Tag Archives: unbelief

“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“There is none like Him” by John Newton

“My soul, wait thou only, only upon the Lord, who is (according to the expressive phrase, Heb. 4:13) He with whom we have to do for soul and body, for time and eternity.

What thanks do we owe, that though we have not yet attained perfectly this great lesson, yet we are admitted into that school where alone it can be learnt?

And though we are poor, slow scholars, the great and effectual Teacher to whom we have been encouraged and enabled to apply, can and will bring us forward?

He communicates not only instructions, but capacities and powers. There is none like Him.

He can make the blind to see, the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak: and how great is His condescension and patience! How does He accommodate Himself to our weakness, and teach us as we are able to bear!

Though all are very dunces when He first receives them, not one was ever turned out as incapable: for He makes them what He would have them to be.

O that we may set Him always before us, and consider every dispensation, person, thing, we meet in the course of every day, as messengers from Him, each bringing us some line of instruction for us to copy into that day’s experience!

Whatever passes within us or around us may be improved (when He teaches us how) as a perpetual commentary upon His good Word.

If we converse and observe with this view, we may learn something every moment, wherever the path of duty leads us, in the streets as well as in the closet, and from the conversation of those who know not God (when we cannot avoid being present at it), as well as from those who do.

Separation of dear friends is, as you observed, hard to flesh and blood; but grace can make it tolerable. I have an abiding persuasion that the Lord can easily give more than ever He will take away.

Which part of the alternative must be my lot, or when, He only knows; but in general I can rely on Him to appoint the time, the manner; and I trust His promise of strength suited to the day shall be made good.

Therefore I can for the most part rejoice, that all things are in the hand and under the direction of Him who knows our frame, and has Himself borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows, in His own body.

A time of weeping must come, but the morning of joy will make amends for all. Who can expound the meaning of that one expression, ‘An exceeding, and eternal weight of glory?’ (2 Cor. 4:17)

The case of unconverted friends is still more burdensome to think of; but we have encouragement and warrant to pray and to hope.

He who called us can easily call others: and He seldom lays a desire of this sort very closely and warmly upon the hearts of His people, but when it is His gracious design, sooner or later, to give an answer of peace.”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 2 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 2: 188-189.

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“Our Guide, and Guard, our Way, and End” by John Newton

“The Word does not flourish here as I ought to wish it; but, through mercy, it is not wholly without effect. We are in good harmony, ordinances are prized, and a gospel conversation maintained, by those who profess.

Should you ask, how it is with myself, I know not what answer to give. My experience is made up of enigmas, but the sum and solution of all is that ‘I am a vile creature, but I have a good Lord.’

He has chosen me; and I, through His rich grace, have chosen Him. I trust there is an engagement between Him and my soul, which shall never be broken, because He has undertaken for both parts, that He never will forsake me, and that I never shall forsake Him.

Oh, I like those royal, sovereign words, “I will,” and “You shall.” How sweetly are they suited to the sense and long experience He has given me of my own weakness, and the power and subtlety of Satan.

If my conflicts terminate in victory, it must be owing to his own arm, and for His own name’s sake; for I in myself have neither strength nor plea.

If I were not so poor, so sick, so foolish, the power, skill, riches, wisdom, and mercy of my Physician, Shepherd, and Saviour, would not be so signally illustrated in my own case.

Upon this account, instead of complaining, we may glory in our infirmities. Oh, it is pleasant to be deeply indebted to Him, to find Him, and own Him, all in all:—

Our Husband, Shepherd, Brother, Friend,
Our Guide, and Guard, our Way, and End!

I beg a frequent interest in your prayers, and remain, dear Sir, your affectionate and obliged servant,

John Newton”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 6 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 6: 275-276.

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“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.

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“25 qualities of unbelief and faith” by John Bunyan

“Let me here give thee, Christian reader, a more particular description of the qualities of unbelief, by opposing faith unto it, in these twenty-five particulars:—

1. Faith believeth the Word of God; but unbelief questioneth the certainty of the same (Ps. 106:24).

2. Faith believeth the Word, because it is true; but unbelief doubteth thereof, because it is true (1 Tim 4:3; John 8:45).

3. Faith sees more in a promise of God to help, than in all other things to hinder; but unbelief, notwithstanding God’s promise, saith, How can these things be? (Rom 4:19–21; 2 Kings 7:2; John 3:11, 12).

4. Faith will make thee see love in the heart of Christ, when with his mouth he giveth reproofs; but unbelief will imagine wrath in his heart, when with his mouth and Word he saith he loves us (Matt 15:22, 28; Num 13; 2 Chron 14:3).

5. Faith will help the soul to wait, though God defers to give; but unbelief will take huff and throw up all, if God makes any tarrying (Psa 25:5; Isa 8:17; 2 Kings 6:33; Psa 106:13, 14).

6. Faith will give comfort in the midst of fears; but unbelief causeth fears in the midst of comfort (2 Chron 20:20, 21; Matt 8:26; Luke 24:26; 27).

7. Faith will suck sweetness out of God’s rod; but unbelief can find no comfort in his greatest mercies (Psa 23:4; Num 21).

8. Faith maketh great burdens light; but unbelief maketh light ones intolerably heavy (2 Cor 4:1; 14–18; Mal 1:12, 13).

9. Faith helpeth us when we are down; but unbelief throws us down when we are up (Micah 7:8–10; Heb 4:11).

10. Faith bringeth us near to God when we are far from him; but unbelief puts us far from God when we are near to him (Heb 10:22; 3:12, 13).

11. Where faith reigns, it declareth men to be the friends of God; but where unbelief reigns, it declareth them to be his enemies (John 3:23; Heb 3:18; Rev 21:8).

12. Faith putteth a man under grace; but unbelief holdeth him under wrath (Rom 3:24–26; 14:6; Eph 2:8; John 3:36; 1 John 5:10; Heb 3:17; Mark 16:16).

13. Faith purifieth the heart; but unbelief keepeth it polluted and impure (Acts 15:9; Titus 1:15, 16).

14. By faith, the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us; but by unbelief, we are shut up under the law to perish (Rom 4:23, 24; 11:32; Gal 3:23).

15. Faith maketh our work acceptable to God through Christ; but whatsoever is of unbelief is sin. For without faith it is impossible to please him (Heb 11:4; Rom 14:23; Heb 6:6).

16. Faith giveth us peace and comfort in our souls; but unbelief worketh trouble and tossings, like the restless waves of the sea (Rom 5:1; James 1:6).

17. Faith maketh us to see preciousness in Christ; but unbelief sees no form, beauty, or comeliness in him (1 Peter 2:7; Isa 53:2, 3).

18. By faith we have our life in Christ’s fullness; but by unbelief we starve and pine away (Gal 2:20).

19. Faith gives us the victory over the law, sin, death, the devil, and all evils; but unbelief layeth us obnoxious to them all (1 John 5:4, 5; Luke 12:46).

20. Faith will show us more excellency in things not seen, than in them that are; but unbelief sees more in things that are seen, than in things that will be hereafter;. (2 Cor 4:18; Heb 11:24–27; 1 Cor 15:32).

21. Faith makes the ways of God pleasant and admirable; but unbelief makes them heavy and hard (Gal 5:6; 1 Cor 12:10, 11; John 6:60; Psa 2:3).

22. By faith Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob possessed the land of promise; but because of unbelief, neither Aaron, nor Moses, nor Miriam could get thither (Heb 11:9; 3:19).

23. By faith the children of Israel passed through the Red Sea; but by unbelief the generality of them perished in the wilderness (Heb 11:29; Jude 5).

24. By faith Gideon did more with three hundred men, and a few empty pitchers, than all the twelve tribes could do, because they believed not God (Judg 7:16–22; Num 14:11, 14).

25. By faith Peter walked on the water; but by unbelief he began to sink (Matt 14:28–30).

Thus might many more be added, which, for brevity’s sake, I omit; beseeching every one that thinketh he hath a soul to save, or be damned, to take heed of unbelief; lest, seeing there is a promise left us of entering into his rest, any of us by unbelief should indeed come short of it.”

–John Bunyan, Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ, The Works of John Bunyan, Volume 1 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1692/1991), 1: 293-294.

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“Faith looks to Jesus” by Hugh Martin

“Now this is the very essence of the contest between faith and unbelief. Unbelief shrinks from being contented with having my eternal salvation entirely in the hands of another.

Unbelief searches diligently for something to trust to in myself, and would look upon it with complacency, and rest upon it with peace and delight, could it but succeed in the search.

The search is vain. In me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing. (Rom. 7:18)

But faith looks out. Faith looks to Jesus. Faith says, ‘Jesus is sufficient; Jesus is infallible. Jesus is true.’

Faith sees salvation safe in His hand and says, ‘My Lord and my God,’ (John 20:28) I am thine: and we so are one, that Thy will to save me is as good to me as my own willingness to be saved; yea, better, brighter, steadier, unslumbering, unflagging, changeless.’

And then: ‘Thy power is all-sufficient. Thou art all my salvation. Thou art all my desire.’

None but Christ: none but Christ.”

–Hugh Martin, The Shadow of Calvary (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1875/2016), 132.

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“His mercy will live longer than thy sin” by John Bunyan

“Child of God, thou that fearest God, here is mercy nigh thee, mercy enough, everlasting mercy upon thee.

This is long-lived mercy. It will live longer than thy sin, it will live longer than temptation, it will live longer than thy sorrows, it will live longer than thy persecutors.

It is mercy from everlasting to contrive thy salvation, and mercy to everlasting to weather it out with all thy adversaries.

Now what can hell and death do to him that hath this mercy of God upon him? And this hath the man that feareth the Lord.

Take that other blessed word, and O thou man that fearest the Lord, hang it like a chain of gold about thy neck—’As the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him’ (Psalm 103:11).

If mercy as big, as high, and as good as heaven itself will be a privilege, the man that feareth God shall have a privilege.

Dost thou fear God?—’Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him’ (Psalm 103:13).”

–John Bunyan, “A Treatise on the Fear of God,” in The Works of John Bunyan, ed. George Offer, 3 vols. (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1991), 1: 470.

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“Turn from broken cisterns and drink from the Fountain of living waters” by Joel Beeke

“This is only a sampling of the many false views about God. Calvin rightly said, ‘Man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.’ (Institutes, 1.11.8)

It is not our intention, however, to look down upon other people and thank God that we are not as other men, but to reflect upon ourselves and cry out, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner’ (Luke 18:11, 13).

The sad fact is that the idols we have just exposed exist in hearts that attend Christian churches every Lord’s Day. To indulge in sin is practical atheism. If our hearts are divided in loyalty, we are guilty of polytheism.

Whenever we give our adoration to created things, we live as practical pantheists. Our trust in our own thoughts and feelings as if they had divine authority is no better than panentheism.

When we fail to trust God’s sovereign providence and plan for the future, we engage in finite theism. We might add other idols to the list, such as greed for material things (Col. 3:5).

John’s warning ‘Keep yourselves from idols’ (1 John 5:21) is directed to believers, and the only idols he specifically lists in that epistle are ‘the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life’ (1 John 2:16).

How pitiful are such things compared to the true God! He is the great ‘I AM,’ the infinitely personal and immanently sovereign Lord. His beauty shines in the world that He created, but He is not the world.

Instead, He transcends the cosmos in glorious and eternal independence. Unspeakable splendor and joy dwell in His presence. And all who trust in Christ have access to His presence, the holy place, even while they sojourn on earth.

God’s wisdom, righteousness, and power radiate from the crucified Christ. At the cross, while all natural glory lay in ruins, God was redeeming the nations.

The resurrected Lord now reigns over all things as the only Mediator of the kingdom of grace. He will return with the holy angels to Judge the wicked and reward those made righteous by grace.

God’s call for men to repent of idolatry is not the death knell of human happiness, but the beginning of real life. God commands us to turn from broken cisterns and drink from the Fountain of living waters.

The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit say, ‘Come, eat and drink.’ The feast to which they summon us is nothing less than fellowship with the One true and living God.”

–Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology: Revelation and God, Volume 1 (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2019), 1: 602-603.

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