Friday, June 11, 2010

Mistake Not the Means for the End

A selection from a letter by Rev. John Newton to Rev. Thomas Scott. Mr. Scott was an unconverted Anglican minister in a nearby parish. His conversion came about through a friendship with Mr. Newton, who through correspondence answered many of his questions. In a letter written December 8, 1775, Newton answered several questions that had been posed by Scott. Newton told him, "I have embraced the occasion to lay before you simply, and rather in a way of testimony than argumentation, what (in the main) I am sure is truth." One question was whether man had the power to do anything good apart from "an extraordinary impulse from on high."

You ask if man can do nothing without an extraordinary impulse from on high, is he to sit still and careless? By no means. I am far from saying man can do nothing, though I believe, he cannot open his own eyes, or give himself faith. I wish every man to abstain carefully from sinful company, and sinful actions, to read the Bible, to pray to God for his heavenly teaching. And if he persevere thus seeking, the promise is sure, that he shall not seek in vain. But I would not have him mistake the means for the end; think himself good because he is preserved from gross vices and follies, or trust to his religious course of duties for acceptance, nor be satisfied till Christ be revealed in him, formed within him, and dwell in his heart by faith.

Letters of John Newton: with Biographical Sketches and Notes, by Josiah Bull, reprinted by the Banner of Truth, p. 270.

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