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Letters of John Newton

(2 posts)

Trusting beyond Appearances

Assurance of salvation is a slippery thing. As John Owen wrote, The constant conflicts we must have with sin will not suffer us to have always so clear an evidence of our condition as we would desire. Therefore, as believers grow, we must learn to trust not in feelings of security, but in the one guarantee of security: Christ himself. Then, the conflicts we experience serve to strengthen our faith and steady our assurance. When young Christians are greatly comforted with the Lords love and presence, their doubts and fears are for a season at an end. But this is not assurance; so soon as the Lord hides His face, they are troubled and ready to question the very foundation of hope. Assurance grows by repeated conflict, by repeated experimental proof of the Lords 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. John Newton, quoted in The Old Evangelicalism (Banner of Truth, 2005), 194195. [original source]

Lord’s Day 8, 2019

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” And the Lord God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd. But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered. —Jonah 4: 6–7 (KJV) Hymn XXXVI. Prayer answered by crosses. I ask’d the Lord that I might grow In faith, and love, and ev’ry grace; Might more of his salvation know, And seek, more earnestly, his face. ’Twas he who taught me thus to pray, And he, I trust, has answered pray’r! But it has been in such a way, As almost drove me to despair. I hop’d that in some favor’d hour, At once he’d answer my request; And by his love’s constraining pow’r, Subdue my sins, and give me rest. Instead of this, he made me feel The hidden evils of my heart; And let the angry pow’rs of hell Assault my soul in ev’ry part. Yea more, with his own hand he seem’d Intent to aggravate my woe; Cross’d all the fair designs I schem’d, Blasted my gourds, and laid me low. Lord, why is this, I trembling cry’d, Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death? “’Tis in this way, the Lord replied, I answer pray’r for grace and faith. These inward trials I employ, From self, and pride, to set thee free; And break thy schemes of earthly joy, That thou may’st find thy all in me.” —John Newton, Olney Hymns. Book III: On the Rise, Progress, Changes, and Comforts of the Spiritual Life. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these.


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