Olney Hymns Book 1 Hymn 23
The signs which God to Gideon gave...
Manuscript Hymn No. 266
The signs which GOD to Gideon gave,
His holy Sovereignty made known,
That He alone has power to save,
And claims the glory as his own.
The dew which first the fleece had filled,
When all the earth was dry around,
Was from it afterwards withheld,
And only fell upon the ground.
To Israel thus the heavenly dew
Of saving truth was long restrained;
Of which the Gentiles nothing knew,
But dry and desolate remained.
But now the Gentiles have received
The balmy dew of gospel peace;
And Israel, who his Spirit grieved,
Is left a dry and empty fleece.
This dew still falls at his command,
To keep his chosen plants alive;
They shall, though in a thirsty land,
Like willows by the waters thrive. (a)
But chiefly when his people meet,
To hear his word and seek his face;
The gentle dew, with influence sweet,
Descends and nourishes their grace.
But ah! what numbers still are dead,
Though under means of grace they lie!
The dew still falling round their head,
And yet their heart untouched and dry.
Dear Saviour, hear us when we call,
To wrestling prayer an answer give;
Pour down thy dew upon us all,
That all may feel, and all may live.
(a) Isaiah 44:4
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
Monday 23 August 1773
In the evening Mr Rose of Oxford called—He is a remarkable instance of distinguishing grace. Was one of the … most dissipated youths in the University. But now sitting at the feet of Jesus.
Saturday 17 February 1776
In the course of this week, proposed something to Mr Rose, which I would commend to thee by prayer. Thou seest all things, and wilt dispose well for them that fear thee.
Thursday 9 January 1777
Have received a summons from Mr Barham to attend and join [William Rose and Elizabeth, Barham’s oldest daughter] in marriage, on Tuesday next. Lord do thou grant a prosperous journey, and a happy event. Thou gavest me a hand in bringing this union about and I trust it will prove a blessing to all concerned.
Saturday 11 January 1777
… bless my journey, help me to enjoy thy goodness with the dear friends I am going to. Bless the union which I am desired to cement, and bring me home in peace. Then enable me to set up a thankful Ebenezer. Having been disappointed in my purpose of going on Monday morning, I must set off tomorrow after church. Lord let me have thy presence, and hear thy people’s prayers for me.
Sunday 12 January 1777
I was glad that my journey did not interfere with my Sabbath service as I expected. Thy providence determined my stay at home, and to meet the people at the Great House, where we joined in begging a blessing upon my going out and coming in.
Friday 17 January 1777
Set off in the Diligence Monday morning, and had a safe journey to Town. On Tuesday [14th] I joined the hands of Mr Rose and Miss Barham in marriage. Thou wert pleased to make me the instrument of directing him to her – and all that has followed has evidently been under the leadings of thy providence, and the influence of thy good Spirit. I trust thou hast blessed them and they shall be blessed. Spent most of the day with them and dined the next day with them at Mr Rose’s father’s.
Sunday 19 January 1777
I thank thee my dearest Lord, for another Sabbath, and for thy support through it. I had some liberty of speech, and I hope some desire of usefulness. I have little reason to be pleased with my own preaching, but much cause to praise thee, that I can preach with any freedom or acceptance. But there is something still wanting – thy blessing from on high to give the word entrance, life and root in the hearers’ hearts. Lord give me a right spirit. Help me to water the work with prayer. Preserve me in a right spirit. Let my eye be single, that I may not seek my own – nor have any aim, but thy glory and the good of souls. My Dear is still but poorly at intervals, but was enabled to attend thy worship three times today. I was struck in the evening with John Nicholls’ prayer. How much heavier is his trial than mine. His wife distracted – a state of poverty – few friends, little pity – Yet what resignation and faith does he express! A simple man, seemingly in the lowest form of common sense, but thou hast been his teacher and therefore in spirituals, he is of a good understanding, a wise and a great man.
Hymn No. 266
[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]
PS Elizabeth Rose’s epitaph at Carshalton states: “As a daughter wife and friend to all, it were not easy for those who knew her to speak as they feel”, and William’s (who remained rector of Carshalton for 52 years): “What he was here is already engraven on the hearts of all his parishioners. What he is now may be read in the promises of God, through his Son our Redeemer, to all who love and obey Him.”
Hymn: MS Eng 1317, Houghton Library, Harvard University
Diary: John Newton Collection, CO199, Princeton University
Marylynn Rouse, 29/08/2013