An Instance of Sovereign Grace

Here are some words John Newton wrote in March, 1775, to a friend and fellow minister of the gospel.  The dialogue had to do with what we might call the “spiritual ups and downs” of the Christian life.  Newton wrote,

“The enemy assaults me more by sap than storm; and I am ready to think I suffer more by languor [i.e. spiritual sluggishness] than some of my friends do by the sharper conflicts to which they are called.  So likewise, in those seasons which comparatively I call my best hours, my sensible comforts are far from lively. But I am in general, enabled to hold fast my confidence, and to venture myself upon the power, faithfulness, and compassion of that adorable Savior to whom my soul has been directed and encouraged to flee for refuge.”

“I am a poor, changeable, inconsistent creature; but he deals graciously with me. He does not leave me wholly to myself; but I have such daily proofs of the malignity and efficacy of the sin that dwelt in me, as ought to cover me with shame and confusion of face, and make me thankful if I am permitted to rank with the lowest of those who sit at his feet.  That I was ever called to the knowledge of his salvation, was a singular instance of his sovereign grace; and that I am still preserved in the way, in defiance of all that has arisen from within and from without to turn me aside, must be wholly ascribed to the same sovereignty.”

“And if, as I trust, he shall be pleased to make me a conqueror at last, I shall have peculiar reason to say, Not unto me, not unto me, but unto thy name, O Lord, be the glory and the praise!”

How oft have sin and Satan strove
To rend my soul from you, my God!
But everlasting is your love,
And Jesus seals it with his blood.

“The Lord leads me, in the course of my preaching, to insist much on a life of communion with himself, and of the great design of the Gospel to render us conformable to him in love. And as, by his mercy, nothing appears in my outward conduct remarkably to contradict what I say, many, who only can judge by what they see, suppose I live a very happy life.”

“But, alas! if they knew what passes in my heart, how dull my spirit is in secret, and how little I am myself affected by the glorious truths I propose to others, they would form a different judgment.  Could I be myself what I recommend to them, I would be happy indeed. Pray for me, my dear friend, that, now the Lord is bringing forward the pleasing spring, he may favor me with a spring season in my soul; for indeed I mourn under a long winter.”

John Newton, Works, II.107-108.

shane lems