Olney Hymns Book 3 Hymn 77
Destruction's dangerous road...
Manuscript Hymn No. 243
Are there few that shall be saved?
Destruction's dangerous road
What multitudes pursue!
While that which leads the soul to God,
Is known or sought by few.
Believers enter in
By Christ, the living gate;
But they who will not leave their sin,
Complain it is too strait.
If self must be denied,
And sin forsaken quite,
They rather choose the way that's wide,
And strive to think it right.
Encompassed by a throng,
On numbers they depend;
So many surely can't be wrong,
And miss a happy end.
But numbers are no mark
That men will right be found;
A few were sav'd in Noah's ark, (a)
For many millions drowned.
Obey the gospel call,
And enter while you may;
The flock of Christ is always small, (b)
And none are safe but they.
Lord, open sinners' eyes
Their awful state to see;
And make them, ere the storm arise,
To thee for safety flee.
(a) 1 Peter 3:20
(b) Luke 12:32
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
Tuesday 14 May 1776
Yesterday forenoon at the Grange and Mill. Disappointed of the company I expected – Mr Rose and Sir [Harry Trelawney] – but Mr Robinson and my host Mr Moore with his wife called from Leicester on their way to London. Thy servants O my Lord are glad to visit me, and I am glad to receive them, I hope it is for thy sake. But it is well for me that they know me but in part. And O the miracle of mercy and grace that while thou showest me so much evil and weakness in myself, thou art pleased to keep me with a strong hand, and preserve my character in the sight of the church and of the world.
Spoke from the Enchanted ground. Left the meeting before it broke up, to attend Mrs Asprey's child to the grave. By the time we came thither the meeting was finished. There was a good number of people around the grave and thou gavest me to speak with some liberty and earnestness. May thy blessing attend the word and raise dead sinners to a life of righteousness. Mr Barham came over this afternoon, and returned the next morning.
Thursday 16 May
Met the children. And preached in the evening with some liberty but out of the pulpit alas, thou knowest O Lord, how little I feel and experience of the great truths I preach. I still mourn under a grievous dissipation of spirit, and feel unstrung and unfit for everything. O when wilt thou return and bless me with new life?
Hebrews 1:3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high:
Friday 17 May
Mr Jones and Mrs Green to tea – cleared up some points that were disagreeable, and now perhaps we could be more united if opportunity afford, but she is going. Afterward Mr Bull and Goode came – stayed till eight, so that my evening retirement was prevented, and I alas seemed pleased with any excuse. O remove the stone from my heart and the veil from my eyes. I can tell by Mr Bull's converse, how different he is from me. He has a living sense of thy Word and gracious communications from thee by it. But I alas am shut out, cannot read it as thy word, nor feed upon it. This and more I deserve, but since thou art gracious I will hope for what I do not deserve.
Mrs Green's farewell in the evening interrupted my retirement. Yet I had some time but alas I was like a silly dove without a heart. O Lord hear, forgive and strengthen me, that I may be comfortable and skilful in my public work.
Sunday 19 May
A poor day in my spirit, and not that liberty and pleasure in my public work which I could desire. Ah my Lord, make me thankful that thou permitest and enablest to me to speak at all. We had many strangers at church. My morning subject was suggested suddenly upon seeing Mrs G come into the church. The afternoon by something Mr Bull said upon the text when here. Thou hast taught my stammering lips to lisp the language of Canaan, but ah how poor is my proficiency, after I have been so many years in thy school and under thy teaching. Surprised in the evening with a warmth and uneasiness of spirit. Satan makes different attacks, and I feel by experience that he can prevail in every way, unless thou art pleased to fight for me and in me.
Psalm 73:23,24 Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.
Isaiah 19:18 In that day shall five cities in the land of Egypt speak the language of Canaan, and swear to the Lord of hosts; one shall be called, The city of destruction.
Hymn No. 243
[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
Diary: John Newton Collection, CO199, Princeton University
Marylynn Rouse, 12/09/2013