The hiding place. February 10, 1779.
See the gloomy gathering cloud,
Hanging o'er a sinful land!
Sure the Lord proclaims aloud,
Times of trouble are at hand:
Happy they who love his name!
They shall always find him near;
Though the earth were wrapped in flame,
They have no just cause for fear.
Hark! his voice in accents mild,
(Oh, how comforting and sweet!)
Speaks to every humble child,
Pointing out a sure retreat!
Come, and in my chambers hide, (a)
To my saints of old well known;
There you safely may abide,
Till the storm be overblown.
You have only to repose
On my wisdom, love, and care;
Where my wrath consumes my foes,
Mercy shall my children spare:
While they perish in the flood,
You that bear my holy mark, (b)
Sprinkled with atoning blood,
Shall be safe within the ark.
Sinners, see the ark prepared!
Haste to enter while there's room!
Though the Lord his arm has bared,
Mercy still retards your doom:
Seek him while there yet is hope,
Ere the day of grace be past,
Lest in wrath he give you up,
And this call should prove your last.
(a) Isaiah 26:20
(b) Ezekiel 9:4
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
Thursday 6 August 1778 [letter to Thornton]
Yesterday’s paper made me very serious. America seems to be quite gone. The Lord has checked our vain boasts of what the great fleet would do if it could but meet the French. We are likely to have a Spanish war; and the accommodation between Prussia and the Emperor, (which yet I cannot but be glad of as it will prevent a dreadful effusion of blood) will disappoint our politicians who expected the French would have much of their attention drawn towards Germany. So that to us everything looks darker and darker. I should be very unhappy if I had not some liberty of spirit to accept our Lord’s gracious invitation to hide myself in his secret chambers till this indignation be over past.* There is safety under the shadow of his wings. His wisdom, truth, and love are a buckler, and his name a strong tower for his people to flee to. Now is the time to watch and pray that we enter not into temptation, and to plead that gracious promise, Revelation 3:8,10. I feel that I have but little strength, but he has kept me hitherto by his strength, so that I have not denied his name. And I humbly hope he will keep me from the snare and the hour of temptation, which I think is coming to try them that are at ease. Our disunion from America is an event of such great importance, so suddenly and inevitably brought about, that it seems to me like a [torn] and I can hardly persuade myself it is true. But it is true, and we must abide the consequence. Well, if we get to heaven at last, all will be well. And I know that even at present they who fear the Lord have no cause to be greatly alarmed for themselves. If he brings a cloud over the land his covenant rainbow will be seen in it. He knows his own people, where they are, what they need, how to protect, provide for and support them. And if he permits them to share in general troubles, he can give them strength according to their day, and make them joyful in tribulation.
* Isaiah 26:20 Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.
Tuesday 15 September 1778
A fuller meeting at the Great House than we have had of late. Spoke from 1 Peter 4:11. The expression, If any man speak etc, led me to mention my own duty as a preacher. May the Lord teach them effectually to my heart. Thou seest O Lord how poor and weak and vain and every way insufficient I am of myself. O thou who hast promised, put thy Spirit in me that I may live! Took leave of the people, purposing if thou givest leave, to set off tomorrow for Bedford and Yelling. Much prayer is put up for our safe and comfortable journey. Lord be with us – with my heart and mouth, and with my dear _[Mary] – afford her a measure of health and strength, lead us out and bring us home in health and peace, that we may praise thee.
Saturday 26 September 1778
I praise thy name my Lord, that I and my _[dear Mary] are again restored to our home in safety. Thou didst shield us from harm and even from the appearance of danger – and didst favour her with a comfortable measure of health the whole time. We went to Bedford Wednesday, dined at Everton and from thence to Yelling on Friday, whither Mr Scott came to us on Monday, and Mr Bull on Tuesday – that evening I preached at Everton – returned to Bedford next day from Yelling, and home this day to dinner. Much kindness from friends, some pleasant and I hope useful conversations. I preached twice in Mr Venn's house from Matthew 15:21, Psalm 63:1,2; twice in his church, Isaiah 9:6 – his name shall be called Wonderful – and 3 John 2. At Everton from Romans 9:18. Upon the whole it was a very agreeable journey. The open country at Yelling afforded me scope for walking, and some opportunities for retired prayer, but alas, when alone, my heart was sadly cold and wandering. The good Lord pardon me, I am a poor creature, and must still say, Enter not into judgement with thy servant. I praise thee that thy Gospel is free and thy salvation without price or conditions, otherwise I could have no hope. Mr Mayor preached for me last Sunday.
Sunday 27 September 1778
Another merciful Sabbath. It is a mercy that I am enabled to speak, that I am not put to shame. O be pleased my Lord to preach thyself to my heart. I would hope that I long to be spiritual, humble, conformable to thee, and wholly thine. Thou hast the fullness of grace, thou hast done great things for others, and thine arm is not shortened. In the evening spoke from a hymn upon the times, which grow darker and darker. O that we may be formed into a right spirit, and prepared to meet thee.
Hymn No. 321
[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]