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Archive for the ‘providence’ Category

Letter by John Newton – the fourth letter of Four Letters to Mrs. P****

It is a shame for a Christian and a minister to say he has no subject at hand, when the inexhaustible theme of redeeming love is ever pressing upon our attention. I will tell you then, though you know it, that the Lord reigns. He who once bore our sins, and carried our sorrows, is seated upon a throne of glory, and exercises all power in heaven and on earth. Thrones, principalities, and powers, bow before him. Every event in the kingdoms of providence and of grace are under his rule. His providence pervades and manages the whole, and is as minutely attentive to every part as if there were only that single object in his view. From the tallest archangel to the meanest ant or fly, all depend on him for their being, their preservation, and their powers. He directs the sparrows where to build their nests, and to find their food. He over–rules the rise and fall of nations, and bends, with an invincible energy and unerring wisdom, all events; so that while many intend nothing less, in the issue their designs all concur and coincide in the accomplishment of his holy will.

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Letter by John Newton – the third letter of Four Letters to Mrs. P****

I hope the good people at Bristol, and every where else, are praying for our sinful, distracted land, in this dark day. The Lord is angry, the sword is drawn, and I am afraid nothing but the spirit of wrestling prayer can prevail for the returning it into the scabbard. Could things have proceeded to these extremities, except the Lord had withdrawn his salutary blessing …? It is a time of prayer. We see the beginning of trouble, but who can foresee the possible consequences? The fire is kindled; but how far it may spread, those who are above may perhaps know better than we. I meddle not with the disputes of party, nor concern myself with any political maxims, but such as are laid down in Scripture. There I read that righteousness exalteth a nation, and that sin is the reproach, and, if persisted in, the ruin of any people.

Some people are startled at the enormous sum of our national debt: they who understand spiritual arithmetic may be well startled if they sit down and compute the debt of national sin. Imprimis, Infidelity: Item, Contempt of the Gospel: Item, The profligacy of manners: Item, Perjury … It would take sheets, yea quires, to draw out the particulars under each of these heads, and then much would remain untold. What can we answer, when the Lord saith, "Shall not I visit for these things? Shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?" … I am just so much affected with these things as to know, that I am not affected enough. Oh! my spirit is sadly cold and insensible, or I should lay them to heart in a different manner: yet I endeavor to give the alarm as far as I can. There is one political maxim which comforts me: "The Lord reigns." His hand guides the storm; and he knows them that are his, how to protect, support, and deliver them. He will take care of his own cause; yea, he will extend his kingdom, even by these formidable methods. Men have one thing in view; He has another, and his counsel shall stand.

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And his faith upholds him under all trials, by assuring him, that every dispensation is under the direction of his Lord; that chastisements are a token of his love; that the season, measure, and continuance of his sufferings, are appointed by Infinite Wisdom, and designed to work for his everlasting good; and that grace and strength shall be afforded him, according to his day. Thus, his heart being fixed, trusting in the Lord, to whom he has committed all his concerns; and knowing that his best interests are safe; he is not greatly afraid of evil tidings, but enjoys a stable peace in the midst of a changing world. For, though he cannot tell what a day may bring forth, he believes that He who has invited and enabled him to cast all his cares upon him, will suffer nothing to befall him but what shall be made subservient to his chief desire,––the glory of God in the sanctification and final salvation of his soul. And if, through the weakness of his flesh, he is liable to be startled by the first impression of a sharp and sudden trial, he quickly flees to his strong refuge, remembers it is the Lord’s doing, resigns himself to his will, and patiently expects a happy issue. JOHN NEWTON, LETTER VI OF THE PRACTICAL INFLUENCE OF FAITH.

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Silly worm

The counsels of a boundless being are not to be scanned by the brain of a silly worm, that hath breathed but a few minutes in the world. Since eternity cannot be comprehended in time, it is not to be judged by a creature of time.

Source: Stephen Charnock, “Existence and Attributes of God”

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There are hard texts in the works [of providence] as well as in the Word of God. It becomes us modestly and humbly to show reverence, but not to dogmatize too boldly and positively upon them. (Flavel, The Mystery of Providence, 141)

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God moves in a mysterious way

His wonders to perform;

He plants His footsteps in the sea,

And rides upon the storm.

 

Deep in unfathomable mines

Of never-failing skill

He treasures up His bright designs,

And works His sovereign will.

 

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,

The clouds ye so much dread

Are big with mercy, and shall break

In blessings on your head.

 

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,

But trust Him for His grace;

Behind a frowning providence

He hides a smiling face.

 

His purposes will ripen fast,

Unfolding every hour;

The bud may have a bitter taste,

But sweet will be the flower.

 

Blind unbelief is sure to err,

And scan his work in vain;

God is His own interpreter,

And He will make it plain.

 

Source: William Cowper

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If all things work for good, hence learn that there is a providence. Things do not work of themselves, but God sets them working for good. God is the great Disposer of all events and issues, He sets everything working. “His kingdom ruleth over all” Psalm 103:19. It is meant of His providential kingdom. Things in the world are not governed by second causes, by the counsels of men, by the stars and planets, but by divine providence. Providence is the queen and governess of the world. There are three things in providence: God’s foreknowing, God’s determining, and God’s directing all things to their periods and events.

Source: Thomas Watson, A Divine Cordial (1633) Republished All Things For Good, Puritan Paperback, 55.

Note: God foreknows the future because he has determined ends and directs the bringing about of those ends c.f. Isaiah

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… there were many Jews in Israel who were called wise men, but the star did not appear to any of them; rather it shone only on Gentile eyes, and led a chosen company from the ends of the earth to bow at Immanuel’s feet. Sovereignty in these cases clothed itself in the robes of mercy. It was a great mercy that regarded the low estate of the shepherds, and it was a far reaching mercy which gathered from lands which lay in darkness a company of men and allowed them to see God’s wonderful and blessed Savior.

Source: Spurgeon, The Wise Men, the Star, and the Savior

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This is a great inducement to us to repent. There is nothing like the consideration of divine grace to break the heart, both for sin and from sin. That is evangelical repentance, that flows from a sight of Christ, from a sense of his love, and the hopes of pardon and forgiveness through him.

Source: Henry, ‘Matthew 3’

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… the temptations which befall us are not accidental, or regulated by the will of Satan, without God’s permission; but that the Spirit of God presides over our contests as an exercise of our faith. This will aid us in cherishing the assured hope, that God, who is the supreme judge and disposer of the combat,  will not be unmindful of us, but will fortify us against those distresses, which he sees that we are unable to meet.

Source: Calvin, Matthew 4

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"I have learnt to kiss the wave that strikes me against the Rock of Ages"

Source: Spurgeon

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I have learned to kiss the wave that strikes me against the Rock of Ages.

source: C.H. Spurgeon

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