[The Court of the Temple, Jerusalem, Model]from The Temple (1633), by George Herbert:


¶   Decay

SWeet were the dayes, when thou didst lodge with Lot,1
Struggle with Jacob,2 sit with Gideon,3
Advise with Abraham,4 when thy power could not
Encounter Moses5 strong complaints and mone:
            Thy words were then, Let me alone.

One might have sought and found thee presently
At some fair oak,6 or bush,7 or cave,8 or well:9
Is my God this way? No, they would reply:
He is to Sinai gone, as we heard tell:
            List, ye may heare great Aarons bell.10

But now thou dost thy self immure11 and close
In some one corner of a feeble heart:
Where yet both Sinne and Satan, thy old foes,
Do pinch and straiten thee, and use much art
            To gain thy thirds12 and little part.

I see the world grows old, when as the heat
Of thy great love, once spread, as in an urn
Doth closet up it self, and still retreat,
Cold Sinne still forcing it, till it return,
            And calling Justice, all things burn.

General Note: The first stanza describes the "Sweet days," then the conflicts and contacts with the patriarchs and prophets, and ends with "Let me alone." These were the "Sweet days." The second stanza depicts all the places people have met with God; and yet we are told He has gone to Mt. Sinai, and we are left with a substitute (not Aaron, whom God chose, but the sound of Aaron's bell [the remembrance of other people's contact with God]).

1 Lot : Genesis 19:1 And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; 2 And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant's house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all night.(King James Version) [Return]
2 Jacob: Genesis 32:24 And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. 25 And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.26 And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. (King James Version) [Return]
3 Gideon - Judges 6:11 And there came an angel of the LORD, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites. (KJV) [Return]
4 Abraham  - Genesis 18:22 And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the LORD. 23 And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? 24 Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? (KJV) [Return]
5 Moses  - Exodus 6:10 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 11 Go in, speak unto Pharaoh king of Egypt, that he let the children of Israel go out of his land. 12 And Moses spake before the LORD, saying, Behold, the children of Israel have not hearkened unto me; how then shall Pharaoh hear me, who am of uncircumcised lips? 13 And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, and gave them a charge unto the children of Israel, and unto Pharaoh king of Egypt, to bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt. [Moses has more objections following this one.] (KJV) [Return]
6 oak - See Gideon above. [Return]
7 bush - Moses (Exodus 3:3). [Return]
8 cave - Lot (Gen. 19:30); David (I Samuel 22:1); Elijah (I Kings 19:9) [If you include NT, Lazarus (Jn. 11:38). [Return]
9 well - Hagar and Ishmael, son of Abraham (Genesis 21:19); Isaac finds his promised Rebekah (Genesis 24); Moses (Exodus 2:15); David (2 Samuel 23:16; I Chronicles 11:18).  [Return]
10 Aaron's bell -  part of the High Priest's clothing. (Exodus 28:30ff.)  In this poem it is used to indicate the substitute for the real presence of God. [Also see notes on the poem "Aaron."]   [Return]
11 immure - wall in. [Return]
12 thirds - Sin, human perversity for worldly pleasure, takes a third. Satan, original sin, takes a third. Both are fighting for the third that is left to God. [Return]

For these and others see the Biblical Reference Table.

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