The previous post in this series may be found here:
Having seen the beauty of Christ and the coldness of his heart, Taylor prays that God would stir-up his heart. In this eighth stanza, Taylor uses an image which has no particular place in the Bible, but which would make sense of Taylor’s circumstances. His notebooks date the poem November 1685, in the midst of the Little Ice Age. You can almost feel the frozen poet trying to warm his body as he looks out on the winter snow and ice.
The stanza asks God to row golden oars to warm his heart. He seeks a flame which will melt the frozen lake [of his affections]. He calls God’s love the sun — which Taylor saw all too little in cold November.
Lord may thy priestly golden oars but make
A rowing in my lumpish heart, thou’lt see
My chilly numbed affections charm, and break
Out in rapid flame of love to thee.
Yea, they unto thyself will fly in flocks
When thy warm sun my frozen lake unlocks.
The next stanza requires some knowledge of the High Priest’s clothing. In Exodus 28, God sets out garments for the High Priest. He was required to wear a vestment decorated with precious stones. The names of the tribes of Israel were written on the stones, so that when Aaron (the first High Priest) came before The Lord, he would “bear their names before the Lord”:
9 You shall take two onyx stones, and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel,
10 six of their names on the one stone, and the names of the remaining six on the other stone, in the order of their birth.
11 As a jeweler engraves signets, so shall you engrave the two stones with the names of the sons of Israel. You shall enclose them in settings of gold filigree.
12 And you shall set the two stones on the shoulder pieces of the ephod, as stones of remembrance for the sons of Israel. And Aaron shall bear their names before the LORD on his two shoulders for remembrance.
Jesus, under the New Covenant, is final High Priest:
1 Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven,
2 a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. Hebrews 8:1-2
His name is to be buried in the “pearly rocks” — the jewels upon the ephod. This is a reference to the doctrine that one who comes to true saving faith is counted by God as crucified with Christ (buried) and now alive with Christ:
3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. Romans 6:3-4
Be thou my High Priest, Lord; and let my name
Lie in some grave dug in these pearly rocks
Upon thy ephod’s shoulders piece, like flame
Or graved in thy breat plate-gem: brave knops.
Thou’lt then me bear before thy Father’s throne
Rolled up in folds of glory of thine own.
The last stanza picks up another image of the eschatological hope of the Christian. First, he uses the image of a crown, which is a picture of the rewards to be received by those find in Christ (see, e.g., 1 Peter 5:4). He then addresses the glorious praise of those who see Christ in the end:
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, Hebrews 12:22
6 And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.
7 And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne.
8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands,
12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”
13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped. Revelation 5:6-14
One of these gems, I beg, Lord, that so well
Begrace thy breast plat, and thy ephod clever
To stud my crown therewith: or let me dwell
Among the their sparkling, glancing shades forever.
I’st then be decked in glory bright to sing
With angels Hallelujah to my King.