HYMNS BEFORE ANNUAL SERMONS TO YOUNG PEOPLE, ON NEW-YEARS EVENINGS
[For the New Year 1777: 1/3]
GOD speaking from Mount Zion
The God who once to Israel spoke
From Sinai's top, in fire and smoke,
In gentler strains of gospel grace
Invites us now to seek his face.
He wears no terrors on his brow,
He speaks in love, from Zion now;
It is the voice of Jesus' blood
Calling poor wanderers home to God.
The holy Moses quaked and feared
When Sinai's thund'ring law he heard;
But reigning grace, with accents mild,
Speaks to the sinner as a child.
Hark! how from Calvary it sounds,
From the Redeemer's bleeding wounds!
"Pardon and grace, I freely give,
Poor sinner, look to me, and live."
What other arguments can move
The heart, that slights a Saviour's love!
Yet till almighty power constrain,
This matchless love is preached in vain.
O Saviour, let that power be felt,
And cause each stony heart to melt!
Deeply impress upon our youth
The light and force of gospel truth.
With this new year may they begin
To live to thee, and die to sin;
To enter by the narrow way
Which leads to everlasting day.
How will they else thy presence bear
When as a Judge thou shalt appear!
When slighted love to wrath shall turn,
And the whole earth like Sinai burn!
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
Wednesday 1 January 1777
I entreat thy blessing upon this evening service, and upon my attempt soon to seek it by prayer.
[extract from sermon on New Year’s sermon on 2 Corinthians 5:20, preceded by this hymn]
[2 Corinthians 5:20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.]
On the Lord's part reconciliation is effected. God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself. He was manifest in the flesh. The creator assumed a body of our very flesh and blood – to give strength and dignity to the human nature, which was charged with the sins of all who should believe. By the obedience which Jesus yielded, the law was not only satisfied but magnified and made honourable; by the torments and agonies which he endured, the blood which he shared and the death which he died, Atonement is made for sin. Now his justice is cleared, it is truth vindicated, his displeasure against sin manifested in the strongest light, by the very method he has taken to show himself reconciled to sinners. Now all manner of sin and blasphemy can be, shall be, for given to men, if they humbly and thankfully receive the record he has given of his, and flee for refuge to the hopes set before them. And provision is made of grace to accompany the message to open the eyes and hearts of sinners, that they may not hear in vain.
As though God did beseech you by us. What a wonderful thought. We who had sinned and were exposed to ruin were thoughtless and careless. God who was justly offended, and might have glorified his justice in our destruction, is the first to provide the means of reconciliation, means which only his infinite wisdom could have contrived, only his infinite love could have afforded, and then to beseech us to accept it, following us with his Word, his Ministers, his Spirit, his providence, as if determined to take no denial. Lord what is man that thou shouldst be thus mindful of him. What is man that he should thus obstinately stand out against thy goodness and his own happiness.
While [Christ] was on earth this was his great business to pray and beseech sinners to be reconciled. For this he went from place to place preaching his own Gospel. With what earnestness did he beseech, with what tenderness did he expostulate. How graciously did he receive the vilest. How did he weep over his obstinate enemies, and pray with his dying breath for those who murdered him. Lord Jesus let me feel myself in thy stead tonight, give me a portion of thy love and of the bowels of thy compassions* to souls. Reveal thyself amongst us, and let them hear not my voice but thine, speaking thy groans and agonies to their hearts, that they may fear, believe and love.
[Hymn No. 262]
[On this date Newton preached from the above text at his church, St Peter & St Paul, Olney, during the New Year's evening service, preceded by this hymn]
* 'bowels' in the AV/KJV signified the seat of compassion, translated today as 'the heart' as in 1 John 3:17