Olney Hymns Book 1 Hymn 109
Father, forgive (the Saviour said)...
Manuscript Hymn No. 256
Father, forgive them
“Father, forgive,” (the Saviour said),
“They know not what they do:”
His heart was moved when thus he prayed
For me, my friends, and you.
He saw that as the Jews abused
And crucified his flesh;
So he, by us, would be refused,
And crucified afresh.
Through love of sin, we long were prone
To act as Satan bid;
But now with grief and shame we own,
We knew not what we did.
We knew not the desert of sin,
Nor whom we thus defied;
Nor where our guilty souls had been,
If Jesus had not died.
We knew not what a law we broke,
How holy, just, and pure!
Nor what a God we durst provoke,
But thought ourselves secure.
But Jesus all our guilt foresaw,
And shed his precious blood,
To satisfy the holy law,
And make our peace with God.
My sin, dear Saviour, made thee bleed,
Yet didst thou pray for me!
I knew not what I did, indeed,
When ignorant of thee.
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
Tuesday 10 September 1776
Thou hast seen fit to bereave Mary Gutteridge of her daughter Anne, and the other seems likely to follow soon. Thus thou callest some whom thou most favourest to the sharpest trials, but thou canst support. Ought I not to wrestle for thy mercy to Eliza Butcher? In a state of sin, drawing nigh to death, and yet her heart hard and insensible. How awful! I know thou canst soften it by thy grace in a moment. O for a fresh display of the power of mercy.
Thursday 12 September 1776
In the evening had two burials. Anne the daughter of Mary Gutteridge – a bereaving stroke to her aged mother, but thou O Lord art All-sufficient to support and supply. I trust thou hadst visited her with thy grace and that she is now in thy glory. She was a still girl and being taken off by a putrid fever she had little strength or sense to speak of thy goodness. The other, Sarah Dodson – an old disciple, brought down by a gradual and wearisome decline, but thou wert pleased to comfort her under [it], and she experienced peace and a good hope to the last. The latter was brought into the church and I preached a funeral discourse for them both. The congregation tolerably large. May thy blessing accompany the word, to raise up others in the room of those thou art calling home. But alas! How justly mightest thou refuse to work by me, or even permit me to speak in thy name. [sermon:] Revelation 7:14-15 [And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.]
Sunday 15 September 1776
Again thou hast helped me, put words in my mouth, and brought me [through] the services of the day. But O – that thou wouldst give me a deeper impression of the truth in my own soul, that it may live in my heart and shine in my conduct.
Hymn No. 256
[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]
 Eliza was buried two months later on 17 November 1776. Newton wrote then in his dairy: “The corpse of Mr Hughes' unhappy daughter was brought into the church, and I took the occasion of lamenting that awful neglect of thy commandment which emboldens so many young persons to come together before marriage – whereby they not only sin against thee, but lay a foundation for unhappiness through life.” Eliza and John were married on 31 March 1776. Their daughter was buried little more than two months after their wedding.
Hymn: MS Eng 1317, Houghton Library, Harvard University
Diary: John Newton Collection, CO199, Princeton University
Marylynn Rouse, 10/09/2013