CAIN and ABEL
When Adam fell, he quickly lost
GOD'S image which he once possessed:
See All our nature since could boast
In Cain, his first-born son, expressed!
The sacrifice the LORD ordained
In type of the Redeemer's blood,
Self-righteous reasoning Cain disdained,
And thought his own first-fruits as good.
Yet rage and envy filled his mind,
When with a sullen downcast look,
He saw his brother favour find,
Who GOD'S appointed method took.
By Cain's own hand good Abel died,
Because the LORD approved his faith;
And, when his blood for vengeance cried,
He vainly thought to hide his death.
Such was the wicked murderer Cain,
And such by nature still are we,
Until by grace we're born again,
Malicious, blind, and proud, as he.
Like him, the way of grace we slight,
And in our own devices trust;
Call evil good, and darkness light,
And hate and persecute the just.
The saints in every age and place,
Have found his history fulfilled;
The numbers all our thoughts surpass,
Of Abels, whom the Cains have killed! (a)
Thus JESUS fell – but, oh! his blood
Far better things than Abel's cries: (b)
Obtains his murderers' peace with GOD,
And gains them mansions in the skies.
(a) Romans 8:36
(b) Hebrews 12:24
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
Monday 23 October 1775
Most gracious Lord. How vile am I. After a day of such encouragement and enlargement as yesterday, how soon did vanity and folly prevail. Help me for thy Name’s sake, I cannot help myself.
I would thank thee for sending any amongst us, who come for thy sake, and especially when thou art pleased to visit them with a blessing while here. O make me useful at home and abroad, to my own people and strangers. Teach me to improve every occasion of extending my influence. Thou showest thyself a friend of the friendless, and revealest those things to babes and even to Lunatics, which are hidden from the wise and prudent. Even so Lord, it seems good in thy sight, to stain the pride of human glory, and to manifest the riches of thy mercy.
Tuesday 24 October 1775
Alas my Lord, I have been waiting upon thee without a heart. Essayed to pray but in vain at home, and at the Great House have been joining in prayer outwardly, but my spirit was little affected. I say and I know that it is a dark time, that the prospect of affairs both as to sin and impending troubles calls for deep humiliation. Profaness, infidelity and licentiousness fill the land. The churches are infected with divisions, lukewarmness, and a conformity to the world. I dwell amongst a people of unclean lips, and [am] myself unclean, ungrateful and unfaithful. Thus I confess, but my confession seems to be but words of course. O revive me. Save me from those things, which like a thorn in the foot, prevent my progress, make me halt, and fill me with pain. And O hear prayer for the Nation and Colonies, that we may not be broken and consumed one of another. Make me truly thankful that in the midst of wrath thou rememberest mercy, and art spreading thy Gospel at home and abroad. O it is easy to say, Thy kingdom come, but give me to say it from my heart, and to feel myself deeply affected with whatever concerns thy cause and honour. O speak the word of power in my behalf, that I may shake off every weight, and run with patience the race set before me.
Friday 27 October 1775
My Lord and Saviour. To Thee I lift up my eyes in the morning, but it is with shame and confusion of face. O that it might be with delight. Break forth thou Sun of my soul and dissipate these fogs and damps, and in the power of thy grace heal them in their causes. How true is it, that I have neither wisdom or strength. O for faith to receive both from thee, that I might not be thus entangled and wounded from day to day.
Public affairs seem still darker. Not only the rumour of war abroad in the Colonies, but of conspiracies and suspicions of treason at home… Lord give thy people grace to sanctify thee in their hearts, and to find thee a sure sanctuary, a present help in every trouble. And give us to be found watching unto prayer, and abounding in humiliation as sinners in a sinful land.
Sunday 29 October 1775
On Friday evening I went to Lavendon, sensible my Lord, thou might justly put me to shame before the people, and yet I had liberty. In speaking of the desires and aims of the New Creature, from 2 Corinthians 5:17, I drew a picture alas too little like my own. Yet may I not say, Such I would be. But alas trifles light as air, are like mountains to stop my progress. O to be so forgiven, as that a sense of pardoning love might strengthen me to break through all hindrances, lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily besets me. O smile upon this day. Give me a subject, give me words, give me a heart, and a blessing for myself and others. Reveal thy glory among us. May this new week be a week of grace.
My correspondence with [name in shorthand] as yet answers not my hopes. Help me to manage it aright and do thou reveal thy truth to his heart, for only thou canst effectually teach him. Accept my praises for the mercies of the past week. O I am a favoured in myself and in my house. Sickness, calamity and death, enter many families daily, but we are preserved. May we live to thy glory.
Hymn No. 221
Hymn No. 221
[On this date Newton preached from the above texts at his church, St Peter & St Paul, Olney, during the morning and afternoon services, and from this hymn at the informal evening service]