Olney Hymns Book 1 Hymn 45
In mercy, not in wrath, rebuke...
Manuscript Hymn No. 259
Psalm 6 [Psalm 6 imitated]
Pleading for Mercy
In mercy, not in wrath, rebuke
Thy feeble worm, my God!
My spirit dreads thine angry look,
And trembles at thy rod.
Have mercy, Lord, for I am weak,
Regard my heavy groans;
O let thy voice of comfort speak,
And heal my broken bones!
By day, my busy beating head
Is filled with anxious fears;
By night, upon my restless bed,
I weep a flood of tears.
Thus I sit desolate and mourn,
Mine eyes grow dull with grief;
How long, my Lord, ere thou return,
And bring my soul relief?
O come and show thy power to save,
And spare my fainting breath;
For who can praise thee in the grave,
Or sing thy name in death?
Satan, my cruel envious foe,
Insults me in my pain;
He smiles to see me brought so low,
And tells me hope is vain,
But hence, thou enemy, depart!
Nor tempt me to despair;
My Saviour comes to cheer my heart,
The Lord has heard my prayer.
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
>21 November 1776
The remainder of the week my spirit was tried, aiming at submission and confidence in thy mercy, yet deeply sensible of impatience and distrust. Upon the whole I hope my heart was quickened in prayer and earnestly desirous that the affliction might be sanctified to us both as well as removed. I cannot in my judgement think that the return and degree of my Dear's complaint, are proportionable to the impression they have made upon my spirit, but I am too keenly sensible and subject to alarm in what relates to her. Though indisposed, I cannot say she is very ill in the daytime, and has had those whirlings in her head only once or twice in the 24 hours, perhaps in the middle of the night or when attempting first to raise her head from her pillow. How easily might the Lord permit this terrifying symptom to return often in the day, and what reason have I to praise his mercy and tenderness in moderating the trial so far.
23 November 1776 [letter to John Thornton]
My trial is come and I feel it and mention it to you entreating your prayers that it may be sanctified both to Mrs. Newton and myself. She came home well. But was rather poorly on Monday and that night as she was just in bed and going to lay her head upon the pillow, she was seized with a violent and alarming twirl in her head. She cannot describe it herself, and much less can I. Though not properly a painful sensation, she thought it more terrible than all the pain and sickness she had ever felt. She could only compare the sensation to a being thrown from the highest steeple. It did not last long and indeed seemed hardly supportable for a length of time, but she has had several slight returns of it when in bed and it has left a sort of uneasiness in her head which discomposes and weakens her a good deal.
Though my disposition is rather phlegmatic and I am not so easily moved in general as some people, yet my feelings respecting those I love are pretty keen, especially in what concerns her. Therefore though she is not extremely ill at present, but able to move about the house, it is a time of trial with me, for there is something to me very painful and alarming in the hurries which sometimes come upon her. But it is the Lord – we are in his hands – who is able to support and to deliver. My spirit thirsts to be wholly bowed to his will, and to leave myself and all that is most dear to me, to his direction without reserve and without asking questions.
25 November 1776
I praise thy name O Lord for support through another Sabbath. My heart was faint in the morning, my Dear having been much shaken when getting up. In the evening a letter from Dr Ford was a means of relieving my mind. She had a quiet night, and rose this morning with little inconvenience. Lord accept my thanks, and if it please thee confirm my hope of a cure.
5 January 1777
Assisted by thy goodness, today – seemed most straitened and cold at the Great House – yet I hope not wholly so. My Dear was at the Great House tonight, the first Sunday evening since we came home. Accept my thanks, and make us both truly thankful.
Hymn No. 259
[note ms dated 23 November 1776]
[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]
Hymn: MS Eng 1317, Houghton Library, Harvard University
Diary: John Newton Collection, CO199, Princeton University