The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

When A Black Overspreading Cloud

Words: John Newton (1725-1807), 1779

Source: John Newton, Olney Hymns. London: W. Oliver, 1779, Book III, Hymn #83.

Meter: 8,6,8,6


1. When a black overspreading cloud
Has dark’ned all the air;
And peals of thunder roaring loud
Proclaim the tempest near.

2. Then guilt and fear, the fruits of sin,
The sinner oft pursue;
A louder storm is heard within,
And conscience thunders too.

3. The law a fiery language speaks,
His danger he perceives;
Like Satan, who his ruin seeks,
He trembles and believes.

4. But when the sky serene appears,
And thunders roll no more;
He soon forgets his vows and fears,
Just as he did before.

5. But whither shall the sinner flee,
When nature’s mighty frame,
The pond’rous earth, and air, and sea,1
Shall all dissolve in flame?

6. Amazing day! it comes apace!
The Judge is hasting down!
Will sinners bear to see his face,
Or stand before his frown?

7. Lord, let thy mercy find a way
To touch each stubborn heart
That they may never hear thee say,
“Ye cursed ones depart.”

8. Believers, you may well rejoice!
The thunders loudest strains
Should be to you a welcome voice,
That tells you, “JESUS REIGNS!”

Note From Newton:

1. 2 Pet 3:10: "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up."  Return


Hymns on this site by John Newton:

For more information, see:

CCEL, The Olney Hymns (

Rodney Canete, “The Olney Hymns by John Newton.” Brown University, 1997. (

Al Rogers, “Amazing Grace: The Story of John Newton” (

The Cyberhymnal, “John Newton” (

All sites accessed February 17, 2007. All links open at an exterior site.

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