Between the years 1768 and 1779 John Newton wrote several letters to a friend of his who was also a pastor. Apparently, his friend was skeptical about the doctrines of grace (aka Calvinism) and tended towards the mystical writers of his day. Newton, in a loving way, explained why he himself believed these doctrines and stayed away from mysticism. Here’s one part from one of the early letters in this correspondence. (Note: I’ve edited it very slightly).
“…The longer I live, the more I am constrained to adopt that system which ascribes all power and glory to the grace of God and leaves nothing to the creature but sin, weakness, and shame. Everyone must speak for themselves; and for my own part, I cannot ascribe my present hopes to my having cherished and improved an inward something within me, which Mr. [William] Law speaks of. But, on the contrary, I know I have often resisted the motions and warnings of God’s Spirit, and if he had not saved me with a high hand, and in defiance of myself, I would surely have been lost.”
“Nay, to this hour I feel an evil principle within me, tempting me to depart from the living God. I have no inherent stock of goodness upon which I can hope to hold out hereafter, but stand in need of a continual supply, and emphatically understand our Lord’s words, ‘Without me you can do nothing.’ For I find I am not sufficient of myself so much as to think a good thought.”
“…I believe…in a word, that Christ is the all in all in a sinner’s salvation; that we have no righteousness in the sight of God but in his name, no power but so far as we are ingrafted into him by faith, as branches deriving sap and influence from the true vine (John 15:1, Isaiah 45:24, 1 Cor. 1:30). Upon these principles I find that I cannot have satisfaction or comfort in the mystical writings, notwithstanding they may say many excellent things occasionally – things which may be very useful when understood in a gospel sense (p. 205-7).
This series of letters is found in volume 6 of The Works of John Newton.
rev. shane lems