Continuing my project of setting John Newton and William Cowper’s Olney Hymns to new music, here is my latest, a hymn which Newton called “That Rock Was Christ”, after 1 Corinthians 10:4. Newton’s words are, as always, beautiful, verging on heartbreaking. I have tried to capture them with my tune. It is perhaps the recording I am the happiest with so far. I hope you enjoy and benefit from it like I have done in recording it. Here are Newton’s words below for you to read as you listen.
That Rock Was Christ - John Newton (Original Music by Matthew Pullar)
When Israel's tribes were parch'd with thirst,
Forth from the rock the waters burst;
And all their future journey through
Yielded them drink, and Gospel too!
In Moses' rod a type they saw
Of his severe and fiery law;
The smitten rock prefigur'd Him
From whose pierc'd side all blessings stream.
Their outward rock could feel no pain,
But ours was wounded, torn and slain;
The rock gave but a wat'ry flood,
But Jesus pour'd forth streams of blood.
The earth is like their wilderness,
A land of drought and sore distress;
Without one stream from pole to pole,
To satisfy a thirsty soul.
But let the Saviour's praise resound;
In him refreshing streams are found,
Which pardon, strength, and comfort give;
And thirsty sinners drink and live.
It shouldn’t be a surprise to any of my regular readers that I love the hymns of John Newton and William Cowper. Some of you will also know that, for the last eighteen or so months I have been working through a number of their hymns, setting them to new tunes of my own. Tonight I finally got around to recording the first of the hymns that I set to music, one which Newton simply entitled “Adam”. It is a powerful retelling of Adam’s fall, told from the perspective of the Gospel. You’ll have to forgive the technical shoddiness of the recording, but I hope that it can help to open new audiences up to the beauty of Newton’s words.
For the past eighteen or so months I’ve been working my way through William Cowper and John Newton’s Olney Hymnbook, setting the less well-known hymns to new tunes. The recordings I have made are not particularly high quality – I don’t have any fancy equipment to record them with. But here is my recording of one of the first ones tunes I wrote – to Cowper’s beautiful “Walking With God”. Here are the lyrics in case my poor diction doesn’t allow you to appreciate the words.
Walking With God – William Cowper
Oh! for a closer walk with God,
A calm and heavenly frame;
A light to shine upon the road
That leads me to the Lamb!
Where is the blessedness I knew
When first I saw the Lord?
Where is the soul-refreshing view
Of Jesus and his word?
What peaceful hours I once enjoyed!
How sweet their memory still!
But they have left an aching void,
The world can never fill.
Return, O holy Dove, return!
Sweet the messenger of rest!
I hate the sins that made thee mourn
And drove thee from my breast.
The dearest idol I have known,
Whate’er that idol be,
Help me to tear it from thy throne,
And worship only thee.
So shall my walk be close with God,
Calm and serene my frame;
So purer light shall mark the road
That leads me to the Lamb.