Summer storms (a)
Though the morn may be serene,
Not a threatening cloud be seen,
Who can undertake to say
'Twill be pleasant all the day?
Tempests suddenly may rise,
Darkness overspread the skies,
Lightnings flash, and thunders roar,
Ere a short-lived day be o'er.
Often thus the child of grace
Enters on his Christian race;
Guilt and fear are overborne,
'Tis with him a summer's morn:
While his new-felt joys abound,
All things seem to smile around;
And he hopes it will be fair,
All the day, and all the year.
Should we warn him of a change,
He would think the caution strange;
He no change or trouble fears,
Till the gath'ring storm appears; (b)
Till dark clouds his sun conceal,
Till temptation's power he feel;
Then he trembles, and looks pale,
All his hopes and courage fail.
But the wonder-working Lord
Soothes the tempest by his word;
Stills the thunder, stops the rain,
And his sun breaks forth again:
Soon the cloud again returns,
Now he joys, and now he mourns;
Oft his sky is overcast,
Ere the day of life be past.
Tried believers too can say,
In the course of one short day,
Though the morning has been fair,
Proved a golden hour of prayer,
Sin, and Satan, long ere night,
Have their comforts put to flight;
Ah! what heart-felt peace and joy,
Unexpected storms destroy.
Dearest Saviour, call us soon
To thine high eternal noon;
Never there shall tempest rise
To conceal thee from our eyes:
Satan shall no more deceive,
We no more thy Spirit grieve;
But through cloudless, endless days,
Sound, to golden harps, thy praise.
(a) See also Book 3, Hymn 68
(b) See also Book 1, Hymn 44
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
Tuesday 26 May 1778
Yesterday morning at six our dear friends left us, and I at the same time set off for Bedford. I have now to praise thee for a pleasant interview there, a safe journey home – all that was preserved in peace in my absence, and that I found my _[dear Polly] had been tolerably well, while I was abroad. I spoke the two mornings ar Mr Barham’s from Deuteronomy 33:29, 2 Corinthians 6:10.
Thursday 28 May 1778
Met the children – preached in the evening, favoured with liberty. Yet foolish afterwards and betrayed by my self-willed evil heart. My Dear _[Polly] has been much better these two days past. Shall I never be rightly affected – always the same inconsistent creature. Alas! my Lord. The fault is wholly my own. Thou givest me light, caution, experience and layest me under obligations which ought to be binding.
Wrote two letters today on account of one I received from Mr Robinson of Leicester. I would commit the business to thee. If it be for thy glory, and as desirable as it appears to us, it shall take place. But in all things may we learn to say, Thy will be done.
Saturday 30 May 1778
I desire to remember with humiliation, what happened yesterday afternoon, and to see and own thy hand, my Lord, in permitting it. How sudden, how violent the change – how distressing might the consequences have been O Lord pardon, heal and give wisdom in future. Ah! the latent evil of the heart. Though like the sea it sometimes appears smooth, quickly the blasts of temptation can make it swell and rage and foam. Art thou not lifted up on high that by looking to thee our wounds may be healed. My spirit is still discomposed. Thy word can create peace – O speak effectively that we may hear thee, and rejoice in thy mercy. Help us to watch and pray. Subdue the power of self. Enable us to walk wisely and warily. Let not the enemy’s subtlety prevail to hide from me, they great mercies, the innumerable causes I have for thankfulness, and the reasons why I should be always quiet and still.
In the evening at Weston – some time retired, I sought thee but I found thee not. Yet so far I hope, as to be in a measure willing and able to put my all into thy hands, and to renew my dependence upon thee for pardon and strength.
Sunday 31 May 1778
How dost thou shame my ingratitude. My dear _[Polly] is better instead of being worse as I feared and deserved. I thank thee for leading me safely to and from Hardmead, where I preached from Job 23:3,4 and for supporting me through four services. I have now finished 14 years at Olney. My first Sabbath here was the last in May 1764. On this return of the season, I preached from the texts with which I then began. My evening hymn was suggested by what unexpectedly happened on Friday afternoon. In speaking from it, thou wert pleased to revive the spirit of T Old,* for which I desire to praise thee. O that we may be all refreshed, strengthened and quickened in thy good ways.
2 Corinthians 2:15,16
Hymn No. 313
[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]
* Thomas Old was one of those who attended Newton's children's meetings on a Thursday, from its beginning in 1765, when Thomas won a prize that year for memorising Mason's Catechism. Amongst the female candidates for the prize was Mary Humphreys. Newton married this couple on Tuesday morning 21 September 1779, praying 'may thy blessing cement their union'.