That bitter root, indwelling sin!

By John Newton:

The righteous are said to be scarcely saved, not with respect to the certainty of the event, for the purpose of God in their favor cannot be disappointed—but in respect of their own apprehensions, and the great difficulties they are brought through! But when, after a long experience of their own deceitful hearts, after repeated proofs of their weakness, willfulness, ingratitude, and insensibility, they find that none of these things can separate them from the love of Jesus—He becomes more and more precious to their souls. They love much, because much has been forgiven them. They dare not, they will not ascribe anything to themselves—but are glad to acknowledge, that they must have perished (humanly speaking) a thousand times over, if Jesus had not been their Savior, their shepherd, and their shield. When they were wandering—he brought them back; when fallen—he raised them; when wounded—he healed them; when fainting—he revived them! By him, out of weakness—they have been made strong! He has taught their hands to war, and covered their heads in the day of battle. In a word, some of the clearest proofs they have had of his excellence, have been occasioned by the humiliating proofs they have had of their own vileness. They would not have known so much of him—if they had not known so much of themselves!

Further, a spirit of humiliation, which is both the strength and beauty of our profession, is greatly promoted by our feeling, as well as reading, that when we would do good, evil is present with us. A broken and contrite spirit is pleasing to the Lord—he has promised to dwell with those who have it. Experience shows, that the exercise of all our graces, is in proportion to the humbling sense we have of the depravity of our nature.

That we are so totally depraved, is a truth which no one ever truly learned by being only taught it. Indeed, if we could receive, and habitually maintain, a right judgment of ourselves, by what is plainly declared in Scripture, it would probably save us many a mournful hour! But experience is the Lord’s school, and those who are taught by him usually learn that they have no wisdom—by the mistakes they make; and that they have no strength—by the slips and falls they meet with. Every day draws forth some new corruption, which before was little observed, or at least discovers it in a stronger light than before. Thus by degrees, they are weaned from leaning to any supposed wisdom, power, or goodness in themselves! They feel the truth of our Lord’s words, “without me—you can do nothing;” and the necessity of crying with David, “O lead me and guide me!”

John Newton, April 1772

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I Asked the Lord that I Might Grow

I Asked the Lord that I Might Grow – Indelible Grace

I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith and love and every 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 prayer
But it has been in such a way
As did drive me to despair

I hoped that in some favored hour
At once He’d answer my request
And by His love’s constraining power
Subdue my sins and give me rest

Instead of this He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart
And let the angry powers of Hell
Assault my soul in every part

Yea more with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Cast out my feelings, laid me low

Lord why is this, I trembling cried
Wilt Thou pursue thy worm to death?
“Tis in this way” The Lord replied
“I answer prayer 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 mayest seek thy all in me,
That thou mayest seek thy all in me.”

This week I’ve learned that I am very prideful. I have often prayed:

No trial is so hard to bear as a sense of sin. If Thou shouldst give me choice to live in pleasure and keep my sins, or to have them burnt away with trial, give me sanctified affliction.”

But did I ever understand what I was asking for? No. And in that I see God’s grace because otherwise I never would have prayed to be purified, not in this way, not through such a painful and heart wrenching trial. Then I never would have felt such a strong sense of joy and happiness, knowing that I’ve forgiven and been forgiven, and knowing that I am loved and can still love. I thought I was being destroyed but in reality I was being driven to a new reliance on Him. I believe that I’ve been broken and destroyed this week so that I would reexamine my life. I see my pride and weakness more clearly now and while I’m writing this at an hour past midnight, I can say that I’ve learned a bit more about what it means to trust God. In my pride I doubted God’s plan, his goodness and his love for me. We can’t see or know God’s plan but faith is believing in what we do not yet see. All the trials and agonies of this life, the pains inflicted by those dearest to us and the sufferings we endure can be used by God to teach and transform us. Through the trials and in this way of faith we can confess with David, “Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.”(Ps 27:10, NIV) While also saying, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!”(Ps 133:1)

 

This week I also I learned that I loved and will continue loving my friends. I learned that I trusted and will continue to trust my friends, but can’t view them as infallible, I can’t make idols out of them. I’ve learned that my friends deeply love and trusted me in ways I’ve never understood or realized. I certainly have regrets. I regret the stupid and hurtful things I’ve said  to others and the hurtful things done to me; I regret the things I’ve done to myself and the harm I’ve inflected on my body; I regret most of all the sins I’ve committed against a Holy and Loving God. I questioned his plan and went so far as to doubt his love. But perhaps, as a result of this sanctified affliction, I’ve also gained a glimpse of the meaning to this part of the same prayer:

“I thank Thee for Thy wisdom and Thy love, for all the acts of discipline to which I am subject, for sometimes putting me into the furnace to refine my gold and remove my dross.”

-“Confession and Petition,” The Valley of Vision.

 

Safely through another week

Safely through another week
God has brought us on our way;
let us now a blessing seek,
waiting in his courts today;
day of all the week the best,
emblem of eternal rest,
day of all the week the best,
emblem of eternal rest.

While we pray for pard’ning grace,
through the dear Redeemer’s name,
show thy reconciling face;
take away our sin and shame;
from our worldly cares set free,
may we rest this day in thee,
from our worldly cares set free,
may we rest this day in thee.

Here we come thy name to praise,
let us feel thy presence near;
may thy glory meet our eyes,
while we in thy house appear:
here afford us, Lord, a taste
of our everlasting feast,
here afford us, Lord, a taste
of our everlasting feast.

May thy gospel’s joyful sound
conquer sinners, comfort saints;
may the fruits of grace abound,
bring relief for all complaints:
thus may all our Sabbaths prove,
till we join the church above,
thus may all our Sabbaths prove,
till we join the church above.

John Newton, in Conyer’s Collection of Psalms and Hymns, 1774