The Inward Warfare
Strange and mysterious is my life,
What opposites I feel within!
A stable peace, a constant strife;
The rule of grace, the power of sin:
Too often I am captive led,
Yet daily triumph in my Head.
I prize the privilege of prayer,
But oh! what backwardness to pray!
Though on the Lord I cast my care,
I feel its burden every day;
I seek his will in all I do,
Yet find my own is working too.
I call the promises my own,
And prize them more than mines of gold;
Yet though their sweetness I have known,
They leave me unimpressed and cold:
One hour upon the truth I feed,
The next I know not what I read.
I love the holy day of rest,
When Jesus meets his gathered saints;
Sweet day, of all the week the best!
For its return my spirit pants:
Yet often, through my unbelief,
It proves a day of guilt and grief.
While on my Saviour I rely,
I know my foes shall loose their aim;
And therefore dare their power defy,
Assured of conquest through his name:
But soon my confidence is slain,
And all my fears return again.
Thus different powers within me strive,
And grace and sin by turns prevail;
I grieve, rejoice, decline, revive,
And victory hangs in doubtful scale:
But Jesus has his promise past,
That grace shall overcome at last.
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
Saturday 20 June 1778
Alas! Stupid creature that I am to be no more affected with my goodness. I have been dull in my own spirit, and I have grieved thy Spirit in the course of this favoured week. I spoke every morning [at Bedford] in the [Barham] family. Subjects: Ephesians 3:14-19; 1 Corinthians 2:9; James 1:5; Matthew 9:13. Much converse, much kindness, nothing amiss, but this evil heart which besets, deceives and hurts me in every place. I came home lean and a hymn to make which other avocations broke in upon my evening. O my Lord – touch and revive, pardon and heal and cleanse me and prepare me a Sabbath's blessing. I have no plea but what I descry from thy Word, and from my past experience which encourages me still to cry, I am thine, save me [Psalm 119:94].
Sunday 21 June 1778
I praise thee, my Lord, for the mercies of another Sabbath. I usually am destitute of a subject – and when the text seems to fix I know not what I shall say to I begin – I truly live from hand to mouth, but thou dost furnish me. I had some liberty through the day, but most in the evening. But O my Lord – that it might please thee to give the word entrance and success in the hearts of the sinners. I fear many hear it in vain.
Psalm 119:11 [Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee]
Hymn No. 315
[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]