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 (1808–1889)

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.