Stupdenous Love.1 (Edward Taylor, Text and Notes)
Stupendous Love! All saints’ astonishment.!
Bright angels are black motes in this sun’s light.
Heav’n's canopy the paintice to God’s tent
Can’t cover’t neither with its breadth, nor height.
Its glory doth all glory else out run,
Beams of bright glory to’t are motes i’th’sun.
The poem itself will speak of the blessing to be had by the life that receives the glory of God shone in the incarnate Son of God. In this introductory paragraph, Taylor plays off two understandings of the word “glory”. He contrasts the greater glory of God in Jesus Christ with the lesser glory of things created.
Jesus is more glorious than either the sunlight or even angels. To make the contrast, we must understand that there is a glory in the creation:”The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”Psalms 19:1
The sun and the stars stand at the beginning of God’s great glory in creation: “And God made the two great lights-the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night-and the stars.”Genesis 1:16
(A wonderful sermon on this verse can be found here: http://media.calvarybiblechurch.org.s3.amazonaws.com/audio/sermon/2011/20111211.mp3)
Angels, likewise, are glorious in their beauty. For example, Matthew describes the angel who rolled away the stone from Jesus’ tomb, “His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow” (Matthew 28:3).
Jesus, with Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration also have radiant glory:
2 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them,3 and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. Mark 9:2-4.
God himself dwells in light:
13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession,14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time-he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen. 1 Timothy 6:13-16
Yet, there is a greater glory of the Son which transcends even light. The references in the Psalms to the King and the King in glory are references to the Son who is the true king. That image is picked up in John to refer to Jesus’ coming as glorious.
1 O LORD, in your strength the king rejoices, and in your salvation how greatly he exults! 2 You have given him his heart’s desire and have not withheld the request of his lips. Selah 3 For you meet him with rich blessings; you set a crown of fine gold upon his head. 4 He asked life of you; you gave it to him, length of days forever and ever. 5 His glory is great through your salvation; splendor and majesty you bestow on him.6 For you make him most blessed forever; you make him glad with the joy of your presence. 7 For the king trusts in the LORD, and through the steadfast love of the Most High he shall not be moved. Psalm 21:1-7
7 Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.
8 Who is this King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle!
9 Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.
10 Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory! Selah Psalm 24:7-10
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”)16 And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. John 1:14
And yet there was a veiling of the glory of the Son which the Son prays to be revealed. Jesus, in what is known as the High Priestly Prayer of John 17 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. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:20-25.
The sight of this glory is the gift of God:
7 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end,8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory?9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory.10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it.11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.
12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold,13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end.14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away.15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts.16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing.4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 3:7-4:6.
Thus, the joy of Taylor is both in the beauty of what he sees, but also in the gift: both of the glory of the Son and the sight of that glory.
It is the sight of and the desire for such sight which transforms the Christian:
1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. 1 John 3:1-3
The reference to God’s tent is most particularly a reference to the sky. However, there seems to a recollection of the glory of God overwhelming the temple — which took over for the tent of meeting, the traveling tabernacle:
1 As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple.2 And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD’s house.3 When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the LORD on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” 1 Chronicles 7:1-3