Monday, July 25, 2011

Counsel to a Friend with Cancer

The following is a modernized and de-Britainized version of John Newton’s letter to Mr. B in 1774.  I have tried to keep my changing of the words minimal but I have reformatted some to make it more readable for a blog entry as well.


My Dearest Sir,

I see the necessity of having, if possible, my beliefs upon my fingertips, so that I may apply them as I need them every hour.  Certainly, if my ability matched my desire, I would remove your tumor with a word or a touch; I would instantly take away every pain and inconvenience forever. 

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 can we conclude from this? 

Certainly, that at this time, He, to whom all of the history is present in one view, sees better for you to have this tumor than to be without it; for I have no more idea of tumor rising (or any other incidental trial coming upon you), without a cause, without a need-be, without a designed advantage to result from it, than I have a mountain or pyramid rising up of its own accord in the middle of Salisbury Plain

The promise is clear, and literally true, that all things, universally and without exception, shall work together for good to them that 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 by itself be useful, but every one in its place is necessary to the structure and support of the arch. 

Or, rather, it is like the movement of a watch, where, though there obviously are some pieces more important than others, yet the smallest pieces have their place and use, and are so far equally important, that the watch could not work if they were not present. 

Some acts and turns of Divine Providence may be compared to the main spring or big wheels, which have a more visible, sensible, and determining influence upon the whole direction 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 “lesser things” than we are 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 “The Very Greatest in the Least”.

Such thoughts as these, when I am enabled to realize them, in some measure reconcile me to what he allots for myself or my friends, and convinces me of truthfulness of that statement, which speaks the language of love as well as authority, “Be still, and know that I am God.” 

I sympathize with you in your trial, and pray and trust that your Shepherd will be your Physician; will oversee 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 better times, 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, till 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. 

I have only room to present our join and sincerest respects.  The Lord bless you all. 

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