“What a contradiction is a believer to himself! He is called a Believer emphatically, because he cordially assents to the word of God; but, alas! how often unworthy of the name!
If I was to describe him from the Scripture character, I should say, he is one whose heart is athirst for God, for His glory, His image, His presence; His affections are fixed upon an unseen Saviour; His treasures, and consequently His thoughts, are on high, beyond the bounds of sense.
Having experienced much forgiveness, he is full of bowels of mercy to all around; and having been often deceived by his own heart, he dares trust it no more, but lives by faith in the Son of God, for wisdom, righteousness, and sanctification, and derives from Him grace for grace; sensible that without Him he has not sufficiency even to think a good thought.
In short—he is dead to the world, to sin, to self; but alive to God, and lively in His service. Prayer is his breath, the word of God his food, and the ordinances more precious to him than the light of the sun. Such is a believer—in his judgment and prevailing desires.
But was I to describe him from experience, especially at some times, how different would the picture be?
Though he knows that communion with God is his highest privilege, he too seldom finds it so; on the contrary, if duty, conscience, and necessity did not compel, he would leave the throne of grace unvisited from day to day.
He takes up the Bible, conscious that it is the fountain of life and true comfort; yet perhaps, while he is making the reflection, he feels a secret distaste, which prompts him to lay it down, and give his preference to a newspaper.
He needs not to be told of the vanity and uncertainty of all beneath the sun; and yet is almost as much elated or cast down by a trifle, as those who have their portion in this world.
He believes that all things shall work together for his good, and that the most high God appoints, adjusts, and over-rules all his concerns; yet he feels the risings of fear, anxiety, and displeasure, as though the contrary was true.
He owns himself ignorant, and liable to be deceived by a thousand fallacies; yet is easily betrayed into positiveness and self-conceit.
He feels himself an unprofitable, unfaithful, unthankful servant, and therefore blushes to harbour a thought of desiring the esteem and commendations of men, yet he cannot suppress it.
Finally (for I must observe some bounds), on account of these and many other inconsistencies, he is struck dumb before the Lord, stripped of every hope and plea, but what is provided in the free grace of God, and yet his heart is continually leaning and returning to a covenant of works.”
–John Newton, “Cardiphonia” in The Works of John Newton, Volume 1 (London: Hamilton, Adams & Co., 1824), 1: 433-434.