NEW YEAR'S HYMNS
[For the New Year 1778: 3/3]
[after a sermon from Acts 20:26,27]
PAUL's farewell charge
When Paul was parted from his friends,
It was a weeping day;
But Jesus made them all amends,
And wiped their tears away.
Ere long they met again, with joy,
(Secure no more to part)
Where praises every tongue employ,
And pleasure fills each heart.
Thus all the preachers of his grace
Their children soon shall meet;
Together see their Saviour’s face,
And worship at his feet.
But they who heard the word in vain,
Though oft and plainly warned;
Will tremble, when they meet again
The ministers they scorned.
On your own heads your blood will fall,
If any perish here;
The preachers who have told you all,
Shall stand approved and clear.
Yet, Lord, to save themselves alone,
Is not their utmost view;
Oh! hear their prayer, thy message own,
And save their hearers too.
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
1778 New Year’s Evening [1 January]
Extracts from Newton’s New Year’s sermon on Acts 20:26,27 [Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men.27 For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.]
My dear friends – You expect me to speak, but I am at a loss for words to express the feelings of my heart. I have desires and fears for you which I cannot describe. I long for these yearly opportunities and I dread them. For though they return but yearly, I am afraid too many of you treat them as a matter of form, and that, as are three sermons, the preachers are heard from a motive of curiosity, as if you had little further concern with our discourses, than to pass your judgement upon them when you go home. For myself it is a small thing with me, to be judged of men. If by studying, I could hope to please you to your edification, I would study night and day. But as I aim not to tell you new things or fine things – though there is no sermon in the year, that lies with so much weight upon my mind as this, there is no one that requires less premeditation. I cannot meet you and look around you, without being reminded what subjects are most suited to you. Few of you want information. I cannot speak to a set of young people who have never heard the Gospel – if I was, I should have better hope of success – the evil of sins, the love of Jesus, the privileges of believers, and the terrors of the Lord, are subjects which usually make some impression, while they are new; they did so once upon some of you, who now can hear them with indifference. Upon a few of you I hope they do still – but what to say to those who have long stupefied their convictions, or have taken up with a form of godliness, and rest in a string of notions, or a mode of worship, is a difficulty indeed. That I love you, that I long for your salvation, I have told you often. I tell you so again. That I tremble for many of you, perhaps I have said likewise before, and I must say it now.
Acts 20:26, 27
The apostle Paul, is a fit pattern for Ministers. And the spirit he breathed, the aims he proposed, and the tenor of his conduct, are admirably expressed here (enlarge a little on his zeal, tenderness, generosity). No wonder that he was dear to the elders and believers at Ephesus, where he had so long, so affectionately, and successfully, laboured. No wonder it almost broke their hearts to think they should see his face no more. He felt likewise for them, and the more, because from his knowledge of human nature, and the power of the enemy, and probably by express revelation of the Holy Spirit, he foresaw a mournful change would shortly take place, that wolves from without would attempt to break into the fold, and that some from among themselves would disturb the peace and defile the purity of the church. And we know that not many years afterwards the warm-hearted Ephesians had left their first love. He warned and cautioned them with the most tender solicitude, recommended that watchfulness which they had seen in him, and in the words of my text appealed to themselves, that whatever, he had done his part.
Uncertain as I have hinted, of the events which the year we have now entered may bring forth – I take the words I have read, from his discourse for the ground of my present address, and I make his appeal to your consciences tonight – that whatever may be the effect of my ministry among you, whether to life or to death – I am clear of the blood of those that perish, for I have not shunned (etc).
1. What we understand, by all the counsel etc
2. What – by not shunning to declare
3. That this is a concern of blood.
[Hymn No. 295]
[On this date Newton preached from the above text at his church, St Peter & St Paul, Olney, during the New Year's evening service, following his sermon with this hymn]
5 January 1778 [letter to Thornton]
For some years past I have usually sent you my new year’s hymns, and now beg your favourable acceptance of these. They are composed to accompany the sermon to the young people. They are now accustomed to expect something new on the occasion, and perhaps I have the mere hearers on that account. I am willing to do, what I can, that may contribute either to increase the auditory, or to engage their attention. The Lord was pleased to set my heart much at liberty in the service; may he command a blessing.