is more filthy and unsavoury every day than other. His insincerity causeth his inconstancy. Trees unsound at the root, will quickly cease their putting forth of fruit. Such men, if godliness enjoy a summer of prosperity, may like a serpent creep on the ground, and stretch themselves at length, to receive the warmth of the sun, but if winter come he will creep into some ditch or dunghill, lest he should take cold.
A godliness must be based upon a calling or settled desire. If I go out to sea merely for pleasure, I will turn around at any difficulty. If I set out for some greater task, I will suffer a great deal of difficulty. If godliness is based merely some immediate ease, it will not last. It must be a means to an end sufficient to weather the conflict it will bring.
He phrases this in three consecutive images of one setting out on a path which may meet with difficulty. Because the end of the journey is of sufficient merit and importance, they are willing to fight through the conflicts. Although he does not use the image here, this is quite similar to Bunyan’s use of the picture of man who puts on armor to fight his way into a palace: violent men are taking heaven by force:
Travellers that go to sea merely to be sea-sick, or in sport, if there arise a black cloud or storm, their voyage is at an end, they hasten to the harbour; they came not to be weather-beaten, or to hazard themselves amongst the boisterous billows, but only for pleasure: but the merchant that is bound for a voyage, whose calling and business it is, is not daunted at every wave and wind, but drives through all with resolution.
The implied argument could also be understood: If a man will risk his live and ease for money, why will he not do so for heaven? This is contrasted to those who stop short. Like Pliable in Pilgrim’s Progress, they stop their travel when it becomes unpleasant:
He that only pretends towards religion, if a storm meet him in the way to heaven, he leaves it, and takes shelter in the earth; as a snail, he puts out his head to see what weather is abroad, (what countenance religion hath at court, whether great men do smile or frown upon the ways of God,) and if the heavens be lowering, he shrinks into his shell, esteeming that his only safety.
But they that make godliness their business, do not steer their course by such cards—they follow their trade, though they meet with many trials; as resolved travellers, whether the ways be fair or foul, whether the weather be clear or cloudy, they will go on towards their heavenly Canaan; ‘They go from strength to strength, till they appear before God in Sion,’ Ps. 84:8.
When men follow godliness by the by and in jest, they take it to farm, and accept leases of it for a time; but if the times come to be such, that in their blind judgments it prove a hard pennyworth, they throw it up into their landlords’ hands—Vadat Christus, as he said, cum suo evangelio; but men that make religion their business, take it as their freehold, as their fee-simple, which they enjoy, and esteem it their privilege so to do, for the whole term of their lives; ‘I have chosen thy statutes as my heritage for ever: I have inclined my heart to perform thy statutes always unto the end,’ Ps. 119:11, 12.
This final argument varies the illustration by referring to the inward principle, not the external circumstances, which motivate the apparent acts of godliness. When godliness is motivated by something that can be obtained by a show of piety, the godliness will end as soon as the external motivation is exhausted.
The godliness of an unsound professor is like the light of a candle, fed with gross and greasy matter, as profit and honour and pleasure, which continueth burning till that tallowy substance be wasted, but then goeth out and leaves a stench behind it; the holiness of a true Christian is like the light of the sun, which hath its original in heaven, and is fed from above, and thereby ‘shines brighter and brighter to perfect day,’ Prov. 4:18.
2 True saints in youth always prove angels in age.—B. Hall Medit. cent. 1.
Some lawyers are willing to say anything. Lest you think this an exaggeration, I submit to you a section from a brief I am filing today. The background is as follows: the parties are arguing over the application of a particular rule. At issue is the ordering of specific events: Is B supposed to happen after document A has been filed or at the same as A is filed? The verb is the rule is “filed”. We noted that the “filed” is the past-tense of “to file.” The opposing party argued in response, “the word ‘filed’ is present tense.” Below is our legal argument that “filed” is past tense:
On page 5, line 22 through page 6, line 11 of the Opposition, the Trustee advances the novel argument that “filed” is not a past tense of the verb “to file”. This argument is both bizarre and frankly illiterate. In fact, she actually writes this sentence, “the word ‘filed’ is present tense.”
The Trustee is simply wrong. In English, the simple past is most often formed by the addition of the letters “-ed” to the end of the base form of the verb. “The simple past. Generally, this tense refers to events, habitual activities, and states in the past.” (“Tense,” in The Oxford Companion to the English Language, ed. Tom McArthur (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), 1031.)
And just to make the point clear, the courts have weighed in and stated the obvious: the simple past of “to file” is “filed.” Petitioners cited two decisions in the moving papers; but so that there is no doubt, here are a few additional cases from other jursidcitions: In re Lehman Bros. Securities & Erisa Litigation (S.D.N.Y. 2015) 131 F. Supp. 3d 241, 267 (“Note that “filed in” is a past-tense modifier”); Krys v. Sugrue (S.D.N.Y. 2012) 859 F. Supp. 2d 644, 653 (“Congress’ clear use of the present tense for “pending” cases and past tense for “filed” cases forecloses defendants’ argument.”); Pope v. Gordon (Ala. 2005) 922 So. 2d 893, 898 (“Additionally, the use of the past tense in the phrase “and filed in the circuit court” ”).
The Trustee’s “argument” is based upon the assertion that since the Rules of Court contain uses of the perfect tense (the addition of “have been” for English verbs), the past tense/preterite “filed” is not past tense: which makes absolutely no sense. The perfect and preterite involve different aktionsart of the verbs (the lexical aspect used to emphasize different aspects of the relationship of the present to the past): “The non-progressive perfect refers to an event in the past with current relevance: I’ve broken the window indicates that I broke [note: the preterite of to break] the window and that the window is probably still broken.” (“Tense,” in The Oxford Companion to the English Language, ed. Tom McArthur (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), 1031.)
 In the moving papers, citation was made to a couple of cases which explained that “filed” is a past-tense use of the verb to file. In an inexplicable attempt to “distinguish” these cases, the Trustee notes that those cases did not involve a trust petition – which is irrelevant to the question of grammar.
But that is not the worst: there’s worse than this.
My taste is lost; no bite tastes sweet to me
But what is dipped all over in this dish.
Of rank rank poison: this my sauce must be.
Hell heaven, heaven hell, yea bitter sweet:
Poison’s my food: food poison in’t doth keep.
Summary: I have come to love the Devil’s sauce sin that I cannot enjoy anything without this poison. I love the poison. I am so upside down that I must have sin mixed in with everything I do.
This gets at something which was very important in much Puritans were quite interested, the way in which sin both twisted the human being and at the same time created the desire for sin itself:
“The example in Romans 7:8 of Paul, who by his own account, was one of the most morally degenerate men who ever lived (Phil. 3:6; 1 Tim. 1:13, 15), provides a gateway for Goodwin to understand how no man or woman in a carnal state is free from inclination to all sin. The struggling man in Romans 7 was viewed by the Puritans as a Christian,32 but verse 8 has reference to Paul in his unconverted state. The sin in Paul in this verse is original sin, and original sin produced in him “all manner of concupiscence,” that is, all kinds of covetous lust or desire for things forbidden.33 As Edward Reynolds put it, “It is as natural to the heart to lust, as it is to the eye to see.”34 Self-love, instead of love to God, results from original sin.” Beeke, Joel R.; Jones, Mark. A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (pp. 279-280). Reformation Heritage Books. Kindle Edition.
Jonathan Edwards notes that even though there is such variety in the circumstances among human beings, there is one thing which invariably shows up, sin:
THE proposition laid down being proved, the consequence of it remains to be made out, viz. that the mind of man has a natural tendency or propensity to that event, which has been shewn universally and infallibly to take place (if this ben’t sufficiently evident of itself, without proof), and that this is a corrupt or depraved propensity.
Jonathan Edwards, Original Sin, ed. John E. Smith and Clyde A. Holbrook, Corrected Edition., vol. 3, The Works of Jonathan Edwards (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 1997), 120. And:
The general continued wickedness of mankind, against such means and motives, proves each of these things, viz. that the cause is fixed, and that the fixed cause is internal, in man’s nature, and also that it is very powerful. It proves the first, namely, that the cause is fixed, because the effect is so abiding, through so many changes. It proves the second, that is, that the fixed cause is internal, because the circumstances are so various: the variety of means and motives is one thing that is to be referred to the head of variety of circumstances: and they are that kind of circumstances, which above all others proves this; for they are such circumstances as can’t possibly cause the effect, being most opposite to the effect in their tendency.
193. As Edwards’ explains in his Treatise Freedom of the Will, it is desire that binds the will. And thus this universal tendency to sin is the result of a universal desire.
What Taylor does so well in this stanza is to couple desire and poison into a single movement: We desire our destruction. There is an image from Jeremiah which helps here:
Jeremiah 2:23–25 (AV)
23 How canst thou say, I am not polluted, I have not gone after Baalim? see thy way in the valley, know what thou hast done: thou art a swift dromedary traversing her ways; 24 A wild ass used to the wilderness, that snuffeth up the wind at her pleasure; in her occasion who can turn her away? all they that seek her will not weary themselves; in her month they shall find her. 25 Withhold thy foot from being unshod, and thy throat from thirst: but thou saidst, There is no hope: no; for I have loved strangers, and after them will I go.
Taylor does not copy the image, but he does rely upon the concept.
Thomas Brooks provides a closer parallel:
Sin is from the greatest deceiver, it is a child of his own begetting, it is the ground of all the deceit in the world, and it is in its own nature exceeding deceitful. Heb. 3:13, ‘But exhort one another daily, while it is called To-day, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.’ It will kiss the soul, and pretend fair to the soul, and yet betray the soul for ever. It will with Delilah smile upon us, that it may betray us into the hands of the devil, as she did Samson into the hands of the Philistines. Sin gives Satan a power over us, and an advantage to accuse us and to lay claim to us, as those that wear his badge; it is of a very bewitching nature, it bewitches the soul, where it is upon the throne, that the soul cannot leave it, though it perish eternally by it.4 Sin so bewitches the soul, that it makes the soul call evil good, and good evil; bitter sweet and sweet bitter, light darkness and darkness light; and a soul thus bewitched with sin will stand it out to the death, at the sword’s point with God; let God strike and wound, and cut to the very bone, yet the bewitched soul cares not, fears no but will still hold on in a course of wickedness, as you may see in Pharaoh, Balaam, and Judas. Tell the bewitched soul that sin is a viper that will certainly kill when it is not killed, that sin often kills secretly, insensibly, eternally, yet the bewitched soul cannot, nor will not, cease from sin.
When the physicians told Theotimus that except he did abstain from drunkenness and uncleanness, &c., he would lose his eyes, his heart was so bewitched to his sins, that he answers, ‘Then farewell sweet light;’1 he had rather lose his eyes than leave his sin. So a man bewitched with sin had rather lose God, Christ, heaven, and his own soul than part with his sin. Oh, therefore, for ever take heed of playing or nibbling at Satan’s golden baits
Thomas Brooks, The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart, vol. 1 (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1866), 15–16.
Many long to be meddling with the murdering morsels of sin, which nourish not, but rent and consume the belly, the soul, that receives them. Many eat that on earth that they digest in hell. Sin’s murdering morsels will deceive those that devour them. Adam’s apple was a bitter sweet; Esau’s mess was a bitter sweet; the Israelites’ quails a bitter sweet; Jonathan’s honey a bitter sweet; and Adonijah’s dainties a bitter sweet. After the meal is ended, then comes the reckoning. Men must not think to dance and dine with the devil, and then to sup with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; to feed upon the poison of asps, and yet that the viper’s tongue should not slay them
Thomas Brooks, The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart, vol. 1 (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1866), 14.
But that is not the worst: there’s worse than this.
My taste is lost; no bite tastes sweet to me (20)
But what is dipped all over in this dish.
Of rank rank poison: this my sauce must be.
Hell heaven, heaven hell, yea bitter sweet:
Poison’s my food: food poison in’t doth keep.
The r’s and s’s work well together especially in the first line. “Worse than this” by itself is not a very promising “poetic” line. But the repetition of “worst/worse” “the worst there’s worse” also works. The next line picks up on these sound but now we the repetition of taste/tastes, and the sounds of “tastes sweet”, where the s’s and t’s: t-s-t-s-t. Line 21 again works on a alliteration: dipped-dish.
This alliteration within the individual line gives a feel of Anglo-Saxon poetry where alliteration is a primary means to hold a line together
Oft Scyld Scefing sceaþena þreatum,
monegum mægþum, meodosetla ofteah,
He uses the very same technique in the remainder of the stanza, but in the last two lines he uses the alliteration to underscore the reversals:
Of rank rank poison: this my sauce must be.
Hell heaven, heaven hell, yea bitter sweet:
Poison’s my food: food poison in’t doth keep.
Hl – hn / hn – hl
The word “poison” ties these lines together.
He marks the transition into this section by means of the repetition of “rank-rank” which slows the movement of the stanza. It is then offset by a colon and the sad, “This my sauce must be.” Note again the m-s/m-s repetition.
The line, “This my sauce must be” is a rather sad resignation. It reminds me of the tone of Hosea, “Ephraim is joined to idols;/Leave him alone.”
Final note: What is most devasting about the poet’s situation is that there is no rescue from this place. Even though he is destroying himself, he wants to be here. It is like finding someone in a prison and they refuse to leave.
But as a crystal glass, I broke, and lost That grace, and glory I was fashion’d in And cast this rosy world with all its cost Into the dunghill pit and puddle sin. (10) All right I lost in all good things, and each I had did hand a vein of venom in.
Summary: This stanza recounts the fall. Here again, Taylor puts himself into Adam’s story and casts himself as the culprit. “I” am the one who broke the crystal glass. I cast “this rosy world” into the “dunghill.” The “rosy world” is taken over from the first stanza.
He has lost all “right” (that is as in a right in) all that is good. And now all that he has is shot through with “venom.” Venom is a reference to Genesis 3:
Genesis 3:1 (AV) Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
Notes: The reference to this sinful earth in terms of a “dunghill” was a commonplace in English Puritan writing, such as:
First, here is their portion, they are never like to have any other consolation, but that they have here, here is their All. This is as it were their Kingdom; They are upon their own dunghil.
Jeremiah Burroughs, Moses His Choice, with His Eye Fixed upon Heaven: Discovering the Happy Condition of a Self-Denying Heart (London: John Field, 1650), 100. The reference to sin and puddles is also not unknown, though less common. For instance:
One sin may keep possession for Satan, and hinder Jesus Christ from his right—I mean, from sitting on the throne and swaying the sceptre of thy soul. Wallowing in one puddle defiles the body, and tumbling in one piece of filthiness defiles the soul.
George Swinnock, The Works of George Swinnock, M.A., vol. 5 (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1868), 454. A striking similarity to Taylor’s use in this stanza is found in Thomas Adams, The Fatal Banquet (the first sermon), found in volume 1 of his collected works at page 169: “Sin is, like water, of a ponderous, crass, gross, stinking, and stinking nature.”
Musical: The g’s of the first stanza, glory, grace, gold, here appears only as what has been lost: the broken glass, the fled glory and grace, the good which is gone.
The meter is regular until the last two lines:
All right I lost in all good things, and each I had did hand a vein of venom in.
Two things are interesting here. The 11th line can be read as a regular line: all RIGHT i LOST. But it also works with an accent on ALL: ALL right I LOST in ALL GOOD things.
Also pause coming between the 8th and 9th syllables creates a run-on, where the last two syllables are essentially unaccented and the entire line runs into the line. As explained on the Poetry Foundation website, this is known as “Enjambment: The running-over of a sentence or phrase from one poetic line to the next, without terminal punctuation; the opposite of end-stopped.”
Effect: The effect of this stanza is to create a sense of both loss, disgust and anger. There is the loss of the “rosy world”; but this loss was not at the hands someone else: I did this.
The use of the I puts the reader in an interesting place, because the I becomes the reader while reading the poem: I – not Taylor – am the one who lost this world.
But this also is to incur disgust. The beautiful world has been lost and now what was glorious is now a pestilent puddle.
21 Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; 22 Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours;
Paul is warning the congregation to cease to make the approval of other men the primary goal of life. They were seeking glory; and seemed to see Paul in a similar light. Paul specifically disclaims such glory and urges the congregation to look beyond such glory.
The weight of this poem and Taylor’s emphasis from the motto lie upon the fact that for the congregation “all things are yours.”
The poem works through a history of the world and brings this into a history of Taylor. At the first, he had Paradise he was “begraced with grace.” But that original innocence and blessing was lost. The poem will end with a prayer and a praise that in Christ he has received all things.
Begraced with glory, gloried with grace,
In Paradise I was, when all sweet shines
Hung dangling on this rosy world to face
Mine eyes, and nose, and charm mine ears with chimes.
All these were golden tills the which did hold (5)
My evidences wrapt in glorious folds.
Summary: The poet places in himself (impossibly) in Paradise before the Fall, where all was “very good” in the language of Genesis 1. Everything for him was “glorious”.
Begraced with glory: Grace is unmerited, undeserved gift from God. Any good received from God is a grace. Glory is an aspect of God. The ideas are of beauty, blazing light, and honor; in contrast to the broken, fallenness of a world of sin and shame. So to be given grace is to give one glory.
The line is a antimetabole: “Repetition of words, in successive clauses, in reverse grammatical order.” http://rhetoric.byu.edu Grace – glory – glory – Grace.
In Paradise I was: This can only be accessed by means of imagination. Thus, by means of imagination the poet is accessing this place out of time.
All sweet shines: everything good.
Golden tills: a “till” is a box for keeping money or valuables. The phrase is ambiguous, because it is unclear precisely what constitutes the till: did his sense bear such things or does he refer to the beauty of the various things which perceives?
My evidences: This is an interesting phrase, evidence of what. This line from a near contemporary Thomas Watson may help, “The saints’ graces are weapons to defend them, wings to elevate them, jewels to enrich them, spices to perfume them, stars to adorn them, cordials to refresh them: and does not all this work for good? The graces are our evidences for heaven; is it not good to have our evidences at the hour of death?” Thomas Watson, A Divine Cordial; The Saint’s Spiritual Delight; The Holy Eucharist; and Other Treatises, The Writings of the Doctrinal Puritans and Divines of the Seventeenth Century (The Religious Tract Society, 1846), 18.
The combination of “grace” and “evidence” (a not uncommon concept in Puritan theology of the Taylor’s period) is apparent in this first stanza. To be graced is to have an evidence. While his vision of this beauty could be seen as an evidence that is in Paradise, I think it better to see the experience of such bliss as evidence of the grace. The glory evidences the grace; and the grace makes possible both the glory and the sight of glory.
The evidences here are wrapped in “glorious folds”.
Musical: The first word should be read “be-grac-ed” as three syllables for the line to scan properly. The play on the “g” sound in grace, glory, gold, works quite well in this stanza.
This is an early draft of the introduction to a series of courses which will cover issues related to Church Administration. In this section I try to explain why church management face issues which simply are not present in any other equivalent enterprise. If anyone has a comment or correct on the direction which I intend to develop the course work, please comment. I am attempting something I have not seen dealt with elsewhere in this manner:
Having spent decades sorting out conflicts within and between businesses, families, landlords and tenants; and having had decades experience within multiple churches (inside leadership and with outside counsel), I have concluded that the complications and difficulties faced by the one who “runs” a church organization are far greater and often more insolvable than the problems which face the CEO of a corporation or the manager of an apartment building.
These difficulties lie in the seemingly inconsistent obligations which confront the church as a public entity, as an internal structure, and which arise in leadership.
Some of these problems can only be faced and resolved when they arise. Some problems “come out of nowhere” and cannot be anticipated. (We will speak about how to prepare for the unavoidable and unforeseen problems during this coursework.)
We cannot prevent the unavoidable; but we should avoid “self-inflicted wounds.” Many of the problems faced by a church were problems built-into the original formation of the church. Churches begin as some sort of “plant.” The planted church must make a number of decisions. Often these decisions are made without much thought and without any training.
The pastor who plants the church approaches this task with a seminary degree which has prepared him with an overview of church history, doctrine, and certain practices such as prayer, preaching, evangelism. He has been trained to do the primary task of shepherding, but comes to the work with little or no knowledge of business formation, managing employees, leasing a building, or responding to threats of lawsuits based something said from the pulpit.
This understandable ignorance leads to poor decisions which create future problems. The lack of knowledge in these areas will lead to poor responses to arising problems. The result will be new problems. And because these problems arise in a church, the latest management advice cannot be received and implemented in the same way it could be used in a hardware store. In fact, many churches have failed because the leadership ran the church as if it were any other business. (And other churches have failed because they ignored the very same issues.)
We are going to provide you guidance through these troubles. We will start at the beginning with business formation issues. We will also try to provide some direction about how to restructure and resolves issues which are present at an existing organization where you have come to work.
Up until this point, I have spoken of problems in the abstract. If you have experience in the leadership of a church, you have already begun in your mind to list problems you have experienced (and if you have been the leadership of a church for any length of time, you have unquestionably faced serious questions). If you are new to church leadership, you had best be prepared for sorrow.
Some years ago, I was speaking with a pastor friend who was facing a problem which threatened to destroy the entire congregation. He was looking for help with this problem. He said the problem was so bad, that he was looking for a Clint Eastwood character from a spaghetti western with a scar on his cheek and an ammunition belt slung over his soldier.
There will be days when it seems that only such a character could help. But we trust when you complete this coursework, you be able to avoid the need for such extraordinary efforts.
A Quick Overview of the Problems Faced by Church Administration
The problems faced by every organization
There are legal and financial duties owed to the various levels of government where you work. It will not be unusual if you must consider differing obligations to the city, the county, the state, and the federal government. These obligations begin with the business structure you create. And, as you will learn, that if you try to avoid this problem by merely starting a congregation without making a formal decision about business structure, you have actually made a decision about business structure.
You will owe tax records to the state and federal government, and you must prepare tax records for all employees, independent contractors, and donors to the church.
You will need to make contracts, whether for purchase or lease of real property. If you meet in a home, you will need to consider laws and general obligations respecting permissible conduct in residential locations.
This course is being written well into the Covid Crisis, which caused churches to face extraordinary public health restrictions which baffled the best Christian minds, brought out a variety of responses, and even resulted in sharp critique of one-another (even conflict) between those who came to differing decisions.
You will owe legal duties to your employees. The employee duties and obligations within a church are similar and very different than those owed by secular organizations. You provide a working environment which must comply with some standards for all businesses; and you must provide an environment which comports with your duties as Christians generally, as leaders specifically, and as a church.
You will have the problems faced by every “business” which is open to the public – except that you will be open to and have oversight over infants and octogenarians. There are very few businesses which provide toddler care and instruction, while also providing food to the poor, solace to the wounded, correction to the wayward, instruction to willing. A private day school for 3-year-olds has no duty to care for the child’s great grandmother.
Those Problems Unique to a Church
The leadership of church cannot be measured on the same ground as business tycoon. Consider the following obituary of the CEO of Scott Paper and Sunbeam:
Swagger, arrogance, ego, “Chainsaw” Al Dunlap had them all.
The corporate raider — turnaround specialist, if you prefer — boasted about laying off workers. He blasted his corporate brethren’s incompetence for necessitating his slash and burn tactics. He’d name names.
Hot tempered, he was known to yell at subordinates.
“If you want to be liked, get a dog,” he was fond of saying.
While this may have made for a good CEO, it would make a failed church leader.
Christians must live with one-another in love:
34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John 13:34–35 (ESV). In the “High Priestly Prayer” of Jesus recorded in John 17, the Lord prays:
20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
John 17:20–21 (ESV) . These are not abstract principles or bare aspirations. It is a duty incumbent upon every Christian and a duty which adheres peculiarly to the Church as a witness to and in the world. Francis Schaeffer explained the importance of this duty in work The Mark of a Christian:
The church is to be a loving church in a dying culture. How, then, is the dying culture going to consider us? Jesus says, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” In the midst of the world, in the midst of our present culture, Jesus is giving a right to the world. Upon His authority He gives the world the right to judge whether you and I are born-again Christians on the basis of our observable love toward all Christians.
That’s pretty frightening. Jesus turns to the world and says, “I’ve something to say to you. On the basis of My authority, I give you a right: you may judge whether or not an individual is a Christian on the basis of the love he shows to all Christians.” In other words, if people come up to us and cast in our teeth the judgment that we are not Christians because we have not shown love toward other Christians, we must understand that they are only exercising a prerogative which Jesus gave them.
If we professing believers do not demonstrate visible love to one-another we give the world the right to (1) say that we are not Christians, and (2) say that Jesus was not sent by the Father. In short, if we who lead churches or professing Christian institutions and do not exhibit love we have failed. No CEO has ever been judged a failure because he did not love the sales staff, or accounting, or the administrative assistant. He may have been thought a jerk, but he still could be revered and honored.
Look at the kind of love we must show, “as I have loved you.” John 13:34.
You may think this is going far afield from what is entailed in Church administration: I need to know how to form a non-profit, how to file tax returns, create an employee manual, et cetera. And all those things you must do. But all of those tasks must be completed with the end to fulfill the duty of being a Christian and being a public congregation of Christians.
We as Christians, and peculiarly as Christians gathered and presented to the world, have a duty not merely stay open and “make money” (which is the duty of a “normal” business). Christian organizations have a duty to act as a witness to the world. This duty involves demonstrable, actual love among the members of the organization. No CEO has ever been presented with the obligation of seeing to it that all the employees love one-another.
I want you to consider these words on “love” which Paul addressed to the Church at Corinth. But as you consider these words, I want you to note that the first three verses each list some element of public display which someone could raise as proof that their Christian ministry was a success, and to note that these marks of success mean nothing without love:
13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:1–3 (ESV). We could add, If I publish and distribute 6,000 books a month and have conferences attended by 10,000 people a quarter and have not love, I am making a lot of noise and collecting a lot of money – but I am nothing.
Now, I want you to seriously consider the following words and realize that the operation of your church ministry must not only be efficient, professional, effective (as must all businesses), but it also be operated in such a way that it exudes this sort of conduct:
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1 Corinthians 13:4–7 (ESV). Or look at the words which Paul addresses to the assembled congregation of Colossians:
8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put-on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
Colossians 3:8–14 (ESV). These are characteristics which must in the “culture” of your leadership and the culture the employees. It also must be the culture which you must engender among your “customers”. No manufacturer of glass bottles ever had the duty to encouraging meekness among its customers.
You must understand that as we work through the issues raised in the various employment, financial, and legal matters which we will address throughout this course work, that we must keep in mind the aim of each of these tasks. Paul in his church administration instruction to Timothy wrote that the end of work is to be “love that issues from a pure heart.” (1 Tim. 1:5).
When you work through materials on non-profit corporations, you will not find instructions on love.
This is what makes Church administration different from running a small business or even managing a non-profit. You will have to do all of the things which are required of any business owner or charity manager. But you also must do this with an eye toward the goal of being a witness to Christ.
The CEO of a Fortune 500 corporation does have the duty of making sure his employees avoid “foolish talk” (Eph. 5:4) or “slander” (Col. 3:8) or “gossip” (2 Cor. 12:20). But we do. No District Manager has ever been written up for failing to make disciples of the Lord (Matt. 28:18-20), but that is our job description.
If we fail in this, we at the very least face the prospect that all our work will be “burned up” on the Day. (1 Cor. 3:12-15).
Our goal in this course work is to train you in the dual responsibilities of operating within the law of the state, but also to comply with the law of God. These are not things which you will learn from the Nolo Press book on “Non-profit Corporations” nor from a community college course on accounting.
This course work is unique, and we trust it will be valuable to you.
 Francis A. Schaeffer, The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview, vol. 4 (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1982), 187.
 By referencing “public congregation of Christians”, I mean to include not only churches proper, but para-church ministries such as apologetics ministries, teaching ministries of various sorts, services provided under the promise of being a “Christian” practice.