The Lord’s Return to Me (Newton)

Memoirs of John Newton by [Richard Cecil]

For the last twelve years or so I’ve very much enjoyed reading John Newton’s works – letters, sermons, and hymns. Newton’s memoirs are also very much worth reading! Below is a part from his memoirs where Newton recounts his conversion. It’s important to note that his conversion wasn’t an instant experience; it didn’t happen overnight. When God brings people to faith in Christ it is sometimes a longer process. I mention this for two reasons. First, if you can’t remember the exact moment you became a Christian, don’t sweat it. It doesn’t mean you were never converted! Second, I mention this to remind readers to be patient with people who have only recently come to faith in Christ. They won’t understand everything about the faith in just a few weeks or months! Be patient with them. Here’s the quote from Newton’s memoirs:

“Thus far the Lord had wrought a marvelous thing; I was no longer an infidel; I heartily renounced my former profaneness, and had taken up some right notions; was seriously disposed, and sincerely touched with a sense of the undeserved mercy I had received, in being brought safely through so many dangers. I was sorry for my past misspent life, and purposed an immediate reformation. I was quite freed from the habit of swearing, which seemed to have been as deeply rooted in me as a second nature. Thus, to all appearance, I was a new man!

“But, though I cannot doubt that this change, so far as it prevailed, was wrought by the Spirit and power of God, yet still I was greatly deficient in many respects. I was in some degree affected with a sense of my enormous sins, but I was little aware of the innate evils of my heart. I had no apprehension of the spirituality and extent of the Law of God; or of the hidden life of a Christian, as it consists in communion with God by Jesus Christ; a continual dependence on him for hourly supplies of wisdom, strength, and comfort—was a mystery of which I had as yet no knowledge.

I acknowledged the Lord’s mercy in pardoning what was past, but depended chiefly upon my own resolution to do better for the time to come. I had no Christian friend or faithful minister to advise me that my strength was no more than my righteousness; and though I soon began to inquire for serious books, yet, not having spiritual discernment, I frequently made a wrong choice; and I was not brought in the way of evangelical preaching or conversation (except the few times when I heard—but understood not) for six years after this period. Those things the Lord was pleased to reveal to me gradually. I learned them, here a little and there a little, by my own painful experience, at a distance from the common means and ordinances, and in the midst of the same course of evil company and bad examples I had been conversant with for some time.

“From this period I could no more make a mock at sin, or jest with holy things; I no more questioned the truth of Scripture, and had a sense of the rebukes of conscience. Therefore I consider this as the beginning of my return to God, or rather of his return to me

The above quote is found in Newton’s memoirs in his Works (vol. 1) or in a single book.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015