Though small the drops of falling rain,
If one be singly viewed;
Collected, they o’erspread the plain,
And form a mighty flood.
The house it meets with in its course,
Should not be built on clay,
Lest, with a wild resistless force,
It sweep the whole away.
Though for awhile it seemed secure,
It will not bear the shock,
Unless it has foundations sure,
And stands upon a rock.
Thus sinners think their evil deeds,
Like drops of rain, are small;
But it the power of thought exceeds,
To count the sum of all.
One sin can raise, though small it seems,
A flood to drown the soul;
What then, when countless million streams
Shall join to swell the whole.
Yet, while they think the weather fair,
If warned, they smile or frown;
But they will tremble and despair,
When the fierce flood comes down!
Oh! then on Jesus ground your hope,
That stone in Zion laid; (a)
Lest your poor building quickly drop,
With ruin, on your head.
(a) Matthew 7:24; 1 Peter 2:6
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
Tuesday 8 December 1778
Have finished transcribing the first book of Hymns, and must endeavour to make those for the New Year before I proceed. In the evening spoke on Resisting Satan steadfast in the Faith. Some liberty as to words, but my heart very faintly engaged.
Wednesday 9 December 1778
Breakfasted and dined with Mr Bull. Mr Mayor and Wilkinson with me. Returned at four. Had a safe and not unpleasant journey, but came home very weary. The visit, not wholly such as I could wish, yet I hope not wholly lost time. I find conversation is usually better carried on with two than with four. One or other impertinence still breaks in. O my Lord forgive all defects, and teach me to profit by every event.
Thursday 10 December 1778
Met the children and preached at night. My Lord I pray thee place thyself before the eye of my heart and make me to look at thee continually. And may I by looking derive resemblance and be conformed to thy death and resurrection. How short, simple and comprehensive the precept: Looking unto Jesus; could I but reduce it to practice I should be happy, but alas how many trifles stand in the way and divert or intercept my sight.
Friday 11 December 1778
Breakfasted at Mr Scott’s. Heard him read a narrative of his conversion which he has drawn up for publication; it is striking and judicious, and will I hope by thy blessing be very useful. Thou hast answered my prayers and done me honour in him. And now I think I can see he has got before me already. Lord if I have been useful to him, do thou I beseech thee make him now useful to me.
Sunday 13 December 1778
Led through the day by thy gracious hand. More liberty than I expected in the morning – the subject was chosen for me by somebody, and surely an important one – it led me to consider two chief evils abound where the Gospel is professed in this day: a worldly spirit and divisions. In the afternoon I was at times straitened, but spoke with freedom again at night. O Lord command thy blessing – for I hope thou didst enable me to deliver thy truth in the several assemblies, and accept my praise for health and peace continued, and that my Dear _[Polly] has been well and abroad three Sundays following.
Hymn No. 330
[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]
17 December 1778 [letter to Thornton]
The weather, with us, was very stormy about the time I supposed you were drawing near the banks of Humber; but I trusted the Lord would be your pilot, and guard both by land and water. It is certain we are always within a step of danger, at home as well as abroad, in a calm no less than in a storm. On the other hand, to those who love the Lord, the path of duty is always so far the path of safety, that nothing can befall them in it, but what shall work for their good.