The motto for this meditation comes from the next clause in the “all things are yours” promise of Paul to the Corinthians: 1 Corinthians 3:22 (AV) “Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours;”
Stanza One Oh! That I ever felt what I profess. ‘T would make me then the happi’st man alive. Ten thousand worlds of saints can’t make this less By living on’t, but it would make them thrive. Those loaves and fishes are not lessened Nor pasture overstockt, by being fed.
Summary: If I truly believed that “all things present were mine” (for my good) – I do profess this, but I do not “feel” this. The knowledge is not a sufficient basis to engender the matching emotional response. This promise is so great that if ten thousand others also claimed this promise, the promise would not be in the least diminished. Thus, the poem begins with a statement of implied desire: a desire to feel what he knows to be true. The poem is itself a means to engender this response.
That I ever felt what I profess: This is the necessary confession of all who claim belief: If what we profess is true, then why do not experience the happiness which is the rightful result of that knowledge? Taylor is going to expand primarily upon the theme of providence: that contrary events will still work out ultimately for the good of God’s people. I would then think, Oh, this seemingly bad thing is for my good (and thus my happiness, ultimately).
Can’t make this less: The “this” is the trickiest element in the stanza (perhaps the poem). Normally, a pronoun would refer to some explicit noun within the poem itself. But considering these options does not make sense of what follows: neither his profession, nor his happiness answer to the image of loaves and fishes, or an overstocked pasture. But if we consider the promise which is the motto of the poem, the promise that all things are yours, we can understand what follows: If ten thousand people in addition to me were to claim this promise, they could not exhaust the promise.
Living on it would make them thrive: If we took this promise to heart, if we lived on the promise that all things are mine and that God makes all things for our good, then we would thrive in this world.
I’m currently going through Gonzales’ The Story of Christianity. Early on he makes an observation that the focus of the Lord’s Supper in the primitive church was upon the Resurrection and Ascension, and was thus a joyful event. Our present emphasis is much on the crucifixion, and so the Supper is somber.
When I consider the tone of much of the Church (at least in the circles I can see), the piety is to focus upon Good Friday more than Easter morning. While a frivolous glee would be damaging, I wonder what a well-grounded happiness suffused through-out the church do for the church.
Loaves and fishes: There are stories in the New Testament of Jesus miraculously feeding thousands – which much food left over. Jesus prays in thanksgiving for a small number of fish and loaves and then proceeds to break and serve bread until everyone is filled. In the same way this promise cannot be depleted by being fulfilled.
This third sermon begins with a short exhortation and instruction on praise.
The words, as we heard heretofore, contain a most sweet and excellent form of returning unto God, for miserable, lost, and forlorn sinners; wherein so far God discovers his willingness to have his people return unto him, that he dictates unto them a form of prayer, ‘Take with you words, and turn to the Lord; say unto him, Take away iniquity.’
‘And do good to us,’ or do graciously to us; for there is no good to us till sin be removed. Though God be goodness itself, there is no provoking or meriting cause of mercy in us. But he finds cause from his own gracious nature and bowels of mercy to pity his poor people and servants. It is his nature to shew mercy, as the fire to burn, a spring to run, the sun to shine. Therefore, it is easily done. As the prophet speaks, ‘Who is a God like unto thee?’ Micah 7:18.
for miserable, lost, and forlorn sinners: This repetition is not the bare repetition of synonyms. While repetition of a synonym can, in certain circumstances be useful, it most often simply a lack of thought trying to present itself as rhetorical power. Here, the words are not strictly repetitions: Miserable is here an objective statement on the badness of their circumstance: they are objects of pity. Lost is another objective statement but emphasis the reason why they are miserable. Forlorn speaks to the emotional state of these lost sinners.
Wherein so far God discovers his willingness to have his people return unto him, that he dictates unto them a form of prayer: This is an inference which Sibbes obtains from the text, although it is not anywhere directly stated. It is based upon a broader understanding which Sibbes has of God as one of infinite mercy and grace toward his children.
Wherein we see how detestation of sin must be as general as the desire of pardon, and that none heartily pray to God to ‘take away all iniquity’ who have not grace truly to hate all iniquity. This inference is based upon the “all”. We are called upon to pray, not take away this particular sin, but let me keep the other. Rather, we must pray to be freed from all sin.
Where we come to speak of the re-stipulation, ‘So will we render the calves of our lips.’ Where God’s favour shines, there will be a reflection. Love is not idle, but a working thing. It must render or die. And what doth it render? Divers sacrifices of the New Testament, which I spake of; that of a broken heart; of Christ offered to the Father, to stand betwixt God’s wrath and us; ourselves as a living sacrifice; alms-deeds and praise, which must be with the whole inward powers of the soul.
re-stipulation Restating the agreement.
Where God’s favour shines, there will be a reflection: This is a fundamental principle of sanctification: Human beings function as mirrors to the glory of God. As that glory shines upon us, we become conformed to that glory. 2 Cor. 3:18. Therefore, if one is indeed beholding the glory of God in Christ by faith, it should be demonstrable in a transformation of the one gazing. This would be the place of good works. Good works do not merit the love and grace of God. But the love and grace of God produce good works in the human being.
The seed in the ground can do nothing to compel the sun to shine or rain to fall. The plant does not grow to beckon the sun. Rather, the sun and rain produce growth in the seed.
Love is not idle, but a working thing. It must render or die. Sibbes is not saying that love is not an affection. He does not say that we do not have a subjective sense of being one who loves. What he is saying is that this affection produces action: What does love do? It gives. For God so loved the world He gave. Likewise, if we love God we will give.
And what doth it render? Divers sacrifices of the New Testament, which I spake of; In the previous sermon, Sibbes wrote of what we give by means of sacrifice.
‘Praise is not comely in the mouth of a fool,’ saith the wise man, nor of a wicked man. Saith God to such, ‘What hast thou to do to take my words in thy mouth, since thou hatest to be reformed, and hast cast my words behind thee?’ Ps. 50:16, 17. There are a company who are ordinary swearers and filthy speakers. For them to praise God, James tells them that these contrary streams cannot flow out of a good heart, James 3:10, 11. Oh, no; God requires not the praise of such fools.
Oh, no; God requires not the praise of such fools. Sibbes develops this argument from two divergent passages. First, a rebuke of God in Psalm 50. Second, an observation of James. These sort of connections can only be made by enormous familiarity and meditation of upon the Bible.
The point is that God does not need the sound of human beings praising. Rather, true praise must be something other than bare words. Prayer is not magical invocation.
I gave you also some directions how to praise God, and to stir up yourselves to this most excellent duty, which I will not insist on now, but add a little unto that I then delivered, which is, that we must watch all advantages of praising God from our dispositions. ‘Is any merry? Let him sing,’ saith James, 5:13. Oh! It is a great point of wisdom to take advantages with the stream of our temper to praise God. When he doth encourage us by his favours and blessings, and enlarge our spirits, then we are in a right temper to bless him. Let us not lose the occasion. This is one branch of redeeming of time, to observe what state and temper of soul we are in, and to take advantage from thence.
Is any man in heaviness? He is fit to mourn for sin. Let him take the opportunity of that temper. Is any disposed to cheerfulness? Let him sacrifice that marrow, oil, and sweetness of spirit to God. We see the poor birds in the spring-time, when those little spirits they have are cherished with the sunbeams, how they express it in singing. So when God warms us with his favours, let him have the praise of all.
This is one branch of redeeming of time, to observe what state and temper of soul we are in, and to take advantage from thence. This is the key thought of the paragraph. Rather, than provide instruction on how exactly to praise, Sibbes makes the practical observation of when we can praise. His proposition is that in every emotional state we find ourselves, there is a manner in which we can praise God.
Therefore, when we have received a good thing, be thankful and cheerful. But even if we are in a difficulty place, our mourning can be the proper response. “It is a great point of wisdom to take advantages with the stream of our temper to praise God.” This point of wisdom is routinely lost in our worship. We have such a truncated understanding of human beings and worship that often a forced exuberance is the only permissible mode.
And here I cannot but take up a lamentation of the horrible ingratitude of men, who are so far from taking advantage by God’s blessings to praise him, that they fight like rebels against him with his own favours. Those tongues which he hath given them for his glory, they abuse to pierce him with blasphemy; and those other benefits of his, lent them to honour him with, they turn to his dishonour; like children who importunately ask for divers things, which, when they have, they throw them to the dog. So favours they will have, which, when they have obtained, they give them to the devil; unto whom they sacrifice their strength and cheerfulness, and cannot be merry, unless they be mad and sinful. Are these things to be tolerated in these days of light? How few shall we find, who, in a temper of mirth, turn it the right way?
This paragraph is a warning. There are some people who cannot rightly conceive of how to be happy for the good things which God has given and done without turning that happiness into sinful revelry. They “cannot be merry, unless they be mad and sinful.”
This is “the horrible ingratitude of men.” They take God’s blessing and then sin against God.
Is Sibbes speaking of believers? He does not specify, but I imagine yes and no. This would be appropriate in an age when church attendance was (nearly) universal on Sunday. Thus, the congregation would always be mixed. Unbelievers receive good things from God: the sun and rain are given to all. (Matt. 5:45) Thus, the common grace of God benefits all, but is not rightly praised by all. (Rom. 1:21)
Believers too can misuse good gifts and can take ease as an excuse to sin.
Now Sibbes provides a series of 5 encouragements to praise:
1. But to add some encouragements to incite us to praise God unto the former, I beseech you let this be one, that we honour God by it. It is a well-pleasing sacrifice to him. If we would study to please him, we cannot do it better than by praising him.
Note: We willing give praise to all sorts of things which are far less valuable and far less worthy of praise. But at the very least God is worthy of our praise. (Ps. 104) If we desire to please God, we must start with praising God.
As a practical matter, if more our thoughts were turned toward the praise of God,it would result in a transformation of how we live. I have never met someone who was overly zealous in a desire to praise God.
2. And it is a gainful trading with God. For in bestowing his seed, where he finds there is improvement in a good soil, with such a sanctified disposition as to bless him upon all occasions, that there comes not a good thought, a good motion in the mind, but we bless God who hath injected such a good thought in our heart; there, I say, God delights to shower down more and more blessings, making us fruitful in every good work to the praise of his name. Sometimes we shall have holy and gracious persons make a law that no good or holy motion shall come into their hearts, which they will not be thankful for. Oh! when God seeth a heart so excellently disposed, how doth it enrich the soul! It is a gainful trade. As we delight to bestow our seed in soils of great increase, which yield sixty and an hundredfold, if possible, so God delights in a disposition inclined to bless him upon all occasions, on whom he multiplies his favours.
Note: By “gainful trading” Sibbes is playing upon the metaphor of someone who sells and buys. He then mixes this metaphor with farming: God plants a seed of something worthy of praise. The sanctified ground responds by raising up praise: this encourages more blessing (hence, the trade).
Notice how careful Sibbes describes this: as we have a good thought, a good motion of the soul, the respond should be thank and praise God for it. It is a continuous application of the soul to the circumstance. This is a sort of Christian mindfulness.
3. And then, in itself, it is a most noble act of religion, it being a more base thing to be always begging of God; but it argueth a more noble, raised, and elevated spirit, to be disposed to praise God. And it is an argument of less self-love and respect, being therefore more gainful to us. Yea, it is a more noble and royal disposition, fit for spiritual kings and priests thus to sacrifice.
Note: This comes as a sort of encouragement rebuke. If all of our prayer is asking, it shows that we are self-consumed. We want what we want. But a more “royal disposition” (from 1 Peter 2) is to give sacrifice in the form of praise. This is not a rebuke to pray for our needs. But is a rebuke if we simply conceive of God as someone who is supposed to give me something when I want it.
4. Again, indeed, we have more cause to praise God than to pray; having many things to praise him for, which we never prayed for. Who ever prayed for his election, care of parents in our infancy, their affection to us, care to breed and train us to years of discretion, besides those many favours daily heaped upon us, above all that we are able to think or speak? Therefore, praise being a more large sacrifice than prayer, we ought to be abundant in it.
For those that begin not heaven upon earth, of which this praise is a main function, they shall never come to heaven, after they are taken from the earth; for there is no heavenly action, but it is begun upon earth, especially this main one, of joining with angels, seraphim, and cherubim, in lauding God. Shall they praise him on our behalf, and shall not we for our own? We see the choir of angels, when Christ was born, sang, ‘Glory be to God on high, on earth peace, and goodwill towards men,’ Luke 2:14. What was this for? Because Christ the Saviour of the world was born; whereby they shew that we have more benefit, by it than they. Therefore, if we would ever join with them in heaven, let us join with them upon earth. For this is one of the great privileges mentioned by the author to the Hebrews, unto which we be come to, ‘communion with the spirits of just men made perfect, and to the company of innumerable angels,’ Heb. 12:22, 23. We cannot better shew that we are come to that blessed estate and society spoken of, than by praising God.
Notes: He makes two arguments here.
First, “we have more cause to praise God than to pray; having many things to praise him for, which we never prayed for.” We might be tempted to be thankful for those things which asked for and received. But what we fail to realize is that God has been constantly providing us with good things –even without asking. We have endless reasons to be thankful. Therefore, we have more cause to praise than petition.
Second, the heavenly beings are busy praising God for the good things God has done for us. Christ was not given to redeem angels, and yet angels praise God Christ. If we are ever to be part of that heavenly choir, it will be that we have joined it on earth.
5. And lastly, if we be much in praising God, we shall be much in joy, which easeth misery. For a man can never be miserable that can be joyful; and a man is always joyful when he is thankful. When one is joyful and cheerful, what misery can lie upon him? Therefore, it is a wondrous help in misery to stir up the heart to this spiritual sacrifice of thanksgiving by all arguments, means, and occasions.
Note: This is an observation about human psychology: Thankfulness makes one happy. We cannot be thankful and discontent. And we cannot but be happy if we are thankful. Thus, praising God in thankfulness is a means to transform and stir up our hearts to joy.
Death tamed, subdued, washed fair by thee! Oh grace!
Made useful thus! Thou unto thine dost say
Now Death is yours, and all it doth in’t brace.
The grave’s a down bed now made for your clay.
Oh! Happiness! How should our bells hereby 35
Ring changes, Lord, and praises trust with joy.
Summary: First there is a prayer and thanksgiving to God for death having been vanquished and turned into an agent of good. Second, there is an explication and exhortation to the reader, made by God to us, which tracks the logic of the motto 1 Cor. 3.22, “death is yours.” The explication is that death is no longer a danger but now a good. Third, Taylor speaks in his own voice, calling the reader to praise with him. Therefore, you (like me) should be praising God for this transformation.
Death tamed: Death has been brought to heel. There is a reading of Job in which Leviathan and the Behemoth are Satan and the Death. Death, rather than a dangerous beast which can act on its own, has now been “tamed”. The idea of death as a monster was already present, for instance in Paradise Lost, Satan comes upon Sin and her offspring death at the gates to Hell:
Before the gates there sat
On either side a formidable shape.
The one seemed woman to the waist, and fair,
But ended foul in many a scaly fold,
Voluminous and vast, a serpent armed
With mortal sting. About her middle round
A cry of Hell-hounds never-ceasing barked
With wide Cerberean mouths full loud, and rung
A hideous peal; yet, when they list, would creep,
If aught disturbed their noise, into her womb,
And kennel there; yet there still barked and howled
The other shape,
If shape it might be called that shape had none
Distinguishable in member, joint, or limb;
Or substance might be called that shadow seemed,
For each seemed either, black it stood as night,
Fierce as ten furies, terrible as Hell,
And shook a dreadful dart: what seemed his head
The likeness of a kingly crown had on.
I have not been able to find a specific instance of death being said to be “tamed” in any contemporary literature. The image is quite striking.
washed fair by thee! The first two lines of this stanza are directed to the Lord who has washed Death and left it now attractive.
Thou unto thine dost say/ Now Death is yours The poet continues as the speaker, but here he changes to second person: The Lord says to us “Death is yours.” But the line is written as repetition of what he has heard. Speaking to the Lord, he says, “[Lord] thou dost say.” In this, Taylor is writing prophetically, proclaiming the word of God to the reader. This is interesting how the Puritans used the concept of prophecy and applied it to preaching: I am proclaiming the revelation of God.
and all it doth in’t brace. Everything included in death, all that it embraces (is yours).
The grave’s a down bed now made for your clay. Death is referenced as a “sleep” for believers. Thus, Paul writing to the Corinthians in chapter 15, “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.” Your clay, you mortal body.
Oh! Happiness! How should our bells hereby
At first, it is unclear who says “Happiness”, but use of “our” in the next clause identifies the speaker as Taylor to the reader: you and I should ring “our bells” for happiness.
The most interesting rhythm is in the first line of the stanza
Death tamed, subdued, washed fair by thee!
DEATH TAMED SUBdued WASHED fair
Say I am thine, my Lord: Make me thy bell
To ring thy praise. Then death is mine indeed
A hift to grace, a spur to duty; spell 40
To fear; a frost to nip each naughty weed
A golden door to glory. Oh I’ll sing
This triumph o’er the grave! Death where’s thy sting.
Summary: The poet ends with a conditional praise: It is conditional, because it depends upon the work of the Lord as to Taylor “Say I am thine”, if this is true, then death is a blessing to me. He then prays for the existence of the poem, “Make me thy bell”: cause me to be able to praise you for the transformation of death. He then lays out benefits of death. It is ends with a song of triumph over death.
Say I am thine, my Lord The first petition of the prayer. There is no condition in Taylor upon which to ground this petition. For instance, if you read the opening prayer in the Iliad, the priest to Apollo lays out what he has done for Apollo and then asks for Apollo to return the effort. Here, Taylor posits no grounds to be made the Lord’s.
Make me thy bell: In the sixth stanza, he calls upon the reader to ring his bell. Here, he calls upon God to make him a bell, to sing praise. As Peter writes, the end of salvation is praise of God, “that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Pet. 2:9)
Then death is mine indeed: He affirms the offer of death and then proceeds to spell out how death is a benefit:
A hift to grace: “hift” is obscure. Perhaps a “help” or “gift”. The sense is clear, it is a benefit to grace.
a spur to duty: This could be, since I will not live long, I should work hard. But I think the better understanding comes from 1 Cor. 15 and the long discussion of the sureness of the resurrection for believers. Having said that death has been overcome, Paul then uses this as a basis for work: it will not be lost, “1 Corinthians 15:58 (AV)
58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”
“If we had such a persuasion of this, we could not be so cold and careless in duty, and so bold in sin; but we have a wavering trembling assent, and some imperfect opinions about the things of God, and. not a full persuasion: 1 Cor. 15:58, ‘Therefore be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord; forasmuch as you know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.’ If we did once know and were persuaded of this, if we had an evidence of things to come, and things unseen, we would be more steadfast and unmovable in the work of the Lord. If our expectations were greater, our observation of God would be greater, the business of eternal life would not be so neglected; conscience would not be so sleepy, nor should we venture upon sin so often as we do; this would put life into every exhortation you hear and read. Alas! we press and exhort day after day; it works not, why? because it is not ‘mingled with faith in them that hear it,’ Heb. 4:2. What earnest affections of soul would there be towards God and heavenly things if we did truly believe these things.” Thomas Manton, The Complete Works of Thomas Manton, vol. 13 (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1873), 370–371.
“Since your labor, says he, is not in vain in the Lord, be steadfast, and abound in good works. Now he says that their labor is not in vain, for this reason, that there is a reward laid up for them with God. This is that exclusive hope which, in the first instance, encourages believers, and afterwards sustains them, so that they do not stop short in the race. Hence he exhorts them to remain steadfast, because they rest on a firm foundation, as they know that a better life is prepared for them in heaven.” John Calvin, 1 Corinthians, electronic ed., Calvin’s Commentaries (Albany, OR: Ages Software, 1998), 1 Co 15:58.
Spell/ to fear: All fears ultimately rest upon the fear of death. Since death has been quelled, the basis for fear is dispelled. A spell, it means to ward off fear.
a frost to nip each naughty weed: Recalling that all things will be brought into judgment (1 Cor. 3:13) And, grace, as Barth will write centuries after Taylor, tears up sin by the roots. It is his kindness that leads us to repentance. Rom. 2:4.
A golden door to glory. Rather than leading us to death, death leads us to glory.
Oh I’ll sing
This triumph o’er the grave! Death where’s thy sting.
This first is a near quotation to 1 Cor. 15:54-57, “So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
V. “Doct. That God’s children at all times have their sacrifices.”
Even though Christ has come and the temple sacrifices of animals and grain have been superseded, it does not mean there are no sacrifice remains for Christians. Sibbes lists five: a broken heart, “offering Christ to God,” offering a mortified life as a living sacrifice, giving alms, and praise. When it comes to praise, he will offer further elaboration.
A. Even though Christ has come we must still offer sacrifice
There is indeed one kind of sacrificing determined and finished by the coming of Christ, who was the last sacrifice of propitiation for our sins.
He specifically rejects the concept of the mass as a continuing sacrifice. The sacrifice commemorated in the Supper was the sacrifice under which which has ended.
The more to blame those who yet maintain a daily sacrifice, not of laud and praise, but of cozening and deluding the world, in saying mass for the sins of the quick and the dead; all such sacrifices being finished and closed up in him, our blessed Saviour; who, ‘by one sacrifice,’ as the apostle speaks, ‘hath perfected them that are sanctified,’ Heb. 10:14, 7:27; and that, ‘by one sacrifice, when he offered up himself,’ Heb. 10:12; when all the Jewish sacrifices ended. Since which, all ours are but a commemoration of Christ’s last sacrifice, as the fathers say: the Lord’s supper, with the rest, which remain still; and the sacrifice of praise, with a few others, I desire to name.
But there are other sacrifices:
1. First, The sacrifice of a broken heart, whereof David speaks, Ps. 51:17; which sacrifice of a wounded, broken heart, by the knife of repentance, pleaseth God wondrously well.
2. And then, a broken heart that offers Christ to God every day; who, though he were offered once for all, yet our believing in him, and daily presenting his atonement made for us, is a new offering of him. Christ is crucified and sacrificed for thee as oft as thou believest in Christ crucified.
I guess we best understand this as the application of faith to a broken heart: it is to plead Christ’s death again without claiming that we are in fact re-sacrificing Christ.
Now, upon all occasions we manifest our belief in Christ, to wash and bathe ourselves in his blood, who justifieth the ungodly. So that, upon a fresh sight of sin, with contrition for it, he continually justifieth us. Thus, when we believe, we offer him to God daily; a broken heart first, and then Christ with a broken heart.
There is also the sacrifice of the presenting our lives to service:
3. And then when we believe in Christ, we offer and sacrifice ourselves to God; in which respect we must, as it were, be killed ere we be offered. For we may not offer ourselves as we are in our lusts, but as mortified and killed by repentance. Then we offer ourselves to God as a reasonable and living sacrifice, when we offer ourselves wholly unto him, wit, understanding, judgment, affections, and endeavour; as Paul saith of the Macedonians, ‘they gave themselves to God first, and then their goods,’ 2 Cor. 8:5.
In sum, it is that sacrifice Paul speaks of, ‘to present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God,’ &c., Rom. 12:1. For a Christian who believeth in the Lord Jesus is not his own, but sacrificeth himself to him that was sacrificed for him. As Christ is given to us, so he that believes in Christ gives himself back again to Christ.
This sacrifice is the measure and proof of our salvation:
Hereby a man may know if he be a true Christian, and that Christ is his, if he yields up himself to God. For ‘Christ died and rose again,’ saith the apostle, ‘that he might be Lord both of quick and dead,’ Rom. 14:9. ‘Therefore,’ saith he, ‘whether we live or die, we are not our own,’ Rom. 14:8.
Each time we suffer due to the fact that our life given up to God is conflict with the flow of this world, we are in a state of sacrifice:
What we do or suffer in the world, in all we are sacrificed. So saith a sanctified soul, My wit, my will, my life, my good, my affections are thine; of thee I received them, and I resign all to thee as a sacrifice. Thus the martyrs, to seal the truth, as a sacrifice, yielded up their blood.
In an anti-antinomian turn, Sibbes who is much of the freedom of God’s grace notes that nature of grace received is to create thankfulness which is expressed in a manner of life. This is an interesting idea: Obedience is rendered as an act of thankfulness toward God.
He that hath not obtained of himself so much as to yield himself to God, he knows not what the gospel means. For Christian religion is not only to believe in Christ for forgiveness of sin; but the same faith which takes this great benefit, renders back ourselves in lieu of thankfulness.
He presses and explicates the point:
So that, whatsoever we have, after we believe, we give all back again. Lord, I have my life, my will, my wit, and all from thee; and to thee I return all back again. For when I gave myself to believe in thy dear Son, I yielded myself and all I have to thee; and now, having nothing but by thy gift, if thou wilt have all I will return all unto thee again; if thou wilt have my life, my goods, my liberty, thou shalt have them.
Here he notes that true faith is not merely a cognitive assent to a fact “not altogether in believing in this or that”. Faith transforms the entire life, faith is such a thing:
This is the state of a Christian who hath denied himself. For we cannot believe as we should unless we deny ourselves. Christianity is not altogether in believing this and that; but the faith which moves me to believe forgiveness of sins, carries us also unto God to yield all back again to him.
Love for those whom cannot repay:
4. More especially, among the sacrifices of the New Testament are alms, as, ‘To do good and to communicate forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased,’ Heb. 13:16.
The sacrifice of prase:
5. And among the rest, the sacrifice of praise, which is in the same chapter, verse 15. First, he saith, By him, that is, by Christ, let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips: which is but an exposition of this place, which, because it is especially here intended, I will a little enlarge myself in.
B. What is meant by “calves of our lips”
This idiom is at first quite difficult: calves and lips are not concordant ideas. But the use of “calf” as a metonymy for “sacrifice” leads to some sense:
He first gives an outline of how he will develop the idea: giving glory and giving thanks. One is extolling God, the other is an effusion of love for the thing received.
The ‘calves of our lips’ implies two things: Not only thankfulness to God, but glorifying of God, in setting out his praise. Otherwise to thank God for his goodness to us, or for what we hope to receive, without glorifying of him, is nothing at all worth.
1. What it means to glorify God
For in glorifying there are two things.
a. “A supposition of excellency.” For that cannot be glorified, which hath no excellency in it. Glory in sublimity hath alway excellency attending it. And
b. “The manifestation of this glory.”
Now, when all the excellencies of God, as they are, are discovered and set out, his wisdom, mercy, power, goodness, all-sufficiency, &c., then we glorify him. To praise God for his favours to us, and accordingly to glorify him, is ‘the calves of our lips;’ but especially to praise him. Whence the point is—
c. “That the yielding of praise to God is a wondrous acceptable sacrifice.”
Which is instead of all the sacrifices of the Old Testament, than which the greatest can do no more, nor the least less; for it is the sacrifice and fruit of the lips.
But to open it.
i. The speech which glorifies God has its value in the fact it springs from the understanding:
It is not the sound of the words, but the resolution of the heart which makes the speech God-glorifying.
It is not merely the sacrifice of our lips; for the praise we yield to God, it must be begotten in the heart. Hereupon the word, λογὸς [logos], speech, signifieth both reason and speech, there being one word in the learned language for both.
Reason is communicated as speech:
Because speech is nothing but that stream which issues from the spring of reason and understanding:
therefore, in thanksgiving there must not be a lip-labour only, but a thanksgiving from the lips, first begotten in the heart, coming from the inward man, as the prophet saith, ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name,’ Ps. 103:1.
We know what and why we praise:
Praise must come from a sound judgment of the worth of the thing we praise for.
Praise must rise from true affection:
It must come from an affection which desires that God may have the glory, by the powers of the whole inward man, which is a hard matter, to rouse up ourselves to praise God with all the powers of our soul, ‘all that is within me, praise his holy name,’ Ps. 103:1.
In sum: There goeth judgment, resolution of the will, strength of affections, and all with it.
ii. Praise comes from the heart and then flows out into action:
Praise is an act of integrity: It begins with a true understanding and love, expressing itself in word and in conduct:
And then again, besides this, ‘the calves of our lips’ carries us to work. The oral thanksgiving must be justified by our works and deeds; or else our actions will give our tongue the lie, that we praise him with the one, but deny him in the other. This is a solecism, as if one should look to the earth, and cry, O ye heavens! So when we say, God be praised, when yet our life speaks the contrary, it is a dishonouring of God. So the praise of our lips must be made good and justified by our life, actions, and conversation. This we must suppose for the full understanding of the words, ‘We will render,’ from our hearts, ‘the calves of our lips;’ which we must make good in our lives and conversations, ever to set forth thy praise in our whole life.
C. Why this phrase?
Quest. But why doth the prophet especially mention lips, ‘the calves of our lips,’ which are our words?
Ans. 1. Partly, because Christ, who is the Word, delights in our words.
2. Because our tongue is our glory, and that whereby we glorify God.
3. And especially because our tongue is that which excites others, being a trumpet of praise, ordained of God for this purpose. Therefore, ‘the calves of our lips;’ partly, because it stirs up ourselves and others, and partly, because God delights in words, especially of his own dictating.
D. How can become the person who gives such true praise?
To come then to speak more fully of praise and thanksgiving, let us consider what a sweet, excellent, and prevailing duty this is, which the church, to bind God, promiseth unto him, ‘the calves of our lips.’ I will not be long in the point, but only come to some helps how we may come to do it.
1. We must be broken and humbled to give praise: We must think little of ourselves. He makes an important point here concerning thankfulness. A thankful person begins with an understanding of his lack of some-thing and his unworthiness to receive something. We pay money at the market and take away my apple, I am not thankful to the cashier for letting me take my apple, I have paid for it. But if that same person out of kindness gave me that apple without money, an apple I had not earned or deserved, I would be thankful:
First, this praising of God must be from an humble, broken heart. The humble soul that sees itself not worthy of any favour, and confesseth sin before God, is alway a thankful soul. ‘Take away our iniquity, and then do good to us.’ We are empty ourselves. Then will ‘we render thee the calves of our lips.’
Proof of the point
What made David so thankful a man? He was an humble man; and so Jacob, what abased him so in his own eyes? His humility: ‘Lord, I am less than the least of thy mercies,’ Gen. 32:10.
He that thinks himself unworthy of anything, will be thankful for everything; and he who thinks himself unworthy of any blessing, will be contented with the least.
Exhortation: Notice how Sibbes is continually raising application as it is appropriate. To be thankful: which is the thing sought, we first must contemplate our unworthiness. The point here is not self-centered loathing, but a realization that we do not deserve good so that we may be thankful of the good.
Therefore, let us work our hearts to humility, in consideration of our sinfulness, vileness, and unworthiness, which will make us thankful: especially of the best blessings, when we consider their greatness, and our unworthiness of them.
Here he makes a point which coheres with something I see in the Iliad (which I am currently completing), a book of extraordinarily proud men. Thankfulness is almost non-existent. The word “thank” only appears 10 times in Butler’s translation, as an ironic concept, as a means for a god to deceive someone into a committing a crime, as a basis for pride (no one thanks me for my fighting).
I wonder if our emphasis on self-esteem has contributed to unhappiness by making us unthankful: and also creating a basis for constant disappointment and frustration (I have not received what I deserved).
Another note, the broken-hearted humility is humility toward God.
A proud man can never be thankful. Therefore, that religion which teacheth pride, cannot be a thankful religion.
Popery is compounded of spiritual pride: merit of congruity, before conversion; merit of condignity, and desert of heaven, after; free will, and the like, to puff up nature. What a religion is this! Must we light a candle before the devil? Is not nature proud enough, but we must light a candle to it? To be spiritually proud is worst of all.
2. Thankfulness is paired with an evaluation of the greatness and goodness of God. The Christian who “humbles” himself can conceal pride in that humility if it is not paired with an understanding of the goodndess and greatness of God. Without this there will never be thankfulness; and there will not be true humility
And with our own unworthiness, add this: a consideration of the greatness of the thing we bless God for; setting as high a price upon it as we can, by considering what and how miserable we were without it.
He is going to raise the doctrine of Hell. The doctrine is routinely unfashionable and is often considered reprehensible. But here Sibbes asks us to consider it so that we may be thankful. Here is the misery we have earned (and that is the point which is unpalatable, perhaps you could deserve Hell, but I could not), and yet we are spared. If you narrowly avoided being killed in a fire, you would thank the fireman.
He will bless God joyfully for pardon of sin, who sees how miserable he were without it, in misery next to devils, ready to drop into hell every moment. And the more excellent we are, so much the more accursed, without the forgiveness of sins.
For the soul, by reason of the largeness thereof, is so much the more capable and comprehensible of misery; as the devils are more capable than we, therefore are most accursed. Oh, this will make us bless God for the pardon of sin!
Consider all of the good things we have received. In particular be thankful that we can see or hear or touch.
And likewise, let us set a price upon all God’s blessings, considering what we were without our senses, speech, meat, drink, rest, &c. O beloved!
we forget to praise God sufficiently for our senses.
This little spark of reason in us is an excellent thing; grace is founded upon it. If we were without reason, what were we? If we wanted sight, hearing, speech, rest, and other daily blessings, how uncomfortable were our lives! This consideration will add and set a price to their worth, and make us thankful, to consider our misery without them.
Sadly, we don’t know how many good things we have until we do not have them:
But, such is our corruption, that favours are more known by the want, than by the enjoying of them. When too late, we many times find how dark and uncomfortable we are without them; then smarting the more soundly, because in time we did not sufficiently prize, and were thankful for them.
3. If we have a good assurance that we are right before God, we will be thankful
And then, labour to get further and further assurance that we are God’s children, beloved of him.
Assurance will work in two ways: it will make me conscious of what I have – and what is coming. It will make me thankful.
This will make us thankful both for what we have and hope for.
Proof of the point by considering the opposite:
It lets out the life-blood of thankfulness, to teach doubting or falling from grace.
Why does God tell us of the good which is laid up for us? To make us hopeful and thus thankful:
What is the end, I beseech you, why the glory to come is revealed before the time? That we shall be sons and daughters, kings and queens, heirs and co-heirs with Christ, and [that] ‘all that he hath is ours?’ Rom. 8:17. Is not this knowledge revealed beforehand, that our praise and thanksgiving should beforehand be suitable to this revelation, being set with Christ in heavenly places already. Whence comes those strong phrases? ‘We are raised with Christ; sit with him in heavenly places,’ Eph. 2:6; ‘are translated from death to life,’ Col. 1:13; ‘transformed into his image;’ ‘partakers of the divine nature,’ &c., 2 Pet. 1:4.
Faith begets thankfulness. Doubting robs us of blessing. This is an important aspect of faith: it the means by which one person receives love and joy and hope from another: if I distrust you, I can never receive love from you.
If anything that can come betwixt our believing, and our sitting there, could disappoint us thereof, or unsettle us, it may as well put Christ out of heaven, for we sit with him. If we yield to the uncomfortable popish doctrine of doubting, we cannot be heartily thankful for blessings; for still there will rise in the soul surmises, I know not whether God favour me or not: it may be, I am only fatted for the day of slaughter; God gives me outward things to damn me, and make me the more inexcusable.
And if we doubt we will not give God the praise he deserves. How could one be thainkful with, maybe you’ll do me good?
What a cooler of praise is this, to be ever doubting, and to have no assurance of God’s favour! But when upon good evidence, which cannot deceive, we have somewhat wrought in us, distinct from the greater number of worldlings, God’s stamp set upon us; having evidences of the state of grace, by conformity to Christ, and walking humbly by the rule of the word in all God’s ways: then we may heartily be thankful, yea, and we shall break forth in thanksgiving; this being an estate of peace, and ‘joy unspeakable and glorious,’ 1 Pet. 1:8, wherein we take everything as an evidence of God’s love.
He restates the proposition:
Thus the assurance of our being in the state of grace makes us thankful for everything.
He restates the contrary: Notice the tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you told them. Particularly when delivering an oral message, repetition is critical to retention and understanding.
So by the contrary, being not in some measure assured of God’s love in Christ, we cannot be thankful for everything. For it will always come in our mind, I know not how I have these things, and what account I shall give for them.
He repeats the exhortation: Be assured of what you will receive for this will fill your heart with thankfulness:
even for the honour of God,
and that we may praise him the more cheerfully,
let us labour to have further and further evidences of the state of grace,
[this leads to]
to make us thankful both for things present and to come,
seeing faith takes to trust things to come, as if it had them in possession.
[Our faith is well-grounded]
Whereby we are assured of this, that we shall come to heaven, as sure as if we were there already. This makes us praise God beforehand for all favours; as blessed Peter begins his epistle, ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which, according to his abundant mercy, hath begotten us again unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,’ &c., 1 Pet. 1:3, 4.
A final encouragement:
As soon as we are newborn, we are begotten to a kingdom and an inheritance. Therefore, assurance that we are God’s children will make us thankful for grace present, and that to come, as if we were in heaven already. We begin then the employment of heaven in thanksgiving here, to praise God beforehand with cherubims and angels. Let us, then, be stirred up to give God his due beforehand, to begin heaven upon earth; for we are so much in heaven already, as we abound and are conversant in thanksgiving upon earth.
Having fully set out the problem, Taylor prays for a resolution. If he is not adequate by nature, then he seeks to be made adequate by grace. That is, it is not a work of Taylor’s effort, but a work of God, “this worthy work of thine.”
The prayer is threefold: first that his heart be made a sacred vessel (thy golden box); second, filled with the correction disposition (love divine); third, offered up to God.
Oh! That my heart was made thy golden box
Full of affections and of love divine
Knit all in tassels, and the true-love knots,
To garnish o’re this worthy work of thine.
This box and all therein more rich than gold
In sacred flames I to thee offer would.
The image of gold is used for those things most proper to God. In the previous stanza the poet notes that he had tied “knots” – had decorated the “earth’s toys” lovingly with flowers; but in this stanza, the God-given new heart would decorate the be a “golden box” impossibly knit together from tassels and flower (knots).
The box would contain “affections” and “love divine”.
The golden box so decorated would be more wonderful than a mere gold box.
And last, the box would then be offered up as a sacrifice to God. He would spend this box “in sacred flames.”
The concept of sacrifice here may sound odd, because a fiery sacrifice would be the destruction of the golden box. While Taylor is perfectly willing to mix metaphors (a golden box made of flowers), the concept here is more likely the concept of a “living sacrifice”:
Romans 12:1 (AV)
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
If he so reworked and remade, then he will be fit for that heavenly pleasure he desires:
With thy rich tissue my poor soul array:
And lead me to thy Father’s House above.
Thy graces’ storehouse make my soul I pray.
Thy praise shall then wear tassels of my love.
If thou conduct me in thy Father’s Ways,
I’ll the golden trumpet of thy praise.
The word “tissue” does not here mean an insubstantial paper. The older meaning was a cloth interwoven with gold or silver: the clothing of royalty. And so dress me like a prince and lead to the Father’s House.
Father’s House comes the Lord’s words in the Upper Room:
John 14:1–2 (AV)
1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
By the way, “mansion” does not mean separate enormous houses: the Greek here speaks of a place to live, a dwelling place.
The prayer to be led, is a common prayer in the Psalms; which undoubtably was behind Taylor’s prayer in the poem. For instance:
Psalm 43:3 (AV)
3 O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me;
let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles.
He prays not merely to be led, but rather for the entire renovation of the soul to be a storehouse filled with grace. The idea of grace is free work of God in him: it is the good which God does and gives.
Then finally being filled with God’s grace and no longer a “leaden mind”, a “blockhead”, he will burst forth in praise. In fact, the praise will be “tassels” a decoration of his love: thus bringing the image of a decorated heart again into view.
This time, if God will bring Taylor to that “Palace of Pure Gold” he will no longer be dumb but will now offer praise.
(2009 photo contest winner for the Nature / Landscapes category. Photo by Kurt Svendsgaard/USFWS)
When thy bright beams, my Lord, do strike mine eye,
Methinks I then could truly chide out-right
My hidebound soul that stands so niggardly
That scarce a thought gets glorified by’t.
My quaintest metaphors are ragged stuff,
Making the sun seem like a mullipuff.
When I am struck evidence of your glory, I see how little right effect that glory works into my soul. I chide myself that I show so little effect up me. The words which I produce are of so little value.
“chide out-right”: Scold, upbraid.
“My hidebound soul”: his soul is unresponsive.
“Niggardly”: selfish, tightfisted: It is as if his soul is a miser which will pay out no praise.
“scarce a thought get glorified”: The glory of God does not translate into transformed thinking. In Romans 12:2 Paul calls up us to be “transformed by the renewal of your mind”
“quaintest metaphors”: my most clever metaphors. The style of writing exercised by Taylor gives great emphasis to the cleverness of metaphor. He here raises his most able talent and says that it means nothing: it is “ragged stuff”.
He ends the stanza with a comic comparison: rather than raise what I know in admiration by means of comparison, I turn the very sun into a fuzzball.
It’s my desire, thou shouldst be glorified:
But when thy glory shine before mine eye,
I pardon crave, lest my desire be pride,
Or bed thy glory in cloudy sky.
The sun grows wan; and angels palefac’d shrink
Before thy shine, which I besmear with ink.
It is my aim – my desire – that you, God, should be honored by my work. But I see your already existing glory, rather than thinking of some means of providing you greater honor; I feel myself ashamed. I ask that you should forgive me (I pardon crave).
Rather than my writing providing something honoring to, I fear that I will dishonor you with my words. Rather than adding a luster to God’s glory, Taylor’s words will have the effect of being a “cloudy sky” to the sun. His poem will merely “besmear with ink” the glory of God.
This realization that (1) his soul has not responded rightly to the realization of God’s glory and (2) his complete inability to glorify God, leads to a crisis: What will I do? That crisis is set forth in the third stanza:
But shall the bird sign forth thy praise and shall
The little bee present her thankful hum?
But I who see thy shining glory fall
Before mine eyes, stand blockish, dull, and dumb?
Whether I speak, or speechless stand, I spy,
I fail thy glory: therefor, pardon cry.
Even the most simple things give glory to God: birds singing, bees humming. This matter that all nature praises God is a theme in Scripture. For instance, Psalm 149
Psalm 148:7–10 (AV 1873)
7 Praise the Lord from the earth,
Ye dragons, and all deeps:
8 Fire, and hail; snow, and vapour;
Stormy wind fulfilling his word:
9 Mountains, and all hills;
Fruitful trees, and all cedars:
10 Beasts, and all cattle;
Creeping things, and flying fowl:
I do like “dragons”, but the contemporary translations render as something like “great sea creatures”. All of nature praises God, “All thy works shall praise thee”. Ps. 145.10.
So, if all of creation praises God, then certainly Taylor – who has better reason and better ability to praise God – must do something. It is particularly wrong for Taylor to stand agape and say nothing,
But I who see thy shining glory fall
Before mine eyes, stand blockish, dull, and dumb?
So Taylor has no escape: If he praises God or he fails to praise, both will be wrong:
Whether I speak, or speechless stand, I spy,
I fail thy glory: therefor, pardon cry.
What can he possibly do but seek mercy?
But this I find: my rhymes do better suit
Mine own dispraise than tune forth praise to thee.
Yet being chide, whether consonant, or mute,
I force my tongue to tattle, as you see.
That I thy glorious praise my trumpet right
Be thou my song, and make Lord, me thy pipe.
He acknowledges that his best ability in terms of poetry is to note his own deficiency rather than God’s glory:
But this I find: my rhymes do better suit
Mine own dispraise than tune forth praise to thee.
And God, you also see since I deserve no matter I do (“whether consonant or mute”), but you also see that I cannot help but speak and praise you.
So then, Taylor prays that God will work in Taylor’s praise to remedy his defect. In making this prayer, Taylor is seeming relying upon the promise of Romans 8:27 that when we pray the Holy Spirit will intercede for us – that He will effectively correct our defective prayers.
He then ends with a praise to God’s great glory which shall be revealed on Judgment Day.
The poet begins with a seemingly impossible scene: a King of unsurpassed glory who blazes like the sun (whose crown a bunch of sunbeams was). Even his throne is made of life (sat on a cushion all of sunshine clear). The palace itself is a mass of precious stones.
Was there a palace of pure gold, all ston’d And paved with pearls, who gates rich jasper were, And throne a carbuncle, who King enthroned Sat on a cushion all of sunshine clear; Whose crown a bunch of sunbeams was: I should Prize such as in his favor shrine me would.
Now, if there were such a place, he would desire the honor and fellowship of that king (I should prize such as in his favor shrine me would).
Such a King does exist: Christ the king. The poem is headed with the note that it is a meditation on Ephesians 2:18: “For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.”
Thy milk white hand, my glorious Lord, doth this: It opes this gate and me conducts into This golden palace whose rich pavement is Of precious stones; and to this king also. Thus throned and crowned: whose words are ‘bellished all With brighter beams than e’re the sun let fall.
This stanza continues on with the imagery from the throne room of heaven in Revelation 4 & 5 and the depiction of heaven in chapters 21-22. The Lord gives us access unto this throne. It is interesting in this poem that it is the “words” in particular which are embellished and brighter than the sun.
The words of Christ — whose is the Word of God — are what grants access to this throne. In John 6:48, Peter says that Christ has the words of eternal life. In John 15:3, Jesus says that the disciples are clean because of the word he has spoken. The topic is too big for this discussion, but it is present here.
The poet having recognized the wonder of what has been granted him, turns on himself: He does not prize this honor as he should:
But oh! poor me, thy sluggish servant, I More blockish than a block, as blockhead, stand. Though mine affections quick as lightning fly On toys, they snail-like move to kiss thy hand. My coal-black doth thy milk-white hand avoid That would above the Milky Way me guide.
Here he notes the common complaint of all who being to realize the astounding grant of God in Christ: What could be more wonderful than access to God? But, the things which most easily excite my affections are bauble, “toys”. What stupidity to treasure toys when endless beauty and glory can be had for the reception?
His despair now turns to God: Why should this even be? What is the aim of God in letting such a fool access to such wonder?
What aim’st at, Lord? [What do you aim at] that I should be so cross. My mind is leaden in thy golden shine. Though all o’re Spirit when this dirty dross Doth touch it with it smutting leaden lines. What shall an eagle t’catch a fly thus run? Or angel dive after a mote inth’sun?
My presence, my words, my hand can only make things dirty (smutting). An eagle wouldn’t chase down a fly. An angel wouldn’t chance dust — why this with me?
And thus, he turns the fire of his poem upon himself: I should be wracked with sorrow and tears at my evil. I can see this is true of me, and yet the tears are missing. I have this knowledge: but not the affections. I should attack myself for this foolishness – but I can’t.
He then hits the point of the poem: All I have for sorrow is this poem (Mine eyes, Lord, shed no tears but ink):
What folly’s this? I fain would take, I think, Vengeance upon myself. But I confess I can’t. Mine eyes, Lord, shed no tears but ink. My hand works, are words, and wordiness. Earth’s toys wear knots of my affection, nay, though from thy glorious self they’re stole away.
His heart is set upon the tokens and marks of the world — which are just, at best stolen glory.
Here he poem makes a turn: repentance.
The genius — if you will — of Christianity is that it both shows human beings our poverty and foolishness — our depravity and then it leads us to desire to be free: but we are not freed by our personal effort, but by the gracious work of God.
Conviction is not guilt: Conviction is a sight of sin and movement toward God. The true heart of Christianity is this constant turning away and toward: it is believing the God will receive me:
Oh! that my heart was made thy golden box Full of affections, and of love divine Knit all of tassles, and in true-love knots To garnish o’re this worthy work of thine. This box and all therein more rich than gold, In sacred flames, I to thee offer would.
The human heart should be a box to treasure up affections toward God. As Richard Sibbes writes in the Faithful Covenanter:
Examine what affections we have to God: for it is affection that makes a Christian.
Richard Sibbes, The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart, vol. 6 (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; W. Robertson, 1863), 10.
With thy rich tissue my poor soul array And lead me to thy Father’s house above. Thy grace’s storehouse make my soul I pray. Thy praise shall then wear tassels of my love. If thou conduct me in thy Father’s ways I’ll be the golden trumpet of thy praise.
Make a man who can praise you; transform me (lead me) and dress me in love for you and I’ll praise you. The desire to praise Christ — who is worthy of such praise is the hope of the Christian. This is not a servile praise but honest joy. We praise many lesser things — and our greatest moments of joy are in those moments we praise.
Upon the Payment of a Pepper-corn
(Photo courtesy of John Lodder)
Logicians have a maxim, Relations sunt minimas entitatis & maxime efficace: relations are the smallest entity, and of the greatest efficacy: the truth which may appear in the payment of a single peppercorn, that freeholders pay their landlord, they do it not with any hope or intent to enrich him; but to acknowledge that they hold all from him. To affect the one it is not have to mean about you, get a preservers the Lord’s right fully as a greater rent, and aggravates the tenant’s folly to withhold more then if the demand had been higher.
What Naaman’s servant spoke on to him, If the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? How much rather then, when he saith to thee, wash and be clean?
The condition which meet bounty happily has so easy had been by the same hand and power restraints to a more costly and ample homage ought it not to have been performed? How much more when nothing is required but what may how inexcusable then must the ingratitude of those men be, receiving all their blessings from God, withhold a peppercorn of praise and honor for him, which is the only thing that they can pay or that he expects? To cast the least mite into his treasury, which may add to its richest, is beyond the line if men or angels, for if it could admit to increase [if the praise could make God’s existing merit and treasure larger than it is at present], the abundance of it were not infinite: but to adore its fullness and to acknowledge that from it they derived theirs is the duty of all the partake of it.
This is the only homage that those Stars of the Morning and Sons of God who behold his face do given in heaven, and this it is which the children of men should give on earth. But alas! From how few are those sacred dues tendered to God, though all be his debtors? Does not the rich man when well flows in on him like a river forget that only the Lord gives him power to get riches? And sacrifice onto his neck, and burn incense onto his drag? Is it not the sin that God charges all Israel with, that they rejoice in the thing of nought, and say have we not taken horns to us by our own strength?
Yea, does he not expressly say that he will not get his glory onto another? Shall any man then take it onto himself? And yet what stolen bread is so sweet to any taste as the secret nimmings and purloinings of God’s glory our onto the palate of most? If any design be effected, they think that their wisdom has brought about; if any difficulties be removed, they ascribed it to their industry; if success and victory due build upon their sword, it is their own arm and right hand that has obtained it. O how great is that pride and on thankfulness which reigns in the hearts of men who affect to rob God, rather than to honor can’t, and she denied him to be the author of what they possess, than to acknowledge the tenure that they hold in capite [a holding immediately from the king; English law].
Stealing from men may be acquitted again with single or double, with fourfold or sevenfold restitution: but the filching from God’s glory can never be answered. For who can give anything to him which he has not received? Others may steal of necessity, to satisfy hungry; but such [as do not praise God] violate out of pride and wantonness the Exchequer of Heaven, and shall never escape undetected or unpunished.
Consider therefore this all you who are ready to kiss your own hands for every blessing that comes upon you, to what danger you expose yourselves, while you rob God – whose name is Jealous, who will vindicate the glory of neglected goodness in the severe triumphs of his impartial justice. It is Bernard’s expression Uti datis, ut innatis est maxima superbia, to use God’s gifts as things inbred in us is the highest arrogance. And what less merit than the very condemnation of the Devil – whose first sin (as some divines [theologians] conceive) was an affection of independent happiness, without any respect or habitude to God. I cannot wonder that the blackness of his sin and the dreadfulness of his Fall should not make all to fear the least shadow and semblance of such a crime in themselves as must bring upon them the like ruin.
Look upon him you proud ones and tremble, who are abettors of Nature against Grace, and resolve the salvation of man ultimately in to the freedom of the will rather than into the efficacy of God’s grace. [The one ] who in the work of conversion make the grace of God to have only the work of a midwife, to help the child into the world but not be the parent and sole author of it. Is not this to cross the great design of the Gospel, which is to exalt and honor God and Christ? That he that glorieth might glory in the Lord? And is not every tittle of the Gospel as dear to God as every tittle of the Law? Can then any diminish aught from it and be guiltless?
Oh fear then to take the least due from God who has threatened to take his part out of the Book of Life and out of the holy City and from the things which are written in the Book of God.
Non test devotions dedisse probe totum, sed fraudis retinuisse vel minimum, It is not devotion, says Prosper rightly against his Collator, to acknowledge almost all from God, but accursed theft to ascribe though but a very little to ourselves.
Lord, therefore, whatever others do Keep me humble, That as I receive all from thee, So I may render that tribute of praise which thou expects from me Both cheerfully and faithfully; And though it can add nothing to thy perfection, No more than my beholding and admiring the Sun’s light can increase it Yet let me say, as Holy David did, Not unto us, O Lord, Not unto us, But unto thy name be the glory For thy mercy And for thy truth’s sake.
The New Testament church met together for a specific purpose. Paul urges his readers that whatever they do, they should “do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31). Therefore, the church exists to glorify God. Everything the church does should be done with the purpose of glorifying God and exalting Christ. At the same time, however, Paul emphasizes the need for believers to be edified because when believer were edified or built up, then God receives glory (1 Cor 12). There are at least five main ways this purpose is accomplished. First, the church glorifies God through worship which involves reading and preaching God’s word (1 Cor 1:23-24; Col. 4:6; 1 Tim 4:2), praying (1 Tim 2:8), singing (Eph 5:19; Col 3:16-17), taking a collection (1 Cor 16;22; 2 Cor 9:612) and celebrating the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 11:17-34). Second, the church glorifies God through fellowship, which includes bearing one another’s burdens (Gal 6:2; see also Acts 2:42; Heb 10:24-25). Third, the church glorifies God through discipleship, which includes equipping all believers (Eph 4:11-12) and training new leaders (1 Tim 2:2). Fourth, the church glorifies God through service, which includes using one’s spiritual gifts (1 Tim 4:14). Finally, the church glorifies God through evangelism and missions. Jesus gave his disciples the Great Commission (Mt 28:19-20) and Paul expected the churches he planted to share the good news with others.
 Benjamin Merkle, ed., “Paul’s Ecclesiology,” in Paul’s Mission Methods: In His Time and Ours, ed. Robert L. Plummmer and John Mark Terry (Downer’s Grove: IVP, 2012), 58.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.