The bee saved from the spider
The subtle spider often weaves
His unsuspected snares
Among the balmy flowers and leaves,
To which the bee repairs.
When in his web he sees one hang,
With a malicious joy,
He darts upon it with his fang,
To poison and destroy.
How welcome then some pitying friend,
To save the threatened bee!
The spider's treacherous web to rend,
And set the captive free!
My soul has been in such a case:
When first I knew the Lord,
I hasted to the means of grace,
Where sweets I knew were stored.
Little I thought of danger near,
That soon my joys would ebb;
But ah! I met a spider there,
Who caught me in his web.
Then Satan raised his poisonous sting,
And aimed his blows at me;
While I, poor helpless trembling thing,
Could neither fight nor flee.
But oh! the Saviour's pitying eye
Relieved me from despair;
He saw me at the point to die,
And broke the fatal snare.
My case his heedless saints should warn,
Or cheer them if afraid;
May you from me your danger learn,
And where to look for aid.
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
Tuesday 17 February 1778
My gracious Lord, be pleased to revive and strengthen me, for I seem out of tune, in every respect. Not only sadly dull in my intercourse with thee, but disabled in my common employment. I am looking towards the Fast Day, and essaying to write a discourse with some view to publishing, if thou shouldst permit, but all my powers seem contracted, and I feel that without thee I can do nothing. Finished the 4th Psalm this evening. Mr Scott almost constantly attends with us.
Thursday 19 February 1778
Met the children. Subject the Rich Man and Lazarus. Preached in the evening. Buried Elizabeth] Freeman, the oldest woman in town. Her husband died last year. Their ages together exceeded 180 years. Yet though they lived so long, and in a place of Gospel light, there is reason to fear they both lived and died in the dark. Alas! They, like many more here, slighted the ordinances and remained willingly ignorant. Though poor and afflicted they would not come to thee for help. Such is the hardness of the human heart. My application to Lord Dartmouth in favour of Mr Nind has failed. Lord enable me and them to apply to thee. Thou hast and thou alone, the compassion and the power which can effectually relieve. I desire to sympathise with my dear friend B_ in the affecting change in his son. What promising hopes were formed! How great the disappointment! O help me to feel and pray for him. Thou Good Shepherd canst restore this stray sheep, and teach him to profit by his wanderings. S Luddington is come to seek shelter among us. Lord enable her to feed in thy good pastures.
Saturday 21 February 1778
A letter from Dover has taken up too much of my thought [probably relative to Betsy]. I find myself, my Lord, exceedingly unapt for temporal business, and I may account it a mercy that my mind is not inclined to it. But O that I could entrust all to thee, and lean quietly upon thy arm, believing thy providence and care over me, a better safeguard than the best stock of worldly wisdom. I have not succeeded in my application for Mr Nind – and thy providence seems to intend me another charge, of their eldest little boy. May he come with thy blessing, and may we have wisdom to act aright. I praise thee for the mercies and would humble myself for the sins of another week. O for grace and power tomorrow.
Sunday 22 February 1778
Returned from the Great House, where I hope I went with a desire of seeking thee. But alas! The wildness and evil of my heart prevented my endeavours in seeking thee. I was engrossed in folly and confusion, could neither pray nor mourn. How unsuitable is my frame to the service of the day. How unfurnished am I for it. Without a subject, almost without a serious thought. O my Sun, shine forth, dissipate these clouds and enliven my spirit. Give me a message, and liberty to speak – and let me not speak in vain. Hear the prayers of those who are now met, on my behalf, and give us all a joyful meeting in thy house.
I praise thee for help through the day. Spoke in the afternoon from a text of Peggy's proposal; she is very uneasy of late. Do thou Lord make it work for her good. Lord I stand now among the first for time of profession, but I have reason to believe, some who are last, and have set out much later, have got before me in grace. Though none could have greater advantages, or greater mercies to help them forward than thou hast afforded me.
Hymn No. 302
[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]