What beliefs, sensibilities, outlooks, philosophical and religious perceptions does the text seem to explore?
 

MAN A NOTHING

(anonymous Puritan poem/meditation)

 

Instructions: Go line-by-line and perform a close, engaged reading of your assigned lines. Isolating specific words, images, or lines in each sentence or phrase, ask yourself: What beliefs, sensibilities, outlooks, philosophical and religious perceptions does the text seem to explore? Do not merely restate what the line already says. For example, do not say “'O Lord' means the writer is addressing God as 'Lord'.” Rather, you might consider: what does it mean that the writer feels he/she can even address a holy God? What does the title “O LORD” convey about the author’s attitude toward a triune God?

 
   

 

O LORD,

I am a shell full of dust,

but animated with an invisible rational soul

and made anew by an unseen power of grace;

 


 

Yet I am no rare object of valuable price,

but one that has nothing and is nothing,

although chosen of thee from eternity,

given to Christ, and born again;

 


 

I am deeply convinced of the evil and misery of a sinful state,

of the vanity of creatures,

but also of the sufficiency of Christ.

 


 

When thou wouldst guide me I control myself,

When thou wouldst be sovereign I rule myself.

When thou wouldst take care of me I suffice myself.

When I should depend on thy providings I supply myself,

When I should submit to thy providence I follow my will,

When I should study, love, honour, trust thee, I serve myself;

 


I fault and correct thy laws to suit myself,

Instead of thee I look to man’s approbation,

and am by nature an idolater.

 


 

Lord, it is my chief design to bring my heart back to thee.

Convince me that I cannot be my own god, or make myself happy,

          nor my own Christ to restore my joy,

          nor my own Spirit to teach, guide, rule me.

 


 

Help me to see that grace does this by providential affliction,

          for when my credit is god thou dost cast me lower,]

          when riches are my idol thou dost wing them away,

when pleasure is my all thou does turn it into bitterness.


 

Take away my roving eye, curious ear, greedy appetite, lustful heart;

Show me that none of these things

          can heal a wounded conscience,

          or support a tottering frame,

          or uphold a departing spirit.

Then take me to the cross and leave me there.