John Newton

John Newton’s Ring

This is a bit of an esoteric post, but it makes an interesting and most encouraging point – that not only you, but also your salvation itself, is absolutely safe in Jesus’s hands, unshakeable, secure, forever safe, unable to be lost. When Jesus said, “It is finished!” (John 19:30), He meant it!

John Newton was an eighteenth-century Christian minister, best known for his hymn ‘Amazing Grace’. I want to share here an encouraging passage from a book I am reading at the moment, about how John had a dream that showed him that, as I said above, his life and salvation were safely in the hands of Jesus.

“John Newton was one of the most respected and loved churchmen in England in the 18th century, but his life did not start off in that direction. Newton grew up, became a seaman, and later became a slave trader. Years later, as he was about to enter the ministry, he wrote about a dream he had had early in his slave-trading days that both warned him of the danger of his way of life and gave him a sense of God’s providence. In his dream, Newton was aboard a ship in the harbor of Venice, taking the night watch. A person approached him with a ring, gave it to him, and warned him to guard it carefully because as long as he kept the ring he would be happy and secure. As he thought about these things, a second person came up to him and convinced him of the folly of depending on the ring for his security. Newton dropped the ring in the water and immediately saw fire burst from a range of mountains behind Venice. Too late he recognized the second person as the tempter, who had tricked him into throwing away God’s mercy on his life. All that awaited him now were the hellish flames of those burning mountains. In Newton’s own words:

“And when I thought myself upon the point of a constrained departure, and stood, self-condemned, without plea or hope, suddenly a third person, or the same who brought the ring at first, came to me… and demanded the cause of my grief. I told him the plain case, confessing that I had ruined myself willfully, and deserved no pity. He blamed my rashness, and asked if I should be wise supposing I had my ring again. I could hardly answer to this; for I thought it was gone beyond recall. Immediately, I saw this unexpected friend go down under the water, just in the spot where I had dropped the ring, and he soon returned, bringing the ring with him. The moment he came on board the flames in the mountains were extinguished, and my seducer left me. My fears were at an end, and with joy and gratitude I approached my kind deliverer to receive the ring again, but he refused to return it, and spoke to this effect: “If you should be entrusted with this ring again, you would very soon bring yourself into the same distress. You are not able to keep it; but I will preserve it for you, and, whenever it is needful, produce it on your behalf.”

“After a short time, Newton forgot this dream. A few years later, however, he found himself in circumstances remarkably similar to those in his dream when he “stood helpless and hopeless upon the brink of an awful eternity.” There John Newton found mercy from the Lord. He discovered that the One who restored the ring would also keep it for him. This experience led him to exclaim, “O what an unspeakable comfort is this, that I am not in my own keeping!” [emphasis mine]. As a minister of the gospel, John Newton penned the words to many hymns, including one of the most famous and most often sung hymns of the church, “Amazing Grace.” It was a grace that John Newton knew from experience.”

– Goll, James W. Dream Language: The Prophetic Power of Dreams (pp. 58-59). Destiny Image. Kindle Edition.

There’s a massive Grace message in that story, as well as the message of ‘once saved, always saved‘.  This is a salvation that is worth celebrating – it is finished! Everything that needed to be done has already been done by Jesus on the Cross. All we have to do is to accept it.

We no longer need to ‘do, do, do’ to be acceptable to God; there’s no longer any need for us to try – because it’s all been ‘done, done, done!’

Now that’s Good News!

4 thoughts on “John Newton’s Ring

    1. Hi Michelle and thanks for your comment. It’s fine to disagree with my theology, and I welcome your input.

      I would say that I have arrived at my theological position after decades of study (including Bible college), thought, discussion and prayer – but I also have no doubt whatsoever that you have done so too, although possibly with less decades under your belt 😉 My reply below does not in any way aim to disrespect your learning or your point of view. And all my training and experience does not make me right; I too am a student at Jesus’s feet.

      I read the article you linked to and I have to say that it appears to be written from the point of view of someone (Martignoni) who already does not believe in ‘once saved, always saved’ and is using his interpretation of the Scripture to ‘prove’ it. An example would be that, in my opinion, the use of Galatians 5:1 has been twisted from St. Paul’s original and contextual meaning about not being under the yoke of slavery to the Law, and taken instead to mean a slavery to sin. A simple, honest reading of the context will prove this beyond any doubt; Martignoni has inserted the word [sin] based on nothing in that passage except his own bias. Martignoni appears to have something to prove, and in my opinion he’s done so by twisting the Scripture. Really, go take another look at its context and you will see that in Galatians 4, Paul is talking about being under Law, and to ‘get rid of the slave woman’ (which in Paul’s illustration is a figure of speech for the Law). The context then dictates that Gal 5:1 is about not falling back into the slavery of the Law, not the slavery of [sin]. (In Romans, Paul talks about slavery to sin, but in Galatians he’s talking about slavery to the Law). So, because of that apparent bias in the article, I would be wary of accepting solely what that article says without first reading some other, maybe more balancing, articles, so that you can see that not everyone interprets the passage in that way. There is irony here; people often interpret Galatians to make it sound completely legalistic, whereas in actuality Paul is talking about freedom from the Law because of our freedom under Grace. Falling from Grace refers not to falling from God’s favour but to falling from the higher calling of Grace and back into Law.

      If you don’t want to, or don’t feel you can, accept that once saved is indeed always saved, then that’s fair enough. I would say, though, that there is a huge amount of freedom – the same freedom that Paul talks about in that letter – just waiting for you if you will let go – repent of – the need to do everything right. It was to set us free from the requirements of the Law, and therefore our dependence on our own compliance with that Law, that Jesus died for.

      Let me put it another way: you died with Him on that Cross. I won’t quote the Sriptures at you; that would disrespect your existing knowledge (but I can if you want me to, if it would help). Your old life – sinful nature and all – was crucified with Him, and is dead and buried in the grave. When He rose again, you were also raised up with Him – BUT your sinful nature was not part of that deal; it did not get resurrected. This is what the new life means. ‘Once saved, always saved’ can also be looked at by thinking of it as ‘once in Christ, always in Christ’. You can’t just swing in and out of the New Life, swinging from ‘saved’ to ‘not saved’ and then back again, just as you can’t swing ‘out of Christ’ and then back ‘in Christ’ again. This is why you had to be included ‘in Christ’ when He died – because death is a one-way transaction. The sinful nature cannot be raised with Him to newness of life because it has no part of that life and is in fact incompatible with that life. So, what you have now is a new nature; a new heart within you, a new you. And that’s great cause for rejoicing and is in fact one of the springs of the joy that all those who realise this glorious truth own. It can’t be taken away because it’s real.

      If I might make a suggestion, why not try reading some of my other articles on here? There is plenty about freedom, Grace, Jesus, joy, sorrow, new life, blessing and fulness. You might well find something that encourages you. You will also find stuff you disagree with, too, but the primary thing is to look for something that blesses you.

      And, of course, you especially MUST ask Jesus to tell you what He thinks of all this. He alone is your Teacher and your Master, if you own Him as your Lord – as I am sure you do. He said in John 16:12 that He has so much more to say to us…sometimes we are not ready to bear what He says, and sometimes we are, and of course He knows whether or not we are ready. Just don’t be surprised if He tells you something that interprets the Scripture in a different way from how you may have been taught to interpret it. In the Gospels, He did that all the time – but always to bring blessing.

      Peace and Grace to you, Michelle.

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