Olney Hymns Book 2 Hymn 64
The gathering clouds, with aspect dark...
Manuscript Hymn No. 207
On the commencement of hostilities in America 
The gathering clouds, with aspect dark,
A rising storm presage;
Oh! to be hid within the ark,
And sheltered from its rage!
See the commissioned angel frown! (a)
That vial in his hand,
Filled with fierce wrath, is pouring down
Upon our guilty land!
Ye saints, unite in wrestling prayer,
If yet there may be hope;
Who knows but mercy yet may spare,
And bid the angel stop? (b)
Already is the plague begun, (c)
And fired with hostile rage,
Brethren, by blood and interest one,
With brethren now engage.
Peace spreads her wings, prepared for flight,
And war with flaming sword,
And hasty strides, draws nigh, to fight
The battles of the Lord.
The first alarm, alas, how few,
While distant, seem to hear!
But they will hear, and tremble too,
When God shall send it near.
So thunder, o'er the distant hills
Gives but a murmering sound;
But as the tempest spreads, it fills,
And makes the welkin round. (d)
May we, at least, with one consent,
Fall low before the throne;
With tears the nation's sins lament,
The church's, and our own.
The humble souls who mourn and pray,
The Lord approves and knows;
His mark secures them in the day
When vengeance strikes his foes.
(a) Revelation 16:1
(b) 1 Samuel 24:16
(c) Numbers 16:46
(d) welkin: firmament, or atmosphere
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
Wednesday 31 May 1775
The paper this evening brought account of commencement of hostilities in New England, and many killed on both sides. These things I fear are the beginning of sorrows. O that I could be suitably affected with what I see and hear.
Tuesday 6 June 1775
Having proposed an extraordinary meeting for prayer weekly on account of the times, we began this morning. It was an encouraging beginning, for though we met so early as 5 o’clock, there were as many people attended as we usually have in an evening, or rather more. Mr Collins left us in the afternoon. At night we had another visitant, Mr Perkins from Chesham Bois. This morning my dear Mr Thornton was to set off with his family for Paris. May the God of the sea and the dry land lead them out and bring them home in safety. I preached yesterday afternoon at Hardmead from 2 Corinthians 13,14 on the communion of the Holy Ghost – and at night at Clifton in Mr Jones’ room[absence] from Psalm 9:9,10. This evening spoke at the Great House from Psalm 68:9.
Sunday 11 June 1775
Was unprepared for subjects today, but the Lord mercifully provided. Had much liberty in the forenoon, not straitened in the afternoon, when I began to speak of Satan’s devices. In the evening Hymn No. 207 which I composed with a view to the present troubles in America, and gave a brief sketch of the past and present state of the nation, with a view to engage the people to attendance on our Tuesday morning meetings, by apprising them of the importance of the present crisis.
2 Corinthians 2:11
Tuesday 13 June 1775 [letter to John Thornton]
The alarming news lately received from Boston, gives me mournful prospect of the issue of our unhappy dispute. We have set up a prayer meeting extraordinary on a national account on Tuesday mornings at 5 o’clock. Last Tuesday was our first meeting and I was much pleased and encouraged to find my proposal so well seconded, for at that early hour we had between 150 and 200 people. We employ one hour—about 10 or 12 minutes of which I take up in a short discourse, the rest in hymns and prayer. Last night I produced a hymn upon the occasion, and in speaking from the subject after singing it, I gave them a brief view of our peculiar privileges as a people, and a sketch of the past and present state of the nation, in hopes of quickening their attention to the present crisis. As I know you will be often singing the Lord’s songs in the strange land wherein you are, I take the liberty of transcribing the hymn.
Hymn No. 207
[On this date Newton preached from the above hymn at the Great House for his church, St Peter & St Paul, Olney]
Hymn: MS Eng 1317, Houghton Library, Harvard University
Marylynn Rouse, 11/09/2013