Olney Hymns Book 1 Hymn 37
Though Jericho pleasantly stood...
Manuscript Hymn No. 282 [MS Mistakenly 292]
JERICHO: or, The Waters healed
Though Jericho pleasantly stood,
And looked like a promising soil,
The harvest produced little food,
To answer the husbandman’s toil.
The water some property had,
Which poisonous proved to the ground;
The springs were corrupted and bad,
The streams spread a barrenness round.
But soon by the cruse and the salt,
Prepared by Elisha’s command,
The water was cured of its fault,
And plenty enriched the land:
An emblem sure this of the grace
On fruitless dead sinners bestowed;
For man is in Jericho’s case,
Till cured by the mercy of God.
How noble a creature he seems!
What knowledge, invention, and skill!
How large and extensive his schemes!
How much can he do if he will!
His zeal to be learned and wise
Will yield to no limits or bars;
He measures the earth and the skies,
And numbers and marshals the stars.
Yet still he is barren of good;
In vain are his talents and art;
For sin has infected his blood,
And poisoned the streams of his heart:
Though cockatrice eggs he can hatch, (a)
Or, spider-like, cobwebs can weave;
’Tis madness to labour and watch
For what will destroy or deceive.
But grace, like the salt in the cruse,
When cast in the spring of the soul,
A wonderful change will produce,
Diffusing new life through the whole:
The wilderness blooms like a rose,
The heart which was vile and abhorred,
Now fruitful and beautiful grows,
The garden and joy of the Lord.
(a) Isaiah 59:5
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
Thursday 7 August 1777
A visit from Mr Thomas Ludlam – he came to breakfast, stayed the children's meeting and then went away. How various are characters, how various my Lord are thy ways of working. But where thou stirrest up the heart to seek thee, thou wilt be found.
Wednesday 13 August 1777
Though I know not how to find time, or to improve time for my own immediate use, it seems my duty to assist the young men [Mayor and Charles] thou hast sent hither. They were with me this morning, and I spoke to them upon the adorable and wonderful method of redemption. O that this great subject dwelt more in my thoughts and affections. In the afternoon they went with me to Turvey, where I spoke to about 40 people, in the evening from Ecclesiastes 2:26 [For God giveth to a man that is good in his sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner he giveth travail, to gather and to heap up, that he may give to him that is good before God. This also is vanity and vexation of spirit.]
Sunday 24 August 1777
Reveal to me more of the power, glory and grace of thy great inscrutable name, and fill me with thy Spirit, and with a sense of my own weakness and vileness, that I may live in the habitual exercise of repentance never to be repented of.
Luke 24:47 [And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem]
Hymn No. 292 [corrected in MS to 282]
[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]
[The Rev Thomas Ludlam, Confrater of Leicester Infirmary, first appeared friendly to the Gospel, but was later highly critical of evangelicals. The Rev William Ludlam, his brother, literally "measured the earth and the skies, and numbered and marshaled the stars." Newton thought him "vastly sensible and ingenious,
but I could observe no tokens of spiritual light." He later gained spiritual light under the ministry of Thomas Robinson of St Mary's Leicester.]
Hymn: MS Eng 1317, Houghton Library, Harvard University
Diary: John Newton Collection, CO199, Princeton University
Marylynn Rouse, 10/09/2013