Waiting for Spring
Though cloudy skies, and northern blasts,
Retard the gentle spring awhile;
The sun will conqueror prove at last,
And nature wear a vernal smile.
The promise which, from age to age,
Has brought the changing seasons round,
Again shall calm the winter's rage,
Perfume the air, and paint the ground.
The virtue of that first command,
I know still does, and will prevail;
That while the earth itself shall stand,
The spring and summer shall not fail.
Such changes are for us decreed;
Believers have their winters too;
But spring shall certainly succeed,
And all their former life renew.
Winter and spring have each their use,
And each, in turn, his people know;
One kills the weeds their hearts produce,
The other makes their graces grow.
Though like dead trees awhile they seem,
Yet having life within their root,
The welcome spring's reviving beam
Draws forth their blossoms, leaves, and fruit.
But if the tree indeed be dead,
It feels no change, though spring return;
Its leafless, naked, barren head,
Proclaims it only fit to burn.
Dear Lord, afford our souls a spring,
Thou know'st our winter has been long;
Shine forth, and warm our hearts to sing,
And thy rich grace shall be our song.
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
Tuesday 10 March 1778
The Great House rather fuller than usual, though several of the people are at Aylesbury, attending the Assize. Lord, some poor creatures are brought before an Earthly Judge, and though there is little doubt of their guilt, they will probably be acquitted for defect of legal proof. O that they and I may be fitted to appear before thee to whom all things are known. If they return to us, they will be more daring and mischievous than ever, except thou restrain them. O that thy grace may humble and convince some of them, that all may know and see thou hast done it. Mrs Pettit of Emberton dangerously ill of a miscarriage. Lord we ask her life with submission. If taken away she will [be] much missed in her family, and connections. Mr Newman’s servant came for the MS.
Thursday 12 March 1778
Met the children and preached in the evening. I praise thee Lord for thy Word without which we could not have known, that thou art what thou art. And for thy Good Spirit to open the seals, otherwise we should have refused the record thou hast given of thyself. Now we know and believe, that a just God can accept and reward sinners. O that my heart were more affected with the display and harmony of thy perfections in the method of redemption. Last night heard Mr [John] Goode from Revelation 3:1. He seems a serious, sensible man, and a good speaker.
Sunday 15 March 1778
I praise thee, my Lord, for help received this day. O let me feel thy healing power, and rejoice in thee as my own God. O for lively perceptions of what I surely believe. May thy presence be more sensibly[feelingly] with my heart. Our congregations in the forenoon are but thin, and afternoon far from large. Several now stop with Mr Scott, but the Great House is much thronged. Mr Jones came home last night – his path is now full of intricacies; do thou guide him through and lead him out. Alas, how easier is it to observe the faults and mistakes of others, than to be daily aware of our own.
Hymn No. 306
[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]