Olney Hymns Book 2 Hymn 3
See! another year is gone!...
Manuscript Hymn No. 231
[New Year's Hymns for 1776: 1/3]
Uncertainty of life
See! another year is gone!
Quickly have the seasons passed!
This we enter now upon
Will to many prove their last:
Mercy hitherto has spared,
But have mercies been improved?
Let us ask, Am I prepared
Should I be this year removed?
Some we now no longer see,
Who their mortal race have run,
Seemed as fair for life as we,
When the former year begun:
Some, but who God only knows,
Who are here assembled now,
Ere the present year shall close,
To the stroke of death must bow.
Life a field of battle is,
Thousands fall within our view;
And the next death-bolt that flies,
May be sent to me or you:
While we preach, and while we hear,
Help us, Lord, each one to think,
Vast eternity is near,
I am standing on the brink.
If from guilt and sin set free,
By the knowledge of thy grace,
Welcome, then, the call will be
To depart and see thy face:
To thy saints, while here below,
With new years, new mercies come;
But the happiest year they know,
Is their last, which leads them home.
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
Saturday 30 December 1775
I feel a conviction of thy goodness, and am sensible I ought to be humble, spiritual and thankful, but alas how little heart either for prayer or praise. A most unworthy creature. I hear from many hands, that thou wert pleased to give me acceptable liberty on Christmas Day. Fain I would entreat thee for a blessing upon tomorrow, and the approaching services of the New Year. But even this, cannot engage my heart to be earnest. If thy grace were not free, what would become of me, who have such continued calls for service, and am so utterly poor in myself. Do thou inspire and prompt my thoughts this day, suggest suitable messages, and help me with the saving strength of thine arm, for thy mercy's sake.
Sunday 31 December 1775
At home in the afternoon I aimed to impress the hearers with a sense of the shortness and uncertainty of life. O that I were more impressed with a sense of it myself, that I might be roused and animated to work while it is day. In the evening I spoke from a hymn of praise for the goodness with which thou hast crowned another year to us as a society. And now, permit and enable me to praise thee for thy undeserved, abounding mercies to me and mine. Though I have been evil, thou has[t] followed me with good. Thou hast watched over my family, preserved us abroad and at home, shielded us from sickness and harms, provided for us, supported us under our comparatively small trials, which however small would have been too much for us, without thy support. Thou hast restored and healed my soul again and again, anointed me with fresh oil for thy service, and not taken thy word out of my mouth. O Lord I am thy servant, truly I am thy servant. I am bound to thee by every tie, of duty and gratitude. Accept the renewed surrender of myself and my all to thee. Forgive what is past, and teach me to do better.
1 Corinthians 7:29
Hymn No. 230
Tuesday 2 January 1776
Didst thou not O Lord give me a desire yesterday, to begin and end the year with thee, if thou appointest me to see the end of it? Thou seest me a poor helpless creature, yet poor as I am, I trust I am thine. I have to praise thee for assisting me through the day. My heart was fluttering when the evening service came on, and I seemed much unprovided, and cold, but thou didst help me to speak with earnestness – and thou didst send many to hear. O may thy blessing follow the word. And may thy other ministers who are to preach to the young people tonight and tomorrow, be instruments in thy hand for good. My feelings are faint, but my judgement tells me I ought to look with great concern upon the state of this town, where so many are hardening under the means of grace, and the very youth are growing old in sin.
I put off the evening meeting, that the people might hear the sermon to the youth at the Baptist Meeting. The text was Proverbs 4:7. I thought Mr S_[Sutcliffe] spoke well, and there seemed a great attention. Do thou O Lord command a blessing upon the several attempts.
Hymn No. 231
[On this date (1 January 1776) Newton preached from the above texts at his church, St Peter & St Paul, Olney, during the morning and evening services, including this hymn at the New Year's evening service]
Hymn: MS Eng 1317, Houghton Library, Harvard University
Marylynn Rouse, 11/09/2013