Newton script to interweave with Part 2 of Handel's Messiah

Previous Co-productions of Newton and Handel Messiah
Gloucester Messiah   LJ Messiah
Milligan Messiah
Johnson City, Tennessee, 2014
Gloucester Cathedral, UK, 2010   Lake Jackson, Texas, 2013

How about planning one yourself?


The script below is drawn from John Newton's sermons on the texts sung in Handel's Messiah.

It was narrated by Bishop Timothy Dudley-Smith at The Messiah by Mr Handel & Mr Newton, Gloucester Cathedral, 13 March 2010.

The same script was used for Handel’s Messiah: A Celebration of God’s Amazing Grace at Milligan Christian College, Johnson City, Tennessee, on 12 and 13 April 2014

To listen to the audio versions of Timothy Dudley-Smith's Newton readings leading into subsequent arias of Handel's Messiah click 'script 1' etc below:
script 1 script 2 script 3 script 4 script 5
Possible uses for the script:
  • A full performance of Part 2, The Passion, from Handel's Messiah, with narrations from Newton's sermons on the identical Scripture passages interwoven  as below
  • selections of 2 or 3 or more arias with narrations for a city lunchtime concert
  • one aria in a church service – solo or choral or congregational – with sermon following, drawn from Newton's points on that text

The Messiah by Mr Handel & Mr Newton

Meditations on Part 2 of Handel’s Messiah


Saturday 13 March 2010 7pm
Gloucester Cathedral

1. [Introduction]
  George Frederic Handel was born in 1685, and in 1784 all London conspired to celebrate the centenary of his birth. There were two spectacular performances of The Messiah in Westminster Abbey, with immense choir and orchestra over 500 strong. The oratorio was on everyone’s lips, as one of the talking points of the day.
At that time John Newton, the former slave-trader dramatically converted to Christ in a storm at sea, had been for almost five years Rector of St Mary Woolnoth, the city church across the road from the Mansion House. With what today we would call a flair for topicality or publicity, he embarked on a series of fifty sermons, expounding key passages in the Biblical libretto of The Messiah. It is a few short extracts from these sermons which you will hear tonight, on the familiar words of the oratorio.
Newton loved the music of The Messiah. He had a harpsichord in his drawing-room and may have played some of the arias himself. Indeed, he may, years before, have heard Handel conduct it.
But, music apart, Newton was very conscious of its sacred theme. He wrote of how fully to enter into the spirit of the work, ‘might afford one of the …noblest gratifications of… the present life.’ But he also gave a solemn warning that to enjoy it merely for the music, without taking to heart its spiritual message, was a serious if not a sacrilegious mistake.
The Passion section of Handel’s Messiah which we are listening to tonight, begins with a verse of Scripture from the Gospel of John:

Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world!

  John Newton comments:
But wait one moment! I feel sure that when John Newton stood in his pulpit at St Mary’s, he would pray before he began to preach. So with your permission, we will have a moment of quiet as we sit, and I will offer such a prayer: 
The entrance of thy words giveth light.’
Lord, may your words, said and sung here tonight, enter our hearts,
illumine our minds, and minister faith to our souls,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

And so to John Newton’s comments:
“When John the Baptist saw Jesus, he pointed Him out to his disciples, saying, Behold the Lamb of God!

“The paschal lamb, and the lambs which were daily offered, morning and evening in the temple, according to the law of Moses, were of God’s appointment; but this Lamb was, likewise, of His providing. The others were but types, insufficient to cleanse the offerers from guilt; and they were all superseded, when Messiah, by the one offering of Himself, once for all, made an end of sin in favour of all who believe in His name.
“This title The Lamb of God, refers to His voluntary substitution for sinners, that by His sufferings and death, they who deserved to die, might obtain eternal life through Him, and for His sake.
The Lamb of God, thus slain, takes away sin.  The Israelites, by looking to the brazen serpent, were saved from death, and healed of their wounds. The Lamb of God is proposed, not to our bodily sight, but to the eye of the mind, which, indeed, in fallen man, is naturally blind; but the Gospel message, enlivened by the powerful agency of the Holy Spirit, is appointed to open it. He who thus sees the Son, and believes on Him (John 6:40), is delivered from guilt and condemnation, is justified from all sin.
“Salvation is, indeed, wholly of grace. The gift of a Saviour, the first dawn of light into the heart, all the supports and supplies needful for carrying on the work, from the foundation to the top stone, all is of free grace.

Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world!"

  [Followed by Messiah:
22 Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.          John 1:29]
2. The next arias include words from
  Isaiah chapter 53:

He was despised and rejected of men;
a man of sorrows,
and acquainted with grief.

and, at verse 6:

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned every one to his own way.
And the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

  John Newton comments:
“They despised Him for, what they accounted the meanness of His appearance. Though rich in Himself, He became poor for our sakes, and His poverty made Him contemptible in their eyes. They expected Messiah would appear with external pomp and power. But when they saw Him, they scorned Him, saying, ‘Is not this the carpenter’s son?’ He who had not money to pay the tribute demanded of Him, nor a house wherein to lay His head, was of small esteem with those who were proud of worldly distinctions, and fond of the praise and admiration of men.
“Their contempt was heightened, when this poor Man publicly asserted His proper character and claim, and styled Himself in a peculiar sense ‘the Son of God’, ‘the resurrection and the Life’. Because of this seeming inconsistence, between the appearance He made, and the honours He assumed, they treated Him as a demoniac and a madman. Their language strongly expressed their disdain when they asked Him, ‘Art thou greater than our father Abraham? Whom makest thou thyself?’”
“These things are easily applicable to succeeding times. The Gospel of Christ has often been, and is to this day, rejected and despised upon similar grounds. Its simplicity and plainness offend those who are wise in their own conceit, and proud of their understanding and taste. They are equally disgusted by the sublimity of its doctrines, which will not submit to the test of their vain reasonings, and can only be received by humble faith.”

“Where sin abounded, grace has much more abounded. Man sinned, and Messiah suffered. The Lord hath laid, or caused to meet upon Him, the iniquity of us all, that is, the punishment due to us. The evils we had deserved were in pursuit of us; but Jesus interposed, and He endured them, that we might be spared. Do we ask upon what grounds? It was on the ground of His voluntary substitution for sinners, as their Covenant-Head and Representative.”

He was despised and rejected…
the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

  [Followed by Messiah:
23 He was despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.    Isaiah 53:3
  He gave his back to the smiters, and his cheeks to them that plucked off the hair; he hid not his face from shame and spitting.    Isaiah 50:6
24 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows! He was wounded for our transgressions; he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him.    Isaiah 53:4
25 And with his stripes we are healed.    Isaiah 53:5
26 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way. And the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.    Isaiah 53:6
27 All they that see him, laugh him to scorn; they shoot out their lips, and shake their heads saying: 
28 He trusted in God that He would deliver him; let Him deliver him, if He delight in him.    Psalm 22:7-8; Matthew 27:43
29 Thy rebuke hath broken his heart; he is full of heaviness. He looked for some to have pity on him, but there was no man, neither found he any to comfort him.    Psalm 69:20
30 Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto his sorrow.    Lamentations 1:12]
3. The next arias include words from Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost, in Acts 2:

Thou didst not leave his soul in hell;
nor didst Thou suffer Thy holy one to see corruption.

  which is a quote from Psalm 16:10
  John Newton comments:
“The death of our Lord, was indeed essential to His plan; it was constantly in His view, and He often spoke of it. Probably it was also the whole of His enemies’ plan; and when they saw Him dead, buried, and the sepulchre sealed, they triumphed in their success, and expected to hear of Him no more. But the Scriptures, which were read in their synagogues every Sabbath-day, foretold His resurrection from the dead. The text before us, if there were no other, is a sufficient proof of this, since it is expressly applied to Him by the apostles Peter and Paul.”
“The Son of God was charged with sins not His own; He became willingly responsible for many. Whatever was necessary on the behalf of sinners, to render their forgiveness consistent with the honour of the law, justice, truth, and government of God, was exacted of Him, and He performed, and paid, to the utmost. He made a full atonement for sin; and though He had power over His life, He hung hour after hour in agonies upon the cross, till He said, ‘It is finished’. Then He resigned His spirit into the hands of His heavenly Father. He was afterwards buried; but having finished His whole undertaking, destroyed death, and him that had the power of it, and opened the way to the kingdom of heaven, for all who should believe in Him, ‘it was not possible that He should be detained in the grave’. He had power to resume the life He had laid down for His sheep; and He arose the third day, to exercise all power and authority in heaven and in earth.
“His resurrection, therefore, is the grand principal fact upon which the truth and importance of Christianity rests. For though Christ died, if He had not risen again, ‘your faith, and our preaching, would be in vain;’ we should be ‘yet in our sins’. The evidence of his resurrection is strong and decisive. The apostles frequently saw Him, conversed with Him, eat and drank with Him, and were assured that it was He by many infallible proofs. They could not be deceived themselves, nor could they have any temptation to deceive others. They declared His resurrection to the very people who put Him to death; and they confirmed it by miracles, which they performed in His name. They persevered in this testimony, in defiance of the malice of the Jews, and the scorn of the Heathens. And by this doctrine of a crucified risen Saviour, though unsupported by the patronage of human power, yea, though opposed by it in every place, they effected that change in the moral world, wherever they went, turning men, whom they found under the strongest prejudices of education and habit, ‘from darkness to light, and from the worship of dumb idols, to serve the living and true God’.
But there are proofs of this point which depend not upon arguments or history, but on the effects which this doctrine produces on the hearts of those who truly receive it. These are made partakers ‘of the power of His resurrection’. It delivers them from guilt and fear, animates them with confidence towards God, inspires them with great and glorious hopes, and frees them from the fear of death. They ‘are risen with Christ,’ by faith, ‘and seek the things which are above,’ where they know their Lord and Saviour is seated in glory.”
  [Followed by Messiah:
31 He was cut off from the land of the living; for the trangressions of Thy people was he stricken.    Isaiah 53:8
32 But Thou didst not leave his soul in hell; nor didst Thou suffer Thy holy one to see corruption.    Acts 2:31
33 Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is the King of Glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is the King of Glory? The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of Glory.    Psalm 24:7-10
34 Unto which of the Angels said he at any time, Thou art My son, this day have I begotten thee?    Hebrews 1:5
35 Let all the angels of God worship him.    Hebrews 1:6]
  [Followed by Interval]           [NB below]
[After the interval Adrian Partington will lead the choir and orchestra straight into the next aria:
36 Thou art gone up on high; thou hast led captivity captive, and received gifts for men, yea, even from thine enemies, that the Lord God might dwell among them.    Psalm 68:18; Ephesians 4:8]
4. The next arias include words from Psalm 68:

The Lord gave the word, great was the company of the preachers.

  John Newton comments:
“This passage is properly introduced in the Messiah, immediately after our Saviour’s triumphant ascension, as it leads us to consider the first visible effect of that great event: for soon afterwards, ‘when the day of Pentecost was fully come,’ the Lord gave the word. The Holy Spirit descended with visible emblems and a powerful energy, and inspired and qualified His disciples for the great work of establishing and spreading His spiritual kingdom. From that hour, great was the number of preachers, and great was the success and efficacy of their mission. So that within a few years the Gospel had spread like the light, from Jerusalem through all Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth.”
 “The apostle Paul tells us himself that he preached Christ crucified; he preached Christ as appointed of God, ‘wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption’. He preached the cross of Christ, he gloried in it, and he determined to glory in nothing else. Such preaching treats all mankind as already in a state of condemnation; it declares their utter inability to save or help themselves; and it gives assurance of pardon and salvation to all who believe in the Son of God. So that they may be encouraged and enabled to believe, it describes the dignity of His person, the necessity and greatness of His sufferings, the completeness of His atonement, the prevalence of His intercession —His love, authority, power and faithfulness. These truths revealed and applied to a guilty conscience, by the power of the Holy Spirit, produce faith. The sinner perceives the sufficiency and excellency of such a Saviour, commits himself to His compassion and care, and renounces every other hope and service. He looks to the Saviour by the eye of his mind, with desire and admiration, and derives life from His death, healing from His wounds, just as the Israelites, when wounded, were healed by looking upon the brazen serpent. And not only is the conscience relieved, by this knowledge of Christ crucified —the understanding is likewise enlightened, the judgment is formed, the affections regulated and directed by it. Then old things pass away, all becomes new. The love of sin departs, and the future life is devoted to Him, Jesus the Messiah, who ‘died and revived, that He might be Lord both of the dead and the living’.”
  [Followed by Messiah:
37 The Lord gave the word, great was the company of the preachers.    Psalm 68:11
38 How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things.    Romans 10:15
39 Their sound is gone out into all lands, and their words unto the ends of the world.    Romans 10:18
40 Why do the nations so furiously rage together, and why do the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth rise up, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord, and against His anointed.    Psalms 2:1-2
41 Let us break their bonds asunder, and cast away their yokes from us.    Psalm 2:3
42 He that dwelleth in heaven shall laugh them to scorn; the Lord shall have them in derision.    Psalm 2:4
43 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.    Psalm 2:9]
5. As we move towards the Oratorio’s majestic conclusion the next aria includes this phrase from the Book of Revelation:

   King of kings, and Lord of lords. Hallelujah!

  John Newton comments:
“The description of the glory of the Redeemer’s kingdom, in defiance of all opposition, concludes the second part of Handel’s Messiah. Three different passages from this book of Revelation are selected to form a grand chorus, of which His title in this verse is the close; a title which has been sometimes vainly usurped by the proud of this world. Some earthly Potentates have even affected to style themselves ‘king of kings, and lord of lords’. Men are by nature so strongly infected by pride, that they cannot invent titles of honour answerable to the idea they have of their own importance, without intrenching upon the divine prerogative. Thus sovereignty, majesty, holiness and grace, and other attributes which properly belong to God alone, are parcelled out among the great. But let the great and mighty know, that wherein they speak proudly, Messiah is above them.”
“The kings of the earth are continually disturbing the world with their schemes of ambition. But in all they do they are, wittingly or unwittingly, but servants of this great King and Lord, and fulfill His purposes, as the instruments He employs.
*          *          *          *          *          *          *
“How great is the dignity and privilege of true believers! They are more frequently despised than envied in this world. But they may congratulate one another, for the King of kings is their Friend. They have honours and pleasures which the world knows nothing of. Their titles are high, they are the ‘sons and the daughters of the Lord Almighty’. Their possessions are great, for ‘all things are theirs’. They are assured of what is best for them in this life, and of life eternal hereafter. They are related to the King of kings, and shall ere long be acknowledged and owned by Him, before assembled worlds. They who now account the proud happy, will be astonished and confounded when they shall see the righteous, whom they once undervalued, ‘shine forth like the sun in the Kingdom of God’.”

King of kings, and Lord of lords. Hallelujah!  
for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.

  [Followed by Messiah:
44 Hallelujah: for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.    Revelation 19:6
  The Kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.    Revelation  11:15
  King of kings, and Lord of lords. Hallelujah!    Revelation 19:16]
We encourage you to use the material on this website to produce your own Newton-Handel Messiah. As Newton predicted, and as as we have found true,
If the Lord
If the Lord the Spirit is pleased to smile upon the attempt, pleasure and profit will go hand in hand.

Timothy Dudley-Smith, JNP Board of Reference
Adrian Partington, Director of Music, Gloucester Cathedral
Tony Martin, Worship Pastor, & Nathaniel Horton, Johnson City Central Baptist Church
Noah DeLong, Assistant Professor of Music, Milligan Christian College, Elizabethton, Tennessee
Jana & Kenric Marshall, Lake Jackson, Texas

Marylynn Rouse, 22/12/2015