Totally where I am at today. Found the hymn by a “providential-accident” (that is an intentional oxymoron). I haven’t heard this hymn for a while, but I needed to hear it today. I needed to be reminded that coming to grips with the wickedness and treachery of my own heart (at deeper and deeper levels) is a necessary prerequisite to true holiness. I also needed to be reminded that when I do become painfully aware of my sin- it is a blessed gift of grace that shouldn’t cause me to despair of any hope for true holiness. But, instead, that awareness is intended by God to drive me to Him, and seek Him for more of the gracious blood-bought sanctifying work of the Lord in my life.
If you are feeling the “hidden evils of thine heart” or as though the Lord has allowed “the angry pow’rs of hell” to “assault thine soul in every part,” then perhaps this hymn is totally where your at too.
John Newton wrote this hymn. The following paragraph gives the nut-shell testimony of his conversion experience. You can read the entire biographical sketch by following the link at the bottom of this post. I have also included the words to the hymn on the bottom of the page.
Newton, John, who was born in London, July 24, 1725, and died there Dec. 21, 1807, occupied an unique position among the founders of the Evangelical School, due as much to the romance of his young life and the striking history of his conversion, as to his force of character. His mother, a pious Dissenter, stored his childish mind with Scripture, but died when he was seven years old. At the age of eleven, after two years’ schooling, during which he learned the rudiments of Latin, he went to sea with his father. His life at sea teems with wonderful escapes, vivid dreams, and sailor recklessness. He grew into an abandoned and godless sailor. The religious fits of his boyhood changed into settled infidelity, through the study of Shaftesbury and the instruction of one of his comrades. Disappointing repeatedly the plans of his father, he was flogged as a deserter from the navy, and for fifteen months lived, half-starved and ill-treated, in abject degradation under a slave-dealer in Africa. The one restraining influence of his life was his faithful love for his future wife, Mary Catlett, formed when he was seventeen, and she only in her fourteenth year. A chance reading of Thomas à Kempis sowed the seed of his conversion; which quickened under the awful contemplations of a night spent in steering a water-logged vessel in the face of apparent death (1748). He was then twenty-three. The six following years, during which he commanded a slave ship, matured his Christian belief. Nine years more, spent chiefly at Liverpool, in intercourse with Whitefield, Wesley, and Nonconformists, in the study of Hebrew and Greek, in exercises of devotion and occasional preaching among the Dissenters, elapsed before his ordination to the curacy of Olney, Bucks (1764).
Link to Hymnary.org: http://www.hymnary.org/person/Newton_John.
I Asked the Lord (Words taken from Cyberhymnal.org)
“I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek, more earnestly, His face.
’Twas He who taught me thus to pray,
And He, I trust, has answered prayer!
But it has been in such a way,
As almost drove me to despair.
I hoped that in some favored hour,
At once He’d answer my request;
And by His love’s constraining pow’r,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.
Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry pow’rs of hell
Assault my soul in every part.
Yea more, with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.
Lord, why is this, I trembling cried,
Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?
“’Tis in this way, the Lord replied,
I answer prayer for grace and faith.
These inward trials I employ,
From self, and pride, to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st find thy all in Me.”
Link to CyberHymnal.org: http://cyberhymnal.org/htm/i/a/iaskedtl.htm