HYMNS BEFORE ANNUAL SERMONS TO YOUNG PEOPLE, ON NEW-YEARS EVENINGS
[New Year's Hymns for 1776: 2/3]
The rod of MOSES
When Moses waved his mystic rod,
What wonders followed while he spoke!
Firm as a wall the waters stood, (a)
Or gushed in rivers from the rock! (b)
At his command the thunders rolled,
Lightning and hail his voice obeyed, (c)
And Pharaoh trembled to behold
His land in desolation laid.
But what could Moses' rod have done
Had he not been divinely sent?
The power was from the Lord alone,
And Moses but the instrument.
O Lord, regard thy peoples prayers!
Assist a worm to preach aright;
And since thy gospel-rod he bears,
Display thy wonders in our sight.
Proclaim the thunders of thy law,
Like lightning let thine arrows fly,
That careless sinners struck with awe,
For refuge may to Jesus cry!
Make streams of godly sorrow flow
From rocky hearts, unused to feel;
And let the poor in spirit know
That thou art near, their griefs to heal.
But chiefly we would now look up
To ask a blessing for our youth,
The rising generation's hope,
That they may know and love thy truth.
Arise, O Lord, afford a sign,
Now shall our prayers success obtain;
Since both the means and power are thine,
How can the rod be raised in vain!
(a) Exodus 14:21
(b) Numbers 20:11
(c) Exodus 9:23
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
28 December 1775 [letter to Thornton]
I expect Dr and Mrs Ford here today. He calls in his way to Oxford being to preach before the University next Sunday, and purposes leaving Mrs Ford with me till his return. I have likewise usually an annual visit from Mrs Trinder; she is commonly here at our New Year’s sermon. Expecting therefore to be much engaged for some days, I am willing to secure this hour for writing to you, for I feel awkward if I exceed my customary term.
I have preached three afternoons from the 12th Isaiah verses 1,2. Christmas was I hope a good day with us, and the congregations both parts of the day larger than I remember before at the same seasons. I preached in the morning from Haggai 2:7-9, in the evening from Luke 2:34,35. The Gospel of Christ is the touch stone, by which true tempers and characters of men are discovered, and it draws out to observation, the secret thoughts of their hearts, which has been concealed from others, and perhaps from themselves. It likewise explains and answers the anxious thoughts, the enquiries, and thirstings of awakened hearts. And in thus dealing with the hearts of men, and bringing hidden things to light, it proves itself to be of God, a Word of wisdom, truth, power and salvation.
The hymns on the other leaf, are prepared for my New Year’s evening opportunity, and will not be sung or seen here till then. I think I have determined on Galatians 4:19 for my text; from the words My little children, or (as it might better be rendered agreeable to the force of the Greek diminutive which is an expression of tenderness) My dear children, I propose to introduce an affectionate address…
It is my prayer that the Lord may crown this year to you and all your family with great and many blessings – and that the New Year may be a year of grace, peace and liberty to us all. Seasons are in perpetual change, and we change with them but we have an unchangeable God, and are hasting to an unchangeable state where sorrow and pain and every evil shall cease, and we shall be filled to the utmost measure of our capacity with all the fullness of God. Blessed inspiring hope! May the Lord give us to feel the force of it every moment.
Tuesday 2 January 1776
Didst thou not O Lord give me a desire yesterday, to begin and end the year with thee, if thou appointest me to see the end of it? Thou seest me a poor helpless creature, yet poor as I am, I trust I am thine. I have to praise thee for assisting me through the day. My heart was fluttering when the evening service came on, and I seemed much unprovided, and cold, but thou didst help me to speak with earnestness – and thou didst send many to hear. O may thy blessing follow the word. And may thy other ministers who are to preach to the young people tonight and tomorrow, be instruments in thy hand for good. My feelings are faint, but my judgement tells me I ought to look with great concern upon the state of this town, where so many are hardening under the means of grace, and the very youth are growing old in sin.
I put off the evening meeting, that the people might hear the sermon to the youth at the Baptist Meeting. The text was Proverbs 4:7. I thought Mr S_[Sutcliffe] spoke well, and there seemed a great attention. Do thou O Lord command a blessing upon the several attempts.
Hymn No. 232
[On this date (1 January 1776) Newton preached from the above texts at his church, St Peter & St Paul, Olney, during the morning and evening services, and from this hymn before the sermon at the New Year's evening service]