Saturday, October 06, 2007

John Newton's Calvinism

I was meditating on James 3:13-18 today. It speaks of recognizing Godly wisdom versus worldly wisdom with a particular application to teachers (see context ie James 3:1.) Check it out:

"Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. "

James 3:13-18 (ESV)

As I thought of the qualities of Godly wisdom versus worldly wisdom in this passage I thought of John Newton, the 18th Century pastor, theologian and hymn writer who displayed the meekness and purity of Godly wisdom James talks especially in how he held his "Calvinism"1.

Check out this quote:
“I believe a too hasty assent to Calvinistic principles, before a person is duly acquainted with the plague of his own heart, is one principal cause of that lightness of profession which so lamentably abounds in this day, a chief reason why many professors are rash, heady, high-minded, contentious about words, and sadly remiss as to the means of Divine appointment [they deny means of grace]. For this reason, I suppose, though I never preach a sermon in which the tincture of Calvinism man not be easily discerned by a judicious hearer, yet I very seldom insist expressly upon those points, unless they fairly and necessarily lie in my way.” 2

I want to hold and live out truth with the same humility, sober self-examination and gracious God-centered intent! Oh God, help me to avoid arrogance masquerading as doctrinal discernment and measure my orthodoxy by gentle and gracious Christlikeness according to James 3:13-18.

1. Calvinism, simply put, is the conviction, derived from the bible, that God is the ultimate source and final reason for our salvation in Christ.
2. John Newton as quoted by Josiah Bull in BUT NOW I SEE, Josiah Bull, Banner of Truth Trust, 1868 & 1998, p. 212-213.

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