Friday, June 24, 2011

Quotes from the Letters of John Newton

I've been enjoying reading a volume of John Newton's letters.  The first excerpt was written to his unbelieving brother-in-law after he had recovered from a serious illness.  The next was written to a pastor, the following three to another pastor, and the last two to a group of Christian ladies.

Remember that we must all, each one for himself, experience on which side the truth lies.  I used a wrong word when I spoke of your recovery.  Dear brother, look upon it as no more than a REPRIEVE; for you carry the sentence of death about with you still; and unless you should be cut off (which God of his infinite mercy prevent) by a sudden stroke, you will as surely lie on a dying bed as you have now got up from a bed of sickness.  And remember, too (I can hardly bear to write it), that should you neglect my admonitions, they will all tend to render you more inexcusable... My hearty, daily, constant prayer is, that [God may meet you] in a way of mercy, and that you may be added to the number of the trophies of rich, free, and sovereign grace.  Amen.  Your sister sends her love.

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Methinks a very different spirit from that of the church of Laodicea is to be seen amongst us, though perhaps it is not easy to say which is the best of the two.  That was neither cold nor hot, this is both cold and hot at once, and both to the extreme.  Hot, hasty, and arbitrary in those few things where mediocrity is a virtue; but cool and remiss in those great points, where the application of the whole heart and soul and mind and strength is so absolutely necessary, and so positively enjoined.

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If you should be numbered among the regular Independents, I advise you not to offend any of them by unnecessary singularities.  I wish you not to part with any truth, or with any thing really expedient; but if the omitting any thing of an indifferent nature will obviate prejudices, and increase a mutual confidence, why should not so easy a sacrifice be made?

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Have we not sometimes mocked God, by pretending to ask direction from him, when we had fixed our determination beforehand?  It is a great blessing to know that we are sincere; and next to this, to be convinced of our insincerity, and to pray against it.

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May God give you wisdom, faithfulness, and patience; take care that you do not catch an angry spirit yourself, while you aim to suppress it in others: this will spoil all, and you will exhort, advise, and weep in vain.
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Be not discouraged: usefulness and trials, comforts and crosses, strength and exercise go together.  But remember He has said, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee; be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life."  When you get to heaven, you will not complain of the way by which the Lord brought you.

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He drank of the full cup of unmixed wrath for us; shall we then refuse to taste of the cup of affliction at his appointment, especially when his wisdom and love prepare it for us, and proportion every circumstance to our strength; when He put it into our hands, not in anger but in tender mercy, to do us good, to bring us near to himself; and when He sweetens every bitter draught with those comforts which none but He can give?

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Oh!  Who can say which is the most wonderful part of this wonderful subject?  That He should provide such a happiness for such hell-deserving wretches, and that He should commend his great undeserved love to us in such a wonderful way, as to give his own and his only Son to be born, to be buffeted, to be crucified for us?  Alas!  Alas!  For our stupidity, that we can write, or hear, or speak of these things, with so little feeling, affection, and fruitfulness.  Oh!  That the power of God would set my heart and pen at liberty while writing, and fill your heart while reading, that we may rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory!

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