JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807)
"Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God." Romans 15:7
The Christian, especially he who is advanced and established in the life of faith, has a fervent zeal for God--for the honor of His Name, His Word and His Gospel. The honest warmth of zeal which he feels, when God's Word is broken, His Gospel is despised, and when the great and glorious Name of the Lord his God is profaned, would, by the occasion of his infirmities, often degenerate into anger or contempt towards those who error--if he was under the influence of zeal alone.
But his zeal is blended with benevolence and humility; it is softened by a consciousness of his own frailty and fallibility. He is aware, that his knowledge is very limited in itself, and very faint in its transforming power in his own life; that his attainments are weak and few, compared with his deficiencies; that his gratitude is very disproportionate to his obligations; and that his obedience is unspeakably short of conformity to his prescribed rule; that he has nothing but what he has received, and has received nothing but what, in a greater or less degree, he has either misapplied or misimproved. He is, therefore, a debtor to the mercy of God--and lives upon His multiplied forgiveness.
The Christian also makes the gracious conduct of the Lord towards himself--a pattern for his own conduct towards his fellow-worms. He cannot boast of himself--nor is he anxious to censure others. He considers himself, lest he also fall. And thus he learns tenderness and compassion to others, and to bear patiently with those mistakes, blemishes and faults in others--which once belonged to his own character; and from which, as yet, he is but imperfectly freed.
He therefore acts in character, as the follower of Him who was compassionate towards the infirmities and mistakes of His disciples, and taught them gradually, as they were able to bear it--and not everything at once.
But then, the same considerations which inspire him with meekness and gentleness towards those who oppose the truth--strengthen his regard for the truth itself, and his conviction of its importance. For the sake of peace, which he loves and cultivates--he accommodates himself, as far as he lawfully can, to the weaknesses and mistakes of other sincere Christians; though he is thereby exposed to be censured by 'bigots' of all parties, who deem him flexible and wavering, like a reed shaken with the wind.
But there are other fundamental points, essential to the Gospel, which are the foundations of his hope, and the sources of his joy. For his firm attachment to these, he is content to be treated as a 'bigot' himself! For here he is immovable as an iron pillar; nor can either the fear or the favor of man prevail on him to yield the truth of the Gospel, no not for an hour! (Galatians 2:5). Here his judgment is fixed; and he expresses it in simple and unequivocal language, so as not to leave either friends or enemies in suspense, concerning the side which he has chosen, or the cause which is nearest to his heart.
Knowing that the Gospel is the wisdom and power of God, and the only possible means by which fallen man can obtain peace with God--he most cordially embraces and avows it. Far from being ashamed of it--he esteems it his glory. He preaches Christ Jesus, and Him crucified. He disdains the thought of distorting, disguising, or softening the great doctrines of the grace of God, to render them more palatable to the depraved taste of the times (2 Corinthians 4:2). And he will no more encounter the errors and corrupt maxims and practices of the world, with any weapon but the truth in Jesus--than he would venture to fight an enraged tiger with a paper sword!
(From Letters of John Newton; Banner of Truth, Carlisle, PA)