Be thankful, my dear, that he treats you as his enemy!

(Letters of John Newton)

November 13, 1772
My dear Miss,
I am glad that you complain of evil thoughts and temptations; for, though these things are grievous, they always accompany a saving work of grace. Though every Christian does not suffer greatly by persecution, poverty, and worldly troubles—yet they all suffer much from indwelling sin, temptation and Satan.

As to evil thoughts, they as unavoidably arise from an evil nature—as steam arises from a boiling tea-kettle! Every cause will have its effect—and a sinful nature will have sinful effects. You can no more keep such thoughts out of your mind—than you can stop the course of the clouds!

But if the Lord had not taught you—you would not have been sensible of them, nor concerned about them. This is a token for good. By nature your thoughts would have been only evil, and that continually. But you find 'something' within you that makes you dislike these thoughts; makes you ashamed of them; makes you strive and pray against them.

Now, this 'something' that resists your evil thoughts—what can it be? It cannot be human nature; for we naturally love our vain imaginations. It is the grace of God! The Lord has made you sensible of your disease—that you might love and prize the great Physician! The knowledge of His love for you—shall make you hate these thoughts! Yet you will be pestered with them more or less, while you live in this world. For sin is wrought into our bodies, and our souls must be freed from our bodies—before we shall be fully freed from the evils under which we mourn!

Your other complaint of temptations is likewise a good one. If you were to visit some young ladies who know no other end of living—but to dress and dance and socialize; and if you were to ask them if they are troubled with Satan's temptations—they would think that you were out of your wits! Poor things! They know no better! They are blinded by the god of this world; they go on quietly in the way of sin and vanity, careless of their souls, and mindless of eternity! While they continue in this course, you may be sure that Satan will not disturb them! They are asleep, and it would not be for his interest to do anything that might awaken them out of their pleasant dream!

And if you yourself were thus asleep, Satan would be content that you should sleep on—and take your rest. But, when he sees anyone awakened out of this deadly sleep, he probably tries first to lull them asleep again. And, if the Lord prevents that by His mercy, then Satan alters his measures, and roars like a lion which has lost his prey! Be thankful, my dear, that he treats you as his enemy! For the state of those to whom he behaves as a friend, is miserable indeed! And always remember that he is a chained enemy! He may terrify—but he cannot devour those who have fled for refuge to Jesus!

You cannot be too jealous of your own heart, or too cautious of the snares which you are exposed to. But the Lord is able and faithful to keep those from falling, who, sensible of their own weakness, cry daily to Him, "Hold me up—and I shall be safe!" Continue in prayer, that you may be preserved humble and abased in your own eyes—and then I am sure that you will not fall.

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the Devil!" Ephesians 6:10-11

I am sincerely, your affectionate friend and servant,
John Newton