April 16, 1772
“My dear Friend,
I hope the Lord has contracted my desires and aims almost to the one point of study, the knowledge of His truth. All other acquisitions are transient, and comparatively vain.
And yet, alas! I am a slow scholar; nor can I see in what respect I get forward, unless that every day I am more confirmed in the conviction of my own emptiness and inability to all spiritual good.
And as, notwithstanding this, I am still enabled to stand my ground, I would hope, since no effect can be without an adequate cause, that I have made some advance, though in a manner imperceptible to myself, towards a more simple dependence upon Jesus as my all in all.
It is given me to thirst and to taste, if it is not given me to drink abundantly; and I would be thankful for the desire.
I see and approve the wisdom, grace, suitableness, and sufficiency of the Gospel salvation; and since it is for sinners, and I am a sinner, and the promises are open, I do not hesitate to call it mine.
I am a weary, laden soul; Jesus has invited me to come, and has enabled me to put my trust in Him. I seldom have an uneasy doubt, at least not of any continuance, respecting my pardon, acceptance, and interest in all the blessings of the New Testament.
And, amidst a thousand infirmities and evils under which I groan, I have the testimony of my conscience, when under the trial of His Word, that my desire is sincerely towards Him, that I choose no other portion, that I allowedly serve no other master.
When I told our friend lately to this purpose, he wondered, and asked, “How is it possible, that, if you can say these things, you should not be always rejoicing?”
Undoubtedly I derive from the Gospel a peace at bottom, which is worth more than a thousand worlds; but so it is—I can only speak for myself—though I rest and live upon the truths of the Gospel, they seldom impress me with a warm and lively joy.
In public, indeed, I sometimes seem in earnest and much affected; but even then it appears to me rather as a part of the gift entrusted to me for the edification of others, than as a sensation which is properly my own.
For when I am in private, I am usually dull and stupid to a strange degree, or the prey to a wild and ungoverned imagination; so that I may truly say, when I would do good, evil, horrid evil, is present with me.
Ah, how different is this from sensible comfort! And if I was to compare myself to others, to make their experience my standard, and was not helped to retreat to the sure word of God as my refuge, how hard should I find it to maintain a hope that I had either part or lot in the matter!
What I call my good times, are when I can find my attention in some little measure fixed to what I am about; which indeed is not always, nor frequently, my case in prayer, and still seldomer in reading the Scripture.
My judgment embraces these means as blessed privileges, and Satan has not prevailed to drive me from them; but in the performance I too often find them tasks. I feel a reluctance when the seasons return, and I am glad when they are finished.
O what a mystery is the heart of man! What a warfare is the life of faith! (at least in the path the Lord is pleased to lead me.)
What reason have I to lie in the dust as the chief of sinners, and what cause for thankfulness that salvation is wholly of grace!
Notwithstanding all my complaints, it is still true that Jesus died and rose again; that He ever liveth to make intercession, and He is able to save to the uttermost.
But, on the other hand, to think of that joy of heart in which some of His people live, and to compare it with that apparent deadness and want of spirituality which I feel, this makes me mourn.
However, I think there is a Scriptural distinction between faith and feeling, grace and comfort: they are not inseparable, and perhaps, when together, the degree of the one is not often the just measure of the other.
But though I pray that I may be ever longing and panting for the light of His countenance, yet I would be so far satisfied, as to believe the Lord has wise and merciful reasons for keeping me so short of the comforts which He has taught me to desire and value more than the light of the sun.”
–John Newton, The Works of John Newton, Volume 2 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 2: 109-111.