Posts Tagged ‘John Newton’

Begone Unbelief – Lori Sealy

Here is a great song to sing or listen to in the midst of trials or at any time for that matter. It’s a slightly modified version of a hymn originally written by John Newton. Below are the original words.

Begone, unbelief,
My Savior is near,
And for my relief
Will surely appear;
By prayer let me wrestle,
And He will perform;
With Christ in the vessel,
I smile at the storm.

Though dark be my way,
Since He is my Guide,
‘Tis mine to obey,
‘Tis His to provide;
Though cisterns be broken,
And creatures all fail,
The word He hath spoken
Shall surely prevail.

His love, in time past,
Forbids me to think
He’ll leave me at last
In trouble to sink:
Each sweet Ebenezer
I have in review
Confirms His good pleasure
To help me quite through.

Why should I complain
Of want or distress,
Temptation or pain?
He told me no less;
The heirs of salvation,
I know from His Word,
Through much tribulation
Must follow their Lord.

How bitter that cup
No heart can conceive,
Which He drank quite up,
That sinners might live!
His way was much rougher
And darker than mine;
Did Christ, my Lord, suffer,
And shall I repine?

Since all that I meet
Shall work for my good,
The bitter is sweet,
The medicine, food;
Though painful at present,
‘Twill cease before long,
And then, oh, how pleasant
The conqueror’s song!


Songs for those that don’t feel like singing

On a few occasions when I’ve felt too sick to  read or listen to a sermon or even just watch T.V. to pass the time one of the things that has helped me most is Christian songs.   These songs help me not because I necessarily feel like ‘praising’ God at such times but because they seem to speak to me when nothing else does.   They teach me from God’s word when a sermon can’t. When I’m too tired and too discouraged to hear God’s word, for some reason I can hear it through song.  It’s interesting that many of the psalms in the Old Testament are written in the context of suffering.  Such songs remind us of fundamental truths about God and his salvation.   They also  help us pray when we don’t know what or how to pray.

I also find that the songs that help me most aren’t always the ones that are most typically sung in church.   I suspect there is a tendency to  think of singing in terms of praise (which it is) but then praise is defined quite narrowly as songs which speak specifically about praise and worship.  However in scripture we praise God when we recount biblical history (a description of what he has done e.g. Ps 105).  We praise him when we teach the scriptures.  We praise him when we confess our sin (Josh 7:19).  We praise God by describing our plight and the need for his grace.

When I’m in the pit, I don’t find it easy to sing songs of  ‘praise’ in the narrow sense but I can sing psalms about suffering, songs which point me to the sufferings and love of Christ and more generally songs that  teach me fundamental truths from Scripture that I need to learn or remember.

Perhaps part of the problem lies also in a tendency to see singing in the Christian life as something that is primarily meant for the church service and so songs are written more with a view to performance than to teaching.    It seems however in the New Testament that singing was much more personal and instructional than it often is today.   It’s purpose  according to Paul in Colossians is to ‘teach and admonish one another.’  That can happen anywhere.   The songs we learn in church need to be the kind of songs that will help a person in prison, or hospital or stuck at home with a chronic illness.  Then having learnt such songs we need to take them into our homes, schools, prisons etc.  Rightly used it is a wonderful means by which God makes his word to dwell richly in our hearts.

When John Newton and William Cowper met each week  a few centuries ago to write hymns, their goal was primarily the instruction of God’s people by putting a message based on a text of scripture into poetic form.  Here is an example of one written by John Newton.   It is simply a summary and application of Hebrews 12:

Afflictions do not come alone,
A voice attends the rod;
By both He to His saints is known,
A Father and a God!

Let not My children slight the stroke
I for chastisement send;
Nor faint beneath My kind rebuke,
For still I am their Friend.

The wicked I perhaps may leave
Awhile, and not reprove;
But all the children I receive
I scourge, because I love.

If therefore you were left without
This needful discipline;
You might, with cause, admit a doubt,
If you, indeed, were Mine.

Shall earthly parents then expect
Their children to submit?
And wilt not you, when I correct,
Be humbled at My feet?

To please themselves they oft chastise,
And put their sons to pain;
But you are precious in My eyes,
And shall not smart in vain.

I see your hearts, at present, filled
With grief, and deep distress;
But soon these bitter seeds shall yield
The fruits of righteousness.

Break through the clouds, dear Lord, and shine!
Let us perceive Thee nigh!
And to each mourning child of Thine
These gracious words apply.

We need people writing and teaching songs and hymns like this today.   A diet of  very narrowly defined ‘praise’ songs where the main refrain is something like ‘I will always worship you’ etc. will not give us the spiritual meat that we desperately need – especially when things are hard.  This is not a call to sing only hymns, or only music that is at least one hundred years old.  It’s a call to sing old and new songs that will do what our souls need them to do – feed us on the pure milk of the word so that we may grow.