“I find no reading or writing so profitable and refreshing to me, as a correspondence with my Christian friends.
I get more warmth and light sometimes by a letter from a plain person who loves the Lord Jesus, though perhaps a fervent maid, than from some whole volumes put forth by learned Doctors.
I speak not this out of disrespect either to Doctors or to learning; but there is a coldness creeping into the churches, of which I would warn my friends as earnestly as of a fire that was breaking out next door.
Blessed be God, we still have some among the learned, who are content to become fools for the Gospel’s sake, and fools I dare say they are and will be thought of by their brethren.
For though I do not deny that learning, when it falls in good hands, and is employed by a spiritual and humble man to prosper purposes and occasions, may be, through a divine blessing, greatly useful.
Yet I dare affirm that an over attachment to human learning, and an unjust contempt of those who have it not, has been formerly, and in many instances is at present, the very bane of vital, spiritual, experimental godliness.
This, my friend, is blessed learning indeed, to be taught of God— to be under the influence of the holy and heavenly Spirit.
Yea, blessed is the man whom Thou chooses, O Lord, and teachest out of Thy law!
May you and I, my friend, know more of that divine Teacher, who can not only reveal truth to our minds, but enlighten and enlarge our understanding to receive it.
Suppose a man blind, and desirous to know the nature of light and color, and suppose a philosopher gravely reading lectures to him upon these subjects; and you have an emblem of what human learning can do in spiritual things.
But suppose the blind man suddenly possessed of sight, and enabled to see the sun and the skies, the land and water with his own eyes; this may represent the teaching of God.
Be this my school, by frequent prayer and constant meditation on the word of God, to wait and improve the visits of the great Teacher!
Then I shall be wise unto salvation myself, and fitted, if the Lord please, to assist as an instrument, in the instruction and edification of others.”
–John Newton, The Christian Correspondent: Or a Series of Religious Letters Written by the Rev. John Newton to Alexander Clunie (Hull: George Prince, 1790), 10-12.