The enchantment dissolved
Blinded in youth by Satan's arts,
The world to our unpractised hearts
A flattering prospect shows;
Our fancy forms a thousand schemes
Of gay delights, and golden dreams,
And undisturbed repose.
So in the desert's dreary waste,
By magic power produced in haste,
(As ancient fables say) (a)
Castles, and groves, and music sweet,
The senses of the traveller meet,
And stop him in his way.
But while he listens with surprise,
The charm dissolves, the vision dies,
'Twas but enchanted ground:
Thus if the Lord our spirits touch,
The world, which promised us so much,
A wilderness is found.
At first we start, and feel distressed,
Convinced we never can have rest
In such a wretched place;
But he whose mercy breaks the charm,
Reveals his own almighty arm,
And bids us seek his face.
Then we begin to live indeed,
When from our sin and bondage freed
By this beloved Friend;
We follow him from day to day,
Assured of grace through all the way,
And glory at the end.
(a) in his ms version of this hymn Newton wrote: 'as old Romances say'
[NB In Olney Hymns the number 100 for this hymn by Newton is given in Roman numerals as "C", not to be confused with the convention of beginning hymns by Cowper with a "C".]
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
11 February 1777
The meeting much larger tonight than for many weeks past. Proceeding in 1 Peter 1 tonight from verses 14-16 [As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.] Was favoured with some liberty, and I thought there was a spirit in the people’s prayers, which gave hopes that the Lord was near. O my dear Lord – thou seest us in trouble, appear for us, and either give us, if for good, to continue together, or graciously bow our wills to thine. I am in perplexity [re a call to Hull]. But I hope my chief concern is to know what is right. Point me out the path of duty, and then enable me cheerfully to walk it.
Wednesday 12 February 1777
The anniversary of my happy marriage. My gracious Lord accept my repeated thanks for this mercy, upon which in the hand the tenor of my life was to turn. I praise thee for sparing us so long to each other, and for removing the trying dispensation we were lately under. O for thankful hearts. Forgive the sins of our relation, and grant that the remainder of our term together, may be sanctified, and passed in thy faith and fear. Hitherto thou hast helped. To thee I commit and commend our concerns in the future.
An account in the papers of the present unhappy situation of Dr Dodd, now in prison for a forgery, affected me much, though less than it should. Adored be thy grace and mercy my Lord, thou hast kept me from falling. How downhill is the road of sin, how powerful Satan when the soul is once entangled – and how awful is thy judgment, when thou givest a sinner up to his own way. This unhappy man once preached the truth, and began to meet the Cross. But alas! the fear of man and the hope of preferment turned him aside. For a while he seemed to have his wish – obtained titles, livings, a prebend, was King’s Chaplain, and seemed near a Bishoprick. But since he has lost his honours, his character, publicly disgraced some years ago, for an attempt to gain a living by money, and is now likely to lose his life by a public execution. How true is that word: 1 Timothy 6:9,10. How awfully verified in his case. Lord I would pity and pray for him. Thou canst save to the uttermost. May his distress engage his soul to seek thy mercy.
Sunday 16 February 1777
I praise thee, my Lord, for liberty this day. My spirit often much dissipated and my thoughts confused – but when I begin to speak, though I know not what I shall say beforehand, I often feel a supply of thoughts and words, and am helped to speak readily and earnestly. Surely this is from thee. I feel the difference when left to myself. We are still in suspense about Hull, having no letter yet. Lord, help me to leave it where I have desired to commit it, in thy hands. I only pray that I may not act wrong, and then may the event be as thou seest good.
1 Kings 18:37
Hymn No. 269
[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]