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We continue quoting from a letter John Newton (1725-1807) wrote to a fellow pastor, encouraging him to contend for the faith with the right spirit. Newton divides his advice into 3 sections: concerning "your opponent, the public, and yourself." Today's Expositor's Quote begins the final heading, on "yourself":

This leads me, in the last place, to consider your own concern in your present undertaking. It seems a laudable service to defend the faith once delivered to the saints; we are commanded to contend earnestly for it, and to convince gainsayers. If ever such defenses were seasonable and expedient they appear to be so in our own day, when errors abound on all sides and every truth of the gospel is either directly denied or grossly misrepresented. And yet we find but very few writers of controversy who have not been manifestly hurt by it. Either they grow in a sense of their own importance, or imbibe an angry, contentious spirit, or they insensibly withdraw their attention from those things which are the food and immediate support of the life of faith, and spend their time and strength upon matters which are at most but of a secondary value. This shows, that if the service is honorable, it is dangerous. What will it profit a man if he gains his cause and silences his adversary, if at the same time he loses that humble, tender frame of spirit in which the Lord delights, and to which the promise of his presence is made? Your aim, I doubt not, is good; but you have need to watch and pray for you will find Satan at your right hand to resist you; he will try to debase your views; and though you set out in defense of the cause of God, if you are not continually looking to the Lord to keep you, it may become your own cause, and awaken in you those tempers which are inconsistent with true peace of mind, and will surely obstruct communion with God.

John Newton, Works, Vol 1 (Banner of Truth, 1985), p. 269f. The complete letter is available online.

[How well are you avoiding the temptations Newton highlights: a big head, an angry spirit, and a diverted focus? Is the cause really God's? Or has it become your own? Satan wins the battle if we don't defend the faith - and Satan wins the battle if we defend the faith in the wrong spirit. So, Lord! Mold your preachers into men of courage, conviction, humility, and tenderness -- Coty]


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