The happiness of true conversion

1. How blest is he whose errors are corrected,
    Whose past mistakes are forgotten at last;
From whom no hate or pride is e’er expected
    For from his thought all evil has been cast.
When I refus’d to say that I was straying,
    Weakness and pain afflicted all my being;
By day and night I saw my wickedness,
    My springs of life were turn’d into dryness.

2. My humbled soul would finally admit it,
    No longer hide from my Maker, my God;
I own’d my sin and openly confess’d it,
    Then He forgave and wash’d me with his blood.
See! All you people, what the godly pray for:
    Pureness of heart, and pardon they can’t pay for,
But if you turn from His revealing voice
    Floods of destruction mark your final choice.

3. To Thee I flee, Thou art my place of hiding,
    I’m safe, secure from the trouble without;
When fear arises, music is your tiding,
    Songs of deliv’rance compass me about.
Thou wilt instruct me and point out the pathway
    That I must travel to regain the lost light;
Thou wilt support me in the burning day,
    And guide me safely through the murky night.

4. The wicked shall be fill’d with many sorrows
    But he who trusts in the Lord up above
Shall be protected throughout all tomorrows,
    Circled around by mercy and by love.
Be glad, rejoice, you people who are upright;
    Shout out for joy that He may hear your singing;
For He has made you precious in His sight,
    So lift your hearts, this sacrifice bringing.


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This is the second in the list of Penitential Psalms (Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143), so-called because they mainly concern repentance and forgiveness of sin.

In the text, the truth is emphasized that forgiveness is not merely an attitude on God’s part whereby he forgets our past mis-deeds, but it is an actual change within the penitent, whereby the power of sin is cleansed from the heart.

This Psalm also shows the unwillingness that fallen man has to approach God. We fear Him, like Adam and Eve did in the garden, as if He was going to harm us for transgressing His law.

So He has to leave us to experience some of the bitter fruits of our sin. These consequences open our hearts to think about Him again, like the prodigal son, and when we come to Him openly acknowledging our wrong, and not making excuses or minimizing our transgression, He freely forgives and restores us.

This fills us with gratitude and praise, which helps us not to be deceived by sin again.


About the tune: This tune, along with those for Psalm 1 and 2, also came from Calvin’s first Psalter, published while he was in Strasbourg (1539). The composer is unknown.

About the text: About 50% of the text was taken from Willard Grimes’ rendition of Psalm 32 in his book, “The Unquenched Cup” (1948). Grimes was a Colonel for the American army in the Second World War, and wrote a larger portion of his metrical psalms while in the service. Since I reworked many of his lines, and added some of my own, I will include his text below for those interested:

Happy is he whose errors are corrected,
Whose sins are buried in the nameless past,
From whom no wickedness may be expected
For from his thought all evil has been cast.

When I forget to voice my gratitude
My bones grow old and pain disturbs my soul;
By day and night thy guiding hand seems rude
And I am discontented with my dole.

When inspiration fails me and my heart feels drought
I pray for new ideas to heal the blight;
If I with faith can dig the ag├ęd roots about,
Fresh buds may open in tomorrow’s light.

He who loves good knows where thou mayst be found,
In times acceptable he seeks thy face;
When raging floods sweep over lower ground
They shall not reach thy higher dwelling place.

Within thy presence I escape from wrong
And hide myself when trouble lurks without;
Thou wilt enclose me with a wall of song
And with a ring of blessing compass me about.

Thou wilt instruct me and point out the way
That I must travel to attain the height;
Thou wilt support me in the burning day
And guide me safely through the murky night.

I am not like the horse or stubborn mule
Whose mouth by bit and bridle is restrained;
Lacking thy vision I am but a fool
Who never to true wisdom has attained.

The wicked shall be surfeited with woes,
But he who trusteth in the Lord above
Shall be protected as he comes and goes,
Surrounded by his mercy and his love.

Be glad, rejoice, ye sons who serve the right;
Shout out for joy that he may hear your voice,
For you are ever precious in his sight,
So lift your hearts, ye righteous, and rejoice.

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