Here is another hymn for you to enjoy! Please Check out Etymology of Hymns of Facebook, and feel free to post there what your favorite hymns are!
Title: On What Has Now Been Sow
Tune: Darwall’s 148th
Composer: John Darwall (Baptized 13 January 1731- 18 December 1789)
Author: John Newton (29 July 1725- 21 December 1807)
This beloved hymn written by John Newton is actually a compilation of two separate hymns. The first Stanza is the sixth and final stanza from Newton’s “What Contradictions Meet,” found in Olney Hymns book ii published in 1779 (#26). The final two stanzas are taken from Newton’s “short hymn,” “To Thee Our Wants Are Known,” published in Olney Hymns Book iii (#103, as well as #68 in the Irish Church Hymnal published in 1873). Written by the infamous John Newton, this hymn holds a deep meaning to the man who once was fighting against the Church itself.
John Newton was born in London, England in 1725 as the son of a Shipmaster. While Newton was very young, he and his mother were very close, but unfortunately she died when Newton was only 7 years old. After his mother’s death, Newton was sent to a boarding school where he spent the majority of his time studying Latin. Newton remained at the boarding school until he was 11 years old, when Newton left the school to join his father at sea. Once Newton was at sea, his life began to spiral in the wrong direction. Serving in the British Royal Navy, Newton was charged with deserting the Military when he failed to report back from his time off duty. It was later found that he deserted because he was spending time with the woman who would eventually become his wife, Mary Catlett. After Newton was dishonorably discharged from the British Royal Navy, he was placed on a Slave-Trade ship, where he was known to be one of the crudest sailors on the ship. After studying the works of Shaftesbury as well as the teachings of Newton’s shipmate, Newton was in full disregard of religion.
Eventually Newton’s father grew tired of Newton’s misbehaving, and placed Newton at the mercy of an African slave trader. During this time, Newton spent nearly 15 months working a plantation in Sierra Leone. By Chance, one of Newton’s Father’s ships arrived in Sierra Leone, and picked Newton up to return him to London in 1748. The ship was named “the Greyhound.” While on the journey back to London, the ship had to weather through a severe storm, and was almost lost to the sea. Due to a chance reading of Thomas A. Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ, Newton began to see the ideals of Christianity, especially after crying out for “God to have mercy on our souls” while the ship was in its darkest hours of the storm. Eventually, the ship arrived safely in England, and Newton married Mary Catlett in 1750 and his life began to change. Over a period of 14 years, Newton began listening to the influences of George Whitefield, John and Charles Wesley, and many influential Christians at the time. Eventually Newton began studying Greek, preaching around different townships in England, and eventually became ordained into the Curacy in Olney.
During his time at Olney, Newton was found to have made the most progress in his life. Newton was known for his zeal for preaching, and was moved to write several works, one of which was a collection of hymns, Olney Hymns (1779), written with his close friend William Cowper. In 1780, Newton became the Rector of St. Mary in Woolnoth, London where he would remain for the rest of his life. In 1805, Newton could no longer read his own text, and was politely asked to step down from his position and stop preaching, in which he replied with “What, shall the African blasphemer stop while he can speak!” John Newton died in 1807, and wrote his own Epitaph, which read:
Once an infidel and libertine,
A servant of slaves in Africa,
By the rich mercy
Of our Lord and savior,
Preserved, restored, pardoned,
And appointed to preach the faith
He had long labored to destroy. He ministered
Near 16 years as Curate and Vicar
Of Olney in Bucks
And 28 years as rector
Of these united parishes.
On February the first, 1750, he married
Daughter of the late George Catlett,
Of Chatham, Kent.
Whom he resigned to the Lord who gave her
On December the 15th, 1790. (Westermeyer, P 385-386)
For more information on Newton, see "Amazing Grace"
The tune for “On What Has Now Been Sown,” written by John Darwall (1731-1789) can be found in Psalmody in Miniature, II (London, 1769), and again in A New Universal Psalmist (London, 1770), both published by Aaron Williams. The original use of this tune was used to praise Psalm 148, and thus is sometimes shown without the “148” in the title, leaving it just as “Darwall.” Born in Staffordshire, England, Darwall studied at Manchester Grammar School and Brasenose College in Oxford, earning his BA in 1756. In 1761, Darwall became ordained as an Anglican Priest and became the curate of St. Matthew’s Church in Walshall, Staffordshire in the same year. Several years later, in 1769, Darwall became the Vicar at the same parish, where he would remain until his death. Being a musician, Darwall had composed two full volumes of piano sonatas and hymn tunes with bass for each of the 150 Psalms in Tate and Brady’s New Version published in 1696 (Westermeyer, p 386). In a dedication speech given in 1773, Darwall supported the faster singing of the Psalm tunes, so that the congregation could fit six stanzas in the same time it would usually take to sing four. Darwall’s 148th is the only one of John Darwall’s hymntunes that is still in common use today.
(1) On what has now been sown
Your blessing, Lord, bestow;
The power is yours alone
To make it sprout and grow.
O Lord, in grace the harvest raise,
And yours alone shall be the praise!
(2) To you our wants are known,
From your are all our powers;
Accept what is your own,
And pardon what is ours.
Our praises, Lord, and prayers receive,
And to your Word a blessing give.
(3) Oh, grant that each of us,
Now met before you here,
May meet together thus
When you and yours appear,
And follow you to heaven, our home.
Even so, amen! Lord Jesus, come!
My Take on the Hymn:
This hymn shows the humility that Newton discovered when he found God in his life again. It is important that each and every day we give of ourselves to Christ so that we may live freely in Him. The first stanza comes from Newton’s willingness to give himself over to Christ. The seed has been sown in his heart, and now he is asking Jesus to let that seed grow and become good. If we have had a seed sown in us, it is up to us to ask Christ to help us along the journey, for without Him, the seed will lay dormant and will not grow to its full potential. In the second stanza, Newton asks God to take his life back for God to use him as a tool. We are here on earth for only a short time, so let us give to God what is Gods, and give to the earth what it deserves (Mat 22: 15-22). The third stanza talks about Christ revealing himself to us. When it is time for Christ to appear to us on earth with his host of Angels, the time will come that we shall follow Christ into heaven and take our seat at the banquet with him. Though we cannot wait until that day, we must be patient and not forget to do the work that is called of us while we are here on earth. Each and every day, Christ gives us the opportunity to see new seeds that are sown in our hearts, but it is up to us to decide whether or not we want to take that seed and let it grow in Christ, or let it lay still and hope that we make it on our own. Through Christ, we will not be led astray, but rather we will be led down a road full of Glory in our Heavenly Home!
|If you cannot read music, just start the Youtube video and follow along!|
Westermeyer, Paul. "On What Has Now Been Sown." Hymnal Companion to Evangelical Lutheran Worship. Vol. 1. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2010. 385-86. Print.
Julian, John. "On What Has Now Been Sown." Hymnary.org. Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, n.d. Web. 24 Jan. 2013.
Julian, John. "John Newton." - Hymnary.org. Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, n.d. Web. 24 Jan. 2013.
Julian, John. "DARWALL." Hymnary.org. Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, n.d. Web. 24 Jan. 2013.
"On What Has Now Been Sown." On What Has Now Been Sown. Christian Lyrics, n.d. Web. 24 Jan. 2013.