Looking at the cross
In evil long I took delight,
Unawed by shame or fear,
Till a new object struck my sight,
And stopped my wild career.
I saw one hanging on a tree,
In agonies and blood,
Who fixed his languid eyes on me,
As near his cross I stood.
Sure, never till my latest breath
Can I forget that look;
It seemed to charge me with his death,
Though not a word he spoke.
My conscience felt, and owned the guilt,
And plunged me in despair;
I saw my sins his blood had spilt,
And helped to nail him there.
Alas! I knew not what I did;
But now my tears are vain;
Where shall my trembling soul be hid?
For I the Lord have slain.
A second look he gave, which said,
"I freely all forgive;
This blood is for thy ransom paid,
I die, that thou may'st live."
Thus, while his death my sin displays
In all its blackest hue,
(Such is the mystery of grace),
It seals my pardon too.
With pleasing grief and mournful joy
My spirit now is filled,
That I should such a life destroy,
Yet live by him I killed.
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
Sunday 29 March 1778
If an outward liberty of speaking, could or ought to satisfy me, I should have little reason to mourn, for thou art pleased to supply and enable me, far beyond what I could expect. But my Lord, there are two things evidently wanting: more of thy power to accompany the word and make it fruitful, and more of thy grace to apply the truths I deliver to my own heart. I know my times are in thy hand, and yet I am prone to vain contrivances and fears. I speak much of thy love – how precious thou art or shouldst be to all who know thee – yet feel as if I was hardly determined yet whether to love thee or not. A letter from Dover about money matters, puzzled me just as I was going to the Great House. I feel myself quite out of my element about those things, and may I not account it my mercy that I am so? Lord do thou undertake for me, guide me, comfort and bless me. Fresh alarms of war, the clouds gathering apace. Thou hast [said] to thy people at such times, See that ye be not troubled. O for lively faith, to see thy hand and to rest upon thy promises, then thy people need not fear, though the earth be moved and the mountains cast into the midst of the sea.
Hymn No. 308
Tuesday 31 March 1778
Mr Barham and the 3 Miss B_'s came to dinner. He went forward to Northampton, they stay some days. May thy blessing my Lord be with us all. Mr and Mrs Unwin etc, likewise came to Orchard Side so that we are full at both houses. Spoke in the evening from 1 Peter 3:10-12.
Thursday 2 April 1778
Engaged much with my company – they all attended when I met the children. Preached in the evening on the call of Abraham. Mr Barham dined with us, and returned home in the evening.
Saturday 4 April 1778
Mr Barham returned this evening, which likewise brought Mr Rennard and Mr Mayor. We are quite full, and my evening retirement prevented. I endeavoured to lift up my heart to thee, my Lord for a few minutes. The company I receive are thy people, and they come, as thy providence brings them. Thou art pleased to make me acceptable, and therefore I hope useful to them. I may well wonder, that unworthy and unfaithful as I am, thou shouldst honour me with so much notice. O may I be, as I ought, humbled into the dust.
Sunday 5 April 1778
Notwithstanding my hurry and engagements with company, thou wert pleased to give me liberty this day. I preached to others, O that thou wouldst impress the word upon my own heart. I set thee forth as the Chief Beloved, who alone deservest our trust, love and service, yet idols dispute thy place. I point out to them the causes of that leanness under which I myself still languish. I speak of the privilege of living with thy Cross in view, yet alas! how often, and how much is it out of my sight. O Lord I am weak and oppressed, do thou undertake for me and set my heart at rest. I desire to be peacefully resigned to every dispensation as proceeding from thee. But alas, is it not my own fault that I live so distant from thee, and so far below my privileges. Public affairs are exceedingly gloomy, and call for continual wrestling prayer. But I seem stupidly unconcerned, and unable to lay these things to heart, as I ought. Lord quicken me.
Song of Solomon 5:9
2 Samuel 13:4
Hymn No. 309
[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]
18 April 1778 [letter to Thornton]
I preached three times yesterday, twice at home and once at Clifton. My texts were Galatians 6:14, John 1:29, and 1 Corinthians 2:8. How wonderful that expression, How great the mystery that they should crucify the Lord of Glory. But if he had not been the Lord of Glory, he could not have been a Lamb of sufficient value to take away sin by the sacrifice of himself once offered up. Well may we glory in the Cross. It affords the brightest display of the divine perfections, the fullest proof of the worth of our souls, and the evil of our sins, and the only sufficient and satisfactory evidence of a complete and sure salvation. On these points I speak much and often, but alas how faint is my perception of them. I am ashamed of my stupidity, yet I trust I know so much of them as engages me to rest my hope there, and am helped to say with Peter, Lord to whom else should I go? Thou only hast the words of eternal life.