Olney Hymns Book 1 Hymn 123
A Believer, free from care...
Manuscript Hymn No. 275
The Trembling Jailer
A Believer, free from care,
May in chains or dungeons sing,
If the Lord be with him there,
And be happier than a king:
Paul and Silas thus confined,
Though their backs were torn by whips,
Yet, possessing peace of mind,
Sung his praise with joyful lips.
Suddenly the prison shook,
Open flew the iron doors;
And the jailer, terror-struck,
Now his captives' help implores:
Trembling at their feet he fell,
"Tell me, Sirs, what must I do
To be saved from guilt and hell?
None can tell me this but you."
“Look to Jesus” (they replied),
“If on him thou canst believe,
By the death which he has died,
Thou salvation shalt receive.”
While the living word he heard,
Faith sprung up within his heart,
And, released from all he feared,
In their joy his soul had part.
Sinners, Christ is still the same,
O that you could likewise fear!
Then the mention of his name
Would be music to your ear:
Jesus rescues Satan's slaves,
His dear wounds still plead, “Forgive!”
Jesus to the utmost saves;
Sinners, look to him and live.
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
Monday 26 May 1777
… went to visit JK at Brayfield who is near death. A favoured but much afflicted family.
This day I enter upon the 14th year of my residence here. O my Lord – what thanks do I owe thee for all the mercies which have encompassed me in this place. How extraordinary – that in 13 years I should never be detained once from my place in the church or Great House, by sickness – nor even once five minutes beyond my usual time of beginning. How justly mightest thou have taken thy word utterly out of my mouth, instead of affording me this continual state of health – and all my dealings have been gracious – peace, friends, plenty, and some success in the work. O that I may be humbled before thee, for the unsuitable returns and I make.
Tuesday 27 May 1777
Called to visit Mrs Freeman at Warrington. Found her helpless and speechless from a stroke of the palsy. Such cases echo to thy Word, my Gracious Lord, Be ye also ready. Soon might the like happen to me or to mine. Thou showest me trials in other houses, much greater than my own. May the comparison make me thankful and resigned.
Wrote… to Mr [John] Howard who lately sent me his book on the state of the prisoners.
Saturday 31 May 1777
Rode yesterday morning to breakfast at Mr Barham's, chiefly at this time to see Mrs Rose, who is there upon a visit. Spent a pleasant day with them... Spoke the two mornings from 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 […And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me...] and Solomon's Song 8:6.
Sunday 1 June 1777
In the afternoon subject I had a view to Mrs Killingworth and family – but it is a matter of general concern. Thy children have all their trials. O that all might glorify thee by a becoming spirit under them; and Lord enable me and my Dearest to do so under ours. Give us patience, submission, dependence, confidence – and may we learn more of thy wisdom, power, care and All-sufficiency by every turn.
1 John 4:9,10
Psalm 39:9 [I was dumb, I opened not my mouth; because thou didst it]
Hymn No. 275
[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]
 Newton had visited Howard in Cardington in 1774, presented him with a copy of Omicron and 'had some interesting discussion'. In his book, The State of the Prisons in England and Wales, Howard's dedication page to the House of Commons is dated 5th April 1777. Allowing subsequent time for printing, a gift in May indicates that Newton was very high on Howard's priority list.
Hymn: MS Eng 1317, Houghton Library, Harvard University
Diary: John Newton Collection, CO199, Princeton University
Marylynn Rouse, 10/09/2013