“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.

“From the cradle to the cross He obeyed the will of God from the heart” by Robert Murray M’Cheyne

Inquiry: What good is it to me that Christ is free from guilt?

Answer: Christ is offered to you as your Saviour.

There is perfect obedience in Christ, because He hath gone to the Father, and we see Him no more.

When He came to this world, He came not only to suffer, but to do— not only to be a dying Saviour, but also a doing Saviour— not only to suffer the curse which the first Adam had brought upon the world, but to render the obedience which the first Adam had left undone.

From the cradle to the cross He obeyed the will of God from the heart.

When He came into the world, His word was: “Lo! I come; in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O God; yea, thy law is within my heart.” (Psalm 40:6-8)

When He was in the midst of His obedience, still He did not change His mind. He says: “I have meat to eat that ye know not of: my meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.” (John 4:32)

And when He was going out of the world, still His word was: “I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” (John 17:4)

So that it is true what an apostle says; that He was “obedient even unto death.” The whole law is summed up in these two commands—that we love God and our neighbor. Christ did both.

(1.) He loved God perfectly, as God says in Psalm 91:14:“Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him; I will set him on high.”

(2.) He loved His neighbor as Himself. It was out of love to men that he came into the world at all; and everything he did and everything he suffered in the world, was out of love to his neighbor.

It was out of love to men that he performed the greatest part of his obedience, namely, the laying down his life. This was the principal errand upon which he came into the world.

This was the most dreadful and difficult command which God laid upon him, and yet he obeyed. But a short while before he was betrayed, God gave him an awful view of his coming wrath, in the garden of Gethsemane.

He set down the cup before him, and showed that it was a cup without any mixture of mercy in it; and yet Christ obeyed: his human nature shrank back from it, and he prayed: “If it be possible let this cup pass from me;” but he did not waver one moment from complete obedience for he adds: “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.”

Now this is the obedience of Christ, and we know that it is perfect.

(1.) Because he was the Son of God, and all that he did must be perfect.

(2.) Because he is gone to the Father. He is ascended into the presence of God. And how did the Father receive him?

We are told in the 110th Psalm. A door is opened in heaven, and we are suffered to hear the very words with which God receives his Son: “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies my footstool.” (Psalm 110)

So, then, God did not send him back, as one who had not obeyed perfectly enough. God did not forbid him his presence, as one unworthy to be accepted; but God highly exalted him—looked upon him as worthy of much honor—worthy of a seat on the throne at his right hand.

Oh! how plain that Christ is accepted with the Father! how plain that his righteousness is most lovely and all divine in the sight of God the Father.

Hearken, then, trembling sinner! this righteousness is offered to you.

It was wrought just for sinners like you, and for none else; it is for no other use but just to cover naked sinners. This is the clothing of wrought gold and the raiment of needlework. This is the wedding-garment—the fine linen, white and clean.

Oh! put ye on the Lord Jesus. Why should you refuse your own mercies?

Become one with Christ, by believing, and you are not only pardoned, as I showed before, but you are righteous in the sight of God; not only shall you never be cast into hell, but you shall surely be carried into heaven—as surely as Christ is now there.

Become one with Christ, and even this moment you are lovely in the sight of God—comely, through his comeliness put upon you. You are as much accepted in the sight of God as is the Son of Man, the Beloved, that sits on his right hand.

The Spirit shall be given you, as surely as he is given to Christ. He is given to Christ as the oil of gladness, wherewith he is anointed above his fellows. You are as sure to wear a crown of glory, as that Christ is now wearing his.

You are as sure to sit upon Christ’s throne, as that Christ is now sitting on his Father’s throne. O weep for joy, happy believer!

O sing for gladness of heart: “For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ (Romans 8:38:39)”

–Robert Murray M’Cheyne, “Sermon LXXI,” The Works of the Late Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne, vol. 2 (New York: Robert Carter, 1847), 2: 418–419.

“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.

“For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ” by Robert Murray M’Cheyne

“I trust that your own studies get on well, dear friend.

Learn much of your own heart; and when you have learned all you can, remember you have seen but a few yards into a pit that is unfathomable.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9).

Learn much of the Lord Jesus. For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ.

He is altogether lovely. Such infinite majesty, and yet such meekness and grace, and all for sinners, even the chief!

Live much in the smiles of God. Bask in His beams.

Feel His all-seeing eye settled on you in love, and repose in His almighty arms.

Cry after divine knowledge, and lift up your voice for understanding. Seek her as silver, and search for her as for hid treasure, according to the word in Prov. 2:4.

See that verse 10 (Prov. 2:10) be fulfilled in you.

Let wisdom enter into your hearts, and knowledge be pleasant to thy soul; so you will be delivered from the snares mentioned in the following verses.

Let your soul be filled with a heart-ravishing sense of the sweetness and excellency of Christ and all that is in Him.

Let the Holy Spirit fill every chamber of your heart; and so there will be no room for folly, or the world, or Satan, or the flesh.

I must now commend you all to God and the word of His grace. My dear people are just assembled for worship.

Alas! I cannot preach to them tonight. I can only carry them and you on my heart to the throne of grace. Write me soon.

Ever yours,

Robert Murray M’Cheyne”

–Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Ed. Andrew A. Bonar (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1844/1966), 293.

“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.

“There we shall hear the voice of war no more” by John Newton

“Mr. **** has been here, and I have been with him at **** since his return.

In some points of doctrine we differ considerably; but I trust I agree with him in the views I have of the excellency, suitableness, and sufficiency of the Saviour, and of His right to reign without a rival in the hearts of His redeemed people.

An experimental knowledge of Jesus, as the deliverer from sin and wrath, and the author of eternal life and salvation to all who are enabled to believe, is a sufficient ground for union of heart.

In this point, all who are taught of God are of one mind.

But an eager fighting for or against those points which are usually made the subjects of controversy, tends to nourish pride and evil tempers in ourselves, and to alienate our hearts from those we hope to spend an eternity with.

In heaven we shall neither be Dissenters, Moravians, nor Methodists; neither Calvinists nor Arminians; but followers of the Lamb, and children of the kingdom. There we shall hear the voice of war no more.

We are still favoured with health and many temporal blessings. My spiritual walk is not so smooth as my outward path.

In public, I am mercifully supported; in secret, I most sensibly feel my own vileness and weakness.

But through all the Lord is gracious.”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 2 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 2: 210-211.

“He drank for your sake a cup of unmixed wrath” by John Newton

“We are a spectacle to the universe, to angels as well as to men.

Cheer up: the Lord has put you in your present trying situation, that you may have the fairer opportunity of adorning your profession of the Gospel; and though you suffer much, He is able to make you abundant amends.

Nor need I remind you that He has suffered unspeakably more for you: He drank for your sake a cup of unmixed wrath, and only puts into your hand a cup of affliction mixed with many mercies.

How ought the groans of Jesus to be as it were continually sounding in our ears? What are all other sufferings compared to His?

And yet He endured them freely. He needed not to have borne them, if He would have left us to perish; but such was His love, He died that we might live, and endured the fiercest agonies that He might open to us the gate of everlasting peace and happiness.

How amazingly perverse is my heart, that I can be more affected with a melancholy story in a newspaper concerning persons I never saw, than with all that I read of His bitter passion in the garden and on the cross, though I profess to believe He endured it all for me!

Oh, if we could always behold Him by faith as evidently crucified before our eyes, how would it compose our spirits as to all the sweets and bitters of this poor life!

What a banner would it prove against all the snares and temptations whereby Satan would draw us into evil; and what a firm ground of confidence would it afford us amidst the conflicts we sustain from the working of unbelief and indwelling sin!

I long for more of that faith which is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen, that I may be preserved humble, thankful, watchful, and dependent.

To behold the glory and the love of Jesus is the only effectual way to participate of His image.

We are to set out tonight from the Interpreter’s house towards the hill Difficulty, and hope to be favoured with a sight of the cross by the way.

To stand at the foot of it with a softened heart and melting eyes; to forget our sins, sorrows, and burdens, while we are wholly swallowed up in the contemplation of Him who bore our sins in His own body upon the tree, is certainly the most desirable situation on this side the grave.

To speak of it, and to see it by the light of the Spirit, are widely different things: and though we cannot always enjoy this view, yet the remembrance of what we have seen is an excellent means of encouragement to mount the hill, and to face the lions.

It is now Saturday evening, and growing late. I am just returned from a serious walk, which is my usual manner of closing the week when the weather is fine.

I endeavour to join in heart with the Lord’s ministers and people, who are seeking a blessing on tomorrow’s ordinances. At such times I especially remember those friends with whom I have gone to the house of the Lord in company, consequently you are not forgot.

I can venture to assure you, that if you have a value for our prayers, you have a frequent share in them, yea, are loved and remembered by many here; but as we are forgetful creatures, I hope you will always refresh our memory, and quicken our prayers, by a yearly visit.

In the morning I shall think of you again. What a multitude of eyes’ and hearts will be directed to our Redeemer tomorrow!

He has a numerous and necessitous family; but He is rich enough to supply them all, and His tender compassions extend to the meanest and most unworthy.

Like the sun, He can cheer and enlighten thousands and millions at once, and give to each as bountifully as if there were no more to partake of His favour.

His best blessings are not diminished by being shared among many.

The greatest earthly monarch would soon be poor if he was to give a little (though but a little) to all his subjects; but Jesus has unsearchable, inexhaustible riches of grace to bestow.

The innumerable assembly before the Throne have been all supplied from His fulness; and yet there is enough and to spare for us also, and for all that shall come after us.

May He give us an eager appetite, a hunger and thirst that will not be put off with anything short of the bread of life.

And then we may confidently open our mouths wide, for He has promised to fill them.”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 2 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 2: 191-195.