1725 - 1807 Author of "Day of Judgment! Day of Wonders!" in Psalter Hymnal (Blue) Newton, John, who was born in London, July 24, 1725, and died there Dec. 21, 1807, occupied an unique position among the founders of the Evangelical School, due as much to the romance of his young life and the striking history of his conversion, as to his force of character. His mother, a pious Dissenter, stored his childish mind with Scripture, but died when he was seven years old. At the age of eleven, after two years' schooling, during which he learned the rudiments of Latin, he went to sea with his father. His life at sea teems with wonderful escapes, vivid dreams, and sailor recklessness. He grew into an abandoned and godless sailor. The religious fits of his boyhood changed into settled infidelity, through the study of Shaftesbury and the instruction of one of his comrades. Disappointing repeatedly the plans of his father, he was flogged as a deserter from the navy, and for fifteen months lived, half-starved and ill-treated, in abject degradation under a slave-dealer in Africa. The one restraining influence of his life was his faithful love for his future wife, Mary Catlett, formed when he was seventeen, and she only in her fourteenth year. A chance reading of Thomas à Kempis sowed the seed of his conversion; which quickened under the awful contemplations of a night spent in steering a water-logged vessel in the face of apparent death (1748). He was then twenty-three. The six following years, during which he commanded a slave ship, matured his Christian belief. Nine years more, spent chiefly at Liverpool, in intercourse with Whitefield, Wesley, and Nonconformists, in the study of Hebrew and Greek, in exercises of devotion and occasional preaching among the Dissenters, elapsed before his ordination to the curacy of Olney, Bucks (1764).
The Olney period was the most fruitful of his life. His zeal in pastoral visiting, preaching and prayer-meetings was unwearied. He formed his lifelong friendship with Cowper, and became the spiritual father of Scott the commentator. At Olney his best works—-Omicron's Letters (1774); Olney Hymns (1779); Cardiphonia, written from Olney, though published 1781—were composed. As rector of St. Mary Woolnoth, London, in the centre of the Evangelical movement (1780-1807) his zeal was as ardent as before. In 1805, when no longer able to read his text, his reply when pressed to discontinue preaching, was, "What, shall the old African blasphemer stop while he can speak!" The story of his sins and his conversion, published by himself, and the subject of lifelong allusion, was the base of his influence; but it would have been little but for the vigour of his mind (shown even in Africa by his reading Euclid drawing its figures on the sand), his warm heart, candour, tolerance, and piety. These qualities gained him the friendship of Hannah More, Cecil, Wilberforce, and others; and his renown as a guide in experimental religion made him the centre of a host of inquirers, with whom he maintained patient, loving, and generally judicious correspondence, of which a monument remains in the often beautiful letters of Cardiphonia. As a hymnwriter, Montgomery says that he was distanced by Cowper. But Lord Selborne's contrast of the "manliness" of Newton and the "tenderness" of Cowper is far juster. A comparison of the hymns of both in The Book of Praise will show no great inequality between them. Amid much that is bald, tame, and matter-of-fact, his rich acquaintance with Scripture, knowledge of the heart, directness and force, and a certain sailor imagination, tell strongly. The one splendid hymn of praise, "Glorious things of thee are spoken," in the Olney collection, is his. "One there is above all others" has a depth of realizing love, sustained excellence of expression, and ease of development. "How sweet the name of Jesus sounds" is in Scriptural richness superior, and in structure, cadence, and almost tenderness, equal to Cowper's "Oh! for a closer walk with God." The most characteristic hymns are those which depict in the language of intense humiliation his mourning for the abiding sins of his regenerate life, and the sense of the withdrawal of God's face, coincident with the never-failing conviction of acceptance in The Beloved. The feeling may be seen in the speeches, writings, and diaries of his whole life. [Rev. H. Leigh Bennett, M.A.]
A large number of Newton's hymns have some personal history connected with them, or were associated with circumstances of importance. These are annotated under their respective first lines. Of the rest, the known history of which is confined to the fact that they appeared in the Olney Hymns, 1779, the following are in common use:—
1. Be still, my heart, these anxious cares. Conflict.
2. Begone, unbelief, my Saviour is near. Trust.
3. By the poor widow's oil and meal. Providence.
4. Chief Shepherd of Thy chosen sheep. On behalf of Ministers.
5. Darkness overspreads us here. Hope.
6. Does the Gospel-word proclaim. Rest in Christ.
7. Fix my heart and eyes on Thine. True Happiness.
8. From Egypt lately freed. The Pilgrim's Song.
9. He Who on earth as man was Known. Christ the Rock.
10. How blest are they to whom the Lord. Gospel Privileges.
11. How blest the righteous are. Death of the Righteous.
12. How lost was my [our] condition. Christ the Physician.
13. How tedious and tasteless the hours. Fellowship with Christ.
14. How welcome to the saints [soul] when pressed. Sunday.
15. Hungry, and faint, and poor. Before Sermon.
16. In mercy, not in wrath, rebuke. Pleading for Mercy.
17. In themselves, as weak as worms. Power of Prayer.
18. Incarnate God, the soul that knows. The Believer's Safety.
19. Jesus, Who bought us with His blood. The God of Israel. "Teach us, 0 Lord, aright to plead," is from this hymn.
20. Joy is a [the] fruit that will not grow. Joy.
21. Let hearts and tongues unite. Close of the Year. From this "Now, through another year," is taken.
22. Let us adore the grace that seeks. New Year.
23. Mary to her [the] Saviour's tomb. Easter.
24. Mercy, 0 Thou Son of David. Blind Bartimeus.
25. My harp untun'd and laid aside. Hoping for a Revival. From this "While I to grief my soul gave way" is taken.
26. Nay, I cannot let thee go. Prayer. Sometimes, "Lord, I cannot let Thee go."
27. Now may He Who from the dead. After Sermon.
28. 0 happy they who know the Lord, With whom He deigns to dwell. Gospel Privilege.
29. O Lord, how vile am I. Lent.
30. On man in His own Image made. Adam.
31. 0 speak that gracious word again. Peace through Pardon.
32. Our Lord, Who knows full well. The Importunate Widow. Sometimes altered to "Jesus, Who knows full well," and again, "The Lord, Who truly knows."
33. Physician of my sin-sick soul. Lent.
34. Pleasing spring again is here. Spring.
35. Poor, weak, and worthless, though I am. Jesus the Friend.
36. Prepare a thankful song. Praise to Jesus.
37. Refreshed by the bread and wine. Holy Communion. Sometimes given as "Refreshed by sacred bread and wine."
38. Rejoice, believer, in the Lord. Sometimes “Let us rejoice in Christ the Lord." Perseverance.
39. Salvation, what a glorious plan. Salvation.
40. Saviour, shine and cheer my soul. Trust in Jesus. The cento "Once I thought my mountain strong," is from this hymn.
41. Saviour, visit Thy plantation. Prayer for the Church.
42. See another year [week] is gone. Uncertainty of Life.
43. See the corn again in ear. Harvest.
44. Sinner, art thou still secure? Preparation for the Future.
45. Sinners, hear the [thy] Saviour's call. Invitation.
46. Sovereign grace has power alone. The two Malefactors.
47. Stop, poor sinner, stop and think. Caution and Alarm.
48. Sweeter sounds than music knows. Christmas.
49. Sweet was the time when first I felt. Joy in Believing.
50. Ten thousand talents once I owed. Forgiveness and Peace.
51. The grass and flowers, which clothe the field. Hay-time.
52. The peace which God alone reveals. Close of Service.
53. Thy promise, Lord, and Thy command. Before Sermon.
54. Time, by moments, steals away. The New Year.
55. To Thee our wants are known. Close of Divine Service.
56. We seek a rest beyond the skies. Heaven anticipated.
57. When any turn from Zion's way. Jesus only.
58. When Israel, by divine command. God, the Guide and Sustainer of Life.
59. With Israel's God who can compare? After Sermon.
60. Yes, since God Himself has said it. Confidence.
61. Zion, the city of our God. Journeying Zionward.
-- John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)
Newton, J., p. 803, i. Another hymn in common use from the Olney Hymns, 1779, is "Let me dwell on Golgotha" (Holy Communion).
--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology, Appendix, Part II (1907)
John Newton was born in London, July 24, 1725. His mother died when he was seven years old. In his eleventh year he accompanied his father, a sea captain, on a voyage. For several years his life was one of dissipation and crime. He was disgraced while in the navy. Afterwards he engaged in the slave trade. Returning to England in 1748, the vessel was nearly wrecked in a storm. This peril forced solemn reflection upon him, and from that time he was a changed man. It was six years, however, before he relinquished the slave trade, which was not then regarded as an unlawful occupation. But in 1754, he gave up sea-faring life, and holding some favourable civil position, began also religious work. In 1764, in his thirty-ninth year, he entered upon a regular ministry as the Curate of Olney. In this position he had intimate intercourse with Cowper, and with him produced the "Olney Hymns." In 1779, Newton became Rector of S. Mary Woolnoth, in London, in which position he became more widely known. It was here he died, Dec. 21, 1807, His published works are quite numerous, consisting of sermons, letters, devotional aids, and hymns. He calls his hymns "The fruit and expression of his own experience."
--Annotations of the Hymnal, Charles Hutchins, M.A. 1872
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Hymn Writers of the Church
1707 - 1788 Person Name: Charles Wesley, 1707-1788 Author of "And Must I Be to Judgment Brought" in The Mennonite Hymnary, published by the Board of Publication of the General Conference of the Mennonite Church of North America Charles Wesley, M.A. was the great hymn-writer of the Wesley family, perhaps, taking quantity and quality into consideration, the great hymn-writer of all ages. Charles Wesley was the youngest son and 18th child of Samuel and Susanna Wesley, and was born at Epworth Rectory, Dec. 18, 1707. In 1716 he went to Westminster School, being provided with a home and board by his elder brother Samuel, then usher at the school, until 1721, when he was elected King's Scholar, and as such received his board and education free. In 1726 Charles Wesley was elected to a Westminster studentship at Christ Church, Oxford, where he took his degree in 1729, and became a college tutor. In the early part of the same year his religious impressions were much deepened, and he became one of the first band of "Oxford Methodists."
In 1735 he went with his brother John to Georgia, as secretary to General Oglethorpe, having before he set out received Deacon's and Priest's Orders on two successive Sundays. His stay in Georgia was very short; he returned to England in 1736, and in 1737 came under the influence of Count Zinzendorf and the Moravians, especially of that remarkable man who had so large a share in moulding John Wesley's career, Peter Bonier, and also of a Mr. Bray, a brazier in Little Britain. On Whitsunday, 1737, he "found rest to his soul," and in 1738 he became curate to his friend, Mr. Stonehouse, Vicar of Islington, but the opposition of the churchwardens was so great that the Vicar consented that he "should preach in his church no more." Henceforth his work was identified with that of his brother John, and he became an indefatigable itinerant and field preacher. On April 8, 1749, he married Miss Sarah Gwynne. His marriage, unlike that of his brother John, was a most happy one; his wife was accustomed to accompany him on his evangelistic journeys, which were as frequent as ever until the year 1756," when he ceased to itinerate, and mainly devoted himself to the care of the Societies in London and Bristol. Bristol was his headquarters until 1771, when he removed with his family to London, and, besides attending to the Societies, devoted himself much, as he had done in his youth, to the spiritual care of prisoners in Newgate. He had long been troubled about the relations of Methodism to the Church of England, and strongly disapproved of his brother John's "ordinations." Wesley-like, he expressed his disapproval in the most outspoken fashion, but, as in the case of Samuel at an earlier period, the differences between the brothers never led to a breach of friendship. He died in London, March 29, 1788, and was buried in Marylebone churchyard. His brother John was deeply grieved because he would not consent to be interred in the burial-ground of the City Road Chapel, where he had prepared a grave for himself, but Charles said, "I have lived, and I die, in the Communion of the Church of England, and I will be buried in the yard of my parish church." Eight clergymen of the Church of England bore his pall. He had a large family, four of whom survived him; three sons, who all became distinguished in the musical world, and one daughter, who inherited some of her father's poetical genius. The widow and orphans were treated with the greatest kindness and generosity by John Wesley.
As a hymn-writer Charles Wesley was unique. He is said to have written no less than 6500 hymns, and though, of course, in so vast a number some are of unequal merit, it is perfectly marvellous how many there are which rise to the highest degree of excellence. His feelings on every occasion of importance, whether private or public, found their best expression in a hymn. His own conversion, his own marriage, the earthquake panic, the rumours of an invasion from France, the defeat of Prince Charles Edward at Culloden, the Gordon riots, every Festival of the Christian Church, every doctrine of the Christian Faith, striking scenes in Scripture history, striking scenes which came within his own view, the deaths of friends as they passed away, one by one, before him, all furnished occasions for the exercise of his divine gift. Nor must we forget his hymns for little children, a branch of sacred poetry in which the mantle of Dr. Watts seems to have fallen upon him. It would be simply impossible within our space to enumerate even those of the hymns which have become really classical. The saying that a really good hymn is as rare an appearance as that of a comet is falsified by the work of Charles Wesley; for hymns, which are really good in every respect, flowed from his pen in quick succession, and death alone stopped the course of the perennial stream.
It has been the common practice, however for a hundred years or more to ascribe all translations from the German to John Wesley, as he only of the two brothers knew that language; and to assign to Charles Wesley all the original hymns except such as are traceable to John Wesley through his Journals and other works.
The list of 482 original hymns by John and Charles Wesley listed in this Dictionary of Hymnology have formed an important part of Methodist hymnody and show the enormous influence of the Wesleys on the English hymnody of the nineteenth century.
-- Excerpts from John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)
Charles Wesley, the son of Samuel Wesley, was born at Epworth, Dec. 18, 1707. He was educated at Westminster School and afterwards at Christ Church, Oxford, where he graduated M.A. In 1735, he took Orders and immediately proceeded with his brother John to Georgia, both being employed as missionaries of the S.P.G. He returned to England in 1736. For many years he engaged with his brother in preaching the Gospel. He died March 29, 1788. To Charles Wesley has been justly assigned the appellation of the "Bard of Methodism." His prominence in hymn writing may be judged from the fact that in the "Wesleyan Hymn Book," 623 of the 770 hymns were written by him; and he published more than thirty poetical works, written either by himself alone, or in conjunction with his brother. The number of his separate hymns is at least five thousand.
--Annotations of the Hymnal, Charles Hutchins, M.A., 1872.