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John Newton
Spiritual Growth

John Newton And Daniel Wilson.— "I this morning breakfasted with Mr. Newton. I hope the conversation I had with him will not soon be effaced from my mind. He inculcated that salutary lesson you mentioned in your letter of  ‘waiting patiently upon the Lord.'

He told me God could, no doubt, if He pleased, produce a full-grown oak in an instant on the most barren spot; but that such was not the ordinary working of His providence. The acorn was first sown in the ground, and there was a secret operation going on for some time; and even when the sprout appeared above ground, if you were continually to be watching it, you would not perceive its growth. And so, he said, it was in spiritual things. 'When a building is to be erected for eternity, the foundation must be laid deep. If I were going to build a horse-shed, I could put together a few poles, and finish it presently; but if I were to raise a pile like St. Paul's, I should lay a strong foundation, and an immense deal of labour must be spent underground, before the walls would begin to peep above its surface.

Now,' he continued, 'you want to know whether you arc in the right road; that is, putting the cart before the horse; that is wanting to gather the fruit before you sow the seed. You want to experience the effects of belief before you do believe. You can believe a man if he promises you anything, but you cannot believe Christ when He says, "in no wise." If He had said, I will receive all who come except one hundred, then you might certainly think that you were of that hundred; but the "in no wise" excludes all such arguing.

There arc few awakened sinners who doubt Christ's ability to save, but the fear seems to run on His willingness, which, of the two, is certainly the most dishonouring to our blessed Saviour. To illustrate my meaning:—Suppose you had promised to pay one hundred pounds for me, and had given mc the promise in writing. Now, if you should refuse to pay the money when I sent for it, which do you think would involve the greatest impeachment of your character—to say that you were perfectly willing to fulfill your engagement, but really had not the power; or to say that no doubt could be entertained of your ability, but you were unwilling to be bound by your promise?

Unbelief is a great sin. If the devil were to tempt you to some open notorious crime, you would be startled at it! But when he tempts you to disbelieve the promises of God, you hug it as your infirmity, whereas you should consider it as a great sin, and must pray against it. When Evangelist in the Pilgrim's Progress asked Christian if he saw a wicket-gate at the end of the path, he said, No. Could he then see a shining light? He thought he could. That light was the Bible, and it led him to the wicket-gate. But when he had passed that gate, he still retained the burden. It was not till he looked to the Cross, that the burden fell from his back and was felt no more. ‘Now,' said Mr. Newton, 'the gate through which you have to pass is a strait gate—you can but just squeeze in yourself. There is no room for self-righteousness; that must be left behind.'”

Taken from an article in the Evangelical Magazine and Missionary Chronicle, Volume 26, 1848.