(Letters of John Newton)
You say that you are conscious of defects and defilements. But your heart could not be right—if you did not feel these things. To be conscious of them, and humbled for them—is one of the surest marks of grace; and to be more deeply sensible of them than formerly—is the best evidence of growth in grace!
Our righteousness is in Jesus alone; and our hope depends, not upon the exercise of grace in us—but upon the fullness of grace and love in Him, and upon His obedience unto death.
It is a mighty manifestation of His grace indeed—when it can live, and act, and conquer in such hearts as ours; when, in defiance of an evil nature and an evil world, and all the force and subtlety of Satan—a weak worm is still upheld; when a small spark is preserved through storms and floods!
In these circumstances, the work of grace is to be estimated, not merely from its imperfect appearance—but from the difficulties it has to struggle with and overcome. Therefore our holiness does not consist in great attainments—but in spiritual desires, in hungerings, thirstings, and mournings; in humiliation of heart, poverty of spirit, submission, and meekness; in hearty admiring thoughts of Jesus, and dependence upon Him alone for all we need. Indeed these may be said to be great attainments; but they who have most of them are most sensible that they, in and of themselves, are nothing, have nothing, can do nothing—and see daily cause for abhorring themselves and repenting in dust and ashes!