John Newton to Rev. Scott, Letter IV(b): Divine sovereignty, November 17, 1775.fr

20130415-090207.jpgNovember 17, 1775.

“But this brings me to your second query.

II. Do I think that God, in the ordinary course of his providence, grants this assistance in an irresistible manner, or effects faith and conversion–without the sinner’s own hearty consent and concurrence? I rather chose to term grace invincible–than irresistible. For it is too often resisted even by those who believe; but, because it is invincible, it triumphs over all resistance–when He is pleased to bestow it.

For the rest, I believe no sinner is converted without his own hearty will and concurrence. But he is not willing–until he is divinely made so. Why does he at all refuse? Because he is insensible of his state; because he knows not the evil of sin, the strictness of the law, the majesty of God whom he has offended, nor the total apostasy of his heart; because he is blind to eternity, and ignorant of the excellency of Christ; because he is comparatively whole, and sees not his need of this great Physician; because he relies upon his own wisdom, power, and supposed righteousness. Now in this state of things, when God comes with a purpose of mercy–he begins by convincing the person of sin, judgment, and righteousness; he causes him to feel and know that he is a lost, condemned, helpless creature, and then reveals to him the necessity, sufficiency, and willingness of Christ to save those who are ready to perish, without money or price, without doings or deservings.

Then he sees saving faith to be very different from a rational assent, finds that nothing but the power of God can produce a well-grounded hope in the heart of a convinced sinner; therefore looks to Jesus, who is the author and finisher of faith, to enable him to believe. For this he waits on what we call the means of grace; he prays, he reads the Word, he thirsts for God, as the deer pants for the water brooks; and, though perhaps for a while he is distressed with many doubts and fears, he is encouraged to wait on, because Jesus has said, “Him that comes unto me–I will never cast out.” The obstinacy of the will remains while the understanding is dark–and ceases when the understanding is enlightened.

Suppose a man walking in the dark, where there are pits and precipices of which he is not aware. You are sensible of his danger, and call after him; but he thinks he knows better than you, refuses your advice, and is perhaps angry with you for your importunity. He sees no danger, therefore will not be persuaded that there is any; but if you go with a light, get before him, and show him plainly, that if he takes another step he falls into a deep precipice, then he will stop of his own accord, blame himself for not minding you before, and be ready to comply with your further directions. In either case man’s will acts with equal freedom; the difference of his conduct arises from conviction.

Something like this is the case of our spiritual concerns. Sinners are called and warned by the Word; but they are wise in their own eyes, and take but little notice–until the Lord gives them light, which He is not bound to give to any, and therefore cannot be bound to give to all. They who have it, have reason to be thankful, and subscribe to the apostle’s words, “By grace are you saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.”

I am not yet half done with my reply–but send this as a specimen of my willingness to clear my sentiments to you as far as I can. Unless it should please God to make what I offer satisfactory, I well know beforehand what objections and answers will occur to you; for these points have been often debated; and, after a course of twenty-seven years, in which religion has been the chief object of my thoughts and inquiries, I am not entirely a stranger to what can be offered on either side. What I write, I write simply and in love; beseeching him, who alone can set a seal to his own truth–to guide you and bless you. This letter has been more than a week in hand: I have been called from it I suppose ten times, frequently in the middle of a period or a line. My leisure time, which before was small, is now reduced almost to a nothing. But I am desirous to keep up my correspondence with you, because I feel an affectionate interest in you, and because it pleased God to put it into your heart to apply to me. You cannot think how your first letter struck me: it was so unexpected, and seemed so improbable that you should open your mind to me. I immediately conceived a hope that it would prove for good. Nor am I yet discouraged.

When you have leisure and inclination, write; I shall be always glad to hear from you, and I will proceed in answering what I have already by me, as fast as I can. But I have many letters now waiting for answers, which must be attended to.

I recommend you to the blessing and care of the Great Shepherd; and remain,

Your sincere friend and servant.

John Newton”

About John Newton

John Newton was born 24 July 1725, and died 21 December 1807. He was a former shipmaster and slave trader, turned minister of the gospel, and author of the famous hymn, Amazing Grace. I have published five letters that he wrote 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 Reverend Scott received from John Newton, he 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 IV.–Predestination–Divine sovereignty–Man made willing by the power of God.
Letter V: Reason and Scripture, Faith and Works

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