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

A New Year’s Dedication

Almighty God, as we cross the threshold of this year we commit ourselves, soul, body, affairs, friends, to Thy care. Watch over, keep, guide, direct, sanctify, and bless us. Incline our heart to thy ways. Mold us wholly into the image of Jesus, as a potter forms clay. May our lips be a well-tuned harp to sound Thy praise. Let those around see us living by Thy Spirit, trampling the world underfoot, unconformed to lying vanities, transformed by a renewed mind, clad in the entire armour of God, shining as never-dimmed lights, showing holiness in all our doings.  Let no evil this year soil our thoughts, words, hands. May we travel miry paths with a life pure from spot or stain. In needful transactions let our affection be in heaven, and our love soar upward in flames of fire, our gaze fixed on unseen things, our eyes open to the emptiness, fragility, mockery of earth and its vanities. May we view all things in the mirror of eternity, waiting for the coming of our Lord, listening for the last trumpet call, hastening unto the new heaven and earth. Order this year all our communications according to Thy wisdom, and to the gain of mutual good. Forbid that we should not be profited or made profitable. May we speak each word as if our last word, and walk each step as our final one. If our lives should end this year, let this be our best year.

 

Adapted from The Valley of Vision: Morning Dedication

Year’s End

O Love beyond Compare,
Thou art good when thou givest,
when thou takest away,
when the sun shines upon me,
when night gathers over me.
Thou hast loved me before the foundation of the world,
and in love didst redeem my soul;
Thou dost love me still,
in spite of my hard heart, ingratitude, distrust.
Thy goodness has been with me another year,
leading me through a twisting wilderness,
in retreat helping me to advance,
when beaten back making sure headway.
Thy goodness will be with me in the year ahead;
I hoist sail and draw up anchor,
With thee as the blessed pilot of my future as of my past.
I bless thee that thou hast veiled my eyes to the waters ahead.
If thou hast appointed storms of tribulation,
thou wilt be with me in them;
If I have to pass through tempests of persecution and temptation,
I shall not drown;
If I am to die,
I shall see thy face the sooner;
If a painful end is to be my lot,
grant me grace that my faith fail not;
If I am to be cast aside from the service I love,
I can make no stipulation;
Only glorify thyself in me whether in comfort or trial,
as a chosen vessel meet always for thy use.

Faith is a plant that can grow in the shade

How many, alas, of the precious saints of God must we shut out from being believers, if there is no faith but what amounts to assurance…. shall we say their faith went away in the departure of their assurance? How oft then in a year may a believer be no believer? even as often as God withdraws and leaves the creature in the dark. Assurance is like the sun-flower, which opens with the day and shuts with the night. It follows the motion of God’s face; if that looks smilingly on the soul, it lives; if that frowns or hides itself, it dies. But faith is a plant that can grow in the shade, a grace that can find the way to heaven in a dark night. It can “walk in darkness, and yet trust in the name of the Lord.”

—William Gurnall

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.

 

Refuge

Refuge

O Lord, Whose power is infinite and wisdom infallible, order things that they may neither hinder, nor discourage me,  nor prove obstacles to the progress of Thy cause. Stand between me and all strife, that no evil befall,  no sin corrupt my gifts, zeal, attainments. May I follow duty and not any foolish device of my own. Permit me not to labour at work which Thou wilt not bless, that I may serve thee without disgrace or debt. Let me dwell in Thy most secret place under thy shadow, where is safe impenetrable protection from  the arrow that flieth by day, the pestilence that walketh in darkness, the strife of tongues, the malice of ill-will, the hurt of unkind talk, the snares of company, the perils of youth, the temptations of middle life, the moumings of old age, the fear of death. I am entirely dependent upon Thee for support, counsel, consolation. Uphold me by Thy free Spirit, and may I not think it enough to be preserved from falling, but may I always go forward, always abounding in the work Thou givest me to do. Strengthen me by Thy Spirit in my inner self for every purpose of my Christian life. All my jewels I give to the shadow of the safety that is in Theemy name anew in Christ, my body, soul, talents, character, my success, wife, children, friends, work, my present, my future, my end. Take them, they are Thine, and I am thine, now and for ever.

From the Valley of Vision

All Thy Waves and Thy Billows

Deep to deep incessant calling,
Tossed by furious tempests’ roll,
Endless waves and billows falling,
Overwhelm my fainting soul.
Yet I see a power presiding
Mid the tumult of the storm,
Ever ruling, ever guiding,
Love’s intentions to perform.
Yes, mid sorrows most distressing,
Faith contemplates thy design
Humbly bowing, and confessing
All the waves and billows Thine.

God of my life, vouchsafe thy gracious presence, command thy loving kindness that so neither the world, the flesh, nor Satan may prevent my enjoyment of it. Fill my heart with gratitude, my lips with praise. Pour upon me the Spirit of grace and of supplication that I may draw near to thee in humble, fervent, and effectual prayer… [P]reparing me again to worship thee with thy people on earth or with thy saints in glory everlasting. These blessings I would earnestly beg in the name of thy dear Son, Jesus Christ, my Lord. Amen.

Henry March, 1824