Exactly 223 years ago today, John Newton wrote to his nearby friend Thomas Bull.
My dear friend,
You are a better expositor of Scripture than of my speeches—if you really inferred from my last that I think you shall die soon. I cannot say positively you will not die soon, because life at all times is uncertain. However, according to the doctrine of probabilities, I think, and always thought, you bid fair enough to outlive me. The gloomy tinge of your weak spirits—led you to consider yourself much worse in point of health than you appear to me to be.
In the other point I dare be more positive, that, die when you will—you will die in the Lord. Of this I have not the least doubt; and I believe you doubt of it less, if possible, than I, except in those darker moments when the evil humor prevails.
I heartily sympathize with you in your illnesses—but I see you are in safe hands! The Lord loves you—and He will take care of you. He who raises the dead—can revive your spirits when you are cast down. He who sets bounds to the sea, and says "Hitherto shall you come, and no further," can limit and moderate those illnesses which sometimes distresses you. He knows why He permits you to be thus exercised. I cannot assign the reasons—but I am sure they are worthy of His wisdom and love, and that you will hereafter see and say, "He has done all things well!"
I do not like to puzzle myself with second causes, while the first cause is at hand, which sufficiently accounts for every phenomenon in a believer's experience. Your constitution, your situation, your temper, your distemper, all that is either comfortable or painful in your lot—is of his appointment! The hairs of your head are all numbered. The same power which produced the planet Jupiter—is necessary to the production of a single hair! Nor can one your hairs fall to the ground without His notice—any more than the stars can fall from their orbits! In providence, no less than in creation.He is maximus in minimus. Therefore fear not—only believe. Our sea may sometimes be stormy—but we have an infallible Pilot, and shall infallibly gain our port!