Confession and Prayer. December 13, 1776
Oh, may the power which melts the rock
Be felt by all assembled here!
Or else our service will but mock
The God whom we profess to fear!
Lord, while thy judgments shake the land,
Thy people's eyes are fixed on thee!
We own thy just uplifted hand,
Which thousands cannot, will not see.
How long hast thou bestowed thy care
On this indulged ungrateful spot?
While other nations, far and near,
Have envied and admired our lot.
Here peace and liberty have dwelt,
The glorious gospel brightly shone;
And oft our enemies have felt
That God has made our cause his own.
But ah! both heaven and earth have heard
Our vile requital of his love!
We, whom like children he has reared,
Rebels against his goodness prove. (a)
His grace despised, his power defied,
And legions of the blackest crimes,
Profaneness, riot, lust, and pride,
Are signs that mark the present times.
The Lord, displeased, has raised his rod;
Ah! where are now the faithful few
Who tremble for the ark of God,
And know what Israel ought to do? (b)
Lord, hear thy people everywhere,
Who meet to mourn, confess and pray;
The nation and thy churches spare,
And let thy wrath be turned away.
(a) Isaiah 1:2
(b) 1 Chronicles 12:32
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
13 December 1776
The day appointed for a Fast and humiliation… There was a meeting at the Great House in the morning from seven to nine – four prayed. I preached at church three times, the congregations larger than usual, and very attentive. Any services that are extraordinary and occasion are readily attended, but what is stated is set light by. There seemed many people from abroad. My spirit was not engaged as I could wish, nor my thoughts quite free till the evening. Then I thought thou didst renew my strength and enable me to speak. O may a blessing be on this day’s work throughout the kingdom. Lord if thou awaken thy people to pray, thou wilt surely incline thine ear to hear. And we may expect more from the prayer of faith, than from fleets and armies, and all that politicians account wisdom.
[Hymn No. 261]
[On this date Newton preached from the texts below at his church, St Peter & St Paul, Olney, during the morning, afternoon and evening services, with this hymn accompanying his evening sermon]
19 December 1776 [letter to John Thornton]
The fast day was well observed here, as to the outward performance and I hope the hearts of the Lord’s people were really engaged. The town was quiet, the shops shut up, the congregations larger than usual. I thought the second lesson appointed for the morning service, Luke 8:22-25, was well chosen and apposite to the case and therefore I took it for my text. This nation is like a ship in a storm, a storm which sin has raised, we are in jeopardy and the Lord if not asleep has seemed to stand at a distance, so that the storm has increased and things gone on from bad to worse. Our affairs are in such a situation that we must sink without the interposition of that voice which stills the tempest. If he be pleased to speak the word, we shall have a calm and if his true disciples unite in fervent prayer, then there is yet hope. In the afternoon my text was Jonah 3:9 and in the evening 1 Samuel 4:13 [And when he came, lo, Eli sat upon a seat by the wayside watching: for his heart trembled for the ark of God...]. The church was very full at night. I composed one hymn upon the occasion, which I send on the other side, chiefly because I love to send you anything that occurs, for I believe you will not find anything very remarkable in it.
When I think of the Lord’s mercy that he heard the first cry of the Ninevites, and would have spared Sodom had there been ten righteous people in it and when I consider that he is at this very time reviving his work and spreading his gospel among us, so that we have I hope many thousands who stand in the breach, and sigh and mourn for the abominations in the midst of us, then I seem to take courage and believe the Lord will not cast off this nation, but will find a way to reform and not destroy us. In every other view but this, the prospect is dark.