Quotes by John Newton
I would not be the sport and prey of wild, vain, foolish, and worse imaginations: but this evil is present with me. My heart is like a highway, like a city without walls or gates: nothing so false, so frivolous, so absurd, so impossible, or so horrid, but it can obtain access, and that any time, in any place. Neither the study, the pulpit, nor even the Lord’s table exempt me from their intrusion.
The unchangeableness of the Lord’s love, and the riches of His mercy, are likewise more illustrated by the multiplied pardons He bestows upon His people, than if they needed no forgiveness at all.
My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Savior.
Trials are medicines which our gracious and wise Physician prescribes because we need them; and He proportions the frequency and weight of them to what the case requires. Let us trust in His skill and thank Him for his prescription.
Many have puzzled themselves about the origin of evil. I am content to observe that there is evil, and that there is a way to escape from it, and with this I begin and end.
When people are right with God, they are apt to be hard on themselves and easy on other people. But when they are not right with God, they are easy on themselves and hard on others.
It belongs to your calling of God as a minister, that you should have a taste of the various spiritual trials which are incident to the Lord’s people, that thereby you may…know how to speak a word in season to them that are weary; and it is likewise needful to keep you perpetually attentive to that important admonition, “Without Me ye can do nothing.”
A Christian has noble aims which distinguish him from the bulk of mankind. His leading principles, motives, and desires are all supernatural and divine. Could he do as he desires there is not an angel before the Eternal Throne, that would excel him in holiness, love, and obedience! He would tread in the very footsteps of his Savior, fill up every moment of time in His service, and employ every breath in His praise!
What Thou wilt, when Thou wilt, how Thou wilt.
God’s people have no assurances that the dark experiences of life will be held at bay, much less that God will provide some sort of running commentary on the meaning of each day’s allotment of confusion, boredom, pain, or achievement. It is no great matter where we are, provided we see that the Lord has placed us there, and that He is with us.
If it were possible for me to alter any part of his plan, I could only spoil it.
None but He who made the world can make a Minister of the Gospel. If a young man has capacity, culture and application (it) may make him a scholar, a philosopher, or an orator; but a true Minister must have certain principles, motives, feelings, and aims, which no industry or endeavors of men can either acquire or communicate. They must be given from above, or they cannot be received.
Can we wish, if it were possible, to walk in a path strewed with flowers when His was strewed with thorns?
The Works of John Newton, v. 1, 1985, p. 230, by permission Banner of Truth, Carlisle, PA.
They are the happiest Christians, who have the lowest thoughts of themselves, and in whose eyes Jesus is most glorious and precious.
Believers who have most knowledge, are not therefore necessarily the most spiritual.
A soul may be in as thriving a state when thirsting, seeking and mourning after the Lord as when actually rejoicing in Him; as much in earnest when fighting in the valley as when singing upon the mount.
When we look at the ungodly, we are not to hate them – but to pity them, mourn over them, and pray for them. Nor have we any right to boast over them; for, by nature, and of ourselves, we are no better than they.
Indeed, a person who lives in the exercise of faith and love, and who finds by experience that it is good for him to draw near to God, will not need to be told how often he must pray, any more than how often he must converse with an earthly friend. Those whom we love, we love to be much with. Love is the best casuist, and either resolves or prevents a thousand scruples and questions, which may perplex those who only serve God from principles of constraint and fear. A believer will account those his happiest days, when he has most leisure and most liberty of spirit for the exercise of prayer.
The Lord afflicts us at times; but it is always a thousand times less than we deserve, and much less than many of our fellow-creatures are suffering around us. Let us therefore pray for grace to be humble, thankful, and patient.
A measure of trials is necessary for the exercise and manifestation of your graces; to give you a more convincing proof of the truth and sweetness of the promises made to a time of affliction; to mortify the body of sin; and to wean you more effectually from the world.
The chief thing to be attended to is, that [family worship] may be a spiritual service; and the great evil to be dreaded and guarded against in the exercise of every duty that returns frequently upon us, is formality. If a stated course of [it] is kept up as constantly in its season as the striking of the clock, in time it may come to be almost as mechanically performed, unless we are continually looking to the Lord to keep our hearts alive.
There is something fascinating in grief; though we feel it hurts our peace…we are apt to indulge it and to brood over sorrow till it gives a tincture to the whole frame of our spirits… Dally no more with grief; try to cut short all recollections that feed the anguish of the mind.
Found in Grant Gordon,ed., Wise Counsel: John Newton’s Letters to John Ryland Jr., 2009, letter 40.
The Lord’s commands to His people are not arbitrary appointments; but that, so far as they are conscientiously complied with, they have an evident tendency and suitableness to promote our own advantage. He requires us to acknowledge Him…for our own sakes; not because He has need of our poor services, but because we have need of His blessing, and without the influence of His grace (which is promised to all who seek it) are sure to be unhappy in ourselves and in all our connections.
I think, with you, that it is very expedient and proper that reading a portion of the Word of God should be ordinarily a part of our family worship; so likewise to sing a hymn or psalm, or part of one, at discretion; provided there are some people in the family who have enough of a musical ear and voice to conduct the singing in a tolerable manner: otherwise, perhaps, it may be better omitted. If you read and sing, as well as pray, care should be taken that the combined services do not run into an inconvenient length.
They who avow the doctrines distinguished by the name of Calvinistic, ought, if consistent with their own principles, to be most gentle and forbearing of all men, in meekness instructing them that oppose. With us, it is a fundamental maxim, that a man can receive nothing but what is given him from heaven (John 3:27). If, therefore, it has pleased God to give us the knowledge of some truths, which are hidden from others, who have the same outward means of information; it is a just reason for thankfulness to Him, but will not justify our being angry with them; for we are no better or wiser than they in ourselves, and might have opposed the truths which we now prize, with the same eagerness and obstinacy, if His grace had not made us to differ. If the man, mentioned in John 9, who was born blind, on whom our Lord graciously bestowed the blessing of sight, had taken a cudgel and beat all the blind men he met, because they would not see, his conduct would have greatly resembled that of an angry Calvinist.
I count it my honor and happiness that I preach to a free people who have the Bible in their hands. To your Bibles I appeal. I entreat, I charge you to receive nothing upon my word any farther than I can prove it from the Word of God. And bring every preacher and every sermon that you hear to the same standard.
Happy is that family where the worship of God is constantly and conscientiously maintained. Such houses are temples in which the Lord dwells, and castles garrisoned by a Divine power. I do not say, that, by honoring God in your house, you will wholly escape a share in the trials incident to the present uncertain state of things. A measure of such trials will be necessary for the exercise and manifestation of your graces; to give you a more convincing proof of the truth and sweetness of the promises made to a time of affliction; to mortify the body of sin; and to wean you more effectually from the world. But this I will confidently say, that the Lord will both honor and comfort those who thus honor Him. Seasons will occur in which you shall know, and probably your neighbors shall be constrained to take notice, that He has not bid you seek Him in vain. If you meet with troubles, they shall be accompanied by supports, and followed by deliverance; and you shall upon many occasions experience, that God is your protector, preserving you and yours from the evils by which you will see others suffering around you.
When I see Thee as Thou art, I’ll praise Thee as I ought.
As a hearer, you have a right to try all doctrines by the word of God; and it is your duty so to do. Faithful ministers will remind you of this: they will not wish to hold you in an implicit and blind obedience to what they say, upon their own authority, nor desire that you should follow them farther than they have the Scripture for their warrant. They would not be lords over your conscience, but helpers of your joy. Prize this Gospel liberty, which sets you free from the doctrines and commandments of men; but do not abuse it to the purposes of pride and self.
Assurance grows by repeated conflict, by our repeated experimental proof of the Lord’s power and goodness to save; when we have been brought very low and helped, sorely wounded and healed, cast down and raised again, have given up all hope, and been suddenly snatched from danger, and placed in safety; and when these things have been repeated to us and in us a thousand times over, we begin to learn to trust simply to the Word and power of God, beyond and against appearances: and this trust, when habitual and strong, bears the name of assurance; for even assurance has degrees.
In general, He guides and directs His people, affording them, in answer to prayer, the light of His Holy Spirit, which enables them to understand and to love the Scriptures.
There are hearers who make themselves, and not the Scripture, the standard of their judgment. They attend not so much to be instructed, as to pass their sentence. To them, the pulpit is the bar at which the minister stands to take his trial before them; a bar at which few escape censure, from judges at once so severe and inconsistent.
Of all people who engage in controversy, we, who are called Calvinists, are most expressly bound by our own principles to the exercise of gentleness and moderation.
I am persuaded that love and humility are the highest attainments in the school of Christ and the brightest evidences that He is indeed our Master.
You know the common expression, “A jack of all trades.” I am sure a minister had need be such a one: a brave soldier, an alert watchman, a caring shepherd, a hardworking farmer, a skillful builder, a wise counselor, a competent physician and a loving nurse.
The Word of God is not to be used as a lottery; nor is it designed to instruct us by shreds and scraps, which, detached from their proper places, have no determinate import; but it is to furnish us with just principles, right apprehensions to regulate our judgments and affections, and thereby to influence and direct our conduct.
When I was young, I was sure of many things; now there are only two things of which I am sure: one is, that I am a miserable sinner; and the other, that Christ is an all-sufficient Saviour. He is well-taught who learns these two lessons.
If the Lord be with us, we have no cause of fear. His eye is upon us, His arm over us, His ear open to our prayer – His grace sufficient, His promise unchangeable.
I am not what I might be, I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I wish to be, I am not what I hope to be. But I thank God I am not what I once was, and I can say with the great apostle, “By the grace of God I am what I am.”
Faith upholds a Christian under all trials, by assuring him that every painful dispensation is under the direction of his Lord; that chastisements are a token of His love; that the season, measure, and continuance of his sufferings, are appointed by Infinite Wisdom, and designed to work for his everlasting good; and that grace and strength shall be afforded him, according to his need.
I am afraid there are Calvinists, who, while they account it a proof of their humility that they are willing in words to debase the creature, and to give all the glory of salvation to the Lord, yet know not what manner of spirit they are of. Whatever it be that makes us trust in ourselves that we are comparatively wise or good, so as to treat those with contempt who do not subscribe to our doctrines, or follow our party, is a proof and fruit of a self-righteous spirit. Self-righteousness can feed upon doctrines, as well as upon good works; and a man may have the heart of a Pharisee, while his head is stored with orthodox notions of the unworthiness of the creature and the riches of free grace.
God often takes a course for accomplishing His purposes directly contrary to what our narrow views would prescribe. He brings a death upon our feelings, wishes and prospects when He is about to give us the desires of our hearts.
And I am afraid there are Calvinists, who, while they account it a proof of their humility that they are willing in words to debase the creature, and to give all the glory of salvation to the Lord, yet know not what manner of spirit they are of. Whatever it be that makes us trust in ourselves that we are comparatively wise or good, so as to treat those with contempt who do not subscribe to our doctrines, or follow our party, is a proof and fruit of a self-righteous spirit. Self-righteousness can feed upon doctrines, as well as upon works; and a man may have the heart of a Pharisee, while his head is stored with orthodox notions of the unworthiness of the creature and the riches of free grace.