My God! how perfect are thy ways!
But mine polluted are;
Sin twines itself about my praise,
And slides into my prayer.
When I would speak what thou hast done
To save me from my sin;
I cannot make thy mercies known
But self–applause creeps in.
Divine desire, that holy flame
Thy grace creates in me;
Alas! impatience is its name,
When it returns to thee.
This heart, a fountain of vile thoughts,
How does it overflow?
While self upon the surface floats
Still bubbling from below.
Let others in the gaudy dress
Of fancied merit shine;
The LORD shall be my righteousness
The LORD for ever mine.
Olney Hymns, Hymn 67, from Jeremiah 23:6
This is a great hymn (poem) from Newton. The reason that Newton trust so deeply in “the Lord my righteousness” is because he has experienced so deeply his depravity.
In that third stanza Newton is saying that God gives him a holy desire, but when Newton gets his hands on the thing it quickly turns into impatience. Pastors especially should take this stanza to heart. It is a holy desire to see our churches become enamored with Christ. But so often this holy desire turns into impatience when people do not “get it” as quickly as we wished. At the end of the day our only hope is in the Lord’s righteousness given to us.
What a wonderfully horrendous picture is painted in the fifth stanza: “the gaudy dress of fancied merit”. How often do we try to paint ourselves in such a wonderful light when in reality we have self “still bubbling from below”. Newton would rather be stripped bare and only have the Lord’s righteousness.
Let us today cast off this “gaudy dress of fancied merit” and trust in the Lord alone.