This hymn was written by Henry Downton, an Anglican minister who for a time served as English chaplain in Geneva.
We sing it to a version of the tune, GOTT SIE DANK DURCH ALLE WELT, from Freylinghausen’s Geistreiches Gesangbuck, which you can hear by clicking the embedded video beneath the text of the hymn.
The second verse draws on the common thought of a fresh start of a new year, but connects it to Scripture. Philippians 3 tells us to forget those things which are behind and press forward. But the reason we can forget the things behind is not that a new year is started, but the work of our Saviour, the perfect Sacrifice for our sins. When we trust in His cleansing and forgiveness, we truly can then forget and press forward, for God Himself has said He will remember our sins no more.
For Thy mercy and Thy grace,
Faithful through another year,
Hear our song of thankfulness;
Father and Redeemer, hear.
Lo! our sins on Thee we cast,
Thee, our perfect Sacrifice;
And, forgetting all the past,
Press towards our glorious prize.
Dark the future: let Thy light
Guide us, bright and morning Star:
Fierce our foes, and hard the fight;
Arm us, Saviour, for the war.
In our weakness and distress,
Rock of strength, be Thou our Stay;
In the pathless wilderness
Be our true and living Way.
Keep us faithful, keep us pure,
Keep us evermore Thine own;
Help, O help us to endure;
Fit us for the promised crown.
Henry Downton, 1818-1885
Music: Freylinghausen’s Geistreiches Gesangbuck, 1704, alt.