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Reading through Power Moby-Dick, came across this reference to Isaac Watts in the Sermon chapter:
"The ribs and terrors in the whale...": This hymn is based on "Death, and the terrors of the grave," a hymn by Isaac Watts.
Of course, I looked it up and stumbled upon this passage, appropriate for this day of Our Lady of Guadalupe:
The worm that dieth not.
Let us begin with the first of these, viz. the torments which are derived from the gnawing worm, those agonies and uneasy passions which will arise and work in the souls of these wretched creatures, so far as we can collect them from the word of God, from the reason of things, and the working powers of human nature.
When an impenitent sinner is cast into hell, we have abundant reason to suppose, that the evil temper of his soul, and the vicious principles within him, are not abated, but his natural powers, and the vices which have tainted them and mingle with them are awakened and enraged into intense activity and exercise, under the first sensations of his dreadful punishment. Let us endeavour to conceive then what would be the ferments, the raging passions, and the vexing inward torments of a wicked man, seized by the officers of an Almighty Judge, borne away by the executioners of vengeance, and plunged into a pit of torture and smarting misery while at the same time he shad a most fresh and piercing conviction ever present, that he had brought all this mischief upon himself by his own guilt and folly.
1. The first particular piece of wretchedness therefore, contained in this metaphor, is the remorse and terrible anguish of conscience which shall never be relieved. How terrible are the racks of a guilty conscience here on earth, which arise from a sense of past sins ! How does David cry out and roar under the disquietude of his spirit ! Psal. xxxii. 3. "While I kept silence" and confessed not mine iniquity, " my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long, day and night thy hand was heavy upon me, and my moisture is turned into the drought of summer:" and again, Psal. xxxviii. 4. "Mine iniquities are gone over mine head, as an heavy burden, they are too heavy for me." God has wisely so framed the nature and spirit of man, that a reflection on his past misbehaviour should raise such keen anguish at his heart; and thousands have felt it in a dreadful degree, even while they have continued in this world, in the land of life and hope.
But when death has divided the soul from this body, and from all the means of grace, and cut off all the hopes of pardoning mercy for ever, what smart beyond all our thoughts and expressions must the sinner feel from such inward wounds of confidence ! And it gives a twinging accent to every sorrow when the sinner is constrained to cry out, "It is I, it is I who have brought all this upon myself. Life and death were set before me in the world where once I dwelt, but I refused the blessings of eternal life, and the offers of saving grace. I turned my back upon the ways of holiness which led to life, and renounced the tenders of divine mercy! I chose the paths of sin, and folly, and madness, though I knew they led to everlasting misery and death. Wretch that I was, to choose those sins and these sorrows, though I knew they were necessarily joined together! I am sent into those regions of misery which I chose for myself, against all the kind admonitions and warnings of God and Christ, of his gospel and his ministers of grace! O these cursed eyes of mine, that led me into the snares of guilt and folly! These cursed hands that practised iniquity with greediness! These cursed lips of mine, which dishonoured my Maker! O these cursed appetites and passions, and this obstinate will, which have wrought my ruin! This cursed body and soul, that have procured their own everlasting wretchedness! These thoughts will be like a gnawing worm within, which will prey upon the spirit for ever. The fretting smart arising from this vexatious worm must be painful in the highest extreme, when we know it is a worm which will never die, which will for ever hang at our heart, and sting our vitals in the most tender and sensible parts of them without intermission, as well as without end [emphasis mine].
- The World to Come or, Discourses on the Joys or Sorrows of departed Souls at death and the Glory or Terror of the Resurrection, Isaac Watts
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[ for M.G. on her birthday ]