Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Trembling Hands of an African Blasphemer

I found myself deeply moved earlier this week upon reading the diary of John Newton. Newton has become a dear friend of mine and there was something deeply moving about reading his diary, from his own pen, near the end of his life. Here is a selection:


That is barely legible. By this time Newton has almost totally lost his eye sight and his memory is quickly fading. If one reads his diary from the the 1770’s you see the diary of a man with good penmanship, able to express deep and poetic thoughts. It is everything but this in 1804.

Why bother with journaling when you are nearly blind?

The answer is found in piecing together the scribbling of Newton in the above selection. His first line reads: “Though I cannot write, I can pray and praise”. This was (I believe) his birthday. Towards the end of the his life he only wrote in this diary on special anniversaries: the anniversary of his physical birthday, his spiritual birthday, and his wedding anniversary. And every time Newton praises. He kept writing because he believed that while the lips of the “African blasphemer” could still move he was to praise the Lord for His goodness.

Secondly, Newton wrote in the above selection, “I hope some may be benefited by my lispings”. Until the day of his death Newton wanted to praise God and help people. Perhaps this is why some 200 years later an associate pastor in Indiana is still benefiting from his life and labors.

This is why I found myself deeply moved. I can picture Newton with faint eyes and trembling hands dipping his pen in ink because whatever energy he had left he wanted it to be spent on praising God and helping people. I want to be this type of pastor. This type of man.

May I never stop being enamored at what the Lord has done for me. If the Lord tarries and I’m granted old age, I pray that my trembling hands are used to praise God and help people.

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