A garden contemplation suits,
And may instruction yield,
Sweeter than all the flowers and fruits
With which the spot is filled.
Eden was Adam's dwelling-place,
While blessed with innocence;
But sin o'erwhelmed him with disgrace,
And drove the rebel thence.
Oft as the garden-walk we tread,
We should bemoan his fall;
The trespass of our legal head
In ruin plunged us all.
The garden of Gethsemane
The second Adam saw,
Oppressed with woe, to set us free
From the avenging law.
How stupid we, who can forget,
With gardens in our sight,
His agonies and bloody sweat,
In that tremendous night!
His church as a fair garden stands,
Which walls of love enclose;
Each tree is planted by his hand, (a)
And by his blessing grows.
Believing hearts are gardens too,
For grace has sown its seeds,
Where once, by nature, nothing grew
But thorns and worthless weeds.
Such themes to those who Jesus love,
May constant joys afford,
And make a barren desert prove
The garden of the Lord.
(a) Isaiah 61:3
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
Tuesday 29 September 1778
A renewal of mercies on thy part, and daily proofs of the weakness of grace and the strength of self on mine, make every day in some measure alike. Thy providence guides, guards and provides me. My temporal lot is highly favoured. In spirituals, though thou art good, my own evil makes me go dull and mourning. At the Great House resumed the exposition of 1 Peter – spoke from chapter 4:12.
Thursday 1 October 1778
Last night heard Mr Scott at Weston from 1 Peter 2:12. How ought I to rejoice and wonder when I see him, Lord! How hast thou honoured me in making me instrumental in his change. On the way home Mr Mayor imparted something which I did not expect. If it be from thee, thou canst prosper it. Met the children today, Mr and Mrs Bull dined with us, and he staying in town all night, heard me in the evening. Ah, my Lord, thou knowest the workings of my evil heart, a foolish, selfish desire of appearing something before him, for which thou mightest justly put me to shame. But thou art merciful and tender. How dark to our sense are thy dispensations. Thou hast given him great abilities, and much grace – yet sufferest him to be afflicted with a malady which at present is grievous, and apparently growing, which in a certain degree would at once stop both comfort and usefulness.
Sunday 4 October 1778
Thy mercy is still over me and mine. Thought I felt some desires to be more entirely devoted to thy will, and attentive to thy presence. But alas how transient. I have been lately reading Madam Guion’s life where amidst much that is wrong, I see some things may justly make me ashamed. Lord keep me from every error, but teach me to glean up truth wherever I can find it. Carried by thy goodness through the day, but dull as usual at thy table, and something straightened in the evening. O command a blessing upon my heart and labour. My _[dear Mary] but poorly but enabled to go out.
Hymn No. 323
[hymn possibly triggered by some contemplations in Madame Guyon’s writings?]
[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]