Sunday, April 18

Sunday Morning with John Newton

We all know John Newton as the author of the hymn Amazing Grace, but he wrote many other hymns and was also a longtime minister who had volumes of his sermons printed. Here is what his epitaph at St. Mary Woolnoth said:

Once an infidel and libertine
A servant of slaves in Africa,
Was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour
restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach
the Gospel which he had long laboured to destroy.
He ministered,
Near sixteen years in Olney, in Bucks,
And twenty-eight years in this Church.

Another of John Newton's hymns is How Sweet The Name of Jesus Sounds:

How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds
In a believer's ear!
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
And drives away his fear.

It makes the wounded spirit whole,
And calms the troubled breast;
'Tis manna to the hungry soul,
And to the weary, rest.

Dear Name, the Rock on which I build,
My Shield and Hiding Place,
My never failing treasury, filled
With boundless stores of grace!

By Thee my prayers acceptance gain,
Although with sin defiled;
Satan accuses me in vain,
And I am owned a child.

Jesus! my Shepherd, Husband, Friend,
O Prophet, Priest and King,
My Lord, my Life, my Way, my End,
Accept the praise I bring.

Weak is the effort of my heart,
And cold my warmest thought;
But when I see Thee as Thou art,
I'll praise Thee as I ought.

Till then I would Thy love proclaim
With every fleeting breath,
And may the music of Thy Name
Refresh my soul in death!

His sermon titled Labouring and Heavy Laden Sinners Promised Rest is based on the text from Matthew 11:28 which reads, "Come unto me, all ye that labor, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Here is an excerpt:
These, therefore, convinced, striving, and tempted souls, are the persons to whom Jesus says, "Come to me, and I will give you rest." The purport of this gracious invitation we are to consider hereafter. In the meantime rejoice in this, Jesus has foreseen your cases, and provided accordingly. He says, Come; that is, believe, as he himself expounds it: "He that cometh unto me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me, shall never thirst." I proceed to consider:

II. What it is to come to Christ. I have observed in general, that it appears to have the same signification with believing in him. But, that we may understand it more clearly, let us inquire:

How those to whom he personally spoke these words, in all probability understood them?....

1. It does not appear that those to whom our Lord spoke in person were so much perplexed as many are now, to know what coming or believing should mean; he seems to have been understood both by friends and enemies. Many questioned his authority and right to exact a dependence on himself; but they seemed to be at no difficulty about his meaning. It certainly implied more than a mere bodily coming into his presence. He was surrounded, and even followed by multitudes, who never came to him in the sense of his invitation. To such, while standing about him, he complained, "Ye will not come unto me, that ye may have life." Therefore, if we consult what is written of those who came to Jesus for relief, and obtained it, we may conclude that coming to him implies,

First. A persuasion of his power, and of their own need of his help. They knew that they wanted relief, and conceived of him as an extraordinary person empowered and able to succor them. This persuasion of Christ's sufficiency and willingness was then, as it is now, afforded in different degrees. The centurion spoke with full assurance: "Speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. The leper more dubiously: "Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean." Another, in still fainter language: "If thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us." The faith of this last was, as the man himself acknowledged, mixed with much unbelief and fear; yet Jesus did not despise the day of small things: he pardoned his suspicions, confirmed his fluctuating mind, granted him his request; and his case is recorded as an instance of how graciously he accepts and cherishes the feeblest effects of true faith: "He will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax."

Secondly. An actual application. This evidenced their faith to be right. They did not sit content with having heard of him, but improved it: they went to him, told him their cases, and implored his compassion. Their faith prevailed against all discouragements. In vain the multitude charged them to hold their peace; knowing that he only was able to relieve them, they cried so much the more a great deal. Even when he seemed to discover a great reserve, they still waited, and knew not how to depart without an answer. Nor could a sense of unworthiness, fear, or shame, keep them back, when once they had a strong persuasion of his power to save.

Thirdly. When he was sought to as a soul-physician, as was the case with many, whose bodily diseases he healed, and with others who were not sick, those who came to him continued with him, and became his followers. They depended on him for salvation, received him as their Lord and Master, professed an obedience to his precepts, accepted a share in his reproach, and renounced everything that was inconsistent with his will. Some had a more express and open call to this, as Matthew, who was sitting at the receipt of customs, regardless of Jesus, till he passed by him, and said, "Follow me." That word accompanied with the power of his love, won his heart, and diverted him from the worldly pursuits in an instant. Others were more secretly drawn by his Spirit and providence, as Nathanael, and the weeping penitent who silently washed his feet with her tears; and this was the design and effect of many of their bodily and family afflictions. The man who was brought to be healed of the palsy, received the forgiveness of his sins; and the ruler who first came to Jesus with no other view than to obtain the life of his son, obtained much more than he asked or expected. The Lord afforded such an affecting sense of his power and goodness upon that occasion, that he from thenceforth believed, with all his house.