Olney Hymns Book 1 Hymn 97
One awful word which Jesus spoke...
Manuscript Hymn No. 192
The Blasted Fig-tree
One awful word which Jesus spoke
Against the tree which bore no fruit,
More piercing than the lightning’s stroke,
Blasted and dried it to the root.
But could a tree the Lord offend,
To make him show his anger thus?
He surely had a farther end,
To be a warning word to us.
The fig-tree by its leaves was known;
But having not a fig to show,
It brought a heavy sentence down,
“Let none hereafter on thee grow.”
Too many, who the gospel hear,
Whom Satan blinds and sin deceives,
We to this fig-tree may compare,
They yield no fruit, but only leaves.
Knowledge, and zeal, and gifts, and talk,
Unless combined with faith and love,
And witnessed by a gospel walk,
Will not a true profession prove.
Without the fruit the Lord expects,
Knowledge will make our state the worse;
The barren trees he still rejects,
And soon will blast them with his curse.
O Lord, unite our hearts in prayer!
On each of us thy Spirit send,
That we the fruits of grace may bear,
And find acceptance in the end.
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
Tuesday 24 January 1775
At the Great House spoke from Colossians 2:13 [And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses]
Thursday 26 January 1775
The weather so severe I could not have the children today – but before noon the frost broke. The hasty change led me to the choice of my text [Psalm 147:17-18], but the wind of the Spirit did not blow as I could wish, and my chariot wheels moved heavily. It is long since I found myself more straightened. But what a mercy that the Lord does not utterly take His word out of my mouth.
Saturday 28 January 1775
In the evening retired, seeking pardon for daily and weekly sins, and a blessing upon the Sabbath. Much pleased with a sermon I lately read of Mr Baxter’s from Matthew 5:16 [Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven] in the Morning Exercises. O that I could more successfully adopt the practice.
Sunday 29 January 1775
Had liberty in the course of the day as to speaking. But seasons of melting in my own soul are sadly infrequent. I have formerly too little valued them and spoken of them lightly. O that the Lord would again give my heart to feel, and my eyes to flow. I find too often, that though my tongue moves fluently, my spirit is sadly dry. Hymn: The Blasted Fig-tree. I fear there are such among my hearers, who having often resisted impressions, now feel them no more.
Hymn No. 192
[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