The tamed lion
A lion, though by nature wild,
The art of man can tame;
He stands before his keeper, mild,
And gentle as a lamb.
He watches, with submissive eye,
The hand that gives him food,
As if he meant to testify
A sense of gratitude.
But man himself, who thus subdues
The fiercest beasts of prey,
A nature more unfeeling shows,
And far more fierce than they.
Though by the Lord preserved and fed,
He proves rebellious still;
And while he eats his Maker's bread,
Resists his holy will.
Alike in vain, of grace that saves,
Or threatening law, he hears;
The savage scorns, blasphemes, and raves,
But neither loves nor fears.
O Saviour! how thy wondrous power
By angels is proclaimed!
When in thine own appointed hour,
They see this lion tamed.
The love thy bleeding cross displays,
The hardest heart subdues;
Here furious lions while they gaze,
Their rage and fierceness lose. (a)
Yet are we but renewed in part,
The lion still remains;
Lord, drive him wholly from my heart,
Or keep him fast in chains.
(a) Isaiah 11:6
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
30 June 1778
Mr Saunderson left us this morning. Prepared letters for Miss F to copy. Thou hast raised Mr Harrison up so far, that he was at the Great House tonight. His appearance amongst us suggested my subject from Lamentations 3:32. A gracious declaration to which he and I and many more present could set our seal. I hope it was a comfortable opportunity. O that I had a more humbling sense of the reasons on my part why it is necessary for thee to cause grief, and a thankful sense of the many instances in which thou hast answered prayer and shown compassion. Went to see a lion that was brought to town. Would willingly have learnt a lesson from the gentleness and docility of so wild a creature to its keepers. Alas the human heart is more furious and intractable than a lion. O Lord thy power alone can tame us, and our natural savageness breaks out even against thee our keeper and provider, upon the slightest occasion.
Thursday 2 July 1778
Did not meet the children, few of them being at their schools this week. In the evening preached with liberty. An interesting subject: the dying conduct of a believer, from the Apostle’s instance of Jacob. O my Lord the hour and circumstances of my dismission are in thy view and under thy appointment – prepare me for it. And oh, be with me then, and with my Dear _[Polly] when everything else is about to leave us. She is indisposed again and often so – but thou dost moderate and relieve. O that all may be sanctified. Yesterday breakfasted at the Mill for the first visit since the marriage. I hope thy blessing is and will be there.
Saturday 4 July 1778
Visit at Clifton in the afternoon. Some little trial ere I set out, about our child. Lord I have given her to thee, and I trust she is and shall be thine. O that it might please thee to own and call her betimes. If not, I fear, amiable and gentle as she seems, she will be a rose not without a thorn. I can see a rising spirit, a something which if grace does not correct, will probably be worse from year to year. Oh lay her upon my heart, enable me to wrestle for her in prayer and prepare us to meet and wait thy will in every turn. May we all be thine at last and it shall be well. At Clifton walked an hour after tea – but alas I had little enlargement or even attention of spirit. Yet thou art my Lord and Saviour, and I desire to be wholly thine.
Sunday 5 July 1778
Carried through the day. The evening seemed my best time, when I spoke from a subject suggested by seeing the lion lately. I was rather confused and cold in the forenoon – but oh how much so at the Sacrament. The day unusually hot for this climate. I think I have seldom seen the thermometer higher on the coast of Africa. Expected much thunder, but the squalls passed us both eastward and westward – so that our services were not interrupted. Thou art merciful in this respect to the fears of many of thy poor people here.
Hymn No. 317
[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]