Yesterday at our monthly Sacred Harp sing we sang this song (appropriately titled), unfamiliar to most of us. It was from Shenandoah Harmony, a book we seldom use. Afterward several of us indicated agreement with the lyrics. What we sang:
1. I am a stranger here below,
And what I am ’tis hard to know,
I am so vile, so prone to sin,
I fear that I’m not born again.
2. It’s seldom I can ever see
Myself as I would wish to be;
What I desire I can’t attain,
From what I hate, I can’t refrain.
Trying to find the author, I discovered more text, but a different second verse. I prefer the one above. However, I wish the last verse was included in the song book, because although it is true that “what I desire I can’t attain, and from what I hate, I can’t refrain,” the good news of the gospel is that we are forgiven in Christ. I like this simple explanation of why we confess our sins and how we are forgiven, an excerpt from Worshiping God Together: A Guide for Children and Their Parents:
God promises always to love and forgive us — even when don’t follow God’s way, or when we do things that hurt others. Everyone makes mistakes; that is why we confess our sin together. When we confess our sin, we say that we are sorry for these things, and we ask God to forgive us and help us live new lives.
Because Jesus lived and died and rose again for us, we know that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. That is why when the leader says, “In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven,” we respond, “Thanks be to God.”
Here are the other verses:
2. When I experience call to mind,
My understanding is so blind,
All feeling sense seems to be gone,
Which makes me fear that I am wrong.
3. I find myself out of the way;
My thoughts are often gone astray.
Like one alone I seem to be:
Oh! is there anyone like me?
4. So far from God I seem to lie
Which makes me often weep and cry;
I fear at last that I shall fall
For if a saint, the least of all.
5. I seldom find a heart to pray,
So many things step in my way;
Thus filled with doubts, I ask to know
Come, tell me, is it thus with you?
6. So, by experience, I do know
There’s nothing good that I can do;
I cannot satisfy the law,
Nor hope, nor comfort from it draw.
7. My nature is so prone to sin,
Which makes my duty so unclean,
That when I count up all the cost,
If not free grace, then I am lost.