Five letters to a young man going into the Christian ministry | Letter 2 – John Newton

Letter 2
June 7, 1767.

Dear Sir,
I must beg you (once for all) to release me from any constraint about the length or frequency of my letters. Believe that I think of you, and pray for you—even when you do not hear from me. Your correspondence is not quite so extensive as mine, therefore you may write the oftener. Your letters will be always welcome; and I will write to you when I find a leisure hour, and have anything upon my mind to offer.

You seem sensible where your most observable failing lies, and to take reproof and admonition concerning it in good part; I therefore hope and believe the Lord will give you a growing victory over it. You must not expect that bad habits andtempers will be eradicated instantaneously; but by perseverance in prayer, and observation upon the experiences of every day, much may be done in time. Now and then you will (as is usual in the course of war) lose a battle; but be not discouraged—but rally your forces—and return to the fight! There is a comfortable word, a leaf of the tree of life, for healing the wounds we receive, “I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if you do sin, there is someone to plead for you before the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” 1 Jo. 2:1.

If the enemy surprises you, and your heart smites you—do not stand astonished as if there was no help, nor give way to sorrow as if there was no hope, nor attempt to heal yourself; but go immediately to the Throne of Grace, to the great Physician, to the compassionate High Priest—and tell him all. Satan knows, that if he can keep us from confession, our wounds will rankle. Do profit by David’s experience, “When I refused to confess my sin, I was weak and miserable, and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide them. I said to myself, ‘I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.’ And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone!” Psalm 32:3-5. When we are simple and open-hearted in abasing ourselves before the Lord, though we have acted foolishly and ungratefully, he will seldom let us remain long without affording us a sense of his compassion and forgiveness. For he is gracious; he knows our frame, and how to bear with us, though we can hardly bear with ourselves, or with one another.

The main thing is to have the heart right with God. This will bring us in the end safely through many mistakes and blunders. But a double mind, a selfish spirit—which would halve things between God and the world—the Lord abhors. Though I have not yet had many opportunities of commending your prudence, I have always had a good opinion of your sincerity and integrity. If I am not mistaken in this, I make no doubt of your doing well. If the Lord is pleased to bless you, he will undoubtedly make you humble; for you cannot be either happy or safe, or have any probable hope of abiding usefulness, without a sincere humility. I do not know that I have had anything so much at heart in my connections with you, as to impress you with a sense of the necessity and advantages of a humble frame of spirit. I hope it has not been in vain. O! to be little in our own eyes!

Humility is the foundation of every grace! Humility leads to a continual dependence upon the Lord Jesus. Humility is the spirit which he has promised to bless. Humility conciliates us good-will and acceptance among men—for he who abases himself is sure to be honored. And that this temper is so hard to attain and preserve—is a striking proof of our depravity. For are we not sinners? Were we not rebels and enemies before we knew the Gospel? And have we not been unfaithful, backsliding, and unprofitable ever since? Are we not redeemed by the blood of Jesus? We cannot stand a single moment—unless he upholds us. We have nothing which we have not received. We have not received anything which we have not abused. Why then is dust and ashes proud?

I am glad you have found some spiritual acquaintance in your barren land. I hope you will be helpful to them, and they to you. You do well to guard against every appearance of evil. If you are heartily for Jesus, Satan owes you a grudge. One way or other he will try to cut you out work, and the Lord may allow him to go to the length of his chain. But though you are to keep your eye upon him, and expect to be tempted by him at every step, you need not be slavishly afraid of him—for Jesus is stronger and wiser than he; and there is a complete suit of armor provided for all who are engaged on the Lord’s side!

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