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November 07, 2004

Wesley's "I Want a Principle Within"; Sensitivity to Sin

We sang the Wesley hymn, "I Want a Principle Within," at church today. It's a good one, because its theme is that it is good for us to be sensitive to sin, not calloused. "I want a principle within of watchful, godly fear, a sensibility of sin, a pain to feel it near." A contrary desire is also common: to numb oneself to sin. Mark Twain had a funny story on this topic, "The Facts Concerning The Recent Carnival Of Crime In Connecticut," in which he meets and strangles his conscience, after making it heavy enough to sink to the floor and catch. But it is usually not so funny. We want to do evil, but we dislike guilt and shame.

There is another danger, too: losing sensitivity to sin in other people and in the world. I feel this loss keenly. I do not think I am a better person for having grown more calloused in my maturity, even though I am perhaps better able to deal with the world. I have grown much harder to shock. Perhaps my children will teach me how to again be sensitive.

I Want a Principle Within

Words: Charles Wesley, 1749
Music (via here: Louis Spohr, 1834; adapt. by J. Stimpson, but there's a better "Welsh melody" tune we sang at ECC)

I want a principle within
of watchful, godly fear,
a sensibility of sin,
a pain to feel it near.
I want the first approach to feel
of pride or wrong desire,
to catch the wandering of my will,
and quench the kindling fire.

From thee that I no more may stray,
no more thy goodness grieve,
grant me the filial awe, I pray,
the tender conscience give.
Quick as the apple of an eye,
O God, my conscience make;
awake my soul when sin is nigh,
and keep it still awake.

Almighty God of truth and love,
to me thy power impart;
the mountain from my soul remove,
the hardness from my heart.
O may the least omission pain
my reawakened soul,
and drive me to that blood again,
which makes the wounded whole.

I'll repeat a post from June 12, 2004 that is related.

06.12b. Pope: "Vice is a monster of so frightful mien". . Alexander Pope makes a good argument for not talking too much about vice, even to condemn it, as Pastor Timothy Bayly said to me at lunch yesterday at Noodle Town. From Essay on Man (ep. II, l. 217) (1733):

Vice is a monster of so frightful mien,
As to be hated need but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.

Posted by erasmuse at November 7, 2004 07:47 PM

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