God Has Brought Me Safe Thus Far

Tony Reinke: John Newton’s hymn “Amazing Grace” is the most famous New Year’s Day hymn in church history, first unveiled to his rural congregation on January 1, 1773. The entire hymn is closely modeled after 1 Chronicles 17, a chapter that speaks of King David’s past, present, and future. Newton does the same, reflecting on past grace, present grace, and the hope of future grace. It was a fitting way to bring in the New Year, and it was his annual pattern. At the start of every year, Newton set aside a day to reflect on life. He was at one time a hardened sailor in the slave trade. He was broken and humbled and redeemed. And he was aware of the ongoing grace upholding his life. And his future was completely in the hands of God’s mercy, too. Like David, Newton saw grace in 3D — past, present, and future. New Year’s was a special time of reflection and

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Newton on Preaching Unsearchable Riches

Tony Reinke: The following story was shared by John Newton in a letter to his friend, a theological liberal minister, Thomas Scott, on November 17, 1775. Newton’s role in the theological formation (transformation) of Scott is a remarkable story worth studying in itself. But for now, here’s the story Newton shared with Scott, as published in Newton’s Works (1:596-98): A most valued friend of mine, a Clergyman now living, had for many years given a rational assent to the Gospel. He laboured with much earnestness upon your plan; was very exemplary in his whole conduct; preached almost incessantly (two or three times every day in the week for years), having a parish in the remote parts of Yorkshire, of great extent, and containing five or six different hamlets at some distance from each other. He succeeded likewise with his people so far as to break them off from outward irregularities; and was mentioned, in a letter to the Society for propagating the

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Forgive Us These Faults

Tim Keller: For decades Kathy and I  have profited immensely from the pastoral wisdom of the converted slave trader John Newton. As an 18th-century Anglican minister, Newton was a good preacher, but it was as a pastor, counsellor, and adviser that he excelled. His pastoral letters are a treasure chest. In one of his letters (entitled “Some Blemishes on Christian Character”) Newton points out that while most Christians succeed in avoiding more gross sins, many do not actually experience much in the way of actual spiritual growth. Newton lays out a convicting and specific example of the kinds of Christian people who coast on their strengths but do nothing about their weaknesses and so rob themselves and others of joy and God of his glory. These blemishes are often seen by their bearers as mere “foibles.” Newton says they “may not seem to violate any express command of Scripture” and yet, they are “properly sinful” because they are the opposite

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Is There a Better Description of the Christian Life Than This?

I am not what I ought to be. Ah! how imperfect and deficient. Not what I might be, considering my privileges and opportunities. Not what I wish to be. God, who knows my heart, knows I wish to be like him. I am not what I hope to be; ere long to drop this clay tabernacle, to be like him and see him as He is. Not what I once was, a child of sin, and slave of the devil. Thought not all these, not what I ought to be, not what I might be, not what I wish or hope to be, and not what once was, I think I can truly say with the apostle, “By the grace of God I am what I am.” —John Newton (1725-1807), cited in Letters of John Newton, p. 400. (HT: Justin Taylor)

Preaching

John Newton (Works, 6:271): When I feel my own poverty, my heart wandering, my head confused, graces languid, gifts apparently dormant; when I thus stand up with half a loaf, or less, before a multitude, and see the bread multiply in the breaking, and that, however it may be at the time with myself, as to my own feelings, the hungry, the thirsty, the mourners in Zion, are not wholly disappointed; when I find that some, in the depth of their outward afflictions, can rejoice in me, as the messenger by whom the Lord is pleased to send them a word in season, balm for their wounds, and cordials for their cases; then indeed I magnify mine office. (HT: Tony Reinke)

Communion with God Demands Union with Christ

John Newton writes about the centrality of Christ in our fellowship with God: Communion presupposes union. By nature we are strangers, yea, enemies to God; but we are reconciled, brought nigh, and become his children, by faith in Christ Jesus. We can have no true knowledge of God, desire towards him, access unto him, or gracious communications from him, but in and through the Son of his love. He is the medium of this inestimable privilege: for he is the way, the only way, of intercourse between heaven and earth; the sinner’s way to God, and God’s way of mercy to the sinner. If any pretend to know God, and to have communion with him, otherwise than by the knowledge of Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent, and by faith in his name, it is a proof that they neither know God nor themselves. God, if considered as abstracted from the revelation of himself in the person of Jesus, is

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How to listen to sermons

John Newton penned a brilliant letter on how to profit from sermons [Works, 1:224–225]. First, Newton explains how one should listen to sermons: 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. Then Newton explains how not to listen to sermons: There are hearers who make themselves, and not the Scripture, the standard of their judgment. They attend not so much to be

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What think you of Christ?

I love these two quotes found at, ‘Of First Importance‘: Is God’s glory in Christ the foundation of your gladness? “The acid test of biblical God-centeredness — and faithfulness to the gospel — is this: Do you feel more loved because God makes much of you, or because, at the cost of His Son, He enables you to enjoy making much of Him forever? Does your happiness hang on seeing the cross of Christ as a witness to your worth, or as a way to enjoy God’s worth forever? Is God’s glory in Christ the foundation of your gladness?” – John Piper, God is the Gospel (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2005), 11-12. We cannot think too highly of Christ “I am well satisfied it will not be a burden to me at the hour of death, nor be laid to my charge at the day of judgment, that I have thought too highly of the Lord Jesus Christ or labored

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