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Ebenezer: Two Hymns for the Close of the Year, by John Newton

29 December, 2008

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These two wonderful hymns are from John Newton’s classic Olney Hymns (written in collaboration with William Cowper, 1779), nos. 41 and 42, both themed “Ebenezer” (“Thus far the LORD has helped us”; see 1 Sam 7:12). They are written to be sung at the close of the year:

Hymn 41 (8, 8, 8, 8a)

The LORD, our salvation and light,
The guide and the strength of our days;
Has brought us together, tonight,
A new Ebenezer to raise:
The year, we have now passed through,
His goodness with blessings has crowned;
Each morning his mercies were new,
Then let our thanksgivings abound.

Encompassed with dangers and snares,
Temptations, and fears, and complaints;
His ear he inclined to our prayers,
His hand opened wide to our wants:
We never besought him in vain,
When burdened with sorrow or sin,
He helped us again and again,
Or where, before now, had we been?

His gospel, throughout the long year,
From Sabbath to Sabbath he gave;
How oft has he met with us here,
And shown himself mighty to save?
His candlestick has been removed
From churches once privileged thus;
But, though we unworthy have proved,
It still is continued to us.

For so many mercies received,
Alas! what returns have we made?
His Spirit we often have grieved,
And evil, for good, have repaid:
How well it becomes us to cry,
“O, who is a GOD like to thee?
Who passest iniquities by,
And plungest them deep in the sea!”

To JESUS, who sits on the throne,
Our best hallelujahs we bring;
To thee it is owing alone,
That we are permitted to sing:
Assist us, we pray, to lament
The sins of the year that is past;
And grant that the next may be spent
Far more to thy praise than the last.

Hymn 42 (6, 6, 8, 6)

Let hearts and tongues unite
And loud thanksgivings raise;
‘Tis duty, mingled with delight,
The Savior’s name to praise.

To him we owe our breath,
He took us from the womb,
Which else had shut us up in death,
And proved an early tomb.

When on the breast we hung
Our help was in the Lord;
‘Twas he first taught our infant tongue
To form the lisping word.

When in our blood we lay
He would not let us die,
Because his love had fixed a day
To bring salvation nigh.

In childhood and in youth
His eye was on us still;
Though strangers to his love and truth,
And prone to cross his will.

And since his name we knew,
How gracious has he been!
What dangers has he led us through,
What mercies have we seen!

Now through another year
Supported by his care;
We raise our Ebenezer here,
“The LORD has helped thus far.”

Our lot in future years
Unable to foresee
He, kindly to prevent our fears,
Says, “Leave it all to me.”

Yea, LORD, we wish to cast
Our cares upon thy breast!
Help us to praise thee for the past,
And trust thee for the rest.

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