Olney Hymns Book 1 Hymn 32
If Solomon for wisdom prayed...
Manuscript Hymn No. 252
Ask what I shall give thee
If Solomon for wisdom prayed,
The LORD before had made him wise;
Else he another choice had made,
And asked for what the worldlings prize.
Thus he invites his people still;
He first instructs them how to choose,
Then bids them ask whate'er they will,
Assured that He will not refuse.
Our wishes would our ruin prove,
Could we our wretched choice obtain,
Before we feel the Saviour's love
Kindle our love to him again.
But when our hearts perceive his worth,
Desires, till then unknown, take place;
Our spirits cleave no more to earth,
But pant for holiness and grace.
And dost thou say, "Ask what thou wilt?"
Lord, I would seize the golden hour;
I pray to be released from guilt,
And freed from sin and Satan's power.
More of thy presence, Lord, impart,
More of thine image let me bear;
Erect thy throne within my heart,
And reign without a rival there.
Give me to read my pardon sealed,
And from thy joy to draw my strength;
To have thy boundless love revealed
In all its height, and breadth, and length.
Grant these requests, I ask no more,
But to thy care the rest resign;
Sick, or in health, or rich, or poor,
All shall be well if thou art mine.
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
Sunday 4 August 1776
My birthday, and the anniversary of my dedication to the Ministry in 1758. Thou didst then O Lord accept my desires and vows. How little could I then conceive of what thou hadst appointed for me. The obscurest service in thy vineyard, if I might have seen my call clear to it, I should then have accepted with thankfulness. Many difficulties were in my way for a while, but in thy own time they all subsided, and thou gavest to me an open door to a post of honour beyond my wishes. Accept my thanks, and pardon my sins. I now enter my 52nd year; surely it is high [time] to begin to live as thy servant and as a stranger and sojourner here. My mind was too faintly affected with thy mercies – at the sacrament cold as a stone except for about one minute. Yet I had liberty in preaching through the day, least in the afternoon, though I then fixed on a subject suited to the occasion [Psalm 90:12 So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.]
Monday 5 August 1776
As yesterday was Sunday, I thought to spend a few hours today in retirement, to praise thee for my being and well-being. Walked out to the Chase [a small forest], breakfasted with Mr Thompson and returned to dinner. But alas – I had not thy presence, and therefore could only mourn and chatter as a swallow. Could not fix my attention for one poor quarter of an hour. Yet I hope in thy mercy, and again devote myself to thee.
Tuesday 6 August 1776
At the Great House. Proceeded on the case of Ignorance. A call from J Ryland, and from Mr Fawcett, a Baptist Minister of Yorkshire. Many came down to assist or be present at Mr Sutcliffe’s ordination tomorrow.
Wednesday 7 August 1776
Attended at the Baptist Meeting… . In the evening attended again, heard Mr Beddome from Zechariah 11:12 [And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver.] He is an admirable preacher – simple, savoury, weighty. His text he used chiefly as a motto. Lord, thou requirest all and nothing. Help me treat and keep with thee upon thine own terms. Admitting no rival to thee. Mingling no righteousness with thine.
Thursday 8 August 1776
Mr Hall, Fawcett, and Mr Flude of Leicester breakfasted with us, before they set out.
Sunday 11 August 1776
Mr and Mrs Barham came last night according to appointment. After the Great House service, attended Robert Campion's corpse to the grave. He died on Friday, I trust, in the faith. There were many people at church, to whom I spoke about half an hour. I seemed, and I hope I was, in earnest. O my Lord give a blessing to the opportunity, and in mercy awaken some poor sinners out of their dangerous sleep.
Hymn No. 252
[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, 10/09/2013