What a title, huh? Not words you hear very often and not words that are my own. It’s the heading of Part 3 of Valley of Vision, a collection of Puritan Prayers. I’ve been reading through a few each morning and have been struck not just with how it helps me understand the depth of my sin, but how the artistry of the words create a stark yet beautiful contrast between the weight of what I deserve and the extent of forgiveness. Here are just a few examples of what I mean.
All things in me call for my rejection,
All things in thee plead my acceptance…
I am guilty, but pardoned,
lost, but saved,
wandering, but found,
sinning but cleansed...
For I have a secret motive to eye my name in all I do.
Let me not only speak the word sin, but see the thing itself.
Give me to view a discovered sinfulness,
to know that though my sins are crucified
they are never wholly mortified.
Hatred, malice, ill-will,
vain-glory that hungers for and hunts after man’s approval and applause,
all are crucified, forgiven,
but they rise again in my sinful heart…
My mind is a bucket without a bottom,
with no spiritual understanding…
ever learning but never reaching the truth,
always at the gospel-well but never holding water…
Give me a broken heart that yet carries home the water of grace.
I need to repent of my repentance;
I need my tears to be washed;
I have no robe to bring to cover my sins,
no loo to weave my own righteousness;
I am always going into the far country,
and always returning home as a prodigal,
always saying, Father forgive me,
and thou art always bringing forth the best robe.
Every morning let me wear it,
every evening return in it…
I thank thee for thy wisdom and thy love,
for all the acts of discipline to which I am subject,
for sometimes putting me into the furnace
to refine my gold and remove my dross…
If thou should give me choice to live in pleasure and keep my sins,
or to have them burnt away with trial,
give me sanctified affliction.
All things are shadows, but thou art substance,
all things are quicksands, but thou art mountain,
all things are shifting, but thou art anchor,
all things are ignorance, but thou art wisdom…
My sin is to look on my faults and be discouraged,
or to look on my good and be puffed up.
I fall short of thy glory every day by spending hours unprofitably,
by thinking that the things I do are good,
when they are not done to thy end…
My sin is to fear what will never be;
Help me to see that although I am in the wilderness
it is not all briars and barrenness.
I have bread from heaven,
streams from the rock,
light by day,
fire by night
they dwelling place and thy mercy seat…
Give me to believe
that thou canst do for me more than I ask or think, and
that, though I backslide, thy love will never let me go,
but will draw me back to thee with everlasting cords…