Tag Archives: Works of John Newton

“Over-long sermons” by John Newton

“Secondly (as we say), as to long preaching. There is still in being an old-fashioned instrument called an hour-glass, which in days of yore, before clocks and watches abounded, used to be the measure of many a good sermon, and I think it a tolerable stint.

I cannot wind up my ends to my own satisfaction in a much shorter time, nor am I pleased with myself if I greatly exceed it. If an angel was to preach for two hours, unless his hearers were angels likewise, I believe the greater part of them would wish he had done.

It is a shame it should be so: but so it is; partly through the weakness and partly through the wickedness of the flesh, we can seldom stretch our attention to spiritual things for two hours together without cracking it, and hurting its spring: and when weariness begins, edification ends.

Perhaps it is better to feed our people like chickens, a little and often, than to cram them like turkeys, till they cannot hold one gobbet more. Besides, over-long sermons break in upon family concerns, and often call off the thoughts from the sermon to the pudding at home, which is in danger of being over-boiled.”

–John Newton, The Works of John Newton, Vol. 2 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1824/2006), 2: 163.

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“Take a lodging as near as you can to Gethsemane and walk daily to mount Golgotha” by John Newton

“Did I not tell you formerly, that if you would take care of His business He will take care of yours? I am of the same mind still. He will not suffer them who fear Him and depend upon Him to want anything that is truly good for them.

In the meanwhile, I advise you to take a lodging as near as you can to Gethsemane, and to walk daily to mount Golgotha, and borrow (which may be had for asking) that telescope which gives a prospect into the unseen world.

A view of what is passing within the vail has a marvelous effect to compose our spirits, with regard to the little things that are daily passing here.

Praise the Lord, who has enabled you to fix your supreme affection upon Him who is alone the proper and suitable object of it, and from whom you cannot meet a denial or fear a change. He loved you first, and He will love you forever.

And if He be pleased to arise and smile upon you, you are in no more necessity of begging for happiness to the prettiest creature upon earth, than of the light of a candle on mid-summer noon.

Upon the whole, I pray and hope the Lord will sweeten your cross, and either in kind or in kindness make you good amends.

Wait, pray, and believe, and all shall be well. A cross we must have somewhere; and they who are favoured with health, plenty, peace, and a conscience sprinkled with the blood of Jesus, must have more causes for thankfulness than grief.

Look round you, and take notice of the very severe afflictions which many of the Lord’s own people are groaning under, and your trials will appear comparatively light.

Our love to all friends,

John Newton”

–John Newton, The Works of John Newton, Vol. 2, Ed. Richard Cecil (London: Hamilton, Adams & Co., 1824), 127–129.

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“He is the sun of their souls” by John Newton

“The Lord, by His Spirit, manifests and confirms His love to His people. For this purpose He meets them at His throne of grace, and in His ordinances.

There He makes Himself known unto them, as He does not unto the world. There He causes His goodness to pass before them, and opens, applies, and seals to them, His exceeding great and precious promises, and He gives them the Spirit of adoption, whereby, unworthy as they are, they are enabled to cry ‘Abba, Father.’

He causes them to understand that great love wherewith He has loved them, in redeeming them by price and by power, washing them from their sins in the blood of the Lamb, recovering them from the dominion of Satan, and preparing for them an everlasting kingdom, where they shall see His face, and rejoice in His glory.

The knowledge of this, His love to them, produces a return of love from them to Him. They adore Him, and admire Him. They make an unreserved surrender of their hearts to Him. They view Him and delight in Him, as their God, their Saviour, and their portion.

They account His favour better than life. He is the sun of their souls: if He is pleased to shine upon them, all is well, and they are not greatly careful about other things.

But if He hides His face, the smiles of the whole creation can afford them no solid comfort.

They esteem one day or hour spent in the delightful contemplation of His glorious excellencies, and in the expression of their desires towards Him, better than a thousand. And when their love is most fervent, they are ashamed that it is so faint, and chide and bemoan themselves that they can love Him no more.

This often makes them long to depart, willing to leave their dearest earthly comforts, that they may see Him as He is, without a veil or cloud.

For they know that then, and not till then, they shall love Him as they ought.”

–John Newton, The Works of the John Newton, Ed. Richard Cecil (vol. 1; London: Hamilton, Adams & Co., 1824), 309–310.

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“Reading and studying the Bible” by John Newton

“I know not a better rule of reading the Scripture, than to read it through from beginning to end; and, when we have finished it once, to begin it again.

We shall meet with many passages which we can make little improvement of, but not so many in the second reading as in the first, and fewer in the third than in the second: provided we pray to Him who has the keys to open our understandings, and to anoint our eyes with His spiritual ointment.

The course of reading today will prepare some lights for what we shall read tomorrow, and throw a farther light upon what we read yesterday. Experience only can prove the advantage of this method, if steadily persevered in.

To make a few efforts and then give up, is like making a few steps and then standing still, which would do little towards completing a long journey.

But, though a person walked slowly, and but a little way in a day, if he walked every day, and with his face always in the same direction, year after year, he might in time encompass the globe.

By thus travelling patiently and steadily through the Scripture, and repeating our progress, we should increase in knowledge to the end of life.

The Old and New Testament, the doctrines, precepts, and promises, the history, the examples, admonitions, and warnings would mutually illustrate and strengthen each other, and nothing that is written for our instruction would be overlooked.

Happy should I be, could I fully follow the advice I am now offering to you. I wish you may profit by my experience.

Alas, how much time have I lost and wasted, which, had I been wise, I should have devoted to reading and studying the Bible!

But my evil heart obstructs the dictates of my judgment, I often feel a reluctance to read this Book of books, and a disposition to hew out broken cisterns which afford me no water, while the fountain of living waters are close within my reach.”

–John Newton, The Works of John Newton, Vol. 6, Ed. Richard Cecil (vol. 6; London: Hamilton, Adams & Co., 1824), 418–419.

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“The goodness of a wonder-working God” by John Newton

“The believer shall so conquer in the close of the campaign, that he shall never hear the sound of war any more and so conquer in time as to triumph to eternity.

This we owe to Jesus. We overcome not by our own might, but by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of His testimony.

He has conquered for us, and He goes before us, and He fights in us by His Spirit, and in His own time He will bruise Satan under our feet.

In the meanwhile, He will be your strength and your shield. He will be your song and your salvation. In His name you may lift up your banner, and bid defiance to Satan and all his hosts…

I think, when the Lord permits us all to meet here again together, we shall have much to say on the subject of redeeming love.

We shall have much to ascribe to the wisdom, the power, and the goodness of a wonder-working God, who causes light to shine out of darkness, and has given us the light of the knowledge of His glory in the person of Jesus Christ.

What an amazing change in our state, in our heart, in our views, is the result of this discovery! Old things pass away. All things become new.

Then we see how unavoidably we must be men wondered at by all who have not experienced the same things, and we are content to be so for His sake who has loved us, and to account His cross our glory.

Believe me to be, my dear Sir, most affectionately your’s, in the nearest and strongest bond of friendship,

John Newton”

–John Newton Letter V to Mr. William Cowper, March 15, 1770,” in The Works of John Newton, Ed. Richard Cecil (London: Hamilton, Adams & Co., 1824), 6: 155–156.

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“The Lord of Hosts is on our side” by John Newton

“I can only advise you to resist, to the utmost, every dark and discouraging suggestion. The Lord has done great things for you, and wonderfully appeared in your behalf already.

Take encouragement from hence to hope that He will not forsake the work of His own hands (Judges 13:23). There is much weight in the apostle’s argument in Romans 5:10.

Surely He who showed us mercy before we asked it, will not withhold it now that He has taught us how to plead for it agreeably to His own will. Though sin has abounded in us, grace has superabounded in Him.

Though our enemies are many and mighty, Jesus is above them all.

Though He may hide Himself from us at times for a moment, He has given us a warrant to trust in Him, even while we walk in darkness, and has promised to return and gather us with everlasting mercies.

The Christian calling, like many others, is easy and clear in theory, but not without much care and difficulty to be reduced to practice. Things appear quite otherwise, when felt experimentally, to what they do when only read in a book.

Many learn the art of navigation by the fireside at home, but when they come to sea, with their heads full of rules, and without experience, they find that the art is only to be thoroughly learned upon the spot.

So, to renounce self, to live upon Jesus, to walk with God, to overcome the world, to hope against hope, to trust the Lord when we cannot trace Him, and to know that our duty and privilege consist in these things, may be readily acknowledged or quickly learned.

But, upon repeated trial, we find, that saying and doing are two things. We think at setting out that we sit down and count the cost. But, alas! Our views are so superficial at first, that we have occasion to correct our estimate daily.

For every day shows us some new thing in the heart, or some new turn in the management of the war against us which we were not aware of. And upon these accounts, discouragements may arise so high as to bring us (I speak for myself) to the very point of throwing down our arms, and making either a tame surrender or a shameful flight.

Thus it would be with us at last, if the Lord of Hosts were not on our side. But though our enemies thrust sore at us that we might fall, He has been our stay.

And if He is the captain of our salvation, if His eye is upon us, if His arm stretched out around us, if His ear open to our cry, and if He has engaged to teach our hands to war, and our fingers to fight, and to cover our heads in the day of battle, then we need not fear, though a host rise up against us.

But, lifting up our banner in His name, let us go forth conquering and to conquer (Romans 16:20).

We hope we shall all be better acquainted soon. We please ourselves with agreeable prospects and proposals but the determination is with the Lord.

We may rejoice that it is. He sees all things in their dependencies and connections, which we see not, and therefore He often thwarts our wishes for our good.

But if we are not mistaken, if any measure we have in view would, upon the whole, promote our comfort, or His glory, He will surely bring it to pass in answer to prayer, how improbable whatsoever it might appear.

For He delights in the satisfaction and prosperity of His people, and without a need-be, they shall never be in heaviness. Let us strive and pray for an habitual resignation to His will for He does all things well.

It is never ill with us but when our evil hearts doubt or forget this plainest of truths.

I beg an interest in your prayers, and that you will believe me to be,

Your affectionate servant,

John Newton”

–John Newton, Letter I to Mr. William Cowper, July 30, 1767,” The Works of John Newton, Ed. Richard Cecil (London: Hamilton, Adams & Co., 1824), 6: 141–143.

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“Grace is the seed of glory” by John Newton

“The Lord claims the honour; and He engages for the accomplishment of a complete salvation, that no power shall pluck His people out of His hand, or separate them from His love.

Their perseverance in grace, besides being asserted in many express promises, may be proved with the fullest evidence from the unchangeableness of God, the intercession of Christ, the union which subsists between Him and His people, and from the principle of spiritual life He has implanted in their hearts, which in its own nature is connected with everlasting life; for grace is the seed of glory.

I have not room to enlarge on these particulars, but refer you to the following texts, from which various strong and invincible arguments might be drawn for their confirmation: Luke 14:28–30, compared with Phil. 1:6; Heb. 7:25, with Rom. 8:34–39; John 14:19, with John 15:1, 2; John 4:14.

Upon these grounds, my friend, why may not you, who have fled for refuge to the hope set before you, and committed your soul to Jesus, rejoice in His salvation and say:

‘While Christ is the foundation, root, head, and husband of His people, while the word of God is Yea and Amen, while the counsels of God are unchangeable, while we have a Mediator and High Priest before the throne, while the Holy Spirit is willing and able to bear witness to the truths of the Gospel, while God is wiser than men, and stronger than Satan, so long the believer in Jesus is and shall be safe. Heaven and earth must pass away; but the promise, the oath, the blood, on which my soul relies, affords me a security which can never fail.’

As the doctrines of election and perseverance are comfortable, so they cut off all pretence of boasting and self-dependence when they are truly received in the heart, and therefore tend to exalt the Saviour. Of course they stain the pride of all human glory, and leave us nothing to glory in but the Lord.

The more we are convinced of our utter depravity and inability from first to last, the more excellent will Jesus appear. The whole may give the physician a good word, but the sick alone know how to prize him. And here I cannot but remark a difference between those who have nothing to trust to but free grace, and those who ascribe a little at least to some good disposition and ability in man.

We assent to whatever they enforce from the word of God on the subject of sanctification. We acknowledge its importance, its excellency, its beauty; but we could wish they would join more with us in exalting the Redeemer’s name.

Their experience seems to lead them to talk of themselves, of the change that is wrought in them, and the much that depends upon their own watchfulness and striving. We likewise would be thankful if we could perceive a change wrought in us by the power of grace; we desire to be found watching likewise.

But when our hopes are most alive, it is less from a view of the imperfect beginnings of grace in our hearts, than from an apprehension of Him who is our all in all. His person, His love, His sufferings, His intercession, His compassion, His fulness, and His faithfulness,—these are our delightful themes, which leave us little leisure, when in our best frames, to speak of ourselves.

How do our hearts soften, and our eyes melt, when we feel some liberty in thinking and speaking of Him! For we had no help in time past, nor can have any in time to come, but from Him alone.

If any persons have contributed a mite to their own salvation, it was more than we could do. If any were obedient and faithful to the first calls and impressions of His Spirit, it was not our case. If any were prepared to receive Him beforehand, we know that we were in a state of alienation from Him.

We needed sovereign, irresistible grace to save us, or we had been lost forever. If there are any who have a power of their own, we must confess ourselves poorer than they are.

We cannot watch, unless He watches with us; we cannot strive, unless He strives with us; we cannot stand one moment, unless He holds us up; and we believe we must perish after all, unless His faithfulness is engaged to keep us.

But this we trust He will do, not for our righteousness, but for His own name’s sake, and because, having loved us with an everlasting love, He has been pleased in lovingkindness to draw us to Himself, and to be found of us when we sought Him not.”

–John Newton, “Letter IX: On the Doctrine of Election and Final Perseverance,” in The Works of the John Newton, Volume 1, Ed. Richard Cecil (London: Hamilton, Adams & Co., 1824), 191-192.

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