Vanity, pride and worms
by Stan Mitchell
I read a book recently that suggested we should avoid hymns that make extreme statements, such as “years I spent in vanity and pride.” Now I recognize that many of us were fortunate enough to grow up in the church.
Certainly the song’s author William Newell writes as if his early life was spent in places a little more questionable than in a church. Many of my friends, who have come out of the world, have expressed thoughts similar to the ones in this song.
It reminds me, though, of the way many hymnbooks have altered Isaac Watts’ hymn “At the Cross.” Watts asked if Christ “would devote that sacred head for such a worm as I.” Recent hymnbooks have diluted the line to read, “for such a one as I.”
It’s almost as if we feel that admitting our real spiritual condition might bring about the modern mind’s most insidious ailment — horrors — a poor self-image.
I wonder if we do more damage by exaggerating our sinful state, or diminishing it? It might not be politically correct to say so, but we are sinners!
Rebellious, careless, destructive flouters of God’s law. Habitual, repeat-offenders, destined for capital punishment, until Jesus took our sins to the cross.
The reason we don’t sufficiently appreciate grace, is because we don’t sufficiently appreciate our sinfulness. You don’t get the death penalty for Jaywalking.
Grace that forgives minor infractions and little character flaws is cheap and trite. Grace that forgives all my sin, that, my friend, is the grace of God.
“The saying is trustworthy and full of full acceptance,” Paul declared, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the foremost” (1 Timothy 1:15, ESV).
Paul never did try to worm out of the truth; neither should we. The cross exhibits both an incalculable debt and an unfathomable love.