Olney Hymns Book 2 Hymn 68
Although on massy pillars built...
Manuscript Hymn No. 217
On the earthquake
September 8, 1775
Although on massy pillars built,
The earth has lately shook;
It trembled under Britain's guilt,
Before its Maker's look.
Swift as the shock amazement spreads,
And sinners tremble too;
What flight can screen their guilty heads,
If earth itself pursue?
But mercy spared us while it warned,
The shock is felt no more;
And mercy now, alas! is scorned
By sinners, as before.
But if these warnings prove in vain,
Say, sinner, canst thou tell,
How soon the earth may quake again,
And open wide to hell?
Repent before the Judge draws nigh;
Or else when he comes down,
Thou wilt in vain for earthquakes cry,
To hide thee from his frown. (a)
But happy they who love the Lord,
And his salvation know;
The hope that's founded on his word,
No change can overthrow.
Should the deep-rooted hills be hurled,
And plunged beneath the seas;
And strong convulsions shake the world,
Your hearts may rest in peace.
Jesus, your Shepherd, Lord, and Chief,
Shall shelter you from ill;
And not a worm or shaking leaf
Can move, but at his will.
(a) Revelation 6:16
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
Tuesday 15 August 1775
I hope the Lord was with us this morning at the Great House. I approve the design, acknowledge the urgent occasion, and seem to others affected by it. But alas if I laid it duly to heart, could it be possible for some things which I daily groan under to prevail.
In the evening took leave at the Great House, from a pathetic[moving] passage of St Paul, 1 Thessalonians 3:8-13, being to set out tomorrow morning. There was much and earnest prayer offered up amongst us. Blessed be God for an affectionate praying people.
Northampton Mercury 18 Sept 1755
Bath: We had a very violent shock of an Earthquake here ... which was felt very much all over Bath and its Neighbourhood; it shook the foundation of some of the Upper Buildings so much, that the inhabitants ran out of their Houses for Fear of their tumbling about their Ears. I had been in Bed about Half an Hour, and was in a very sound Sleep, but the House was shook so violently that it awoke me. The whole Town at present seems very much alarmed for Fear of a Return.
Saturday 23 September 1775
Returned in safety from London.
Sunday 1 October 1775
By the Lord’s goodness brought comfortably through the day. Only my old complaints still remain with me at the Sacrament. In the afternoon preached with a view to vindicate myself and people from the charge of siding improperly with the Americans, which has been thrown out against us on account of the morning prayer meeting. In the evening spoke from the Hymn No. 217. On the subject of the late earthquake.
[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]
Hymn: MS Eng 1317, Houghton Library, Harvard University
Marylynn Rouse, 11/09/2013