Olney Hymns Book 1 Hymn 113
Here at Bethesda's pool, the poor...
Manuscript Hymn No. 290
[The Pool of Bethesda]
Here at Bethesda’s pool, the poor,
The withered, halt, and blind,
With waiting hearts expect a cure,
And free admittance find.
Here streams of wondrous virtue flow,
To heal a sin-sick soul;
To wash the filthy white as snow,
And make the wounded whole.
The dumb break forth in songs of praise,
The blind their sight receive;
The cripple runs in wisdom’s ways,
The dead revive and live!
Restrained to no one case, or time,
These waters always move;
Sinners in every age and clime
Their vital influence prove.
Yet numbers daily near them lie,
Who meet with no relief;
With life in view they pine and die
In hopeless unbelief.
’Tis strange they should refuse to bathe,
And yet frequent the pool;
But none can even wish for faith,
While love of sin bears rule.
Satan their consciences has sealed,
And stupefied their thought;
For were they willing to be healed,
The cure would soon be wrought.
Do thou, dear Saviour, interpose,
Their stubborn wills constrain;
Or else to them the water flows,
And grace is preached in vain.
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
Saturday 6 December 1777
Drank tea with Mr Scott... I hope he is a chosen instrument of thine for good. In the evening buried Anne Corgil, one of the most afflicted of thy people. Tempted even to a degree of possession, weak, lame, blind, deaf and very poor. I suppose she did not enjoy quiet for a quarter of [an] hour through many years. But she is quiet now. Thou gavest her faith, and in the midst of her severest conflicts, she maintained a good hope, that the issue would be peace and victory.
Wednesday 10 December 1777
I set out for Bedford Monday, and returned today. I praise thee, my Lord, for a safe and comfortable journey, the kindness of friends abroad, and for a comfortable [journey] home, and that all were preserved in peace in my absence. I rejoice in thy goodness to that happy family. Mrs Rose there and in good health.
Thursday 11 December 1777
Met the children, and preached in the evening. My conscience pleads guilty to the charge of folly and ingratitude, forgetting a suitable return for most valued mercies, and for answers to prayers offered in the day of trouble. Lord heal, pardon, strengthen for thy mercy's sake. John 17:24 [Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.]
Sunday 14 December 1777
I praise thee, my Lord, for assistance through another Sabbath. Command thy blessing upon it. The times are dark. O for Grace to hide ourselves in the secret chambers of thy gracious attributes, and to mourn and plead before thee in secret. That we may know thee for a refuge and be preserved in the hour of trial.
At Bedford I heard Mr Wesley, not without satisfaction, and his subject led me to the hymn for this evening.
Hymn No. 290
[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