[Herod's Gate, Jerusalem]George Herbert: "The Church-porch"

Day 2: Morning


Beware of lust: it doth pollute and foul

Whom God in Baptisme washt with his own blood.

It blots thy lesson written in thy soul;

The holy lines cannot be understood.

     How dare those eyes upon a Bible look,

     Much less towards God, whose lust is all their book?

          Lust deserves the first warning. The sensuous craving for pleasure, selfish achievement, power, acquisition of temporal goods and immoral feelings divert the soul from its true objective. Our consuming desire cheapens the sacrifice of Christ and defiles our purification by His blood. Passion, if it does not obscure our innate conscience, makes it difficult to hear and understand the inborn sense of right and wrong. Those possessed by appetite dare not look upon the Bible or God when lust is all they perceive. In The Presence it withers them, or it makes them arrogant.

          Carnal desire pollutes our divine being so we misunderstand the Divine Will and confuse it with our own. It may eclipse it all together, making light into darkness and God's will into our own desires. Fleshly vision is limited and contorted. This inclination should be recognized before any progress can begin. Without this clarity of vision, all wisdom and cognition are distorted and short sighted.

          Herbert implies an obligation. God, as the person of Christ, purified us with his own blood at our baptism. By our lust we purposely stain our own purity, muddy the clear waters of our innate understanding and see through a glass more darkly than we are born to. This is our own doing, contrary to the renewed nature that faith and grace bestowed on us. Not only do we uncreate God's atonement, but we smear the imprint of divine wisdom.

Lust - 1. pleasure, delight; 2. desire, appetite, relish for something; 3. Biblical or Theological use: sensuous appetite or desire, considered as sexual and leading to sin; 4. sexual appetite or desire; 5. (later 17th to 19th Century usage) lawless or passionate, in poetry without reprobation; 6. vigor, lustiness, fertility (Oxford English Dictionary).

© 1997 J. R. Arner

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