Olney Hymns Book 1 Hymn 8
Poor Esau repented too late...
Manuscript Hymn No. 250
Chapter 25:34; Hebrews 12:16
Poor Esau repented too late,
That once he his birth-right despised,
And sold for a morsel of meat,
What could not too highly be prized:
How great was his anguish when told,
The blessing he sought to obtain
Was gone with the birth-right he sold,
And none could recall it again!
He stands as a warning to all,
Wherever the gospel shall come;
O hasten and yield to the call,
While yet for repentance there’s room!
Your season will quickly be past;
Then hear and obey it today,
Lest when you seek mercy at last,
The Saviour should frown you away.
What is it the world can propose?
A morsel of meat at the best!
For this are you willing to lose
A share in the joys of the blest?
Its pleasures will speedily end,
Its favour and praise are but breath;
And what can its profits befriend
Your soul in the moment of death?
If JESUS, for these, you despise,
And sin to the Saviour prefer;
In vain your entreaties and cries,
When summoned to stand at his bar:
How will you his presence abide?
What anguish will torture your heart?
The saints all enthroned by his side,
And you be compelled to depart.
Too often, dear Saviour, have I
Preferred some poor trifle to thee;
How is it thou dost not deny
The blessing and birth-right to me?
No better than Esau I am,
Though pardon and heaven be mine;
To me belongs nothing but shame,
The praise and the glory be thine.
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
Tuesday 23 July 1776
How do I interest thee in my little affairs yet I trust not without the warrant of thy Word. A thousand occurrences, in common life, apparently trivial in themselves, have a real importance from the connection and reference they bear to the path of duty, and to the peace of the mind. When thou preservest me from great trials, small things or sufficient to evidence my weakness and my continual need of thy support and management.
Friday 26 July 1776
Several of the persons concerned in the late unhappy affair which cost the poor woman her life, have been tried at Buckingham Assizes, and acquitted. O that they may be mindful of the account they have yet to give to thee.
Saturday 27 July 1776
Proposed a walk in the evening but was interrupted by a little rain. Alas any trifle proves a sufficient interruption to me. Mr Bryer, a student at Homerton who called here last year, is now with me again. He seems a humble spiritual man, and loves to visit us for thy sake, and for thy sake we are glad to see him.
Sunday 28 July 1776
I have to praise thee O my gracious Lord for unexpected and undeserved liberty in this day's service. My morning discourse was suggested by seeing Mr Samples restored to the congregation, who a few days ago seemed at the point of death. But thou art a God who hearest prayer. May he live more than ever to thy service. To the afternoon subject I plead guilty. Thou hast redeemed me from Egypt, yet how many idols have I set up and cleaved to in thy presence. Lord give me a contrite and humble spirit, suited to the greatness of my sins and the greatness of thy mercies. In the evening service I thought I saw several much affected. May grace make the impression lasting. I mentioned thy goodness to Robert Campion, once an enemy to thy gospel, and a hard drinker. He seems now near death. But thou hast visited him and enabled him to rejoice in thy salvation. I preached about 7 years ago from Ezekiel 37:3 [And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, thou knowest] and he was much affected with the sermon. I believe he has had several thoughts and intervals of seriousness from that time, but I could not perceive him to get much forward, till since he has been lately confined to his bed. But I see thou canst make dry bones to live.
Hymn No. 250
[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]
Hymn: MS Eng 1317, Houghton Library, Harvard University
Diary: John Newton Collection, CO199, Princeton University
Marylynn Rouse, 29/08/2013