MOSES and AMALEK
February 27, 1778
While Joshua led the armed bands
Of Israel forth to war;
Moses apart with lifted hands
Engaged in humble prayer.
The armed bands had quickly failed,
And perished in the fight,
If Moses’ prayer had not prevailed
To put the foes to flight.
When Moses’ hands through weakness drooped,
The warriors fainted too;
Israel’s success at once was stopped,
And Am’lek bolder grew.
A people, always prone to boast,
Were taught by this suspense,
That not a numerous armed host,
But God was their defence.
We now of fleets and armies vaunt,
And ships and men prepare;
But men like Moses most we want,
To save the state by prayer.
Yet, Lord, we hope thou hast prepared
A hidden few today,
(The nation’s secret strength and guard)
To weep, and mourn, and pray.
O hear their prayers, and grant us aid,
Bid war and discord cease;
Heal the sad breach which sin has made,
And bless us all with peace.
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
Tuesday 24 February 1778
I have been some time chiefly employed in drawing up a sermon for the Fast Day with a view to publication, if thou my Lord whose guidance I desire to seek and follow in all things, shalt so appoint. I give myself up to thee, to be the instrument of thy will and pleasure without reserve. May self be low at thy feet. I find much straightness of spirit while writing. But if at last it may be to the purpose, I hope the praise shall all be thine. Long experience has shown me, that though thou hast favoured me with many advantages, I can no more improve or employ my talents with any pleasure or success, if thou suspend thy gracious influence, than a windmill can work in a calm. At the Great House resumed first Epistle of Peter, and began the third chapter.
Thursday 26 February 1778
Met the children. And preached in the evening, at Clifton in the afternoon. Made a hymn for tomorrow. My gracious Lord give me to grow in faith, and may this principle enliven and spiritualize all my aims and services; and make them acceptable, not for their worth, but because performed by one whom thou favourest and who desires to serve thee.
Friday 27 February
The appointed Fast Day. Prayer in the morning at the Great House was attended by many. And tolerable congregations at church. I believe if it had not snowed, we should have had a large one at night. O my Lord may it please thee to hear the prayers and bless the word of this day. Surely thou hast seen many of thy children, sighing and mourning before thee, under a sense of sin, and from a prospect of judgements being at the door. I read my sermon in the evening which I present to thee for publication, if thou think fit, and I pray thou wouldst in thy good providence satisfy me of thy will concerning it.
Exodus 17:11 [And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed.]
[On this date Newton preached from the above texts at his church, St Peter & St Paul, Olney, during the morning, afternoon and evening services, using this hymn at one of the services]
11 March 1778 [letter to Thornton]
I am perfectly well satisfied with my sermon remaining in manuscript, now you have seen it. I hope I do not wish to appear in printing except it was likely to be expedient. I did not expect it would be much read by the people of the world, but I thought perhaps something on the subject, from somebody or other might be useful to professors, multitudes of whom seem to have entered into the spirit of party, to have lost sight of the true cause of our troubles and of the Lord’s hand in bringing them upon us, almost as much as the profane.