“Jesus is all to them who are nothing” by John Newton

“Your prayers and kind wishes for me and mine, I heartily thank you for, and hope we shall repay you (as we are enabled) in kind.

Many here have, indeed, reason to speak well of the Lord. He has been very gracious to us. But, alas! most of us may complain of ourselves.

But, unworthy as we are, He bears with us; He multiplies pardons, and He keeps us upon the whole in a persuasion that His loving kindness is better than life.

The workings of a corrupt nature, and the subtlety of our spiritual enemies, cause us much exercise; but we find One with us who is greater than our hearts, and greater than he that is in the world.

When I look at some of my people, I am filled both with joy and shame; joy to see that the Lord has not suffered my labour among them to be in vain; shame to think that I have preached so much more effectually to them than to my own heart.

It is my mercy that I am not under the law, but under grace. Were it not for this thought, I should sink.

But it is given me to know that Jesus is all to them who are nothing.

The promise whereon I trust, and the power of trusting in it, are both from Him, and therefore I am encouraged to plead, ‘Remember Thy word unto Thy servant, wherein Thou hast caused me to hope.’ (Psalm 119:49)

A sure promise, a complete atonement, a perfect righteousness, an Almighty Saviour, who is able to save to the uttermost, and has said, ‘I will in no wise cast out.’ (John 6:37)

These are the weapons with which I (alas, how feebly!) oppose the discouragements which arise from self and unbelief.”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 6 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 6: 265-266.

“Jesus alone is able to preserve us” by John Newton

“May we ever remember that not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.

I had no doubt but that you would love my dear friend; possibly I may overrate him; I own he is but a man, but I think him an uncommon one; an eminent instance of the true christian spirit. This is what is most taking with me.

Gifts are useful; but they are mere tinsel compared with the solid gold of grace. An eminency in gifts is specious and glittering; but unless grace is proportionable, very ensnaring likewise.

Gifts are like riches: if well improved, they give a man fairer opportunities of service; but if the Lord favours a man with great gifts, and in consequence thereof, considerable popularity, that man stands in a dangerous situation.

If he is not kept humble, great soon will be his fall; and to keep such a man humble, more than a common share of trials is usually needful.

My prayer for you and for myself, my dear friend, is, that we may never be suffered to infer grace from gifts, or to mistake the exercise of the one for the exercise of the other.

We have need to be saying continually, “Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe.” How else can we stand?

If we meet with opposition, it has hurt its thousands. If we are exposed to caresses and popularity, they have slain their ten thousands.

Jesus alone is able to preserve us, and He is able to preserve us fully; in the lion’s den, in the fiery furnace, in the swellings of Jordan, if He be with us, and maintain in us a sense of our unworthiness, and our entire dependence upon Him, we shall be safe.

I see that, beside the general lot of affliction in common with others, you are likely to have one peculiar trial, which might be lightly regarded by some, but not by me.

Indeed, I can sympathize with you; and, from what I have formerly felt, I am sure nothing but the grace of God can compose the mind under such a disappointment.

But remember, He has given you Himself. If He sees tit to overrule your desires, be sure it is best for you.

The Lord sees all consequences; if we could do so, we should acquiesce in His appointments the first moment.

If it is for your good and His glory, it shall yet take place; (you would not wish it otherwise;) if not, He can make it up, perhaps in kind; (for there is an old proverb, “That there is as good fish in the sea as ever came out of it;”).

But if not so, He can easily make it up in kindness, and give you such a taste of His love that you shall gladly forego all, and say as David, (Psalm 73:25).

Let other things turn out as He pleases, you must be happy, for the Lord Himself is your Guide, your Shield, and your Portion.

Keep your eye and heart, my friend, upon His work, and He will take care of your other affairs, and not withhold any good thing from you.

All hearts are in His hands. When His time is come, hard things are made easy, and mountains sink into plains.”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 6 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 6: 127-129.

“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.