In a letter to a woman with whom Newton shares a common acquaintance, who differs from them both on some serious areas of doctrine: “An experimental knowledge of Jesus, as the deliverer from sin and wrath, and the author of eternal life and salvation to all who are enabled to believe, is a sufficient ground for union of heart: in this point, all who are taught of God are of one mind. But an eager fighting for or against those points which are usually made the subjects of controversy, tends to nourish pride and evil tempers in ourselves, and to alienate our hearts from those we hope to spend an eternity with. In heaven we shall neither be Dissenters, Moravians, nor Methodists; neither Calvinists nor Arminians; but followers of the Lamb, and children of the kingdom. There we shall hear the voice of war no more.”
On being in unavoidable circumstances which are not the most desired for spiritual growth – like being employed all day among unbelievers: “Now, if I find myself in the midst of things disagreeable enough in themselves to the spiritual life; yet if, when the question occurs, What dost thou here? my heart can answer, I am here by the will of God; I believe it to be, all things considered, my duty to be here at this time, rather than elsewhere. If, I say, I am tolerably satisfied of this, then I would not burden and grieve myself about what I cannot avoid or alter, but endeavour to take all such things up with cheerfulness, as a part of my daily cross; since I am called, not only to do the will of God, but to suffer it: but if I am doing my own will rather than his, then I have reason to fear, lest I should meet with either a snare or a sting at every step.”
In a letter filled with profuse congratulations over his friend’s recent marriage (a young woman), Newton also includes a warning not to place so much emphasis on the joys of marriage, that she forget these are blessings blessings from God, but at that, temporal. “But, alas! we are poor creatures, prone to wander, prone to admire our gourds, cleave to our cisterns, and think of building tabernacles, and taking our rest in this polluted world. Hence the Lord often sees it necessary, in mercy to his children, to embitter their sweets, to break their cisterns, send a worm to their gourds, and draw a dark cloud over their pleasing prospects. His word tells us, that all here is vanity, compared with the light of his countenance; and if we cannot or will not believe it upon the authority of his word, we must learn it by experience.”
What a word to so many who would imagine their true happiness to be found only in one of the temporal relationships God grants us here and now in spouses, friends and even children. How quickly we can turn His gifts into idols.