Olney Hymns Book 1 Hymn 70
Once perishing in blood I lay...
Manuscript Hymn No. 320
Humbled and silenced by mercy
Once perishing in blood I lay,
Creatures no help could give;
But Jesus passed me in the way,
He saw, and bid me live.
Though Satan still his rule maintained,
And all his arts employed;
That mighty word his rage restrained,
I could not be destroyed.
At length the time of love arrived
When I my Lord should know;
Then Satan, of his power deprived,
Was forced to let me go.
O can I e'er that day forget,
When Jesus kindly spoke!
"Poor soul, my blood has paid thy debt,
And now I break thy yoke.
"Henceforth I take thee for my own,
And give myself to thee;
Forsake the idols thou hast known,
And yield thy heart to me."
Ah, worthless heart! it promised fair,
And said it would be thine;
I little thought it e'er would dare
Again with idols join.
Lord, dost thou such backslidings heal,
And pardon all that's past?
Sure, if I am not made of steel,
Thou hast prevailed at last.
My tongue, which rashly spoke before,
This mercy will restrain;
Surely I now shall boast no more,
Nor censure, nor complain.
* incorrectly printed as 16:64 in 1st edtn, subsequently printed as 16:63, yet no verse given in ms, and verse 6, much quoted by Newton, begins the hymn
v 63: That thou mayest remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord God.
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
Tuesday 4 August 1778
The anniversary of my birth. Retired for meditation and prayer between breakfast and dinner. Had a tolerably pleasant walk, to the temple – a spot where I have often presented prayers which thou hast mercifully answered. I essayed to take a review of past mercies, to humble myself for my ingratitude and sin, and to commit my future path to thy care and direction. I know not what is before thee[me?], but I plead thy promise to provide and protect, and in the end to give me victory in thy name. My time is shortening apace, and I may soon expect my summons. O for grace to improve present opportunities, and to be always ready. Some liberty at night – led from the text to speak of what I am very defective in myself, though I earnestly press it upon others – the honour and privilege and necessity of prayer.
Thursday 6 August 1778
Met the children and preached in the evening. The chapter I have been long upon leads me to say much concerning faith. O my Lord give me to feel and to live as I speak. Increase in me that faith, which prefers thy cross to all the pleasures and honours of the world, and which will confide in thy power against the most formidable threatenings of men and will assuredly expect safety of success in the use of any means of thine appointment, however disproportionate to the end, in the eye of sense. The true paschal Lamb, on thy death and blood-shedding my soul would rely, for deliverance and protection from all enemies, and from the wrath which I as well as others have deserved. Hebrews 11:28 [Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them.]
Saturday 8 August 1778
Dr & Mrs Ford called unexpectedly in the evening [Ford preached on Sunday, which is probably why Newton did not use this hymn, seemingly written re his birthday, then].
Thursday 13 August 1778
Mr and Mrs Vernor came from Warwick. This interview leads my thoughts back to old mercies. When I first went to Warwick, how little I think of one day receiving him here! and afterwards the connection seemed quite cut off, but thou canst do all things, wert pleased to revive it.
Saturday 15 August 1778
I spent an hour in a retired walk seeking thy blessing upon thine own day. Oh that it may be a day of power! Mercifully sprinkle me with thy blood, and anointed me with fresh oil, with thy light and love, that I may come forth with pleasure and with efficacy, and may be a messenger of good tidings, an instrument in thy hand of good to precious souls.
Sunday 16 August 1778
I thank thee my gracious lord for liberty today. O command a blessing. Fill, warm and refine me, answer me by fire, and give me a perception of all the privileges to which thy people are raised in thee. My Warwick friends were much pleased with the appearance of thy gracious presence amongst us.
1 Kings 18:24 […and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God….]
Ephesians 2:6 [And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus]
Hymn No. 320
[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