Olney Hymns Book 1 Hymn 77
With Satan, my accuser, near...
Manuscript Hymn No. 272
A Brand plucked out of the Fire
With Satan, my accuser, near,
My spirit trembled when I saw
The Lord in majesty appear,
And heard the language of his law.
In vain I wished and strove to hide
The tattered filthy rags I wore;
While my fierce foe, insulting cried,
"See what you trusted in before!"
Struck dumb, and left without a plea,
I heard my gracious Saviour say,
"Know, Satan, I this sinner free,
I died to take his sins away.
"This is a brand which I, in love,
To save from wrath and sin design;
In vain thy accusations prove;
I answer all, and claim him mine."
At his rebuke the tempter fled;
Then he removed my filthy dress;
"Poor sinner, take this robe," he said,
"It is thy Saviour's righteousness.
"And see, a crown of life prepared!
That I might thus thy head adorn,
I thought no shame or suffering hard,
But wore for thee a crown of thorn."
O how I heard these gracious words!
They broke and healed my heart at once;
Constrained me to become the Lord's,
And all my idol gods renounce.
Now, Satan, thou hast lost thy aim,
Against this brand thy threats are vain;
Jesus has plucked it from the flame,
And who shall put it in again?
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
Tuesday 8 April 1777
Mr and Mrs Wilberforce left us yesterday, this morning Mr Phillips and Morse came early. Most of the day engaged with them. Walked to Clifton. O my Lord when shall my spirit be tamed and my tongue brought under rule. How easily am I disconcerted? Thou hast heard many prayers and mine in permitting me to stay here, thou hast prevented many fears and troubles – make me then willing to bear occasional and smaller crosses. Has not experience yet taught me, that though I may by impatience makes things worse the only way to mend what is amiss, is to put it into thy hand by prayer and wait thy time. At the Great House a tolerable company; spoke from 1 Peter 1:22 [Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently]. Lord teach us to love one another.
Wednesday 9 April 1777
This evening heard Mr Bull – Romans 8:28. A good discourse, and a good subject. Lord I believe, but O pity, pardon and help my unbelief. How often do I think thy work might be mended. A thought which my better heart disallows, but it will rise before I am aware. May this thy servant animate, instruct and humble me. He expresses much of thy Spirit. Into thy hand I would commend myself and my all – to make the crooked straight, the hard easy.
Saturday 12 April 1777
Mr Barham came in the evening, which prevented my usual retirement.
Sunday 13 April 1777
I preached today, on man's insufficiency, and thy All-sufficiency of Grace and help for poor sinners, and had experience of both. Was much confused in the afternoon, seemingly at the point of stopping. But thou didst relieve and I went on. The evening comfortable. A letter from Paisley in Scotland, expressing and approbation of my writings in terms that may well make me ashamed. O Lord, how differently do thy children judge of me from what I have reason to judge of myself. Thou seest the heart. O suffer me not to value myself upon what is not my own, but rather to admire that thou shouldst deign to give any spiritual gifts to such a wretch, to make him of any use, to favour him with any acceptance. If thou art pleased to exalt me, O enable me to abase myself, and to remember that I am vile.
2 Corinthians 3:5
Hymn No. 272
[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