Grace Gems for JUNE 2009

You would pity me indeed!

(Letters of John Newton)

Dear friend,
Wickedness prevails and increases in our city to a dreadful degree!
Our streets are filled with the sons of Belial, who neither fear God, nor regard man. I wish my heart was more affected with what my eyes see and my ears hear every day! I am often ready to fear lest the Lord should show His displeasure in some dreadful way!

And surely, if He were strict to mark all that is amiss—I myself would tremble! Oh, were He to plead against me—I could not answer Him one word! Alas! my dear friend, you know not what a poor, unprofitable, unfaithful creature I am! If you knew the evils which I feel within, and the snares and difficulties which beset me from without—you would pity me indeed!

So much forgiven—yet so little love to Jesus.

So many mercies—yet so few returns.

Such great privileges—yet a life so sadly below them.

Indwelling sin presses me downwards; when I would do good, evil is present with me! I can attempt nothing—but it is debased, polluted and spoiled by my depraved nature! My sins of omission are innumerable. In a word, there is . . .
  much darkness in my understanding,
  much perverseness in my will,
  much disorder in my affections,
  much folly and madness in my imagination!

In short, I am a riddle to myself—a heap of inconsistency!

Alas! when shall it be otherwise? I have a desire of walking with God—but I cannot attain unto it. Surely it is far better to depart, and to be with Jesus Christ—than to live here up to the ears in sin and temptation!

But, "We have an Advocate with the Father." Here my hope revives! Though wretched in myself—I am complete in Him! He is my wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption. On this "Rock" I build—for time and eternity!

~  ~  ~  ~

'Tis a point I long to know

(John Newton)

'Tis a point I long to know,
Oft it causes anxious thought;
Do I love the Lord or no?
Am I His—or am I not?

If I love—why am I thus?
Why this dull and lifeless frame?
Hardly, sure, can they be worse,
Who have never heard His name!

Could my heart so hard remain,
Prayer a task and burden prove,
Every trifle give me pain,
If I knew a Savior's love?

When I turn my eyes within,
All is dark, and vain, and wild;
Filled with unbelief and sin,
Can I deem myself a child?

If I pray, or hear, or read,
Sin is mixed with all I do!
You who love the Lord indeed,
Tell me—Is it thus with you?

Yet I mourn my stubborn will,
Find my sin a grief and thrall;
Should I grieve for what I feel,
If I did not love at all?

Could I joy His saints to meet,
Choose the ways I once abhorred,
Find, at times, the promise sweet,
If I did not love the Lord?

Lord, decide the doubtful case!
You who are Your people's sun,
Shine upon Your work of grace,
If it is indeed begun.

Let me love You more and more,
If I love at all, I pray;
If I have not loved before,
Help me to begin today!

~  ~  ~  ~

Every man's shoes should be exactly of one size!

(Letters of John Newton)

The church of Christ is composed of all who are savingly united to Him
by genuine faith. They are infallibly known only to Himself. They are scattered far and wide, separated from each other by seas and mountains; they are a people of many nations and languages. But, wherever their lot is cast, they hear His voice, and are under His gracious eye. They do not have equal degrees of spiritual light, or measures of grace—but they are all 'accepted in the Beloved'. They are all spiritual worshipers, and joint partakers of grace—and all will hereafter appear together at their Savior's right hand in glory! In whatever is essential to their salvation, they are all led by the same Spirit, and mind the same things.

But at present they are in an imperfect state. Though they are new creations—they are not freed from the 'principle of indwelling sin'. Their knowledge is clouded by much remaining ignorance; and their zeal, though right in its aim, is often warped and misguided by the corrupt influence of SELF. They still have many corruptions. They live in a world which furnishes frequent occasions of enticing them. And Satan, their subtle and powerful enemy, is always upon his watch to mislead and ensnare them!

Besides all this—they are born, educated, and effectually called, under a great variety of circumstances. Habits of life, local customs, early relationships with families and friends, and even bodily constitution, have more or less influence in forming their characters, and in giving a bias and turn to their manner of thinking; so that, in  matters of a secondary nature—their sentiments may, and often do—differ as much as the features of their faces! A uniformity of judgment among them on these secondary matters, is not to be expected, while the wisest are defective in knowledge, the holiest are defiled with sin, and while the weaknesses of human nature, which are common to them all—are so differently affected by a thousand impressions which arise from their various situations.

They might, however, maintain a unity of spirit, and live in the exercise of mutual love, were it not that almost every individual unhappily conceives that they are bound in conscience, to prescribe their own line of conduct—as a standard to which all their brethren ought to conform! They are but few, who consider this "narrow mind-set" to be as unnecessary, unreasonable, and impracticable, as it would be to insist, or expect, that every man's shoes should be exactly of one size!

Thus, though all agree in asserting the authority and right of the Lord Jesus, as King and Head of His church—yet the various ideas they frame of the rule or standard to which He requires them to conform, and their pertinacious attachment to their own conceptions of it—separate them almost as much from each other, as if they were not united to Him by a principle of living faith! Their petty differences form them into so many separate churches; and the fury with which they defend their own ideas, and oppose all who cannot agree with them in every minute point, makes them forget that they are children in the same family, and servants of the same Master! And, while they vex and worry each other with disputations and censures—the world is bewildered by all this, and laughs at them all! The spirit of love is restrained, offences are multiplied, and Satan is gratified by beholding the extensive effects of his pernicious and long-practiced maxim,
Divide and conquer!

"Accept one another, therefore, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God." Romans 15:7

~  ~  ~  ~

The most generally prevailing and ensnaring sin

(Letters of John Newton)

"For of this you can be sure: that no sexually immoral or impure nor covetousness person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of God." Ephesians 5:5

What is covetousness?

Covetousness is a sin from which few people are entirely free. It is eminently a deceitful sin! It is decried and condemned in others—by multitudes who live in the habit of it themselves! It is very difficult to fix a conviction of this sin—upon those who are guilty of it!

Whether drunkards or profligates regard the warnings of the preacher or not, when he declares that those who persist in those evil practices, shall not inherit the kingdom of God—they at least know their own characters, and are sensible that they are the people intended.

But if the preacher adds, "nor the covetousness person—such a man is an idolater" —the covetous man usually sits unmoved, and is more ready to apply the threatening to his neighbor—than to himself! If he now and then gives a few dollars to some charity—he does not suspect that he is liable to the charge of covetousness!

I consider covetousness as the most generally prevailing and ensnaring sin, by which professors of the gospel, in our materialistic society, are hindered in their spiritual progress. A disposition deeply rooted in our fallen nature, strengthened by the custom of all around us, the power of habit, and the fascinating charm of wealth—is not easily counteracted.

If we are, indeed, genuine believers in Christ—we are bound by obligation, and required by our Scriptural rule—to set our affections on the things that are above, not on the things that are on the earth. Christ has called us out of the world, and cautioned us against conformity to its spirit. While we are in the world—it is our duty, privilege, and honor—to manifest that grace which has delivered us from the love of the world. Christians must indeed eat and drink, and may buy and sell, as other people do. But the principles, motives, and ends of their conduct, are entirely different—they are to adorn the doctrine of God their Savior, and to do all for His glory!

The Christian knows that it is not necessary to be rich, or to be admired or envied by the vain unthinking world—and that it is absolutely necessary for him to maintain peace of conscience, and communion with God. In these respects, all God's people, however differently situated—are exactly upon a par.

But, alas! how many who profess to know and value the gospel—are far otherwise minded! The chief mark of their profession, is their attendance on Sunday services! At other times, and in other respects—they are not easily distinguished from the ungodly world! Their houses, furniture, tables, and other belongings; and the manner in which they seek worldly things—sufficiently proves them to be covetous! Their love of money, and the desire of more—are always in exercise. They attempt to look two ways at once—and to reconcile the incompatible claims of God—and mammon! They rise early, go to bed late, and eat the bread of worry—that they may be able to vie with the world in their possessions; and to lay up snares, and thorns, and encumbrances for their children!

Often, they already have a lawful employment, which affords a competence for a comfortable support. But if opportunity offers, they eagerly catch at some other prospect of gain, though they thereby double their anxieties, and encroach still more upon that time (too little before) which they should allot to the concerns of their souls!

Such opportunities they call providential openings, and perhaps say they are thankful for them; not considering that such openings of Providence are frequently temptations or tests, which the Lord permits a man to meet with—to prove what is in his heart, and to try him, whether his affections are indeed set on the things above—or still cleave to the earth!

For those who, as the apostle expresses it, "long to be rich," who will strain every nerve to be found in the list of the wealthy—may, and often do, obtain the poor reward they seek. As in the case of Israel, when, not satisfied with bread from heaven, they clamored for meat. God gives them their desire—but with it, sends leanness into their souls. They expose themselves to temptations and snares, to foolish passions and pursuits; and thus too many, who promised fair at the first setting out, are drowned in destruction and perdition! For it is written in the Scripture, "For of this you can be sure: that no covetousness person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of God." Ephesians 5:5 And the Scriptures cannot be broken!

"For the love of money is the root of all evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows!" 1 Timothy 6:10. Who can enumerate the many sorrows with which the covetous and worldly-minded professor is pierced! Sooner or later, his schemes are broken; losses and crosses, disappointments and and anxieties, wear down his spirit. Improper connections, which he formed, because he longed to be rich, become thorns in his sides and in his eyes! He trusted in men—and men deceive him! He leaned upon a weak reed—which breaks, and he falls! Thus he finds that the way of transgressors and backsliders is hard!

If therefore, my dear reader, you wish to avoid trouble, and to pass through life as smoothly as possible, take heed and beware of covetousness!

~  ~  ~  ~

Thank Him for His prescription!

(Letters of John Newton)

Trials are medicines which our gracious and wise Physician prescribes, because we need them. He proportions the frequency and weight of them—to what our case requires. Let us trust in His skill—and thank Him for His prescription!

~  ~  ~  ~

True patriotism!

(Letters of John Newton)

Dear friend,
Allow me to say, that it excites both my wonder and concern, that a Christian minister such as yourself, should think it worth his while to attempt political reforms. When I look around upon the present state of the nation, such an attempt appears to me, to be no less vain and foolish, than it would be to paint the cabin—while the ship is sinking! Or to decorate the parlor—while the house is on fire!

When our Lord Jesus was upon earth, He refused to get involved in disputes or politics, "Friend, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?" Luke 12:14. "My kingdom is not of this world! If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight!" John 18:36. God's children belong to a kingdom which is not of this world; they are strangers and pilgrims upon earth, and a part of their Scriptural character is, that they are the "quiet in the land." Psalm 35:19.

Satan has many contrivances to amuse people, and to divert their thoughts from their real danger!

My dear sir, my prayer to God for you is—that He may induce you to employ the talents He has given you, in pointing out sin as the great cause and source of every existing evil; and to engage those who love and fear Him, (instead of wasting time in political speculations, for which very few of them are competent,) to sigh and cry for our abounding abominations, and to stand in the breach, by prayer, that God's wrath may yet be averted, and our national mercies prolonged! This, I think, is true patriotism—the best way in which people in private life may serve their country.

I consider the ungodly as saws and hammers in the hand of the Lord. So far as they are His instruments, they will succeed—but not an inch further! Their wrath shall praise Him, and be subservient to His designs!

If our lot is so cast that we can exercise our ministry free from stripes, fines, imprisonments, and death—it is more than the gospel has promised to us! If Christians were quiet when under the cruel governments of Nero and other wicked persecutors, when they were hunted down like wild beasts—then we ought to be not only quiet but very thankful now! It was then accounted an honor to suffer for Christ and the 'offence of the cross'!

Those are to be greatly pitied, who boast of their 'liberty'—and yet they do not consider that they are in the most deplorable bondage as the slaves of sin and Satan, under the curse of God's law and His eternal wrath! Oh! for a voice to reach their hearts, that they may know their true and dreadful state—and seek deliverance from their horrific thraldom! May you and I labor to direct them to the one thing, which is absolutely needful, and abundantly sufficient.

If I had the wisdom or influence to soothe the angry passions of mankind—I would gladly employ them! But I am a stranger and a pilgrim here in this world. My charter, my rights and my treasures, are all in heaven—and there my heart ought to be. In a very short time, I may be removed (and perhaps suddenly) into the unseen and eternal world—where all that now causes so much bustle upon earth—will be of no more importance to me—than the events which took place among the antediluvians!

In the hour, when death shall open the door into eternity—many things which now assume an 'air of importance', will be found as light and unsubstantial as a child's dream!

How crucial then, is it for me—to be found watching, with my lamp burning, diligently engaged in my proper calling! For the Lord has not called me to set governments right—but to preach the gospel, to proclaim the glory of His name, and to endeavor to win souls! "Let the dead bury their own dead—but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God!" Luke 9:60. Happy is that servant, whom his Master finds so doing, when He returns!

As you have forced me to respond—both duty and love have obliged me to be faithful and free in giving you my thoughts.

I recommend you to the care and blessing of the great Shepherd and Savior; and remain for His sake, your affectionate friend and brother,
John Newton

~  ~  ~  ~

Perhaps, while we are admiring our gourd

(Letters of John Newton)

We are in the Lord's school—the school of the cross. His daily providential dispensations are suited to wean our attachment from everything here on earth—and to convince us that this world cannot be our rest, for it is polluted. Our roses grow on thorns; our honey brings a sting. Frequently our sharpest trials—spring from our choicest comforts. Perhaps, while we are admiring our gourd—a worm is secretly preying upon its root! As every bitter thing is sweetened to a believer—so there is some bitterness mingled with every sweet thing. This is wisely and mercifully ordered by our heavenly Father. It is necessary. With such hearts an we have, and in such a world as we live in—much discipline is needful to keep us from sleeping upon the enchanted ground.

But the time is short. It will not always be thus. We shall soon be out of the reach of sin and temptation. Happy hour, when troubles and sorrows, hitherto our inseparable companions, shall flee away, to return no more! When Jesus, with joy and gladness shall come forth to meet us, and conduct us to our eternal home! Then we shall drink of the rivers of pleasure that are at His right hand—and our happiness shall be unspeakable, uninterrupted, without abatement, and without end!

~  ~  ~  ~

The poor worm is secretly indulging self-applause!

(Letters of John Newton)

Among the many general causes of decline in grace, we may assign a principal place to  spiritual pride and self-admiration. If our attainments in knowledge and giftedness, and even in grace—seduce us into a good opinion of ourselves, as if we were wise and good—we are already ensnared, in danger of falling every step we take, of mistaking the right path, and proceeding from bad to worse, without a power of correcting or even of discovering our deviations! That is—unless and until the Lord mercifully interposes, by restoring us to a spirit of humility, and dependence upon Himself. For God, who gives more grace to the humble—resists the proud! He beholds them with abhorrence—in proportion to the degree in which they admire themselves! It is the invariable law of His kingdom, that everyone who exalts himself—shall be abased!

True Christians, through the remaining evil of their hearts, and the subtle temptations of their enemy, are liable, not only to the workings of that pride which is common to our fallen nature—but to a certain kind of pride, which, though the most absurd and intolerable in any person—can only be found among those who make profession of the gospel. We have nothing but what we have received, and therefore to be proud of our titles, wealth, knowledge, success, or any temporal advantages by which the providence of God has distinguished us—is downright sinful! For those who confess themselves to be 'sinners', and therefore deserving of nothing but misery and wrath—to be proud of those peculiar blessings which are derived from the gospel of God's grace—is a wickedness of which even the demons are not capable of!

The apostle Paul was so aware of his danger of being exalted above measure, through the abundant revelations and peculiar favors which the Lord had afforded him—that he says, "There was given me a messenger of Satan to buffet me." He speaks of this sharp trial as a great mercy, because he saw that it was necessary, and designed to keep him humble and attentive to his own weakness.

Ministers who are honored with singular abilities and success, have great need of watchfulness and prayer on this account! Simple-hearted hearers are apt to admire their favorite preacher—taking it for granted that he is deeply affected himself with the truths, which, with so much apparent liberty and power—he proposes to them. While, perhaps—the poor worm is secretly indulging self-applause, and pleasing himself with the numbers and attention of those who hang upon his words!

Perhaps such thoughts will occasionally rise in the minds of the best ministers; but, if they are allowed, if they become habitual, and enter strongly into the idea he forms of his own importance; and if, while he professes to preach Jesus Christ—he is preaching himself, and seeking his own glory—he is guilty of high treason against the Majesty of Him in whose name he speaks! And sooner or later, the effects of his pride will be visible and noticed. Doctrinal errors, gross misconduct, an abatement of zeal, of gifts, of influence—are evils, always to be dreaded, when spiritual pride has gained an ascendancy, whether in public or in private life.

"The Lord Almighty has planned it, to bring low the pride of all glory and to humble all who are renowned on the earth." Isaiah 23:9

"For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have—that you did not receive? And if you did receive it—why do you boast as though you did not?" 1 Corinthians 4:7

~  ~  ~  ~

If he is a liar, a talebearer, a railer, a flatterer or a jester

(Letters of John Newton)

There is, perhaps, no one test or proof of the reality of a work of grace upon the heart, more simple, clear and infallible—than the general tenor of our speech; for our Lord's aphorism is of certain and universal application, that "out of the abundance of the heart—the mouth speaks."

To the same purpose, the apostle James proposes to all who make a profession of the gospel, a searching criterion of their sincerity, when he says, "If anyone considers himself religious, and yet does not keep a tight bridle on his tongue—he deceives himself and his religion is worthless!" James supposes that the grace of God in a true believer will check the evils of the heart, and prevent them from breaking out by the tongue.

The grace of God will necessarily influence and govern the tongues of those who partake of it, in what they say when they speak of God, of themselves, and of or to their fellow-creatures.

Having seen a glimpse of the holiness and majesty, the glory and the grace, of the great God with whom they have to do—their hearts are impressed with reverence, and therefore there is a seriousness in their language. They cannot speak lightly of God, or of His ways. One would suppose that no person, who even but seems to be pious, can directly and expressly profane His glorious name. But there is a careless and flippant manner of speaking of the great God, which is very disgusting and very suspicious. Likewise, the hearts of believers teach their mouths to speak honorably of God under all their afflictions and crosses, acknowledging the wisdom and the mercy of His painful dispensations. And, if an impatient word escapes them—it grieves and humbles them, as quite unfitting to their situation as His creatures, and especially as sinful creatures, who have always reason to acknowledge, that it is of the Lord's mercy alone—that they are not wholly consumed.

When they speak of themselves, their tongues are bridled, and restrained from boasting. They speak as befits poor, unworthy creatures—because they feel themselves to be such! In what they say, either of their comforts or of their sorrows, sincerity dictates a simplicity which cannot be easily counterfeited.

In what they say of or to others, the tongues of believers are bridled by a heart-felt regard to truth, love and purity.

Where saving grace is in the heart—the tongue will be bridled by the law of TRUTH. It is grievous to see how nearly and readily some professors will venture upon the borders of a lie; either . . .
  to defend their own conduct,
  to avoid some inconvenience,
  to procure a supposed advantage,
  or sometimes merely to embellish a story!
Where instances of this kind are frequent, I hardly know a fouler blot in profession, or which can give a more just warrant to fear that such professors know nothing aright, either of God or themselves! The Lord is a God of truth; and He teaches His servants to hate and abhor lying, and to speak the truth from their hearts. I may add likewise, with regard to promises—that the person, whose simple word may not be safely depended upon—scarcely deserves the name of a Christian!

Where grace is in the heart, the tongue will likewise
be bridled by the law of LOVE. If we love our neighbor—can we lightly speak evil of him, magnify his failings, or use provoking or insulting language to him? Love thinks no evil—but bears, hopes and endures. Love acts by the golden rule, to "Do unto others—what you would like them to do unto you." Those who are under the influence of Christian love, will be gentle and compassionate, disposed to make the most favorable allowances, and of course their tongues will be restrained from the language of malevolence, harsh censure, and slander—which are as familiar to us as our mother tongue—until we are made partakers of the grace of God.

The tongue is also bridled by a regard to PURITY, agreeable to the precepts, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths!" "Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking!" Ephesians 4:29, 5:4. Grace has taught believers to hate these things! How then can their tongues speak of them?

There are false professors, indeed, who can suit their language to their company. When with the people of God—they call talk very seriously. But at other times, they are well pleased to join in vain, frothy and evil conversation. But this double-mindedness is of itself, sufficient to discredit all their pretenses to a pious character.

Upon the whole, though perfection is not to be expected, though true believers may, on some occasions, speak rashly, and have great cause for humiliation, watchfulness, and prayer, with respect to the government of their tongues; yet Scripture authorizes this conclusion: That, if the tongue is frequently without a bridle; if it may be observed, that a person often speaks . . .
  lightly of God and of divine things,
  proudly of himself, and
  harshly of his fellow-creatures;
if he is a liar, a talebearer, a railer, a flatterer or a jester—then, whatever other good qualities he may seem to possess—his speech betrays him! He deceives himself, and his religion is worthless!

Let us think of these things, and entreat the Lord to cast the salt of His grace into the fountain of our hearts—that the streams of our conversation may be wholesome.

~  ~  ~  ~

Let no swine trample it under his feet!

(Robert Bolton, "Comfortable Walking with God")

You may object,
"Of the pardonableness of my other sins—I could be reasonably well persuaded of God's forgiveness. But, alas! there is one sin above all the rest, which I find to be so full of hellish poison—of such a deep and damnable die—to have struck so desperately in the days of my lewdness at the very face of God Himself—and far deeper into the heart of Jesus Christ than the spear that pierced Him while bleeding upon the cross! This sin now stares in the eye of my newly awakened and wounded conscience with such horror and gristliness—that I fear that divine justice will think it fitter to have this most loathsome inexpiable stain—burned out of my soul with everlasting flames (if it were possible that eternal fire could expiate the sinful stains of any impenitent damned soul), than to be fully washed away with His blood, whom I so cruelly and cursedly pierced with it!"

"Oh! this is what lies now upon my heart like a mountain of lead, and enchains it with inexplicable terror! This alone stings desperately—and keeps me from Christ, and cuts me off from all hope of heaven. I am afraid that my willful wallowing in sin heretofore, has so reprobated my mind, seared my conscience, and hardened my heart—that I shall never be able to repent with any hope of pardon!"

But I answer you,
Is this sin of yours greater than wicked King Manasseh's, who "sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced witchcraft and  divination, and consulted mediums and spiritists"? (2 Kings 21:2-7)

Is this sin of yours greater than Paul's drinking up the blood of saints?

Is this sin of yours greater than any of theirs in that black bill, (1 Corinthians 6:9-11,) who, notwithstanding, were afterward given repentance—and washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus?

Is this sin of yours greater than that horrible sin of killing Christ Jesus? And yet the murderers of that Just and Holy One, upon their true repentance of heart, were saved by that precious blood which they had cruelly spilled, as water upon the ground!

But however heinous your sin may be—a scarlet sin, a crimson sin, a crying sin—and add unto it Satan's malicious aggravations, and all that horror which the dejectedness of your present afflicted spirit, and darkness of your melancholy imagination can add upon it—yet Paul's precious antidote holds triumphantly sovereign as well against the heinousness of any one sin—as the confluence of all sins! "Where sin abounded—grace over-abounded!" (Romans 5:20)

Indeed, your case is a very heavy one, and to be deplored even with tears of blood—that you should ever have so highly dishonored your gracious God with such horrible sinfulness in the days of your vanity; and you ought, rather to choose to be torn in pieces by wild horses—than commit it again!

Yet if your heart, now truly wounded with horror and hate of your sin—will but cleave to the truth and tender-heartedness of Jesus Christ in His promises, and fall into His blessed and bleeding arms, which are stretched out most lovingly to ease and refresh you—as the heinousness of your sin has abounded heretofore—so His grace will now over-abound to the same proportion, and much more!

Nay, I will show you an astonishing truth! God's mercies shall be extraordinarily honored in pardoning such heinous provocation; because His mercies are thereby, as it were, manifested in all their dearness, sweetness, and infiniteness—to the greatest height and excellency! And the blood of Christ is manifested more orient and illustrious; and its honor and preciousness is advanced—by washing away such a heinous, hellish spot!

If we bring broken, believing hearts to His mercy-seat, it is the Lord's 'Name' to forgive all sorts of offences, iniquities, transgressions and sins! It is His 'covenant promise', to sprinkle clean water upon us that we may be clean, and to cleanse us 'from all our filthiness, and all our idols,' —even from idolatry, the highest villainy against the majesty of Heaven! So that even a Papist, upon repentance, may be saved!

It is His promise not only to pardon common sins—but those also which are as deep as scarlet, and blood-red as crimson. It is His free compassion to cast all our sins into the depth of the sea! (Micah 7:19). Now, the sea, by reason of its vastness, can as easily drown mountains, as it can drown mole-hills! Just so—the boundless ocean of God's mercies—can easily swallow up our mightiest sins!

It is His merciful power to blot out our sins as a cloud. Now the strength of the summer's sun is able to scatter the thickest fog, as well as the thinnest mist—more, to drive away the darkest night! Just so, the irresistible heat of God's free love, shining through the Sun of Righteousness upon a penitent soul—can far more easily dissolve into nothing—the vilest works of darkness, and most horrible sins!

But this mystery of mercy, and miracle of God's free love—is a jewel only for truly humbled souls. Let no stranger to the life of godliness meddle with it! Let no swine trample it under his feet!

~  ~  ~  ~

A bird that is tied by a string

(Charles Spurgeon)

"For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin." Acts 8:23

"If the Son sets you free—you will be free indeed!" John 8:36

A bird that is tied by a stringseems to have more liberty than a bird in a cage; it flutters up and down—and yet it is held just as fast.

When a man thinks that he has escaped from the bondage of sin in general, and yet evidently remains under the power of some one favored lust—he is woefully mistaken in his judgment as to his spiritual freedom. He may boast that he is out of the cage—but assuredly, the string is on his leg!

He who has his fetters knocked off—all but one chain—is a prisoner still.

"Let not any iniquity have dominion over me," is a good and wise prayer; for one pampered sin will slay the soul—as surely as one dose of poison will kill the body!

There is no need for one to be bitten by a whole nest of deadly vipers—the tooth of one cobra is quite sufficient to insure his destruction.

One sin, like one match—can kindle the fires of hell within the soul!

The practical application of this truth, should be made by the professor who is a slave to any lust, or to covetousness. How can you be free—if any one of these chains still holds you fast?

We have met with professors who are haughty, and despise others; how can these be the Lord's free men—while pride captivates their heart?

In will and intent—we must break every chain of sin! We must perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord, or we cannot hope that the Son has made us free indeed.

O Holy Spirit—break every chain of sin, I beseech you!

~  ~  ~  ~

But my eye and my heart are to Jesus!

(the following is from the diary of John Newton)

January 1, 1773
This is the ninth New Years day I have seen in this church. I have reason to say, 'The Lord crowns every year with His goodness!' The entrance of this year finds me and my dear Mary in health and peace. I am still favored with strength, and with some liberty for my pastoral work, and hope the Lord is still pleased to work by me—for the edification of His people, and the awakening of lost sinners.

As to myself . . .
  my exercise of grace is faint,
  my consolations small,
  my heart is full of evil,
  my chief burdens are, a wild ungoverned imagination, and a strange sinful backwardness to reading the Scriptures, and to secret prayer.

These have been my complaints for many years, and I have no less cause of complaint than formerly. But my eye and my heart are to Jesus! His I am; Him I desire to serve; to Him this day, I would devote and surrender myself anew.

O Lord, accept, support, protect, teach, comfort and bless me. Be . . .
  my Arm,
  my Eye,
  my Joy and
  my Salvation.
Mortify the power of sin—and increase the image of Your holiness in my heart. Anoint me with fresh oil, make me humble, faithful, diligent and obedient. Let me in all things attend . . .
  to Your Word as my rule,
  to Your glory as my end, and
  depend upon Your power and promise for my safety and success.

I am now in the 49th year of my life, and may expect in the course of a few years at most—to go whence I shall no more return; nor have I a certainty of continuing here a single year—or even a month or a day! May Your grace keep me always until my appointed change shall come, and when the summons shall come—may I be enabled to rejoice in You, as the strength of my heart and my portion forever!

"You guide me with Your counsel, and afterwards You will take me up in glory. Whom do I have in heaven but You? And I desire nothing on earth but You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever!" Psalm 73:24-26

~  ~  ~  ~

The load will be too heavy for us!

(Letters of John Newton)

I compare the troubles which we have to undergo in the course of the year—to a great bundle of sticks, far too large for us to lift. But God does not require us to carry the whole bundle at once. He mercifully unties the bundle, and gives us first one stick, which we are to carry today; and then another, which we are to carry tomorrow, and so forth. 

We can easily manage our troubles, if we would only carry the trouble appointed for each day. But the load will be too heavy for us—if we carry yesterday's burden over again today, and then add the burden of tomorrow to the weight, before we are required to bear it.

~  ~  ~  ~

Poor ship!

(The following is a letter of John Newton to his 14 year old adopted daughter, who was away at school)

"He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm!" Luke 8:24

My dear Betsy,
Sometimes, when I consider what a world you are growing up into, and what snares and dangers young people are exposed to, with little experience to help them—I have some painful feelings for you!

The other day I was at the harbor, and saw a ship launched—she slipped easily into the water; the people on board cheered; the ship looked clean and mirthful, she was freshly painted, and her colors flying. But I looked at her with a sort of pity, "Poor ship!" I thought, "you are now in port and in safety; but before long you must go into the wild sea! Who can tell what storms you may meet with hereafter, and to what hazards you may be exposed! How weather-beaten you may be before you return to port again, or perhaps you may return at all!"

Then my thoughts turned from the ship—to my dear Betsy. The ship seemed to be an emblem of your present state—you are now, as it were, in a safe harbor; but by and by you must launch out into the world, which may well be compared to a tempestuous sea. I could even now almost weep at the resemblance! But I take courage, as my hopes are greater than my fears. I know there is an infallible Pilot, who has the winds and the waves at His command! There is hardly a day passes, in which I do not entreat Him to take charge of you. Under His care—I know you will be safe. He can guide you, unhurt, amidst the storms, and rocks, and dangers—by which you might otherwise suffer—and bring you, at last, safely to the haven of His eternal rest!

"Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water—and they obey Him!" Luke 8:25

I hope you will seek Him while you are young—then you will be happy, and I shall rejoice. Nothing will satisfy me but this! Though I should live to see you settled to the greatest advantage in temporal matters—unless you love Him, and live in His fear and favor—you would be quite miserable! I think it would nearly break my heart; for, next to your dear mamma, there is nothing so dear to me in this world as you! But the Lord gave you to me—and many a time upon my knees, I have given you back to Him. Therefore I hope you must, and will, and shall be His!

I am, with great tenderness, my dear child,
Your very affectionate father

~  ~  ~  ~

If you could form a 'little creature' and make it live

(Letters of John Newton)

(The following is a letter of John Newton to his 13 year old adopted daughter, who was away at school)

My dear Betsy,
Idleness is a very great evil—the door by which a thousand temptations and mischiefs may enter!

Though you yourself have not been a sufferer—I wish for you to cultivate a sympathetic and benevolent spirit—a disposition to have compassion on the distresses of others—even though you cannot relieve them. Compassion, next to the grace of God, is the brightest ornament of human nature. When it is genuine, it is one of the best effects and proofs of saving grace. It was the mind of Jesus the Savior—and those who love Him, will in a degree resemble Him! A hard-hearted, unfeeling, selfish Christian is a total contradiction.

When you think what multitudes of mankind are suffering by war, famine, sickness, storms, earthquakes, and other calamities—let it lead your thoughts to the evil of sin—which brought all these other evils into the world.

But what is sin?

Sin is presuming to do our own will—in opposition to the will of God—who is our Creator, Lawgiver and Benefactor. By sin we . . .
  attempt independence from our Creator,
  affront the authority of our righteous Lawgiver, and
  are guilty of base and horrid ingratitude against our greatest and kindest Benefactor!

If you could form a 'little creature' and make it live—and if it hated you and opposed you, slighted your kindness, and took pleasure in displeasing you—would you not soon be weary of it, and, instead of feeding and taking care of it, be provoked to tread it under your feet? But, oh, the patience of God—though He could destroy rebellious men much more easily than you could kill a loathsome spider—yet He waits to be gracious, and has so loved them as to send His own Son to die—that they may live!

Sin has not only filled the world with woe—but it was the cause of all the woe that Jesus endured. He groaned and wept, and sweat blood, and died upon the cross—only because we had sinned! May I live to see you duly affected with the evil of sin—and the love of Jesus! There is nothing more that I desire for you!
I am, my dear child,
Your most affectionate father

~  ~  ~  ~

I would teach you a way to be never be disappointed

(The following is a letter of John Newton to his 13 year old adopted daughter, who was away at school)

"The LORD does whatever pleases Him—in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths!" Psalm 135:6

My dear Betsy,
How vain are all things here below! "Vanity of vanities!" says the preacher. And you, and I, and your mamma, may say so likewise; for we all counted upon seeing you last Sunday. We listened at the door—and peeped out of the window—but no Betsy came! Now we will venture to expect you next Sunday.

Indeed, it is not amiss that you should now and then meet with a hindrance—that you may learn, if possible—not to count too much on what tomorrow may do for you—and that you may begin to feel the impossibility of being happy, any further than your will is brought into submission to the will of God. In order to learn this—you must have your own will frequently crossed. And things do and will turn out, almost daily in one way or other—contrary to our wishes and expectations.

When such disappointments happen—most people fret and fume! They are angry and impatient! But others, who are in the Lord's school, and desirous of being taught by Him—get benefit by these things, and sometimes find more pleasure in yielding to His appointments, though contrary to their own wills—than they would have done, if all had happened just as they had desired!

I wish for you my dear child, to think much of the Lord's governing providence. It extends to the minutest concerns. He rules and manages all things; but in so secret a way, that most people think that He does nothing. When, in reality—He does ALL!

He appointed the time of your coming into the world. And the day and hour of your coming home from school to us—totally depends upon Him likewise! Nor can you safely travel one step of the road—without His protection and care over you!

It may now seem a small matter to you and I, whether you came home last Sunday—or are to come home next Sunday. But we know not what different consequences may depend upon the day—we know not what hidden danger you might have escaped by staying at school last Sunday. The Lord knows all things! He foresees every possible consequence! Often what we call disappointments, are really mercies from Him to save us from harm!

If I could teach you a lesson, which, as yet, I have but poorly learned myself—I would teach you a way to be never be disappointed. This would be the case—if you could always form a right judgment of this world, and all things in it.

If you go to a bramble-bush to look for grapes—you must be disappointed; but then you are old enough to know that grapes never grow upon brambles. So, if you expect much pleasure here in this world—you will not find it. But you ought not to say you are disappointed, because the Scripture plainly warned you beforehand, to look for crosses, trials and hindrances, every day. If you expect such things—you will not be disappointed when they happen!

"At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: Naked I came from my mother's womb—and naked I will depart. The Lord gave—and the Lord has taken away! May the name of the Lord be praised!" Job 1:20-21

~  ~  ~  ~

I asked the Lord, that I might grow

(John Newton)

I asked the Lord, that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know;
And seek more earnestly His face.

Twas He who taught me thus to pray,
And He, I trust has answered prayer;
But it has been in such a way,
As almost drove me to despair!

I hoped that in some favored hour,
At once He'd answer my request;
And by His love's constraining power,
Subdue my sins—and give me rest!

Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry powers of hell
Assault my soul in every part!

Yes more, with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe!
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds—and laid me low!

"Lord, why is this!" I trembling cried,
"Will you pursue your worm to death?"
"This is the way," the Lord replied,
"I answer prayer for grace and faith."

"These inward trials I employ,
From self and pride to set you free;
And break your schemes of earthly joy,
That you may seek your all in Me!"

~  ~  ~  ~

Be thankful, my dear, that he treats you as his enemy!

(Letters of John Newton)

November 13, 1772
My dear Miss,
I am glad that you complain of evil thoughts and temptations; for, though these things are grievous, they always accompany a saving work of grace. Though every Christian does not suffer greatly by persecution, poverty, and worldly troubles—yet they all suffer much from indwelling sin, temptation and Satan.

As to evil thoughts, they as unavoidably arise from an evil nature—as steam arises from a boiling tea-kettle! Every cause will have its effect—and a sinful nature will have sinful effects. You can no more keep such thoughts out of your mind—than you can stop the course of the clouds!

But if the Lord had not taught you—you would not have been sensible of them, nor concerned about them. This is a token for good. By nature your thoughts would have been only evil, and that continually. But you find 'something' within you that makes you dislike these thoughts; makes you ashamed of them; makes you strive and pray against them.

Now, this 'something' that resists your evil thoughts—what can it be? It cannot be human nature; for we naturally love our vain imaginations. It is the grace of God! The Lord has made you sensible of your disease—that you might love and prize the great Physician! The knowledge of His love for you—shall make you hate these thoughts! Yet you will be pestered with them more or less, while you live in this world. For sin is wrought into our bodies, and our souls must be freed from our bodies—before we shall be fully freed from the evils under which we mourn!

Your other complaint of temptations is likewise a good one. If you were to visit some young ladies who know no other end of living—but to dress and dance and socialize; and if you were to ask them if they are troubled with Satan's temptations—they would think that you were out of your wits! Poor things! They know no better! They are blinded by the god of this world; they go on quietly in the way of sin and vanity, careless of their souls, and mindless of eternity! While they continue in this course, you may be sure that Satan will not disturb them! They are asleep, and it would not be for his interest to do anything that might awaken them out of their pleasant dream!

And if you yourself were thus asleep, Satan would be content that you should sleep on—and take your rest. But, when he sees anyone awakened out of this deadly sleep, he probably tries first to lull them asleep again. And, if the Lord prevents that by His mercy, then Satan alters his measures, and roars like a lion which has lost his prey! Be thankful, my dear, that he treats you as his enemy! For the state of those to whom he behaves as a friend, is miserable indeed! And always remember that he is a chained enemy! He may terrify—but he cannot devour those who have fled for refuge to Jesus!

You cannot be too jealous of your own heart, or too cautious of the snares which you are exposed to. But the Lord is able and faithful to keep those from falling, who, sensible of their own weakness, cry daily to Him, "Hold me up—and I shall be safe!" Continue in prayer, that you may be preserved humble and abased in your own eyes—and then I am sure that you will not fall.

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the Devil!" Ephesians 6:10-11

I am sincerely, your affectionate friend and servant,
John Newton

~  ~  ~  ~

I am sure I cannot endure to the end!

(Letters of John Newton)

I will put My fear in their hearts—so they will never turn away from Me." Jeremiah 32:40

Jesus, to whom I have been led to commit myself, has engaged to save me, absolutely, and from first to last. He has promised not only that He will not depart from me—but that He will put, keep, and maintain His fear in my heart—so that I shall never finally depart from Him! And if He does not do this for me—I have no security against my turning apostate! For I am so weak, inconsistent, and sinful; I am so encompassed with deadly snares from the world; and I am so liable to such assaults from the subtlety, vigilance, and power of Satan—that, unless I am "kept by the power of God," I am sure I cannot endure to the end!

I do believe that the Lord will keep me while I walk humbly and obediently before Him; but, were this all—it would be cold comfort! For I am prone to wander—and need a Shepherd whose watchful eye, compassionate heart, and boundless mercy—will pity, pardon, and restore my backslidings!

For, though by His goodness and not my own—I have hitherto been preserved in the path of holiness; yet I feel those evils within me, which would shortly break loose and bear me down to destruction, were He not ever present with me to control them.

Those who comfortably hope to see His face in glory—but depend upon their own watchfulness and endeavors to preserve themselves from falling—must be much wiser, better, and stronger than I am! Or at least they cannot have so deep and painful a sense of their own weakness and vileness, as daily experience forces upon me. I desire to be found in the use of the Lord's appointed means for the renewal of my spiritual strength—but I dare not undertake to watch a single hour, nor do I find ability to think a good thought, nor a power in myself of resisting any temptation! My strength is perfect weakness—and all I have is sin.

In short, I must sit down in despair—if I did not believe that He who has begun a good work in me, will carry it out to completion.

"Hold me up—and I shall be safe!" Psalm 119:117

~  ~  ~  ~

God's work of grace in the soul

(Letters of John Newton)

"The soil produces grain—
  first the blade,
  then the stalk, and
  then the ripe grain on the stalk."
    Mark 4:28

The Lord compares the usual method of growth in grace—to the growth of grain, which is perfected by a slow and almost imperceptible progress.

The seed is hidden for a time in the soil; and, when it appears, it passes through a succession of changes—the blade, the stalk, and lastly the ripe grain.

And it is brought forward amidst a variety of weather: the dew, the frost, the wind, the rain, the sun—all concur to advance its maturity, though some of these agents are contrary to each other; and some of them, perhaps, seem to threaten the life of the plant! Yet, when the season of harvest returns—the grain is found ready for the sickle!

Just so is God's work of grace in the soul. Its beginnings are small, its growth for the most part slow, and, to our apprehensions, imperceptible and often precarious.

But there is this difference in the comparison: frosts and blights, drought or floods, may possibly disappoint the gardener's hopes. But the great Gardener of the soul—will not, and cannot be disappointed. What He sows—shall flourish in defiance of all opposition! And, if at times it seems to wither—He can and He will revive it!

For the most part, God's people are exercised with sharp trials and temptations; for it is necessary they should learn not only what He can do for them—but how little they can do without Him! Therefore He teaches them not all at once—but by degrees, as they are able to bear it.

"The soil produces grain—
  first the blade,
  then the stalk, and
  then the ripe grain on the stalk."
    Mark 4:28

~  ~  ~  ~

For pastors only!

(Letters of John Newton)

"He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord." Colossians 4:7

Dear fellow pastor,
You have desired a good work—may the Lord give you the desires of your heart. May He give you . . .
  the wisdom of Daniel,
  the meekness of Moses,
  the courage of Joshua,
  the zeal of Paul, and
  that self-abasement and humility which Job and Isaiah felt—when they not only had heard of Him by the hearing of the ear—but when they saw His glory, and abhorred themselves in dust and ashes!

May you be taught of God—for none teaches like Him—and come forth an able minister of the New Covenant, well instructed rightly to divide and faithfully to distribute the Word of truth.

In the school of Christ, you will have to learn some lessons which are not very pleasant to flesh and blood. You must learn to labor, to run, to fight, to wrestle—and many other hard exercises—some of which will try your strength, and others your patience.

You know the common expression, 'a jack of all trades'. I am sure a minister had need be such a one:
  a brave soldier,
  an alert watchman,
  a caring shepherd,
  a hardworking farmer,
  a skillful builder,
  a wise counselor,
  a competent physician,
  and a loving nurse.

But do not be discouraged—you have a wonderful and a gracious Master, who does not only give instructions—but power and ability! He engages that His grace shall be sufficient, at all times and in all circumstances, for those who simply give themselves up to His teaching and His service.

"Be an example to all believers . . .
  in what you teach,
  in the way you live,
  in your love, your faith, and your purity."
    1 Timothy 4:12

~  ~  ~  ~

Did you ever see my picture?

(Letters of John Newton)

"I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do—that I do not do; but what I hate—that I do. I have the desire to do what is good—but I cannot carry it out. For what I do—is not the good I want to do. No, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing!" Romans 7

Did you ever see my picture?
It has been drawn by a masterly hand. And though another person, and one whom I am far from resembling, sat for it—it is as like me as one new penny is like another! The original was drawn at Corinth—and sent to the Christians at Rome. Many copies have been produced, and it has a place in most public and private libraries, and I would hope in most families. I had seen it a great many times, before I could discover one of my own features in it—but then my eyes were very bad.

What is most remarkable, is that it was drawn long before I was born! And now, having been favored with some excellent eye-salve, I quickly knew it to be my own. I am drawn in a posture which would be strange and peculiar, if it was not so common with me—looking two different and opposite ways at once, so that you would be puzzled to tell whether my eyes are fixed upon heaven—or upon the earth! I am aiming at two things inconsistent with each other at the same time, so that I can accomplish neither.

According to the different light in which you view the picture, I appear to rejoice—or to mourn; to have nothing—or possessing everything; to be a conqueror—or a captive. In a word, I am a double person! I am a riddle! So it is no wonder if you know not what to make of me—for I cannot tell what to make of myself!
I would—and I would not.
I do—and I do not.
I can—and I cannot.
I find the hardest things easy—and the easiest things impossible.
I am both rich—and poor.
I can do nothing—yet I can do all things.
I am opposed beyond my strength—yet I am not overpowered.
I gain when I lose—and I often am a loser by my gains.

But while I am in this perplexity, you will observe in the same picture—a hand stretched forth for my relief, and may see a label proceeding out of my mouth with these words, "Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!" The more I study this picture, the more I discover some new and striking resemblance, which convinces me that the Painter knew me better than I knew myself!

"I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do—I do not do; but what I hate—I do. I have the desire to do what is good—but I cannot carry it out. For what I do—is not the good I want to do. No, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing!" Romans 7

In a word, I am a sinner, a vile one—but a sinner believing in Jesus!

I am a silly sheep—but I have a gracious, watchful Shepherd!

I am a dull scholar—but I have a Master who can make the dullest learn.

~  ~  ~  ~

I am a perverse and unruly patient!

(Letters of John Newton)

I am bound to speak well of my Physician—He treats me with great tenderness, and bids me in due time to expect a perfect cure. I know too much of Him (though I know but little) to doubt either His skill or His promise.

It is true, I have suffered sad relapses since I have been under His care. Yet I confess, that the fault has not been His—but my own! I am a perverse and unruly patient! I have too often neglected His prescriptions, and broken the regimen He appoints me to observe. This perverseness, joined to the exceeding obstinacy of my disorders, would have caused me to be turned out as an incurable long ago—had I been under any other hand but His! Indeed—there is none like Him! When I have brought myself very low—He has still helped me. Blessed be His name—I am yet kept alive only by means of His perfect care.

Though His medicines are all beneficial—they are not all pleasant. Now and then He gives me a pleasant cordial; but I have many severe disorders, in which there is a needs-be for my frequently taking His bitter and unpalatable medicines!

We sometimes see published in the newspapers, acknowledgments of cures received. Methinks, if I were to publish my own case, that it would run something like this:

"I, John Newton, have long labored under a multitude of grievous disorders:
    a fever of ungoverned passions,
    a cancer of pride,
    a frenzy of wild imaginations,
    a severe lethargy, and
    a deadly stroke!

In this deplorable situation, I suffered many things from many physicians, spent every penny I had—yet only grew worse and worse!

In this condition, Jesus, the Physician of souls, found me when I sought Him not. He undertook my recovery freely, without money and without price—these are His terms with all His patients! My fever is now abated, my senses are restored, my faculties are enlivened! In a word, I am a new man! And from His ability, His promise, and the experience of what He has already done—I have the fullest assurance that He will infallibly and perfectly heal me—and that I shall live forever as a monument of His power and grace!"

~  ~  ~  ~

Walking with Jesus

(Letters of John Newton)

When I speak of walking with Jesus, my idea is helped by considering how it was with His first disciples—they lived in His presence! While He stayed in a place—they stayed; and when He moved—they went with Him. Having Him thus always near, always in view—the sight of Him undoubtedly gave a composure to their whole behavior; and was a check upon their eyes, their tongues, and their actions!

When they had hard questions upon their minds—they did not puzzle themselves with vain reasonings. When they were in need—they looked to Him for a supply. When they had difficulties and dangers—they little doubted of deliverance, knowing that He was with them.

Just so, I need a faith that shall have such an abiding, experimental conviction of His nearness and presence—as if I actually saw Him! "Lord, increase my faith!"

Surely, if He were now upon earth, and I expected a visit from Him this afternoon—my heart would bound at the thought! With what a mixture of joy and fear would I open the door to receive Him! How cautious would I be—not to do or say anything that might grieve Him, and shorten His stay with me! And how gladly, if He gave me permission to speak, would I catch the opportunity of telling Him all my concerns! Surely I would be unwilling to let Him go—until He had healed the wounds in my soul, and renewed my spiritual strength; until He had taught me better how to serve Him, and promised to support me in His service. And if I heard Him say, with an audible voice, "Though they fight against you—they shall not prevail, for I am always with you to deliver you!" I would bid adieu to fear!

But, alas, my unbelieving heart! Are not these things true, even at present? Is He not as near and as kind? Have I not the same reasons and the same encouragement to set Him always before me—and to tell Him . . .
  all my needs,
  all my fears, and
  all my troubles
as if I saw Him with my bodily eyes!

"Be sure of this: I am with you always—even to the end of the age!" Matthew 28:20

~  ~  ~  ~

Worship God in the shop or kitchen

(Letters of John Newton)

May 2, 1771
My dear friend,
The more the Lord blesses you in earthly things—the more sensible you will be that true happiness is only to be found in Himself; for sin and vanity are closely connected with everything beneath the skies! In this view, I trust He will enable you to number your troubles among your mercies, as necessary to keep your soul from cleaving to the dust, and to quicken your prayers and desires heavenwards.

Our necessary relationships in this life, especially those which are most pleasing, are attended with many snares. May the Lord keep you sensible of the danger, that you may be watchful against the first appearances of spiritual decline, and be continually crying, "Hold me up—and then I shall be safe!"

I am, however, fully persuaded that a due attention to the concerns of our relative duties and callings in this world, can never be a hindrance to our walking with God. These earthly things require some of our thoughts—and much of our time; and if we can manage them in obedience to His will, and with a reference to His glory—they are then sanctified, and become holy actions. A believer, acting in a right spirit, may be truly said to worship God in the shop or kitchen, no less than when waiting on Him in prayer and Scripture meditation. A person called by God's providence to sweep the streets, if he does it to the Lord, performs as acceptable a service as another who should preach the Gospel to thousands!

~  ~  ~  ~

The magical lantern blinding us with a splendid delusion!

(Letters of John Newton)

"Get up, go away! For this is not your resting place—because it is defiled, it is ruined, beyond all remedy!" Micah 2:10

My dear friend,
What a poor, uncertain and dying world is this! What a wilderness in itself! Without the saving knowledge of Jesus—how dark, how desolate it is! It does not appear to us thus, before we were saved—because we were then in a state of enchantment, the magical lantern blinding us with a splendid delusion!

It is a great mercy to be undeceived in time; and though our mirthful dreams are at an end, and we awake to everything that is dismaying—yet we see a highway through the wilderness, and a powerful and infallible Guide at hand to conduct us through it! And we can discern, beyond the limits of the wilderness—a better land, where we shall be at rest and at home!

What will the difficulties we met along the way—then signify? The remembrance of them will only remain to heighten our sense of the love, care, and power of our Savior and Leader! O how shall we then admire, adore, and praise Him—when He condescends to unfold to us—the beauty, propriety, and harmony of the whole train of His providential dealings with us—and give us a clear retrospect of all the way, and all the windings of our earthly pilgrimage!

In the mean while, the best method of adorning our profession, and of enjoying peace in our souls—is simply to trust Him, and absolutely to commit ourselves and our all to His wise and loving management. By casting our burdens upon Him—our hearts become light and cheerful. We are then freed from a thousand anxieties and worries—which are wearisome to our minds, and which are needless for us—yes, even useless!

Oh the blessedness of this confident trust in our Father's care, through all the changes and vicissitudes we meet with—knowing that His love, purpose and promise—are wise, good and unchangeable! May this be your experience!

~  ~  ~  ~

He drank the whole cup!

(Letters of John Newton)

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble! Therefore we will not be afraid, though the earth trembles and the mountains topple into the depths of the seas!" Psalm 46:1-2

November 2, 1761
My dear sister,
Let us not be greatly discouraged at the many tribulations, difficulties and disappointments which lie in the path which leads to glory. Our Lord has plainly told us, that "in this world, you will have many trials and sorrows." Yet He has also made a suitable provision for every case we can meet with; and is Himself always near to those who call upon Him—as a sure refuge, an almighty strength, a never-failing, ever-present help in every time of trouble!

Jesus Himself was a man of sorrow, and acquainted with grief for our sakes. He drank the whole cup of unmixed wrath for us! Shall we then refuse to taste a sip of the cup of affliction at His appointment; especially when His wisdom and His love prepare it for us—and He proportions every circumstance to our strength; when He puts it into our hands, not in anger—but in tender mercy—to do us good, to bring us near to Himself; and when He sweetens every bitter sip with those comforts which none but He can give?

All former believers were once as we are now—they had their afflictions and their fears, their enemies and temptations; they were exercised with a wicked heart, and a wicked world! Now they are all before the eternal throne of God and the Lamb! While we are sighing—they are singing! While we are fighting—they are triumphing!

The time is short—and the world is passing away! All its troubles and all its vanities will soon be at an end! In a little while, "we shall see Him as He is!" Every veil will be taken away, every seeming frown will be removed from His face—and every tear wiped away from ours! We shall also be like Him! Even now, when we contemplate His glory as shining in the looking-glass of the Gospel—we feel ourselves, in some measure, transformed into His image! What a sudden, wonderful, and abiding change we shall then experience—when He shall shine directly, immediately, and eternally upon our souls, without one interposing cloud between!

"Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Revelation 21:3

~  ~  ~  ~

The secret of being content!

(Letters of John Newton)

"Godliness with contentment is great gain!" 1 Timothy 6:6

August 17, 1776
My dear friend,
It befits every Christian to say—It is not necessary for me to be rich—or what the world accounts wise. It is not necessary for me to be healthy—or admired by my fellow-worms. It is not necessary for me to pass through life in a state of prosperity and outward comfort. These things may be, or they may not be—as the Lord in His wisdom shall appoint them for me.

But it is necessary for me to be humble and spiritual, to seek communion with God, to adorn my profession of the Gospel, and to yield submissively to His disposal, in whatever way, whether of service or suffering—that He shall be pleased to call me to glorify Him in this world. It is not necessary for me to live long—but highly expedient that while I do live—I should live unto Him! Here then, I would bound my desires; and here, having His Word for my rule, I am secured from asking amiss. Let me have His presence, wisdom to know my calling, and opportunities and faithfulness to improve them; and as to the rest, Lord, help me to sincerely pray,
  Whatever You will,
  whenever You will, and
  however You will.

"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want!" Philippians 4:11-12

~  ~  ~  ~

There are only two things which I am sure of

(Letters of John Newton)

When I was young, I was sure of many things.
But now that I am old, there are only two
things which I am sure of
  One is that I am a miserable sinner!
  Secondly, that Christ is an all-sufficient Savior!

He is well taught—who learns these two lessons.

"This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full
 acceptance: 'Christ Jesus came into the world
 to  save sinners'
—and I am the worst of them!"
     1 Timothy 1:15

~  ~  ~  ~

If I ever reach heaven, I expect to find three wonders there

(Letters of John Newton)

If I ever reach heaven, I expect to find three wonders there

  first, to meet some I would not have expected to be there;

  second, to miss some I would have expected to be there;

  third, the greatest wonder of all—to find myself there!

"By the grace of God I am what I am!" 1 Corinthians 15:10