“Where our warfare and tears shall cease forever” by John Newton

“Rejoice, therefore, my dear friends, that you are God’s husbandry.

The early and the latter rain, and the cheerful beams of the Sun of Righteousness, are surely promised to ripen your souls for glory;—but storms and frosts likewise are useful and seasonable in their places, though we perhaps may think we could do better without them.

In our bright and lively frames, we learn what God can do for us; in our dark and dull hours, we feel how little we can do without Him; and both are needful to perfect our experience and to establish our faith.

At one time we are enabled to rejoice in God; at another we are seeking after Him sorrowing: these different seasons are equally good in their turns, though not equally comfortable; and there is nothing we need fear but security, carelessness, and presumption.

To think ourselves rich and increased with goods, or to suppose we are safe a moment longer than while depending upon Jesus would be dangerous.

Let us pray the Lord to keep us from such a mistake; and, as to the rest, we shall do well.

Let us be faithful and diligent in the use of all appointed means, especially in secret exercises, and then leave Him to lead us as He pleaseth.

And, though our path should lie through the fire or through the water, we may trust His power and love to bring us safely through, and at last to fix us in a wealthy place, where our warfare and tears shall cease forever.”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 6 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 6: 64-65.

“The glorious assembly” by John Newton

“The day must come when all creature-comforts shall vanish.

And when we view things in the light of eternity, it seems comparatively of small moment whether it is this year or twenty years hence.

If we are interested in the covenant of grace; if Jesus is our beloved, and heaven our home; we may be cast down for a little season, but we cannot be destroyed; nay, we shall not be overpowered.

Our faithful God will surely make our strength equal to our day.

He that has delivered, and does deliver, will deliver to the end; and it will not be long before he will wipe away all tears from our eyes.

Therefore let us not fear: whatever sufferings may be yet appointed for us, they shall work together for our good; and they are but light and momentary in comparison of that exceeding and eternal weight of glory to which we are drawing nearer every hour.

Well, the day is coming when all the Lord’s people who are scattered abroad, who praise him in different ages and different languages, shall be collected together, and stand with one heart, consent, and voice before the throne.

Oh, the glorious assembly! how white are their robes, how resplendent their crowns, how melodious their harps!

Every hour the chorus is augmented by the accession of fresh voices; and ere long we hope to join them.

Then shall we remember the way by which the Lord led us through this dark wilderness; and shall see that all our afflictions, our heaviest afflictions, were tender mercies, no less than our most pleasing comforts.

What we shall then see, it is now our privilege and duty to believe.”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 6 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 6: 62-63.

“We are traveling towards a land of light” by John Newton

“You have lately been in the furnace, and are now brought safely out. I hope you have much to say of the grace, care, and skill of the great Refiner, who watched over you; and that you have lost nothing but dross.

Let this experience be treasured up in your hearts for the use of future times.

Other trials will come; but you have found the Lord faithful to His promise, and have good encouragement to trust Him again.

You know your weak side; endeavour to set a double guard of prayer there.

Our earthly comforts would be doubly sweet, if we could but venture them without anxiety in the Lord’s hands.

And where can we lodge them so safely?

Is not the first gift, the continuance, the blessing which makes them pleasing, all from Him?

Was not His design in all this, that we should be happy in them?

How then can we fear that He will threaten them, much less take them away, but with a view to our farther benefit?

Let us suppose the thing we are most afraid of actually to happen. Can it come a moment sooner, or in any other way, than by His appointment?

Is He not gracious and faithful to support us under the stroke?

Is He not rich enough to give us something better than ever He will take away?

Is not the light of His countenance better than life and all its most valued enjoyments?

Is not this our time of trial, and are we not traveling towards a land of light?

I think when we view things in the light of eternity, it is much the same whether the separating stroke arrives at the end of seven or seventy years; since, come when it will, it must and will be felt.

But one draught of the river of pleasure at God’s right hand will make us forget our sorrows forever; or the remembrance, if any, will only serve to heighten our joys.

What is more, what life did He lead whom we call our Master and our Lord?

Was not He a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief?

Has He marked out one way to heaven with His painful footsteps, and shall we expect, or even wish, to walk in another?

With such considerations as these, we should endeavour to arm our minds, and pray to the Lord to fix a sense of them in our hearts, and to renew it from time to time; that, when changes are either feared or felt, we may not be like the people of the world, who have no hope, no refuge, no throne of grace, but may be enabled to glorify our God in the fire, and give proof that His grace is sufficient for us in every state.

It is neither comfortable for ourselves, nor honourable to our profession, to startle at every shaking leaf.

If we are sensible of this, mourn over our infirmities before the Lord, and faithfully strive in prayer against the fear that easily besets us, then He can, and He will, strengthen us with strength in our souls, and make us more than conquerors, according to His sure promise.

Oh, that I could improve the present, and cheerfully commit the future to Him who does all things wisely and well, and has promised that all shall work together for good! (Rom. 8:28)”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 6 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 6: 59-61.

“His compassions are boundless” by John Newton

“Every year, and indeed every day, affords me new proofs of the evil and deceitfulness of my heart, and of my utter insufficiency to think even a good thought of myself.

But I trust, in the course of various exercises, I have been taught more of the power, grace, and all-sufficiency of Jesus.

I can commend Him to others, not from hearsay, but from my own experience.

His name is precious. His love is wonderful. His compassions are boundless.

I trust I am enabled to choose Him as my all, my Lord, my Strength, my Saviour, my Portion.

I long for more grace to love Him better!

For, alas, I have reason to number myself among the least of saints and the chief of sinners.”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 6 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 6: 58.

“We miss them” by John Newton

“I am still supported, and in some measure owned, in the pleasing service of preaching the glorious Gospel to my fellow-sinners. And I am still happy in an affectionate, united people.

Many have been removed to a better world, but others have been added to us; so that I believe our numbers have been rather increased than diminished from year to year.

But most of our old experienced believers have finished their course, and entered into their rest.

Some such we had, who were highly exemplary and useful ornaments to their profession, and very helpful to the young of the flock.

We miss them. But the Lord, who has the fullness of the Spirit, is, I hope, bringing others forward to supply their places.

We have to sing of abounding grace, and at the same time to mourn over the aboundings of sin.

For too many in this neighbourhood have resisted convictions so long, that I am afraid the Lord has given them up to hardness of heart.

They are either obstinately determined to hear no more, or sit quietly under the preaching, and seem to be sermon-proof.

Yet I hope and pray for a day of power in favour of some who have hitherto heard in vain.

Blessed be God, we are not without some seasons of refreshment, when a sense of His gracious presence makes the ordinances sweet and precious.

Many miracles He has wrought among us in the twelve years I have been here. The blind see, the deaf hear, the lepers are cleansed, and the dead are raised to spiritual life.

Pray for us, that His arm may be revealed in the midst of us.

As to myself, I have had much experience of the deceitfulness of my heart, much warfare on account of the remaining principle of in-dwelling sin.

Without this experience I should not have known so much of the wisdom, power, grace, and compassion of Jesus.

I have good reason to commend Him to others, as a faithful Shepherd, an infallible Physician, an unchangeable Friend. I have found Him such.

Had He not been with me, and were He not mighty to forgive and deliver, I had long ago been trodden down like mire in the streets.

He has wonderfully preserved me in my outward walk, so that they who have watched for my halting have been disappointed.

But He alone knows the innumerable backslidings, and the great perverseness of my heart.

It is of His grace and mercy that I am what I am: having obtained help of Him, I continue to this day.

And He enables me to believe that He will keep me to the end, and that then I shall be with Him forever.”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 6 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 6: 54-55.

“He is our peace, our strength, our righteousness, our all in all” by John Newton

February 14, 1772

Dear Madam,

I find by the date of your last, that I have not been so punctual to the time of answering as formerly. Indeed, business of one kind or another so grows on my hands, that I am in arrears to many.

I hope the Lord, who has mercifully given you children, will enable you to bring them up in His fear, and accompany your endeavours with His blessing; and make them in due time partakers of His grace, that they may know and love the Lord God of their parents.

Your warfare, it seems, still continues; and it will continue while you remain here. But He is faithful who has promised to make us more than conquerors in the last conflict,— then we shall hear the voice of war no more forever.

Whatever we suffer by the way, the end will make amends for all. The repeated experience we have of the deceitfulness of our own hearts, is a means which the Lord employs to make us willing debtors to His free grace, and teach us to live more entirely upon Jesus.

He is our peace, our strength, our righteousness, our all in all. And we learn from day to day, that, though diligence and watchfulness in the use of appointed means is our part, yet we are preserved in life, not by our care, but His.

We have a watchful Shepherd, who neither slumbers nor sleeps; His eyes are always upon His people; His arm underneath them; this is the reason that their enemies cannot prevail against them.

We are conscious to ourselves of many unguarded moments, in which we might be surprised and ruined if we were left without His almighty defence. Yea, we often suffer loss by our folly.

But He restores us when wandering; revives us when fainting; heals us when wounded; and, having obtained help of Him, we continue to this hour; and He will be our Guard and Guide even unto death.

He has delivered, he does deliver; and in Him we trust that He will yet deliver us.

We have had but few alterations, since my last; only that of late the Lord has been pleased to give His word a more convincing power than for some time before. We have had several awakened within these few months, who appear to be truly in earnest.

Upon the whole, though we have many causes of humiliation, I hope it is with us in some measure according to that pleasing description, (Acts 9:31). Help us to praise the Lord for His goodness to us.

As to myself, there is little variation in my path. The law of sin in my members distresses me; but the Gospel yields relief.

It is given me to rest in the finished salvation, and to rejoice in Christ Jesus as my all in all.

My soul is athirst for nearer and fuller communion with Him. Yet He is pleased to keep me short of those sweet consolations in my retired hours which I could desire.

However, I cannot doubt but He is with me, and is pleased to keep up in my heart some sense of the evil of sin, the beauty of holiness, my own weakness, and His glorious all-sufficiency.

His I am, and him I desire to serve. I am, indeed, a poor servant; but He is a gracious Master.

Oh! Who is a God like unto Him, that forgiveth iniquity, and casteth the sins of His people into the depths of the sea?

I shall not always live thus,— the land to which we are going is far different to this wilderness through which He is now leading us. Then we shall see His face, and never, never sin.

If either of you or your’s should come towards London, we shall be glad to see you; but, if not here, we hope to meet in glory. There is but little probability of my seeing you in Yorkshire.

We may meet however at present, I hope we do, at a throne of grace. I entreat a frequent remembrance in your prayers, both of me and mine.

This is the best proof we can give of our love to our friends, to bear them upon our hearts before the Lord. Afford me this, and I will pay you in kind as the Lord shall enable me.

Your’s in the best friendship,

John Newton”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 6 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 6: 51-53.

“The best advice I can give you” by John Newton

“The best advice I can send, or the best wish I can form for you, is, that you may have an abiding and experimental sense of those words of the apostle, which are just now upon my mind,— “LOOKING UNTO JESUS.”

The duty, the privilege, the safety, the unspeakable happiness, of a believer, are all comprised in that one sentence.

Let us first pray that the eyes of our faith and understanding may be opened and strengthened; and then let us fix our whole regard upon Him.

But how are we to behold Him? I answer, in the glass of His written word; there He is represented to us in a variety of views.

The wicked world can see no form nor comeliness in the portraiture He has given of Himself; yet, blessed be God, there are those who can ‘behold His glory as the glory of the only begotten Son of God, full of grace and truth;’ (John 1:14) and while they behold it, they find themselves, ‘changed into the same image, from glory to glory,’ (2 Cor. 3:18) by the transforming influence of His Spirit.

In vain we oppose reasonings, and arguments, and resolutions, to beat down our corruptions, and to silence our fears; but a believing view of Jesus does the business.

When heavy trials in life are appointed us, and we are called to give up, or perhaps to pluck out, a right eye, it is an easy matter for a stander-by to say, ‘Be comforted;’ and it is as useless as easy;—but a view of Jesus by faith comes home to the point.

When we can fix our thoughts upon Him, as laying aside all His honours, and submitting, for our sakes, to drink off the bitter cup of the wrath of God to the very dregs.

And when we further consider, that He who thus suffered in our nature, who knows and sympathizes with all our weakness, is now the Supreme Disposer of all that concerns us, that He numbers the very hairs of our heads, appoints every trial we meet with in number, weight, and measure, and will suffer nothing to befall us but what shall contribute to our good;– this view, I say, is a medicine suited to the disease, and powerfully reconciles us unto every cross.

So when a sense of sin prevails, and the tempter is permitted to assault us with dark and dreadful suggestions, it is easy for us to say, ‘Be not afraid.’

But those who have tried, well know that looking to Jesus is the only and sure remedy in this case;— if we can get a sight of Him by faith, as He once hung between the two thieves, and as He now pleads within the veil, then we can defy sin and Satan, and give our challenge in the apostle’s words, ‘Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather, that is risen again; who also maketh intercession for us:’ (Romans 8:34)

Again, are we almost afraid of being swallowed up by our many restless enemies? Or, are we almost weary of our long pilgrimage through such a thorny, tedious, barren wilderness?

A sight of Jesus, as Stephen saw Him, crowned with glory, yet noticing all the sufferings of His poor servants, and just ready to receive them to Himself, and make them partakers of His everlasting joy, this will raise the spirits, and restore strength; this will animate us to hold on, and to hold out; this will do it, and nothing but this can.

So, if obedience be the thing in question, looking unto Jesus is the object that melts the soul into love and gratitude, and those who greatly love, and are greatly obliged, find obedience easy.

When Jesus is upon our thoughts, either in His humbled or His exalted state, either as bleeding on the cross, or as our nature by all the host of heaven, then we can ask the apostle’s question with a becoming disdain, ‘Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?’ (Rom. 6:1)

God forbid. What! Shall I sin against my Lord, my Love, my Friend, who once died for my sins, and now lives and reigns on my behalf; who supports, and leads, and guides, and feeds me every day?

God forbid. No; rather I would wish for a thousand hands and eyes, and feet, and tongues, for ten thousand lives, that I might devote them all to His service: He should have all then; and surely He shall have all now!

Alas, that in spite of myself, there still remains something that resists His will!

But I long and pray for its destruction; and I see a day coming when my wish shall be accomplished, and I shall be wholly and forever the Lord’s.”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 6 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 6: 4-6.

“We shall be near Him, and like Him, and with Him forever” by John Newton

“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. (Psalm 100) 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 fulness, ability, wisdom, compassion, care, and faithfulness of our great Shepherd.

He guides, protects, feeds, heals, and restores, and 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: 493-494.

“We set forth a most tender Father, a bleeding Saviour, and a faithful Comforter” by Charles Bridges

“Love is the grand distinctive mark of our office. It exhibits salvation flowing from the bosom of Divine mercy.

We set forth a most tender Father, a bleeding Saviour, and a faithful Comforter. The spirit of every discourse should be: ‘God is love.’ (1 John 4:8)

Therefore, we should so cast ourselves into the mould of our commission, that we may infuse its very life and character throughout our ministry.

‘Speaking the truth in love’ (Eph. 4:15) is perhaps, in a few words, the most complete description of our office. Love should pervade the whole tone of our Ministry.

Tender seriousness commends our office as Ambassadors of a God of love. A scolding Minister only proves he does not understand his errand. No man was ever yet scolded out of his sins.

The Apostles were used to address their people with language expressive of earnest endearment. The extant epistles of the primitive Fathers, the most earnest discourses of Cyprian and Augustine, and the homilies of Chrysostom, are strongly imbued with this character.

The amiable Fenelon observes: ‘I would have every Minister of the Gospel address his hearers with the zeal of a friend, with the generous energy of a father, and with the exuberant affection of a mother.’

This spirit of love must deeply imbue even the language of reproof. We must ‘exhort,’ but ‘with all long-suffering.’ (2 Tim. 4:2)

Meekness, gentleness, and patience must stamp our instruction of the opponents of the Gospel. (2 Tim. 2:24-25) We must wound their consciences as sinners, not their feelings as men.

Trembling, faltering, lips– the index of a heart touched with the melting sympathies of Christ– best become us, as guilty sinners speaking to our fellow-men, not more guilty than ourselves.

We are not arguing, however, for that sensitive delicacy, which refrains to wound, when the patient shrinks. The compulsion of love is the mighty lever of operation.

Love is the life, power, soul, and spirit of pulpit eloquence. Entreating rather than denouncing is the character of our office.

And it is the delivery of our Master’s message with the looks and language of His own manifested tenderness that attracts and triumphs over the hearts of a willing people.

We wonder not at the Apostle’s success, when we read, that at Ephesus he ‘ceased not for three years to warn everyone of them night and day with tears.’ (Acts 20:31)

The Christian pastor, of all men in the world, should have an affectionate heart.

When he preaches, it is the shepherd in search of the strayed sheep, and the father in pursuit of its lost child.

‘The love of Christ will constrain us’ (2 Cor. 5:14) all to some clear evidence of our tender love to His flock.

Love, continual, universal, ardent love is the soul of all the labour of a Minister.”

–Charles Bridges, The Christian Ministry, with an Inquiry into the Causes of Its Inefficiency (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1830/2020), 356, 357, 358, 359-362.

“We also pray to You, true Father and Savior, for all the pastors” by John Calvin

“We also pray to You, true Father and Savior, for all those whom you have ordained as pastors for the faithful, and to whom You have entrusted the charge of souls and the dispensation of Your holy gospel.

We pray that You would guide them by Your Holy Spirit, that they may be found to be faithful and loyal ministers of Your glory, always having this aim, that all the poor, lost sheep would be gathered and brought back to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Chief Shepherd and Prince of the overseers, so that they would benefit from, and grow in Him, day by day, in all righteousness and holiness.

Moreover, be pleased to deliver all churches from the mouths of ravenous wolves and from all the hired hands who seek their own ambition or profit and not the exaltation of Your holy name alone and the salvation of Your flock.

We also pray to You, most kind God and merciful Father, for all people generally, since You desire to be known as Savior of the whole world, through the redemption accomplished by Your Son Jesus Christ.

We pray that those who are still estranged from the knowledge of Him, in darkness and the captivity of error and ignorance, would be brought back to the straight way of salvation, which is to know the only true God and Him whom You sent, Jesus Christ, through the illumination of Your Holy Spirit and the preaching of Your gospel.

May those whom You have already visited in Your grace and illumined with the knowledge of Your Word grow daily in goodness, being enriched with Your spiritual blessings, that we may adore You altogether with one heart and one mouth and give honor and homage to Your Christ, our Master, King, and Lawgiver.”

–John Calvin, “Form of Ecclesiastical Prayers (Geneva 1542),Reformation Worship: Liturgies from the Past for the Present, Eds. Jonathan Gibson and Mark Earngey (Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2018), 322-323.