A Letter From John Newton

‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ are apparently pseudonyms for unnamed persons being referenced in this letter.

“First the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear”. Mark 4:28

Dear Sir,

(c) The Cowper and Newton Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue FoundationBy way of distinction, I assigned to ‘A’ the characteristic of desire, to ‘B’ that of conflict. I can think of no single word more descriptive of the state of ‘C’ than contemplation. His eminence, in comparison of ‘A’, does not consist in the sensible warmth and fervency of his affections: in this respect many of the most exemplary believers have looked back with a kind of regret upon the time of their espousals, when, though their judgments were but imperfectly formed, and their views of Gospel truths were very indistinct, they felt a fervor of spirit, the remembrance of which is both humbling and refreshing; and yet they cannot recall the same sensations. Nor is he properly distinguished from ‘B’ by a consciousness of his acceptance in the Beloved, and an ability of calling God his Father; for this I have supposed ‘B’ has attained to.

Though, as there is a growth in every grace, ‘C’, having had his views of the Gospel, and of the Lord’s faithfulness and mercy, confirmed by a longer experience, his assurance is of course more stable and more simple, than when he first saw himself safe from all condemnation. Neither has ‘C’, properly speaking, any more strength or stock of grace inherent in himself than ‘B’, or even than ‘A’. He is in the same state of absolute dependence, as incapable of performing spiritual acts, or of resisting temptations by his own power, as he was at the first day of his setting out. Yet in a sense he is much stronger, because he has a more feeling and constant sense of his own weakness. The Lord has been long teaching him this lesson by a train of various dispensations; and through grace he can say, that he has not suffered so many things in vain. His heart has deceived him so often, that he is now in a good measure weaned from trusting to it; and therefore he does not meet with so many disappointments. And having found again and again the vanity of all other helps, he is now taught to go to the Lord at once for “grace to help in every time of need.” Thus he is strong, not in himself, but in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

But C’s happiness and superiority to ‘B’ lies chiefly in this, that, by the Lord’s blessing on the use of means—such as prayer, Continue reading