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“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.

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“His beams bring healing, strength, peace, and joy to the soul” by John Newton

“The Lord Jesus, like the sun, is in all places at once. Go where we will, we are not far from Him, if we have but eyes to see Him, and hearts to perceive Him.

My dear child, when you look at the sun, I wish it may lead your thoughts to Him who made it, and who placed it in the firmament, not only to give us light, but to be the brightest, noblest emblem of Himself.

There is but one sun, and there needs not another: so there is but one Saviour; but He is complete and all-sufficient, the Sun of Righteousness, the Fountain of life and comfort; His beams, wherever they reach, bring healing, strength, peace, and joy to the soul.

Pray to Him, my dear, to shine forth, and reveal Himself to you. Oh, how different is He from all that you have ever seen with your bodily eyes! He is the Sun of the soul, and He can make you as sensible of His presence as you are of the sunshine at noonday.

And, when once you obtain a clear sight of Him, a thousand little things, which have hitherto engaged your attention, will in a manner disappear.

I entreat, I charge you, to ask Him every day to show Himself to you. Think of Him as being always with you; about your path by day, about your bed by night, nearer to you than any object you can see, though you see Him not; whether you are sitting or walking, in company or alone.

People often consider God as if He saw them from a great distance: but this is wrong; for, though He be in heaven, the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him; He is as much with us as with the angels.

In Him we live, and move, and have our being; as we live in the air which surrounds us, and is within us, so that it cannot be separated from us a moment.

And whatever thoughts you can obtain of God from the Scripture, as great, holy, wise, and good, endeavour to apply them all to Jesus Christ, who once died upon the cross, for He is the true God, and eternal life, with whom you have to do.

And, though He be the King of kings, and Lord of lords, and rules over all, He is so condescending and compassionate, that He will hear and answer the prayer of a child.

Seek Him, and you shall find Him. Whatever else you seek, you may be disappointed, but He is never sought in vain.”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 6 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1820/1988), 6: 289-290.

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“You shall not seek Him in vain” by John Newton

March 3, 1772

And now, what shall I say? May the Lord direct me to send you a profitable word. It rejoices my heart to think, that at a time of life when you might have been plunging into the vanities of the world, you are seeking Jesus.

The Lord, who appointed the hour of your birth, and the bounds of your habitation, was pleased in His good providence to withdraw you early from the giddy circle of dissipation in which you might have lived, and to favour you with the advantages of example, instruction, and ordinances.

You live at a distance from those ensnaring temptations by which the minds of young persons are blinded and stupefied. Yet this alone would not have secured you. His providence has been subservient to His grace.

Otherwise, by this time, you would have been weary and impatient of restraint; you would have accounted the means of grace burdensome, and your home a prison.

The evil of the heart is too deeply rooted to be overcome by any thing less than the power of God. Whatever your Papa and Mamma, or the ministers of the Gospel, could have told you concerning your state as a sinner, and your need of a Saviour, you would not have believed them, if the Lord Himself had not borne witness in your heart to His own truths.

You are now seeking Him that you may find Him, yet, if He had not found you at first, you would never have sought Him at all. This I mention for your encouragement, as a good reason why you may be assured that you shall not seek Him in vain.

Go on, my dear Miss; and may the Lord be with you. Give yourself to Him every day, and many times a day; remember how many claims He has to you; especially remember this one, that He bought you with His own blood. He died that you might live.

May the name of Jesus be written upon the tablet of your heart, and be as a seal upon your arm; that all your desires and all your actions may be regulated by His word, directed to His glory, and animated by a living principle of grace, derived from Him who is the fountain of grace.

Two things alone are worth a serious thought,—His presence and His image: the one to make you comfortable in yourself, the other that you may shine to His praise as a light in the world.

These blessings, and the increase of them, are gifts which He bestows without money and without price. Yet it is our part to wait upon Him for them, by prayer, by reading His good word, and frequenting His ordinances.

Thus you shall know if you follow on to know the Lord.

I am your affectionate friend.

John Newton”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 6 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1820/1988), 6: 250–251, 253.

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“My πολιτευμα, my charter, my rights, my treasures, are, I hope, in heaven, and there my heart ought to be” by John Newton

“I think, that, as Christians, we have nothing to expect from this world but tribulation, no peace but in Christ. If our lot be so cast that we can exercise our ministry free from stripes, fines, imprisonment, and death, it is more than the gospel has promised us.

If I had wisdom or influence to soothe the angry passions of mankind, whether Whigs or Tories, I would gladly employ them; but, as to myself, I am neither Whig nor Tory, but a friend to both. I am a stranger, and a pilgrim.

My πολιτευμα, my charter, my rights, my treasures, are, I hope, in heaven, and there my heart ought to be. In less than a few weeks I may be removed (and perhaps suddenly) into the unseen world, where all that causes so much bustle upon earth at present, will be no more to me than the events which took place among the antediluvians.

How much then does it import me, to be found watching, with my loins girded up, and my lamp burning, diligently engaged in my proper calling! For the Lord has not called me to set nations to right, but to preach the gospel, to proclaim the glory of His name, and to endeavour to win souls.

Happy is that servant, whom His Lord, when He cometh, shall find so doing!

In the hour, when death shall open the door into eternity, many things which now assume an air of importance, will be found light and unsubstantial as the baseless fabric of a vision.”

–John Newton, “A Letter on Political Debate,” The Works of John NewtonVolume 6 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2015), 6: 594-595.

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“He opened my eyes and pardoned my sins” by John Newton

“September 6, 1768

Reverend Sir,

Unless our dependence upon divine teaching bears some proportion to our diligence, we may take much pains to little purpose. On the other hand, we are directed to expect the teaching and assistance of the Holy Spirit only within the limits, and by the medium of the written Word.

For He has not promised to reveal new truths, but to enable us to understand what we read in the Bible: and if we venture beyond the pale of Scripture, we are upon enchanted ground, and exposed to all the illusions of imagination and enthusiasm.

But an attention to the word of God, joined to humble supplications for His Spirit, will lead us to new advances in true knowledge. The exercises of our minds, and the observations we shall make upon the conduct of others, and the dispensations of God’s providence, will all concur to throw light upon the Scripture, and to confirm to us what we there read concerning ourselves, the world, and the true happiness revealed to sinners in and through Jesus Christ.

The more sensible we are of the disease, the more we shall admire the great Physician; the more we are convinced that the creature is vanity, the more we shall be stirred up to seek our rest in God.

And this will endear the gospel to us; as in Christ, and in Him only, we can hope to find that righteousness and strength, of which we are utterly destitute ourselves.

I observe in many newspapers, the attestations of persons who have been relieved in diseases by the medicines which they have tried, and therefore recommend to others from their experience.

Innumerable cases might be published to the honour of the great Physician; none more memorable perhaps than my own.

I was labouring under a complication of disorders; fired with raging madness, possessed with many devils, (I doubt it not,) bent upon my own destruction; but He interposed, unsought, undesired.

He opened my eyes, and pardoned my sins. He broke my fetters, and taught my once blasphemous lips to praise His name.

Oh, I can, I do, I must commend it as a faithful saying, That Christ Jesus is come into the world to save sinners.

There is forgiveness with Him. He does all things well. He makes both the dumb to speak, and the deaf to hear.

I remain, with due respect,
Dear Sir, your most obedient servant.

John Newton”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 6 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2015), 6: 203-204.

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“Professed loud sticklers for free grace” by John Newton

“I hope when this comes, it will find you and your’s comfortable, and your heart and mouth full of gratitude to Him who crowneth the year with His goodness. Well, these returning years each bear away a large portion of our time, and the last year cannot be far off.

Oh, that precious name which can enable a sinner to think of his last year and his last hour without dismay! What do we owe to Him who has disarmed death of its sting and horrors, and shown us the land of light and immortality beyond the grave!

May He be with us in the new year. Yea, He has promised He will, even unto death. Therefore, though we know not what a day may bring forth, we need fear no evil; for He knows all, and will provide accordingly.

Oh, what a relief is it, to be enabled to cast every care and burden upon Him that careth for us! Though the night should be dark, the storm loud, and the billows high, the infallible Pilot will steer our barks safely through.

Let us help each other with our prayers, that the little uncertain remainder of life may be filled up to the praise of our dear Lord; that we may be united to His will, conformed to His image, and devoted to His service.

Thus we shall show forth His praise; if we aim to walk as He walked, and, by a sweet constraining sense of His love, are formed into an habitual imitation of His spirit and temper, in meekness, integrity, benevolence towards men; in humility, dependence, resignation, confidence, and gratitude towards Him.

I pity such wise-headed Calvinists as you speak of. I am afraid there are no people more fully answer the character, and live in the spirit of the Pharisees of old, than some professed loud sticklers for free grace.

They are wise in their own eyes; their notions, which the pride of their hearts tells them are so bright and clear, serve them for a righteousness, and they trust in themselves and despise others.

One modest, inquiring Arminian is worth a thousand such Calvinists in my esteem.

You will do well to preach quietly in your own way, not minding what others say, while your own conscience testifies that you preach the truth. If you are travelling the right road, (to London for instance,) though fifty people should meet you and say you are wrong, you, knowing you are right, need not mind them.

But, alas! the spirit of self, which makes us unwilling to hear of contradiction, is not easily subdued.”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 6 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2015), 6: 196-197.

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“I am sure a minister had need be a jack of all trades” by John Newton

“Give my love to Mr. ****. He has desired a good work; may the Lord give him the desires of his heart.

May he give him the wisdom of Daniel, the meekness of Moses, the courage of Joshua, the zeal of Paul, and that self-abasement and humility which Job and Isaiah felt when they not only had heard of him by the hearing of the ear, but saw His glory, and abhorred themselves in dust and ashes.

May he be taught of God, (none teacheth like Him,) and come forth an able minister of the New Testament, well instructed rightly to divide and faithfully to distribute the word of truth.

In the school of Christ, (especially if the Lord designs him to be a teacher of others,) he will be put to learn some lessons not very pleasant to flesh and blood: he must learn to run, to fight, to wrestle, and many other exercises, some of which will try his strength, and others his patience.

You know the common expression of a jack of all trades. I am sure a minister had need be such a one: a soldier, a watchman, a shepherd, a husbandman, a builder, a planter, a physician, and a nurse.

But let him not be discouraged; he has a wonderful and a gracious Master, who can not only give instructions, but power, and engages that His grace shall be sufficient, at all times and in all circumstances, for those who simply give themselves up to His teaching and His service.”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 6 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2015), 6: 102-103.

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