The Tolling Bell

Representative Text

1 Oft as the bell, with solemn toll,
Speaks the departure of a soul,
Let each one ask himself, "Am I
Prepared, should I be called to die?"

2 Only this frail and fleeting breath
Preserves me with the jaws of death;
Soon as it fails, at once I'm gone,
And plunged into a world unknown.

3 Then, leaving all I loved below,
To God's tribunal I must go;
Must hear the Judge pronounce my fate,
And fix my everlasting state.

4 Lord Jesus! help me now to flee,
And seek my hope alone in Thee;
Apply Thy blood, Thy Spirit give,
Subdue my sin, and let me live.

5 Then, when the solemn bell I hear,
If saved from guilt, I need not fear;
Now would the thought alarming be,
Perhaps it next may toll for me.

Source: The Book of Worship #418

Author: John Newton

John Newton (b. London, England, 1725; d. London, 1807) was born into a Christian home, but his godly mother died when he was seven, and he joined his father at sea when he was eleven. His licentious and tumul¬≠tuous sailing life included a flogging for attempted desertion from the Royal Navy and captivity by a slave trader in West Africa. After his escape he himself became the captain of a slave ship. Several factors contributed to Newton's conversion: a near-drowning in 1748, the piety of his friend Mary Catlett, (whom he married in 1750), and his reading of Thomas √† Kempis' Imitation of Christ. In 1754 he gave up the slave trade and, in association with William Wilberforce, eventually became an ardent abolitionist. After becoming a tide… Go to person page >

Text Information

First Line: Oft as the bell, with solemn toll
Title: The Tolling Bell
Author: John Newton
Language: English
Copyright: Public Domain


Oft as the bell with solemn toll. J. Newton. [Death and Burial.] First published in his Twenty Six Letters on Religious Subjects by Omicron. 1774, in 7 stanzas of 4 lines, and entitled "The Passing Bell." It was repeated in the same year in R. Conyers's Collection of Psalms & Hymns, No. 364, and again in the Olney Hymns, 1779, Book ii., No. 74. It is found in its full, or in an abridged form, in a few modern collections. In R. Bingham's Hymnologia Christiana Latina, 1871, stanzas i., iii., v., vi. are rendered into Latin as "Ah! quoties animam solito campana sonore."

--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)


[So wie ich bin, ohn alle Zier] (Whitaker)


Composed by George J. Elvey (PHH 48) in 1862 for 'Just as I Am, without One Plea" (263), ST. CRISPIN was first published in the 1863 edition of Edward Thorne's Selection of Psalm and Hymn Tunes. The tune title honors a third-century Roman martyr, Crispin, who, along with Crispinian, preached in Gaul…

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