Theoretical vs. Experiential Knowledge

by John Newton


The Christian calling, like many others, is easy and clear in theory…

…but not without much care and difficulty when reduced to practice.

Things appear quite otherwise, when felt experimentally, to what they do when only read in a book. Many learn the art of navigation (as it is called) by the fire-side at home, but when they come to sea, with their heads full of rules, and without experience, they find that the art is only to be thoroughly learned upon the spot. So, to renounce self, to live upon Jesus, to walk with God, to overcome the world, to hope against hope, to trust the Lord when we cannot trace him, and to know that our duty and privilege consist in these things, may be readily acknowledged or quickly learned; but, upon repeated trial, we find, that saying and doing are two things.

We think at setting out that we sit down and count the cost; but, alas! our views are so superficial at first, that we have occasion to correct our estimate daily. For every day shows as some new thing in the heart, or some new turn in the management of the war against us which we were not aware of; and upon these accounts, discouragements may arise so high as to bring us (I speak for myself) to the very point of throwing down our arms, and making either a tame surrender or a shameful flight. Thus it would be with us at last, if the Lord of Hosts were not on our side. But though our enemies thrust sore at us that we might fall, he has been our stay.

And if he is the captain of our salvation; if his eye is upon us, his arm stretched out around us, and his ear open to our cry, and if he has engaged to teach our hands to war, and our fingers to fight, and to cover our heads in the day of battle, then we need not fear, though a host rise up against us; but, lifting up our banner in his name, let us go forth conquering and to conquer; Rom. 16:20.

Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage:  John Henry Newton (24 July 1725 – 21 December 1807) was an English sailor and Anglican clergyman. Starting his career at sea, at a young age, he became involved with the slave trade for a few years, and was himself enslaved for a period. After experiencing a Christian conversion, he became a minister, hymn-writer, and later a prominent supporter of the abolition of slavery. He was the author of many hymns, including “Amazing Grace” and “Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken.”

Excerpts from Wikipedia, source material from ilyston