[For the Anniversary of Cottingham. February 1 1775]
Happy are they, to whom the Lord
His gracious name makes known!
And by his Spirit and his word
Adopts them for his own!
He calls them to his mercy-seat,
And hears their humble prayer;
And when within his house they meet,
They find his presence near.
The force of their united cries
No power can long withstand;
For Jesus helps them from the skies,
By his almighty hand.
Then mountains sink at once to plains,
And light from darkness springs;
Each seeming loss improves their gains,
Each trouble comfort brings.
Though men despise them, or revile,
They count the trial small;
Whoever frowns, if Jesus smile,
It makes amends for all.
Though meanly clad, and coarsely fed,
And, like their Saviour, poor;
They would not change their gospel bread
For all the worldling's store.
When cheered with faith's sublimer joys,
They mount on eagle's wings;
They can disdain, as children's toys,
The pride and pomp of kings.
Dear Lord, assist our souls to pay
The debt of praise we owe,
That we enjoy a gospel day,
And heaven begun below.
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
Tuesday 31 January 1775
Most of the forenoon hammering at a hymn for tomorrow, yet could not finish it.
Wednesday 1 February 1775
What we call here ‘Cottingham day’. I remembered our troubles eight years ago, and acknowledged the Lord’s mercies in overruling them for good. Yet my heart was as stupid as a stone. In the evening we had our Annual Meeting for prayer and thanksgiving, which was well attended, considering the weather, which was so very tempestuous as to make it hardly practicable, for the infirm or those at a distance to come out. We had however two or three from Emberton, though I should have thought it impossible for women to travel such a road in such a night. I spoke from Deuteronomy 4:7-8 [For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for? And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?] I felt a little liberty, and hope the Lord was in the midst of us.
Hymn No. 193
[On this date Newton preached from the above text at his church, St Peter & St Paul, Olney; the service included this hymn]
[Background to the ‘Cottingham Day’, remembered every 1 February:]
Saturday 17 January 1767
Mr Thornton’s letter by yesterday’s post informs me that I am put in nomination for Cottingham [St Mary’s, Cottingham, 6 miles NW of Hull]; this makes me thoughtful. The Lord direct.
Sunday 1 February 1767
Was obliged in consequence of a letter received from [Thornton] to inform my people this evening. A sorrowful meeting it was – especially to me. My views of things seem to alter, I fear. I tremble, least I have been too hasty. The Lord direct and overrule.
Monday 2 February 1767
A mournful, memorable day... Occasional meeting, spoke from Isaiah 63:9 [In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.]
Little done but mutual condolence.
Wednesday 4 February 1767
By letters received the affair is still in suspense. Still room for prayer.
Sunday 8 February 1767
A weight upon my mind all day. No letter from [Thornton]. In the evening gave the people an account of the case. Hope we had a good meeting, and that prayer is stirred up amongst us.
Monday 9 February 1767
I hope I am in a more resigned frame and something stirred up to prayer.
Tuesday 10 February 1767
I trust the Lord is graciously composing our spirits to wait his will, which must be best.
Wednesday 11 February 1767
The great business still undecided.
Friday 13 February 1767
Easier today, till a letter in the evening threw me into former anxieties.
Saturday 14 February 1767
Much burdened in my mind today. Little profitable time.
Sunday 15 February 1767
Much distressed all day yet liberty in preaching. At night something more easy by letters received.
Monday 16 February 1767
Set out for London early. Had a safe journey though burdened in mind.
Tuesday 17 February 1767
Met Mr Thornton at 12 and intimated my views. From thence to Lord Dartmouth where dined.
Wednesday 18 February 1767
Was happily delivered this morning; had a long and interesting conference with Mr Thornton at Mr Brewer’s. Dined at Mr Madan’s with Lord and Lady Dartmouth etc.
Saturday 21 February 1767
Came down in the coach – safe – and with a happy event of my journey. Praise the Lord O my soul.
Sunday 22 February 1767
Weary in body, but I hope a good day; preached thanksgiving sermons from Psalm 116:1-2 and 126:3.