“An hour’s enjoyment of the light of His countenance” by John Newton

“Saturday evening has returned again. How quickly the time flies!

O that we may have grace to number our days, and to begin to view the things of this world in that light which they will, doubtless, appear in when we are are upon the point of leaving them.

How many things which are too apt to appear important now and to engross too much of our time, and thoughts, and strength, will then be acknowledged as vain and trivial as the imperfect recollection of a morning dream?

The Lord help us to judge now as we shall judge then, that all things on this side of the grave are of no real value further than they are improved in subservience to the will and glory of God, and that an hour’s enjoyment of the light of His countenance is worth more than the wealth of the Indies and the power of Kings.

How often are we, like Martha, cumbered about many things, though we say, and I hope at the bottom believe, that one thing alone is needful.

The Lord give us a believing, humble, spiritual frame of mind, and make it our earnest desire and prayer, that we may be more like the angels of God, who are always employed, and always happy, in doing His will and beholding His glory.

The rest we may be content to leave to those who are strangers to the love of Jesus and the foretastes of Heaven.

I have been attempting to pray that you and our friends in London may, together with us, behold the KING in His beauty tomorrow– that we may, like David, be satisfied in our souls as with marrow and fatness, and feel something of what Thomas felt, when he put his finger upon the print of His nails, and cried out with transport, ‘My Lord and my God!’

With dear love to you and all friends, I remain,

John Newton”

–John Newton, The Christian Correspondent: Or a Series of Religious Letters Written by the Rev. John Newton to Alexander Clunie (Hull: George Prince, 1790), 171-175. This letter was written from Olney on April 1, 1769.

“The hope to which God has called us” by John Newton

“What shall it be, ‘ere long, when the Lord shall call us up to join with those who are now singing before the 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– when there shall not be one trace of sin or sorrow remaining, not one discordant note be heard, nothing to disturb, or defile, or lighten the never-ceasing joy!

Such is the hope to which God has called us: that day will surely come, as the present day is already arrived– every moment brings on its approach.

While I am writing and you are reading, we may say, ‘Now is our full salvation nearer.’ (Romans 13:11)

Many a weary step we have taken since the Lord first gave us to believe in His name; but we shall not have to tread the past way over again– some difficulties yet remain, but we know not how few.

Perhaps before we are aware, the Lord may cut short our conflict and say, ‘Come up hither.’

Or at the most it cannot be very long, and He who has been with us thus far, will be with us to the end.

He knows how to manifest Himself even here, to give more than He takes away, and 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 in the way.

We shall not say, ‘Is this all I must expect after so much trouble?’

No, when we awake into 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.

Let us then resign ourselves into His hands.

Let us gird up the loins of our minds, be sober, and hope to the end.

Let us, like faithful servants, watch for our Lord’s appearance, and pray earnestly that we may be found ready at His coming.

Jesus is able to keep us from falling.

Let us be steady in the use of His instituted means, and sincerely desirous to abstain from all appearance of evil.

The rest we may confidently leave to Him, in whom, whosoever trusts, shall never be ashamed.”

–John Newton, The Christian Correspondent: Or a Series of Religious Letters Written by the Rev. John Newton to Alexander Clunie (Hull: George Prince, 1790), 19-22. This letter was written from Liverpool on May 21, 1763.

“This, my friend, is blessed learning indeed” by John Newton

“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.

“My heart is like a country but half subdued” by John Newton

“We are all well as usual, surrounded with mercies on every side, and want nothing to make us more happy than we are, but a warmer sense of redeeming love.

Blessed be God we are not altogether asleep, though too drowsy.

All my plantations flourish. The prayer meeting is well attended, and in general, I hope, proves a time of refreshment; so that some of the younger, and more lively sort, are encouraged to attempt another on Sunday mornings at six o’clock, to pray for their poor Minister, and for a blessing on the ordinances. My children now exceed two hundred, as I expected.

I shall be obliged to you to procure me what accounts you can, printed or otherwise, of the Lord’s work in America. I have had some imperfect hints, but want to know more.

I have heard of something remarkable in and about Long Island– likewise a schoolmaster, that has had remarkable success among the Indian children.

Such as this is the news I want. I am little concerned with the treaties and policies of the kings of the earth; but I long to hear of the victories and triumphs of our King Jesus, and that the trophies of His grace are multiplied.

I want more experience in my soul, of that spiritual energy which is mighty to pull down strongholds, to lay every imagination and high thing low in the dust, and bring every roving thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.

My heart is like a country but half subdued, where all things are in an unsettled state, and mutinies and insurrections are daily happening.

I hope I hate the rebels that disturb the King’s peace. I am glad when I can point them out, lay hold of them, and bring them to him for justice.

But they have many lurking-holes, and sometimes they come disguised like friends, so that I do not know them, till their works discover them.

What a quiet posture Job’s affairs were in. The oxen were ploughing, and the asses were feeding besides them– all in peace, and no danger near.

Who would have thought of the Sabeans coming to carry all away?

So it is sometimes in my experience. The bands of the enemy break in, hinder my plowing, spoil my pastures, and rob me of my store.

But the mercy is, that there are infinite resources in the name of Jesus.

One act of lively faith in Him sets all the rights, heals every breach, and makes up every loss.”

–John Newton, The Christian Correspondent: Or a Series of Religious Letters Written by the Rev. John Newton to Alexander Clunie (Hull: George Prince, 1790), 76-79.

“Christ prizeth him more than all the world besides” by John Owen

“All the world is nothing to Him in comparison with believers.

They are His garden; the rest of the world, wilderness. Cant. 4:12, ‘A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.’

They are His inheritance; the rest, His enemies, of no regard with him. So Isa. 43:3-4, “I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee. Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life.”

The reason of this dealing of Christ with His church, in parting with all others for them, is, because He loves her. She is precious and honourable in His sight; thence He puts this great esteem upon her.

Indeed, He disposeth of all nations and their interests according as is for the good of believers. Amos 9:9, in all the siftings of the nations, the eye of God is upon the house of Israel; not a grain of them shall perish.

Look to heaven; angels are appointed to minister for them, Heb. 1:14.

Look into the world; the nations in general are either blessed for their sakes, or destroyed on their account,—preserved to try them, or rejected for their cruelty towards them; and will receive from Christ their final doom according to their deportment towards these despised ones.

On this account are the pillars of the earth borne up, and patience is exercised towards the perishing world.

In a word, there is not the meanest, the weakest, the poorest believer on the earth, but Christ prizeth him more than all the world besides.

Were our hearts filled much with thoughts hereof, it would tend much to our consolation.

To answer this, believers also value Jesus Christ; they have an esteem of Him above all the world, and all things in the world.

You have been in part acquainted with this before, in the account that was given of their delight in Him, and inquiry after Him.

They say of Him in their hearts continually, as David, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and none upon earth I desire beside thee.” Ps. 73:25.

Neither heaven nor earth will yield them an object any way comparable to him, that they can delight in.”

–John Owen, The Works of John Owen, Volume 2: Communion With God (ed. William H. Goold; Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1850-53/1997), 2: 136-137.

“An inexpressible mercy” by John Owen

“The next general work of the Holy Spirit seems to be that of John 16:14, ‘The Comforter shall glorify Me; for He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you.’

The work of the Spirit is to glorify Christ. But what shall this Spirit do, that Christ may be glorified? ‘He shall,’ saith He, “take of Mine,”—ἐκ τοῦ ἐμοῦ λήψεται.

What these things are is declared in the next verse: ‘All things that the Father hath are Mine; therefore I said He shall take of Mine.’

It is not of the essence and essential properties of the Father and Son that our Saviour speaks; but of the grace which is communicated to us by them.

This Christ calls, ‘My things,’ being the fruit of His purchase and mediation: on which account He saith all His Father’s things are His; that is, the things that the Father, in His eternal love, hath provided to be dispensed in the blood of His Son,—all the fruits of election.

‘These,’ said He, ‘the Comforter shall receive; that is, they shall be committed unto Him to dispose for your good and advantage, to the end before proposed.’

So it follows, ἀναγγελεῖ,—’He shall show, or declare and make them known to you.’ Thus, then, is He a comforter.

He reveals to the souls of sinners the good things of the covenant of grace, which the Father hath provided, and the Son purchased.

He shows to us mercy, grace, forgiveness, righteousness, acceptation with God.

He letteth us know that these are the things of Christ, which He hath procured for us.

He shows them to us for our comfort and establishment.

These things, I say, He effectually declares to the souls of believers; and makes them know them for their own good;—know them as originally the things of the Father, prepared from eternity in His love and goodwill; as purchased for them by Christ, and laid up in store in the covenant of grace for their use.

Then is Christ magnified and glorified in their hearts; then they know what a Saviour and Redeemer He is.

A soul doth never glorify or honour Christ upon a discovery or sense of the eternal redemption He hath purchased for him, but it is in him a peculiar effect of the Holy Ghost as our comforter.

‘No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost,’ (1 Cor. 12:3).

He ‘sheds the love of God abroad in our hearts,’ (Rom. 5:5). That it is the love of God to us, not our love to God, which is here intended, the context is so clear as nothing can be added thereunto.

Now, the love of God is either of ordination or of acceptation,—the love of His purpose to do us good, or the love of acceptation and approbation with Him.

Both these are called the love of God frequently in Scripture, as I have declared. Now, how can these be shed abroad in our hearts?

Not in themselves, but in a sense of them,—in a spiritual apprehension of them. Ἐκκέχυται, is ‘shed abroad;’ the same word that is used concerning the Comforter being given us, (Titus 3:6).

God sheds Him abundantly, or pours Him on us; so He sheds abroad, or pours out the love of God in our hearts.

Not to insist on the expression, which is metaphorical, the business is, that the Comforter gives a sweet and plentiful evidence and persuasion of the love of God to us, such as the soul is taken, delighted, satiated withal.

This is His work, and He doth it effectually.

To give a poor sinful soul a comfortable persuasion, affecting it throughout, in all its faculties and affections, that God in Jesus Christ loves him, delights in him, is well-pleased with him, and hath thoughts of tenderness and kindness towards him; to give, I say, a soul an overflowing sense hereof, is an inexpressible mercy.

This we have in a peculiar manner by the Holy Ghost; it is His peculiar work.”

–John Owen, The Works of John Owen, Volume 2: Communion With God (ed. William H. Goold; Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1850-53/1997), 2: 239-240.

“His jewel, His diadem, and His crown” by John Owen

“For their sakes Christ so humbled and emptied Himself, in taking flesh, as to become therein a servant,– in the eyes of the world of no esteem nor account; and a true and real servant unto the Father.

For their sakes He humbled Himself, and became obedient. All that He did and suffered in His life comes under this consideration; all which may be referred to these three heads:

[1.] Fulfilling all righteousness.
[2.] Enduring all manner of persecutions and hardships.
[3.] Doing all manner of good to men.

He took on Him, for their sakes, a life and course pointed to, (Heb. 5:7-8),—a life of prayers, tears, fears, obedience, suffering; and all this with cheerfulness and delight, calling His employment His “meat and drink,” and still professing that the law of this obedience was in His heart,—that He was content to do this will of God.

He that will sorely revenge the least opposition that is or shall be made to Him by others, was content to undergo any thing, all things, for believers.

He stays not here, but (for the consummation of all that went before) for their sakes He becomes obedient to death, the death of the cross. So He professeth to His Father, ‘For their sakes I sanctify myself;’ (John 17:19)—’I dedicate myself as an offering, as a sacrifice, to be killed and slain.’

This was His aim in all the former, that He might die; He was born, and lived, that He might die. He valued them above His life.

And if we might stay to consider a little what was in this death that He underwent for them, we should perceive what a price indeed He put upon them.

The curse of the law was in it, (Gal. 3:13) the wrath of God was in it, the loss of God’s presence was in it (Ps. 22:1). It was a fearful cup that he tasted of, and drank of, that they might never taste of it (Matt. 26:39).

A man would not for ten thousand worlds be willing to undergo that which Christ underwent for us in that one thing of desertion from God, were it attended with no more distress but what a mere creature might possibly emerge from under.

And what thoughts we should have of this Himself tells us, ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’ (John 15:13)

It is impossible there should be any greater demonstration or evidence of love than this. What can any one do more?

And yet He tells us in another place, that it hath another aggravation and heightening, ‘God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.’ (Rom. 5:8)

When He did this for us we were sinners, and enemies, whom He might justly have destroyed. What more can be done?—to die for us when we were sinners! Such a death, in such a manner, with such attendancies of wrath and curse,—a death accompanied with the worst that God had ever threatened to sinners,—argues as high a valuation of us as the heart of Christ Himself was capable of.

For one to part with His glory, His riches, His ease, His life, His love from God, to undergo loss, shame, wrath, curse, death, for another, is an evidence of a dear valuation; and that it was all on this account, we are informed, (Heb. 12:2).

Certainly Christ had a dear esteem of them, that, rather than they should perish,— that they should not be His, and be made partakers of His glory,— He would part with all He had for their sakes, (Eph. 5:25-26).

There would be no end, should I go through all the instances of Christ’s valuation of believers, in all their deliverances, afflictions, in all conditions of sinning and suffering,— what He hath done, what He doth in His intercession, what He delivers them from, what He procures for them; all telling out this one thing,— they are the apple of His eye, His jewel, His diadem, His crown.”

–John Owen, The Works of John Owen, Volume 2: Communion With God (ed. William H. Goold; Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1850-53/1997), 2: 134-136.

“He does not find, but makes her, lovely” by C.S. Lewis

“The Church has no beauty but what the Bridegroom gives her; He does not find, but makes her, lovely.”

–C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves (New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1960/1988), 105.

“What the assured soul knows” by Thomas Brooks

“Assurance will sweeten the thoughts of death, and all the aches, pains, weaknesses, sicknesses, and diseases, that are the forerunners of it; yea, it will make a man look and long for that day.

It will make a man sick of his absence from Christ. It makes a man smile upon the king of terrors; it makes a man laugh at the shaking of the spear, at the noise of the battle, at the garments of the warriors rolled in blood.

It made the martyrs to compliment with lions, to dare and tire their persecutors, to kiss the stake, to sing and clap their hands in the flames, to tread upon hot burning coals, as upon beds of roses.

The assured soul knows that death shall be the funeral of all his sins and sorrows, of all afflictions and temptations, of all desertions and oppositions.

He knows that death shall be the resurrection of his joys; he knows that death is both an outlet and an inlet; an outlet to sin, and an inlet to the soul’s clear, full, and constant enjoyment of God; and this makes the assured soul to sing it sweetly out, ‘O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?’ (1 Cor. 15:55–57) ‘I desire to be dissolved.’ (Phil. 1:23) ‘Make haste, my beloved.’ (Cant. 8:14) ‘Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.’ (Rev. 22:20)”

–Thomas Brooks, “Heaven on Earth,” in The Works of Thomas Brooks, Volume 2 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1666/2001), 2: 409–410.

“The Redeemer of sinners” by John Newton

“Is not this indeed the great mystery of godliness? How just is the Apostle’s observation, that no man can say, Jesus Christ is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost!

How astonishing the thought,—that the Maker of heaven and earth, the Holy One of Israel, before whose presence the earth shook, the heavens dropped, when He displayed a faint emblem of His majesty upon Sinai, should afterwards appear in the form of a servant, and hang upon a cross, the sport and scorn of wicked men!

I cannot wonder that to the wise men of the world this appears absurd, unreasonable, and impossible.

Yet to right reason, to reason enlightened and sanctified, however amazing the proposition be, yet it appears true and necessary, upon a supposition that a holy God is pleased to pardon sinners in a way suited to display the awful glories of His justice.

The same arguments which prove the blood of bulls and goats insufficient to take away sin, will conclude against the utmost doings or sufferings of men or angels.

The Redeemer of sinners must be mighty. He must have a personal dignity, to stamp such a value upon His undertakings, as that thereby God may appear just, as well as merciful, in justifying the ungodly for His sake.

And He must be all-sufficient to bless, and almighty to protect, those who come unto Him for safety and life.

Such a one is our Shepherd. This is He of whom we, through grace, are enabled to say, we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.

We are His by every tie and right: He made us, He redeemed us, He reclaimed us from the hand of our enemies.

And we are His by our own voluntary surrender of ourselves; for though we once slighted, despised, and opposed Him, He made us willing in the day of His power.

He knocked at the door of our hearts; but we (at least I) barred and fastened it against Him as much and as long as possible.

But when He revealed His love, we could stand out no longer.

Like sheep, we are weak, destitute, defenceless, prone to wander, unable to return, and always surrounded with wolves.

But all is made up in the fullness, ability, wisdom, compassion, care, and faithfulness of our great Shepherd.

He guides, He protects, He feeds, He heals, and He restores, and He will be our guide and our God even until death.

Then He will meet us, receive us, and present us unto Himself, and we shall be near Him, and like Him, and with Him forever.”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 1 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 1: 494-495.