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John Newton on obsessive thoughts

'.... I greatly rejoice in the Lord's goodness to your dying parent. How wisely timed, and how exactly suited, was that affecting dispensation to break the force of those suggestions with which the enemy was aiming to overwhelm your spirit! He could not stand against such an illustrious demonstrative attestation that the doctrines you had embraced were not cunningly devised fables. He could process no further in that way; but he is fruitful in resources. ***His next attempt, of course, was to fix guilt upon your conscience, as if you yourself had formed, and willingly entertained, those thoughts which indeed you suffered with extreme reluctance and pain.*** Here, likewise, I find he succeeded for a time; but He Who broke the former snare will deliver you from this likewise.

The dark and dishonourable thoughts of God, which I hinted at as belonging to a natural state, are very different from the thoughts of your heart concerning Him. You do not conceive of Him as a hard Master, or think you could be more happy in the breach than in the observance of His precepts. You do not prefer the world to His favour, or think you can please Him or make amends for your sins by an obedience of your own. These, and such as these, are the thoughts of the natural heart – the very reverse of your own.

One thought, however, I confess you have indulged, which is no less dishonourable to the Lord than uncomfortable you yourself. You say, ***“I dare not believe that God will not impute to me as sin, the admission of thoughts which my soul ever abhorred, and to which my will never consented.”*** [ see how she tortures herself, but in her distorted thinking fails to see that her solution is in her very own words ] Nay, you fear lest they should not only be imputed but unpardonable. But how can this be possible? Indeed I will not call it your thought, it is your temptation.


Take courage Madam; resist the devil and he will flee from you. If he were to tempt you to anything criminal you would start at the thought and renounce it with abhorrence. Do the same when he tempts you to question the Lord's compassion and goodness. But there he imposes upon us with a show of humility, and persuades us that we do well to oppose our unworthiness as a sufficient exception to the many express promises of the Word. It is said “The blood of Jesus cleanseth us from all sin”; that all manner of sin shall be forgiven for its sake; that whoever cometh He will in no wise cast out; and that He is able to save to the uttermost. Believe His Word, and Satan shall be found a liar.'


  1. Amen! Bunyan's "Grace Abounding" is an excellent read for those who have also been passed through this hardship. It is available by under public domain on this site, I believe, though I recommend buying it so you may read and reread.


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