Scripture Verse

I am of small account. What shall I answer Thee? I will lay my hand upon my mouth. Job 40:4


Horatius Bonar

Words: Ho­ra­ti­us Bo­nar, Hymns of the Na­ti­vi­ty, and Oth­er Piec­es (Lon­don: James Nis­bet, 1879), pag­es 51–53, alt.

Music: Nîmes Tho­mas Camp­bell, 1825. Adapt­ed by Ri­chard W. Ad­ams, 2019 (pub­lic do­main) (🔊 pdf nwc).

Alternate Tune:


I cannot master time and space,
Nor bid impetuous ages stay;
I cannot alter noon and night,
Nor turn the shadows into day.
I may not span unmeasured skies,
Nor grasp the Pleiads in my hand;
The far and near, the great and small
I see, but cannot understand.
I helpless sit, hemmed in by power
And will superior to my own,
Encompassed round by laws unseen,
Controlled by all, controlling none;
Yet I can lean on Him who guides
The sky, and sea, and faithful tides.

I cannot bid the tomb disgorge
The trophies of the tyrant’s power;
I cannot charm the spoiler’s hate,
Nor flush again one pallid flower.
A mortal ’mid the mortal here,
I mourn the silent, sad decay
Of all that makes this world so fair,
But cannot bid one radiance stay.
Fain would I loose the chain of ill
That fetters this sad, tortured earth,
Yet I can but its wrongs and woes
Commit to Him who gave it birth.
And to the Living One I fly
For health and immortality.

The current of one human will
Is far too strong for me to stem;
The rushing flood of a thousand wills,
How can I hope to baffle them?
I cannot alter right and wrong,
Nor change the false into the true;
I cannot judge the Judge of all,
His thoughts, His ways, His words review.
He speaks! I hear! O voice supreme,
Beyond all voices sweet, sublime!
He the eternal, wise and true,
And I bemisted child of time.
To Him in foolishness I come,
Before Him reverent and dumb.

I see the years like billows break
Upon the passive strand of time,
And as they break, sweep off in turn
Man’s works of every age and clime.
Who, what am I amid the wreck
Of all this beauty, love, and power,
O’er which I weep, but whose decay
I cannot hinder for an hour?
The true is never obsolete,
The never old is never stale;
I guard the gold of ancient mines,
And gather gems, though few and pale;
I call them fair—as fair as when
They dropped from God’s bright Heav’n for men.