A new-year's thought and prayer
[after the second lesson – i.e. Luke 2:15-21]
Time, by moments, steals away,
First the hour, and then the day;
Small the daily loss appears,
Yet it soon amounts to years:
Thus another year is flown,
Now it is no more our own,
If it brought or promised good,
Than the years before the flood.
But (may none of us forget)
It has left us much in debt;
Favours from the Lord received,
Sins that have his Spirit grieved,
Marked by an unerring hand
In his book recorded stand;
Who can tell the vast amount,
Placed to each of our account?
Happy, the believing soul!
Christ for you has paid the whole;
While you own the debt is large,
You may plead a full discharge:
But, poor careless sinner, say,
What can you to justice pay?
Tremble, lest when life is past,
Into prison you be cast!
Will you still increase the score?
Still be careless as before?
Oh, forbid it, gracious Lord,
Touch their spirits by thy word!
Now, in mercy, to them show
What a mighty debt they owe!
All their unbelief subdue;
Let them find forgiveness too.
Spared to see another year,
Let thy blessing meet us here;
Come, thy dying work revive,
Bid thy drooping garden thrive:
Sun of Righteousness arise!
Warm our hearts, and bless our eyes;
Let our prayer thy bowels move,*
Make this year a time of love!
[* at the time of the KJV translation, 'bowels' referred the seat of compassion, as in 1 John 3:17 - comparable in today's language usage to the feelings of the 'heart']
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
Wednesday 1 January 1777
The beginning of the last year found me encompassed with mercies but under a trial, from my _[Dear Polly’s] long absence from home, and the circumstances under which I knew she was confined. To that trial my Lord thou didst give a happy issue, and hardly any year of my life has passed smoother than this did, from the time of her return till the evening when thou didst visit her with her late illness. For my confinement and the operation I passed through at London, could hardly be deemed a trial, thy goodness sweetened it with so many merciful alleviations. And blessed be thy name, this last affliction is in a manner removed. O thy tender compassion. O thy healing power. O thou prayer answering Lord, Thou hast appeared for our relief. She is nearly well.
And now we begin another [year] in peace, O for a heart to praise thee. Thirteen of these [New Year’s] days have I recorded thy repeated abundant goodness to me since I came to Olney. And as many times have I had cause to close the old year with shame and humiliation to think of my poor returns. Unprofitable at the best, and in too many instances perverse. O Lord, encouraged by thy mercy and promise, and by my long experience of undeserved goodness, I come to thee, for pardon and grace, again. I come to make a new surrender of myself and my all to thee. Help me to do it in faith. O that this year may not be blotted with such records of my folly as all the past have been. Sanctify thy late dispensation to me and to my Dear. May we retain a lively sense of the truths it forced upon us. And live in a state of dependence upon thee, mindful of the uncertainty of health, of every enjoyment, and of life itself.
I am now far in my 52nd year. My last year must come, I know not – but it may be this. Alas – Why does not the very supposition warm my heart? Oh! My spirit cleaves to the dust. I am still fond of this poor life, though a state of sin, sorrow and darkness. Though I seem to have an abiding hope, that I am thine and shall be thine for ever. It is so faint and dim, that if it keeps me from perplexing fears, it gives me little lively and perceptible joy, it does not animate me to long and pant to see thy face in glory. Were my willingness to stay here, simply the effect of a zeal and desire to spend and be spent in thy service, it would be well; but alas I fear self and the easy situation in which thou hast placed me, together with a want of spiritual feelings, make me too reconciled to remain here.
O Lord, whenever it shall be thy will to remove me, wilt thou not previously make me glad to go. I am nothing. Thou art All. And I must fall short at last, if thou hadst not undertaken to do all. I put myself, my all, into thy hands. Enable me with submission to thy sovereignty and confidence in thy love to say, What thou wilt, When thou wilt, How thou wilt.
Bless me, my Dear, my child, my father, my family, my friends. Bless me as a child in my private walk before thee, and as thy servant in my public work. O guide me by thy Word, Spirit and providence. Give me faith in exercise to set thee always before me, and to do and bear all things for thy sake, and as under thine eye. Interest me in that good word of thine which I preached from this morning, and when I am old and grey-headed, O God forsake me not. I entreat thy blessing upon this evening service, and upon my attempt soon to seek it by prayer.
YP [Young People] 2 Corinthians 5:20
[Hymn No. 264]
[On this date Newton preached from the above texts at his church, St Peter & St Paul, Olney, during the morning and evening services, including this hymn for New Year's Day]