Olney Hymns Book 1 Hymn 131
Fierce passions discompose the mind...
Manuscript Hymn No. 311
[incorrectly attributed to Cowper in the 1st edition]
Fierce passions discompose the mind,
As tempests vex the sea;
But calm content and peace we find,
When, Lord, we turn to thee.
In vain by reason and by rule
We try to bend the will;
For none but in the Saviour’s school
Can learn the heavenly skill.
Since at his feet my soul has sat,
His gracious words to hear;
Contented with my present state,
I cast on him my care.
“Art thou a sinner, soul?” he said
“Then how canst thou complain?
How light thy troubles here, if weighed
With everlasting pain!
If thou of murmuring wouldst be cured,
Compare thy griefs with mine;
Think what my love for thee endured,
And thou wilt not repine.
’Tis I appoint thy daily lot,
And I do all things well:
Thou soon shalt leave this wretched spot,
And rise with me to dwell.
In life my grace shall strength supply,
Proportioned to thy day;
At death thou still shalt find me nigh,
To wipe thy tears away.”
Thus I who once my wretched days
In vain repinings spent;
Taught in my Saviour’s school of grace,
Have learned to be content.
(a) See also Book 3, Hymn 55
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
Sunday 3 May 1778
We called on Hannah Markham, who still lives a singular instance of thine All-sufficiency, in supporting and comforting thy people under the greatest outward disadvantages.
Romans 8:31 [What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?]
Tuesday 5 May 1778
Employed I know not how, but time flies. Sometimes writing letters. I have better spirits for anything, than prayer and reading the Word. The weather unpleasant, which has some effect on my spirits – but the root of all my complaints is a sinful heart of unbelief.
Thursday 7 May 1778
Preached in the evening. Knew not how I should manage the subject. But when I began I found abundance to say. O it is wonderful how thou art pleased to strengthen a worm, and fill an empty vessel. Especially considering what an unfaithful and slothful creature I am.
Saturday 9 May 1778
Had but little time for retirement this evening. The hymn cost me most of the leisure of the day. My Lord help me to praise thee and to abase myself. How much cause for both. Every week is filled up with new instances of thy goodness, and with proofs of my own evil. Thou art gracious. I am a poor sinner. The sentences are the sum of all I could say in quires. O pardon, accept and save me for thy Name's sake.
Sunday 10 May 1778
Led comfortably through the Sabbath and favoured with liberty for which I owe thee praise. O that thou wouldst give power to the Word. A deadness reigns in the congregation; few can I meet with that seem to be savingly impressed, and too much formality among thine own people. O for a day of Pentecost, and for the breath of life to accompany the Word, that the dry bones may live.
Hymn No. 311
[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]
[Note that this hymn, according to Newton's diary and manuscript, was written by him and not by Cowper, as had been mistakenly printed in the 1st edition of 1779 - through confusing "C" for 100 with "C" for Cowper]
Hymn: MS Eng 1317, Houghton Library, Harvard University
Diary: John Newton Collection, CO199, Princeton University
Marylynn Rouse, 10/09/2013