Olney Hymns Book 1 Hymn 38
Before Elisha's gate...
Manuscript Hymn No. 228
Before Elisha’s gate
The Syrian leper stood;
But could not brook to wait,
He deemed himself too good:
He thought the prophet would attend,
And not to him a message send.
Have I this journey come,
And will he not be seen?
I were as well at home,
Would washing make me clean;
Why must I wash in Jordan’s flood?
Damascus’ rivers are as good.
Thus by his foolish pride,
He almost missed a cure;
Howe’er at length he tried,
And found the method sure:
Soon as his pride was brought to yield,
The leprosy was quickly healed.
Leprous and proud as he,
To Jesus thus I came,
From sin to set me free,
When first I heard his fame:
Surely, thought I, my pompous train
Of vows and tears will notice gain.
My heart devised the way
Which I supposed he’d take;
And when I found delay,
Was ready to go back:
Had he some painful task enjoined,
I to performance seemed inclined.
When by his word he spake,
That fountain opened see;
’Twas opened for thy sake,
"Go wash, and thou art free;”
Oh! how did my proud heart gainsay,
I feared to trust this simple way.
At length I trial made,
When I had much endured;
The message I obeyed,
I washed, and I was cured:
Sinners, this healing fountain try,
Which cleansed a wretch so vile as I.
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
Tuesday 12 December 1775
[Mr Thornton] informed me in the evening that Dr Legh [vicar of Halifax] was dead. Were I called to succeed him, how soon might the same be said of me. Alas how poor a thing to be conspicuous for post or talents, or services or emoluments in the sight of men. Thou knowest O Lord, for thou searchest the heart, that my foolish mind has listened with emotions of desire, to what at the same time my better judgment told me was neither probable or eligible. I may feel that notwithstanding my profession and knowledge, the love of self and the world are deeply rooted in me still. I can be pleased with the thought of being Somebody. Hateful! Show me Lord of its folly and wickedness, humble me for it, pardon me, and wean me more and more from every vain imagination. To serve thee where thou wilt, to depend upon thee for all, and to leave all in thy hand, making thy word my rule, thy will my choice, thy glory my find[end?], and thy favour my happiness, this O Lord is what I ask.
Yesterday I went to visit thy servant Bull. Thou didst preserve me in my going out and coming in, and I hope sometimes shine upon my heart by the way. But still I complain of distance and therefore coldness. O that I could submit without being careless, and follow hard after thee, hungering and panting without being discouraged. I rejoice in what thou hast done for Mr Bull. I see thy image, thy Spirit, in him. I remember how he was, but why should I wonder at the change when it is thy work? Is it not thy prerogative and glory to do great things? O Lord bless me also – I cannot give the pursuit – I long to be wholly thine – O reveal thyself mightily in my soul – that I may sink into nothing and rejoice in thee as my all. This evening I spoke from Demas in the Pilgrim. Lord preserve me from the love of the Silver Mine, and from selfish views.
Wednesday 13 December 1775
My mind sadly filled with idle thoughts about Halifax, ready to expect the post would bring me a letter from Lord Dartmouth though against probability, and most likely such an event would have plunged me into trouble for the rest of my life – but instead of that I had one from Mr Hall, well suited to rebuke and shame me for my vanity and fickleness. I see one, whom I have reason O Lord both as a Christian and a Minister to prefer to my[me], by thy providence supplied with a very slender provision and yet content, while I am seeking or at least desiring great things for myself. Forgive me, I pray thee, and cure this weakness, this wickedness.
Thursday 14 December 1775
Before I go to preach I feel empty and barren, but am wonderfully supplied. Accomplish thy word in me; I am hungry and poor, to[do] thou feed and fill me with the good things which I hope thou hast taught me to desire. [re lecture:] Luke 1:53 [He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.]
[Sunday 17 December 1775]
Hymn No. 228
[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, 10/09/2013