“Our Guide, and Guard, our Way, and End” by John Newton

“The Word does not flourish here as I ought to wish it; but, through mercy, it is not wholly without effect. We are in good harmony, ordinances are prized, and a gospel conversation maintained, by those who profess.

Should you ask, how it is with myself, I know not what answer to give. My experience is made up of enigmas, but the sum and solution of all is that ‘I am a vile creature, but I have a good Lord.’

He has chosen me; and I, through His rich grace, have chosen Him. I trust there is an engagement between Him and my soul, which shall never be broken, because He has undertaken for both parts, that He never will forsake me, and that I never shall forsake Him.

Oh, I like those royal, sovereign words, “I will,” and “You shall.” How sweetly are they suited to the sense and long experience He has given me of my own weakness, and the power and subtlety of Satan.

If my conflicts terminate in victory, it must be owing to his own arm, and for His own name’s sake; for I in myself have neither strength nor plea.

If I were not so poor, so sick, so foolish, the power, skill, riches, wisdom, and mercy of my Physician, Shepherd, and Saviour, would not be so signally illustrated in my own case.

Upon this account, instead of complaining, we may glory in our infirmities. Oh, it is pleasant to be deeply indebted to Him, to find Him, and own Him, all in all:—

Our Husband, Shepherd, Brother, Friend,
Our Guide, and Guard, our Way, and End!

I beg a frequent interest in your prayers, and remain, dear Sir, your affectionate and obliged servant,

John Newton”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 6 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 6: 275-276.

“Jesus is all to them who are nothing” by John Newton

“Your prayers and kind wishes for me and mine, I heartily thank you for, and hope we shall repay you (as we are enabled) in kind.

Many here have, indeed, reason to speak well of the Lord. He has been very gracious to us. But, alas! most of us may complain of ourselves.

But, unworthy as we are, He bears with us; He multiplies pardons, and He keeps us upon the whole in a persuasion that His loving kindness is better than life.

The workings of a corrupt nature, and the subtlety of our spiritual enemies, cause us much exercise; but we find One with us who is greater than our hearts, and greater than he that is in the world.

When I look at some of my people, I am filled both with joy and shame; joy to see that the Lord has not suffered my labour among them to be in vain; shame to think that I have preached so much more effectually to them than to my own heart.

It is my mercy that I am not under the law, but under grace. Were it not for this thought, I should sink.

But it is given me to know that Jesus is all to them who are nothing.

The promise whereon I trust, and the power of trusting in it, are both from Him, and therefore I am encouraged to plead, ‘Remember Thy word unto Thy servant, wherein Thou hast caused me to hope.’ (Psalm 119:49)

A sure promise, a complete atonement, a perfect righteousness, an Almighty Saviour, who is able to save to the uttermost, and has said, ‘I will in no wise cast out.’ (John 6:37)

These are the weapons with which I (alas, how feebly!) oppose the discouragements which arise from self and unbelief.”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 6 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 6: 265-266.

“Jesus alone is able to preserve us” by John Newton

“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 NewtonVolume 6 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 6: 127-129.

“The old weather-beaten Christian” by John Newton

“I am almost continually a burden to myself, and find such a difference between what I seem to be in the pulpit and in public, and what I really feel myself to be before the Lord, that I am often amazed and confounded.

And was it not that the Lord has been pleased in some measure to establish me in the knowledge of my justifying righteousness, and the unalterable security of His covenant of grace, I should be ready to give all up.

I am kept at a great distance from the full possession of my privileges; but, through mercy, the evils I feel are confined within myself; the Lord keeps me from stumbling outwardly, and does not suffer Satan to distress me with those grievous temptations which he has always in readiness when permitted.

I trust my hope is founded upon a rock, and that He to whom I have been enabled to commit my soul, will keep it to the end. Yet surely I am a wonder to myself.

Exercises of mind are common to all who know any thing of themselves, and have some just views of their obligations to redeeming love.

But those who preach to others must expect a double portion of trials. We need them in order to keep us humble, upon which, as a means, our success and comfort especially depend.

We need them that we may know how to speak a word in season to weary souls.

Innumerable are the trials, fears, complaints, and temptations which the Lord’s people are beset with; some in one way, some in another: the minister must, as it were, have a taste of all, or it might happen a case might come before him to which he had nothing to say.

And we need them likewise to bring our hard hearts into a feeling disposition and sympathy with those who suffer, otherwise we should be too busy or too happy to attend unto their moans.

Surely much of that hasty and censorious spirit, too often observable in young converts, arises from their having, as yet, a very imperfect acquaintance with the deceitfulness of their own hearts.

But, the old weather-beaten Christian, who has learnt by sorrowful experience how weak he is in himself, and what powerful subtle enemies he has to grapple with, acquires a tenderness in dealing with bruises and broken bones, which greatly conduces to his acceptance and usefulness.

I desire, therefore, to be resigned and thankful, and to give myself up to the Lord to lead me in whatever way He sees best.”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 6 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 6: 129-130.

“I am a silly sheep, but I have a gracious, watchful Shepherd” by John Newton

“Many splendid houses are dungeons with respect to spiritual light.

A believer could not bear the thoughts of living in any situation, unless he enjoyed the light of the Sun of Righteousness; and with this any situation is tolerable.

You know the value of this light; and you are favoured with it. Therefore I doubt not your house is a good one.

May you enjoy it more and more, and now you are withdrawn from the noise of the town, and (as I suppose) in some measure from the hurry of business, may your leisure be sanctified, and a sense of the Lord’s presence brighten every hour of your future life.

And may you dwell, as Jacob lodged for one night, at the gate of heaven, till the appointed moment when the gate shall open and let you in, to be forever with the Lord.

In the mean time, you are happy that the Lord has favoured you with many opportunities and advantages of promoting His glory, and the good of His people, and given you a heart to improve them.

I would tell you how it is with me if I could; at the best, it would be an inconsistent account.

I am what I would not, and would what I cannot.

I rejoice and mourn; I stand fast, and am thrown down in the same moment.

I am both rich and poor; I can do nothing, yet I can do all things. I live by miracle.

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.

In a word, I am a sinner, a vile one; but a sinner believing in the name of 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.

He still bears with me, He still employs me, He still enables me, He still owns me.

Oh, for a coal of heavenly fire to warm my heart, that I might praise Him as I ought!

As a people, we have much cause of complaint in ourselves, and much cause of thankfulness to Him.

In the main, I hope we are alive, though not as we could wish; our numbers rather increase from year to year, and some flourish. In the ordinances, we are favoured in a measure with his presence.

But, oh, for a day of His power; that His work may run broader and deeper, and the fire of grace spread from heart to heart, till the whole town be in a flame!

To this I hope you will give a hearty Amen, and often remember us in your prayers.”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 6 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 6: 104-105.

“The infinite love of the Lord Jesus Christ towards sinners” by J.C. Ryle

We see, fifthly, in this parable, the penitent man received readily, pardoned freely, and completely accepted with God.

Our Lord shows us this, in this part of the younger son’s history, in the most touching manner. We read:

“When he was yet a long way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found. And they began to be merry.”

More deeply affecting words than these, perhaps, were never written. To comment on them seems almost needless.

It is like gilding refined gold, and painting the lily. They show us in great broad letters the infinite love of the Lord Jesus Christ towards sinners.

They teach how infinitely willing He is to receive all who come to Him, and how complete, and full, and immediate is the pardon which He is ready to bestow.

“By Him all that believe are justified from all things.”—“He is plenteous in mercy.” (Acts 13:39; Psalm 86:5)

Let this boundless mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ be graven deeply in our memories, and sink into our minds. Let us never forget that He is One “that receiveth sinners.”

With Him and His mercy sinners ought to begin, when they first begin to desire salvation. On Him and His mercy saints must live, when they have been taught to repent and believe.

‘The life which I live in the flesh,’ says St. Paul, ‘I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.’ (Gal. 2:20)”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke, Vol. 2 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1879/2012), 2: 138. Ryle is commenting on Luke 15:11-24.

“A pastor’s life should be vocal” by John Owen

“A pastor’s life should be vocal; sermons must be practised as well as preached.

Though Noah’s workmen built the ark, yet themselves were drowned. God will not accept of the tongue where the devil hath the soul.

Jesus did “do and teach,” (Acts 1:1). If a man teach uprightly and walk crookedly, more will fall down in the night of his life than he built in the day of his doctrine.

Now, as to the completing of the exemplary life of a minister, it is required that the principle of it be that of the life of Christ in him, (Gal. 2:20), that when he hath taught others he be not himself “a cast-away,” (1 Cor. 9:27); with which he hath a spiritual understanding, and light given him into the counsel of God, which he is to communicate, (1 John 5:20; 1 Cor. 2:12, 16; 2 Cor. 4:6, 7);—and that the course of it be singular, (Matt. 5:46, Luke 6:32); where unto so many eminent qualifications of the person and duties of conversation are required, (1 Tim. 2:2–7, Titus 1:6–9);—and his aim to be exemplar to the glory of God, (1 Tim. 4:12).

So is their general course and the end of their faith to be eyed, (Heb. 13:7).

And their infirmities, whilst really such, and appearing through the manifold temptations whereunto they are in these days exposed, or imposed on them through the zeal of their adversaries that contend against them, [are] to be covered with love, (Gal. 4:13, 14).

And this men will do when they conscientiously consider that even the lives of their teachers are an ordinance of God, for their relief under temptations, and provocation unto holiness, zeal, meekness, and self-denial.”

–John Owen, The Works of John Owen, Volume 13: Ministry in Fellowship (ed. William H. Goold; Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1850-53/1997), 13: 57-58.

“His works preach His existence all the time and in every place” by William Plumer

“Everything God has made and everything God has spoken, with all the relations and uses of each, may teach us some valuable lesson, (Psalm 19:1–6).

His works declare, preach, show, publish His existence all the time and in every place.

Tholuck: “Though all the preachers on earth should grow silent, and every human mouth cease from publishing the glory of God, the heavens above will never cease to declare and proclaim his majesty.”

The smallest piece of granite or of old red sandstone, the least shell or insect as truly requires a Creator as the heavens above us.

Morison: “It is impossible to direct even a cursory glance to the greater and lesser lights which rule by day and night, without being compelled to think with reverential awe of that incomprehensible Being who kindles up all their fires, directs all their courses, and impresses upon them all laws, which contribute alike to the order, beauty and happiness of the universe.”

Well did the apostle say that all men, even the heathen, are without excuse. Even one day or one night proves that there is a God, as there is but one being that could cause either.

Everett: “I had occasion, a few weeks since, to take the early train from Providence to Boston; and for this purpose rose at two o’clock in the morning. Everything around was wrapt in darkness and hushed in silence, broken only by what seemed at that hour the unearthly clank and rush of the train.

It was a mild, serene, midsummer’s night—the sky was without a cloud—the winds were whist. The moon, then in the last quarter, had just risen, and the stars shone with a spectral lustre but little affected by her presence.

Jupiter, two hours high, was the herald of the day; the Pleiades just above the horizon shed their sweet influence in the east; Lyra sparkled near the zenith; Andromeda veiled her newly-discovered glories from the naked eye in the South; the steady pointers far beneath the pole looked meekly up from the depths of the north to their sovereign.

Such was the glorious spectacle as I entered the train. As we proceeded, the timid approach of twilight became more perceptible; the intense blue of the sky began to soften; the smaller stars, like little children went first to rest; the sister-beams of the Pleiades soon melted together; but the bright constellations of the west and north remained unchanged.

Steadily the wondrous transfiguration went on. Hands of angels hidden from mortal eyes shifted the scenery of the heavens; the glories of night dissolved into the glories of the dawn. The blue sky now turned more softly gray; the great watch-stars shut up their holy eyes; the east began to kindle.

Faint streaks of purple soon blushed along the sky; the whole celestial concave was filled with the inflowing tides of the morning light, which came pouring down from above in one great ocean of radiance: till at length as we reached the Blue Hills, a flash of purple fire blazed out from above the horizon, and turned the dewy tear-drops of flower and leaf into rubies and diamonds. In a few seconds, the everlasting gates of the morning were thrown wide open, and the lord of day, arrayed in glories too severe for the gaze of man, began his state…

I am filled with amazement, when I am told that in this enlightened age, and in the heart of the Christian world, there are persons who can witness this daily manifestation of the power and wisdom of the Creator, and yet say in their hearts, ‘there is no God.’ (Psalm 14:1)”

–William Plumer, Studies in the Book of Psalms: A Critical and Expository Commentary With Doctrinal and Practical Remarks (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1867/2016), 262–263. Plumer is commenting on Psalm 19:1-6.

“We have more mercies than we deserve” by J.C. Ryle

“Cultivate a thankful spirit.

It has ever been a mark of God’s most distinguished saints in every age (David, in the Old Testament, and St. Paul, in the New), are remarkable for their thankfulness.

We seldom read much of their writings without finding them blessing and praising God.

Let us rise from our beds every morning with a deep conviction that we are debtors, and that every day we have more mercies than we deserve.

Let us look around us every week, as we travel through the world, and see whether we have not much to thank God for.

If our hearts are in the right place, we shall never find any difficulty in building an Ebenezer.

Well would it be if our prayers and supplications were more mingled with thanksgiving. (1 Sam. 7:12. Phil. 4:6.)”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke, Vol. 1 (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1879), 36-37. Ryle is commenting on Luke 1:46-56.

“The blood of the Son of God” by Stephen Charnock

“The sin of a creature could never be so filthy as the blood of the Son of God was holy.”

–Stephen Charnock, “A Discourse on the Acceptableness of Christ’s Death,” The Works of Stephen Charnock, Volume 4 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1865/2010), 4: 558.