Olney Hymns Book 1 Hymn 82
Oft as the leper's case I read...
Manuscript Hymn No. 319
Oft as the leper’s case I read,
My own described I feel;
Sin is a leprosy indeed,
Which none but Christ can heal.
Awhile I would have passed for well,
And strove my spots to hide;
Till it broke out incurable,
Too plain to be denied.
Then from the saints I sought to flee,
And dreaded to be seen;
I thought they all would point at me,
And cry, “Unclean, unclean!”
What anguish did my soul endure,
Till hope and patience ceased?
The more I strove myself to cure,
The more the plague increased.
While thus I lay distressed, I saw
The Saviour passing by;
To him, though filled with shame and awe,
I raised my mournful cry.
Lord, thou canst heal me if thou wilt,
For thou canst all things do;
O cleanse my leprous soul from guilt,
My filthy heart renew!
He heard, and with a gracious look,
Pronounced the healing word;
“I will, — be clean,” and while he spoke
I felt my health restored.
Come, lepers, seize the present hour,
The Saviour’s grace to prove;
He can relieve, for he is power,
He will, for he is love.
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
Tuesday 28 July 1778
Mr Hill came yesterday and preached at night from Hebrews 8:11-13 [….For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. …] We had that tolerably large congregation. May thy blessing my Lord crown the word. Many will come to hear him, who will not hear me. I saw Mr Hurst the Minister of Newton among them. If it please thee, thou canst touch his heart. I ought to wish it. Hitherto he is intent only upon the emoluments of his office, and has no sense of the worth of the souls of which he has undertaken the charge. An awful case and very frequent. Mr Hill left us in the morning. His preaching is rambling, but he is thy servant, thou hast been pleased to own him in the awakening of sinners. This seems his particular call, and he has had more success than many who in my judgement have greater ministerial abilities. I hope my heart is willing that thou shouldst [awaken] by whom and in what way thou pleasest.
Wednesday 29 July 1778
In the evening walked with Mr Wilkinson to hear Mr Scott. The first time I have heard him since he began to speak extempore. His text was 1 Peter 1:22,23 [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: Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.] His discourse clear, copious, judicious and animated. How ought I to be affected with the honour of being instrumental to thy gracious design, in raising up one who gives hope of being one of the most considerable of thy servants.
Thursday 30 July 1778
Met the children and preached in the evening. My subject was suited to a business on which Mr Scott asked my sentiment before we went to church. I praise thee that thou hast given him a just sense of the honour of his character as thy Minister, and power to depend upon thee so as to scorn to seek the favour of the world.
Sunday 2 August 1778
A full house in the evening.
1 Timothy 2:5
Hymn No. 319
[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