HYMNS AFTER SERMONS TO YOUNG PEOPLE, ON NEW-YEARS EVENINGS, SUITED TO THE SUBJECTS
[New Year's Hymns 1779: 3]
[after sermon on Jeremiah 3:19]
How shall I put thee among the children?
Alas! by nature how depraved,
How prone to every ill!
Our lives to Satan how enslaved,
How obstinate our will!
And can such sinners be restored,
Such rebels reconciled?
Can grace itself the means afford
To make a foe a child?
Yes, grace has found the wondrous means
Which shall effectual prove
To cleanse us from our countless sins,
And teach our hearts to love.
Jesus for sinners undertakes,
And died that we may live;
His blood a full atonement makes,
And cries aloud, "Forgive."
Yet one thing more must grace provide,
To bring us home to God,
Or we shall slight the Lord, who died,
And trample on his blood.
The Holy Spirit must reveal
The Saviour’s work and worth;
Then the hard heart begins to feel
A new and heavenly birth.
Thus bought with blood, and born again,
Redeemed, and saved, by grace;
Rebels, in God's own house obtain
A son's and daughter's place.
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
Friday 1 January 1779
My glorious and powerful God, how hast thou swept the earth and the sea in the last night with thy terrible storm. And multitudes probably have been in jeopardy and in the agonies of death while I have been sleeping. Thou hast raised me up to begin the New Year in health and peace. O may I seek and obtain thy blessing upon it, for myself and mine – my dear – my child – my people and my friends.
Last night I heard my friend Scott preach at Weston [Underwood] from 1 Timothy 4:8. How should I wonder and rejoice. Surely when thou wilt work, none can let it. What liberty, power and judgment, in so young a preacher! May thy comfort fill his heart and thy blessing crown his labours.
Now my Lord help me to pray and praise, and once more to devote and surrender myself and my all to thee. Thou hast and dost deliver, in thee I trust to be with me to the end, and then to take me to be with thee, forever. How short is the last year upon a review, how full of vanity and trouble, every day marked with folly on my part, as with mercies on thine – and I nearer by a whole year to eternity than I was on a certain day, which seems to me almost like yesterday. O Lord teach me how to live, prepare me for every change, especially that great change which must come, and which I desire to consider rather as desirable, than as unavoidable.
Preached in the morning with some liberty. We had much company to dinner. My spirit was dull and cold towards the evening service, till I entered upon it. Then I trust thou didst in some degree hear my prayers. Yet it was not so pleasant an opportunity as some that I have formerly known, but if thou art pleased to work by the word, it shall be made useful. The congregation was pretty large. The storm last night, disturbed our rest, and my _[dear Polly] was very ill this morning; but well again in the evening, though she could not go out, on account of the severe cold.
[Hymn No. 334]
[On this date Newton preached from the above texts at his church, St Peter & St Paul, Olney, during the morning and evening services, including this hymn after the New Year's evening sermon]
extracts from sermon on Jeremiah 3:19
I have told you my friends again and again of the feelings, the designs and anxieties which I bring with me on your account at these seasons. Oh that the Lord would give you all to feel for yourselves. If you were as willing to receive benefit, as I am desirous to be useful to you, we should not be disappointed. Some of you very young will be removed into eternity this year, as some who were young like yourselves have been removed in the course of the last year. I then declared to them the whole counsel of God, according to my ability. I could not then fix upon them who would die, nor can I now. But there are certainly some present, who will never hear me preach to the young people after tonight. Much depends upon your hearing now. I pray you to be attentive I pray you to breathe out a desire to the Lord that you may not hear in vain. You need not be afraid of the word. It is a message of grace and love.
These words were first addressed to Israel in a backsliding state, when Sin had brought judgement to the very door. The Lord was about to visit them with his displeasure, but in the midst of wrath he remembered mercy, and before he removed them to Babylon, he made them [a] gracious promise of bringing them back again into their own land. This was mercy indeed, so great, so undeserved, that he speaks as deliberating with himself how you should or could do it, consistently with his holiness and truth…
Under the veil of the history of God’s dealing with Israel, we are taught by the New Testament, to discern the methods of his grace to sinners…
…long before sin entered the world, he had in his adorable councils, provided to set bounds to the effects of sin, and to select a family to himself from amongst sinners – who should stand to him in the relation of children, and to whom he would be known as a Father.
He has already a family of children amongst sinners, on whom he bestows a goodly heritage. Then number already is great, but not complete. It is still growing, yet there is room. I trust it is his good pleasure to put some of you among the children. Oh that it may be tonight.
How shall you be put amongst the children?
1. The gift of a Saviour, to teach, obey and suffer. Here is Atonement, righteousness. Here the difficulty arising from guilt is answered. We have sinned, but Christ has died.
2. The gift of the Holy Spirit. This is provided against obstinacy. Without a Saviour you could not think of God, with comfort nor no more dare to call him Father, then Satan dare. Without the Spirit, you cannot, you will not so much as desire it.
But the Gospel gives a ground, and the Spirit a power to say, Father, love, gratitude, reverence, obedience. These views, and this power, will keep you that you shall not turn away.
Now this Saviour, this Gospel is preach to you freely, without money or price, without condition, exception or limitation. What think you of it? Will you, can you, Dare you repose, go in your evil ways – trample upon the blood of Jesus, do despite to the Spirit of grace?