There are some hymns that disappear because they are simply not very good. There are some hymns that disappear because they are too tied to a particular niche. And there are some hymns that disappear because their language becomes antiquated. I think this hymn/poem by John Newton spans the latter two categories. It is closely tied to New Year’s, so likely to be sung for only one Sunday out of every 52. And then some of the language has become just a little bit old-fashioned.
Still, it is worth dusting off, reading, and pondering as one year fades into another. In it, Newton marks the year that has gone and celebrates the year to come (though possibly not right now)—the year that will prove to be the best of your life.
See! another year is gone!
Quickly have the seasons passed!
This we enter now upon
May to many prove our last.
Mercy hitherto has spared,
But have mercies been improved?
Let us ask, am I prepared
Should I be this year removed?
Some we now no longer see,
Who their mortal race have run;
Seemed as fair for life as we,
When the former year begun;
Some, but who God only knows,
Who are here assembled now,
Ere the present year shall close,
To the stroke of death must bow.
Life a field of battle is,
Thousands fall within our view;
And the next death-bolt that flies,
May be sent to me or you:
While we preach, and while we hear,
Help us, Lord, each one, to think,
Vast eternity is near,
I am standing on the brink.
If from guilt and sin set free,
By the knowledge of Thy grace;
Welcome, then, the call will be
To depart and see Thy face:
To Thy saints, while here below,
With new years, new mercies come;
But the happiest year they know
Is their last, which leads them home.