Olney Hymns Book 1 Hymn 20
How blessed the righteous are...
Manuscript Hymn No. 239
BALAAM’s wish (a)
How blessed the righteous are
When they resign their breath!
No wonder Balaam wished to share
In such a happy death.
“Oh! let me die,” said he,
“The death the righteous do;
When life is ended, let me be
Found with the faithful few.”
The force of truth, how great!
When enemies confess,
None but the righteous, whom they hate,
A solid hope possess.
But Balaam’s wish was vain,
His heart was insincere;
He thirsted for unrighteous gain,
And sought a portion here.
He seemed the LORD to know,
And to offend him loth;
But mammon proved his overthrow,
For none can serve them both.
May you, my friends, and I,
Warning from hence receive;
If like the righteous we would die,
To choose the life they live.
(a) see also Book 3, Hymn 71
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
Tuesday April 2 1776
On Monday visited Mr Barham; went to breakfast, but was rather too late and returned yesterday at two. I thank thee my Lord, for thy gracious protection of me while abroad, and of my family in my absence. And I thank thee for the opportunities of converse with thy people, for freeing me from the shackles of bigotry, and favouring me with the friendship of Mr B and his family. O teach me to profit by him, and to catch of that heavenly, fervent, loving, simple spirit, which he has received from thee. Surely thou dealest wonderfully in providing me help patterns, friends on every side. I have under thee many teachers, but alas I am a slow scholar. Make me more studious and more docile in seeking the right spirit.
In the evening prosecuted the subject of Little Faith, but I felt weary in body, straitened in spirit. Thou canst bless a feeble word. O hear our prayers, and revive us all that we may rejoice in thy love, and live to thy praise.
Saturday 6 April 1776
I preach and am not put out, but O that thou wouldst afford me nearness in my spirit to thee; without this all seems dry, and I am like a servant who sets before others what he is not permitted to taste himself. My heart rejoices in the thought that I am my servant, and I have cause to praise thee for any measure of strength and ability for my work. But am I not also a child? O pour the Spirit of adoption into my heart, and let me taste thy love. The day directed me to the same leading subject [the death of Christ], though in different views — the most interesting, the most affecting subject, but ah how little so to me. I seemed to myself a mere declaimer.
Sunday 7 April 1776 [Easter Day]
Mr Catlett went out this forenoon for the first time. May thy good Spirit teach him what he knows not. I trust thou hast hold of his heart, but he has been under great disadvantages and he shows it. I had liberty in speaking through the day, but alas what a frame of spirit at thy table. My sole refuge is in thy mercy, blood and promise – and that thy salvation is sovereign and free.
1 Corinthians 9:16
Hymn No. 239
[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]
Hymn: MS Eng 1317, Houghton Library, Harvard University
Diary: John Newton Collection, CO199, Princeton University
Marylynn Rouse, 29/08/2013