The Penning Pastor: And All the Preachers Said…

Undoubtedly I derive from the Gospel a peace at bottom, which is worth more than a thousand worlds. But though I rest and live upon the truths of the Gospel—they seldom impress me with a warm and lively joy. In public, indeed, I sometimes seem in earnest and much affected—but even then it appears to me rather as a part of the gift entrusted to me for the edification of others, than as a sensation which is properly my own. For when I am in private, I am usually dull and stupid to a strange degree, or the prey to a wild and ungoverned imagination; so that I may truly say, when I would do good, evil, horrid evil, is present with me! Ah, how different is this from sensible comfort! and if I was to compare myself to others, to make their experience my standard, and was not helped to retreat to the sure Word of God as my refuge, how hard would I find it to maintain a hope that I had either part or lot in the matter! What I call my best times, are when I can find my attention in some little measure fixed to what I am about; which indeed is not always, nor frequently, my case in prayer, and still seldom in reading the Scripture. My judgment embraces these means as blessed privileges, and Satan has not prevailed to drive me from them. But in the performance of them, I too often find them tasks; feel a reluctance when the seasons return, and am glad when they are finished. O what a mystery is the heart of man! What a warfare is the life of faith! (at least in the path the Lord is pleased to lead me.) What reason have I to lie in the dust as the chief of sinners, and what cause for thankfulness that salvation is wholly of grace! Notwithstanding all my complaints, it is still true that Jesus died and rose again; that he ever lives to make intercession, and is able to save to the uttermost! But, on the other hand, to think of that joy of heart in which some of his people live, and to compare it with that apparent deadness and lack of spirituality which I feel—this makes me mourn. However, I think there is a Scriptural distinction between faith and feeling, grace and comfort—they are not inseparable, and perhaps, when together, the degree of the one is not often the just measure of the other. But though I pray that I may be ever longing and panting for the light of his countenance—yet I would be so far satisfied, as to believe the Lord has wise and merciful reasons for keeping me so short of the comforts which he has taught me to desire and value more than the light of the sun! —John Newton, Works

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