John Newton's Letters
All things work together for good
September 28, 1774.
My dear friend,
I see the necessity of having, if possible, my principles at my fingers'
ends, that I may apply them as occasions arise every hour.
"We know that all things work together for good to
those who love God—to those who are the called according to his purpose."
Romans 8:28. Certainly, if my ability was equal to my inclination,
I would remove your tumor with a word or a touch—I would exempt you
instantly and constantly from every inconvenience and pain! But you are in
the hands of One who could do all this and more, and who loves you
infinitely better than I can do—and yet He is pleased to permit you to
suffer. What is the plain lesson? Certainly, that at the present juncture,
He, to whom all the chains of events, and their consequences are present in
one view, sees it better for you to have this tumor than to be without it!
For I have no more idea of a tumor rising (or any other incidental trial
befalling you), without a cause, without a need-be, without a designed
advantage to result from it, than I have of a mountain or pyramid rising up
of its own accord in the middle of Main Street. The promise is express, and
literally true—that all things, universally and without exception, shall
work together for good to those who love God. But they work together!
The smallest as well as the greatest events have their place
and use—like several stones in the arch of a bridge, where no one would
singly be useful—but every one in its place is necessary to the structure
and support of the arch; or, rather, like the movement of a watch, where,
though there is an evident subordination of parts, and some pieces have a
greater comparative importance than others—yet the smallest pieces have
their place and use, and are so far equally important, that the whole design
of the machine would be obstructed for lack of them.
Some workings and turns of Divine Providence may be
compared to the main-spring or main-wheels, which have a more visible,
sensible, and determining influence upon the whole tenor of our lives. But
the more ordinary occurrences of every day are at least pins and
pivots, adjusted, timed, and suited with equal accuracy, by the hand of
the same great Artist who planned and executes the whole! We are sometimes
surprised to see how much more depends and turns upon these minor events,
than we were aware of. Then we admire his skill, and say "he has done all
things well!" Indeed, with respect to his works of providence, as well as of
creation, he well deserves the title of Maximus in minimis.
Such thoughts as these, when I am enabled to realize
them, in some measure reconcile me to whatever he allots for myself or my
friends, and convinces me of the propriety of that verse, which speaks the
language of love, as well as authority, "Be still—and know that I am God!"
I sympathize with you in your severe trial, and pray and
trust that your Shepherd will be your Physician; will
superintend and bless the use of means; will give you in his good time
health and cure, and at all times reveal unto you abundance of peace.
His promises and power are necessary for our
preservation, in the smoother scenes he has allotted for us, and they
are likewise sufficient for the roughest. We are always equally in
danger in ourselves, and always equally safe under the shadow of his wings.
No storms, assaults, sieges, or pestilences, can hurt us, until we have
filled up his appointed measure of service! And when our work is done, and
he has ripened us for glory—it is no great matter by what means he is
pleased to call us home to himself!