Newton and me

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Kendall K. Down

May 8, 2022, 5:39:54 AMMay 8
We are reading a daily devotional called "365 Days with Newton",
published by Day One Publications, though we are not keeping to the
dates they expect. The compiler has gone through the unpublished diaries
and sermons of John Newton, the former slaver and author of "Amazing
Grace" and selected passages on various themes.

The reading for January 29, which we only read yesterday, contained
this, under the verse "But we know that the law is good, if a man use it
lawfully." 1 Timothy 1:8

The law is lawfully used as a rule of life. The grace of God, received
by faith, disposes us to obedience in general, but, through remaining
darkness and ignorance, we are much at a loss as to particulars. We are
therefore sent to the law to learn how to walk worthy of God and every
precept has its place and use. It is lawfully used as a test whereby to
judge of the exercise of grace. Believers differ so much from what they
once were and from what others yet are, that without this right use of
the law, comparing themselves with themselves or with others, they would
be prone to think much more highly of their attainments than they ought.
But when they try themselves by the standard, they sink into the dust
and cry with Job, 'I cannot answer thee one of a thousand'." From hence
you may see how the law is good to him who uses it lawfully. It
furnishes them with a comprehensive view of the will of God and the path
of duty. By the study of it they acquire an habitual spiritual taste of
what is right or wrong. The exercised believer, like a skillful workman,
has a rule in his hand whereby he can measure and determine with
certainty, whereas others judges, as it were, by the eye - can only make
a random guess, in which they are generally mistakn.

I was interested to see that Newton has the same view of the law that I
hold. We cannot be saved by keeping the law, but God's law defines for
us what is right and what is wrong. The grand principle of "love thy
neighbour" needs the law to tell us how that love is to be expressed and
what are unacceptable behaviours. It is the same with the "love the Lord
thy God", for without the law we are left to guess what is acceptable to
God - and as Newton says, we generally get it wrong!

It is obvious that Newton did not share the antinomian, do what you like
so long as you think that it is loving, views expressed by some on this
newsgroup. And I think it would be a particularly hardy antinomian that
would claim that Newton was in bondage to the law and didn't understand
the meaning of "grace".

God bless,
Kendall K. Down

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