The day of the Lord (a)
God with one piercing glance looks through
Creation’s wide extended frame;
The past and future in his view,
And days and ages are the same. (b)
Sinners who dare provoke his face,
Who on his patience long presume,
And trifle out his day of grace,
Will find he has a day of doom.
As pangs the labouring woman feels,
Or as the thief, in midnight sleep;
So comes that day, for which the wheels
Of time their ceaseless motion keep!
Hark! from the sky, the trump proclaims
Jesus the Judge approaching nigh!
See the creation wrapped in flames,
First kindled by his vengeful eye!
When thus the mountains melt like wax;
When earth, and air, and sea, shall burn;
When all the frame of nature breaks,
Poor sinner, whither wilt thou turn?
The puny works which feeble men
Now boast, or covet, or admire;
Their pomp, and arts, and treasures, then
Shall perish in one common fire.
Lord, fix our hearts and hopes above!
Since all below to ruin tends;
Here may we trust, obey, and love,
And there be found amongst thy friends.
(a) See also Book 3, Hymn 4
(b) 2 Peter 3:8-10
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
Tuesday 2 December 1777
An unexpected visit from Mr and Mrs Haweis, came after dinner and proceeded towards Bath next morning. He spoke at the Great House, and I thought very well. Nor could I fix upon anything amiss in conversation. Yet I know there is a something – I see that great abilities may keep up the outward character, and even the possessor may mistake the exercise of gifts, for the exercise of grace. Alas without adverting to others, I may fear that this is in measure, and too often, my own case. Thou seldom leavest me my Lord, so much to myself, but I can preach and pray in public to the satisfaction of my people. But ah how cold, how wrong is my spirit sometimes when I seem to be favoured with this outward liberty. Mr Haweis spoke from Hebrews 10:19-22.
Thursday 4 December 1777
Met the children, and preached in the evening. A corpse being brought into the church, I took the opportunity of speaking about death. And gave advice to others in what I am sadly inattentive to myself. O that thou wouldst teach and enable me to die daily.
Saturday 6 December 1777
Drank tea with Mr Scott, who by thy mercy is much recovered. I hope he is a chosen instrument of thine for good. In the evening buried Anne Corgil, one of the most afflicted of thy people. Tempted even to a degree of possession, weak, lame, blind, deaf and very poor. I suppose she did not enjoy quiet for a quarter of [an] hour through many years. But she is quiet now. Thou gavest her faith, and in the midst of her severest conflicts, she maintained a good hope, that the issue would be peace and victory.
Thou king of nations, are doing thy pleasure with regard to America, and I fear thy hand is lifted up against this sinful nation. There was a short exultation lately for General Howe's victories, but soon damped by the news of Burgoyne's surrender with his army. Thou art not acknowledged. Thy laws and thy Gospel are equally despised. Thy guidance and blessing is not sought either upon our counsels, fleets and armies. Thou art preparing a scourge. But thou wilt be a hiding place to thine own people. Lord give me a heart to own and trust thee.
Sunday 7 December 1777
My spirit dull and unfurnished today, but I was helped by thee. How cold and stupid at thy table. But thou art gracious, and has taught my soul to hope in thy truth. The weaker, the viler I am, the more I would prize and admire my Physician and Friend. Lord forgive my best, and bless what is thine own in my services, to myself, and to thy people.
1 Thessalonians 5:15
[On this date Newton preached from the above texts at his church, St Peter & St Paul, Olney, during the morning and afternoon services, and probably from this hymn at the informal evening service]