“A Dialogue between a Believer and His Soul” by Joseph Hart appears below. It was first published in Hart’s Hymns, Composed on Various Subjects in 1759. Hart was the author of many unique and worthy hymns, including “The Stony Heart.” In The Sacred Harp, we sing two stanzas of Hart’s longer “Dialogue” hymn under the title The Grieved Soul.
The structure of the poem is intriguing, truly a dialogue or discussion between a man and his own soul. The internal conflict can be seen and felt as the soul’s doubts fight to be heard. The believer reasons from the Saviour and Scripture. It begins with both the believer and the soul alternating their speaking in 8-line stanzas. The discussion is sophisticated in the beginning. In stanza eight this gives way to 4 lines for each, then 2 lines alternating back and forth in the ninth stanza. It ends with a staccato flourish, the soul and the believer each quickly alternating lines as the soul seems to exhaust its questions in a gasp, giving way to the biblical answers of the believer. We might easily relate Hart’s struggle to our own within ourselves.
In the presentation below “B” stands for the dialogue of the “Believer” and “S” stands for the dialogue of the “Soul”. It appears as in A Sheaf of Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs.
246 A Dialogue between a Believer and his Soul 7s. 6s. (8 lines)
1. B: 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.
2. S: O I sink beneath the load
Of my nature’s evil!
Full of enmity to God;
Captived by the devil;
Restless as the troubled sea,
Feeble, faint, and fearful;
Plagued by every sore disease;
How can I be cheerful?
3. B: Think on what my 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!
4. S: This by faith I sometimes view,
And those views relieve me;
But my sins return anew;
These are they that grieve me.
Oh! I’m leprous, stinking, foul,
Quite throughout infected;
Have I not if any soul,
Cause to be dejected?
5. B: 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?
6. S: 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?
7. B: 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 the gracious Saviour
For thee work, and in thee too,
Of His special favour.
8. S: Jesus’ precious blood, once spilt,
I depend on solely,
To release and clear my guilt;
But I would be holy.
B: He that bought thee on the cross
Can control thy nature;
Fully purge away thy dross;
Make thee a new creature.
9. S: That He can, I nothing doubt,
Be it but His pleasure;
B: Though it be not done throughout,
May it not in measure?
S: When that measure, far from great,
Still shall seem decreasing?
B: Faint not then, but pray and wait,
Never, never ceasing.
10. S: What when prayer meets no regard?
B: Still repeat it often.
S: But I feel myself so hard.
B: Jesus will thee soften.
S: But my enemies make head.
B: Let them closer drive thee.
S: But I’m cold, I’m dark, I’m dead.
B : Jesus will revive thee.