Skip to content ↓

The Penitential Tear

The Penitential Tear

Few of us take the time to mine and appreciate the vast stores of poetry laid up by so many of our Christian forebears. Yet in centuries past poetry was the language of many a sorrowful and rejoicing believer. In the last several months I have been discovering some of treasures and particularly enjoying the work of the 19th-century American poet Hannah Flagg Gould. This work, “The Penitential Tear,” is representative of her spiritual meditations.

Thou trembling, pure, and holy thing!
What skill from ocean’s depths can bring,
Or toil from out the mine—
What monarch in his diadem,
Or glittering garb, produce a gem,
Whose brightness equals thine?

Thy source is deeper than the caves
Of riven rock, or opening waves,
Invisible as air:
And, though the angel throng above
Behold thee with delight and love,
They ne’er can have thee there.

Nor change, nor age thy sheen can dim;
Thou ‘rt now unstained as when with him,
Who dared, in olden time,
Thrice his dear, suffering Lord deny;
Then, melted at the Saviour’s eye,
And paid thee for his crime.

Called from the treasures of the soul
By power divine, when thou dost roll
Forth from the mourner’s eye,
Thy wearer thou dost then proclaim
The heir of life, who has his name
Writ in the Book on high.

Thou art a pearl, that all may own,
And when thy matchless worth is known
To those, who wear thee here,
They will be changed, and shall behold
The shining gates of heaven unfold,
Bright Penitential Tear!


  • A La Carte Friday 2

    A La Carte (March 1)

    A La Carte: Rumblings of revival among Gen Z / Addition by subtraction / Seeing red / Burying the talents of the Great Rewarder / Inviting evaluation of your preaching / Book and Kindle deals / and more.

  • New and Notable Books

    New and Notable Christian Books for February 2024

    February is typically a solid month for book releases, and this February was no exception. As the month drew to its close, I sorted through the many (many!) books that came my way this month and arrived at this list of new and notables. In each case, I’ve provided the editorial description to give you…

  • A La Carte Thursday 1

    A La Carte (February 29)

    A La Carte: Is it ever right to lie? / When the “perfect” fit isn’t / An open letter to Christians who doubt / When a baby is a disease / The long view of preaching / and more.

  • A Freak of Nature (and Nurture)

    A Freak of Nature (and Nurture)

    We are probably so accustomed to seeing bonsai trees that we don’t think much about them. But have you ever paused to consider how strange and freakish they really are?

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (February 28)

    A La Carte: Can Christians buy expensive things? / You are probably WEIRDER than you think / Our limits are a gift from God / Big dreams impress. Ordinary faithfulness delivers / The biggest problem in worship education / Children’s books / and more.

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (February 27)

    A La Carte: God doesn’t owe me kindness / Jordan Peterson’s “We Who Wrestle with God” tour / Does your church have an evangelist? / Putting Jesus first in a world of pleasures / Send help. My husband believes in me / and more.