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Scotland and the Scots, 1707-2007

Christian Auer

VIII. Religion

51. Dialogue Between Death and A Sinner, 1850s

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1Before there were newspapers, the general public relied on street literature to find out what was going on. The most popular form of this for nearly 300 years was “broadsides” or “broadsheets”. Broadsides were single, large sheets of paper printed on one side only, designed to be read unfolded and posted up in public places. They were first used in the fifteenth century for royal proclamations, papal indulgences, acts and official notices. Later they became a vehicle for political propaganda and what is now known as “popular culture”, such as ballads for example. Toward the beginning of the nineteenth century, with the increase in newspapers, broadsides were gradually abandoned.

2Broadside authors often aimed at outlining the personal consequences of indiscipline or immorality.

3Dialogue Between Death and A Sinner, 1852-1859 (Broadsides, National Library of Scotland).

Printer and Wholesale Stationer, 9 King Street, (off Trongate,) Glasgow.

O Sinner! come by Heaven’s decree,
My warrant is to summon thee,
And whether thou’rt prepared or no,
This very night with me must go

Ah! ghastly Death but thou art pale,
And openest a door to Heaven or Hell,

But wouldst thou not with me forbear,
And spare me yet another year,

Thy years and months they are gone;
And thou must stand before the throne,
To give account of all thy ways,
And how thou spent thy youthful days.

O Death have mercy on my age,
And spare me yet upon the stage;
I’m just a flower in my bloom,
And wilt thou cut me down so soon,

O! age or youth I’ve never spared,
And if thou’ll look in yon churchyard,
You’ll see them there in hundreds lay,

Whom I have made my lawful prey.

O! Death, behold my parents dear,
Stand round my room with many a tear,
And loathe they are to part with me,
A fruitless and a barren tree.

The tears of friends or parents dear,
Can neither break nor blunt my spear.
My name is death, ray sting is sin,
I’ll close thine eye and stretch thy limb.

O! that my time were to begin,
I’d hate the road that leads to sin;
And to my God would earnest pray,
And wrestle to the break of day.

Thy Saviour thou hast grieved sore,
But time with thee shall be no more,
For when the Lord did thee invite,
The ways of sin were thy delight.

O spare me Death a little space,
That I may run the Christian’s race,
Methinks I hear the Saviour say,
O spare him yet another day.

The Lord he long hath spared thee,
A fruitless and a barren tree,
But Heaven’s command I must obey,
And cut thee down this very day.

In vain, in vain do I persist,
If Heaven’s commands I can’t resist;
But spare one night for Jesus sake,
For oh! my heart is like to break.

Poor sinner, I know thy heart is broke,
Yet, must surely give the stroke.
For sin hath opened many a grave,
Since man to sin became a slave.

O Death, no mercy wilt thou show,
But unto Jesus I will go,
Who rose triumphant from the grave
A guilty wre’ch like me to save.

Though sin consign thee to the grave
Jesus hath died thy sins to save,
His blood did flow in streams divine
To cleanse that guilty soul of thine.

O! when that blood extracts the sting,
I’ll tune my harp and sweetly sing,
To him who rose me when I fell,
And saved my soul from death and hell,
The cross I see all stained with blood,
I view the suffering son of God,
His precious blood was shed for me,
He paid the debt and I am free.
Now Death, thy sting I will defy,
For lo, I see my Saviour nigh;
Draw near, O death, and strike the blow
And let me to my Savour go.
Glory to God I now do see,
That death becomes a friend to me
To take me from a world of woe
Then let me to my Saviour go.
Now, O! my friends whom I hold dear
I hope you will to God draw near
And do not shed a tear for me,
Where Jesus is, there I shall be.
My ding words do not forget,
But turn before it be too late,
And seek the Lord until you find,
For Jesus would leave, none behind,
So friends we now must part,
Give me your hand, Christ your heart
Adieu my friends a long farewell,
For now the love of God I feel.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is true some trades are flourishing, while others are in a state of starvation

The bearers are, and have been out of employment a considerable time, and they offer these few verses for sale, hoping that you will become purchasers.

© Presses universitaires de Strasbourg, 2013

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