Olney Hymns Book 2 Hymn 75
My soul, this curious house of clay...
Manuscript Hymn No. 265
Hope beyond the grave
My soul, this curious house of clay,
Thy present frail abode,
Must quickly fall to worms a prey,
And thou return to God.
Canst thou, by faith, survey with joy
The change before it come?
And say, "Let death this house destroy,
I have a heavenly home!"
The Saviour, whom I then shall see
With new admiring eyes,
Already has prepared for me
A mansion in the skies. (a)
I feel this mud-walled cottage shake,
And long to see it fall;
That I my willing flight may take
To him who is my all.
Burdened and groaning then no more,
My rescued soul shall sing,
As up the shining path I soar,
"Death, thou hast lost thy sting."
Dear Saviour, help us now to seek,
And know thy grace's power;
That we may all this language speak,
Before the dying hour.
(a) 2 Corinthians 5:1
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
7 January 1777
My gracious Lord, thou seest me to be a poor creature, sadly insensible, wandering and foolish. Ah my heart is a sink indeed of folly and evil. And often (as at present) I feel myself unhinged for service. At the Great House the meeting very thin and the weather cold. I spoke from 1 Peter 1:9 and seemed to have some outward liberty, for which I ought to be thankful (for thou mightest justly take thy Word utterly out of my mouth) but Oh the spiritual feeling [of] liberty, of speaking from a heart under a lively and warm impression of the truth, to this I am for the most part too much a stranger.
9 January 1777
On account of the cold, and a slight indisposition in my throat, I did not meet the children today. But preached in the evening and found no inconvenience. How wonderfully hast thou favoured me with health, so that in a course of near 13 years I have never been forced to give up one opportunity. Have received a summons from Mr Barham to [London to] attend and join Mr [William] Rose and his daughter [Elizabeth Dorothea Foster-Barham] in marriage, on Tuesday next. Lord do thou grant a prosperous journey, and a happy event. Thou gavest me a hand in bringing this union about (see Page 111) and I trust it will prove a blessing to all concerned.
11 January 1777
Brought by thy mercy, my Lord, to the close of another week. My heart has been much dissipated, my prayers straitened, my thoughts confused. Ah I am a poor, unprofitable servant. Little done or attempted for thee, and that little spoiled by a mixture of innumerable evils….
Bless the union which I am desired to cement, and bring me home in peace. Then enable me to set up a thankful Ebenezer. Having been disappointed in my purpose of going on Monday morning, I must set off tomorrow after church. Lord let me have thy presence, and hear thy people’s prayers for me. Favour us, I beseech thee tomorrow with thy blessing in the ordinances, make it a good day to us. Help me to such a view and sense of the glories within the veil, as may give life and power to the word I shall deliver, and bear me above all the little cares and trifling thoughts which pester my mind. Accept and bless and do me good for thy mercies’ sake.
Sunday 12 January 1777
I was glad that my journey did not interfere with my Sabbath service as I expected. Thy providence determined my stay at home, and to meet the people at the Great House, where we joined in begging a blessing upon my going out and coming in.
Hymn No. 265
[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]
This hymn apparently imitates Isaac Watts:
My soul, come meditate the day,
And think how near it stands,
When thou must quit this house of clay,
And fly to unknown lands.
Psalms and Hymns of Isaac Watts, Hymn 61, A thought of death and glory.
Hymn: MS Eng 1317, Houghton Library, Harvard University
Marylynn Rouse, 11/09/2013