Monday, March 03, 2008

John Newton the proto-blogger

On Controversy
On Saturday evening, a gathering of local believers met in a West Lavington Village Hall, Wiltshire to see Brian Edwards give a PowerPoint presentation on the life of John Newton. Very good it was too. Brian is the author of an excellent Newton biography, Through Many Dangers (Evangelical Press), so he certainly knew his stuff. Mention was made of Newton's prolific letter writing, which Edwards described as "the blogging of the day". In the discussion time, Brian raised the question as to what John Newton would say to us if he were today. I'm not sure about that, but I think he would have a blog called Amazing Grace.
Newton's letters are full of wise pastoral counsel that bloggers would certainly do well to heed. We sometimes get involved in controversy for the sake of the truth, but we can do more harm than good if we defend the gospel in a wrong spirit. Odium theoblogicum should be avoided at all costs. Here is some excellent advice from old Newton,
"The Scriptural maxim, that "the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God", is verified by daily observation. In our zeal is embittered by expressions of anger, invective or scorn, we may think we are doing service to the cause of truth, when in reality we shall only bring it into discredit. The weapons of our warfare, and which alone are powerful to break down the strongholds of error, are not carnal but spiritual; arguments fairly drawn from Scripture and experience, and enforced by such a mild address as may persuade our readers, that, whether we can convince them or not, we wish well to their souls, and contend only for the truth's sake; if we can satisfy them that we act on these motives, our point is half gained; they will be disposed to consider calmly what we offer; and if they should still dissent from our opinions, they will be constrained to approve our intentions." (Letter XVII Controversy from The Letters of John Newton, Banner of Truth Trust, 1965 repr.).

1 comment:

rhiannon said...

Proverbs 15:1!
John Newton's desire to consolidate his pastoral teaching in song has been part of my inspiration. Did you get my email at blueyonder about my blog rhiannonshymns.co.uk ?