Thursday, October 21, 2010

In Evil Long I Took Delight

“In Evil Long I Took Delight” by John Newton
In evil long I took delight,
Unawed by shame or fear,
Till a new object struck my sight,
And stopped my wild career.
I saw One hanging on a tree,
In agony and blood,
Who fixed His languid eyes on me,
As near His cross I stood.
Sure, never to my latest breath,
Can I forget that look;
It seemed to charge me with His death,
Though not a word He spoke.
My conscience felt and owned the guilt,
And plunged me in despair,
I saw my sins His blood had spilt,
And helped to nail Him there.
A second look He gave, which said,
“I freely all forgive;
This blood is for thy ransom paid;
I die that thou mayst live.”
Thus, while His death my sin displays
In all its blackest hue,
Such is the mystery of grace,
It seals my pardon too. 
With pleasing grief and mournful joy,
My spirit now is filled;
That I should such a life destroy,
Yet live by him I killed.
This poem is one of Newton’s greatest works, comparable even to “Amazing Grace,” and has meant a lot to me during my time in college. For the sake of analysis, I will divide it into two sections, the first look and the second look. These looks clearly show how the power of the Gospel works in the sinner’s life. 
The first look from Christ on His cross shows that the Gospel produces a shaming conviction of sin. Without the conviction brought about by the work of the Holy Spirit, repentance is impossible. We will never approach the mercy-seat of Christ until we realize the exceeding sinfulness of our own heart. 
This first look also illumines our heart to our role in the necessity of Jesus’s death. For some reason, people tend to ask, “What disciple are you most like?” My usual answer is Peter (a good leader) or John (Jesus’s best friend). But upon further meditation, I realize that I am more like Judas, the betrayer. By my day-to-day decisions, it is as if I betray my Savior, crucify Him afresh, proving my weak faith. I feel as guilty as Judas must have felt because of my lack of faith in the midst of hardship. 
The second look from Christ on His cross produces a true sense of freedom. Though the cross exposes our sin, it introduces God’s grace. It teaches that the result of Christ’s sacrifice is that we can become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and that we can receive an imputed righteousness that is only achieved though an abiding relationship with Jesus Christ. This second look presents the reality of the atonement, as well as the essence of propitiation: that while we were still sinners, Christ died, our condemnation was crucified on the cross that day and is separated from us as far as the east is from the west. 
It’s interesting, the way the Gospel works in the sinner’s life: it tears him apart, breaks him down to nothing, and them begins rebuilding him the correct way, as a new creation. 


  1. Great insight brother, you are always on top of this theological stuff. I like it. I love that poem. It's amazing.

  2. I just found out that there is another stanza. (it should go in between the 4th and 5th stanza)...sorry Mr. Newton

    Alas! I knew not what I did!

    But now my tears are vain:

    Where shall my trembling soul be hid?

    For I the Lord have slain!