Vanity of the Creature sanctified
Honey though the bee prepares,
An envenomed sting he wears;
Piercing thorns a guard compose
Round the fragrant blooming rose.
Where we think to find a sweet,
Oft a painful sting we meet:
When the rose invites our eye,
We forget the thorn is nigh.
Why are thus our hopes beguiled?
Why are all our pleasures spoiled?
Why do agony and woe
From our choicest comforts grow?
Sin has been the cause of all!
’Twas not thus before the fall:
What but pain, and thorn, and sting,
From the root of sin can spring?
Now with every good we find
Vanity and grief entwined;
What we feel, or what we fear,
All our joys embitter here.
Yet, through the Redeemer’s love,
These afflictions blessings prove;
He the wounding stings and thorns
Into healing medicines turns.
From the earth our hearts they wean,
Teach us on his arm to lean;
Urge us to a throne of grace,
Make us seek a resting-place.
In the mansions of our King
Sweets abound without a sting;
Thornless there the roses blow,
And the joys unmingled flow.
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
Sunday 4 January 1778
Enabled to speak today, I hope not wholly in vain to others, but O my Lord how dull, confused and remote from spirituality in my own soul. Thou hast likewise brought a chastisement upon me. My Dear continues very ill, and we have had two distressing nights. Gracious Lord, I can not, I do not complain – thou art merciful in all. Give patience, submission and strength, and help us both to humble ourselves before thee, and humbly to wait upon thee for pardon and relief. And O teach me yet at last to prize thy mercies, not only while threatened, but in the possession, if thou art pleased yet again to hear my unworthy prayers, and to remove the grievous pains she suffers. I thank thee that this morning (Monday) they are moderated, but O let me not forget the distress and agony of the night. O let me not trifle with thee more.
Tuesday 6 January 1778
My gracious Lord accept my thanks for relief afforded to my Dear – she had a tolerable night, her pain is much removed, though indisposed still. May we be benefited by thy chastisements, and own and prize and praise thy healing mercy. At the Great House thou gavest me to speak with freedom from Psalm 4:2,3 [O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing? Selah. But know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the Lord will hear when I call unto him.] May I be duly affected with the views of abounding sins – and humbly confident that I am numbered among those whom thou hast set apart for thyself, and to whom thou wilt be sure refuge in every time of trouble.
Thursday 8 January 1778
My Dear is much recovered, and I hope we'll be able to leave her room tomorrow. If it please thee strengthen her to appear again at thy house, but especially sanctify pain and sickness and teach us both to number our days, and prepare for every change.
Saturday 10 January 1778
I praise thee my Lord, that the week closes comfortably. My Dear much recovered. All things well about us here. But yesterday brought me and affecting letter from my sister. She and her husband are in great trouble. But I hope they know thy name and then they are under thy special care. Thou canst support and relieve. O Lord I would bear them upon my heart before thee that they may get good by the trial, only that it may please [thee] to appear for them, and provide a way for their escape.
Sunday 11 January 1778
[No Hymn No. was given, but it was probably Hymn No. 297, as 298 follows the next week. Lack of sleep during Polly’s illness seems to have affected his hymn numbering for the first fortnight]
[Hymn No. 297]
[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]