Olney Hymns Book 1 Hymn 50
For mercies countless as the sands...
Manuscript Hymn No. 180
[also written as 2 Vol 2]
What shall I render (a)
For mercies, countless as the sands,
Which daily I receive
From Jesus, my Redeemer’s hands,
My soul, what canst thou give?
Alas! from such a heart as mine,
What can I bring him forth?
My best is stained and dyed with sin,
My all is nothing worth.
Yet this acknowledgment I’ll make
For all he has bestowed,
Salvation’s sacred cup I’ll take,
And call upon my GOD.
The best returns for one like me,
So wretched and so poor,
Is from his gifts to draw a plea,
And ask him still for more.
I cannot serve him as I ought,
No works have I to boast;
Yet would I glory in the thought
That I shall owe him most.
(a) See also Book 3, Hymn 67
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
Friday 20 July 1753 [en route from St Kitts to Liverpool]
I endeavoured to employ this day wholly in serious purposes and exercises, and acknowledge the divine goodness and grace in enabling me to perform with some degree of attention.
The forenoon I chiefly employed in confession of my sins, with all the aggravations and particulars I could recall to mind, beginning from my early infancy, an amazing and dreadful scene of folly and impiety, and I hope I felt something of a sense of the mercy that had spared me so long, recovered me so often, and continued me to this hour; happy for me, that I was enabled to plead in the name of my Saviour and to trust in his merits, for it were impossible for me to have offered any reason on my own part, that might give me hopes of pardon. But the Lord has brought me to see and to know, that Christ died for the vilest sinners, and that there is no limitation in the act of grace through him.
In the afternoon I attempted (an attempt is the best I dare call it) to praise the Lord for his wonderful goodness vouchsafed and continued to me – for the advantage of a religious education in my childhood, for his longsuffering mercy during my impious apostasy, for the extraordinary manner in which he was pleased to awaken me, for giving me a timely sense of the necessity of Christ my Redeemer, and for that union in him, to which I humbly trust (wretch as I am) his Holy Spirit has at length been pleased to bring me – for all my temporal blessings, my constant health, protection, exemption from evil, interest, supply of conveniencies, and the particular happiness I have found where (if possible) I have least deserved it. In answer to the Psalmist’s question, What shall I render to the Lord, for all his benefits? I renewed my former resolutions, that I would take him for my God, my chief and sovereign good, that I would make his honour and glory the highest aim of all my actions, submit all my desires and views to his disposal, and to my utmost approve my gratitude by my obedience: that I would do all the good in my power to my fellow creatures, and (if occasion should be given) be forgiving and forbearing to those who offend or wrong me, as God for my Saviour’s sake has I hope forgiven me.
And now O Lord God, keep this forever in the thoughts of thy servant, and prepare and confirm my heart to thee; of myself I know I can do nothing, but thou hast promised to assist those that trust in thee, and thou hast wrought all my works in me hitherto – if I have intended anything well, it proceeded only from thy influence – and wilt thou not perfect that which concerns me? Thy mercy O Lord endureth for ever, forsake not the work of thy own hands. Search me O God, and know my heart, try me and know my thoughts and see if there be any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting, for my Saviour’s sake [Psalm 139:23,24]. Amen.
[probably October 1774]
Hymn No. 180 [2 Vol 2]
[Around this date Newton preached 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