What could possibly motivate God to show grace? And if God were inclined in general to do good, why would he do good to such a one as the poet? This is a central mystery in Christianity as Paul write in Romans 5:8, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Christ does not die so that we will be loved. Rather, God loves us first. The cross is provided because God loves us – not so that God will love us.
This leads to the paradox which Taylor considers: If God does me so much good, why do I return so little? Love naturally begets love; but the love which Taylor shows to God is nothing compared to the love which God has shown him.
What aim’st at, Lord? 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 its smutting leaden line.
What shall an eagle t’catch a fly thus run?
Or Angel dive after a mote int’sun?
What is the intention of God, when Taylor is
Lead; where God is gold
Dross, filth; where God is Spirit.
What motivation could there be? Why would an eagle waste its time to capture a fly; or an angel chase a speck of dust.
How then can Taylor remedy the trouble? He will take “vengeance” upon himself for his improper response to God’s love.
And yet, all he can muster is a mismatch: I should have actual tears in my eyes for my wretchedness, but all I can offer is the idea: these words, this poem:
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 handy works, are words and wordiness.
Earth’s toys wear knots of my affections, nay,
Though from thy glorious self, they stole away.
The trouble is in Taylor’s affections. Affections are deeper word than an emotion; it is the emotion with the matching desire. To love or hate are both affections; but rather than a brief feeling, the affection deeper, more settled.
Taylor knows that he should love. Then not loving well, he should have sorrow for his sinful lack of love. But he cannot even manage that sorrow. The trouble is his heart is set too fully upon “toys”.
A “knot” is a bouquet of flowers. The image is the various “toys” being dressed with loving affection.
To understand Taylor, you must understand how Taylor thought:
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any many love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
1 John 2:15-16. This does mean a hatred of human beings: there is a command to love human beings. This does not mean destruction of the world. The world is given as a stewardship: it belongs to God, but cared for by us. In John, the “word” means the system of being in rebellion against God.
You must think of the world like the Witch’s House in Handsel and Gretel: it is made of candy, but it is a trap. Having fully set out the problem, Taylor must