John Newton on the Pastoral Ministry



I just received the book Beyond Amazing Grace: Timeless pastoral wisdom from the letters, hymns and sermons of John Newton compiled and edited by J. Todd Murphy (Evangelical Press) for review in the Criswell Theological Review. He includes an extended quote from Newton’s work, A Plan for Academic Preparation for the Ministry, which definitely needs to be widely read! The first part is about the nature of one called to the pastorate. The second one is about the qualifications of one who teaches others to be pastors. I quote it exactly as it is found in Beyond Amazing Grace.


My first maxim is that none but the one who made the world can make a minister of the gospel. If a young man has capacity, [then] culture and application may make him a scholar, a philosopher, or an orator; but a true minister must have certain principles, motives, feelings, and aims, which no industry or endeavours of men can either acquire or communicate. They must be given from above, or they cannot be received…


I adopt, as a second maxim, that the Holy Scriptures are, both comprehensively and exclusively, the grand treasury of all that knowledge which is requisite to make the minister the man of God, thoroughly furnished for every branch of his office…


For his first essential, indispensable qualification, I require a mind deeply penetrated with a sense of the grace, glory, and efficacy of the gospel. However learned and able in other respects, he shall not have a single pupil from me, unless I have reason to believe that his heart is attached to the person of the Redeemer, as God-man; that, as a sinner, his whole dependence is upon the Redeemer’s work of love, his obedience unto death, his intercession and mediatorial fulness. His sentiments must be clear and explicit respecting the depravity of human nature, and the necessity and reality of the agency of the Holy Spirit, to quicken, enlighten, sanctify, and seal those who, under his influence, are led to Jesus for salvation…


I should look for my tutor among those who are called Calvinists; but he must not be of a curious, metaphysical disputations [i.e. argumentative] turn [of mind], a mere system-monger or party-zealot. I seek for one who, having been himself taught the deep things of God by the Holy Spirit, in a gradual experimental manner; while he is charmed with the beautiful harmony and coincidence [i.e interdependence] of all the doctrines of grace, is at the same time aware of the mysterious depths of the divine counsels, and the impossibility of [their] being fully apprehended by our feeble understandings. Such a man will be patient and temperate in explaining the peculiarities [i.e. the distinctive features] of the gospel to his students, and will wisely adapt himself to their several states, attainments, and capacities.



3 Responses to John Newton on the Pastoral Ministry

  1. cdbrauns says:

    Thanks for this post Allen.

    How’s the job searching going? Sorry if you already updated us about that.

  2. allenmickle says:


    Nothing new yet. My resume is out there in what seems to be one hundred churches! All I usually hear though is “no” or nothing at all. We trust the Lord knows perfectly what He wants of me. A little less than 3 weeks left at TBS so I will be moving back home with the folks until the Lord provides work.

    I am preaching at Greenwich Baptist Church in Greenwich, NJ this weekend (it worked out since I was down in Philly anyway to see the soon-to-be-wife) so we’ll see about that. They’re looking for a pastor and they already received a good recommendation from my old school as well as they are in agreement with my doctrinal statement. So when I told them I was in the area they canceled their scheduled pastor and asked me to preach. Who knows I guess eh? It’s a little far from my family (10 hours) but I am sure we’d all survive!

    Keep praying Chris! If you hear of anything let me know!

  3. hi my name is kyrenneeka im 11 years old im in the 5th grade i just wanted to tell you that really liked that movie amazing grace i really learned something from that movie about my history and my people so i just wanted to thankyou so thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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