Grace Gems for DECEMBER 2021

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Nothing on earth can satisfy the soul!

(George Mylne, "Lessons for the Christian's Daily Walk" 1859)

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"The eye is never satisfied with seeing, nor the ear with hearing." Ecclesiastes 1:8

The senses are but servants to the soul. The soul desires to look, and sets the eye to see. The soul desires to hear, and sets the ear to hearken. The soul is never wearied. It listens to sweet music, and lingers, longing still for more. When had the soul enough of a sweet flower? When was it ever filled to overflowing with viewing the masterpieces of nature?

Nothing on earth can satisfy the soul!
It leaves its pleasures with a craving for more.
It sighs to increase its satisfactions.
It grieves to think how limited are all its joys.

Oh, there is a longing in the soul; a restless appetite to see and hear, to grasp, to understand; a stretching forth of thought; a yearning principle—which spurns the restrictions of the senses. And yet (such is the tribute due to sinful human nature) sense, in its feebleness, keeps down the soul. The soul, with all its energy, cannot overpower sense!

How sad, how humbling the condition of fallen man!

Yet, child of God, you have no cause to mourn. Gifted by grace with higher faculties, you have that with which to fill your soul to the full. By faith you see, hear, and taste better things—you see Jesus on the throne of God. By faith you see the "sea of glass," and hear "the voice of harpers harping with their harps." You see Heavenly and eternal realities by faith!

My soul, why linger after the things of time—when better sights, and better sounds invite you? Or why lament your straitened means, with heavenly powers so unlimited?
Then let your eye repose on Jesus!
The more you look at Him—the longer will you look.
The more you look—the more will be your power to gaze upon Him.
The more you commune with Him—the sweeter shall you find His company.
Speak much to Jesus—you shall not speak in vain. The name of Jesus shall be to you "as beds of spices, and sweet flowers." (Canticles 5:13.) The whispers of the Spirit, telling of grace and peace, shall ever and always refresh your ear!

My soul, these pleasures shall never fail you!
Not like the music, that was, and is not—with no hand to sweep the chords!
Not like the feast of yesterday—which is now gone forever!
Not like the flowers that once were fragrant—and now are fragrant no longer!
Not like the beautiful landscape—which you have left behind!
Your Savior, Friend, and Comforter, is ever with you—now and to all eternity the same!

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Thank God that He has veiled the future!

(George Mylne, "Lessons for the Christian's Daily Walk" 1859)

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"Since no man knows the future, who can tell him what is to come?" Ecclesiastes 8:7

God's purposes have all their seasons of fulfillment. His judgments each have their time of visitation. Mapped out in clear perspective, your every dispensation was fixed from everlasting in the eternal mind of God. Your sunny seasons, and your cloudy days; sorrow and pain, anxiety and lack, your every loss of property or friends—all was designed before you ever saw the light. Trials may be in store for you, the thoughts of which would harrow up your soul—if you knew they were coming!

All this is known and ordained by God. What it will be, or when it is to come—He never tells to His creatures. As lightning strikes—for quickness; as wave comes after wave—for frequency; so may trials visit you. They are as uncertain as the wind. Yet fixed in divine purpose, and in performance sure—they come. From day to day, from hour to hour, who can foretell his future?

"Therefore, the misery of man is great upon him!" Reader, is this your feeling? Is "therefore" misery great on you? Does it make you brood over possibilities—alarmed at the contingency of woes? Would you rather, that all were known before, that you might be prepared for whatever trials and tribulations come?

Rather, thank God that He has veiled the future, and deals out His dispensations one by one. The time, the way, the kind, the circumstances—are all fixed by unerring wisdom, and by boundless love. It is thus that God is glorified; His power felt; His sovereignty known, free from the trammels of His creatures' will. Matchless in skill; unfailing in resources—He thus proclaims His sovereign Godhead.

The world may murmur, but the saints submit to God's sovereign plan. The world may tremble, but the saints are glad. In all their woes, they see a Father's hand, and a Savior's sympathy. They would not alter it if they could! They meekly leave the future to their God.
The times and seasons;
the "what,"
the "when,"
the "how,"
the "why"—
they would not, dare not, know!

But these things they do know:
that as their days—so their strength shall be;
that He who counts the stars and calls them by their names—will heal the broken-hearted and bind up their wounds;
that divine comforts shall keep pace with worldly sorrows, and
that God's grace will be sufficient for every time of need!

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Neither youth, nor wit, nor beauty, nor strength, nor money

(George Mylne, "Lessons for the Christian's Daily Walk" 1859)

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"No one has power over the spirit to retain the spirit; and no one has power in the day of death." Ecclesiastes 8:8

Man, for six thousand years, has tried to understand his spirit—yet knows as little of it as he did at first. What is the soul of man? Whence did it come? Where does it go? He can't explain how spirit dwells with flesh—what binds the two together for a time, in perfect unity. He has never seen, as little can he feel, the links that knit them to each other. It is all within him—his flesh, his spirit, his life, his being—all the machinery of soul and body, thus closely interlaced. Yet is it as foreign to his grasp, as that which happens in another world!

Thus flesh and spirit dwell together. Who could suppose they ever would part again! Who can explain how soul and body part, or how the links of union are undone; what makes the spirit fly away, or how the flesh gives up its hold! God wills it. God does it. God does not explain why. God does not tell how. He speaks, unheard; and immediately it is done—the spirit returns to Him who made it.

Man may detain the body—but he cannot keep the soul, nor say, "You shall not go!"

God says, "Return to Me!" The command must be obeyed. Neither youth, nor wit, nor beauty, nor strength, nor money—can delay His omnipotent hand.

How mysterious is death! At times how unexpected! At times how stealthy! At times he takes your darling from your side—and robs you unblushingly before your face! At other times, days, months, and years may intervene before you know it. The spirit fled, and you knew it not. You thought it still on earth; but it was gone. You think of him, prepare for him, and write to invite him to your home. But alas! the spirit is gone; and had you known it, what could you have done!

Oh, vanity of vanities! What pain, what misery—man's sin has brought to pass! And yet how astonishing is the ignorance, the recklessness of sinful man! Dead in spiritual death, he neither knows nor seeks a remedy, but binds his misery around him with thoughtless energy. And yet there is a remedy—a remedy in Jesus—a remedy for those who look to Jesus!

Say, reader, can you look around you, can you look backward or forward and be happy—unless you find this remedy for all the misery and uncertainty of this poor, passing world?

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord!" Romans 6:23

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The adjusting of the scales

(George Mylne, "Lessons for the Christian's Daily Walk" 1859)

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"In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider:
 Surely God has appointed the one as well as the other!" Ecclesiastes 7:14

Adversity and prosperity are divinely balanced against each other with unerring divine skill. In each, respectively, the due proportions are precisely weighed, so lovingly and wisely, that none should say, "It might have been better done!" Christian, I appeal to you: Could it have been better done? Are God's ways unjust? Have they been so to you?

It is true, your path is chequered: sweet chasing bitter—and bitter chasing sweet, in quick succession. It may be that bitter is more frequent than the sweet—that your prosperous times are few and far between. Is there no reason for it? Is God's divine balance, then, deranged? God knows the reason for your adversity—though unknown to you. He faithfully keeps the balance true between your needs—and their supply; between His chastenings—and your good. He cannot be unkind, or unequal, or unjust. Perhaps you cannot hit upon the specific sin, and say, "For this particular sin I am chastened." But say, my friend—if there is no particular sin, is there no particular lack of virtue in you? Is there no grace to strengthen—no infirmity to check?

God's ways are always just, His purposes are always wise and loving.

How beautiful is His providence! How exquisite is His skill!

Grace is poised against temptation; joys are balanced against sorrows. The lights and shadows of experience thus perfected, and perfecting each other.

Were all prosperity—we would be lifted up in pride.
Were all adversity—we would faint under the heavy load.

God's ways are just and equal—look back and see. Had times been pleasant with you, and experience been sweet? How surely they were followed by deadness in the soul! Your joy was gone, you knew not why. Ah! but God knew it. It was the adjusting of the scales, that nothing might be out of balance. Has life gone prosperously? Sooner or later, crosses came—some disappointment, something to bring you down, something or other, counter to your will. It was the adjusting of the scales. And just so with health, and other comforts—God keeps the scales perfectly balanced.

Watch God's providence in great things, watch it in little things—the events, the thoughts, the feelings of the day. You will always find it just—the balance must be kept. Hence all your variations in the scale of comfort, and the endless shades and vicissitudes of your experience. All this is well-ordered in God's wisdom, love, and mercy!

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Why were the old days better than these?

(George Mylne, "Lessons for the Christian's Daily Walk" 1859)

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"Do not say, 'Why were the old days better than these?' For it is not wise to ask such questions." Ecclesiastes 7:10

Such questions are not wise. They savor either of ignorance, or discontent. If former days really were better, then you are discontent—if not, then you are ignorant. At all events, days past, and present, are just what God has made them—so it is bad to raise the question. Faith takes matters as they come. Blind unbelief asks many questions; it often asks, "WHY!"

One says, "Trade was far better before I entered business—I wonder how it is?"
Another, "Markets were better before I took to farming—How can it be?"
A third, "Fortunes were sooner made, when I was young—Why does it happen thus?"
"The seasons are not what they once were," exclaims a fourth—"all rain, and no sunshine; what can the reason be?"

What are the times, my friend?
Who made, who ordered them?
Out of whose bosom did they come?
Who holds them in His hand?
To quarrel with the times, is to find fault with God! He has made them all beautiful in their seasons. (Ecclesiastes 3:11.) If they do not please you, whose fault is it? Could you have made them better?

Examine well the links which interweave time present with time past—the mysterious chain of providential dealings. Look at the ordering of events, one hanging on the other, in perfect order, though mysterious. Survey the wonders of God's providence, the wondrous workings of His sovereign power. These are the the sum and substance of the times:
  times past, times present, and times future;
  your times and my times;
  the times of all men in all ages!

To change the times, were . . .
  to derange the ordering of Providence from first to last;
  to break the golden chain of divine events;
  to mar the beauty of God's structure.
God's dispensations revolve in fixed and sure orbits, all moving, acting, following, in perfect order.
To pluck one adverse event away:
to change sunshine for rain, or rain for sunshine;
sorrow for joy, or joy for sorrow;
easy for hard, or hard for easy
—would be as foolish as to arrest the planets in their course, or sweep a constellation from the skies!

You say, "Times past were better than the present."
Is God less present now than then?
Are His paths more difficult?
Are His ways less sure?
Has His grace, then, changed its character?
Is Jesus not the same?
Is man less wicked now than then?
Does he deserve a milder treatment?

Do not compare old times—against present times; or your hard lot—against the "fortune" of your forefathers.

Compare your "lot" with your deserts; and say which best befits you: to thank God, or complain of His providential dealings with you!

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(George Mylne, "Lessons for the Christian's Daily Walk" 1859)

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"The race is not to the swift,
  or the battle to the strong;
  nor does food come to the wise,
  or wealth to the brilliant,
  or favor to the learned—
but time and chance happen to them all.
" Ecclesiastes 9:11

Time, and her handmaid, what the world calls "chance", are clad in the vesture of uncertainty. What the worldling calls "chance"—in reality, is nothing but God's divine providence. God's ways bespeak His wisdom and His power—He is wise to adapt, and mighty to fulfill. Viewed with the eye of sense, God's ways often assume an air of fickleness; by which it is inferred that all things happen without rhyme or reason—with no settled law pervading, and no sovereign will directing their occurrence.

Thus man twists the attributes of God, and robs Him of His honor—as though some mock divinity called "chance" presided over us, and made caprice his rule of action.

Man's needs are various, and require an ever varying treatment—hence the varieties of "time and chance." Not one event occurs without its meaning. All events are divinely fitted by the supreme Disposer's wisdom and sovereignty.

Such treatment is required for a fallen race. No one uniform law would suit every purpose. Shivered to atoms by the "fall"—all order is gone from man. Each broken fragment of his nature reflects prismatic rays of frailty—their hue, their color, their intensity, forever varying; each calling for a divine providence adapted to fit its need; and, as the prism varies, so is the divine treatment changed.

The divine eye . . .
  which counts the feathers on the wings of insects;
  which numbers up the blades of grass;
  which counts the drops of water in the ocean;
  and registers each grain of sand upon the shore
—is quick to see, and swift to direct.
Hence, are all the changes, accidents, and "chances" of man's experience.

Hence, "the race is not to the swift, or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise, or wealth to the brilliant, or favor to the learned." Man may propose—but all the disposing is of God. God's "chance" (divine providence) is not the "chance" of men—all fickle and confused. God's "chance" is sure—fixed in its principle, certain in its aim, acting on rules of wisdom, inscrutable to man, yet clear and well-defined.

Man fails—and he knows not why. He calculates in vain. His plans are crossed by divine counter-plans—the underworkings of the divine Hand which made the worlds; of Him, who sovereignly controls all things of "time and chance."

"The word CHANCE should be forever banished from the Christian's conversation.
 Luck or chance is a base heathenish invention! God rules and overrules all things.
" Charles Spurgeon

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If more were good for me

(George Mylne, "Lessons for the Christian's Daily Walk" 1859)

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"Better what the eye sees [the enjoyment of what is available to one] than the cravings of wandering desire. This is also vanity [emptiness, meaninglessness, and futility] and a striving after the wind and a feeding on it!" Ecclesiastes 6:9 Amplified Bible

It is a bitter disappointment for a man to long for what he has not—for what he cannot have. That is, 
  to sigh for plenty, in the midst of poverty;
  to aspire for luxury, and have nothing but simple fare;
  to have dreams of grandeur and ambition, and yet to walk in humble life;
  to aspire to eminence, and then return to our mundane occupations.
All this is indeed lamentable to the heart!

Oh, how "desire" wanders, refusing to be satisfied with present comforts! Memory revels in the past; and hope dwells upon the future. The soul thus feeds on shadows—and leaves reality behind. There is bitterness in this, more than the tongue can tell.

Philosophy says, "Do not repine at your lot, but make the best of it." This is cold comfort, after all.

Blind fate says, "Hush! it is your destiny." Neither is this a cure for wandering desire.

The Christian has a remedy which never fails, when properly applied—the Savior's presence. This . . .
  turns poverty to riches;
  invests the humblest meal with luxury;
  makes crowded cities as pleasant as the mountain top;
  imparts refreshment in the midst of labor;
  fills voids with Christ's fullness; and
  gives us the presence of the best of friends.
"Surely, I am with you all the days (perpetually, uniformly, and on every occasion)—to the very close and consummation of the age!" Matthew 28:20

Children of God! your heavenly Father says, "All things are yours!" (1 Corinthians 3:21)—and so they are, in the degree and manner that is good for me. All the gold in the world is Christ's, and as His child, He gives me just as much as suits my best interest. If more were good for me—would not my loving Savior give me more: money, or material things, or health, or friendship?

Come back, then, wandering desire! Do not roam abroad over that which is not yours—that is forbidden ground.

What is your present lot? Scan it well; look at it through the lens of faith, and you will see a blessing in it. You will find a Father's love, a Savior's presence, and the Spirit's comforts—wrapped in the garb of present things, and rays of glory coming from them all.

Is not what I now have, better than the cravings of wandering desire—with such realities, better, far better, than the shadows of wandering desire!

"Be content with what you have. For God has said: I will never fail you. I will never abandon you!" Hebrews 13:5

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Have you learned your lesson so badly?

(George Mylne, "Lessons for the Christian's Daily Walk" 1859)

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"All is vexation of spirit!" Ecclesiastes 1:14

Who has not felt vexation?
Who knows not what it means?

The infant in its cradle,
the schoolboy at his play,
youth in all its vitality,
manhood in its prime,
and especially old age
all, all have felt vexation!

My soul, you know it well! Your sins, your fallen nature, your infirmities—all lay you open to vexation.
How easily irritated you get!
How quick to feel offenses!
How swift to gather sorrows to yourself through your excess of sensitivity!
Often have you murmured at your lot, rising in mutiny against your Maker!
How often has your patience failed!
What trifles have often wounded you!
Some scheme of pleasure has been thwarted—and you were quite vexed!
A rainy day, or even some trifling inconvenience—has often ruffled your composure.
How often a kind reproof, a friendly warning—some imagined slight—a look—a smile withheld, and yet with no intention of unkindness—has filled you with vexation!
How often has . . .
  wounded pride;
  a humbling sense of your infirmities;
  a deep conviction of your lack of judgment;
  the fear of standing low in man's opinion
—vexed you beyond expression!

My soul, you are not singular in your vexation.
Go where you will, you will find it.
The world is full of vexation. "All is vexation of spirit!"

This does not mean that . . .
 woes may lawfully be brooded over, or
 sense of injuries may be cherished in the soul, or
 that morbid feelings may be indulged in, or
 that moody silence, brooding vexation, and carking care—are healthful for the soul! Oh, no!

If God is true, if Scripture precept has its weight, and promises their meaning—then vexation, O my soul, should have no part in you! Open you must be to its trials day by day. But . . .
  where is your grace;
  where is your holiness;
  where is your consistency;
  where is your strength, your comfort, and your steadfastness
—if you are conquered by vexation?

Have you, then, learned of Christ, the lowly and the meek One—and not found rest for your soul? (Matthew 11:29.) Have you learned your lesson so badly? Go, learn it over again. Fight, then, against this habit of vexation. Give it no place within you. Look to the Comforter to help you. Taste the tranquility of God. Take every trial, as it rises, to Jesus, your Savior-Friend. Then peace shall be your portion—not vexation.

"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you.
 I do not give to you as the world gives.
 Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid!" John 14:27

"And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,
 will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus!" Philippians 4:7

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The art of meditation

(George Mylne, "Lessons for the Christian's Daily Walk" 1859)

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"So I applied my mind to understand, to investigate and to search out wisdom and the scheme of things." Ecclesiastes 7:25

We live in stirring days, when deeds are everything—when closet work is often neglected for active business, and little time is given to meditation. Yet, with more thought and prayer—wholesome activity would be greater in the end, and all our actions more successful. Time is not lost, which is spent in meditation—in searching wisdom's ways, and seeking out profound realities. There is one who often meditates—and yet accomplishes much. There is another who hastens—and yet does little. None works so heartily, nor reaps so fully—as he whose wits are sharpened by prayer and meditation.

Reading either Scripture or Christian books, apart from meditation, does little good. It is much the same as not digesting what you eat—this only starves the soul. How many read the Bible thus!

The art of meditation may be learned by dint of effort.

You say, "I am quite unused to meditate. How shall I begin?" Deal gently with yourself at first. Select your subject—some passage from the Word. Then fix the time you choose to give; say, five minutes at a time. Begin, and think aloud. This makes it easier, and saves the mind from distracted thoughts, the hardest task of all. The sound even of your own voice will help you; it is like speaking to a friend. And what is meditation, but communing with self—that self may be a constant hearer.

But, more than all, make it a time of prayer—of communing with God. This helps the matter greatly. Take the words of Scripture, and ask Jesus what they mean. In doing this, the mind is exercised. A glow of thought attends the effort. You honor Jesus; and He will honor you, by pouring out a largeness of capacity, a quicker mind. The interchange of thought between you and Jesus goes on apace, and you are surprised to find how long the exercise has lasted.

Thus meditation grows, the more it is exercised. It . . .
  feeds the soul,
  expands the mind,
  increases thought, and,
  best of all, it brings you into fellowship with Jesus. This is the very life and soul of meditation.

"Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful." Joshua 1:8

"But his delight is in the Law of the LORD, and on His Law he meditates day and night." Psalm 1:2

"I will meditate on all Your works, and consider all Your mighty deeds." Psalm 77:12

"I meditate on Your precepts, and consider Your ways." Psalm 119:15

"Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long." Psalm 119:97

"I meditate on all Your works, and consider what Your hands have done." Psalm 143:5

"My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on Your promises." Psalm 119:148

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Lopsided religion

(Harvey Newcomb, "The Young Lady's Guide to the Harmonious Development of Christian Character" 1843)

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There is, perhaps, a peculiar tendency to lopsided religion in our age of excitement and activity.

Nothing delights the senses like harmony. The eye rests with pleasure on the edifice which is complete in all its parts according to the laws of architecture. And the sensation of delight is still more exquisite, on viewing the harmonious combination of colors, as exhibited in the rainbow, or the flowers of the field. The ear, also, is ravished with the harmony of musical sounds; and the palate is delighted with savory dishes.

The beauty and loveliness of Christian character depend on the harmonious culture of all the Christian graces in due proportion. If one is deficient, and another too prominent, the idea of deformity strikes the mind with painful sensations; like harsh, discordant musical sounds; or like the disproportionate combination of colors.

Where all the graces exist in due proportion, they will form a lovely character, harmonious and beautiful as the colors of the rainbow.

The beauty of the Christian character greatly depends on its symmetrical proportions. A person may be very zealous in some things, and yet quite defective in his Christian character; and the probability is, that he has no more true religion than shows itself in its consistent proportions.

The new energy imparted by the regenerating grace of God may unite itself with the strong points of his character, and produce a very prominent development; while, in regard to those traits of character which are naturally weak in his constitutional temperament, grace may be scarcely perceptible. The error lies in cultivating almost exclusively, those graces which are most agreeable with our prominent traits of character.

We should bend our energies, by the grace of God, chiefly to the development of those points of character which are naturally weak; while we discipline, repress, and bring under control, those which are too prominent. This will prevent deformity, and promote a uniform consistency of character.

The perfection of Christian character consists in the harmonious development of the Christian graces.

"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control." Galatians 5:22-23

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The secret of true happiness!

(Harvey Newcomb, "The Young Lady's Guide to the Harmonious Development of Christian Character" 1843)

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The secret of true happiness
lies in a cordial acquiescence in the will of God. It is sweet to lie passive in His hand—and know no will but His!

The doctrine of a 'particular providence' is precious to the Christian's heart. It enables him to see the hand of God in every event. Hence the sinfulness of a repining, discontented, unsubmissive temper. It is difficult to reconcile the habitual indulgence of such a sinful disposition—with the existence of grace in the heart. The first emotion of the new-born soul is submission to the will of God.

We are prone to lose sight of the 'hand of God' in the little difficulties and perplexities which are of every-day occurrence, and to look only at 'second causes'. We often do the same, in more important matters. When we are injured or insulted by others, we are disposed to murmur and complain, and give vent to our indignation against the immediate causes of our distress; forgetting that these are only the 'instruments which God employs' for the trial of our faith, or the correcting of our sins.

In this doctrine of the secret agency of divine Providence, we have the strongest motive for a hearty and cheerful resignation to all the troubles and difficulties, trials and afflictions, which come upon us in this life—whatever may be their immediate cause. We know that they are directed by our heavenly Father, whose "tender mercies are over all His works," and who "does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men."

Whatever may be our afflictions, so long as we are out of Hell, we are monuments of His mercy. "Why does a living man complain—a man for the punishment of his sins?" Lamentations 3:39

We are assured "that all things work together for good, to those who love God." The afflictions of this life, are the faithful corrections of a kind and tender Father. "For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and He scourges every son whom He receives." How consoling the reflection—that all our sufferings are designed to mortify and subdue our corruptions, to wean us from the world, and lead us to a more humble and constant sense of dependence upon God! How ungrateful for a child of God to repine at the dealings of such a tender and faithful Father!

God will give us all that He sees is best for us. And surely we ought to be satisfied with this; for He who sees the end from the beginning, must know much better than we—what is for our good. It is our duty to maintain a contented and cheerful spirit in every situation of life.

If God directs all our ways, and has promised to give us just what He sees we need, we surely ought to rest satisfied with what we have; for we know it is just what the Lord, in His infinite wisdom and unbounded goodness—sees fit to give us.

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A faithful minister!

(Letters of John Newton)

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"Tychicus 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 to rightly divide and faithfully 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

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He will not spoil them!

(Letters of John Newton)

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"Now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials." 1 Peter 1:6

The Lord loves His children, and is very indulgent to them so far as they can safely bear it—but He will not spoil them! Their sin-sickness requires strong medicines, some of which are very unpalatable. And when our case calls for such, no short-sighted entreaties of ours will excuse us from taking what He prepares for our good.

It is comforting to know that every dose is prepared by His own hand, and not one is administered in vain, nor is it repeated any oftener than is needful to answer His purposed end. Until then, no other hand can remove the affliction which He lays upon us. When His merciful design is answered, He will relieve us Himself; and in the meantime He will so moderate the operation, or increase our ability to bear it—that we shall not be overpowered by it.

Afflictions are useful, and in a degree necessary, to keep alive in us a conviction of the vanity and unsatisfying nature of the present world and all its enjoyments; to remind us that this poor world is not our rest; and to call our thoughts upward, where our true treasure is, and where our hearts ought to be.

When things go on much to our wish, our hearts are too prone to say, "It is good be here!" Thus the Lord, by pain, sickness, and disappointments, by breaking our cisterns and withering our gourds—weakens our attachment to this world, and makes the thought of leaving it more desirable.

Trials are medicines which our gracious and wise physician prescribes, because we need them; and He proportions the frequency and weight of them to what the case requires.

It is true, without a single exception, that all His paths are mercy and truth to those who fear Him. The Lord afflicts us for our good—but it is always a thousand times less than we deserve!

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What a believer would do—if he could!

(Letters of John Newton)

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"For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh. These are contrary the one to the other—so that you cannot do the things that you would!" Galatians 5:17

This is a humbling but an accurate account of a Christian's attainments in the present life, and is equally applicable to the strongest and to the weakest. The weakest need not say less—the strongest will hardly venture to say more.

The Lord has given His people a desire aiming at great things, but they cannot do as they would. Their best desires are weak and ineffectual—not absolutely so, but in comparison with the noble mark at which they aim. So that while they have great cause to be thankful for the desire He has given them, and for the degree in which it is answered—they have equal reason to be ashamed and abased under a sense of their continual defects and the evil mixtures which taint and debase their best endeavors!

It would be easy to make out a long list of particulars which a believer would do if he could—but in which, from first to last, he finds a mortifying inability. Permit me to mention a few, which I need not transcribe from books, for they are always present to my mind.

He would willingly enjoy God in prayer. He knows that prayer is his duty; but he considers it likewise as his greatest honor and privilege. In this light he can recommend it to others, and can tell them of the wonderful condescension of the great God, who humbles Himself and opens His gracious ear to the supplications of sinful worms upon earth! The believer can bid others to expect a pleasure in waiting upon the Lord, different in kind and greater in degree than all that the world can afford.

By prayer he can say: "You have liberty to cast all your cares upon Him who cares for you. By one hour's intimate access to the throne of grace—you may acquire more true spiritual knowledge and comfort, than by a week's converse with the best of men, or the most studious perusal of many books." And in this light he would consider it and improve it for himself.

But, alas; how seldom can he do as he would! How often does he find this privilege to be a mere task, which he would be glad of a just excuse to omit! and the chief pleasure he derives from the performance, is to think that his task is finished! He has been drawing near to God with his lips, while his heart was far from Him. Surely this is not doing as he would, when (to borrow the expression of an old woman here,) he is dragged before God like a slave, and comes away like a thief!

Though we aim at this good—evil is present with us!

Alas! how vain is man in his best estate! How much weakness and inconsistency, even in those whose hearts are right with the Lord! What reason have we to confess that we are unworthy, unprofitable servants!

It were easy to enlarge in this way, would paper and time permit. But, blessed be God, we are not under the law—but under grace! And even these distressing effects of the remnants of indwelling sin are overruled for good. By these experiences—the believer is weaned more from SELF, and taught more highly to prize and more absolutely to rely on Him who is our Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification and Redemption! The more vile we are in our own eyes—the more precious He will be to us! A deep repeated sense of the evil of our hearts is necessary to preclude all boasting, and to make us willing to give the whole glory of our salvation where it is due!

Again, a sense of these evils will (when hardly anything else can do it) reconcile us to the thoughts of DEATH! Yes, they make us desirous to depart, that we may sin no more; since we find depravity so deep-rooted in our nature, that, like the leprous house, the whole fabric must be taken down before we can be freed from its defilement!

Then, and not until then, we shall be able to do the thing that we would! When we see Jesus—we shall be transformed into His image, and be done with sin and sorrow forever!

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You have lately been in the furnace!

(Letters of John Newton)

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"Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows!" John 16:33

Dear friend,
You have lately been in the furnace—and are now brought safely out. I hope you have much to say of the grace, care, and skill of the great Refiner, who watched over you; and that you have lost nothing but dross. Let this experience be treasured up in your hearts for the use of future times. Other trials will come—but you have found the Lord faithful to His promise, and have good encouragement to trust Him again.

I doubt not, but you will have your share of trials; but when the love of God is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Spirit, it sweetens what bitter things the Lord puts into our cup, and enables us to say, "None of these things move me!"

Yes, the life of faith is a happy life, and
  if attended with conflicts—there is an assurance of victory;
  if we sometimes get a wound—there is healing balm near at hand;
  if we seem to fall—we are raised again; and
  if tribulations abound—consolations shall abound likewise.

Is it not happiness—to have an infallible Guide, an invincible Guard, an almighty Friend! To be able to say of the Maker of heaven and earth, "He is my Beloved, my Shepherd, my Savior, and my Husband!"

Oh the peace that flows from believing . . .
  that all events in which we are concerned, are under His immediate disposal;
  that the hairs of our head are all numbered;
  that He delights in our prosperity;
  that there is a need-be, if we are in heaviness, and
  that all things shall surely work for our good!

How happy to have such views of God's sovereignty, wisdom, love, and faithfulness—as will enable us to meet every painful dispensation with submission, and to look through the changes of the present life—to that unchangeable inheritance to which the Lord is leading us, when all evil shall cease, and where joy shall be perfect and eternal!

"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 21:4

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A plain book designed for plain people

(Letters of John Newton)

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"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness—so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work!" 2 Timothy 3:16-17

"When the Spirit of truth comes—He will guide you into all the truth." John 16:13

A few minutes of the Spirit's teaching will furnish us with more real, useful and experimental knowledge—than toiling through whole folios of commentators and expositors! It will be our wisdom to deal less with the streams—and be more close in applying to the fountain-head. The Scripture itself, and the Spirit of God—are the best and the only sufficient expositors of Scripture. Whatever men have valuable in their writings—they got it from Scripture; and the Scripture is as open to us—as to any of them. There is nothing required but a teachable, humble spirit; and academic learning, as it is commonly called, is not necessary in order for this.

Psalm 25:14, "The secret counsel of the LORD is for those who fear Him, and He reveals His covenant to them"—not notionally, but experimentally. We learn more, and more effectually, by one minute's communication with God through the medium of His written Word, than we could from an assembly of divines, or a library of books!

As a minister, I endeavor to avoid all panaceas, singularities, 'hidden truths' and 'new discoveries' in Scripture. I wish to advance nothing which I cannot maintain upon the authority of the Bible in our English language—which I deem sufficient to make us and our hearers wise unto salvation.

The New Testament is a plain book designed for plain people. The gospel is to be preached to the poor and simple, who are just as capable of receiving it as the educated—and in some sense more so. I therefore lay little stress upon any academic learning—which depends upon a knowledge of original Greek and Hebrew languages, or requires a larger degree of capacity and genius to be understood.

"From a child, you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus!" 2 Timothy 3:15

"Unless our souls are living in communion with God, the Scriptures will not yield us their strength and nourishment!" (R.C. Chapman)

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People who long to be rich

(Letters of John Newton)

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An inordinate desire and attachment to the things of this present world, is a prevailing cause of a spiritual declension. Unless this evil principle is mortified in its root, by the doctrine of the cross—it will in time prevail over the most splendid profession. That love of the world, which is inconsistent with the true love of God—manifests itself in two different ways, as men by temper and habit are differently inclined:

The first is covetousness or greediness for gain. This was the ruin of Judas, and probably the cause of the defection of Demas. By the honorable mention made of him in some of Paul's epistles, Demas seems to have had much of Paul's confidence and esteem for a season. Yet at length his covetous passion prevailed, and the last account we have of him from the apostle is, "Demas has deserted me—because he loved this present world." 2 Timothy 4:10

Again, there are people not chargeable with the love of money for its own sake—for they rather squander it, than hoard it. Yet they are equally under the influence of a worldly spirit! They manifest their worldly hearts, by an expensive taste in the articles of dress, furniture and feasting—which are always unsuitable to a Christian profession.

It is not easy to exactly mark out the precise line of Christian conduct in these respects, which befits the different situations in which the providence of God has placed us. Nor is it necessary to those who are poor in spirit—and upright in heart. A simple desire of pleasing God and adorning the gospel, will solve most cases of how a believer should spend his money—which occupy little and trifling minds. The inclination of our heart—will always direct and regulate our voluntary expenses. Those who love the Lord and whose spirits are lively in His service, will avoid both stinginess and selfish extravagance. They will rather lean to the frugal side in how they spend their money on themselves—that they may be better able to promote God's cause, and to relieve the necessities of His people.

Misers, who can be content with the mere form of religion, will hoard all they can save—in order to gratify their avarice! Others will spend all they can spare—to gratify their vanity, or their worldly appetites!

It is not easy to determine which of these evils is the greatest. Perhaps of the two, the miser is least accessible to conviction, and consequently the most difficult to be reclaimed. But a desire for extravagance and indulgence, if persisted in—will gradually lead to such compliances with the spirit and maxims of the world, as will certainly weaken, if not wholly suppress—the exercise of vital godliness. In whatever degree the "love of the world" prevails—the "health of the soul" will proportionately decline.

"People who long to be rich, fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction! For the love of money is at the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows!" 1 Timothy 6:9-10

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Like coins from the same mint!

(Letters of John Newton)

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My dear sir,
I could write a long note indeed, upon your very great mistake in considering me as a great man. If we could have a personal interview—I think you would be quickly undeceived! Ah! how different I am, from what perhaps I appear to be to others when in the pulpit.

Your mistake, however, has done me good. A whole quire of invective from an enemy could hardly have given me so keen a sense of shame. The Scriptures assure us that our hearts by nature, like coins from the same mint—are all alike. I hear my fellow-Christians complain of evils similar to what I feel. Otherwise I would have reason to conclude that there could not be one believer upon earth—so inconsistent, so evil, so vile beyond expression, as myself!

Ah, dear sir! what would you have thought of me, had you seen me when I lived among the slaves? The sight of me would have been offensive to your eyes, and my vile speech would have struck you with horror! I was miserable and despicable in every view—the common mark of scorn and insult! My whole wretched amusement and pleasure seemed to lie in blaspheming the name and person of Jesus, and in feeding my imagination with schemes of wickedness!

Some of my unhappy companions have perished in their sins, who have just cause to charge the ruin of their souls to my account! For Satan himself, had he been upon earth in a bodily shape—could hardly have been more industrious in tempting to infidelity and profligacy than I was!

There is seldom a day of my life, in which my thoughts are not led back to my former state of estrangement from Him, and that pre-eminence of wretchedness into which my sins plunged me!

Yet, it is of grace that my poor story is not much worse. The Lord is my keeper—therefore I am still preserved.

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

I am, dear sir, your affectionate friend and servant,
John Newton, 1778

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me;
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see!

Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home!

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine!

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The Lord reigns!

(Letters of John Newton)

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"The Lord reigns! He is robed in majesty! The Lord is robed in majesty and is armed with strength!" Psalm 93:1

"The Lord reigns! Let the nations tremble!" Psalm 99:1

The Lord reigns! He who once bore our sins and carried our sorrows—is seated upon a throne of glory and exercises all power in heaven and on earth! Thrones, principalities and powers bow before Him. Every being and event are under His rule. His providence pervades and manages the whole, and is as minutely attentive to every part—as if there were only that single object in His view.

From the tallest archangel, to the meanest ant or fly—all depend on Him for their being, their preservation and their powers! He directs the sparrows where to build their nests, and to find their food. He overrules the rise and fall of nations; and bends, with an invincible energy and unerring wisdom—all events! So that, while many intend otherwise—in the outcome their designs all concur and coincide in the accomplishment of His holy will. He restrains with a mighty hand the still more formidable efforts of the powers of darkness; and Satan with all his hosts cannot exert their malice a hair's breadth beyond the limits of His permission. Satan may rage—but he is a chained enemy!

This is He, who is the Redeemer and Husband of His believing people.
How happy are those whom it is His good pleasure to bless!
How safe are those whom He has engaged to protect!
How honored and privileged are those whom He enables and warrants to claim Him as their friend and their portion!
Having redeemed them by His own blood, He sets a high value upon them! He esteems them His treasure, His jewels! He guards them as the pupil of His eye. They shall not lack, and they need not fear!
His eye is upon them in every situation,
His ear is open to their prayers, and
His everlasting arms are under them for their sure support.

On earth, He guides their steps, controls their enemies, and directs all His dispensations for their good! While, in Heaven, He is pleading their cause, preparing a place for them, and communicating down to them reviving foretastes of the glory that shall shortly be theirs!

"The Lord reigns forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the Lord!" Psalm 146:10

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If a toad or a serpent was put in my food or in my bed!

(John Newton, Indwelling Sin and the Believer)

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"The evil which I would not do—that I do." Romans 7:19

Permit me to tell you a little part, (for some things must not, cannot be told,) not of what I have read—but of what I have felt, in illustration of the above passage.

I would not be the sport and prey of wild, vain, foolish, and vile imaginations—but this evil is present with me! My heart is like an open highway—like a city without walls or gates. Nothing is so false, so frivolous, so absurd, so impossible, or so horrid—but it can obtain access, and that at any time, or in any place! Neither the study, the pulpit, nor even the Lord's table—exempt me from their intrusion.

But if this awful effect of heart-depravity cannot be wholly avoided in the present state of human nature—yet, at least, I would not allow and indulge it; yet this I find I do! In defiance of my best judgment and best wishes—I find something within me which cherishes and cleaves to those evils, from which I ought to be horrified by, and flee from—as I would if a toad or a serpent was put in my food or in my bed! Ah! how vile must the heart (at least my heart) be—that can hold a parley with such abominations, when I so well know their nature and their tendency.

Surely he who finds himself capable of this, may, without the least affectation of humility (however fair his outward conduct appears), subscribe himself less than the least of all saints, and the very chief of sinners! But the Lord knows how this dead fly taints and spoils my best services, and makes them no better than splendid sins.

This is only a faint sketch of my depraved heart. But though my disease is grievous, it is not desperate; I have a gracious and infallible Physician. I shall not die—but live and declare the works of the Lord.

But I shall not always be as I am now! Yet a little while, and I shall be freed from this vile body—which, like the leprous house, is incurably contaminated, and must be entirely taken down. Then I shall see Jesus as He is, and be like Him, and with Him forever!

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The theaters are fountains of vice!

(Letters of John Newton)

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"The Lord, the Lord Almighty, called you on that day to weep and to wail, to tear out your hair and put on sackcloth. But see, there is joy and revelry, eating of meat and drinking of wine! 'Let us eat and drink,' you say, 'for tomorrow we die!' The Lord Almighty has revealed this in my hearing: 'Till your dying day, this sin will not be atoned for!' says the Lord, the Lord Almighty." Isaiah 22:12-14

My dear Madam,
I am well convinced that if there is any practice in this land which is sinful—attendance on the playhouse is eminently so. The theaters are fountains of vice! I can hardly think there is a Christian upon earth who would dare to be seen there—if the nature and effects of the theater were properly set before him! By its innumerable train of dissipations, the god of this world blinds the eyes of multitudes, lest the light of the glorious gospel should shine in upon them.

I wish you, therefore, to use all your influence to make them shunned as pest-houses, and dangerous nuisances to precious souls! Especially if you know any who you hope, in the main, are seriously disposed, who yet venture into those haunts of Satan—endeavor earnestly and faithfully to undeceive them!

The time is short! Eternity is at the door! Was there no other evil in these vain amusements, than the loss of precious time (but alas! their name is legion)—we have not leisure time to regard them.

And, blessed be God, we have no need for them! The gospel opens a source of purer, sweeter, and more substantial pleasures! We are invited to communion with God! The wonders of redeeming love are laid open to our view. Well then, may we bid adieu to the perishing pleasures of sin!

Well may we pity those who can find pleasure in those places and parties . . .
  where Jesus is shut out;
  where His name is only mentioned to be profaned;
  where His commandments are not only broken, but insulted;
  where sinners proclaim their shame, as in Sodom, and make no attempt to hide it;
  where wickedness is veiled in the disguise of amusement—to make it more insinuating!

"You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?
 Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God." James 4:4

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Is this all I get—after so much trouble?

(Letters of John Newton)

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"Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.
 But take heart, because I have overcome the world." John 16:33

Dear Brother,
Blessed be God for the news of a better world, where there will be no sin, trouble, nor defect forever!

What shall it be—when the Lord shall call us up to join with those who are now singing before the eternal throne!

What shall it be—when all the children of God, who in different ages and countries have been scattered abroad; shall be all gathered together, and enter into that glorious and eternal rest provided for them!

What shall it be—when there shall not be one trace of sin or sorrow remaining; not one discordant note to be heard, nothing to disturb or defile, or alleviate the never-ceasing joy!

Many a weary step we have taken, since the Lord first drew us to Himself; but we shall not have to tread the past way over again. Some difficulties may remain, but we know not how few. Perhaps before we are aware, the Lord may cut short our conflict and say, "Come up hither!" At the most, it cannot be very long! He who has been with us thus far, will be with us to the end. He knows how to cause our consolations to exceed our greatest afflictions!

And when we get safely Home, we shall not complain that we have suffered too much along the way. We shall not say, "Is this all I get—after so much trouble?" No! When we awake in that glorious world, we shall in an instant be satisfied with His likeness. One sight of Jesus as He is, will fill our hearts and dry up all our tears!

"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us!" Romans 8:18

"In Your presence is fullness of joy! In Your right hand there are pleasures forever!" Psalm 16:11

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Dear Miss Medhurst

(Letters of John Newton)

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"Looking unto Jesus
, the author and finisher of our faith!" Hebrews 12:2

Miss Medhurst,
The best advice I can send, or the best wish for you—is that you may have an abiding and experimental sense of those words of the apostle which are just now upon my mind, "Looking unto Jesus!" The duty, the privilege, the safety, the unspeakable happiness, of a believer—are all comprised in that one sentence! Let us first pray that the eyes of our faith and understanding may be opened and strengthened; and then let us fix our whole gaze upon Him!

But HOW are we to behold Him? I answer, in the looking-glass of His written Word! There He is represented to us in a variety of views. The wicked world can see no form nor loveliness in the portraiture He has given of Himself. Yet blessed be God, there are those who can "behold His glory as the glory of the only begotten Son of God, full of grace and truth!" And while they behold it—they find themselves "changed into His image, from glory to glory," by the transforming influence of the Spirit.

In vain do we use our reasonings and arguments and resolutions—to beat down our sins and corruptions, and to silence our fears; but a believing view of Jesus does the business!

When heavy trials in life are appointed to us, and we are called to give up, or perhaps to pluck out, a right eye—it is an easy matter for a bystander to say "Be comforted;" and it is as useless as easy; but a view of Jesus by faith comes home to the point.

When we can fix our thoughts upon Him, as laying aside all His honors, and submitting for our sakes to drink off the bitter cup of the wrath of God to the very dregs; and when we further consider that He who thus suffered for our sins, knows and sympathizes with all our weaknesses; that He is now the Supreme Disposer of all that concerns us; that He numbers the very hairs of our heads; appoints every trial we meet with in number, weight, and measure; and will allow nothing to befall us but what shall contribute to our good—this view, I say, is a medicine suited to the disease, and powerfully reconciles us to every cross!

When Jesus is upon our thoughts, either in His humbled—or His exalted state; either as bleeding on the cross—or as worshiped by all the host of Heaven; then we can ask the apostle's question with a befitting disdain, "Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid!"

What! shall I sin against my Lord, my Love, my Friend—who once died for my sins, and now lives and reigns on my behalf! What! shall I sin against my Redeemer who supports, and leads, and guides, and feeds me every day? God forbid! No! I would rather wish for a thousand hands and eyes and feet and tongues—for ten thousand lives—that I might devote them all to His blessed service!

"Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith!" Hebrews 12:2

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I am very sorry about your accident!

(Letters of John Newton)

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My dear friend,
I am very sorry about your accident, but I am thankful that you were not hurt. Such catastrophes, as this may properly be called, have often been attended with dislocated or broken bones, a fractured skull, or instant death—so frail is man!

Often, when he thinks himself safe, and is dreaming of his own importance, as if he were a necessary part in the complicated movements of Divine Providence—he falls like grass before the scythe! And not by the hands of a giant, or the fangs of a tiger—but the smallest trifle is sufficient to destroy him!

For example—how many loose stones do we see in the road; it seems no great matter where they lie. Yet any one of them, by changing the direction of a wheel—is sufficient to confound all the plans of this mighty creature! One stone stumbles him down; he falls with his head upon another—in that very moment all his future plans perish! But the Lord gave His angels charge over you; therefore you fell unhurt, and are still alive to praise and serve Him.

I see so much of the uncertainty of life, and how little I can either foresee or prevent what the next moment may bring forth—that I would be a very great coward—afraid not only of riding in a coach, but of walking across a room—if I was not in some degree enabled to confide in the Lord's protection!

I wish for you 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!

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

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Our wisest plans and best endeavors!

(Letters of John Newton)

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We are disciples—Jesus is our Master. The world we live in is His school, and every person and event is under His management, designed to forward us in the great lessons which He would have us to learn—such as . . .
  a distrust of creatures, and
  an absolute dependence upon Himself.

In this view,
  afflictions—are mercies,
  losses—are gains,
  hindrances—are helps, and
  all things, even those which seem most contrary—are working together for our good.

Creatures smile upon us—or frown upon us; caress us—or disappoint us;
friends grow cool—and enemies become kind,
just as His wisdom sees most expedient to promote our spiritual progress.

Where we look for most blessing—it often comes to little;
where we look for nothing—we often obtain most benefit.

Our wisest plans and best endeavors at one time produce great troubles!
At another time, what we do at random, and what we account the most trifling incidents—are productive of happy, lasting, and extensive consequences.

It is well for us if, by a long train of such changing, checkered experiences—we at length attain to some proficiency, and can say with David, "My soul, wait only upon God; for my expectation is from Him."

The heart possession of two maxims of Matthew Henry, is well worth all that the acquisition can cost us:
  1. Every creature is to us—only what God makes it.
  2. We cannot expect too little from man—nor too much from God.

In this school I am placed, and these lessons I am aiming to learn. But I am a poor scholar and indeed any master but He who condescends to be my teacher—would turn me out as an incorrigible dunce!

Yet I sincerely wish to be willing to be what, and where, and how the Lord would have me be; to cast all my cares simply upon Him, and to be always satisfied in my mind that He assuredly cares for me!

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Pains, infirmities, loss of sleep, the failure of sight and hearing!

(Letters of John Newton)

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"Do not cast me away when I am old;
 do not forsake me when my strength is gone."
    Psalm 71:9

I am drawing nearer and nearer to the season which the Psalmist either expected or felt. Many reasons teach the aged believer the need of this prayer. As his graces are still imperfect—so his powers are feelingly upon the decline. It was but little he could do at his best—and now less and less!
 He feels other props and comforts dropping off apace. When he was young, he had warm spirits and pleasing prospects; but now, what a change of the friends in which he once delighted! In some he has found inconstancy—they have forsaken and forgotten him; and others have been successively taken away by death. They have fallen like the leaves in autumn—and now he stands almost a naked trunk. If any yet remain, he is expecting to lose them likewise—unless he is first taken from them.
 Old age abates, and gradually destroys the relish of such earthly comforts as might be otherwise enjoyed.
Pains, infirmities, loss of sleep, the failure of sight and hearing, and all the senses—are harbingers, like Job's messengers arriving in close succession, to tell him that death is upon his progress, and is not far away!
 If youth has no security against death—then old age has no possibility of escaping the grim monster. But though . . .
   friends fail,
   cisterns burst,
   gourds wither,
   and death advances
 —if God does not forsake me, then all is well.
 "Even to your old age and gray hairs—I am He who will sustain you.
  I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you!"
     Isaiah 46:4

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The death of an infant

(Letters of John Newton)

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My dear friend,
I must leave a line to tell you that we sympathize with you and your wife in your severe trial (the death of an infant). But, at the same time, I rejoice exceedingly in the Lord's goodness, enabling you to be resigned and satisfied with His will, despite all the feelings and pinchings of flesh and blood.

If you can now believe and say, "He does all things well"—with what transport would you say it, if the whole plan of His wisdom and love was unfolded to your view! He will condescend to unfold it to you hereafter, and it will fill you with admiration. It is an affliction to be cordially rejoiced in—when the Lord, who cares for us intimates His will by the event.

Healing and wounding are equally from His hand, and are equally tokens of His love and care over us! "The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord!" Job 1:21

You are in the wise and merciful hands of One who prescribes for you with unerring wisdom, and has unspeakably more tenderness than can be found in all human hearts taken together! He weighs all your painful afflictions with consummate accuracy! You shall not have a single grain of trouble more, nor for a single moment longer—than He will enable you to bear, and will sanctify to your good.

We know all things are dispensed to us by infinite wisdom—in number, weight, and measure; with a far greater accuracy than any doctor can adjust his medicines to the state and strength of his patients.

The flesh will feel the sharp affliction—but faith and prayer will lighten the burden, and heal the wound. Daily your sense of the Lord's goodness will increase, and the sense of pain will abate—so that you will have less sorrow, and more joy, from day to day.

What a blessing to be a Christian—to have a hiding place and a resting place always at hand! To be assured that all things work for our good, and that our compassionate Shepherd has His eye always upon us—to support and to relieve us.

I am affectionately and sincerely your friend, brother and servant,
John Newton

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Did you ever see my picture?

(Letters of John Newton)

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"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.

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In a few years!

(Thomas Chalmers, 1780-1847)

"For we were born only yesterday and know nothing,
 and our days on earth are but a shadow." Job 8:9

"He springs up like a flower and withers away;
 like a fleeting shadow, he does not endure." Job 14:2

"Only a few years will pass before I go on the journey of no return!" Job 16:22

"My days are like the evening shadow;
 I wither away like grass." Psalm 102:11

"Man is like a breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow." Psalm 144:4

How transient is human life—yet no one lays it to heart. With the magnificence of eternity before us—let fleeting time, with all its fluctuations, dwindle into its own littleness.

In a few years our heads will be laid in the cold grave, and the green turf will cover us. The children who come after us will tread upon our graves.

They will weep for us a few days.

They will talk of us a few months.

They will remember us a few years.

Then our memory shall disappear from the face of the earth, and not a tongue shall be found to recall it!

The character with which we sink into the grave at death, is the very character with which we shall reappear at the final judgment!

"O God, impress upon me the value of time, and give regulation to all my thoughts and to all my actions. O God, help me to live for Your glory. As the years roll over me, may I withdraw my affections from time, and feel that in moving through the world, I am moving toward eternity!"

"So teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Psalm 90:12

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God's work of grace in the soul

(Letters of John Newton)

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"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

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Untried, untrodden, and unknown!

(Octavius Winslow, "The Untrodden Path" 1860)

"You have not passed this way before." Joshua 3:4

How solemn is the reflection that with a new cycle of time, commences a new and untrodden path with each traveler to Zion.

New events in his history will transpire;
new scenes in the panorama of life will unfold;
new phases of character will develop;
new temptations will assail;
new duties will devolve;
new trials will be experienced;
new sorrows will be felt;
new friendships will be formed;
new mercies will be bestowed.

How truly may it be said of the pilgrim, journeying through the wilderness to his eternal home, as he stands upon the threshold of this untried period of his existence, pondering the unknown and uncertain future, "You have not passed this way before."

But there is another thought inexpressibly soothing. Untried, untrodden, and unknown as that new path may be, it is each step mapped and arranged, and provided for in the everlasting and unchangeable covenant of God. To Him who leads us, who accepts us in the Son of His love, who knows the end from the beginning—it is no new, or uncertain, or hidden way.

We thank Him that, while He wisely and kindly veils all the future from our reach; all that future, its minutest event, is as transparent and visible to Him as the past.

Our Shepherd knows the windings along which He skillfully, gently, and safely leads His flock. Oh! it is a thought replete with strong consolation, and well calculated to gird us for the coming year: the Lord knows and has ordained each step of the untrodden path upon which I am about to enter!

The infinite forethought, wisdom, and goodness which have marked each line of our new path, have also provided for its every necessity . . .
  each exigency in the new year has been anticipated;
  each need will bring its appropriate and adequate supply;
  each perplexity will have its guidance;
  each sorrow its comfort;
  each temptation its shield;
  each cloud its light;
  each affliction will suggest its lesson;
  each correction will impart its teaching;
  each mercy will convey its message of love.

The promise will be fulfilled to the letter, "As your days, so shall your strength be!" Deuteronomy 33:25