Tuesday, July 02, 2013

THOUGH HE IS DEAD, YET HE SPEAKS____John Newton's message to American Christians

John Newton (1725 – 1807), well-known for penning the hymn “Amazing Grace,” wrote a letter to a friend giving his views on Christian involvement in government affairs. Newton defines his view of true patriotism from a Christian perspective. It may be a needed message for us on this July 4th, 2013 as well.

John Newton wrote...

Dear friend,

Allow me to say, that it excites both my wonder and concern, that a Christian minister such as yourself, should think it worth his while to attempt political reforms. When I look around upon the present state of the nation, such an attempt appears to me, to be no less vain and foolish, than it would be to paint the cabin—while the ship is sinking! Or to decorate the parlor—while the house is on fire!

When our Lord Jesus was upon earth, He refused to get involved in disputes or politics, “Friend, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?” Luke 12:14. “My kingdom is not of this world! If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight!” John 18:36. God’s children belong to a kingdom which is not of this world; they are strangers and pilgrims upon earth, and a part of their Scriptural character is, that they are the “quiet in the land.” Psalm 35:19. Satan has many contrivances to amuse people, and to divert their thoughts from their real danger!

My dear sir, my prayer to God for you is—that He may induce you to employ the talents He has given you, in pointing out sin as the great cause and source of every existing evil; and to engage those who love and fear Him, (instead of wasting time in political speculations, for which very few of them are competent,) to sigh and cry for our abounding abominations, and to stand in the breach, by prayer, that God’s wrath may yet be averted, and our national mercies prolonged! This, I think, is true patriotism—the best way in which people in private life may serve their country.

I consider the ungodly as saws and hammers in the hand of the Lord. So far as they are His instruments, they will succeed—but not an inch further! Their wrath shall praise Him, and be subservient to His designs! If our lot is so cast that we can exercise our ministry free from stripes, fines, imprisonments, and death—it is more than the gospel has promised to us! If Christians were quiet when under the cruel governments of Nero and other wicked persecutors, when they were hunted down like wild beasts—then we ought to be not only quiet but very thankful now! It was then accounted an honor to suffer for Christ and the ‘offense of the cross’!

Those are to be greatly pitied, who boast of their ‘liberty’—and yet they do not consider that they are in the most deplorable bondage as the slaves of sin and Satan, under the curse of God’s law and His eternal wrath! Oh! for a voice to reach their hearts, that they may know their true and dreadful state—and seek deliverance from their horrific thralldom!  [A state of servitude]
May you and I labor to direct them to the one thing, which is absolutely needful, and abundantly sufficient.

If I had the wisdom or influence to soothe the angry passions of mankind—I would gladly employ them! But I am a stranger and a pilgrim here in this world. My charter, my rights and my treasures, are all in heaven—and there my heart ought to be. In a very short time, I may be removed (and perhaps suddenly) into the unseen and eternal world—where all that now causes so much bustle upon earth—will be of no more importance to me—than the events which took place among the antediluvians!
In the hour, when death shall open the door into eternity—many things which now assume an ‘air of importance’, will be found as light and unsubstantial as a child’s dream!

How crucial then, is it for me—to be found watching, with my lamp burning, diligently engaged in my proper calling! For the Lord has not called me to set governments right—but to preach the gospel, to proclaim the glory of His name, and to endeavor to win souls! “Let the dead bury their own dead—but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God!” Luke 9:60. Happy is that servant, whom his Master finds so doing, when He returns!

As you have forced me to respond—both duty and love have obliged me to be faithful and free in giving you my thoughts.

I recommend you to the care and blessing of the great Shepherd and Savior; and remain for His sake, your affectionate friend and brother,

John Newton


Steve Miller said...


Thanks for the post though parts of John Newton's comments cause me concern or at least drive me to ask him the answer the question totally. If his intent is to provide counsel to a Christian brother serving in the ministry vocationally about leaving that ministry to go into politics at the expense of what his true calling is then I believe his remarks are clear and accurate. Mankind cannot change the heart of humans only the Spirit of God can do this and all of our efforts in life should have a motivational focus of making the Gospel visible and presentable. However, his comments can also come across as this is the only viable vocation in which to proclaim the gospel and that preaching the Gospel from Newton's perspective and pulpit give a definition of patriotism that I believe comes up short. I believe that anyone totally in love with God, embracing His love for them that they are motivated to express gratitude for His love in the vocation He has chosen for them and if that should involve anything in the government be it politics, agencies or the military then to do anything else would be unfaithful to the calling. The issue is to never lower the standard. If I did not know better Newton's comments come across as being a preacher is the only worthy vocation and demonstration of patriotism. I am just saying with an understanding that man or government are the not the answers to our problems but I can proclaim the answer within the government and man to man with the boldness of Christ and fully aware of the consequences. Thanks for the opportunity to comment.


Paul Burleson said...


VERY good comment.

I would have to say that I do think his generation may have put more emphasis on the importance of the ministry "office" than I think is warranted by a correct understanding of the scriptures themselves.

Tomorrow, on my FaceBook page, I'm going to post my position on being a Christian and an American without there being a fatal mixture of the two. I'll post it here as a comment as well.

Thanks again.

Aussie John said...


Great words from a great man! I wish those who, no doubt sincerely, but unwisely, seek to legislate Christian values, would understand what he says.

When we read the words of these great reformers, we need to be reminded that they are a product of their time, as you remind Steve. That little word "office" may have been pleasing to King James, but it has caused no end of harm.

Obviously, this is true of all of those whom many perceive as the gurus of movements and denominations (Calvin, Wesley,etc.)

As Newton says,"Satan has many contrivances to amuse people, and to divert their thoughts from their real danger!"

Rex Ray said...

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

Rex Ray said...

Oh, I forgot to put that in quotes.

Rex Ray said...


Would John Newton avoid ‘politics’ in the SBC?

Paul Burleson said...


I have no idea.

Rex Ray said...

Good answer. :)