HYMNS AFTER SERMONS TO YOUNG PEOPLE, ON NEW-YEARS EVENINGS, SUITED TO THE SUBJECTS
[New Year's Hymns for 1776: 3/3]
[to follow a sermon on Galatians 4:19]
Travailing in birth for souls
What contradictions meet
In ministers' employ!
It is a bitter sweet,
A sorrow full of joy:
No other post affords a place
For equal honour, or disgrace!
Who can describe the pain
Which faithful preachers feel,
Constrained to speak in vain
To hearts as hard as steel?
Or who can tell the pleasures felt,
When stubborn hearts begin to melt!
The Saviour's dying love,
The soul's amazing worth,
Their utmost efforts move,
And draw their bowels forth: *
They pray and strive, their rest departs,
Till Christ be formed in sinners' hearts.
If some small hope appear,
They still are not content;
But, with a jealous fear,
They watch for the event:
Too oft they find their hopes deceived,
Then how their inmost souls are grieved!
But when their pains succeed,
And from the tender blade
The ripening ears proceed,
Their toils are overpaid:
No harvest-joy can equal theirs,
To find the fruit of all their cares.
On what has now been sown,
Thy blessing, Lord, bestow;
The power is thine alone,
To make it spring and grow:
Do thou the gracious harvest raise,
And thou, alone, shalt have the praise.
* 'bowels' then indicated the seat of the emotions, which today we would express as the 'heart'
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
Tuesday 5 December 1775
This day I attended a meeting of Baptist Ministers, and heard in preaching and in prayer the very same truths which thou O Lord hast taught and delivered to me. Though in many things thy people differ, and through unhappy prejudice are too much divided among themselves, they are one in thee.
Thursday 7 December 1775
I have reason to praise thee I hope, for making me the instrument of bringing Mr Teedon from Bedford. It has caused the children’s meeting to flourish, as to numbers, and as thou givest me liberty to speak to them, I hope, I trust, I shall not speak in vain. Help me to sow in patience and to wait in hope. In the evening I had some freedom in setting forth the richness and freeness of thy grace, and though there were but few hearers, if thou art pleased to give a blessing to those few, it shall suffice.
Much of my leisure this week has been employed in finishing a long letter to Mr [Thomas] Scott, which will probably close our correspondence, unless thou art pleased to work upon his heart, by what I have already sent or by some other means. O that this opportunity which seems of thine providence may not be in vain. It will be, without thy blessing. Help me to water the seed with earnest prayer.
Friday 22 December 1775
I am chiefly now engaged in preparing New Year’s hymns etc; was long thinking about a text for the young people. I hope thy good Spirit has fixed my choice, for to thee I desire to look for direction, and O give me the sermon likewise, that I may preach with demonstration and power. My debate with Mr Scott seems closed for the present; he writes very friendly and I shall wait in hope, of a blessing attending my occasional intercourse with him. He has sincerity (and if I mistake not) in such a sense as he could not have, if thou hadst not in some degree visited his heart. O that thou wilt be pleased to lead him gently on, and reveal thy salvation to him.
28 December 1775 [letter to John Thornton]
The hymns on the other leaf, are prepared for my New Year’s evening opportunity, and will not be sung or seen here till then. I think I have determined on Galatians 4:19 for my text [My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you]; from the words My little children, or (as it might better be rendered agreeable to the force of the Greek diminutive which is an expression of tenderness) My dear children, I propose to introduce an affectionate address. Then:
2. to show the anxieties, fears and pains which a minister is subject to from the nature of his work, and the various states of his auditories, which the Apostle illustrates by the pangs of a woman in travail.
3. What is the faithful minister’s great object, not to proselyte his hearers to a party, or to a system of nations, but to see the very life of Christ taking place in their hearts, that he may dwell in them Galatians 2:20. That his person, offices, Spirit and grace may dwell upon their minds, so as to produce his image in their tempers, and that they may know he does all for them, in them, and by the,.
This is something of the plan my thoughts run upon. I trust I shall be helped with your prayers at the time. Perhaps I may have observed to you more than once, that this yearly address to the young people, usually lies with a peculiar weight upon my mind. And I hope my own feelings give me some warrant to make the Apostle’s words which I have chosen, my own words.
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 Sutcliffe spoke well, and there seemed a great attention. Do thou O Lord command a blessing upon the several attempts.
Hymn No. 233
[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, with this hymn following the sermon at the New Year's evening service]
[link to Todd Murray singing this hymn]