THE PRACTICAL INFLUENCE OF FAITH A letter by John Newton
The use and importance of faith, as it respects a sinner’s justification before God, has been largely insisted on; but it is likewise of great use and importance in the daily concerns of life. It gives evidence and subsistence to things not seen, and realizes the great truths of the Gospel, so as that they become abiding and living principles of support and direction while we are passing through this wilderness. Thus, it is as the eye and the hand, without which we cannot take one step with certainty, or attempt any service with success. It is to be wished, that this practical exercise of faith were duly attended to by all professors. We should not then meet with so many cases that put us to a stand, and leave us at a great difficulty to reconcile what we see in some of whom we would willingly hope well, with what we read in Scripture of the inseparable concomitants of a -true and lively faith. For how can we but be staggered, when we hear persons speaking the language of assurance, – that they know their acceptance with God through Christ, and have not the least doubt of their interest in all the promises, – while at the same time we see them under the influence of’ unsanctilied tempers, of a proud, passionate, positive, worldly, selfish, or churlish carriage?
It is not only plain, from the general tenor of Scripture, that a covetous, a proud, or a censorious spirit, are no more consistent with the spirit of the Gospel, than drunkenness or whoredom; but there are many express texts directly pointed against the evils which too often are found amongst professors. Thus the Apostle James assures us, `That if any man seemeth to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, his religion is vain;’ and the Apostle John, `That if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him;’ and he seems to apply this character to any man, whatever his profession or pretences may be, `who having this world’s goods, and seeing his brother have need, shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him.’ Surely these texts more than intimate, that the faith which justifies the soul does likewise receive from Jesus grace for grace, whereby the heart is purified, and the conversation regulated as becomes the Gospel of Christ.
There are too many who would have the ministry of the Gospel restrained to the privileges of believers; and when the fruits of i’aith, and the tempers of the mind, which should be manifest in those who have `tasted that the Lord is gracious,’ are inculcated, think they sufficiently evade all that is said, by calling it legal preaching. I would be no advocate for legal preaching; but we must not be deterred, by the fear of a hard word, from declaring the whole counsel of God; and we have the authority and example of St. Paul, who was a champion of the doctrines
the corrupt customs and maxims of the world. The believer, though IN the world, is not of it: by faith he triumphs over its smiles and enticements: he sees that all that is in the world, suited to gratify the desires of the flesh or the eye, is not only to be avoided as sinful, but as incompatible with his best pleasures. He will mix with the world so far as is necessary, in the discharge of the duties of that station of life in which the providence of God has placed him, but no farther. His leisure and inclinations are engaged in a different pursuit. They who fear the Lord are his chosen companions: and the blessings he derives from the word, and throne, and ordinances of grace, make him look upon the poor pleasures and amusements of those who live without God in the world with a mixture of disdain and pity. And by faith he is proof against its frowns. He will obey God rather than man; he will `have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but will rather reprove them.’ And if, upon this account, he should be despised and injuriously treated, whatever loss he suffers in such a cause, he accounts his gain, and esteems such disgrace his glory.
I am not aiming to draw a perfect character, but to shew the proper effects of that faith which justifies, which purifies the heart, worketh by love, and overcomes the world. An habitual endeavour to possess such a frame of spirit, and thus to adorn the Gospel of Christ, and that with growing success, is what I am persuaded you are not a stranger to; and I am afraid that they who can content themselves with aiming at anything short of this in their profession, are too much strangers to themselves, and to the nature of that liberty wherewith Jesus has promised to make His people free. That you may go on from strength to strength, increasing in the light and image of our Lord and Saviour, is my sincere prayer.