In the aftermath of the tragedy in Arizona, there is a lot of finger-pointing: the left is pointing a finger at the right, the right is pointing back, those who are less politically inclined point to psychological abnormalities. In his letter on the pervasive wickedness of the natural heart, John Newton points the finger at himself. Newton writes (Works, 1:368–370):
The vilest and most profligate individuals cannot sin beyond the powers and limits of that nature which they possess in common with the more mild and moderate. Though there may be a difference in the fruitfulness of the trees, yet the production of one apple decides the nature of the tree upon which is grew, as certainly as if it had produced a thousand: so in the present case, should it be allowed that these enormities [the wicked displays of the natural heart] cannot be found in all persons, it would be a sufficient confirmation of what I have advanced, if they can be found in any; unless it could be likewise proved, that those who appeared more wicked than others, were of a different species from the rest.
This is precisely why few things are more horrifying to watch than the nightly news; there we see into the depths of evil that our species is capable of reaching.
The histories of Aaron, David, Solomon, and Peter, are left on record, to teach us what evil is latent in the hearts of the best men, and what they are capable of doing if left but a little to themselves. …
How wonderful is the love of God in giving his Son to die for such wretches!
Yes, that is wonderful love! We appreciate this amazing grace when we connect the dots and see that we share the same sinful nature with the most profligate individuals. Apart from the gospel that liberates us from sin, what hope would remain?