Pleasing spring again is here!
Trees and fields in bloom appear!
Hark! the birds, with artless lays,
Warble their Creator's praise!
Where, in winter, all was snow,
Now the flowers in clusters grow;
And the corn, in green array,
Promises a harvest-day.
What a change has taken place!
Emblem of the spring of grace;
How the soul, in winter, mourns
Till the Lord, the Sun, returns;
Till the Spirit's gentle rain,
Bids the heart revive again;
Then the stone is turned to flesh,
And each grace springs forth afresh.
Lord, afford a spring to me!
Let me feel like what I see;
Ah! my winter has been long,
Chilled my hopes, and stopped my song!
Winter threatened to destroy
Faith and love, and every joy;
If thy life was in the root,
Still I could not yield thee fruit.
Speak, and by thy gracious voice
Make my drooping soul rejoice;
O beloved Saviour, haste,
Tell me all the storms are past:
On thy garden deign to smile,
Raise the plants, enrich the soil;
Soon thy presence will restore
Life to what seemed dead before.
Lord, I long to be at home,
Where these changes never come!
Where the saints no winter fear,
Where 'tis spring throughout the year:
How unlike this state below!
There the flowers unwithering blow;
There no chilling blasts annoy;
All is love, and bloom, and joy.
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
Tuesday 16 April 1776
O my Lord have pity upon the present distempered frame of my mind, and endue me with strength from on high, that I may no longer be a prey to vain and foolish temptation. Connivance with one evil, has opened a door to another, and I see my heart is capable of anything if left unguarded by thy grace. But, O forsake me not. Help me to fight, and give me the victory. In the evening speaking of Great Grace I found words. But how do I speak against myself. I have the wounds and the scars of those of those who have been long in the war, but alas! where is my humiliation and the gracious fruits of so much dear-bought experience.
Thursday 18 April 1776
Met the children in the morning and in the evening preached – what it is to know the joyful sound. I was at a loss and undetermined what to say till I began. But thou wert pleased to help me. I trust I know it, feel my need of it, see its excellence, beauty and suitableness to manifest thy glory in saving sinners in a way worthy of thyself, and as such I cordially embrace it as my hope, life and happiness. O let me derive from it strength to walk in thy way, and comfort in the light of thy countenance.
Psalm 89:15 Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance.
Saturday 20 April 1776
Making the Hymn for Sunday evening often costs me much time. It did so this week. O wouldst thou be pleased to heal my wounds, and enable me to maintain a conscience void of offence and an open access to the throne of grace, everything would be easy. For thou art the fountain of all gifts and abilities, and a glance of thought from thee, does more in a few minutes, than the most laboured efforts of my unassisted mind. I feel a want of spirit for everything. Return O Lord and bless me. Aimed at an evening recollection in a walk, but was confused and dissipated.
Sunday 21 April 1776
Arose as usual, and had a retired hour but little liberty and nearness in seeking thy blessing. Yet I was assisted. Something perplexed in the manner of my morning subject, yet my words flowed freely, and I believe the substance of my discourse was seasonable and in some measure to the point. In the afternoon not straightened for something to say, but much straightened in spirit. Ah how little do I feel of the truths I propose to others. The hymn led me to speak of the Spring. Great House very full. Lord own what is thine, and forgive the iniquity of my holy things. Surely I have reason to confess myself an unprofitable servant.
Hymn No. 241
[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]