Olney Hymns Book 1 Hymn 90
When, descending from the sky...
Manuscript Hymn No. 206
The Foolish Virgins (a)
When, descending from the sky,
The Bridegroom shall appear,
And the solemn midnight cry
Shall call professors near,
How the sound our hearts will damp!
How will shame o’erspread each face!
If we only have a lamp,
Without the oil of grace.
Foolish virgins then will wake,
And seek for a supply;
But in vain the pains they take
To borrow or to buy:
Then with those they now despise,
Earnestly they’ll wish to share;
But the best among the wise
Will have no oil to spare.
Wise are they, and truly blest,
Who then shall ready be!
But despair will seize the rest,
And dreadful misery:
"Once," they’ll cry, "we scorned to doubt,
Though in lies our trust we put;
Now our lamp of hope is out,
The door of mercy shut.
If they then presume to plead,
“Lord open to us now;
We on earth have heard and prayed,
And with thy saints did bow:”
He will answer from his throne,
“Though you with my people mixed,
Yet to me you ne’er were known;
Depart, your doom is fixed.”
O that none who worship here
May hear that word, Depart!
Lord, impress a godly fear
On each professor’s heart:
Help us, Lord, to search the camp,
Let us not ourselves beguile;
Trusting to a dying lamp,
Without a stock of oil.
(a) See also Book 3, Hymn 72
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
Tuesday 30 May 1775
At the Great House finished Colossians 3:16.[Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.]
Wednesday 31 May 1775
Walked in the evening to Mr Cooke’s. I hoped for a good opportunity, but alas my heart was all confusion, as indeed it generally is of late, abroad or at home. Nor have I far to look for a reason. The sun is set, therefore the beasts of the forest roam at large. [see Olney Hymns, Book 3, Hymn 33, ‘The benighted traveller’, Forest beasts, that live by prey]
The paper this evening brought account of commencement of hostilities in New England, and many killed on both sides. These things I fear are the beginning of sorrows. O that I could be suitably affected with what I see and hear.
Thursday 1 June 1775
Met the children. I am with them upon the subject of Israel in Egypt. In the evening preached, and had liberty. But when in private always stupid. Hebrews 11:27 [By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.]
Sunday 4 June 1775
Hymn in the Evening No. 206
1 Corinthians 12:13
2 Corinthians 2:14
Hymn No. 206
[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