Tuesday, February 21, 2012

From the Pen of Newton: The Painter Knows Better Than Myself

This from a letter to Daniel West shows John Newton’s creativity as well as his firm confidence in Christ:

Did you ever see my picture?  I have it drawn by a masterly hand.  And though another person, and one whom I am far from resembling, sat for it, it is as like me as one new guinea is like another.  The original was drawn at Corinth, and sent to some persons of distinction in Rome.  Many copies have been taken, and though perhaps it is not to be seen in any of the London print-shops, it has a place in most public and private libraries, and I would hope in most families.  I had seen it a great many times before I could discover one of my own features in it; but then my eyes were very bad.

What is remarkable, it was drawn long before I was born, but having been favored with some excellent eye-salve, I quickly knew it to be my own.  I am drawn in an attitude which would be strange and singular, if it were not so common with me, looking two different and opposite ways at once, so that you would be puzzled to tell whether my eyes are fixed upon heaven or upon earth: I am aiming at things inconsistent with each other at the same instant, so that I can accomplish neither.  According to the different light in which you view the picture, I appear to rejoice and mourn, to choose and refuse, to be a conqueror or a captive.

In a word, I am a double person; a riddle.  It is no wonder if you know not what to make of me, for I cannot tell what to make of myself.  I would and I would not; I do and do not; I can and I cannot.  I find the hardest things easy, and the easiest things impossible: but while I am in this perplexity, you will observe in the same piece, a hand stretched forth for my relief, and may see a label proceeding out of my mouth with these words,—“I thank God, through Jesus Christ my Lord.”  The more I study this picture, the more I discover some new and striking resemblance, which convinces me that the painter knew me better than I knew myself…”  (Letters of John Newton, 136-137)

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