Olney Hymns Book 1 Hymn 119
'Tis a point I long to know...
Manuscript Hymn No. 216
[Lovest thou me?]
'Tis a point I long to know,
Oft it causes anxious thought;
Do I love the Lord, or no?
Am I his, or am I not?
If I love, why am I thus?
Why this dull and lifeless frame?
Hardly, sure, can they be worse,
Who have never heard his name!
Could my heart so hard remain,
Prayer a task and burden prove,
Every trifle give me pain,
If I knew a Saviour's love?
When I turn my eyes within,
All is dark, and vain, and wild:
Filled with unbelief and sin,
Can I deem myself a child?
If I pray, or hear, or read,
Sin is mixed with all I do;
You that love the Lord indeed,
Tell me, Is it thus with you?
Yet I mourn my stubborn will,
Find my sin a grief and thrall;
Should I grieve for what I feel,
If I did not love at all?
Could I joy his saints to meet,
Choose the ways I once abhorred,
Find, at times, the promise sweet,
If I did not love the Lord?
Lord, decide the doubtful case!
Thou who art thy people's sun,
Shine upon thy work of grace,
If it be indeed begun.
Let me love thee more and more,
If I love at all, I pray;
If I have not loved before,
Help me to begin today.
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
Tuesday 15 August 1775
I hope the Lord was with us this morning at the Great House. I approve the design, acknowledge the urgent occasion, and seem to others affected by it. But alas if I laid it duly to heart, could it be possible for some things which I daily groan under to prevail.
In the evening took leave at the Great House, from a pathetic passage of St Paul, 1 Thessalonians 3:8-13 [for now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord. For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God; night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith? Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you. And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: to the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.], being to set out tomorrow morning. There was much and earnest prayer offered up amongst us. Blessed be God for an affectionate praying people.
[Possibly] Hymn No. 216
Hymn No. 215 was for Sunday 13 August 1775.
Newton was away from 16 August to 23 September 1775.
Sunday 24 September 1775 he wrote: 'Had not a new hymn of my own for the Great House in the evening.’
Sunday 1 October 1775 includes Hymn No. 217.
He does not mention Hymn No. 216 in his diary, either before (or after) his return. Before leaving Olney, there was the evening prayer meeting on Tuesday 15th - perhaps this hymn was used then, to encourage his congregation in his forthcoming absence, ‘to perfect that which is lacking in your faith’.
Hymn: MS Eng 1317, Houghton Library, Harvard University
Diary: John Newton Collection, CO199, Princeton University
Marylynn Rouse, 10/09/2013