Every Friday we will interact with one of Newton’s Letters. Because I have already done this a few times in the past I will direct your attention to a previous article on Borrowed Light: The Varying Frames of a Believer
Friday, January 28, 2011
Friday, January 21, 2011
Every Friday we will interact with one of Newton’s Letters. Because I have already done this a few times in the past I will direct your attention to a previous article on Borrowed Light: The Danger of Following Men Instead of Christ
Friday, January 14, 2011
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
When Hannah pressed with grief,
Poured forth her soul in prayer;
She quickly found relief,
And left her burden there:
Like her, in every trying case,
Let us approach the throne of grace.
When she began to pray,
Her heart was pained and sad;
But ere she went away,
Was comforted and glad:
In trouble, what a resting place,
Have they who know the throne of grace!
Though men and devils rage,
And threaten to devour;
The saints, from age to age,
Are safe from all their pow’r:
Fresh strength they gain to run their race,
By waiting at the throne of grace.
Eli her case mistook,
How was her spirit moved
By his unkind rebuke?
But GOD her cause approved.
We need not fear a creature’s face,
While welcome at a throne of grace.
She was not filled with wine,
As Eli rashly thought;
But with a faith divine,
And found the help file sought:
Though men despise and call us base,
Still let us ply the throne of grace.
Men have not pow’r or skill,
With troubled souls to bear;
Though they express good–will,
Poor comforters they are:
But swelling sorrows sink apace,
When we approach the throne of grace.
Numbers before have tried,
And found the promise true;
Nor one been yet denied,
Then why should I or you?
Let us by faith their footsteps trace,
And hasten to the throne of grace.
As fogs obscure the light,
And taint the morning air;
But soon are put to flight,
If the bright sun appear;
Thus Jesus will our troubles chase,
By shining from the throne of grace.
Oh, how sweet indeed is the throne of grace. There is much in this hymn to cause us to meditate upon and appreciate the truth that we are “welcome at the throne of grace”.
But I actually want to look briefly at Newton’s 6th stanza. I am left to wonder if he ever felt this with William Cowper. I imagine that he did. And I would say that he through his own experience had plenty of “poor comforters” visit him. And I would say that Newton himself at times was guilty of being a “poor comforter”. He knew that the best thing you can do for a grieving sinner/saint is to take them to the throne of grace.
Let us go there, through the blood of Jesus, ourselves. It is only hear that we can find healing!
Monday, January 10, 2011
The lion that on Sampson roared,
And thirsted for his blood;
With honey afterwards was stored,
And furnished him with food.
Believers, as they pace along,
With many lions meet;
But gather sweetness from the strong,
And from the eater, meat.
The lions rage and roar in vain,
For Jesus is their shield;
Their losses prove a certain gain,
Their troubles comfort yield.
The world and Satan join their strength,
To fill their souls with fears;
But crops of joy they reap at length,
From what they sow in tears.
Afflictions make them love the word,
Stir up their hearts to prayer;
And many precious proofs afford,
Of their Redeemer’s care.
The lions roar but cannot kill,
Then fear them not, my friends,
They bring us, though against their will,
The honey JESUS sends.
This is one of my favorite hymns that Newton has written. Through a lifetime of hardships and disappointments Newton understood this hymn by experience. Certainly he was living in a time of “honey” when he wrote this. But he knew full well the experience of lions roaring and “Satan and the world” attempting to fill his soul with fear.
It is not only experience that caused Newton to write this. It is also the fact that the truth in this hymn is the testimony of Scripture and countless saints through the ages. The enemies of God bring to us “though against their will, the honey Jesus sends”.
How remarkable is the grace and sovereignty of God that He can, and does, use even enemies of the gospel and even Satan himself to richly bless us with the sweetness of Christ. So, no matter your situation today know that the Lord can gather “from the eater, meat”.
Sunday, January 9, 2011
When Israel heard the fiery law,
From Sinai’s top proclaimed;
Their hearts seemed full of holy awe,
Their stubborn spirits tamed.
Yet, as forgetting all they knew,
Ere forty days were past;
With blazing Sinai still in view,
A molten calf they cast.
Yea, Aaron, God’s anointed priest,
Who on the mount had been
He durst prepare the idol–beast,
And lead them on to sin.
LORD, what is man! and what are we,
To recompense thee thus!
In their offence our own we see,
Their story points at us.
From Sinai we have heard thee speak,
And from mount Calv’ry too;
And yet to idols oft we seek,
While thou art in our view.
Some golden calf, or golden dream,
Some fancied creature–good,
Presumes to share the heart with him,
Who bought the whole with blood.
LORD, save us from our golden calves,
Our sin with grief we own;
We would no more be thine by halves,
But live to thee alone.
One of the keys to understanding Newton is to understand the way that he interpreted Scripture. If we are not cautious it is easy to read stories of bad characters of the Bible, turn our nose to them, attempt to not be like them, and never look at our own hearts.
Newton was careful to see himself in the worst of characters. Notice in the fourth stanza how Newton says, “in their offence our own we see, their story points at us”. This is typical Newton. And this is what caused him to remain humble and to drink deeply of grace.
So, keep this in mind as your read through Scripture. When you read of David’s sin against Bathsheba know that it is only grace and/or opportunity that separates you from his fall. The only thing that will hold a David, and the only thing that will hold you, is the Christ-given Spirit of God.
Saturday, January 8, 2011
Was gathered day by day;
When all the host was served, the heat
Melted the rest away.
In vain to hoard it up they tried,
Against tomorrow came;
It then bred worms and putrefied,
And proved their sin and shame.
’Twas daily bread and would not keep,
But must be still renewed;
Faith should not want a hoard or heap,
But trust the LORD for food.
The truths by which the soul is fed,
Must thus be had afresh;
For notions resting in the head,
Will only feed the flesh.
However true, they have no life,
Or unction to impart;
They breed the worms of pride and strife,
But cannot cheer the heart.
Nor can the best experience past,
The life of faith maintain;
The brightest hope will faint at last,
Unless supplied again.
Dear Lord, while we in prayer are found,
Do thou the Manna give;
O! let it fall on all around,
That we may eat and live.
I am still chewing on this one. The fourth, fifth, and sixth stanza are intriguing to me. I understand what Newton is saying here, but I am not certain that I fully grasp it.
What he is saying is that we cannot simply get by with past knowledge, past experience, or a past work of grace. Our faith and experience must be vibrant and alive. Just like the Israelites needed new manna everyday so we need a new experience of grace each day. He is saying something similar to Jerry Bridges that we need to preach the gospel to ourselves every day.
Where I am stumbling is in understanding the connection between rotting manna and pride. How is it that “notions resting in the head will only feed the flesh”? What do you think? How does a truth embraced coldly breed pride and strife?
I think it may have something to do with this: The Necessity of Personal Wrestling.