“May we ever remember that not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.
I had no doubt but that you would love my dear friend; possibly I may overrate him; I own he is but a man, but I think him an uncommon one; an eminent instance of the true christian spirit. This is what is most taking with me.
Gifts are useful; but they are mere tinsel compared with the solid gold of grace. An eminency in gifts is specious and glittering; but unless grace is proportionable, very ensnaring likewise.
Gifts are like riches: if well improved, they give a man fairer opportunities of service; but if the Lord favours a man with great gifts, and in consequence thereof, considerable popularity, that man stands in a dangerous situation.
If he is not kept humble, great soon will be his fall; and to keep such a man humble, more than a common share of trials is usually needful.
My prayer for you and for myself, my dear friend, is, that we may never be suffered to infer grace from gifts, or to mistake the exercise of the one for the exercise of the other.
We have need to be saying continually, “Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe.” How else can we stand?
If we meet with opposition, it has hurt its thousands. If we are exposed to caresses and popularity, they have slain their ten thousands.
Jesus alone is able to preserve us, and He is able to preserve us fully; in the lion’s den, in the fiery furnace, in the swellings of Jordan, if He be with us, and maintain in us a sense of our unworthiness, and our entire dependence upon Him, we shall be safe.
I see that, beside the general lot of affliction in common with others, you are likely to have one peculiar trial, which might be lightly regarded by some, but not by me.
Indeed, I can sympathize with you; and, from what I have formerly felt, I am sure nothing but the grace of God can compose the mind under such a disappointment.
But remember, He has given you Himself. If He sees tit to overrule your desires, be sure it is best for you.
The Lord sees all consequences; if we could do so, we should acquiesce in His appointments the first moment.
If it is for your good and His glory, it shall yet take place; (you would not wish it otherwise;) if not, He can make it up, perhaps in kind; (for there is an old proverb, “That there is as good fish in the sea as ever came out of it;”).
But if not so, He can easily make it up in kindness, and give you such a taste of His love that you shall gladly forego all, and say as David, (Psalm 73:25).
Let other things turn out as He pleases, you must be happy, for the Lord Himself is your Guide, your Shield, and your Portion.
Keep your eye and heart, my friend, upon His work, and He will take care of your other affairs, and not withhold any good thing from you.
All hearts are in His hands. When His time is come, hard things are made easy, and mountains sink into plains.”
–John Newton, The Works of John Newton, Volume 6 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 6: 127-129.