John Newton's Letters

The heavenly gardener

July 22, 1777.
My dear Sir,
The complaints you make of what passes within, encourage me under what I feel myself. Indeed, if those, who, I have reason to believe, are more spiritual and humble than I am, did not give some testimony that they find their hearts made of the same materials as mine is, I should be sometimes hard put to it to believe that I have any part or lot in the matter, or any real knowledge of the life of faith! But this concurrent testimony of many witnesses, confirms me, in what I think the Scripture plainly teaches—that the soil of human nature, though many spots are certainly better weeded, planted, and fertilized than others—is everywhere the same—universally bad! The heart is so bad, that it cannot be worse—and of itself is only capable of producing noxious weeds, and nourishing venomous creatures!

We know that culture, skill, and expense will make a garden—where all was desert before. When Jesus, the heavenly gardener, encloses a soil, and separates it from the wasteland of the world, to make it a residence for Himself—a change presently takes place; it is planted and watered from above, and visited with beams infinitely more nourishing and fertilizing than those of the material sun.

But its natural propensity to bring forth weeds still continues, and one half of God's dealings with us, may be compared to a company of weeders, whom He sends forth into His garden—to pluck up all which He has not planted with His own hand; and which, if left to grow, would quickly overpower and over top the rest!

But, alas! the ground is so impregnated with evil seeds, and they shoot in such quick succession, that if this weeding work were not constantly repeated, all former labor would be lost! Hence arises the necessity of daily crosses and disappointments, and such multiplied convictions that we are nothing, and can do nothing, of ourselves! All these trials are needful, and barely sufficient, to prevent our hearts from being overrun with pride, lust, worldliness and self-dependence.