The Golden Calf
When Israel heard the fiery law
From Sinai's top proclaimed,
Their hearts seemed full of holy awe,
Their stubborn spirits tamed.
Yet, as forgetting all they knew,
Ere forty days were past,
With blazing Sinai still in view,
A molten calf they cast.
Yea, Aaron, GOD'S anointed priest,
Who on the mount had been,
He durst prepare the idol beast,
And lead them on to sin.
LORD, what is man, and what are we,
To recompense thee thus!
In their offence our own we see,
Their story points at us.
From Sinai we have heard thee speak,
And from Mount Calvary too;
And yet to idols oft we seek,
While thou art in our view.
Some golden calf, or golden dream,
Some fancied creature-good,
Presumes to share the heart with him,
Who bought the whole with blood.
LORD, save us from our golden calves,
Our sin with grief we own;
We would no more be thine by halves,
But live to thee alone.
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
Monday 10 November 1777
Breakfasted yesterday with Mr Scott. Thou hast answered my desires and exceeded my expectations in him; how gradually yet how clearly hast thou taught him thy Gospel truth! and hast favoured him with a single eye to seek thee and thy truth above all. I hope to see him (if my life be spared) eminent in knowledge, powers and usefulness among thy servants. What an honour and mercy should I esteem it, to be any way instrumental in this good work. May all the praise be thine.
Tuesday 11 November 1777
At the Great House from 1 Peter 2:17. I was led to speak with some closeness on the subjects of benevolence and love. In these O Gracious Lord, thou wert our Exemplar when upon earth. O that we thy poor people were more like thee. Give us O Lord a desire to be fully conformed to thine image. Alas that there should be such inconsistencies as cross, passionate, bigotted, selfish Christians. Are not these things as contrary to thy Spirit as drunkenness or theft!
Thursday 13 November 1777
Met the children and had some liberty in speaking, but found myself straightened in the evening as to my spirit, though not quite at a loss for subject matter. I praise thee that thou hast begun to write thy name, love, and will upon my heart, and that thou employest me as a pen in thy hand to write upon others. O do thou heighten the resemblance and finish the transmit of thine image and mind both in me and in others.
Sunday 16 November 1777
I praise thee for a comfortable day. I changed the sermon in course on Revelation 19 from morning to afternoon, as the subject was awful, and seemed suited to the largest congregation. My mind seemed impressed with it the other day, when I was drawing a sketch and I wrote more upon it than I usually do. Yet in the delivery I was rather encumbered and straightened. It is well that when I seem to expect most, I should find myself most at a loss, that I may learn, my sufficient[sufficiency] is wholly in thee, and that without thy gracious influence, my preparations are nothing worth. Yet I think thou didst help me to speak pertinently. O command thy blessing, and let me never speak in vain. The evening hymn was upon a subject nearly[closely] concerning myself. I am guilty of idolatry, and thou mightest justly deprived me of my idols, but thou art gracious.
Hymn No. 287
[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]