26 JUNE (PREACHED 23 JUNE 1776)
A Shepherd’s heart
‘Brethren, pray for us.’ 1 Thessalonians 5:25
SUGGESTED FURTHER READING: Isaiah 49:8–23
We are, we must be, sharply tried by the cases of our hearers.
With respect to the congregations at large, I must have a heart like a stone if I could look seriously round this congregation without being affected. To see so many who are stumbling in the broad day, still under the power of sin, after long enjoying such uncommon advantages as the Lord has been pleased to favour this town with. To see them from week to week, from year to year, still careless and hardening under the means of grace.… often I shrink at the thought lest I am unfaithful. I fear I am not faithful, earnest or importunate enough, though I seem not to know how to be more so. I am a debtor to all, I bear a love to every soul that hears me.
But there are among you a number who not only hear but profess the truth; to these I bear a more immediate relation. I am more acquainted with them, I feel more for them. I may say without boasting, the Lord has given me, at least in a little measure, the heart of a shepherd. I feel for the distresses of many. As I am much among the people, I know a good deal of their personal and their family troubles. My heart sinks at the trials of some here before me and of others whose afflictions detain them at home. Perhaps no one in the parish knows so much of these things as I do. And I could relate cases which would, I am persuaded, draw tears from many eyes. I know likewise something of the spiritual distresses of those whom I endeavour to comfort but cannot.
FOR MEDITATION: My time and thoughts much engrossed today by an affecting and critical dispensation at Orchard Side [William Cowper attempted suicide]. I was sent for in the morning early and returned astonished and grieved. Could hardly attend to anything else.
Diary, 2 January 1773
The first temptation the enemy assaulted him with was to offer up himself as Abraham his son. He verily thought he ought to do it. We were obliged to watch with him night and day. I, my dear wife and Mrs Unwin with whom he lived, left him not an hour for seven years.
John Newton’s Funeral Sermon for William Cowper, May 1800
SERMON: 1 THESSALONIANS 5:25 [4/6]