John Newton's Letters
The heavenly gardener
July 22, 1777.
My dear Sir,
The complaints you make of what passes within, encourage me under what I
feel myself. Indeed, if those, who, I have reason to believe, are more
spiritual and humble than I am, did not give some testimony that they find
their hearts made of the same materials as mine is, I should be sometimes
hard put to it to believe that I have any part or lot in the matter, or any
real knowledge of the life of faith! But this concurrent testimony of many
witnesses, confirms me, in what I think the Scripture plainly teaches—that
the soil of human nature, though many spots are certainly better
weeded, planted, and fertilized than others—is everywhere the
same—universally bad! The heart is so bad, that it cannot be worse—and of
itself is only capable of producing noxious weeds, and nourishing venomous
We know that culture, skill, and expense will make a
garden—where all was desert before. When Jesus, the heavenly gardener,
encloses a soil, and separates it from the wasteland of the world, to make
it a residence for Himself—a change presently takes place; it is planted and
watered from above, and visited with beams infinitely more nourishing and
fertilizing than those of the material sun.
But its natural propensity to bring forth weeds still
continues, and one half of God's dealings with us, may be compared to a
company of weeders, whom He sends forth into His garden—to pluck up all
which He has not planted with His own hand; and which, if left to grow,
would quickly overpower and over top the rest!
But, alas! the ground is so impregnated with evil seeds,
and they shoot in such quick succession, that if this weeding work were not
constantly repeated, all former labor would be lost! Hence arises the
necessity of daily crosses and disappointments, and such multiplied
convictions that we are nothing, and can do nothing, of ourselves! All these
trials are needful, and barely sufficient, to prevent our hearts from being
overrun with pride, lust, worldliness and self-dependence.