John Newton's Conviction
March 29, 1781
It is certain I did not wish to leave this town; and likewise that if the Lord had left me to choose my situation, London would have been almost the last place I should have chosen. But, since it was the Lord's choice for me, I am reconciled and satisfied. He has in this respect given me another heart; for, now that I am fixed here, I seem to prefer it. My sphere of service is extremely enlarged, and my sphere of usefulness likewise. And, not being under any attachment to systems and parties, I am so far suited to my situation. My hearers are made up of all sorts, and my connections are of all sorts likewise; I mean of those who hold to the head, Jesus Christ. My inclination leads me chiefly to insist on those things in which all who are taught of God agree. And my endeavor is to persuade them to love one another, to bear with one another, to avoid disputes, and, if they must strive, to let their strife and emulation be, who shall most express the life of the Son of God in their temper and conduct.
I preach my own sentiments plainly—but peaceably, and directly oppose no one party. Accordingly, Churchmen and Dissenters, Calvinists and Arminians, Methodists and Moravians, now and then even Papists and Quakers, sit quietly to hear me. I can readily adopt No Popery for my motto; but Popery with me has a very extensive sense. I dislike it, whether it be on a throne, as at Rome; or upon a bench, or at a board, as sometimes in London. Whoever wants to confine me to follow his sentiments, whether as to doctrine or church order, is so far a Papist. Whoever encourages me to read the Scriptures, and to pray for the teaching of the Holy Spirit, and then will let me follow the light the Lord gives me, without being angry with me because I cannot, or will not, see with his eyes, nor wear his shoes—is a consistent Christian. The depravity of human nature, the Deity of the Savior, the influences of the Holy Spirit, a separation from the world, and a devotedness to God, these are principles which I deem fundamental. And, though I would love and serve all mankind, I can have no religious union or communion with those who deny them.
But whether a surplice or a band be the fittest distinction of a minister, whether he be best ordained by the laying on or the holding up of hands; whether water-baptism should be administered by a spoon-full or tub-full, or in a river, in any river, or in Jordan, (as Constantine thought,) are to me points of no great importance. I will go further—though a man does not accord with my views of election—yet if he gives me good evidence that he is effectually called of God—he is my brother! Though he seems afraid of the doctrine of final perseverance; yet, if grace enables him to persevere, he is my brother still. If he loves Jesus, I will love him, whatever hard name he may be called by, and whatever incidental mistakes I may think he holds. His differing from me will not always prove him to be wrong, except I am infallible myself.
I praise the Lord for preserving you from harm when you fell; I have had such falls from horses and received no hurt. When I dislocated my shoulder, I was at my own door, and in the greatest apparent safety. But we are only safe naturally or spiritually—while the Lord holds us up!