A Dialogue Between A Believer and His Soul by Joseph Hart

I have in mind to share here, now and then, poems and passages of literature which I find particularly beautiful and useful. I came across the following lyrics by Joseph Hart in an anthology of Christian poetry, called The Sacrifice of Praise. I love the way the very structure of the poem echos the internal conflict of a soul fighting to preach rather than listen to itself.  The stanzas start off long with more sophisticated argument, but as the soul exhausts its questions and gives way to the believer, the stanzas shorten as one gasping for breath. The soul’s cries become groanings and the believer’s truth most pointed and persevering.

A Dialogue Between A Believer and His Soul
Jospeph Hart (1712-1768)

Believer:
Come, my soul, and let us try,
For a little season,
Every burden to lay by;
Come, and let us reason.
What is this that casts thee down?
Who are those that grieve thee?
Speak, and let the worst be known;
Speaking may relieve thee.

Soul:
O, I sink beneath the load
Of my nature’s evil!
Full of enmity to God;
Captived by the devil;
Restless as the troubled seas;
Feeble, faint, and fearful;
Plagued with every sore disease;
How can I be cheerful?

Believer:
Think on what thy Saviour bore
In the gloomy garden.
Sweating blood at every pore,
To procure thy pardon!
See him stretched upon the wood,
Bleeding, grieving, crying,
Suffering all the wrath of God,
Groaning, gasping, dying!

Soul:
This by faith I sometimes view,
And those views relieve me;
But my sins return anew;
These are they that grieve me.
O, I’m leprous, stinking, foul,
Quite throughout infected;
Have not I, if any soul,
Cause to be dejected?

Believer:
Think how loud thy dying Lord
Cried out, ‘It is finished!’
Treasure up that sacred word,
Whole and undiminished;
Doubt not he will carry on,
To its full perfection,
That good work he has begun;
Why, then, this dejection?

Soul:
Faith when void of works is dead;
This the Scriptures witness;
And what works have I to plead,
Who am all unfitness?
All my powers are depraved,
Blind, perverse, and filthy;
If from death I’m fully saved,
Why am I not healthy?

Believer:
Pore not on thyself too long,
Lest it sink thee lower;
Look to Jesus, kind as strong
Mercy joined with power;
Every work that thou must do,
Will thy gracious Saviour
For thee work, and in thee too,
Of his special favour.

Soul:
Jesus’ precious blood, once spilt,
I depend on solely,
To release and clear my guilt;
But I would be holy.

Believer:
He that bought thee on the cross
Can control thy nature,
Fully purge away thy dross;
Make thee a new creature.

Soul:
That he can I nothing doubt,
Be it but his pleasure.

Believer:
Though it be not done throughout,
May it not in measure?

Soul:
When that measure, far from great,
Still shall seem decreasing?

Believer:
Faint not then, but pray and wait,
Never, never ceasing.

Soul:
What when prayer meets no regard?

Believer:
Still repeat it often.

Soul:
But I feel myself so hard.

Believer:
Jesus will thee soften.

Soul:
But my enemies make head.

Believer:
Let them closer drive thee.

Soul:
But I’m cold, I’m dark, I’m dead.

Believer:
Jesus will revive thee.

What do you think?

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