Olney Hymns Book 1 Hymn 127
Darkness overspreads us here...
Manuscript Hymn No. 325
Salvation drawing nearer
Darkness overspreads us here,
But the night wears fast away;
Jacob’s star will soon appear,
Leading on eternal day!
Now ’tis time to rouse from sleep,
Trim our lamps, and stand prepared;
For our Lord strict watch to keep,
Lest he find us off our guard.
Let his people courage take,
Bear with a submissive mind
All they suffer for his sake,
Rich amends they soon will find:
He will wipe away their tears,
Near himself appoint their lot;
All their sorrows, pains, and fears,
Quickly then will be forgot.
Though already saved by grace,
From the hour we first believed;
Yet while sin and war have place,
We have but a part received;
Still we for salvation wait,
Every hour it nearer comes!
Death will break the prison gate,
And admit us to our homes.
Sinners, what can you expect,
You who now the Saviour dare;
Break his laws, his grace reject,
You must stand before his bar!
Tremble, lest he say, “Depart!”
Oh the horrors of that sound!
Lord, make every careless heart
Seek thee while thou may’st be found.
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
25 October 1778
Samuel Robython died this morning. His removal led me to my afternoon's subject, though I did not mention him. Ezekiel 33:11 [Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?]
Tuesday 27 October 1778
This evening attended Samuel Robython to the grave. There were many people in the church, but I did not speak partly for want of time, the Great House service waiting, but chiefly because I knew not what to say without adding to the grief of his parents. It is indeed an awful case, and he has an unhappy brother going on in the same or a worse course, who seems quite hardened and unaffected – to such a degree that he spent that very day in which the other died (and a Sunday too) in an alehouse. O thou Sovereign Lord, thou hast mercy upon whom thou wilt. I praise thee for myself. Why was it not thus with me. For a time I was equally hardened, but thou didst prevail and save me in defiance of myself. Spoke afterward at the meeting and finished the fourth chapter of 1 Peter 4 [note verses 16-19: Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.]
Thursday 29 October 1778
Yesterday, after some time previously spent in arranging my hymns, I began to transcribe them for publication. Lord do thou favour the design if agreeable to thy will, and enable me to finish. I have been much and long pressed for these hymns, by many of my people. May they find acceptance and be crowned with usefulness.
Sunday 1 November 1778
How swiftly the weeks fly! Sabbaths number off, and each one brings me a large stride nearer my journey's end! My Lord, thou didst help me to speak today. Oh give me more of the hidden manna and more of the power of the new name. My sacraments alas! how dull! In the afternoon I pursued the subject of last week [Romans 8:13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.] Aiming to impress a sense of guilt and danger upon the unawakened, but Lord except thou speak, they will not hear. P_ gave me the subject of the evening hymn. May it be made useful to her, to me and to many. Forgive the iniquity of my holy things, and cause thy blessing to descend upon us and make us grow.
[though the Hymn No. is not stated in Newton’s diary, the sequence and context suggest this to be Hymn No. 325]
[On this date Newton preached from the above texts at his church, St Peter & St Paul, Olney, during the morning and afternoon services, and probably 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