John Newton to Rev. Scott, Letter I: Religious knowledge gradual

20130220-084056.jpgJune 23, 1775.

“Dear Sir,

I have met with interruptions until now–or you would have heard from me sooner. My thoughts have run much upon the subject of your last letter, because I perceive it has a near connection with your peace. Your integrity greatly pleases me; far be it from me to shake the principle of your conduct. Yet, in the application, I think there is a possibility of carrying your exceptions too far.

The truths of Scripture are not like mathematical theorems, which present exactly the same ideas to every person who understands the terms. The Word of God is compared to a mirror, 2 Corinthians 3:18; but it is a mirror in which the longer we look–the more we see! The view will be still growing upon us; and still we shall see but in part while on this side eternity. When our Lord pronounced Peter blessed, declaring he had learned that which flesh and blood could not have taught him–yet Peter was at that time much in the dark. The sufferings and death of Jesus, though the only and necessary means of his salvation, were an offence to him; but he lived to glory in what he once could not bear to hear of. Peter had received grace to love the Lord Jesus, to follow him, to venture all, and to forsake all for him: these first good dispositions were of God, and they led to further advances.

So it is still. People may, by industry and natural abilities, have much to say for and against different schemes and systems of theology–but all this while the heart remains untouched. True religion is not a science of the head–so much as an inward and heart-felt perception, which casts down imaginations, and every lofty thing that exalts itself in the mind, and brings every thought into a sweet and willing subjection to Christ by faith. Here the learned have no real advantage over the ignorant! Both see–only when the eyes of the understanding are enlightened! Until then–both are equally blind. The first lesson in the school of Christ–is to become a little child, sitting simply at His feet, that we may be made wise unto salvation.

I set a great value upon your offer of friendship, which I trust will not be interrupted on either side, by the freedom with which we mutually express our difference of sentiments when we are constrained to differ. You please me with entrusting me with the first rough draught of your thoughts; and you may easily perceive, by my manner of writing, that I place equal confidence in your candor. I shall be glad to exchange letters as often as it suits us, without constraint, ceremony, or apology; and may He who is always present with our hearts make our correspondence useful. I pray God to be your sun and shield, your light and strength, to guide you with his eye, to comfort you with his gracious presence in your own soul, and to make you a happy instrument of comforting many.” – John Newton

About John Newton

John Newton was a former shipmaster and slave trader, turned minister of the gospel, and author of the famous hymn, Amazing Grace. He was born 24 July 1725, and died 21 December 1807.

These five letters were written to a fellow clergyman by the name of Rev. Thomas Scott, who held to Socinian beliefs.

“Socinianism denies the full deity of Christ, predestination, original sin, total inability (of man to convert himself), the atonement as a penal satisfaction, and justification by faith alone.” (Theopedia)

Through these thoughtful and gracious letters received from John Newton, Rev. Scott accepted the gospel in its fulness, and was born again. The story of his conversion and shift from Socinianism to embracing the good news as expressed in Evangelical Christianity can be read in his brief autobiography, The Force of Truth.

Letter I.–Religious knowledge gradual.
Letter II: Sincerety, the Trinity, the Way of Salvation
Letter III: The New Birth, the Gospel, Human Depravity
Letter IVa: Predestination
Letter IVb: Divine Sovereignty
Letter V: Reason and Scripture, Faith and Works

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