Uncertain how the way to find
Which to salvation led,
I listened long, with anxious mind,
To hear what others said.
When some of joys and comforts told,
I feared that I was wrong;
For I was stupid, dead, and cold,
Had neither joy nor song.
The Lord my labouring heart relieved,
And made my burden light;
Then for a moment I believed,
Supposing all was right.
Of fierce temptations others talked,
Of anguish and dismay;
Through what distresses they had walked,
Before they found the way.
Ah! then I thought my hopes were vain,
For I had lived at ease;
I wished for all my fears again,
To make me more like these.
I had my wish; the Lord disclosed
The evils of my heart,
And left my naked soul exposed
To Satan's fiery dart.
Alas! "I now must give it up,"
I cried in deep despair;
How could I dream of drawing hope
From what I cannot bear!
Again my Saviour brought me aid,
And when he set me free;
"Trust simply on my word," he said,
"And leave the rest to me."
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
Saturday 21 March 1778
Thirty years are now elapsed since thou didst send from on high, and deliver me out of Great Waters. From that day thou didst begin to recover me from my daring dreadful apostasy. Oh my Lord, thou hast made me a wonder to many, and surely I ought to be so to myself. Help me to recollect that season of distress from which no hand but thine could relieve. Had I sunk then I had sunk for ever. But it could not be; thou hadst appointed me to live, to stand before thee, and to be a witness to many that thou canst save to the uttermost. Again I offer praise. Again I devoted myself to thee. Again I pray for grace to humble me under a sense of my comparative unfruitfulness and unfaithfulness. Thou didst foresee what I should prove, and yet thou wouldst have mercy. Thirty years are gone – years filled up with mercies, supports and deliverances. Eternity is so much nearer, and cannot now be distant. Why do not I rejoice in the thought? Alas! my soul cleaves to the dust. O for quickening grace! That I may at length begin to live to thee alone.
This evening we received my little nephew John Newton Nind. O my Lord, I pray thee to bless his coming, preserve him from harms, teach us to bring him up (while with us) for thee, that he may be a comfort to his parents. Support them, and sanctify to them their late trial and change, and let us wait to see that thou art appointing all to work for good.
Tuesday 24 March
Miss Foster came today, and Mrs Harvey and husband on their way home from Northampton. In the evening changed my subject and spoke from Psalm 107:7 [And he led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation.] Lord enable me to see myself under thy guidance in all things, and to be satisfied with it. It seems indeed obvious at first sight, that no one can have more cause to be so, than I. But thou knowest the perverse proneness of my heart to dispute and question.
Thursday 26 March
Little leisure for retirement between business and company. Twice to see Mrs Pettit, who is very low still, and indeed there seems no hope of her recovery, but in the knowledge that thou canst do all things. If it be right, she shall live – for if thou speak the word she shall be healed. Met the children and preached in the evening.
Hebrews 11:7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
Saturday 28 March
Mrs Pettit continuing very ill, I am often at Emberton, which breaks in upon other things. However, my chief hindrance lies within. Evil is present with me. Reading at intervals Raynal's History – which exhibits a striking view of the evils with which sin has filled the world. The way of thy providence is mysterious, but thou art [blank]. O when will the time come to enlighten the dark corners of the earth with the glory of thy Gospel? Visited Mr Scott this afternoon. A little retirement in the evening. I am convinced of great obligations to thee, and great reason for humiliation, yet but faintly affected with either.
Sunday 29 March 1778
If an outward liberty of speaking, could or ought to satisfy me, I should have little reason to mourn, for thou art pleased to supply and enable me, far beyond what I could expect. But my Lord, there are two things evidently wanting: more of thy power to accompany the word and make it fruitful, and more of thy grace to apply the truths I deliver to my own heart. I know my times are in thy hand, and yet I am prone to vain contrivances and fears. I speak much of thy love – how precious thou art or shouldst be to all who know thee – yet feel as if I was hardly determined yet whether to love thee or not. Fresh alarms of war, the clouds gathering apace. Thou hast [said] to thy people at such times, See that ye be not troubled. O for lively faith, to see thy hand and to rest upon thy promises, then thy people need not fear, though the earth be moved and the mountains cast into the midst of the sea.
Psalm 31:15 My times are in thy hand: deliver me from the hand of mine enemies, and from them that persecute me.
Ephesians 6:24 Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.
Hymn No. 308
[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]