Last week, we quoted from the beginning of a letter from John Newton 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 picks up on the second heading:
[As for the public, many] are very incompetent judges of doctrine; but they can form a tolerable judgment of a writer's spirit. They know that meekness, humility and love are the characteristics of a Christian temper. . . . They are quick-sighted to discern when we deviate from such a spirit, and avail themselves of it to justify their contempt of our arguments. The Scriptural maxim, that "the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God," is verified by daily observation. If our zeal is embittered by expressions of anger, invective, or scorn, we may think we are doing service of the cause of truth, when in reality we shall only bring it into discredit. The weapons of our warfare, and which alone are powerful to break down the strongholds of error, are not carnal, but spiritual; arguments fairly drawn from Scripture and experience, and enforced by such a mild address, as may persuade our readers, that, whether we can convince them or not, we wish well to their souls, and contend only for the truth's sake; if we can satisfy them that we act upon these motives, our point is half gained; they will be more disposed to consider calmly what we offer.
John Newton, Works, Vol 1 (Banner of Truth, 1985), p. 269f. The complete letter is available on the web. See also John Piper's excellent autobiographical sketch of Newton, "John Newton: The Tough Roots of His Habitual Tenderness".
[Are you able to contend for the faith with a spirit of meekness, humility and love? Or do you display anger, invective, and scorn for opponents of the gospel? Lord, forgive us for our harshness! Enable us to stand firmly on the truths of Your Word and, at the same time, to model those very truths -- Coty]
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