The wishes that the sluggard frames, (a)
Of course must fruitless prove;
With folded arms he stands and dreams,
But has no heart to move.
His field from others may be known,
The fence is broken through;
The ground with weeds is overgrown,
And no good crop in view.
No hardship, he, or toil, can bear,
No difficulty meet;
He wastes his hours at home, for fear
Of lions in the street.
What wonder then if sloth and sleep
Distress and famine bring!
Can he in harvest hope to reap,
Who will not sow in spring?
'Tis often thus, in soul concerns,
We gospel-sluggards see;
Who, if a wish would serve their turns,
Might true believers be.
But when the preacher bids them watch,
And seek, and strive, and pray; (b)
At every poor excuse they catch,
A lion's in the way!
To use the means of grace, how loath!
We call them still in vain;
They yield to their beloved sloth,
And fold their arms again.
Dear Saviour, let thy power appear,
The outward call to aid;
These drowsy souls can only hear
The voice that wakes the dead.
(a) Proverbs 6:10; 24:30; 22:13; 20:4
(b) 1 Corinthians 9:24; Luke 13:24
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
Tuesday 3 November 1778
At the Great House this evening speaking from 1 Peter 5:1-4 thou wert pleased to give me a pleasant time, freedom of speech, and some feeling of spirit. I seem to understand (for I can tell others) what care, fidelity and tenderness belong to the pastoral office with which thou hast entrusted me; O enable me to do what I know, and to be what I seem.
1 Peter 5:1-4 [The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.]
Wednesday 4 November
Afternoon at Weston, where I preached in the evening from 2 Corinthians 5:17 [Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new]; a good many people, and though my own heart was too little in the service, I spoke with apparent freedom.
Thursday 5 November
Did not meet the children. Preached in the evening, with some view to the anniversary of the day, and thy great mercy in preserving this nation from the return of Popery. My text in course was suitable to the occasion. This day last year was a time of riot and confusion; under some apprehension of a return of the like disorders, I endeavoured to look up to thee, for peace and protection, and thou didst hear prayer and give us a quiet evening, and preserve us from all disturbance, for which I desire to return thee praise. Informed of the death of Sir Sidney Stafford Smythe, one of the few persons of distinction whom thou hast enabled to profess and adorn thy Gospel, in this declining day. Wrote to Lady S upon the occasion.
Hebrews 11:35,36 Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:
Saturday 7 November
My leisure chiefly employed in transcribing the hymns, and writing such letters as must be attended to. At intervals reading history, an account of the mischiefs with which sin has filled the world, and our own land in past times. For many years we have been favoured with peace at home, but what will [be] the event of the present dark appearances is only known to thee. May thy people watch and pray, and be prepared to meet thee! Some liberty in seeking thee tonight for a blessing upon tomorrow.
Sunday 8 November 1778
A letter from Mr [Symonds] informs me of the heavy affliction thou hast been pleased to lay upon his family, in visiting him, his wife and four children with a putrid fever and sore throat, which has raged and been very fatal at Bedford. Mrs S and one child still ill, the rest better. How soon may such a trial be mine. It is encouraging to see thy faithfulness in supporting thy children according to their day. He is comfortable, thankful and resigned, and gives evidence that thy grace is with him, and that the stroke is sanctified. Oh, may it be so with us whenever afflictions come, and then we need not fear them. I thank thee for assisting me through the day. In the afternoon began the history of Jonah. Help me to read my own in it. So rebellious have I been – so gracious, forbearing and condescending, hast thou been to be[me]. Help me to adore thee and to abhor myself.
Psalm 87:3 Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God. Selah.
Jonah 1:1-4 Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. But the Lord sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken.
Hymn No. 326
[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]