Category Archives: Discipleship

“The storm is guided by the hands which were nailed to the cross” by John Newton

“Public affairs look darker still. Expectation is on tiptoe waiting for hourly news from all parts of the world but foreboding that the news, whenever it comes or from whatever quarter, will be distressing.

I am afraid what we next hear from America will not be pleasing. That unhappy country is still likely to be a scene of desolation and our people there likely to sink under the weight of pretended successes.

In the West Indies, Tobago is gone, and perhaps by this time some other of our islands. And the cry of oppression in the East Indies seems at length to have awakened judgment there.

Yet the spirit of the nation seems like that of the thoughtless mariner, asleep on the top of the mast, regardless of the danger every moment increasing.

Yet still I hope there is mercy. The gospel spreads, grace reigns, the number of praying souls is on the increase, and their prayers I trust will be heard.

We are sure that the Lord reigns; that the storm is guided by the hands which were nailed to the cross, and that as He loves His own, He will take care of them.

But they who have not an ark to hide themselves in will probably weep and wail before the indignation be over-past.

Blessed be God for a land of peace where sin and every sorrow will be excluded.”

–John Newton, as quoted in Josiah Bull, Memorials of the Rev. William Bull, of Newport Pagnel: 1738-1814, (London: James Nisbet and Company, 1864), 88-89. This letter was written in April 1781.

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“The firmament of Scripture” by John Newton

“When we pray for increase of faith and grace, and that we may have stronger proofs of our own sincerity, and of the Lord’s faithfulness and care, we do, but in other words, pray for affliction.

He is best known and noticed in the time of trouble, as a present and all-sufficient help. How grand and magnificent is the arch over our heads in a starry night! But if it were always day, the stars could not be seen.

The firmament of Scripture, if I may so speak, is spangled with exceeding great and precious promises, as the sky is with stars, but the value and beauty of many of them are only perceptible to us in the night of affliction…

Oh! For grace to be always ready, always watching, with our loins girded up, and our lamps burning. Then we may cheerfully leave the when, the how, and the where to Him, of whose kind care and attention we have had so many proofs hitherto.

He will be our Guide and our Guard even unto death, and beyond it.

John Newton
25th September 1797″

–John Newton, “Letter LXXIII” in The Aged Pilgrim’s Thoughts Over Sin and the Grave, Illustrated in a Series of Letters to Walter Taylor, Never Before Published, by the Rev. John Newton (London: Baker and Fletcher, 2nd Ed., 1825), 135-136. As quoted in Tony Reinke, Newton on the Christian Life: To Live Is Christ (Wheaton: Crossway, 2015), 189.

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“Everything is needful that He sends” by John Newton

“All shall work together for good: everything is needful that He sends; nothing can be needful that He withholds.”

–John Newton, The Works of John Newton, Ed. Richard Cecil (London: Hamilton, Adams & Co., 1824), 2: 147.

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“In Jesus alone is my everything” by John Newton

“If I am saved, (I trust I shall) it will be freely and absolutely, in a way of sovereignty; with a notwithstanding to a thousand things which should seem, humanly speaking, to make salvation next door to impossible.

But when I am beaten from every thing else, it still remains true that Christ has died, that He now lives and reigns, that He is able to save to the uttermost (Hebrews 7:25), and that He has said, ‘Him that cometh I will in no wise cast out’ (John 6:37).

In NO WISE and to the UTTERMOST are great words, they have an extensive signification, and take in all varieties of cases, characters, and circumstances. Upon such unlimited sovereign promises, I cast my anchor, and they hold me, otherwise I should be the sport of winds and waves.

Dr. Watts’ motto shall be mine, it is big enough for him, me, you, and for thousands that approve it, ‘In uno Jesu omnia‘ [In Jesus alone is my everything].

In Him I have an offering, an altar, a temple, a priest, a sun, a shield, a saviour, a shepherd, a hiding place, a resting place, food, medicine, riches, honour, wisdom, righteousness, holiness, in short, everything.

The paper would not contain an inventory of the blessings, and treasures, the unsearchable, inexhaustible blessings and treasures which are hidden in Him, and communicated by Him to poor sinners who believe in His name.

But though I am, I trust, an heir, I am as yet a minor, and in my actual experience, am too often more like a servant than a son (Galatians 4:31).

But there is a time appointed of the Father. I hope one day to be of age, and to come to the full enjoyment of my boundless inheritance.”

–John Newton, One Hundred and Twenty-Nine Letters from the Rev. John Newton to Josiah Bull, Ed. William Bull (London: Hamilton, Adams, and Co., 1847), 191-192. This letter was written on February 21, 1784. As quoted in Tony Reinke, Newton on the Christian Life: To Live Is Christ (Wheaton: Crossway, 2015), 228.

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“Watch me” by D.A. Carson

“As a chemistry undergraduate at McGill University, with another chap I started a Bible study for unbelievers. That fellow was godly but very quiet and a bit withdrawn.

I had the mouth, I fear, so by default it fell on me to lead the study. The two of us did not want to be outnumbered, so initially we invited only three people, hoping that not more than two would come.

Unfortunately, the first night all three showed up, so we were outnumbered from the beginning. By week five we had sixteen people attending, and still only the initial two of us were Christians.

I soon found myself out of my depth in trying to work through John’s Gospel with this nest of students. On many occasions the participants asked questions I had no idea how to answer.

But in the grace of God there was a graduate student on campus called Dave Ward. He had been converted quite spectacularly as a young man. He was, I suppose, what you might call a rough jewel.

He was slapdash, in your face, with no tact and little polish, but he was aggressively evangelistic, powerful in his apologetics, and winningly bold. He allowed people like me to bring people to him every once in a while so that he could answer their questions.

Get them there and Dave would sort them out! So it was that one night I brought two from my Bible study down to Dave. He bulldozed his way around the room, as he always did.

He gave us instant coffee then, turning to the first student, asked, ‘Why have you come?’

The student replied, ‘Well, you know, I think that university is a great time for finding out about different points of view, including different religions. So I’ve been reading some material on Buddhism, I’ve got a Hindu friend I want to question, and I should also study some Islam. When this Bible study started I thought I’d get to know a little more about Christianity – that’s why I’ve come.’

Dave looked at him for a few moments and then said, ‘Sorry, but I don’t have time for you.’

‘I beg your pardon?’ said the student.

‘Look,’ Dave replied, ‘I’ll loan you some books on world religions; I can show you how I understand Christianity to fit into all this, and why I think biblical Christianity is true – but you’re just playing around. You’re a dilettante. You don’t really care about these things; you’re just goofing off. I’m a graduate student myself, and I don’t have time – I do not have the hours at my disposal to engage in endless discussions with people who are just playing around.’

He turned to the second student: ‘Why did you come?’

‘I come from a home that you people call liberal,’ he said. ‘We go to the United Church and we don’t believe in things like the literal resurrection of Jesus – I mean, give me a break. The deity of Christ, that’s a bit much. But my home is a good home. My parents love my sister and me, we are a really close family, we worship God, we do good in the community. What do you think you’ve got that we don’t have?’

For what seemed like two or three minutes, Dave looked at him. Then he said, ‘Watch me.’

As it happened, this student’s name was also Dave. This Dave said, ‘I beg your pardon?’

Dave Ward repeated what he had just said, and then expanded: ‘Watch me. I’ve got an extra bed; move in with me, be my guest – I’ll pay for the food. You go to your classes, do whatever you have to do, but watch me. You watch me when I get up, when I interact with people, what I say, what moves me, what I live for, what I want in life. You watch me for the rest of the semester, and then you tell me at the end of it whether or not there’s a difference.’

Dave Two did not literally take Dave Ward up on his offer: he didn’t move in with him. But he did keep going to see him. Before the end of that semester he became a Christian, and subsequently a medical missionary overseas.

You who are older should be looking out for younger people and saying in effect, ‘Watch me.’

Come – I’ll show you how to have family devotions.

Come – I’ll show you how to do Bible study.

Come on – let me take you through some of the fundamentals of the faith.

Come – I’ll show you how to pray. Let me show you how to be a Christian husband and father, or wife and mother.

At a certain point in life, that older mentor should be saying other things, such as: Let me show you how to die. Watch me.”

–D.A. Carson, From the Resurrection to His Return (Geanies House, Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2010), 28-32.

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“My poor prayers” by John Newton

“I sometimes think that the prayers of believers afford a stronger proof of a depraved nature, than even the profaneness of those who know not the Lord.

How strange is it, that when I have the fullest convictions that prayer is not only my duty—not only necessary as the appointed means of receiving those supplies, without which I can do nothing, but likewise the greatest honour and privilege to which I can be admitted in the present life,—I should still find myself so unwilling to engage in it.

However, I think it is not prayer itself that I am weary of, but such prayers as mine. How can it be accounted prayer, when the heart is so little affected,—when it is polluted with such a mixture of vile and vain imaginations,—when I hardly know what I say myself—but I feel my mind collected one minute, the next, my thoughts are gone to the ends of the earth.

If what I express with my lips were written down, and the thoughts which at the same time are passing through my heart were likewise written between the lines, the whole taken together would be such an absurd and incoherent jumble—such a medley of inconsistence, that it might pass for the ravings of a lunatic. When Satan points out to me the wildness of this jargon, and asks, ‘Is this a prayer fit to be presented to the holy heart-searching God?’

I am at a loss what to answer, till it is given me to recollect that I am not under the law, but under grace,—that my hope is to be placed, not in my own prayers, but in the righteousness and intercession of Jesus. The poorer and viler I am in myself, so much the more is the power and riches of His grace magnified in my behalf.

Therefore I must, and, the Lord being my helper, I will pray on, and admire his condescension and love, that He can and does take notice of such a creature,—for the event shows, that those prayers which are even displeasing to myself, partial as I am in my own case, are acceptable to Him, how else should they be answered?

And that I am still permitted to come to a throne of grace,—still supported in my walk and in my work, and that mine enemies have not yet prevailed against me, and triumphed over me, affords a full proof that the Lord has heard and has accepted my poor prayers.

Yea, it is possible, that those very prayers of ours of which we are most ashamed, are the most pleasing to the Lord, and for that reason, because we are ashamed of them. When we are favoured with what we call enlargement, we come away tolerably satisfied with ourselves,and think we have done well.”

–John Newton, Twenty-Five Letters Hitherto Unpublished of the Rev. John Newton, Ed. Robert Jones (Edinburgh: J. Johnstone, Hunter Square, 1847), 110-112. As quoted in Tony Reinke, Newton on the Christian Life: To Live Is Christ (Wheaton: Crossway, 2015), 205.

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“No tear escapes His notice” by John Newton

“O! Madam, we want nothing but faith in stronger exercise to make us cheerful and comfortable under all the actual and possible changes of this poor life. Have we not a Saviour, a Shepherd full of compassion and tenderness?

If we wish for love in a friend, He has shewn love unspeakable; —He left His glory, assumed our nature, and submitted to shame, poverty, and death, even the death of the cross, that He might save us from sin and misery, and open the kingdom of heaven to us, who were once His enemies.

For He saw and pitied us, when we knew not how to pity ourselves.

If we need a powerful friend, Jesus is almighty: our help is in Him who made heaven and earth, who raises the dead, and hushes the tempest and raging waves into a calm with a word.

If we need a present friend, a help at hand in the hour of trouble, Jesus is always near, about our path by day, and our bed by night; nearer than the light by which we see, or the air we breathe; nearer than we are to ourselves; so that not a thought, a sigh, or a tear, escapes His notice.

Since then His love and His wisdom are infinite, and He has already done so much for us, shall we not trust Him to the end?

His mercies are countless as the sands, and hereafter we shall see cause to count our trials among our chief mercies.

He sees there is a need-be for them, or we should not have them, and He has promised to make all work together for our final good.

For want of time I am writing by candle-light, which my eyes do not much like; but they submit to it, because I am writing to you; yet they hint that I must now desist.

May the Lord bless you all, with all desirable blessings, temporal and spiritual.

So prays now and often,

Your most affectionate and obliged,

John Newton
6th December, 1800”

–John Newton, “Letter LXXIII” in The Aged Pilgrim’s Thoughts Over Sin and the Grave, Illustrated in a Series of Letters to Walter Taylor, Never Before Published, by the Rev. John Newton (London: Baker and Fletcher, 2nd Ed., 1825), 169-170.

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