Olney Hymns Book 1 Hymn 126

I would, but cannot sing...

Manuscript Hymn No. 198

198 v1

Chapter 7:19

The Good that I would I do not

I would, but cannot sing,
Guilt has untuned my voice;
The serpent sin’s envenomed sting
Has poisoned all my joys.

I know the Lord is nigh,
And would, but cannot, pray;
For Satan meets me when I try,
And frights my soul away.

I would, but can’t repent,
Though I endeavour oft;
This stony heart can ne’er relent
Till Jesus make it soft.

I would, but cannot love,
Though wooed by love divine:
No arguments have power to move
A soul so base as mine.

I would, but cannot rest
In God’s most holy will;
I know what he appoints is best,
Yet murmur at it still!

Oh could I but believe!
Then all would easy be;
I would, but cannot, – Lord, relieve;
My help must come from thee!

But if indeed I would,
Though I can nothing do;
Yet the desire is something good,
For which my praise is due.

By nature prone to ill,
Till thine appointed hour,
I was as destitute of will,
As now I am of power.

Wilt thou not crown at length
The work thou hast begun?
And with a will, afford me strength,
In all thy ways to run.

John Newton bw better 150 x 55
  from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:

Saturday 4 March 1775
The week is brought round again, crowned with mercies, and a continued exemption from heavy crosses, except that under which I groan within. I have felt it, and lamented it this week. I think I thirst after nearer communion with the Lord in secret, for my prayers are wild, incoherent and wandering as a dream. He is pleased to stand at a distance, most deservedly, and alas! what can I do without him? It is a mercy if I can so much as cry with some real desire, Return O Lord how long? This evening I have tried to seek his blessing upon tomorrow – but alas in what a manner.

Sunday 5 March 1775
I feel some desires which I know the Lord only can give – but I labour under much opposition and hindrance from a vile nature. All my spiritual powers seem disjointed and enfeebled, yet I can preach. Or rather, the Lord still enables me. In the afternoon before sermon I felt an unusual weight upon my spirits, and a stagnation of thought. It seemed impossible to speak or even to fix upon a subject. Yet I was carried through, I suppose with some apparent liberty. Hymn in the Evening: I would but cannot. It is my own case - To will is present with me. O thou who hast given me to will, work in me to do of thine own good pleasure.

2 Samuel 23:1
Psalm 51:1-3
Hymn No. 198

[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]

Image copyright:

Hymn: MS Eng 1317, Houghton Library, Harvard University
Diary: John Newton Collection, CO199, Princeton University

Marylynn Rouse, 10/09/2013