While most know the story of John Newton as the author of the hymn, “Amazing Grace,” most are unaware of all the variety of struggles he endured in his life.
For instance, after believing God had called him to vocational ministry as a pastor, it was seven years before he was able to be ordained. He was denied ordination without just cause on at least five occasions. He was criticized by the superiors in the church, by his wife’s family, and even by friends, for his ecclesiastical associations.
But despite the criticisms, Newton remained faithful to his Lord. In the midst of the trials, he wrote to one friend, “I do not like disgrace or poverty, but I fear God more than either. Is this absurd? I would do much to please my friends, but I would do more to please him who died for me.”
So when John wrote letters to the suffering, exhorting them to trust in the Lord, he wrote out of a framework that both understood Scripture and had experienced the sufficiency of Scripture. Read the following excerpts from two letters to the same individual, recognizing they are penned by a man who knew well the power of God to sustain in suffering:
An evil heart, an evil temper, and the many crosses we meet with in passing through an evil world, will cut us out trouble: but the Lord has provided a balm for every wound, a cordial for every care; the fruit of all is to take away sin, and the end of all will be eternal life in glory. Think of these words; put them in the balance of the sanctuary; and then throw all your trials into the opposite scale, and you will find there is no proportion between them. Say then, “Though He slay me, I will trust in Him; for when He has fully tried me, I shall come forth like gold.”
And in a second letter he also wrote:
The Lord afflicts us at times; but it is always a thousand times less than we deserve, and much less than many of our fellow-creatures are suffering around us. Let us therefore pray for grace to be humble, thankful, and patient.