Academic journal article The Hymn

New Insights into Olney Hymns

Academic journal article The Hymn

New Insights into Olney Hymns

Article excerpt

Some fascinating insights into Olney Hymns (1779) have recently come to light from John Newton's unpublished diary, revealing what he was doing and thinking when he wrote many of his hymns. The John Newton Project is matching his hymns to dated diary extracts on its website www.johnnewton.org.

Bishop Timothy Dudley Smith writes: "This painstaking compilation allows us to see some of the Olney Hymns set alongside Newton's private journal, sometimes for the very day he wrote them. It offers us new insights into the inspiration of his hymn writing. Topical references-personal or national-are transmitted into timeless prayer and biblical principles. The glory of 'amazing grace' shines the brighter for this juxtaposition of journal and hymns."

Examples include "When Hannah pressed with grief", surely written for Newton's wife as her elderly father lay dying in their home in Olney. Newton wrote: "This morning at five Mr. Catlett received his dismission from this state of sin and sorrow, and I trust, my Lord, he is now with thee. The news breaking upon my Dear when she awoke . . . had a painful effect." Newton began the following day, Sunday 3 August 1777, "with a heavy heart, for my Dear, whose head was quite ill yesterday, had almost a sleepless night. …

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