“The unshaken ground of hope” by John Newton

“What a privilege is this, to possess God in all things while we have them, and all things in God when they are taken from us.

An acquiescence in the Lord’s will, founded in a persuasion of His wisdom, holiness, sovereignty, and goodness.—This is one of the greatest privileges and brightest ornaments of our profession.

So far as we attain to this, we are secure from disappointment. Our own limited views and short-sighted purposes and desires, may be, and will be, often over-ruled; but then our main and leading desire, that the will of the Lord may be done, must be accomplished.

How highly does it become us, both as creatures and as sinners, to submit to the appointments of our Maker! And how necessary is it to our peace!

This great attainment is too often unthought of, and overlooked: we are prone to fix our attention upon the second causes and immediate instruments of events; forgetting that whatever befalls us is according to His purpose, and therefore must be right and seasonable in itself, and shall in the issue be productive of good.

From hence arise impatience, resentment, and secret repinings, which are not only sinful, but tormenting: whereas, if all things are in His hand; if the very hairs of our head are numbered; if every event, great and small, is under the direction of His providence and purpose; and if He has a wise, holy, and gracious end in view, to which every thing that happens is subordinate and subservient.

Then we have nothing to do, but with patience and humility to follow as He leads, and cheerfully to expect a happy issue. The path of present duty is marked out; and the concerns of the next and every succeeding hour are in His hands.

How happy are they who can resign all to Him, see His hand in every dispensation, and believe that He chooses better for them than they possibly could for themselves!

A single eye to His glory should be the ultimate scope of all our undertakings.—The Lord can design nothing short of His own glory, nor should we. The constraining love of Christ has a direct and marvellous tendency, in proportion to the measure of faith, to mortify the corrupt principle Self, which for a season is the grand spring of our conduct, and by which we are too much biased after we know the Lord.

But as grace prevails, self is renounced. We feel that we are not our own, that we are bought with a price; and that it is our duty, our honour, and our happiness, to be the servants of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ:

  • to devote soul and body, every talent, power, and faculty, to the service of His cause and will;
  • to let our light shine (in our several situations) to the praise of His grace;
  • to place our highest joy in the contemplation of His adorable perfections;
  • to rejoice even in tribulations and distresses, in reproaches and infirmities, if thereby the power of Christ may rest upon us, and be magnified in us;
  • to be content, yea glad, to be nothing, that He may be all in all;
  • to obey Him, in opposition to the threats or solicitations of men;
  • to trust Him, though all outward appearances seem against us;
  • to rejoice in Him, though we should (as will sooner or later be the case) have nothing else to rejoice in;
  • to live above the world, and to have our conversation in heaven;
  • to be like the angels, finding our own pleasure in performing His:

—This, my lord, is the prize, the mark of our high calling, to which we are encouraged with a holy ambition continually to aspire. It is true, we shall still fall short; we shall find that, when we would do good, evil will be present with us.

But the attempt is glorious, and shall not be wholly in vain. He that gives us thus to will, will enable us to perform with growing success, and teach us to profit even by our mistakes and imperfections.

O blessed man that thus fears the Lord; that delights in His word, and derives his principles, motives, maxims, and consolations, from that unfailing source of light and strength! He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, whose leaf is always green, and fruit abundant.

The wisdom that is above shall direct his plans, inspire his counsels; and the power of God shall guard him on every side, and prepare his way through every difficulty: he shall see mountains sink into plains, and streams spring up in the dry wilderness.

The Lord’s enemies will be his; and they may be permitted to fight against him, but they shall not prevail, for the Lord is with him to deliver him.

The conduct of such a one, though in a narrow and retired sphere of life, is of more real excellence and importance, than the most splendid actions of kings and conquerors, which fill the annals of history (Prov. 16:32).

And if the God whom he serves is pleased to place him in a more public light, his labours and cares will be amply compensated, by the superior opportunities afforded him of manifesting the power and reality of true religion, and promoting the good of mankind.

I hope I may say, that I desire to be thus entirely given up to the Lord; I am sure I must say, that what I have written is far from being my actual experience. Alas! I might be condemned out of my own mouth, were the Lord strict to mark what is amiss.

But, O the comfort! We are not under the law, but under grace! The Gospel is a dispensation for sinners, and we have an Advocate with the Father. There is the unshaken ground of hope.

A reconciled Father, a prevailing Advocate, a powerful Shepherd, a compassionate Friend, a Saviour who is able and willing to save to the uttermost. He knows our frame; He remembers that we are but dust.

And has opened for us a new and blood-besprinkled way of access to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in every time of need.”

–John Newton, “Letter VII, September 1772” in The Works of the John Newton Volume 1 (London: Hamilton, Adams & Co., 1824), 455-458.

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Filed under Christian Theology, Holiness, Jesus as Priest, Jesus Christ, John Newton, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, salvation, Sanctification, The Gospel, Union with Christ

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