I’ve been thinking of a poem I read this morning all day. I read it in The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1975). Some may find this poem depressing, even unhealthy. I found it strangely compelling. It so effectively strips naked the pretense of righteousness, even for a person that is outwardly doing “pretty good” (like me). The confession of sins of internal malice toward people below and above particularly convicted me.
When I come to God in prayer to confess my sins, I know that I don’t even come close to confessing my sin adequately. This poem has helped me to consider the remaining wickedness in my own heart. Even with the help of this poem, I still won’t fully appreciate how ugly my sin is to God. However, it is a sobering reminder that I am counted righteous by God, for His glory. God justifies the ungodly (Romans 4:5), and I am one of those! Praise God for the saving grace that comes from the active obedience of Christ!
My every sense, member, faculty, affection, is a snare to me,
I can scarce open my eyes but I envy those above me, or despise those below.
I covet honour and riches of the mighty, and am proud and unmerciful to the rags of others;
If I behold beauty it is a bait to lust, or see deformity, it stirs up loathing and disdain;
How soon do slanders, vain jests, and wanton speeches creep into my heart!
Am I comely? What fuel for pride!
Am I deformed? What an occasion for repining!
Am I gifted? How I lust after applause!
Am I unlearned? How I despise what I have not!
Am I in authority? How prone to abuse my trust, make will my law, exclude others’ enjoyments, serve my own interests and policy!
Am I inferior? How much I grudge others’ pre-eminence!
Am I rich? How exalted I become!
Thou knowest that all these are snares by my corruptions, and that my greatest snare is myself.
I bewail that my apprehensions are dull,
My thoughts mean
My affections stupid
My expressions low
My life unbeseeming;
Yet what canst thou expect of dust but levity, of corruption but defilement.
Keep me ever mindful of my natural state,
But let me not forget my heavenly title, or the grace that can deal with every sin.