Tuesday, November 8, 2016

My Year with Newton #11

Today I am continuing to share my reading experience with John Newton. I have completed John Newton's sermon series on Handel's Messiah. I am moving on to his LETTERS. 

Today I am sharing snippets from "Assurance of Salvation" dating from 1795.
We may easily conceive of a tree without fruit—but the idea of fruit is naturally connected with that of some tree which produces it. In this sense, assurance is the essence of faith; that is—it springs from true faith, and can grow upon no other root. Faith likewise is the measure of assurance. While faith is weak, (our Lord compares it, in its first principle, to a grain of mustard seed,) assurance cannot be strong.
Jesus Christ the Lord is a complete all-sufficient Savior. His invitation to the weary and heavy-laden is general, without exception, condition, or limitation. He has said, him who comes unto me, I will never cast out. God not only permits—but commands us to believe in the Son of his love. The apostle affirms that he is able to save.
A strong faith can trust God in the dark, and say with Job, "Though he slays me—yet will I trust in him." Yet it is not to be maintained without a diligent use of the instituted means of grace, and a conscientious attention to the precepts of the gospel. For mere notions of truth, destitute of power—will not keep the heart in peace. But this power depends upon the influence of the Holy Spirit; and if he is grieved by the willful commission of sin, or the willful neglect of the precepts—he hides his face, suspends his influence, and then confidence must proportionable decline, until he is pleased to return and revive it.
Unbelief is the primary cause of all our inquietude, from the moment that our hearts are drawn to seek salvation by Jesus. This inability to take God at his Word, should not be merely lamented as an infirmity—but watched, and prayed, and fought against as a great sin. A great sin indeed it is; the very root of our apostasy, from which every other sin proceeds.
Unbelief often deceives us under the guise of humility, as though it would be presumption, in such sinners as we are, to believe the declarations of the God of truth. Many serious people, who are burdened with a sense of other sins, leave this radical evil, unbelief, out of their list of sin.
Why do we not startle with horror—at the workings of unbelief, as we should do at a suggestion to commit murder, or the grossest outward enormity?
Again, our natural pride is a great hindrance to true faith. If we acknowledge ourselves to be sinners, and are sensible of our need of mercy—we are not easily brought to see that we are so totally depraved, so exceedingly vile, so utterly destitute of all good, as the Word of God describes us to be. A secret dependence upon our prayers, tears, resolutions, repentance and endeavors, prevents us from looking solely and simply to the Savior, so as to ground our whole hope for acceptance upon his obedience unto death, and his whole mediation.
A true believer will doubtless repent and pray, and forsake his former evil ways—but he is not accepted upon the account of what he does or feels—but because Jesus lived and died, and rose and reigns on the behalf of sinners, and because he is enabled by grace to trust in him for salvation.
Further, pride leads us into that spirit of vain reasoning, which is contrary to the simplicity of living by faith. Until this is renounced, until we become in some measure like little children, and receive the doctrines of Scripture implicitly, because they are from God, requiring no further proof of any point than a Thus says the Lord—we cannot be established in our hope.
Such is the progress of divine light in the mind—the first streaks of the dawn are seldom perceived; but, by degrees, objects, until then unthought of, are revealed. The evil of sin, the danger of the soul, the reality and importance of eternal things—are apprehended, and a hope of mercy through a Savior is discovered, which prevents the sinner from sinking into absolute despair. But for a time—all is indistinct and confused.
In this state of mind, many things are anxiously sought for as pre-requisites to believing—but they are sought in vain, for it is only by believing that they can be obtained. But the light increases, the sun arises, the glory of God in the person of Jesus Christ shines in upon the soul. As the sun can only be seen by its own light, and diffuses that light by which other objects are clearly perceived; so Christ crucified is the sun in the system of revealed truth; and the right knowledge of the doctrine of his cross satisfies the inquiring mind, proves itself to be the one thing needful, and the only thing necessary to silence the objections of unbelief and pride, and to afford a sure ground for solid and abiding hope. Once more—we cannot be safely trusted with assurance—until we have that knowledge of the evil and deceitfulness of our hearts, which can be acquired only by painful, repeated experience.
The prospect of that blessed hope assuredly laid up for him in heaven—will make him patient under all his appointed trials in the present life, wean him from an attachment to the world, and preserve him from being much affected either by the smiles or the frowns of mortals. To hear people talk much of their 'assurance', and that they are freed from all doubts and fears—while they habitually indulge proud, angry, resentful, discontented tempers, or while they are eagerly grasping after the world, like those who seek their whole portion in it—is painful and disgusting to a serious Christian! Let us pity them, and pray for them; for we have great reason to fear that they do not understand what they say, nor what they affirm!
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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