Monday, August 4, 2014

Today: Newton's Birthday and Initial Step into Ministry

As I mentioned 11 days ago, many people consider John Newton's birthday to be July 24th, but Newton himself did not. Newton indeed was born on July 24th, however it was according to the Julian calendar.

So today is the day when John Newton celebrated his birthday. The first year he was to celebrate his birthday on August 4th was 1758 (when the calendar change occurred) which was Newton's 33rd birthday. But interestingly it was this year that Newton seriously considered his call into the ministry. He set aside 6 weeks to pray and study and "to examine my own heart to consider at large the nature, dignity, difficulty, and importance of the great undertaking I have in view [entering the ministry]". The purposely placed end of the six weeks would be August 4th. This would mark not only the first time Newton would celebrate his birth on this date, but also serve as the date in which Newton felt satisfied to confirm his calling and fully set forth on his journey to enter the ministry. He wrote on August 4th, 1758: "The day is now arrived when I propose to close all my deliberations on this subject with a solemn, unreserved, unconditional surrender of myself to the Lord." So today not only marks John Newton's 289th birthday, but also marks the first step Newton takes in pursuing his call to the ministry 256 years ago.

He concluded in his diary on that day,
And here I shall conclude for the present; it is drawing near 5 in the evening and I have been waiting upon the Lord in retirement with fasting and prayer since 6 in the morning. When I go from hence I shall take my refreshment with a thankful heart humbly trusting that the Lord has accepted my desire and that in His good time He will both appoint me work, and furnish me with grace, wisdom and strength to perform it. I cannot boast of any peculiar sensible manifestations in this day’s attendance; but I think my heart has in the general bent set to seek the face of my God, and that I now find my spirit submissive to His will. My desire to serve him still continues, and I am enabled to cast everything else upon him. What remains but that I shut up and confirm all with unfeigned praises for all His mercies.
We know that God was faithful to use John Newton in his time and even unto our own. The ripple effect of his ministry is hard to measure because it was a monster wave. One those crazy surfers only dream about.

For more information about John Newton, here is a post I did some years back that includes a lot of links and resources.

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