Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Vindicate Me, O Lord

Psalm 7

O Lord my God, in thee have I put my trust; save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me, lest he devour my soul like a lion and tear it in pieces while there is none to help.

O Lord my God, if I have done any such thing, or if there be any wickedness in my hands, if I have rewarded evil unto him that dealt friendly with me (yea, I have delivered him that without cause is mine enemy), then let mine enemy persecute my soul, and take me; yea, let him tread my life down upon the earth and lay mine honour in the dust.

Stand up, O Lord, in thy wrath, and lift up thyself because of the indignation of mine enemies; arise up for me in the judgement thou has commanded.  And so shall the congregation of the people come about for thee; for their sakes therefore lift up thyself again. 
The Lord shall judge the people; give sentence with me, O Lord, according to my righteousness and according to the innocency that is in me.  O let the wickedness of the ungodly come to an end; but guide thou the just.  For the righteous God trieth the very hearts and reins. My help cometh of God, who preserveth them that are true of heart.  God is a righteous Judge, strong and patient; and God is provoked every day. 
If a man will not turn, he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow and made it ready.  He hath prepared for him the instruments of death; he ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors.  Behold, he travaileth with iniquity; he hath conceived sorrow, and brought forth ungodliness.  He hath graven and dug up a pit and is fallen himself into the destruction that he made for others.  For his travail shall come upon his own head and his wickedness shall fall on his own skull.

I will give thanks unto the Lord, according to his righteousness; and I will praise the Name of the Lord Most High.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Music Monday: The Rescues

Thank you, Rhonda, for sharing this song with its tight harmonies!'s a very visually creative offering from the same group, The Rescues:

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Tough Roots of Habitual Tenderness V

Newton's Realism about the Limits of This Life
Few things will tend to make you more tender than to be much in the presence of suffering and death. "My course of study," Newton said, "like that of a surgeon, has principally consisted in walking the hospital." His biblical assessment of the misery that he saw was that some, but not much, of it can be removed in this life. He would give his life to bring as much relief and peace for time and eternity as he could. But he would not be made hard and cynical by the irremediable miseries like Cowper's mental illness. "I endeavor to walk through the world as a physician goes through Bedlam [the famous insane asylum]: the patients make a noise, pester him with impertinence, and hinder him in his business; but he does the best he can, and so gets through." In other words, his tender patience and persistence in caring for difficult people came, in part, from a very sober and realistic view of what to expect from this world.
Just as we saw at the beginning there are no perfect ministers, so there are no perfect lay people. This must not discourage us, but only make us patient as we wait for the day when all things will be new. Newton gives beautiful, concrete expression to this conviction as he watches the dawn outside his window.
The day is now breaking: how beautiful its appearance! how welcome the expectation of the approaching sun! It is this thought makes the dawn agreeable, that it is the presage of a brighter light; otherwise, if we expect no more day than it is this minute, we should rather complain of darkness, than rejoice in the early beauties of the morning. Thus the Life of grace is the dawn of immortality: beautiful beyond expression, if compared with the night and thick darkness which formerly covered us; yet faint, indistinct, and unsatisfying, in comparison of the glory which shall be revealed.
This sober realism about what we can expect from this fallen world is a crucial root of habitual tenderness in the life of John Newton.
Newton's All-Pervasive Humility and Gratitude at Having Been Saved
This he comes back to more than anything as the source of tenderness. Till the day he died he never ceased to be amazed that, as he says at age 72, "such a wretch should not only be spared and pardoned, but reserved to the honour of preaching thy Gospel, which he had blasphemed and renounced . . . this is wonderful indeed! The more thou hast exalted me, the more I ought to abase myself."
The effect of this amazement is tenderness toward others. "[The 'wretch' who has been saved by grace] believes and feels his own weakness and unworthiness, and lives upon the grace and pardoning love of his Lord. This gives him an habitual tenderness and gentleness Spirit. Humble under a sense of much forgiveness to himself, he finds it easy to forgive others."

He puts it in a picture:
A company of travellers fall into a pit: one of them gets a passenger to draw him out. Now he should not be angry with the rest for falling in; nor because they are not yet out, as he is. He did not pull himself out: instead, therefore, of reproaching them, he should shew them pity. . . . A man, truly illuminated, will no more despise others, than Bartimaeus, after his own eyes were opened, would take a stick, and beat every blind man he met. 
Glad-hearted, grateful lowliness and brokenness as a saved "wretch" was probably the most prominent root of Newton's habitual tenderness with people.

Newton's Peaceful Confidence in the Pervasive, Loving Providence of God
In order to maintain love and tenderness that thinks more about the other person's need than your own comforts, you must have an unshakable hope that the sadness of your life will work for your everlasting good. Otherwise you will give in, turn a deaf ear to need and say, "Let us eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die." Newton found this peace and confidence in the all-governing providence of God over good and evil. He describes his own experience when he describes the believer:
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.
This keeps him from being overwhelmed with anger and bitterness and resentment when he is assaulted with pressures and disappointments. It is as practical as pastoral interruptions: "When I hear a knock at my study door, I hear a message from God. It may be a lesson of instruction; perhaps a lesson of patience: but, since it is his message, it must be interesting." He knew that even his temptations were ordered by the sovereign goodness of God and that not to have any was dangerous for the soul. He approved of Samuel Rutherford's comment, that "there is no temptation like being without temptation."
And this same faith in God's gracious providence to help him profit from the painful things in life, also spares from the pleasant things in life that would deceive him that they are best and choke off the superior pleasures he has in God. If the world triumphs in this way, we will lose our joy in Christ and his mercy, and that will be the end of all Christ-exalting tenderness. So it is a crucial root of his habitual tenderness when he says, "By faith [the believer] triumphs over [the world's] 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."
John Newton's habitual tenderness is rooted in the sober realism of the limits of redemption in this fallen world where "we groan awaiting the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23); the all-pervasive humility and gratitude for having been a blasphemer of the gospel and now being a heaven-bound preacher of it; and the unshakable confidence that the all-governing providence of God will make every experience turn for his good so that he doesn't spend his life murmuring, "My carriage is broken, my carriage is broken," but sings, "Tis grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home."

(The fifth and final excerpt from a lecture for pastors by John Piper; the full text and audio can be found here.)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Tough Roots of Habitual Tenderness IV

One other aspect of the pattern of Newton's tenderness calls for attention. It is the language he used in making the truth winsome and healing. Newton had the eye and heart and tongue of a spiritual poet, and this gave his speech a penetrating power that many Reformed preachers desperately need. He wrote hymns and poems for his people and for special occasions. Instead of excessive abstraction in his preaching, there was the concrete word and illustration. Instead of generalizing, there was the specific bird or flower or apple or shabby old man.

He had an eye that saw everything as full of divine light for ministry to people. For example, in his diary for July 30, 1776 Newton describes his watching the eclipse of the moon.
Tonight I attended an eclipse of the moon. How great, O Lord, are thy works! With what punctuality do the heavenly bodies fulfill their courses. . . . I thought, my Lord, of Thine eclipse. The horrible darkness which overwhelmed Thy mind when Thou saidst, "Why hast thou forsaken me?" Ah, sin was the cause—my sins—yet I do not hate sin or loathe myself as I ought."
Oh how we preachers need eyes like this. Seeing God and his ways everywhere in nature and life and making our communications full of concreteness from daily life.
Newton's language was full of this kind of thing. Most of us tend to gravitate to abstractions. We say, "Men tend to choose lesser pleasures and reject greater ones." But Newton says, "The men of this world are children. Offer a child an apple and bank note, he will doubtless choose the apple."  

This is not merely a matter of style. It is a matter of life and vitality. It is a sign to your people that your mind is healthy and a means to awakening their health. Sick minds can only deal in abstractions and cannot get outside themselves to be moved by concrete, external wonders. And you will never be a tender person toward your people if you merely communicate the heaviness of unhealthy concepts and theories rather than the stuff of the world in which they live. This kind of communication was part and parcel of his winsome, humble, compelling tenderness.
And yes there is a crucial place for humor in this pattern of tenderness—not the contrived levity of so many "communicators" today that know how to work an audience—but the balanced, earthy experience of the way the world really is in its horror and humor. There would be more real laughter if there were more real tears. "One day by a strong sneeze he shook off a fly which had perched upon his gnomon, and immediately said: 'Now if this fly keeps a diary, he'll write Today a terrible earthquake.'" At another time, when asked how he slept, he instantly replied: "I'm like a beef-steak—once turned, and I am done."  What these quips indicate is a healthy mind awake to the world and free from bondage to morose speculations or introspection. This kind of mental health is essential for a pastor to be tender, winsome minister to the whole range of human experience.

(The fourth of several excerpts from a lecture for pastors by John Piper; the full text and audio can be found here.)

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Tough Roots of Habitual Tenderness III

Besides focusing on the persons who benefited from Newton's habitual tenderness, it will be helpful to look too at what we might call some of the patterns of his tenderness.

For the sake of repentance and knowledge of truth, Newton's pattern of tenderness in doctrinal matters was to shun controversy.

The sovereignty of God in freeing people from error or from unbelief also made prayer central to Newton's pattern of tenderness. In a letter about controversy, he wrote a friend:
As to your opponent, I wish, that, before you set pen to paper against him, and during the whole time you are preparing your answer, you may commend him by earnest prayer to the Lord's teaching and blessing. This practice will have a direct tendency to conciliate your heart to love and pity him; and such a disposition will have a good influence upon every page you write. . . . [If he is a believer,] in a little while you will meet in heaven; he will then be dearer to you than the nearest friend you have upon earth is to you now. Anticipate that period in your thoughts. . . . [If he is an unconverted person,] he is a more proper object of your compassion than your anger. Alas! "He knows not what he does." But you know who has made you to differ.
Newton cared more about influencing people with truth for their good than winning debates. William Jay recounts how Newton described the place of his Calvinism. He was having tea one day with Newton. Newton said, "'I am more of a Calvinist than anything else; but I use my Calvinism in my writings and my preaching as I use this sugar'—taking a lump, and putting it into his tea-cup, and stirring it, adding, 'I do not give it alone, and whole; but mixed and diluted.'"  In other words, his Calvinism permeates all that he writes and teaches and serves to sweeten everything. Few people like to eat sugar cubes, but they like the effect of sugar when it permeates it right proportion.

So Newton did not serve up the "five points" by themselves, but blended them in with everything he taught. This government was a key part of how his pattern of tenderness developed in dealing with people's doctrinal differences. Bruce Hindmarsh remarks, "It is not surprising, therefore, that he wrote principally biographies, sermons, letters, and hymnody—not treatises or polemical tracts, much less a 'body of divinity.'"
Pastors simply cannot devote much of their time to blowing the trumpet for rigorous intellectual theology. They should see its usefulness and necessity and encourage its proper place. But they cannot be faulted that they mainly have flocks to love and hearts to change. Defending the truth is a crucial part of that, but it is not the main part. Holding the truth, and permeating all his ministry with the greatness and sweetness of truth for the transformation of our people's lives is the main part of his ministry.

(The third of several excerpts from a lecture for pastors by John Piper; the full text and audio can be found here.)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Drop Box

As I've been reading Eric Metaxes' biography on William Wilberforce, I have asked myself over and over again, "Do we have any modern day William Wilberforces, Hannah Mores, Thomas Clarksons, etc.?"   Then today (thanks to The Gospel Coalition), I see this trailer and I think, "Here is one!"  A simple man doing unseen, unglamorous, yet extraordinary deeds in the name of Christ and for His kingdom.  God be praised.

The Tough Roots of Habitual Tenderness II

The phrase "habitual tenderness" is Newton's own phrase to describe the way a believer should live. In writing to a friend he describes the believer's life: "He believes and feels his own weakness and unworthiness, and lives upon the grace and pardoning love of his Lord. This gives him an habitual tenderness and gentleness of spirit." It is plain already what some of the roots of tenderness are in that sentence, but before we look at them more closely let's get some snapshots of this man's "habitual tenderness."

Richard Cecil said, "Mr. Newton could live no longer than he could love." His love to people was the signature of his life. This was true of groups of people and individual people. He loved perishing people and he loved his own flock of redeemed people.
Whoever . . . has tasted of the love Christ, and has known, by his own experience, the need and the worth of redemption, is enabled, Yea, he is constrained, to love his fellow creatures. He loves them at first sight; and, if the providence of God commits a dispensation of the gospel, and care of souls to him, he will feel the warmest emotions of friendship and tenderness, while he beseeches them by the tender mercies of God, and even while he warns them by his terrors.
It's the phrase "at first sight" that stands out in this quote. Newton's first reflex was to love lost people. When he speaks to unbelievers he speaks like this:
A well-wisher to your soul assures you, that whether you know these things or not, they are important realities. . . . Oh hear the warning voice! Flee from the wrath to come. Pray thee that the eyes of your mind may be opened, then you will see your danger, and gladly follow the shining light of the Word.
One clear mark of Christlike tenderness is love for children. "Suffer the little children to come to me and do not hinder them" (Mark 10:14) is the badge of tenderness that Jesus wore. When Newton came to Olney one of the first things he did was begin a meeting for children on Thursday afternoons. He met with them himself and gave them assignments and spoke to them from the Bible. At one point he said, "I suppose I have 200 that will constantly attend." And what made it more remarkable to his parishioners was that the meetings were open to all the children, not just the members of his church.

Josiah Bull said, "The young especially had a warm place in his affectionate heart. . . . Mr. Jay . . . relates that once a little sailor-boy with his father called on Mr. Newton. He took the boy between his knees, told him that he had been much at sea himself, and then sang him part of a naval song."

For forty-three years his two flocks had an especially tender place in his heart. Richard Cecil said that Newton's preaching was often not well prepared, nor careful or "graceful" in delivery. But, he said, "He possessed . . . so much affection for his people, and so much zeal for their best interests, that the defect of his manner was little consideration with his constant hearers." Once he complained in a letter of his busyness: "I have seldom one-hour free from interruption. Letters, that must be answered, visitants that must be received, business that must be attended to. I have a good many sheep and lambs to look after, sick and afflicted souls dear to the Lord; and therefore, whatever stands still, these must not be neglected."

Newton's tenderness touched individuals as well as groups. The most remarkable instance of this was, of course, William Cowper, the mentally-ill poet and hymn writer who came to live in Olney during 12 of Newton's 16 years there. Newton took Cowper into his home for five months during one season and 14 months during another when he was so depressed it was hard for him to function alone. In fact, Richard Cecil said that over Newton's whole lifetime, "His house was an asylum for the perplexed or afflicted." Newton says of Cowper's stay: "For nearly 12 years we were seldom separated for seven hours at a time, when we were awake, and at home: the first six I passed daily admiring and aiming to imitate him: during the second six, I walked pensively with him in the valley of the shadow of death."

When Cowper's brother died in 1770, Newton resolved to help him by collaborating with him in writing hymns for the church. These came to be known as "The Olney Hymns." But soon Cowper was emotionally unable to carry through his part of the plan. Newton pressed on writing one hymn a week without Cowper until there were well over 300. Sixty-seven are attributed to William Cowper.[38] The last hymn that Cowper composed for the Olney Hymns was "God Moves in a Mysterious Way," which he entitled "Light Shining out of Darkness." The next day, in January 1773, he sank into the blackest depression and never went to hear Newton preach again. Newton preached his funeral sermon seven years later and explained what happened and how he responded.
He drank tea with me in the afternoon. The next morning a violent storm overtook him. . . . I used to visit him often but no argument could prevail with him to come and see me. He used to point with his finger to the church and say: "You know the comfort I have had there and how I have seen the glory of the Lord in His house, and until I go there I'll not go anywhere else." He was one of those who came out of great tribulations. He suffered much here for twenty-seven years, but eternity is long enough to make amends for all. For what is all he endured in this life, when compared with the rest which remaineth for the children of God.
What would most of us have done with a depressed person who could scarcely move out of his house? William Jay summed up Newton's response: "He had the tenderest disposition; and always judiciously regarded his friend's depression and despondency as a physical effect, for the removal of which he prayed, but never reasoned or argued with him concerning it."
Another example of his tenderness toward an individual is the case of the missionary, Henry Martyn. The young Martyn was very discouraged from some criticism he had received of his "insipid and inanimate manner in the pulpit." He came to Newton, who blocked every one of Martyn's discouragements with hope. Martyn wrote in his journal (April 25, 1805) that when Newton heard of the criticism he had received,
He said he had heard of a clever gardener, who would sow seeds when the meat was put down to roast, and engage to produce a salad by the time it was ready, but the Lord did not sow oaks in this way. On my saying that perhaps I should never live to see much fruit; he answered I should have the birds-eye view of it, which would be much better. When I spoke of the opposition that I should be likely to meet with, he said, he supposed Satan would not love me for what I was about to do. The old man prayed afterwards with sweet simplicity.
If there were time we could linger over another instance of remarkable patience and tenderness toward Thomas Scott, who was a liberal, "almost Socinian" clergyman in a neighboring parish. Scott made jest of Newton's evangelical convictions. But in the end Newton's mingling of hope-filled truth and kindness broke Scott's oppostion. Scott commented later: "Under discouraging circumstances, I had occasion to call upon him; and his discourse so comforted and edified me, that my heart, being by this means relieved from its burden, became susceptible of affection for him."  Scott was personally and theologically transformed and wrote a book called The Force of Truth and became the minister in Olney when Newton left.

(The second of several excerpts from a lecture for pastors by John Piper; the full text and audio can be found here.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Pensive, Doubting, Fearful Heart

To the afflicted, tossed with tempests and not comforted 
by John Newton
(traditionally sung to the tune of Take My Life and Let It Be)

Pensive, doubting, fearful heart,
Hear what CHRIST the Savior says;
Every word should joy impart,
Change thy mourning into praise:

Yes, he speaks, and speaks to thee,
May he help thee to believe!
Then thou presently wilt see,
Thou hast little cause to grieve.

"Fear thou not, nor be ashamed,
All thy sorrows soon shall end
I who heav'n and earth have framed,
Am thy husband and thy friend

I the High and Holy One,
Israel's GOD by all adored;
As thy Savior will be known,
Thy Redeemer and thy Lord.

For a moment I withdrew,
And thy heart was filled with pain;
But my mercies I'll renew,
Thou shalt soon rejoice again:

Though I scorn to hide my face,
Very soon my wrath shall cease;
'Tis but for a moment's space,
Ending in eternal peace.

When my peaceful bow appears
Painted on the wat'ry cloud;
'Tis to dissipate thy fears,
Lest the earth should be overflowed:

'Tis an emblem too of grace,
Of my cov'nant love a sign;
Though the mountains leave their place,
Thou shalt be for ever mine.

Though afflicted, tempest-tossed,
Comfortless awhile thou art,
Do not think thou canst be lost,
Thou art graven on my heart

All thy walls I will repair,
Thou shalt be rebuilt anew;
And in thee it shall appear,
What a God of love can do.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Tough Roots of Habitual Tenderness 1

It seems to me that we are always falling off the horse on one side or the other in this matter of being tough and tender—wimping out on truth when we ought to be lion-hearted, or wrangling with anger when we ought to be weeping. I know it's a risk to take up this topic and John Newton in a setting like this, where some of you need a good (tender!) kick in the pants to be more courageous, and others of you confuse courage with what William Cowper called "a furious and abusive zeal."   Oh how rare are the pastors who speak with a tender heart and have a theological backbone of steel.
I dream of such pastors. I would like to be one someday. A pastor whose might in the truth is matched by his meekness. Whose theological acumen is matched by his manifest contrition. Whose heights of intellect are matched by his depths of humility. Yes, and the other way around! A pastor whose relational warmth is matched by his rigor of study, whose bent toward mercy is matched by the vigilance of his biblical discernment, and whose sense of humor is exceeded by the seriousness of his calling.

I dream of great defenders of true doctrine who are mainly known for the delight they have in God and the joy in God that they bring to the people of God—who enter controversy, when necessary, not because they love ideas and arguments, but because they love Christ and the church.

It is possible and necessary to be as strong and rugged for truth as a redwood and as tender and fragrant for Christ as a field of clover.

So now, with the help of the life of John Newton, I want to say it again. And make no mistake: our heroes have feet of clay. There are no perfect pastors. Newton himself warns us:

In my imagination, I sometimes fancy I could [create] a perfect minister. I take the eloquence of –, the knowledge of –, the zeal of –, and the pastoral meekness, tenderness, and piety of –: Then, putting them all together into one man, I say to myself, "This would be a perfect minister." Now there is One, who, if he chose to, could actually do this; but he never did it. He has seen fit to do otherwise, and to divide these gifts to every man severally as he will.

So neither we nor Newton will ever be all that we should be. But oh how much more like the Great Shepherd we should long to be. Newton had his strengths, and I want us to learn from them. At times his strengths were his weakness, but that too will be instructive. Our theme is "the tough roots of John Newton's habitual tenderness." His great strength was "speaking the truth in love." As you listen, listen for what you need, not for what the pastor across town needs. On which side of the horse are you falling off?

I begin with a brief telling of his life, because for Newton, his life was the clearest testimony to the heart-breaking mercy of God he ever saw. Even at the end of his life he is still marveling that he was saved and called to preach the gospel of grace. From his last will and testament we read:

I commit my soul to my gracious God and Savior, who mercifully spared and preserved me, when I was an apostate, a blasphemer, and an infidel, and delivered me from the state of misery on the coast of Africa into which my obstinate wickedness had plunged me; and who has been pleased to admit me (though most unworthy) to preach his glorious gospel.

This is one of the deepest roots of his habitual tenderness. He could not get over the wonder of his own rescue by sheer, triumphant grace.

(The first of several excerpts from a lecture for pastors by John Piper; the full text and audio can be found here.)

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Brief Biography of the Saint: John Newton

John Newton's life was an eventful one, full of desperate deeds and hairbreadth 'scapes.
His mother, a devout, godly woman, had from his infancy dedicated him to the ministry. But she "died in faith, not having received the promise."
Following his father, young Newton became a sailor. But he was reckless and vicious, and "being his own enemy he seemed determined that no one should be his friend."
He was forced into naval service on board the Harwich man-of-war, and flung virtue and religion to the winds.
His Narrative, from which we learn the facts of his history, depicts these years in the blackest colours. Perhaps the picture is overdrawn. Prodigals who have returned are always tempted to exaggerate the wickedness of their godless life. But when full allowance is made for such natural exaggeration, it is clear that his life was an abandoned and vicious one.

Yet he had conscience-stricken hours. In the uttermost parts of the sea, even there God's hand found and touched him. Though a scapegrace, he occasionally fasted and prayed and read his Bible. But these whims and superstitions did not last long. He turned to infidelity for a time. He delighted to talk virtue and to practice vice.
Not every infidel is a profligate by any means; but it is equally clear that profligates are glad to be infidels. The profligates of the world are a witness to Christianity, just because they do not like, cannot endure, its light cast upon their evil deeds.
He deserted, was caught, kept in irons, publicly whipped, and was degraded from the rank of midshipman. He was in consequence filled with bitter anger and despair.

By a mere accident — a midshipman having maliciously cut his hammock, and dropped him on the deck and injured him — he was exchanged on board a merchant vessel trading with the west coast of Africa.
It was here that he landed without anything but the clothes on his back, became practically a white slave among black ones, and, like the prodigal, in hunger was glad almost of the swine-husks for food.
Newton was an instance of the common experience that men who are morally shipwrecks are intellectually clever, the ruins of great citizens. He amused himself in his semi-slavery by studying mathematics. He mastered Euclid, drawing the figures of the first six books on the sand.

His father sent out money to ransom him; but the master of the vessel who received the commission was told that Newton had gone far inland, and so took no further trouble about him. But in reality the semi-slave was not a mile off. Following his custom, he was walking along a narrow neck of land on the beach. He saw and hailed a passing vessel; it stopped; he took a canoe and went out to it. It was the very vessel whose captain carried the ransom for Newton's emancipation.
On the homeward voyage he was treated kindly by the captain, and having little to do, took up Thomas à Kempis.
..Newton was affected by it. "What if these things be true?" A storm arose; the ship seemed sinking and book and storm united to arouse his conscience. The hurricane passed, but while he had been at the wheel, steering at midnight, a crisis in his heart came, when his life of sin passed before him, and he began to pray and think wistfully of Christ, Whom he used to deride. This was the "Great Deliverance."
But light did not come all at once. He desired to change. He renounced swearing and other evil habits. But it was little more than an attempt to mend himself.
He made several voyages as a captain; purchased slaves, and sold them again in the West Indies. Curious what contradictory principles can live in the same mind! His conscience did not trouble him on the slave question. We sometimes wonder if there is any question on which our consciences are as yet as unenlightened.
He by-and-bye met a captain who taught him the true way of faith in Christ, and he became a sincere child of God.
Through a sudden attack of illness he was compelled to leave the sea, and became a tide-surveyor or ship-inspector at Liverpool; met Whitefield, Wesley, Wilberforce; occupied spare time in studying classics; applied for Ordination, and was refused by the Archbishop of York because of some formal irregularity.
But the Bishop of London ordained him, and he became the minister of Olney Parish. Thus the Providence that had so strangely watched over his life brought Newton and Cowper together. Living close beside each other, they were scarcely twelve hours apart. They were like David and Jonathan in their friendship.
Newton, while a man of the deepest piety, was too stern and ultra-Calvinistic a companion for the sensitive Cowper, and sometimes unintentionally increased his mental troubles.
From the time of his "great deliverance" he kept a diary, of which the following passage is the opening: "I dedicate unto Thee, most blessed God, this clean, unsullied book, and at the same time renew my tender of a foul, blotted, corrupt heart."

Together they held a prayer-meeting every week, and Newton proposed that they should unitedly write a volume of hymns, partly "for the promotion and comfort of sincere Christians," and partly as a memorial of their intimacy. Many of them were written for use in these weekly prayer-meetings. The volume was not published for eight years after it was begun. It appeared under the name of Olney Hymns, the place giving the title to the book.
Of the Olney Hymns Cowper composed about sixty-eight, Newton about two hundred and eighty. Many of these are quite unsuitable for public praise. In proportion to the number that each wrote, Cowper has far more that are held dear by Christian hearts everywhere.
Newton wrote one well-known prose work— Cardiphonia.
When fifty-four he became Rector of St. Mary Woolnoth, in Lombard Street, in the City of London. Here his ministry was much blessed; far more popular than in his former sphere in Buckinghamshire. Many flocked to Lombard Street to get their spiritual food from him. Here he died at the age of eighty-two. His epitaph was written by himself:

Once an infidel and libertine,
A servant of slaves in Africa,
Was by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour
Jesus Christ,
Preserved, restored, pardoned,
And appointed to preach the Faith
He had long laboured to destroy,
Near 16 years at Olney, in Bucks
And years in this church."

He was certainly a brand plucked from the burning; his life a study in Providence; the change in his character a witness to the transforming power of grace; the hymns he has left among the most devout and simple, full of grace and truth.

Copied by Stephen Ross for from Romance of Psalter and Hymnal: Authors and Composers by R.E. Welsh. London: Hodder and Stoughton; New York: Pott., 1889