On August 24, 1774, John Newton gave the following advice to a young man setting out in life:
Were I more intimate with you, I could have asked the question, and perhaps received the satisfaction to know, that you have already begun to consider him in this light; that you feel a vanity in science, an emptiness in creatures, and find that you have desires which only He who gave them can satisfy. I trust it either is or will be thus. As to learning, though it is useful when we know how to make a right use of it, yet, considered as in our own power, and to those who trust to it without seeking a superior guidance, it is usually the source of perplexity, strife, scepticism, and infidelity. It is, indeed, like a sword in a madman’s hands, which gives him the more opportunity of hurting himself and others. As to what the world calls pleasure, there is so little in it, that even the philosophers of old, or many of them, though they had little of value to substitute in its room, could despise it. You will perhaps meet with some who will talk another language; who will pretend to be too wise to submit to the Bible, and too happy in worldly things to expect or desire any happiness beside; but I trust you have seen enough to enable you to treat such persons with the pity, and such pretensions with the contempt, they deserve.