Tuesday, December 6, 2016

My Year with Newton #15

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'm sharing snippets from "The Inefficacy of Mere Knowledge."
Dear Sir, To be enabled to form a clear, consistent, and comprehensive judgment of the truths revealed in the Scripture, is a great privilege; but those who possess it are exposed to the temptation of thinking too highly of themselves, and too lowly of others, especially of those who not only refuse to adopt their sentiments, but venture to oppose them.
I know nothing, as a means, more likely to correct this evil, than a serious consideration of the amazing difference between our acquired judgment, and our actual experience; or, in other words, how little influence our knowledge and judgment have upon our own conduct.
If we estimate our knowledge by its effects, and value it no farther than it is experimental and operative (which is the proper standard whereby to try it), we shall find it so faint and feeble as hardly to deserve the name.
How firmly, for instance, are we persuaded, in our judgments, that God is omnipresent! Great as the difficulties may be which attend our conceptions of this point, the truth itself is controverted by few. It is generally acknowledged by unawakened people; and, I may add, too frequently known even by believers—as if they knew it not!
If the eyes of the Lord are in every place, how strong a guard should this thought be upon the conduct of those who profess to fear him!
Even in the exercise of prayer, by which we profess to draw near the Lord, the consideration that his eye is upon us, has little power to engage our attention, or prevent our thoughts from wandering, like the fool's eyes, to the ends of the earth.
Farther, if our sense that God is always present, was in any good measure answerable to the conviction of our judgment, would it not be an effectual preservative from the many importunate though groundless fears with which we are harassed?
God says, "Fear not, I am with you;" he promises to be a shield and a guard to those who put their trust in him; yet, though we profess to believe his word, and to hope that he is our protector, we seldom think ourselves safe, even in the path of duty, a moment longer than danger is kept out of our view.
Little reason have we to value ourselves upon our knowledge of this indisputable truth, when it has no more effective and habitual influence upon our conduct!
The doctrine of God's sovereignty likewise, though not so generally owned as the former, is no less fully assented to by those who are called Calvinists. We zealously contend for this point, in our debates with the Arminians; and are ready to wonder that any should be hardy enough to dispute the Creator's right to do what he will with his own.
While we are only engaged in defense of the election of grace, and have a comfortable hope that we are ourselves of that number, we seem so convinced, by the arguments the Scripture affords us in support of this truth, that we can hardly forbear charging our adversaries with perverse obstinacy and pride, for opposing it. Undoubtedly the ground of this opposition lies in the pride of the human heart: but this evil principle is not confined to any party; and occasions frequently arise, when those who contend for the Divine sovereignty are little more practically influenced by it than their opponents!
This humiliating doctrine concludes as strongly for submission to the will of God, under every circumstance of life, as it does for our acquiescing in his purpose to have saving mercy on whom he will have mercy. But, alas! how often do we find ourselves utterly unable to apply it, so as to reconcile our spirits to those afflictions which he is pleased to allot us!
He chooses for his people better than they could choose for themselves! If they are in heaviness, there is a need-be for it. And he withholds nothing from them but what, upon the whole, it is better they should be without. Thus the Scriptures teach, and thus we profess to believe.
But when the case is our own, when we are troubled on every side, or touched in the tenderest part—how difficult is it to feel the force of these reasonings, though we know they are true to a demonstration! Then, unless we are endued with fresh strength from on high, we are as liable to complain and despond, as if we thought our afflictions sprung out of the ground, and the Lord had forgotten to be gracious!
We seem to be as sure that we are weak, sinful, fallible creatures—as we are that we exist; and yet we are prone to act as if we were wise and perfect.
Without renewed and continual communications from the Spirit of grace, he is unable to withstand the smallest temptation, to endure the slightest trial, to perform the least service in a due manner, or even to think a good thought!
From hence we may observe, that believers who have most Biblical knowledge, are not therefore necessarily the most spiritual.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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