Chasing Butterflies in the Presence of the King

The following excerpt humbles me. It’s taken from a letter written by John Newton on how a believer, who readily affirms the majesty of God’s character, can so often fail to act upon this knowledge in the prayer closet. The most obvious evidence is in how easily our minds wander off to chase after vain thoughts that so easily distract our attention from prayer (source: The Works of John Newton, 1:246–247):

We know how we are often affected when in the presence of a fellow-worm; if he is one on whom we depend, or who is considerably our superior in life, how careful we are to compose our behavior, and to avoid whatever might be deemed improper or offensive!

Is it not strange that those who have taken their ideas of the divine majesty, holiness and purity, from the Scriptures, and are not wholly insensible of their inexpressible obligations to regulate all they say or do by his precepts, should upon many occasions be betrayed into improprieties of behavior from which the presence of a nobleman, or prince, would have effectually restrained them, yea, sometimes perhaps even the presence of a child?

Even in the exercise of prayer, by which we profess to draw near the Lord, the consideration that his eye is upon us has little power to engage our attention, or prevent our thoughts from wandering like the fool’s eye, to the ends of the earth.

What should we think of a person, who, being admitted into the king’s presence, upon business of the greatest importance, should break off in the midst of his address, to pursue a butterfly? Could such an instance of weakness be met with, it would be but a faint emblem of the inconsistencies which they who are acquainted with their own hearts, can often charge themselves with in prayer.

2 thoughts on “Chasing Butterflies in the Presence of the King

  1. Hi Tony

    What are you’re thoughts on Newton’s works? I’ve considered buying them before but not everything I’ve heard has been favourable. Do you think the volumes of letters BoT has released would work as a substitute?

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