“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.

“A glorious endless state of happiness and holiness” by John Newton

“I often think of you, and I think of you as burdened, but I know there is a might arm near to support you, and to sanctify all your trials.

The Lord will do you good by them, both as a Christian, and as a minister. When the shepherd is much exercised it is usually well for the flock (2 Cor. 1:3-6).

And some of our afflictions perhaps befall us for the sake of our people, that we may be reminded and enabled to speak their feelings, by what we feel ourselves.

In this way the tongue of the learned is acquired and skill to speak a word in season to the weary (Isa. 50:4).

Settle it in your heart, my friend, that the Lord does all things well, all for the best.

Believe it now, and in due time you shall plainly see it, and praise Him equally for giving and taking away (Job 1:21).

Time is short and the nature of our employment while it lasts, is well suited to raise our thoughts above the little concerns of such a life as this, to fill us with great ideas, to inspire with great aims, to animate us with great prospects:

The love of Christ; the worth of souls, the honour of being instrumental in their recovery; a glorious endless state of happiness and holiness.

How light must our present sufferings appear, when weighed in the scales of the Sanctuary against these things.

‘Let us not be weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap if we faint not.’ (Galatians 6:9)”

–John Newton, Wise Counsel: John Newton’s Letters to John Ryland Jr., Ed. Grant Gordon (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2009), 192.

“Exceedingly great and precious promises” by John Bunyan

“O how excellent are the Scriptures to thy soul! O how much virtue dost thou see in such a promise, in such an invitation!

They are so large as to say, Christ will in no wise cast me out! (John 6:37) My crimson sins shall be white as snow!

I tell thee, friend, there are some promises that the Lord hath helped me to lay hold of Jesus Christ through and by, that I would not have out of the Bible for as much gold and silver as can lie between York and London piled up to the stars; because through them Christ is pleased by his Spirit to convey comfort to my soul.

I say, when the law curses, when the devil tempts, when hell-fire flames in my conscience, my sins with the guilt of them tearing of me, then is Christ revealed so sweetly to my poor soul through the promises that all is forced to fly and leave off to accuse my soul.

So also, when the world frowns, when the enemies rage and threaten to kill me, then also the precious, the exceeding great and precious promises do weigh down all, and comfort the soul against all.

This is the effect of believing the Scriptures savingly; for they that do so have by and through the Scriptures good comfort, and also ground of hope, believing those things to be its own which the Scriptures hold forth (Rom 15:4).”

–John Bunyan, Some Sighs from Hell, The Works of John Bunyan, Volume 3 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1692/1991), 3: 721-722.

“In Christ all perfections of mercy and love meet” by Richard Sibbes

“If the sweetness of all flowers were in one, how sweet must that flower be?

In Christ all perfections of mercy and love meet.

How great then must that mercy be that lodges in so gracious a heart?

Whatever tenderness is scattered in husband, father, brother, head, all is but a beam from Him, it is in Him in the most eminent manner.

We are weak, but we are His.”

–Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1630/2021), 69.

“There is more mercy in Christ than sin in us” by Richard Sibbes

“There is more mercy in Christ than sin in us.”

–Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1630/2021), 13.

“The path of self-sacrifice is the path to glory” by B.B. Warfield

“Our self-abnegation is not for our own sake, but for the sake of others. And thus it is not to mere self-denial that Christ calls us, but specifically to self-sacrifice: not to unselfing ourselves, but to unselfishing ourselves.

Self-denial for its own sake is in its very nature ascetic, monkish. It concentrates our whole attention on self—self-knowledge, self-control—and can therefore eventuate in nothing other than the very apotheosis of selfishness.

At best it succeeds only in subjecting the outer self to the inner self, or the lower self to the higher self; and only the more surely falls into the slough of self-seeking, that it partially conceals the selfishness of its goal by refining its ideal of self and excluding its grosser and more outward elements.

Self-denial, then, drives to the cloister; narrows and contracts the soul; murders within us all innocent desires, dries up all the springs of sympathy, and nurses and coddles our self-importance until we grow so great in our own esteem as to be careless of the trials and sufferings, the joys and aspirations, the strivings and failures and successes of our fellow-men.

Self-denial, thus understood, will make us cold, hard, unsympathetic,—proud, arrogant, self-esteeming,—fanatical, overbearing, cruel. It may make monks and Stoics,—it cannot make Christians.

It is not to this that Christ’s example calls us.

He did not cultivate self, even His divine self: He took no account of self.

He was not led by His divine impulse out of the world, driven back into the recesses of His own soul to brood morbidly over His own needs, until to gain His own seemed worth all sacrifice to Him.

He was led by His love for others into the world, to forget Himself in the needs of others, to sacrifice self once for all upon the altar of sympathy.

Self-sacrifice brought Christ into the world. And self-sacrifice will lead us, His followers, not away from but into the midst of men.

Wherever men suffer, there will we be to comfort.

Wherever men strive, there will we be to help.

Wherever men fail, there will be we to uplift.

Wherever men succeed, there will we be to rejoice.

Self-sacrifice means not indifference to our times and our fellows: it means absorption in them.

It means forgetfulness of self in others.

It means entering into every man’s hopes and fears, longings and despairs: it means manysidedness of spirit, multiform activity, multiplicity of sympathies.

It means richness of development.

It means not that we should live one life, but a thousand lives,—binding ourselves to a thousand souls by the filaments of so loving a sympathy that their lives become ours.

It means that all the experiences of men shall smite our souls and shall beat and batter these stubborn hearts of ours into fitness for their heavenly home.

It is, after all, then, the path to the highest possible development, by which alone we can be made truly men. Not that we shall undertake it with this end in view.

This were to dry up its springs at their source. We cannot be self-consciously self-forgetful, selfishly unselfish.

Only, when we humbly walk this path, seeking truly in it not our own things but those of others, we shall find the promise true, that he who loses his life shall find it.

Only, when, like Christ, and in loving obedience to His call and example, we take no account of ourselves, but freely give ourselves to others, we shall find, each in his measure, the saying true of himself also: ‘Wherefore also God hath highly exalted him.’

The path of self-sacrifice is the path to glory.”

–B.B. Warfield, “Imitating the Incarnation,” in The Saviour of the World (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1916/1991), 268-270. This sermon is from Philippians 2:5-8.

“Christ is the True Hero and I shall cling to Him” by Martin Luther

“Dear mother,

You know the real basis and foundation of your salvation, on which you must rest your confidence in this and all troubles, namely Jesus Christ, the cornerstone.

He will not waver or fail us, nor allow us to sink and perish, for He is the Saviour and is called the Saviour of all poor sinners, of all who face tribulation and death, of all who rely on Him and call on His name.

He says, “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

If He has overcome the world, surely He has overcome the prince of this world with all His power. And what is His power but death, with which He has made us subject to Him, captives on account of our sin?

But now that death and sin are overcome, we may joyfully and cheerfully listen to the sweet words, “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

And we must not doubt that they are certainly true. More than that, we are commanded to accept their comfort with joy and thanksgiving.

Whoever is unwilling to be comforted by these words does the greatest injustice and dishonor to the Comforter— as if it were not true that He bids us to be of good cheer, or as if it were not true that He has overcome the world.

If we act thus, we only restore within ourselves the tyranny of the vanquished devil, sin, and death, and we oppose the dear Saviour. From this may God preserve us!

Therefore, let us rejoice with all assurance and gladness. Should any thought of sin or death frighten us, let us lift up our hearts and say:

“Behold, dear soul, what are you doing? Dear death, dear sin, how is it that you are alive and terrify me? Do you not know that you have been overcome?

Do you, death, not know that you are quite dead? Do you not know the One who has said of you, I have overcome the world?

It does not behoove me to listen to or heed your terrifying suggestions. I shall pay attention only to the cheering words of my Saviour, ‘Be of good cheer, be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.’

He is the Conqueror, the true Hero, who in these words, ‘Be of good cheer,’ gives me the benefit of his victory. I shall cling to Him.

To His words and comfort I shall hold fast. Whether I remain here or go yonder, He will not forsake me.

You would like to deceive me with your false terrors, and with your lying thoughts you would like to tear me away from such a Conqueror and Saviour.

But they are lies, as surely as it is true that He has overcome you and commanded us to be comforted.”

This is also the boast of Saint Paul and his defiance of the terrors of death:

‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?’ (1 Cor. 15:55)

Like a wooden image of death, you can terrify and frighten, but you have no power to destroy. For your victory, sting, and power have been swallowed up in Christ’s victory.

You can show your teeth, but you cannot bite. For God has given us the victory over you through Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be praise and thanks. Amen.’

With such words and thoughts, and with none other, you may set your heart at rest, dear mother.

Be thankful that God has brought you to such knowledge and not allowed you to remain in papal error, by which we were taught to rely on our own works and the holiness of the monks and to consider this only comfort of ours, our Saviour, not as a comforter but as a severe judge and tyrant, so that we could only flee from Him to Mary and the saints and not expect of Him any grace or comfort.

But now we know differently about the unfathomable goodness and mercy of our Heavenly Father.

We now know that Jesus Christ is our mediator, our throne of grace, and our bishop before God in heaven, who daily intercedes for us and reconciles all who call upon and believe in Him.

We now know that He is not a grim judge, except to those who do not believe in Him and who reject His comfort and grace.

We now know that He is not the Man who accuses and threatens us, but rather that He intercedes for and reconciles us by His own death, having shed His blood for us in order that we might not fear Him but approach Him with all assurance and call Him our dear Saviour, our sweet Comforter, the true Bishop of our souls.”

–Martin Luther, “To Mrs. John Luther, (May 20, 1531),” Letters of Spiritual Counsel, Ed. and Trans. Theodore G. Tappert, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1955/2006), 34-35.

“I commend you to Him who loves you more than you love yourself” by Martin Luther

“To my dear father, John Luther, citizen in the valley of Mansfeld:

Grace and peace in Christ Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. Amen.

Dear Father:

My brother James has written me that you are seriously ill. As the weather is bad and the season dangerous, I am very anxious about you, for though God has given you a strong, tough body, yet your age and the inclemency of the weather give me disquieting thoughts.

None of us is, or should be, sure of his life at any time. I should have come to you personally with the greatest willingness, but my good friends advised me against it and have persuaded me not to, and I myself thought it better not to tempt God by putting myself in peril, for you know how lords and peasants feel toward me.

It would be the greatest joy to me if it were possible for you and mother to come hither, which my Katie and all of us beg with tears that you will do. I hope we are able to take good care of you.

Therefore I am sending Cyriac to see whether your weakness will allow you to be moved.

However in God’s wisdom your illness turns out, whether you live or die, it would be a heartfelt joy to me to be with you again and with filial piety and service to show my gratitude to God and to you according to the Fourth Commandment.

In the meantime I pray from the bottom of my heart that our Father, who has made you my father, will strengthen you according to His immeasurable kindness and enlighten and protect you with His Spirit, so that you may receive with joy and thanksgiving the blessed teaching of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to which doctrine you have now been called and to which you have come out of the former terrible darkness and error.

And I hope that His grace, which has given you such knowledge, and thereby begun His work in you, will guard and complete it to the end of this life and to the joyous hereafter of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

God has already sealed this teaching and faith in you and has testified to it by such marks as that you have suffered much slander, abuse, obloquy, mockery, scorn, hatred, and odium for His name’s sake, as we all have done. These are the true marks of our likeness to the Lord Christ, as Paul says, that we may be like Him also in future glory.

Let your heart be strong and at ease in your trouble, for we have yonder a true mediator with God, Jesus Christ, who has overcome death and sin for us and now sits in heaven with all His angels, looking down on us and awaiting us so that when we set out we need have no fear or care lest we should sink and fall to the ground.

He has such great power over sin and death that they cannot harm us, and He is so heartily true and kind that He cannot and will not forsake us, at least if we ask His help without doubting.

He has said, promised, and pledged this. He will not and cannot lie; of that we are certain.

“Ask,” says he, “and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find, knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (Matt. 7:7) And elsewhere: “Whoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:21)

The whole Psalter is full of such comforting promises, especially Ps. 91, which is particularly good to read to the sick.

I wish to write this to you because I am anxious about your illness (for we know not the hour), that I may become a participant of your faith, temptation, consolation, and thanks to God for His holy Word, which He has richly and graciously given us at this time.

If it is His divine will that you should postpone that better life and continue to suffer with us in this troubled and unhappy vale of tears, to see and hear sorrow and help other Christians to suffer and conquer, He will give you the grace to accept all this willingly and obediently.

This life, cursed by sin, is nothing but a vale of tears. The longer a man lives, the more sin and wickedness and plague and sorrow he sees and feels. Nor is there respite or cessation this side of the grave. Beyond is repose, and we can then sleep in the rest Christ gives us until He comes again to wake us with joy. Amen.

I commend you to Him who loves you more than you love yourself.

He has proved His love in taking your sins upon Himself and paying for them with His blood, as He tells you by the gospel.

He has given you grace to believe by His Spirit, and has prepared and accomplished everything most surely, so that you need not care or fear any more, but only keep your heart strong and reliant on His Word and faith.

If you do that, let Him care for the rest. He will see to it that everything turns out well. Indeed, He has already done this better than we can conceive.

May our dear Lord and Saviour be with you so that, God willing, we may see each other, either here or yonder. For our faith is certain, and we doubt not that we shall shortly see each other in the presence of Christ.

Our departure from this life is a smaller thing to God than my journey would be from here to Mansfeld or yours from Mansfeld to Wittenberg. It is only an hour’s sleep, and after that all will be different. This is most certainly true.

I hope that your pastor and preacher will point out such things to you in faithful service, and so you will not need what I say at all. Yet I write to ask forgiveness for my bodily absence, which, God knows, causes me heartfelt sorrow.

My Katie, little Hans, Magdalene, Aunt Lena, and all my household send you greetings and pray for you faithfully. Greet my dear mother and all my friends.

God’s grace and strength be and abide with you forever. Amen.

Your loving son,

Martin Luther
February 15, 1530.”

–Martin Luther, Letters of Spiritual Counsel, Ed. and Trans. Theodore G. Tappert, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1955/2006), 30-32.

[John Luther, Martin’s father, died on May 29, 1530, three months after this letter of consolation was written. On June 5, Luther wrote to Melanchthon: “John Reineck wrote me today that my beloved father, the senior Hans Luther, departed this life at one o’clock on Exaudi Sunday. This death has cast me into deep mourning, not only because of the ties of nature but also because it was through his sweet love to me that my Creator endowed me with all that I am and have. Although it is consoling to me that, as he writes, my father fell asleep softly and strong in his faith in Christ, yet his kindness and the memory of his pleasant conversation have caused so deep a wound in my heart that I have scarcely ever held death in such low esteem.” (30)]

“This is our pattern when we speak and write for God” by John Newton

“Self-righteousness can feed upon doctrines, as well as upon works; and a man may have the heart of a Pharisee, while his head is stored with orthodox notions of the unworthiness of the creature and the riches of free grace.

Yea, I would add, the best of men are not wholly free from this leaven; and therefore are too apt to be pleased with such representations as hold up our adversaries to ridicule, and by consequence flatter our own superior judgments.

Controversies, for the most part, are so managed as to indulge rather than to repress this wrong disposition; and therefore, generally speaking, they are productive of little good. They provoke those whom they should convince, and puff up those whom they should edify.

I hope your performance will savour of a spirit of true humility, and be a means of promoting it in others.

This leads me, in the last place, to consider your own concern in your present undertaking. It seems a laudable service to defend the faith once delivered to the saints; we are commanded to contend earnestly for it, and to convince gainsayers.

If ever such defences were seasonable and expedient, they appear to be so in our day, when errors abound on all sides, and every truth of the Gospel is either directly denied, or grossly misrepresented. And yet we find but very few writers of controversy who have not been manifestly hurt by it.

Either they grow in a sense of their own importance, or imbibe an angry contentious spirit, or they insensibly withdraw their attention from those things which are the food and immediate support of the life of faith, and spend their time and strength upon matters which at most are but of a secondary value.

This shews, that, if the service is honourable, it is dangerous. What will it profit a man if he gains his cause, and silences his adversary, if at the same time he loses that humble, tender frame of spirit in which the Lord delights, and to which the promise of His presence is made!

Your aim, I doubt not, is good. But you have need to watch and pray, for you will find Satan at your right hand to resist you: he will try to debase your views; and though you set out in defence of the cause of God, if you are not continually looking to the Lord to keep you, it may become your own cause, and awaken in you those tempers which are inconsistent with true peace of mind, and will surely obstruct communion with God.

Be upon your guard against admitting anything personal into the debate.

If you think you have been ill treated, you will have an opportunity of showing that you are a disciple of Jesus, who, ‘when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not.’ (1 Pet. 2:23) This is our pattern, thus we are to speak and write for God, ‘not rendering railing for railing, but, contrariwise, blessing; knowing that hereunto we are called.’ (1 Pet. 3:9)

The wisdom that is from above is not only pure, but peaceable and gentle; and the want of these qualifications, like the dead fly in the pot of ointment, will spoil the savour and efficacy of our labours. If we act in a wrong spirit, we shall bring little glory to God, do little good to our fellow-creatures, and procure neither honour nor comfort to ourselves.

If you can be content with shewing your wit, and gaining the laugh on your side, you have an easy task. But I hope you have a far nobler aim, and that, sensible of the solemn importance of Gospel truths, and the compassion due to the souls of men, you would rather be a means of removing prejudices in a single instance, than obtain the empty applause of thousands.

Go forth, therefore, in the name and strength of the Lord of Hosts, speaking the truth in love; and may He give you a witness in many hearts, that you are taught of God, and favoured with the unction of His Holy Spirit.”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 1 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 1: 272-274.