I feel indebted to Miller Ferrie. You might do too by the end of this review. Why? Because she has carefully, thoughtfully and prayerfully compiled a series of daily readings, drawn from the works of that trophy of grace, John Newton.
It ranges far and wide across Newton’s letters, thoughts about the nation and his doctrinal teaching. Together it furnishes us with excellent reading material for every day of the year. With a Bible text as the heading for each day’s reading, these extracts are a great source of food for the soul. If you know and regularly sing the hymns of Newton, you will instantly recognise the themes and turns of phrase that meet us in his writings.
We would do well to supplement this book with fuller treatments of theological issues raised, but what we have here is the distilled wisdom of years of pastoral and preaching experience from a man who had well learnt the reality of ‘amazing grace’. This is what is so appealing in his hymns. It is what is so appealing in his writings. There is a never-failing sense of wonder that he should have been chosen in Christ for salvation.
In the selections Mrs Ferrie has made for us, Newton is often found setting forth the glory of Christ. Sometimes in fresh and vivid tones, always with immense thankfulness. There is so much tenderness and sympathy that comes through in these writings. Indeed, this reflects the impression that Newton has made on Mrs Ferrie.
In the editor’s preface she observes, ‘What impresses me about this man is his honesty in readily admitting his struggles, sinfulness and failures. This aspect of his writings has been such an encouragement to me personally, for it gave me the assurance that my own daily battles and humiliations are not unique’ (p.vii).
What Newton’s writings have done for Mrs Ferrie, they can do for us. My personal favourites are from his correspondence with various people, many of whom were evidently experiencing difficulties and trials. Pearls of wisdom drop from his pen. What it must have been for those original recipients of his letters, saturated with love and concern for their spiritual wellbeing. These readings can only do today’s needy saints good as well.
As I have had to compress a year’s worth of readings into a couple of months, I am looking forward to savouring at greater length the wisdom this great saint has bequeathed to us.