Every Wave Obeys

While researching my book on John Newton, I found a riveting letter he wrote at sea to his wife Polly, during the busy hurricane season of 1751. Here’s what he wrote (Works 5:377–8):

We have another heavy gale of wind, and it is not easy to sit fast, or to hold a pen; but, as the distance between us is lessening at the rate of seven or eight miles per hour, I am willing to fill up my paper as fast as I can.

I wish I had words to convey some idea of the scene around me: but it cannot be fully described. A faint conception may be formed from pictures, or prints, of a storm at sea.

Imagine to yourself an immense body of water behind you, higher than a house, and a chasm of equal depth just before you: both so apparently dangerous; that you could hardly determine which to venture; and both so near, as not to allow you a moment’s time to choose; for in the twinkling of an eye the ship descends into the pit which is gaping to receive her, and with equal swiftness ascends to the top on the other side, before the mountain that is behind can overtake her. And this is repeated as often as you can deliberately count to four.

It is indeed wonderful, that a ship will run incessantly over these hills and dales, for days and weeks together, (if the gale lasts so long,) without receiving the least damage, or taking any considerable quantity of water on board; and yet never be more than four or five yards from a sea, which, if it was quite to reach her, would perhaps disable her beyond recovery, if not beat her to pieces at a single blow.

Need we go farther for the proof of a Providence always near, always kind, kind to the unthankful and the evil? For, though these marks of his care are repeated every minute, they are seldom acknowledged by seamen. For my own part, I see dangers so numerous and imminent, that I should be always in anxiety and fear, could I not submit myself and all my concerns to Him who holds the waves of the sea in the hollow of his hand, as the prophet strongly expresses it; so that, when most enraged by the winds, I am sure they dare not rise a single inch beyond his permission.

145 John Newton Tweets

In the course of writing a book on John Newton (1725–1807), I read all of his 1,000 published letters at least twice. He was a brilliant pastor, and in his pastoral letters I often discovered lines too good, too funny, too challenging, too humbling, or too Christ-centered not to be shared on Twitter instantly.

While I should probably explain my process more in the future, I can say Twitter mostly serves as a platform where I drop research fragments to be later collected for future projects. Today I trolled my Twitter archive and collected my Newton tweets from the past two years of research and organized them into an alphabetical list of quotes to give you a taste of what you’ll find in my book and what you’ll read in Newton’s letters (like those in this wonderful collection).

Enjoy!

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Newton: “A knock at the door, a turning a corner, may be events which lead to important consequences. There’s no such thing as accidents.” #JNXL

Newton: “A man learns to preach by learning to acquire confidence, not in himself, but in his cause, and in him in whose name he speaks.” #JNXL

Newton: “A minister full of comforts and free from failings as an angel, though he would be happy, wouldn’t be a good or useful preacher.” #JNXL

Newton: “A minister’s hands are strengthened when he can point to his people as living proofs of the doctrine he preaches.” #JNXL

Newton: “Abominations, like nests of vipers, lie quietly in us, til the rod of affliction rouses them; then they hiss and show their venom.” #JNXL

Newton: “Alas! how difficult is it to draw the line exactly between undervaluing and overvaluing the gifts of God.” #JNXL

Newton: “All my hopes and comforts may be summed up by saying, I have a rich and gracious Savior.” #JNXL

Newton: “All wisdom, righteousness, holiness, and happiness, which does not spring from and center in Christ, my soul desires to renounce.” #JNXL

Newton: “As desirable and precious as sanctification is, it is not, I trust it never will be, the ground of my hope.” #JNXL

Newton: “As Jesus appears in your view, / As he is beloved or not; / So God is disposed to you, / And mercy or wrath are your lot.” #JNXL

Newton: “Be cautious you do not degenerate into a mere hearer, so as to place your chief stress on running after preachers.” #JNXL

Newton: “Blessed be my Lord and Savior, who saved me from destruction in defiance of myself.” #JNXL

Newton: “Christ is not only the object, but the author, and finisher of faith (Hebrews 12:2).” #JNXL

Newton: “Cold as I feel this heart of mine, / Yet since I feel it so, / It yields some hope of life divine.” #JNXL

Newton: “Colleges can never make up for a lack of the knowledge of Christ.” #JNXL

Newton: “Dangerous and inveterate diseases are seldom cured by cakes and candies.” #rials #JNXL

Newton: “Dear Lord, the idol self dethrone / And from our hearts remove / And let no zeal by us be shown / But that which springs from love” #JNXL

Newton: “Deuteronomy 32:9–12 is a passage which exhibits the history of a believer in miniature, an Iliad in a nutshell.” #JNXL

Newton: “Disappointment is the grumblings of self-will against the will of God.” #JNXL

Newton: “Dread whatever grieves the Spirit of God.” #JNXL

Newton: “Even now, while I write, and while you read, they are praising the Lamb that was slain.” #JNXL

Newton: “Every drop of rain hits its appointed target.” #JNXL

Newton: “Every new day is filled up with new things, new mercies on the Lord’s part, new ingratitude on mine.” #JNXL

Newton: “Every semblance of religion that is not derived from Christ, by faith in his name, is, at the best, like a lamp without oil.” #JNXL

Newton: “Everything is necessary that God sends our way; nothing can be necessary that he withholds.” #JNXL

Newton: “Experience and observation proves that no doctrine but Jesus Christ and him crucified will withstand the stream of the world.” #JNXL

Newton: “For about six weeks I have had occasion to spend several hours of almost every day with the sick and the dying.” #JNXL

Newton: “Gifts are like riches: if well improved, they give a man fairer opportunities of service.” #JNXL

Newton: “Gladly would I receive more of comforts, but it is more necessary for me now, both as a Christian and minister, that I be humbled.” #JNXL

Newton: “God formed us for himself, and has given the human such a vastness of thirst for happiness as He alone can answer.” #JNXL

Newton: “Grace cherishes the smoking flax into a flame.” #JNXL

Newton: “He does all things well. It is never ill with us but when our evil hearts doubt or forget this plainest of truths.” #JNXL

Newton: “He found us when we sought him not. Then we began to seek him, and he was pleased to be found by us.” #JNXL

Newton: “He has given us a capacity and thirst for happiness which, both experience and observation demonstrate, the world cannot satisfy.” #JNXL

Newton: “He who is duly sensible of the importance and difficulty of winning souls, will find but little leisure for sorting shells.” #JNXL

Newton: “He will put his silver into the fire to purify it; but he sits by the furnace as a refiner, to direct the process.” #JNXL

Newton: “Hearers are disposed to be pleased with the preacher if he says nothing to make them displeased with themselves.” #JNXL

Newton: “How different were Christ’s sufferings from ours? There is no sting in our rod, nor wrath in our cup.” #JNXL

Newton: “How happy is it to know the Lord, the Fountain of living waters! Every other acquisition without him will prove a broken cistern.” #JNXL

Newton: “How seldom do we think how much we are indebted to Christ living in us!” #JNXL

Newton: “I advise you by all means to keep close to the atonement. The doctrine of the cross is the sun in the system of truth.” #JNXL

Newton: “I am a riddle to myself.” #JNXL

Newton: “I am afraid we have been, and still are, too guilty of idolatry; and the Lord might justly blast our boasted paradise.” #JNXL

Newton: “I am neither whig nor tory, but a friend to both. I am a stranger, and a pilgrim.” #JNXL

Newton: “I am prone to puzzle myself over twenty things which are out of my power, and equally unnecessary, if the Lord be my Shepherd.” #JNXL

Newton: “I am so totally depraved; but not discouraged.” (hint: 1 Cor 1:30–31) #JNXL

Newton: “I could not live comfortably a day, or an hour, without the doctrines of grace.” #JNXL

Newton: “I feel like a man who has no money, but is allowed to draw from one infinitely rich. I am at once both a beggar and rich man.” #JNXL

Newton: “I have felt impatience in my spirit, utterly unsuitable to my state as a sinner and a beggar.” #JNXL

Newton: “I have often wished we had more female pens employed in the service of the sanctuary.” #JNXL

Newton: “I have reason to praise him for my trials, for, most probably, I should have been ruined without them.” #JNXL

Newton: “I have seldom, if ever, been five minutes late for anything, unless unavoidably prevented, for the past 50 years.” #JNXL

Newton: “I hope to die like the thief upon the cross. I have no hope, no comfort in myself.” #JNXL

Newton: “I live by miracle.” #JNXL

Newton: “I want nothing of that ‘knowledge’ that has not a tendency to make sin more hateful and Jesus more precious to my soul.” #JNXL

Newton: “I want to deliver up that rebel Self in chains, but the rogue, like Proteus, puts on so many forms he slips through my fingers.” #JNXL

Newton: “I’m a slow scholar, and make bungling work at my lessons to apply the gospel to the common concerns of every hour.” #JNXL

Newton: “If believing and repenting are proper condition of my salvation, I can no more fulfill them than I can touch the stars.” #JNXL

Newton: “If communion with God affords the greatest happiness we are capable, whatever indisposes us for this must be our great loss.” #JNXL

Newton: “If I was not a Calvinist, I think I should have no more hope of success in preaching to men, than to horses or cows.” #JNXL

Newton: “If I’m redeemed from misery by the blood of Jesus; and if he is preparing a mansion that I may drink rivers of pleasure forever!” #JNXL

Newton: “If millions of millions of distressed sinners seek to Christ for relief, he has a sufficiency for them all.” #JNXL

Newton: “If we could hear all that is said of us, it would not flatter us much.” #JNXL

Newton: “If you walk closely with God forty years, you will have a much lower opinion of yourself than you have now.” #JNXL

Newton: “In London I’m in a crowd of temptations, but in the country there is a crowd of temptations in me. My mind is a Vanity Fair.” #JNXL

Newton: “It behooves us to keep a clear distinction in our minds between gifts and grace.” #JNXL

Newton: “It is never ill with us but when our evil hearts doubt or forget the plainest of truths.” #JNXL

Newton: “It is the triumph of grace to make the rich humble and the poor thankful.” #JNXL

Newton: “It will be vain for ministers to declare the doctrines of grace unless our testimony is supported by the conduct of our people.” #JNXL

Newton: “It will not be laid to my charge that I thought too highly of Jesus or expected too much from him. On the contrary.” #JNXL

Newton: “It’s unnecessary to raise a hurricane to destroy us. Were he to withdraw his arm for a moment some unthought evil would overwhelm.” #JNXL

Newton: “Let me always rejoice in him, or mourn after him. I will leave the alternative to him, who knows best how to suit my state.” #JNXL

Newton: “Let me endeavor to lead you out of yourself: let me invite you to look unto Jesus.” #JNXL

Newton: “Like the sun, Christ has sufficiency to fill innumerable millions of eyes with light in the same instant.” #JNXL

Newton: “Look unto Jesus. The duty, privilege, safety, the unspeakable happiness, of a believer, are all comprised in that one sentence.” #JNXL

Newton: “Lord, save us from our golden calves.” #JNXL

Newton: “May Christ be our theme in the pulpit and in the parlor.” #JNXL

Newton: “May we sit at the foot of the cross; and there learn what sin has done, what justice has done, what love has done.” #JNXL

Newton: “My heart is like a country but half subdued. Mutinies and insurrections are daily happening.” #JNXL

Newton: “My heart is vile, and even my prayers are sin. My soul is very sick, but my Physician is infallible.” #JNXL

Newton: “My hope is built, not upon frames and feelings, but upon the atonement and mediation of Jesus.” #JNXL

Newton: “My soul is very sick, but my Physician is infallible.” #JNXL

Newton: “My soul, ask what thou wilt, / Thou canst not be too bold; / Since his own blood for thee he spilt, / What else can he withhold?” #JNXL

Newton: “My usefulness was the last idol I was willing to part with, but the Lord has enabled me to give even this up.” #JNXL

Newton: “‘None but Jesus’ is my motto.” #JNXL

Newton: “O precious, irrecoverable time!” #JNXL

Newton: “O the excellency of the knowledge of Christ! It will be growing upon us through time, yea, I believe through eternity.” #JNXL

Newton: “O what a mercy to see all power in heaven and earth exercised by Him who was nailed to the cross for sinners.” #JNXL

Newton: “One ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ ought to have more weight and authority with us, than a thousand arguments.” #JNXL

Newton: “One view of the brazen serpent (Christ) will do you more good than poring over your own wounds for a month.” #JNXL

Newton: “Opposition has hurt its thousands. Careless popularity has slain its ten thousands.” #JNXL

Newton to pastors: “Our work is great; our time is short; the consequences of our labors are infinite.” #JNXL

Newton: “Overlong sermons … call off the thoughts from the sermon to the pudding at home that is in danger of being overboiled.” #JNXL

Newton: “People do their country more service by pleading for it in prayer than by finding fault with things they have no power to alter.” #JNXL

Newton: “Prosperity may cause us to rise in the world, but affliction is needful to raise us above the world.” #JNXL

Newton: “Rejoice in Christ and resist every temptation to doubt his love as you would resist a temptation to adultery or murder.” #JNXL

Newton: “Reproof should be in season, in secret, and in love.” #JNXL

Newton: “Satan will preach free grace when he finds people willing to believe the notion as an excuse and a cloak for idleness.” #JNXL

Newton: “Self likes to do great things; but grace teaches us to do little things with a great spirit — that is, for the Lord’s sake.” #JNXL

Newton: “Sin cannot be hated for itself, till we have seen the malignity of it in Christ’s sufferings.” #JNXL

Newton: “Some persons are so weak, that, if their favorite minister is absent, they hardly think it worth their while to hear another.” #JNXL

Newton: “Sooner shall a tender mother sit inattentive to her crying infant than Jesus be an unconcerned spectator of his suffering children.” #JNXL

Newton: “Sovereignty is but another name for the unlimited exercise of wisdom and goodness.” #JNXL

Newton: “Talk to children about God abstractly, and it is all in vain.” #JNXL

Newton: “That monster Self has as many heads as Hydra, and as many lives as a cat.” #JNXL

Newton: “The atonement, power, and grace of Christ, is a sufficient answer for all. You only lack more faith.” #JNXL

Newton: “The Babe of Bethlehem, the Man who once hung dead and forsaken upon the cross, is now the Lord of glory.” #JNXL

Newton: “The best advice I can give you: Look unto Jesus, beholding his beauty in the written word.” #JNXL

Newton: “The cross of Christ is the tree of life and the tree of knowledge combined.” #JNXL

Newton: “The cross of Jesus Christ, my Lord, / Is food and medicine, shield and sword. / Take that for your motto.” #JNXL

Newton: “The doctrine of Jesus Christ, and him crucified, is the Sun of the intellectual world. It can only be seen by its own light.” #JNXL

Newton: “The fear of man, under the name of prudence, like a chilling frost nips everything in the bud.” #JNXL

Newton: “The firmament of Scripture is spangled with promises as the sky is with stars, perceptible to us only in the night of affliction.” #JNXL

Newton: “The life of a Christian is a life of faith in the Son of God.” #JNXL

Newton: “The Lord Christ, and the world that crucified him, are competitors for our hearts.” #JNXL

Newton: “The Lord does not give us our arms and regimentals only to strut about in. We must expect blows.” #JNXL

Newton: “The Lord is my strength; yet I am prone to lean on reeds.” #JNXL

Newton: “The love I bear him is but a faint and feeble spark, but it is an emanation from himself; he kindled it, and he keeps it alive.” #JNXL

Newton: “The more simply we commit the how, when, and where, to God’s wisdom and will, the more we shall be free from heart-eating anxiety.” #JNXL

Newton: “The storms are guided by the hands which were nailed to the cross.” #JNXL

Newton: “There are abominations which, like nests of vipers, lie quietly within, till the rod of affliction rouses them.” #JNXL

Newton: “There is a peace passing understanding, of which the politicians cannot deprive us.” #JNXL

Newton: “There is but one Physician / Can cure a sin-sick soul!” #JNXL

Newton: “There is one political maxim which comforts me: ‘The Lord reigns.’” #JNXL

Newton: “This is God’s way: you are not called to buy, but to beg; not to be strong in yourself, but in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” #JNXL

Newton: “This is the worst enemy we have to deal with—self-will—self-wisdom—self-righteousness—self-seeking—self-dependence—self-boasting.” #JNXL

Newton: “Though my disease is grievous, it is not desperate. I have a gracious and infallible Physician.” #JNXL

Newton: “To behold the glory and the love of Jesus is the only effectual way to participate of his image.” #JNXL

Newton: “To see him as he is, and to be like him! This is worth dying for, and worth living for.” #JNXL

Newton: “To take a glimpse within the veil, / To know that God is mine, / Are springs of joy that never fail, / Unspeakable! divine!” #JNXL

Newton: “Too much of my time passes in busy idleness.” #JNXL

Newton: “Trouble excites prayer, prayer brings deliverance, deliverance produces praise (Psalm 116:1–2).” #JNXL

Newton: “Until we are reconciled to God by the blood of Jesus everything to which we look for satisfaction will fully disappoint us.” #JNXL

Newton: “We are never more safe than when we are most sensible that we can do nothing without Christ.” #JNXL

Newton: “We are too much attached to our own petty concerns, and too little concerned for the glory of God.” #JNXL

Newton: “We have a mighty Savior, a compassionate Friend, a prevailing Advocate.” #JNXL

Newton to pastors: “We have work to do in the world, more to do in the Church and in our homes, but most of all, in our own hearts.” #JNXL

Newton: “We need to bring our hard hearts into sympathy with those who suffer, lest we be too busy or too happy to attend their moans.” #JNXL

Newton: “We serve a gracious Master who knows how to overrule even our mistakes to His glory and our own advantage.” #JNXL

Newton: “We should never grow weary of writing and reading about Jesus.” #JNXL

Newton: “What a privilege to possess God in all things while we have them, and all things in God when they are taken from us.” #JNXL

Newton: “What will it profit a man if he silences his adversary and loses that humble spirit in which the Lord delights?” #JNXL

Newton: “While you are unfit to die, you can have no true enjoyment of life.” #JNXL

Newton: “With pleasing grief and mournful joy / My spirit now is fill’d, / That I should such a life destroy, / Yet live by him I kill’d.” #JNXL

Newton: “Wonderful are the effects when a crucified, glorious Savior is presented to the eye of Faith. This sight destroys the love of sin.” #JNXL

[end]

Personal Update (Newtcation Ends)

Today Newtcation ends. It’s been a wonderful several days spent mostly off-line and with a lot of time with the family at the local pool and lakes, and bowling, and attending little league softball and baseball games.

Two weeks steeped in Newton’s letters have been a tremendous blessing to my own soul. On most mornings I awoke to make new discoveries in the pages of the rarest published letters of Newton, many of them made available by the generosity and ingenuity of friends who volunteered university library credentials and iPad cameras to the cause. A lot of my Newtcation mornings looked something like this:

newtcation-1

I’m now emerging out of the 18th century and find myself playing catch-up on DOMA, Tsarnaev, Randy Travis, Metta World Peace, Trayvon, Chris Weidman, Sharknadoes, plane crashes in Alaska and SFO, unrest in Egypt, and wildfires in Arizona. So much has happened in the last two weeks.

Going off-line has been worth it. Yesterday I finished the first draft of the Newton book, which I began writing 9 months, 25 days ago. Over these past two weeks I’ve had time to write the final 20% of the book. At 87,606 words, the draft is far too long and will need to be trimmed in the next phase of re-writing (and re-re-writing) that begins now. In the coming months I will be trimming content, tightening sentences, and sharpening the language of the book. From my experience, this is the most enjoyable stage in the writing process.

newtcation

The manuscript, in its present form, has been passed along to Pastor John, who has kindly offered to read it (gulp) and pen the foreword. Piper’s enthusiasm over the years for Newton, and his popular biographical sketch, have all become significant factors in the enduring legacy of Newton and his works in the Church today. Irrespective of whether my book is any good, to have a foreword from him is not only an honor, but will also provide a push behind Newton’s legacy to extend its life for at least one more generation.

And of course Newtcation has reminded me of the amazing blessing I have been given in my wife. She was up before the kids to edit chapters, kept the kids busy after they awoke so I could write, and then served us all afternoon as we enjoyed family time together. The back of our minivan is a drink and snack taxi, stocked for whatever adventure we filled our afternoons with. I would post a picture of my precious wife here, but, in her words, “Your pictures of me are always so horrible.”

Alas, a lot of great memories will stay with me from Newtcation, but I look forward to getting back to work tomorrow. Thank you to everyone who prayed for me over these past two weeks as I completed research and writing the first draft of Newton on the Christian Life. I was sustained by God’s amazing grace all along.

newtcation-2

And Yet I Pray On

A letter from John Newton to a friend, on prayer (August 15, 1776):

I sometimes think that the prayers of believers afford a stronger proof of a depraved nature than even the profaneness of those who know not the Lord. How strange is it, that when I have the fullest convictions that prayer is not only my duty — not only necessary as the appointed means of receiving these supplies, without which I can do nothing, but likewise the greatest honor and privilege to which I can be admitted in the present life — I should still find myself so unwilling to engage in it.

However, I think it is not prayer itself that I am weary of, but such prayers as mine. How can it be accounted prayer, when the heart is so little affected — when it is polluted with such a mixture of vile and vain imaginations — when I hardly know what I say myself — but I feel my mind collected one minute, the next, my thoughts are gone to the ends of the earth.

If what I express with my lips were written down, and the thoughts which at the same time are passing through my heart were likewise written between the lines, the whole taken together would be such an absurd and incoherent jumble — such a medley of inconsistency, that it might pass for the ravings of a lunatic.

When he points out to me the wildness of this jargon, and asks, is this a prayer fit to be presented to the holy heart-searching God? I am at a loss what to answer, till it is given to me to recollect that I am not under the law, but under grace — that my hope is to be placed, not in my own prayers, but in the righteousness and intercession of Jesus. The poorer and viler I am in myself, so much the more is the power and riches of his grace magnified in my behalf.

Therefore I must, and, the Lord being my helper, I will pray on, and admire his condescension and love, that he can and does take notice of such a creature — for the event shows, that those prayers which are even displeasing to myself, partial as I am in my own case, are acceptable to him, how else should they be answered?

And that I am still permitted to come to a throne of grace — still supported in my walk and in my work, and that mine enemies have not yet prevailed against me, and triumphed over me, affords a full proof that the Lord has heard and has accepted my poor prayers — yea, it is possible, that those very prayers of ours of which we are most ashamed, are the most pleasing to the Lord, and for that reason, because we are ashamed of them. When we are favored with what we call enlargement, we come away tolerably satisfied with ourselves, and think we have done well.

Personal Update (Newtcation)

Hello everyone!

I thought I’d drop a personal update as a means of soliciting your prayers. For the next few weeks I’ll be taking some time off from work to devote focused attention on my John Newton book, and to enjoy a staycation with the family. My wife is calling it Newt-cation. The family schedule has been cleared, and I hope to write in the mornings and early afternoons, and then laugh and veg and swim and tan with the fam the rest of the day.

These precious weeks will give time to really narrow my writing focus. I started the Newton book on September 16 of last year, and by researching and writing on Saturdays alone (as time allowed), I’ve managed to rough out 10 of the 14 chapters and to pen about 75% of the total 85,000 words. These next two weeks will give me the time necessary to finish up these four last chapters and to invest substantial time in refined research on a few areas of particular interests in Newton’s letters.

And unless the editors read my book, cringe, and change their minds, it’s scheduled to be published in the summer of 2015 in Crossway’s Theologians on the Christian Life series. There’s nobody I would rather write on (Newton), nobody I would rather write for (Crossway), and nobody I would rather write under (editors Justin Taylor and Steve Nichols).

Here’s how the growing TCL series is shaping up (so far):

The great delight in working on a project like this one is the opportunity to get intimately acquainted with a great Christian thinker from the past, especially when it comes to studying how they processed the intricate dynamics of the Christian life. Having been discipled by Newton for years now, and more rigorously for the past year, I find myself more and more thinking like him and applying the gospel to my everyday life in ways he models from his own life. I find it easy to get excited about Newton and I am eager to share the results of my research with you as soon as possible.

But for now I need patience, and discipline to write clearly, and so I would greatly appreciate your prayers as I try and wrap up the majority of the Newton manuscript in July. And so (as Newton would say it), I earnestly entreat all who know how to draw near to the Throne of Grace by Jesus Christ, to strive mightily in prayer for me, that I may stand fast in the faith, and increase in the knowledge of Jesus the Savior; and that for his sake I may labor, without fear, in the service to which he has been pleased to call me.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all!

I am your affectionate friend, and servant in the Gospel of Christ,

Tony

Newton on Preaching Unsearchable Riches

The following story was shared by John Newton in a letter to his friend, a theological liberal minister, Thomas Scott, on November 17, 1775. Newton’s role in the theological formation (transformation) of Scott is a remarkable story worth studying in itself. But for now, here’s the story Newton shared with Scott, as published in Newton’s Works (1:596-98):

A most valued friend of mine, a Clergyman now living, had for many years given a rational assent to the Gospel. He labored with much earnestness upon your plan; was very exemplary in his whole conduct; preached almost incessantly (two or three times every day in the week for years), having a parish in the remote parts of Yorkshire, of great extent, and containing five or six different hamlets at some distance from each other.

He succeeded likewise with his people so far as to break them off from outward irregularities; and was mentioned, in a letter to the Society for propagating the Gospel (which I have seen in print) as the most perfect example of a parish priest which this nation, or perhaps this age, has produced. Thus he went on for many years, teaching his people what he knew, for he could teach them no more. He lived in such retirement and recess, that he was unacquainted with the persons and principles of any who are now branded as enthusiasts and methodists.

One day, reading Ephesians 3 in his Greek Testament, his thoughts were stopped by the word ανεξιχνιαστον [unsearchable], in verse 8. He was struck, and led to think with himself to this purpose: The Apostle, when speaking of the love and riches of Christ, uses remarkable expressions; he speaks of heights, and depths, and lengths, and breadths, and unsearchables, where I seem to find every thing plain, easy, and rational. He finds mysteries where I can perceive none. Surely, though I use the words Gospel, faith, and grace, with him, my ideas of them must be different from his.

This led him to a close examination of all his Epistles, and, by the blessing of God, brought on a total change in his views and preaching. He no longer set his people to keep a law of faith; to trust in their sincerity and endeavors, upon some general hope that Christ would help them out where they came short; but he preached Christ himself, as the end of the Law for righteousness to every one that believeth.

He felt himself, and laboured to convince others, that there is no hope for a sinner but merely in the blood of Jesus; and no possibility of his doing any works acceptable to God, till he himself be first made accepted in the Beloved. Nor did he labor in vain. Now his preaching effected, not only an outward reformation, but a real change of heart, in very many of his hearers. The word was received, as Paul expresses it, not with a rational assent only, but with demonstration and power, in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; and their endeavors to observe the Gospel precepts were abundantly more extensive, uniform, and successful, when they were brought to say, with the Apostle, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life I live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God.”