Precious Jesus

"Afresh, precious, precious Jesus, I resign this body to You, for doing or suffering, for living or dying. Will You accept it? Will You use me for Your glory more than heretofore, that You may have some little return for all the benefits You have done to me? Oh, do grant this request; my heart longs for it, my spirit pleads for it; and "if You will, You can." You know the hot temptation of which I am the subject. Bring Your glory out of it, and keep me from the evil, and it shall be well." - Ruth Bryan

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Looking unto Jesus

Theodore Monod “Looking unto Jesus” – Hebrews 12:2 

Only three words, but in these three words is the whole secret of life.

 LOOKING UNTO JESUS In the Scriptures, to learn there what He is, what He has done, what He gives, what He desires; to find in His character our pattern, in His teachings our instruction, in His precepts our law, in His promises our support, in His person and in His work a full satisfaction provided for every need of our souls. 
LOOKING UNTO JESUS Crucified, to find in His shed blood our ransom, our pardon, our peace.
 LOOKING UNTO JESUS Risen, to find in Him the righteousness which alone makes us righteous, and permits us, all unworthy as we are, to draw near with boldness, in His Name, to Him Who is His Father and our Father, His God and our God.
 LOOKING UNTO JESUS Glorified, to find in Him our Heavenly Advocate completing by His intercession the work inspired by His lovingkindness for our salvation (1Jo 2:1); Who even now is appearing for us before the face of God (Heb 9:24), the kingly Priest, the spotless Victim, continually bearing the iniquity of our holy things (Exo 28:38). 
LOOKING UNTO JESUS Revealed by the Holy Spirit, to find in constant communion with Him the cleansing of our sin-stained hearts, the illumination of our darkened spirits, the transformation of our rebel wills; enabled by Him to triumph over all attacks of the world and of the evil one, resisting their violence by Jesus our Strength, and overcoming their subtlety by Jesus our Wisdom; upheld by the sympathy of Jesus, Who was spared no temptation, and by the help of Jesus, Who yielded to none. 
LOOKING UNTO JESUS Who gives repentance as well as forgiveness of sins (Act 5:31) because He gives us the grace to recognize, to deplore, to confess, and to forsake our transgressions. 
LOOKING UNTO JESUS To receive from Him the task and the cross for each day, with the grace which is sufficient to carry the cross and to accomplish the task; the grace that enables us to be patient with His patience, active with His activity, loving with His love; never asking “What am I able for?” but rather: “What is He not able for?” and waiting for His strength which is made perfect in our weakness (2Co 12:9). 
LOOKING UNTO JESUS To go forth from ourselves and to forget ourselves; so that our darkness may flee away before the brightness of His face; so that our joys may be holy, and our sorrow restrained; that He may cast us down, and that He may raise us up; that He may afflict us, and that He may comfort us; that He may despoil us, and that He 3 may enrich us; that He may teach us to pray, and that He may answer our prayers; that while leaving us in the world, He may separate us from it, our life being hidden with Him in God, and our behaviour bearing witness to Him before men. 
LOOKING UNTO JESUS Who, having returned to the Father’s house, is engaged in preparing a place there for us; so that this joyful prospect may make us live in hope, and prepare us to die in peace, when the day shall come for us to meet this last enemy, whom He has overcome for us, whom we shall overcome through Him—so that what was once the king of terrors is today the harbinger of eternal happiness.
 LOOKING UNTO JESUS Whose certain return, at an uncertain time, is from age to age the expectation and the hope of the faithful Church, who is encouraged in her patience, watchfulness and joy by the thought that the Saviour is at hand (Phi 4:4, 5; 1Th 5:23). 
LOOKING UNTO JESUS “The Author and the Finisher of our faith,” that is to say, He Who is its pattern and its source, even as He is its object; and Who from the first step even to the last, marches at the head of the believers; so that by Him our faith may be inspired, encouraged, sustained, and led on to its supreme consummation (Heb 12:2). 
LOOKING UNTO JESUS And at nothing else, as our text expresses it in one untranslatable word (aphoroontes), which at the same time directs us to fix our gaze upon Him, and to turn it away from everything else.
 UNTO JESUS And not at ourselves, our thoughts, our reasonings, our imaginings, our inclinations, our wishes, our plans—
 UNTO JESUS And not at the world, its customs, its example, its rules, its judgments— 
UNTO JESUS And not at Satan, though he seek to terrify us by his fury, or to entice us by his flatteries. Oh! from how many useless questions we would save ourselves, from how many disturbing scruples, from how much loss of time, dangerous dallyings with evil, waste of energy, empty dreams, bitter disappointments, sorrowful struggles, and distressing falls, by looking steadily unto Jesus, and by following Him wherever He may lead us. Then we shall be too much occupied with not losing sight of the path which He marks out for us, to waste even a glance on those in which He does not think it suitable to lead us. 
UNTO JESUS And not at our creeds, no matter how evangelical they may be. The faith which saves, which sanctifies, and which comforts, is not giving assent to the doctrine of salvation; it is being united to the person of the Saviour. “It is not enough,” said Adolphe Monod, “to know about Jesus Christ, it is necessary to have Jesus Christ.” To this One may add that no one truly knows Him, if he does not first possess Him. According to the profound saying of the beloved disciple, it is in the Life there is Light, and it is in Jesus there is Life (Joh 1:4). 
  UNTO JESUS And not at our meditations and our prayers, our pious conversations and our profitable reading, the holy meetings that we attend, nor even to our taking part in the supper of the Lord. Let us faithfully use all these means of grace, but without confusing them with grace itself; and without turning our gaze away from Him Who alone makes them effectual, when, by their means, He reveals Himself to us. 
UNTO JESUS And not to our position in the Christian Church, to the family to which we belong, to our baptism, to the education which we have received, to the doctrine which we profess, to the opinion which others have formed of our piety, or to the opinion which we have formed of it ourselves. Some of those who have prophesied in the Name of the Lord Jesus will one day hear Him say: “I never knew you” (Matt. 7:22, 23); but He will confess before His Father and before His angels even the most humble of those who have looked unto Him. 
UNTO JESUS And not to our brethren, not even to the best among them and the best beloved. In following a man we run the risk of losing our way; in following Jesus we are sure of never losing our way. Besides, in putting a man between Jesus and ourselves, it will come to pass that insensibly the man will increase and Jesus will decrease; soon we no longer know how to find Jesus when we cannot find the man, and if he fails us, all fails. On the contrary, if Jesus is kept between us and our closest friend, our attachment to the person will be at the same time less enthralling and more deep; less passionate and more tender; less necessary, and more useful; an instrument of rich blessing in the hands of God when He  is pleased to make use of him; and whose absence will be a further blessing, when it may please God to dispense with him, to draw us even nearer to the only Friend who can be separated from us by “neither death nor life” (Rom 8:38, 39). 
UNTO JESUS And not at His enemies or at our own. In place of hating them and fearing them, we shall then know how to love them and to overcome them. 
UNTO JESUS And not at the obstacles which meet us in our path. As soon as we stop to consider them, they amaze us, they confuse us, they overwhelm us, incapable as we are of understanding either the reason why they are permitted, or the means by which we may overcome them. The apostle began to sink as soon as he turned to look at the waves tossed by the storm; it was while he was looking at Jesus that he walked on the waters as on a rock. The more difficult our task, the more terrifying our temptations, the more essential it is that we look only at Jesus. 
UNTO JESUS And not at our troubles, to count up their number, to reckon their weight, to find perhaps a certain strange satisfaction in tasting their bitterness. Apart from Jesus trouble does not sanctify, it hardens or it crushes. It produces not patience, but rebellion; not sympathy, but selfishness; not hope (Rom. 5:3,4) but despair. It is only under the shadow of the cross that we can appreciate the true weight of our own cross, and accept it each day from His hand, to carry it with love, with gratitude, with joy; and find in it for ourselves and for others a source of blessings. 
  UNTO JESUS And not at the dearest, the most legitimate of our earthly joys, lest we be so engrossed in them that they deprive us of the sight of the very One Who gives them to us. If we are looking at Him first of all, then it is from Him we receive these good things, made a thousand times more precious because we possess them as gifts from His loving hand, which we entrust to His keeping, to enjoy them in communion with Him, and to use them for His glory.
 UNTO JESUS And not at the instruments, whatever they may be which He employs to form the path which He has appointed for us. Looking beyond man, beyond circumstances, beyond the thousand causes so rightly called secondary, let us ascend as far as the first cause—His will. Let us ascend even to the source of this very will— His love. Then our gratitude, without being less lively towards those who do us good, will not stop at them; then in the testing day, under the most unexpected blow, the most inexplicable, the most overwhelming, we can say with the Psalmist: “I was dumb, I opened not my mouth, because Thou didst it” (Psa 39:9). And in the silence of our dumb sorrow the heavenly voice will gently reply: “What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter” (Joh 13:7). 
UNTO JESUS And not at the interests of our cause, of our party, of our church—still less at our personal interests. The single object of our life is the glory of God; if we do not make it the supreme goal of our efforts, we must deprive ourselves of His help, for His grace is only at the service of His glory. If, on the contrary, it is His glory that we seek above all, we can always count on His grace.
 UNTO JESUS And not at the sincerity of our intentions, and at the strength of our resolutions. Alas! how often the most excellent intentions have only prepared the way for the most humiliating falls. Let us stay ourselves, not on our intentions, but on His love; not on our resolutions, but on His promise.
 UNTO JESUS And not at our strength. Our strength is good only to glorify ourselves; to glorify God one must have the strength of God. 
UNTO JESUS And not at weakness. By lamenting our weakness have we ever become more strong? Let us look to Jesus, and His strength will communicate itself to our hearts, His praise will break forth from our lips. 
UNTO JESUS And not at our sins, neither at the source from which they come (Mat 15:19) nor the chastisement which they deserve. Let us look at ourselves, only to recognize how much need we have of looking to Him; and looking to Him, certainly not as if we were sinless; but on the contrary, because we are sinners, measuring the very greatness of the offence by the greatness of the sacrifice which has atoned for it and of the grace which pardons it. “For one look that we turn on ourselves,” said an eminent servant of God (Robert McCheyne), “let us turn ten upon Jesus.” “If it is very sure,” said Vinet, “that one will not lose sight of his wretched state by looking at Jesus Christ crucified—because this wretched state is, as it were, graven upon the cross—it is also very sure that in looking at one’s wretchedness one can lose sight of Jesus Christ; because the cross is not naturally graven upon the image of one’s wretchedness.” And he adds, “Look at yourselves, but only in the presence of the cross, only through Jesus Christ.” Looking at the sin only gives death; looking at Jesus gives life. That which healed the Israelite in the wilderness was not considering his wounds, but raising his eyes to the serpent of brass (Num 21:9). 
UNTO JESUS And not—do we need to say it?—at our pretence of righteousness. Ill above all who are ill is he who believes himself in health; blind above the blind he who thinks that he sees (Joh 9:41). If it is dangerous to look long at our wretchedness, which is, alas! too real; it is much more dangerous to rest complacently on imaginary merits.
 UNTO JESUS And not at the law. The law gives commands, and gives no strength to carry them out; the law always condemns, and never pardons. If we put ourselves back under the law, we take ourselves away from grace. In so far as we make our obedience the means of our salvation, we lose our peace, our joy, our strength; for we have forgotten that Jesus is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth (Rom 10:4). As soon as the law has constrained us to seek in Him our only Saviour, then also to Him only belongs the right to command our obedience: an obedience which includes nothing less than our whole heart, and our most secret thoughts, but which has ceased from being an iron yoke, and an insupportable burden, to become an easy yoke and a light burden (Mat 11:30). An obedience which He makes as delightful as it is binding; an obedience which He inspires, at the same time as He requires it, and which in very truth, is less a consequence of our salvation than it is a part of this very salvation—and, like all the rest, a free gift. 
UNTO JESUS And not at what we are doing for Him. Too much occupied with our work, we can forget our Master—it is possible to have the hands full and the heart empty. When occupied with our Master, we cannot forget our work; if the heart is filled with His love, how can the hands fail to be active in His service?
 UNTO JESUS And not to the apparent success of our efforts. The apparent success is not the measure of the real success; and besides, God has not told us to succeed, but to work; it is of our work that He requires an account, and not of our success— why then concern ourselves with it? It is for us to scatter the seed, for God to gather the fruit; if not today, then it will be tomorrow; if He does not employ us to gather it, then He will employ others. Even when success is granted to us, it is always dangerous to fix our attention on it: on the one hand we are tempted to take some of the credit of it to ourselves; on the other hand we thus accustom ourselves to abate our zeal when we cease to perceive its result, that is to say, at the very time when we should redouble our energy. To look at the success is to walk by sight; to look at Jesus, and to persevere in following Him and serving Him, in spite of all discouragements, is to walk by faith. 
UNTO JESUS And not to the spiritual gifts which we have already received, or which we are now receiving from Him. As to yesterday’s grace, it has passed with yesterday’s work; we can no longer make use of it, we should no longer linger over it. As to today’s grace, given for today’s work, it is entrusted to us, not to be looked at, but 11 to be used. We are not to gloat over it as a treasure, counting up our riches, but to spend it immediately, and remain poor, “Looking unto Jesus.” 
UNTO JESUS And not at the amount of sorrow that our sins make us experience, or the amount of humiliation which they produce in us. If only we are humiliated by them enough to make us no longer complacent with ourselves; if only we are troubled by them enough to make us look to Jesus, so that He may deliver us from them, that is all that He asks from us; and it is also this look which more than anything else will make our tears spring and our pride fall. And when it is given to us as to Peter, to weep bitterly (Luk 22:62). Oh! then may our tear-dimmed eyes remain more than ever directed unto Jesus; for even our repentance will become a snare to us, if we think to blot out in some measure by our tears those sins which nothing can blot out, except the blood of the Lamb of God. 
UNTO JESUS And not at the brightness of our joy, the strength of our assurance, or the warmth of our love. Otherwise, when for a little time this love seems to have grown cold, this assurance to have vanished, this joy to have failed us—either as the result of our own faithlessness, or for the trial of our faith—immediately, having lost our feelings, we think that we have lost our strength, and we allow ourselves to fall into an abyss of sorrow, even into cowardly idleness, or perhaps sinful complaints. Ah! rather let us remember that if the feelings with their sweetness, are absent, the faith with its strength remains with us. To be able always to be “abounding in the work of the Lord” (1Co 15:58), let us look steadily, not at our ever changeful hearts, but at Jesus, who is always the same. 
 12 UNTO JESUS And not at the heights of holiness to which we have attained. If no one may believe himself a child of God so long as he still finds stains in his heart, and stumblings in his life, who could taste the joy of salvation? But this joy is not bought with a price. Holiness is the fruit, not the root of our redemption. It is the work of Jesus Christ for us which reconciles us unto God; it is the work of the Holy Spirit in us which renews us in His likeness. The shortcomings of a faith which is true, but not yet fully established, and bearing but little fruit, in no way lessens the fullness of the perfect work of the Saviour, nor the certainty of His unchanging promise, guaranteeing life eternal unto whomsoever trusts in Him. And so to rest in the Redeemer is the true way to obey Him; and it is only when enjoying the peace of forgiveness that the soul is strong for the conflict. If there are any who abuse this blessed truth by giving themselves over unscrupulously to spiritual idleness, imagining that they can let the faith which they think they have take the place of the holiness which they have not, they should remember this solemn warning of the Apostle Paul, “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Gal 5:24) and that of the Apostle John, “He that saith I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1Jo 2:4) and that of the Lord Jesus Himself, “Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire” (Mat 7:19). 
UNTO JESUS And not at our faith. The last device of the adversary, when he cannot make us look elsewhere, is to turn our eyes from our Saviour to our faith, and thus to discourage us if it is weak, to fill us with pride if it is strong: and either way to weaken us. For power does not come from the faith, but from the Saviour by faith. It is not looking at our look, it is “looking unto Jesus.”
 UNTO JESUS It is from Him and in Him that we learn to know, not only without danger, but for the well-being of our souls, what it is good for us to know about the world and about ourselves, our sorrows and our dangers, our resources and our victories: seeing everything in its true light, because it is He Who shows them to us, and that only at the time and in the proportion in which this knowledge will produce in us the fruits of humility and wisdom, gratitude and courage, watchfulness and prayer. All that it is desirable for us to know, the Lord Jesus will teach us; all that we do not learn from Him, it is better for us not to know. 
LOOKING UNTO JESUS As long as we remain on the earth—unto Jesus from moment to moment, without allowing ourselves to be distracted by memories of a past which we should leave behind us, nor by occupation with a future of which we know nothing. 
UNTO JESUS NOW, if we have never looked unto Him— 
UNTO JESUS AFRESH, if we have ceased doing so— 
UNTO JESUS ONLY, UNTO JESUS STILL, UNTO JESUS ALWAYS, With a gaze more and more constant, more and more confident, “changed into the same image from glory to glory” (2Co 3:18), and thus awaiting the hour when he will call us to pass from earth to Heaven, and 14 from time to eternity—the promised hour, the blessed hour, when at last “we shall be like Him, for we shall Him as He is” (1Jo 3:2). ___________________

Friday, June 23, 2017

We deserve judgment

Have we not therefore cause to say, with the Ninevites, “Who can tell?” Is it not a peradventure? Is there more than a possibility, that we may yet obtain mercy? If our sins are no less numerous, no less of a scarlet dye, than those of other nations, and exceedingly aggravated beyond theirs by being committed against clearer light and the distinguished advantages we have long enjoyed; if we I have not only transgressed the laws of God in common with others, but daringly trampled upon the gracious tenders of His forgiveness, which He has long continued to propose to us with a frequency and energy almost peculiar to ourselves; if all the day long He has stretched out His hands to a disobedient and gainsaying people (Rom 10:12), and hitherto, almost in vain; if neither the tokens of His displeasure nor the declarations of His love have made a suitable impression upon our minds—who can tell if He will yet be entreated? May we not fear, lest He should say, My Spirit shall strive with them no more (Gen 6:3). They are joined to their idols; let them alone? “When ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear” (Isa 1:15). 
Where are now the mighty empires, which were once thought rooted and established as the everlasting mountains? They have disappeared like the mists upon the mountaintops. Nothing of them remains but their names. They perished and their memorials have almost perished with them. The patience of God bore with them for a time, until the purposes for which He raised them up were answered; but when the measure of their iniquity was full, they passed away and were dispersed, like foam upon the waters. What security have we from such a catastrophe? Or what could we answer if God should put that question to us, “Shall I not visit for these things...and shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this” (Jer 5:9)? 
Where are now the churches which once flourished in Greece and Asia Minor? When the Apostle Paul wrote to the former, and when our Lord indicted his epistles to the latter, most of them were in a prosperous state. If there ever was a time when the commendations given to them were applicable to professors of the Gospel in our land, I fear we can hardly claim them at present.
 Can it be justly said of us, that our faith and love are every where spoken of (Rom 1:8; 1Th 1:7), and that we are examples to all that believe? That our works and service and faith and patience are known and the last to be more than the first (Rev 2:19)? Or 8 rather, may it not be said of too many, that while they profess to believe in God, in works they deny Him (Ti 1:16)? That they are neither hot nor cold, that they have a name to live, and are dead, that they have at least forgotten their first love (Rev 3:15- 16; 2:4)? When these defects and declensions began to prevail in the first churches, the Lord admonished and warned them; but instead of watching and repenting, they gradually became more remiss. At length their glory departed, and their candlesticks were removed out of their places (Rev 2:5). Many regions which once rejoiced in the light of the Gospel have been long over spread with Islamic darkness. 
Let us not trust in outward privileges, nor rest in a form of godliness destitute of the power. It will be in vain to say, “The temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD are these” (Jer 7:4), if the Lord of the temple should depart from us. When the Israelites were afraid of the Philistines, they carried the ark of the Lord with them to battle (1Sa 4:3). But God disappointed their vain confidence. He delivered the ark of His glory into the hands of their enemies to teach them, and to teach us, that formal hypocritical worshippers have no good ground to hope for His protection.
 Alas, then, who can tell? Appearances are very dark at present. Besides what we may expect or fear from the rage and madness of our foreign enemies, we have much to apprehend at home. A spirit of discord has gone forth. Jeshurun has waxed fat, and kicked (Deu 32:15). Many seem weary of liberty, peace, and order. Our happy constitution, our mild government, our many privileges, admired by other nations, are despised and depreciated among ourselves—not only by the thoughtless and licentious, and those who, having little to lose, may promise themselves a possibility of gain in a time of disturbance and confusion, but they are abetted and instigated by persons of sense, character, and even of religion. I should be quite at a loss to account for this, if I did not consider it as a token of the Lord’s displeasure. When He withdraws His blessing, no union can long subsist! 
“Because thou servedst not the LORD thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things; therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the LORD shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things” (Deu 28:47-48). These words of Moses to rebellious Israel emphatically describe the former and the present state of many nations who have been spoiled, insulted, and glad if they could escape (great numbers could not so escape) with the loss of their all, and at the peril of their lives, to a more hospitable shore. May their sufferings remind us of our deserts! Who can tell if the Lord may yet be merciful unto us, and exempt us from similar calamities!   

John Newton

True believers are still sinners

And now—oh, for a glance of what Isaiah saw, and has described (Isa 6:1-4)! Oh, that we, by the power of that faith which is the evidence of things unseen, could behold the glory of the Lord filling this house; that we could realize the presence and the attitude of their attendant angels! They cover their faces and their feet with their wings, as overpowered by the beams of His majesty, and conscious, if not of defilement like us, yet of unavoidable inability as creatures to render Him the whole of that praise and homage which are justly due to Him. Oh, that by faith we could enter into the spirit of their ascription, “Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isa 6:3)! 

If we were all thus affected, as the prophet was, surely each one would adopt the prophet’s language. Or if a comfortable hope in the Gospel prevented us from crying out, “Woe is me! for I am undone!” (Isa 6:5a), we should at least say, as the Hebrew word might be so rendered, “I am silenced, I am struck dumb!” I am overwhelmed with confusion and shame; for “I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (Isa 6:5b). If we have a degree of this impression, we shall not be at leisure to perplex our selves concerning men or measures, the second causes, or immediate instruments of our calamities. The evil of sin, contrasted with the holiness and glory of God, will engross our thoughts. And we shall ascribe all the troubles we either feel or fear to our own sins, and the sins of those among whom we dwell. 

1. Ourselves 
Let us first look at home. “I am a man of unclean lips” (Isa 6:5), i.e., I am a sinner. This confession suits us and is readily made by all who know themselves. The Lord said of the Amorites at a certain period, “Their iniquity is not yet full” (Gen 15:16)! I hope the measure of our iniquity is not yet full, but it is filling every day, and we are all daily contributing to fill it. True believers, though by grace delivered from the reigning power of sin, are still sinners. In many things we offend all, in thought, word, and deed. We are now called upon to humble ourselves before God, for the sins of our ignorance, and for the more aggravated sins we have committed against light and experience—for those personal sins, the record of which is only known to God and our consciences; for the defects and defilements of our best services; for our great and manifold failures in the discharge of our relative duties, as parents, children, husbands, wives, masters, or servants, and as members of the community. Our dullness in the ways of God; our alertness in the pursuit of our own will and way; our differences to what concerns His glory, compared with the quickness of our apprehensions when our own temporal interests are affected—are so many proofs of our ingratitude and depravity. The sins of the Lord’s own people are so many, and so heightened by the consideration of His known goodness, that if He was to enter into judgment with them only, they could offer no other plea than that which He has mercifully provided for them: “If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared” (Psa 130:3-4).

2. Others 
It is easy to declaim against the wickedness of the times. But only they who are duly affected with the multitude and magnitude of their own sins can be competent judges of what the prophet meant or felt when he said, “I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” (Isa 6:5). We ought to be no less concerned (though in a different manner) for the sins of those among whom we dwell, than for our own. We shall be so, if with the eyes of our mind we behold the King, the Lord of hosts, because His glory, which should be the dearest object to our hearts, is dishonored by them...
Will not the Lord’s words to Israel apply with equal propriety to us? “What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes” (Isa 5:4)? How is the blessed Gospel improved among us? This would be a heavy day to me, if I did not believe and know that there are those among our various denominations who prize and adorn it. If these could be all assembled in one place, I hope they would be found a very considerable number; and for their sakes, and in answer to their prayers, I humbly trust that mercy will still be afforded to us. But compared with the multitudes who reject, despise, or dishonor it, I fear they are very few. Too many hate it with a bitter hatred, and exert all their influence to oppose and suppress it. The great doctrines of the Reformation are treated with contempt; and both they who preach and they who espouse them are considered as visionaries or hypocrites, knaves or fools. The Gospel of God is shunned as a pestilence, or complained of as a burden, almost wherever it is known. Wisdom is indeed justified by all her children (Luk 7:35). The Gospel is the power of God to the salvation of them that believe (Rom 1:16). It recalls them from error, from wickedness, and from misery; guides their feet into the ways of peace; and teaches them to live soberly, righteously, and godly in the world. But in the number of those who profess to receive it, there are too many who confirm and increase the prejudices of those who speak against what they knew not. Alas! What extravagant opinions, what fierce dissensions, what loose conversations, what open offences, may be found among many who would be thought professors of that Gospel which only breathes the spirit of holiness, love, and peace!
What then must be the state of those who avowedly live without God in the world? I need not enlarge upon this painful subject, which forces itself upon the mind if we only walk the streets or look into the newspaper. It is not necessary to inform you that infidelity, licentiousness, perjury, profaneness, and the neglect and contempt of God’s Sabbaths and worship abound. The laws of God, and the laws of the land, so far as their object is to enforce the observance of His commands, are openly and customarily violated in every rank of life. In a day when the Lord of hosts calls to weeping and mourning, thoughtless security, dissipation, and riot are characteristics of our national spirit. The loss of public spirit and that impatience of subordination, so generally observable, so widely diffused, which are the consequences of our sins against God, are, in themselves, moral causes sufficient to ruin the nation, unless His mercy interposes in our behalf.

John Newton

The imminent danger

The rivers of human blood, and all the calamities and horror which overspread a great part of the continent, the distant report of which is sufficient to make our ears tingle, are all to be ascribed to this cause. God is not acknowledged—yea, in some places, He has been formally disowned and renounced. Therefore men are left to themselves, their furious passions are unchained, and they are given up, without restraint, to the way of their own hearts. A more dreadful judgment than this cannot be inflicted on this side of hell. 

And though we are still favored with peace at home, the dreadful storm is at no great distance; it seems to move our way, and we have reason to fear it may burst upon us. But I would be thankful for the appointment of this day, for I should think the prospect dark indeed, if I did not rely on the Lord’s gracious attention to the united prayers of those who fear and trust Him, and who know it is equally easy for Him to save or to destroy, by many or by few (1Sa 14:6). Our fleets and armies may be well appointed, and well commanded; but without His blessing upon our councils and enterprises, they will be unable to defend us. He can take wisdom from the wise, and courage from the bold, in the moment when they are most needed. He can disable our forces by sickness or dissension. And by His mighty wind, He can dash our ships to pieces against the rocks, against each other, or sink them as lead in the mighty waters. “Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not” (Lam 3:37)? 

John Newton, from

More than a Calvinist

John Newton (1725-1807) 

To be enabled to form a clear, consistent, and comprehensive judgment of the truths revealed in the Scripture, is a great privilege. But they who possess it are exposed to the temptation of thinking too highly of themselves, and too lowly of others, especially of those who not only refuse to adopt their sentiments, but venture to oppose them. We see few controversial writings, however excellent in other respects, but are tinctured with this spirit of self-superiority; and they who are not called to this service (of writing), if they are attentive to what passes in their hearts, may feel it working within them upon a thousand occasions; though so far as it prevails, it brings forcibly home to ourselves the charge of ignorance and inconsistency, which we are so ready to fix upon our opponents. 

I know nothing as a means more likely to correct this evil, than a serious consideration of the amazing difference between our acquired judgment and our actual experience, or, in other words, how little influence our knowledge and judgment have upon our own conduct. This may confirm to us the truth and propriety of the apostle’s observation, “If any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know” (1Co 8:2). Not that we are bound to be insensible that the Lord has taught us what we were once ignorant of; nor is it possible that we should be so; yet because, if we estimate our knowledge by its effects, and value it no farther than it is experimental and operative (which is the proper standard whereby to try it), we shall find it so faint and feeble as hardly to deserve the name. 

How firmly, for instance, are we persuaded that God is omnipresent! Great as the difficulties may be which attend our conceptions of this point, the truth itself is controverted by few. It is generally acknowledged by unawakened persons (and, I may add, too frequently known even by believers), as if they knew it not. If the eyes of the Lord are in every place, how strong a guard should this thought be upon the “conduct” of those who profess to hear Him! We know how we are often affected when in the presence of a “fellow worm” (Job 25:6) if he is one on whom we depend or who is considerably our superior in life, how careful we are to compose our behavior, and to avoid whatever might be deemed improper or offensive! Is it not strange that those who have taken their ideas of the divine majesty, holiness, and purity from the Scriptures, and are not wholly insensible of their inexpressible obligations to regulate all they say or do by His precepts, should upon many occasions be betrayed into improprieties of behavior from which the presence of a nobleman or prince would have effectually restrained them, yes, sometimes perhaps even the presence of a child? 

Even in the exercise of “prayer,” by which we profess to draw near the Lord, the consideration that His eye is upon us has little power to engage our attention, or prevent our thoughts from wandering like the fool’s eye to the ends of the earth. What should we think of a person who, being admitted into the king’s presence, upon business of the greatest importance, should break off in the midst of his address to pursue a butterfly? Could such an instance of weakness be met with, it would be but a faint emblem of the inconsistencies with which they who are acquainted with their own hearts can often charge themselves in prayer. 

They are not wholly ignorant in what a frame of spirit it becomes a needy dependent sinner to approach that God, before Whom the angels are represented as veiling their faces. Yet, in defiance of their better judgment, their attention is diverted from Him with Whom they have to do, to the merest trifles. They are not able to realize that Presence with which they believe themselves to be surrounded, but speak as if they were speaking into the air. Further, if our sense that “God is always present” was in any good measure answerable to the conviction of our judgment, would it not be an effectual preservative from the many importunate though groundless fears with which we are harassed! 

He says, “Fear not, I am with you” (Isa 43:5); He promises to be a shield and a guard to those who put their trust in Him. Yet though we profess to believe His word and to hope that He is our protector, we seldom think ourselves safe, even in the path of duty, a moment longer than danger is kept out of our view. Little reason have we to value ourselves upon our knowledge of this indisputable truth, when it has no more effective and habitual influence upon our conduct. 

The doctrine of “God’s sovereignty” likewise, though not so generally owned as God’s omnipresence, is no less fully assented to by those who are called Calvinists. We zealously contend for this point in our debates with the Arminians, and are ready to wonder that any should be hardy enough to dispute the Creator’s right to do what He will with His own. While we are only engaged in defense of the election of grace, and have a comfortable hope that we are ourselves of that number, we seem so convinced by the arguments the Scripture affords us in support of the truth, that we can hardly forbear charging our adversaries with perverse obstinacy and pride for opposing it. 

Undoubtedly the ground of this opposition lies in the pride of the human heart, but this evil principle is not confined to any party, and occasions frequently arise when they who contend for the divine sovereignty are little more practically influenced by it than their opponents. This humiliating doctrine concludes as strongly for submission to the will of God, under every circumstance of life, as it does for our acquiescing in His purpose to have mercy. But, alas! How often do we find ourselves utterly unable to apply it, so as to reconcile our spirits to those afflictions which He is pleased to allot us.

So far as we are enabled to say, when we are exercised with poverty or heavy losses or crosses, “I was dumb and opened not my mouth, because You have done it,”—so far, and no farther, are we truly convinced that God has a sovereign right to dispose of us and all our concerns as He pleases.  

How often, and how justly at such seasons, might the argument we offer to others, as sufficient to silence all their objections be retorted upon ourselves: “Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?” (Rom 9:20)—a plain proof that our knowledge is more notional than experimental.   What an inconsistency!—that while we think God is just and righteous in withholding from others the things which pertain to their everlasting peace, we should find it so hard to submit to His dispensations to ourselves in matters of unspeakably less importance! 

But the Lord’s appointments to those who fear Him are not only sovereign, but wise and gracious. He has connected their good with His own glory, and is engaged by promise to make all things work together for their advantage (Rom 8:28-29). He chooses for His people better than they could choose for themselves—if they are in heaviness, there is a need-be for it, and He withholds nothing from them but what upon the whole it is better they should be without. Thus the Scriptures teach, and thus we profess to believe.

 Furnished with these principles, we are at no loss to suggest motives of patience and consolation to our brethren that are afflicted. We can assure them, without hesitation, that if they are interested in the promises, their concerns are in safe hands; that the things which at present are not joyous but grievous, shall in due season yield the peaceful fruits of righteousness, and that their trials are as certainly mercies as their comforts (Heb 12:6-13). From the history of Joseph, David, Job, and other instances recorded in Scriptures, we can prove to them that, notwithstanding any present dark appearances, it shall certainly be well with the righteous; that God can and will make crooked things straight (Luk 3:5); and that He often produces the greatest good from those events which we are apt to look upon as evil. From hence we can infer, not only the sinfulness, but the folly of finding fault with any of His dispensations4 . We can tell them, that at the worst the sufferings of the present life are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed (Rom 8:18); and that therefore, under the greatest pressures, they should so weep as those who expect in a little time to have all their tears wiped away (Rev 7:17). 

But when the case is our own, when we are troubled on every side, or touched in the tenderest part, how difficult it is to feel the force of these reasonings, though we know they are true to a demonstration! Then, unless we are endued with fresh strength from on high, we are as liable to complain and despond as if we thought our afflictions sprang out of the ground, and the Lord had forgotten to be gracious.

 I might proceed to show the difference between our judgment when most enlightened, and our actual experience, with respect to every spiritual truth. We know there is no proportion between time and eternity, between God and the creature, the favor of the Lord and the favor or the frowns of men; and yet often, when these things are brought into close competition, we are sorely put to it to keep steadfast in the path of duty. Nay, without new supplies of grace we should certainly fail in the time of trial, and our knowledge would have no other effect than to render our guilt more inexcusable. 

 We seem to be sure that we are weak, sinful, fallible creatures, as we are—that we exist, and yet we are prone to act as if we were wise and good. In a word, we cannot deny that a great part of our knowledge is, as I have described it, like the light of the moon, destitute of heat and influence; and yet we can hardly help thinking of ourselves too highly upon the account of it.

 May we not say with the Psalmist, “Lord, what is man?” (Psa 8:4)! Yes, what an enigma, what a poor inconsistent creature is a believer! He knows the Lord; he knows himself. His understanding is enlightened to apprehend and contemplate the great mysteries of the Gospel. He has just ideas of the evil of sin, the vanity of the world, the beauties of holiness, and the nature of true happiness. He was once “darkness, but now [he is] light in the Lord” (Eph 5:8). He has access to God by Jesus Christ; to Whom he is united, and in Whom he lives by faith. While the principles he has received are enlivened by the agency of the Holy Spirit, he can do all things (Phi 4:13). He is humble, gentle, patient, watchful, faithful. He rejoices in afflictions, triumphs over temptations, lives upon the foretastes of eternal glory, and counts not his life dear, so he may glorify God his Savior, and finish his course with joy (Act 20:24). But his strength is not his own; he is absolutely dependent, and is still encompassed with infirmities, and burdened with a depraved nature.

If the Lord withdraws His power, He becomes weak as any other man, and drops as a stone sinks to the earth by its own weight. His inherent knowledge may be compared to the windows of a house, which can transmit the light but cannot retain it. Without renewed and continual communications from the Spirit of grace, he is unable to withstand the smallest temptation, to endure the slightest trial, to perform the least service in a due manner, or even to think a good thought. He knows this, and yet he too often forgets it. But the Lord reminds him of it frequently, by suspending that assistance without which he can do nothing (Joh 15:5). Then he feels what he is, and is easily prevailed upon to act in contradiction to his better judgment. This repeated experience of his own weakness teaches him by degrees where his strength lies—that it is not in any thing he has already attained, or can call his own, but the grace, power, and faithfulness of his Saviour. He learns to cease from his own understanding (Pro 3:5-6), to be ashamed of his best endeavors, to abhor himself in dust and ashes (Job 42:6), and to glory only in the Lord (Jer 9:23-24).

  From hence we may observe, that believers who have the most knowledge, are not therefore necessarily the most spiritual! Some may and do walk more honorably and 5 more comfortably with two talents, than others with five. He who experimentally knows his own weakness and depends simply upon the Lord, will surely thrive, though his acquired attainments and abilities may be but small. And he who has the greatest gifts, the clearest judgment, and the most extensive knowledge, if he indulges high thoughts of his advantages, is in imminent danger of mistaking and falling at every step; for the Lord will allow none whom He loves to boast in themselves. He will guide the meek with His eyes, and fill the hungry with good things; but the rich He sends empty away (Luk 1:53)). It is an invariable maxim in His kingdom, that whosoever exalts himself, shall be abased; but he that humbles himself, shall be exalted (Luk 18:14).