Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Newton on Spiritual Depression

The following is from a letter that John Newton wrote to a pastor who appeared to be struggling from spiritual depression, something, it appears, Newton was prone to as well. I think every Christian, to some degree, can relate to these descriptions. As you read, note the points where Newton talks to himself and brings in Truth to deal with the un-truths and sinful attitudes that he finds present in his state of spiritual depression. This is a pastor, a shepherd,  sharing an honest and candid look into his soul and demonstrating how he brings to bear truths that He knows about God found in Scripture to restore his spirit. Also, notice at the end of this selection that Newton anticipates that he will again be overcome with the same spiritual malaise at some point. Because he knows this "turn in my spirit" to be part of the Christian's experience in this life, he has already prepared himself "to begin all again" and re-apply the same method of cure. What an example of perseverance! We would do well to learn from his experience:

"Sinful principles may, and too often do, mix with and defile our best desires. I have often detected the two vile abominations, self-will and self-righteousness insinuating themselves into this concern. Like Satan, who works by them, they can occasionally assume the appearance of an angel of light. 

I have felt impatience in my spirit, utterly unsuitable to my state as a sinner and a beggar, and to my profession of yielding myself and all my concerns to the Lord’s disposal. 

He has mercifully convinced me that I labor under a complication of disorders, summed up in the word sin. He has graciously revealed himself to me as the infallible physician. And has enabled me, as such, to commit myself to him, and to expect my cure from his hand alone. 

Yet how often, instead of thankfully accepting his prescriptions, have I foolishly and presumptuously ventured to prescribe to him, and to point out how I would have him deal with me! How often have I thought something was necessary which he saw best to deny, and that I could have done better without those dispensations which his wisdom appointed to work for my good! 

He is God, and not man, or else he would have been weary of me, and left me to my own management long ago. 

It has cost me something to bring me to confess that he is wiser than I; but I trust, through his blessing, I have not suffered wholly in vain. 

My sensible comforts have not been great. The proofs I have had of the evils of my sinful nature, my incapacity and aversion to good, have neither been few nor small. But by these unpromising means I hope he has made his grace and salvation precious to my soul, and in some measure weaned me from leaning to my own understanding.

Self-righteousness has had a considerable hand in dictating many of my desires for an increase of comfort and spiritual strength. I have wanted some stock of my own. I have been wearied of being so perpetually beholden to him, necessitated to come to him always in the same strain, as a poor miserable sinner. I could have liked to do something for myself, and to depend upon him chiefly upon extraordinary occasions. 

I have found indeed, that I could do nothing without his assistance, nor any thing even with it, but what I have reason to be ashamed of. If this had only humbled me, and led me to rejoice in his all-sufficiency, it would have been well. But it has often had a different effect, to make me sullen, angry, and discontented, as if it was not best and most desirable that he should have all the glory of his own work, and I should have nothing to boast of, but that in the Lord I have righteousness and strength. 

I am now learning to glory only in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me; to be content to be nothing, that he may be All in All (2 Corinthians 12:7–13). 

But I find this a hard lesson; and when I seem to have made some proficiency, a slight turn in my spirit throws me back, and I have to begin all again."

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