Olney Hymns Book 2 Hymn 80
That was a wonder-working word...
Manuscript Hymn No. 296
The old and new creation
That was a wonder-working word
Which could the vast creation raise!
Angels attendant on their Lord, (a)
Admired the plan, and sung his praise.
From what a dark and shapeless mass,
All nature sprang at his command!
Let there be light, and light there was,
And sun and stars, and sea and land.
With equal speed the earth and seas
Their mighty Maker's voice obeyed;
He spake, and strait the plants and trees,
And birds, and beasts, and man, were made.
But man, the lord and crown of all,
By sin his honour soon defaced;
His heart (how altered since the fall!)
Is dark, deformed, and void, and waste.
The new creation of the soul
Does now no less his power display, (b)
Than when he formed the mighty whole,
And kindled darkness into day.
Though self-destroyed, O Lord, we are,
Yet let us feel what thou canst do;
Thy word the ruin can repair,
And all our hearts create anew.
(a) Job 38:7
(b) 2 Corinthians 4:6
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
Saturday 3 January 1778
Last night heard Mr Sutcliffe's discourse to the young people from Proverbs [left blank – 27:11] My son be wise. He spoke with pertinence and earnestness. Do thou, my Lord, command a blessing upon our several attempts, and pity our thoughtless youth, and teach them to remember thee, before the evil days come.
I am now to thank thee for the mercies of another week, and again alas, to confess myself ungrateful and vile. Already I have grieved thy Spirit, and brought a cloud upon my own. For thy name's sake pardon, and strengthen me. My Dear is greatly afflicted with pain and illness. Ah I have deserved it. If thou shouldst lay thine hand heavily upon her, or take her quite away, I might read my sin in the affliction. O sanctify all she feels and relieve her. How often hast thou heard me for her, and how often have I returned thee evil for good. Yet I complain that thou standest at a distance and I walk in comparative darkness! But can I wonder? when I may know that I procure it to myself. Rather may I wonder, that thou dost not withdraw much farther, and even take thy word out of my mouth. O forgive me yet again, and afford me thy power and presence tomorrow, and let me [go] forth in thy strength, with a message of grace to my fellow sinners.
Sunday 4 January 1778
Enabled to speak today, I hope not wholly in vain to others, but O my Lord how dull, confused and remote from spirituality in my own soul. Thou hast likewise brought a chastisement upon me. My Dear continues very ill, and we have had two distressing nights. Gracious Lord, I cannot, I do not complain – thou art merciful in all. Give patience, submission and strength, and help us both to humble ourselves before thee, and humbly to wait upon thee for pardon and relief. And O teach me yet at last to prize thy mercies, not only while threatened, but in the possession, if thou art pleased yet again to hear my unworthy prayers, and to remove the grievous pains she suffers. I thank thee that this morning (Monday) they are moderated, but O let me not forget the distress and agony of the night. O let me not trifle with thee more.
Hymn number 295 [295 was written for after sermon on Acts 20:26,27 – think he meant 296 here]
[On this date Newton preached from the above texts at his church, St Peter & St Paul, Olney, during the morning and afternoon services, and probably from this hymn at the informal evening service]
Hymn: MS Eng 1317, Houghton Library, Harvard University
Marylynn Rouse, 11/09/2013