The Aged Pilgrim's Triumph Over Sin and the Grave!
Illustrated in a Series of Letters Never Before Published
by John Newton
Introductory Letter Addressed to Mrs. Ring.
My Dear Madam,
While reading to you some of the original Letters of which this Volume is composed, addressed by our revered friend, the late Rev. John Newton, to my beloved parents, you observed, "It is selfish to retain such a treasure in the bosom of your own family;" and expressed a wish that they might be offered to the public, and particularly to the afflicted and desponding, for their edification. The same wish has been expressed by some other respected friends — with which I now cheerfully comply. These Letters were written in the freedom of cordial and confidential friendship, without any view toward their publication; but I hope I may feel persuaded, that the benignant smile which I always received from the writer, during his visits to my relatives, would not now, were he living, be changed into a frown; and that could my departed parents be consulted, their cheerful acquiescence would be readily obtained for their further circulation, in the confident hope of their more extended usefulness.
In sending them to the press, I have but one feeling of reluctance, which I am persuaded my beloved parents in the same case would have had, and it is this — that their little acts of friendship and Christian love should be made so public; but I know you agree with me, that their statement could not be suppressed, without doing injustice to the character of our holy and valued friend. When I consider those acts of friendship were only such as befit the Christian character, I sacrifice my reluctance to their publicity, to the ardent desire, that these excellent Letters may be found as consoling to others under affliction, as they were to those to whom they were originally addressed; and as, under the weight of various heavy trials, I have found them myself.
To you, my dear and kind friend, I owe my best thanks for your voluntary assistance in transcribing them for the press; and the Christian public will be also indebted to you for the addition which you have made to their number, of original Letters received by you from the same writer. May the perusal of the volume which is ushered into the world with your approbation, prove to be to you a source of consolation whenever your spirits may require support; and that you and your invaluable and highly esteemed husband may long enjoy the rich blessings so often implored for you by our reverend and mutual friend, is the heart-felt desire of,
Your very affectionate and grateful friend,
My Dear Sir,
The interviews I had with you in London, though short and few, were sufficient to make me willing, very willing, to accept your obliging invitation to S. But at that time, and from that time, until within this week, such a visit appeared to me rather desirable than practicable. My business lies at home, and I am not, or would not be hasty to visit you until I can see the Cloud and Pillar moving before me. I think something of a Providential call, or leading, or opening, makes a journey or a visit, much more pleasant.
Some such openings seem to point out my way to Lymington, particularly the desire of my honored friend Mr. Thornton, who wishes me to be some time with him there, and at the Isle of Wight. This desire ought to have with me the force of a command, when it is in my power to comply. We have a dear daughter about thirteen, who has several ailments — and just about the time that Mr. T. mentioned his intended journey, the physician wished she might go to the ocean. Previous to all this, some months ago, a gentleman who lives at or near this very Lymington, a person whom I had never seen, or had any knowledge of, called on me at Charles-Square, to invite me and my family to his house, having somehow heard, as he said, that someone in the family had occasion to use the ocean. Had an excursion from London to the salt-water been the only point in view, I would have thought of no place so soon, and with so much pleasure as S. — but there are some other circumstances, besides what I owe to Mr. T. which make me think the path of duty will lead me to L. But I can assure yon my heart has jumped at the thought that I should have opportunity of paying my respects to you and Mrs. T. by the way; provided you are at home, and that it is convenient to you to receive us at this time, of which I shall hope for the favor of a line from you to inform me before I set out. If the time fixed should suit you to receive us, I promise myself much pleasure in visiting you.
I have likewise another reason for wishing to see S. I was there so long ago as the year 1736, in the shape of a little sailor boy. My father was master of a ship, and took in a lading of corn for Spain. It was my first voyage to sea. I love to revisit the spots where I spent a part of my early life; it revives the ideas of things and events long passed, and I hope the contrast between my situation then, and what it is now, will strike me when I return to the same place, with some profitable impressions — for, alas! at the best I am too faintly affected with a review of the wonderful way by which the Lord has led me thus far through the wilderness. The turns of my life have been extraordinary, and perhaps have appeared more so to you and to many, than I fear they do to myself.
I saw our good friend Mr. S. the other day; he is pretty well, and talks of writing to you. The Lord, all-sufficient, has graciously supported him under his late trials and changes. The removal of dear Mrs. S. was a heavy loss to her family, and sensibly felt by many of her friends. Mrs. Newton and I had a share in it — we loved and respected her greatly; but the Lord does all things well, and it will never be quite well with any of us, until we follow her to the land of light, and join with her, and with the innumerable company before the throne, in songs of praise to Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood. We join in love and respects to you and Mrs. T.
I am, dear sir, your affectionate and obliged,
John Newton, July 20th, 1784.
My Dear Sir,
Appearances are so against me, that if you and Mrs. T. have thought me to be ungrateful, I cannot wonder. The truth is, my time slips away so pleasantly and insensibly here, that it was not until last night I found out that I had passed five whole days since I saw you without writing to you. I almost startled at the thought, like a person suddenly awakened from a sound sleep. I now beg your pardon, and would promise to behave better upon the like occasion hereafter, if I did not know myself a little too well to venture to promise much in future. However, I do hope I may thus far engage, that neither I, nor Mrs. Newton, nor Eliza, can easily forget the kindness we received at S.
We performed our journey hither without any inconvenience, except what we felt sympathy with poor William, and a little likewise we sympathized with your horses. I think neither your coachman nor your horses ever traveled so many miles in worse weather. I ought to have written the very next day, in hopes of hearing that William got no illness, nor your horses any damage, by us.
I cannot yet inform you how long I shall stay here. When I was with you I felt myself so comfortably at home, that I could have been well content to have made your house the end of my journey. I shall find the like reluctance, for the like reasons, to leave Mr. E.'s house. But it was necessary I should leave you to come hither — and it will be necessary for me to leave Mr. E. to return to you — and then I must leave you again to return home. It is well that I am to go home, for I could have no good heart to go anywhere else after visiting Hampshire.
But home (as they say) is home. There is my church, my people, and the appointed sphere of my service. After the great indulgence I have in this excursion, I hope I shall return with an increase of grace, and apply myself with cheerfulness to the duties of my situation, though in the midst of the noise and smoke of London.
What an unspeakable mercy to be pleased with being where the Lord would have us be. On Sunday evening I expounded the Word to a few in a house. Our room and our auditory were both small, but I was well received. This is all I have hitherto done in the preaching way, except for another morning and evening. But I am the Lord's servant; He knows I am here, and what He would have me to do. Therefore I am well content to sit quiet and learn — something I hope I shall learn one day or other. I may at least study to be quiet. Everything around me is delightful. I ride, walk, am alone, or in company, read or write, just as I please. I want nothing but more thankfulness to the Lord, and more intimate communion with Him. It is a mercy to know that these are things above all others truly desirable. Accept my best love and thanks, and believe me to be
Your affectionate and obliged servant,
John Newton, 12th August, 1784.
My Dear Sir,
The first duty I intended for my silver pen, was to give you information of our safe arrival in Charles Square. I will not search for silver words to express our thanks to you and Mrs. T. for your great kindness; suffice it to say that we love you dearly. May the Lord, for whose sake you took us in as strangers, reward you.
But words of gold would not be sufficient to express the praise due to our good and great Shepherd, who led us out in peace, was with us along the way in our journey, and brought us home in safety. He preserved our habitation likewise, and those whom we left behind, so that we saw or heard nothing upon our return to cause uneasiness.
We unite in making up a parcel of our best love to you, Mrs. T., and all your young people, with our hearty thanks to each and all of them, for the kindness they showed us.
I seem at present a stranger even at home, but by tomorrow (I hope) my thoughts will get into their own channel, and I hope (and beg your prayers for it) that the Lord will enable me to benefit by the recollection of what I have seen or heard while abroad.
My recent journey was very pleasant — but I ought to wish it may be made profitable. But I have had long experience how little I am able to improve by the most desirable advantages — and how little I am affected by a combination of the greatest mercies.
I may express all my complaints in one short sentence: I am a poor creature! And all my hopes and comforts may be summed up as briefly, by saying: I have a rich and gracious Savior! Full as I am in myself of inconsistencies and conflicts — I have in Him a measure of peace. He found me in a waste howling wilderness — and He redeemed me from the house of misery and bondage. And though I have been ungrateful and perverse — He has not yet forsaken me — and never will. He is able to hold even me up — to pity, support and supply me to the end of life.
How suitable a Savior! He is made all things to those who have nothing — and is engaged to help those who can do nothing.
I expect this letter will come in season to tell you, that while you are reading it, I hope my heart will be thinking of you, and desiring a Sabbath's blessing upon you and yours. I shall then be preparing to meet my beloved people. Think of me in the same way; pray for me, that I may return to them "in the fullness of the blessings of the Gospel of Christ."
Though we are near eighty miles distant from each other — we can easily meet at the throne of grace. Prayer can ascend from S. and London — and bring back an answer of blessings to both places in the same moment. I have still the same light and the same sun as when I was with you, and thus the Lord is the same, and equally near to us all. What an honor and privilege is it to know the way to the mercy-seat — and to be permitted to plead in that name which always prevails.
Tell Mrs. K. that I shall not forget her request. I hope the Lord will spare her child, to be a comfort to her. But should He appoint otherwise — He will be faithful to His promise, and make her strength equal to her day. I can venture to assure her, that the child shall certainly recover — if He who is infinitely wise, sees it best for her upon the whole. But we are short-sighted creatures, not only unworthy — but unable to rightly choose for ourselves. If the choice was left to us, it would be our wisdom to refer it back to Him, and we may be sure that He does not willingly grieve or afflict us. He takes no pleasure in seeing us weep and mourn — rather, every day brings us ten thousand proofs that He delights in our prosperity.
When we are in heaviness, therefore, there is a need-be for it — faithful are the wounds of such a Friend. Our trials are made no sooner, nor longer, than the exigency of the case requires. He who wounds — has promised likewise to heal. He is all sufficient, and can give more than He will ever take away from his redeemed children. I trust she will find power to commit herself, and her every concern, into His hands; and that she will have reason to acknowledge, from day to day, that He does all things well.
I am, very sincerely, your affectionate and much obliged servant,
Charles-Square, 3rd Sept, 1784.
My Dear Sir and Madam,
My first letter is due to you, and if I was to fill it with thanks, I would not say half enough. Let me say once more that I thank you — we both thank you, we all thank you. The Lord brought us home safely at three o'clock. We had a very pleasant journey — and I am now to get into my round again.
When I saw your horse the other morning going round and round with the wheel, it reminded me of myself. The horse would be better pleased, I suppose, if he was at liberty to scamper about — but his service and usefulness depend upon treading the same steps over and over again.
In the same way, if I had my will — I might perhaps be seen sometimes in twenty places distant from home, and often about — but the wheel to which I am fastened, and which marks out the track and circle of my duty — is in London.
Your horse I suppose is blinded to prevent his growing giddy. I do not wish to be blinded — but I wish to move simply and quietly step by step in the Lord's path — without looking around me, without questioning or reasoning. I am not my own, but belong by right to Him who paid my ransom, and delivered me from the house of bondage, from the power of Satan. Therefore I am not to do my own will, or be at my own disposal.
This is my duty, and it is my privilege likewise. For He who requires me to give up all to Him — engages to be, and to do all for me. I shall not want, I need not fear — if only the Lord is my Shepherd! O what a guard, what a guide, what a protector, what a comforter is He to all who put their trust in Him, and devote themselves to His will.
My recent visit was pleasant, and I hope in the review of what passed, that I shall he enabled to find some profit. As iron sharpens iron, so there is a mutual benefit arising from the fellowship of Christians who meet and converse in a right spirit. I would he thankful for what I know of this, and wish to he thankful that I have been at S. twice, and I can truly say that I shall be very willing to go a third time — if the Lord should ever make my way clear to you. I know no place to which inclination would sooner lead me, or where I seem to feel more at home. I shall think of Mrs. T. daily, until I hear of the event, of which I hope you will favor me with as early an information as you conveniently can. I send her Nehemiah chapter 1, verse 7 as a good cordial, which has been tried and approved by many. "We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses."
I am, dear sir and madam, your much obliged and affectionate,
Hoxton, 17th September, 1785.
My Dear Madam,
I must address a line or two to you. I have good reason to think of you and Mr. T. daily, and could wish, if I dared wish for anything, to be nearer you, and more with you. But we are placed like sentinels in our respective posts — and we must not leave them oftener, nor longer, than our great Commander directs!
I believe we both see cause to be thankful for the particular situation which He has allotted to us. My lot is not wholly without its trials — but its comforts and advantages are more numerous and important.
I can truly say that if I had only my desires to consult — that you would see me frequently, and my visits would probably be longer than my last was. I left you with regret, even though I was coming home. I suppose your time of confinement is drawing near — when it comes I trust the Lord will be near likewise, and repeat to you the former experience you have had of His goodness. I hope Mr. T. will favor me with early notice of it, that I may join with you in thanksgiving.
Our children send their love. Eliza is a considerable sufferer, and we sympathize with her — but my dear wife is pretty well, and I trust the Lord does and will support her, whatever the outcome may be. He is wise and good in all His dealings, and His mercies to us are new every morning, and as numerous as the minutes of our lives.
I have had a desire of living for Him for the past thirty years — but I am a poor follower, and a poor servant to this day. But as I live upon His bounty — so I would rely upon His grace. I have nothing else to support my hope, for not only am I a sinner — but I see and feel sin in my very best duties! And were it not for the blood of sprinkling, and the power and compassion of our great High priest — despair would overwhelm me at last. But those words, (which I am sure are true,) "He is able to save to the uttermost!" are an anchor of hope from which the enemy has not been permitted to force me.
I have begun to preach from the Book of Jonah. It bears a near resemblance to my own history, and I need not go far, nor consult many books — to explain the workings of the heart of man, from Jonah's case. The recollection of many parts of my past life, and many feelings of my own heart to this day — will furnish me with something to say upon it.
When the path of duty led to the East — I have foolishly and obstinately set my face to the West. I have suffered by storms, which my own sins have raised. Though I never was in the belly of a fish — I have been in my own apprehensions, in the mouth of Hell!
I have had my gourds likewise, and while I have been admiring them — a worm has been sent to the root! Some of them have faded — and some of them are still spared. The crowning wonder and mercy of all is, that I am still spared myself!
We join in love and thanks to you and Mr. T. We remember all the younger part of your family with much love. May the Lord be with you, dear Madam, and bless you indeed! This is the sincere and bounden prayer of,
Your much obliged and affectionate,
John Newton Hoxton, 1 October, 1785.
My Dear Sir,
I address my letter to you this time, to prevent the contents of it coming too abruptly upon Mrs. T., which might be the case if Mr. T. should open it in her presence. Our dear daughter Eliza never went out of doors after she came home from you. She had a succession and a variety of pains and maladies, but three weeks from her leaving your hospitable roof — the Lord delivered her from them all. This is the dark side of the dispensation; I have not time, nor words to describe the bright side — but I may hereafter attempt to draw up some brief account of her, which, if I do, will surely find its way to you.
For four days we expected her death every hour, and though she suffered much, we could not but be thankful she continued so long. Her peace and confidence in God were abiding. Her mouth was filled with words of grace, comforting or exhorting all around her. Often she declared she would not change conditions with any person upon earth, nor be willing to live longer here, even if restored to perfect health — for all that the world, or a thousand such worlds can afford. She smiled upon pain, she smiled upon death. When she died, which seemed to be in a sort of slumber, she had reclined her cheek gently upon her hand, and there was almost a smile left upon her countenance.
I can answer for her, as for myself, and Mrs. Newton — that she brought home with her a thankful sense of the great kindness she received from you, and spoke of you all with much affection and gratitude. Mr. and Mrs. T. knew, I trust, how our hearts beat towards them. I am glad of this opportunity of expressing my particular thanks to you for your very obliging attention to my wife and our dear child, for which I shall always hold myself your debtor. Could I pray as I ought and wish, I would make you large returns in that way. May the Lord God of your father be your God; may you together with his name, inherit his character and spirit, and be no less respected, no less beloved, no less useful than he.
My dear sir, when sweet Eliza was dying, I almost wished it practical to have set my door open, and invited all who passed by to come in and see what it is to die in the Lord, and to hear what a child under fifteen could say of His goodness, and of the vanity of everything short of His favor.
I am, dear sir, your much obliged servant,
John Newton, 8th October, 1785.
My Dear Madam,
Your letter, which we received last night, did us good. We longed to hear of you, and were sometimes full of fears, but when I considered whose you are, and whom you serve — I was more easy. You are in safe hands. The everlasting arms which hold the stars in their courses — are underneath you! The Lord is your shepherd and keeper, your sun and shield — why then should I fear for you? Or why should you fear for yourself? I hope you do not.
Yes, madam, the Lord has done great things for us since we came home. He sent a chariot of love for our dear daughter Eliza. We almost saw her mount to Heaven. Surely she was in Heaven, and Heaven in her — before she left the earth. The manner of her death had a merciful effect upon us, so that, though it was in one view like pulling off a limb — yet upon the whole we felt that praises were much more suitable for us, than complaints. I still weep for her more or less every day — but I thank the Lord I have not dropped one tear of sorrow. My dear wife likewise has been wonderfully supported.
By yesterday's post I sent to Mr. T. and to Mr. K. the little narrative I have printed of Eliza's translation to glory. I will send Mr. T. two or three more if I can find a conveyance. I only printed for my friends — none will be published. Just at the time I wrote it, I could not have written an account fit for the public to see, but friends will have patience to hear little particulars as they occur to mind.
May the Lord bless and support you through your expected trial. May you again be the joyful mother of a lively and a lovely infant. We join in best love to Mr. T. We send our love likewise to every branch and twig in both the families. In particular I thank Miss K. for her letter — please to tell her that I dropped several tears upon it. I love her doubly for the kind mention she makes of Eliza. The dear child has left me deeply in debt. I feel myself under obligations to everybody who looked kindly upon her, or spoke kindly to her. Judge then (if you can), how we feel towards Mr. and Mrs. T. on her account. If I could make gold as fast as your mill makes blocks — I could not repay you, but love is better than gold. I will keep paying you in love, as long as I live.
I purposed leaving the remaining part of the paper for my dear wife to fill up, but she says her head is very poorly, and has been for some days. She is perfectly satisfied with the Lord's will, but her feelings have been strong, and if her health and nerves are affected for a time, I shall have still cause I hope to be thankful that she is no worse. She has had but an uncomfortable sort of head since the year 1776, when she was seized with a violent nervous disorder, which though the Lord graciously relieved her from, within about a year. She has been more apt to suffer by changes, surprises, and cares, since that period, than before.
I observe that nerves are such obstinate things that they will neither yield to reason nor to Scripture. But the promises of God are sure, whatever our feelings may be for the time — if our faith and hope be bottomed upon His good word, we shall not be disappointed in the end. Once more I commend you, and all dear to you, to the keeping of the great Shepherd, and remain,
Your very affectionate and much obliged friend,
John Newton, 28th October, 1785.
My Dear Madam,
My dear wife says I must write a bit. I am sure I am willing, but am generally a little lazy on Sunday evenings, and today I have preached three times; but I expect to be very busy tomorrow, and therefore while I am smoking my pipe before supper, I take up my pen to you.
Ah, madam, I could not have known you and Mr. T. without loving you — though I had never visited you at S. But your great kindness to us, standing in connection with sweet Eliza's sickness and death, and the comfortable reception she had under your hospitable roof, has bound my heart to you in a peculiar manner. Had she lived and recovered to be quite well, I hope I should not have been ungrateful; but I seem to feel it more sensibly because she is gone.
I hope the Lord has graciously comforted you in your confinement, and that you are growing strong every day, and will soon be restored to your family, and to the house of the Lord. May the Lord grant my dear friends as much comfort in all your children, as we had in sweet Eliza — and if it pleases Him, without the abatement of sickness, or the pain of an early death. But why do I say pain? If I must call it pain, (and surely I felt it) I must likewise say, it was a delightful, desirable pain — preferable to all the pleasures such a world as this can afford. I little doubt but you who are real parents, could part with your children without reluctance, upon the same terms.
Oh! it was wonderful! I could not complain if I would, making myself, my partial self, judge in my own cause. I was constrained to confess that no one circumstance in my whole life called for a larger return of gratitude and praise — than the removal of this dear girl, notwithstanding that, if it had been the Lord's will to restore her to health — I would have rejoiced more in her recovery than in the possession of the best estate in Hampshire. I knew that I loved her dearly — but how dearly I never knew, until about the last week of her life. Yet I am most perfectly satisfied, and have not had the most distant wish for a moment since she died — that the event had been otherwise. I loved to talk of her, and every day more or less, I still drop some tears over her memory: perhaps this is a weakness — I trust that it is not a sin. I do not find it gives me any uneasiness. She is almost continually in my thoughts, but so, as rather to draw forth my thankfulness to the Lord than otherwise, that she is where she is. I hope the thought of her helps me sometimes in prayer, often in preaching, and gives me such a confirmation of the great truths I speak of as I would not be without. Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I begin to weary, and supper is ready. The Lord bless you both, and all belonging to you. This I hope will be the daily prayer of
Your most affectionate and obliged, John Newton
12th September, 1785.
My Dear Madam,
I hope this new year will bring many new blessings to you and yours. The Lord is good. He has delivered — He does — He will deliver. Oh, madam, what an altar, atonement, temple, priest! What a sun and shield! What a Savior and what a Shepherd have we! May we know and feel our privileges, and live a life of dependence and obedience to Him. Our best love to you both, and to all your children. I am in haste, and must subscribe myself your affectionate and obliged,
John Newton, Hoxton, 9th January, 1786.
My Dear Sir,
How shall I begin? I first entered your hospitable roof on one of my memorable days, August 4th. On this day, thirty-eight years ago, I was on a ship in a storm, and pumping for my life — without food, almost without clothes, every rolling sea breaking over my head, and expecting every time the ship plunged, that she would rise no more! Our preservation was surely miraculous.
Oh, how unfit was I then to die — and oh, how unfit to live! But I was spared, and having obtained help of Almighty God, He delivered me out of deep waters, and I continue unto this day. What a mysterious path has mine been! Through what changes have I been led! Surely I, above most, have reason to say, "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ has been exceedingly abundant!" Truly I am a debtor. How ought I to love and serve and praise Him! Come my friends, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.
You likewise were a sinner, but you were not a scorner and a blasphemer, profane and profligate like me. Yet the grace which was necessary for you — was sufficient even for me also. I trust you will pray for me, that His grace may be with me to the end.
My book, "Messiah," which Mrs. T. inquires after, is printed off. I suppose the book may be published by Easter. I shall send to you among the first, ten sets. One set, dear Mrs. T., you must do me the favor to accept as a token of love from me; and I shall be obliged to you to give another set to Mr. E.
My heart was much upon this business, and now that the Lord has enabled me to finish it, I would be thankful. Though I am at present in good health, the question of Pharaoh to Jacob ought to be much in my thoughts, "How old are you?" Indeed, I am old enough to be wiser and better than I am. Now that I have turned sixty, I have no right to expect that my abilities either for preaching or writing will continue very long. The shadows of evening cannot be very distant from me. It is therefore probable that the "Messiah" will be my last book from the press; and if so, I take leave of the public with a noble subject. Surely I am bound to wish, that while my lips or my fingers can move — His name and His grace should employ my thoughts, my words, and my pen; and especially my last words, whether in the pulpit, in the parlor, or in my bed, and so from the press.
What do I live for, but to bear a frequent public testimony to Him, and to commend Him to my fellow-creatures! It pleases me to think, that when I can speak and write no more — I have some testimonies to bequeath to posterity. Possibly some poor sinner, after my departure, may be won to seek His face, by reading what He has done for my soul; or what He has enabled me to publish concerning His compassion and His power.
My dear wife was mostly confined to the house for above a month — at present she is better, thanks to the great Physician. We shall soon enter upon the important business of moving from Charles-Square, to Coleman Street. We have a term of ten years in the house, a long while to look forward to, especially at my time of life.
I long to attain to a habit of living with the Lord by the day; to depend no more upon tomorrow, than upon yesterday; to hold myself in constant readiness; to be willing to go at a minute's warning, and leave all behind me in His hands. Or, (if such were his appointment,) to be willing to stay and see those whom I love go before me.
All of this looks pretty enough upon paper — but to be thus united to His will, and to rejoice in Him under any possible change, would be an attainment indeed! Perhaps none of us can fully reach it until we arrive (where my dear daughter Eliza stood two days) at the threshold of glory.
However, we may approach nearer and nearer to such a frame of mind, and every step towards it is preferable to thousands of gold and silver.
I am in deed and in truth, your affectionate and much obliged,
John Newton, 21st March, 1786.
My Dear Friend,
By the time this reaches you, I hope you will have received ten copies of my book, the "Messiah." I hope you and dear Mrs. T. will each accept a copy, as a token of my love, and a small acknowledgment of my obligations to you. The "Messiah" is advertised, and will be published on next Thursday. Thus the Lord has graciously granted a desire which was warm upon my heart. My mind was much engaged to undertake this subject, and when I began it, I could not help feeling a wish that I might be preserved to finish it. Help me, dear sir, to praise Him, and afford me your prayers that my attempt may be crowned with His blessing.
We have now been nearly a month in our new house, and begin to feel ourselves at home. Through mercy, we were favored in our removal with tolerable health, and were preserved from painful incidents. This is the fourth dwelling in which the Lord, in His providence, has placed me since I left off the sea, in the year 1754.
My history is briefly expressed in the following verses:
"In a desert land He found him — in a waste howling wilderness. He shielded him and cared for him — He guarded him as the apple of his eye." Deuteronomy 32:10
"I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them. I will turn the darkness into light before them, and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do — I will not forsake them!" Isaiah 42:16
He found me in a waste howling wilderness indeed! He has led me about into a variety of situations, and in them all He watched over me, and kept me as the apple of His eye. When I was blind — He led me in ways which I knew not, and which no mortal could have supposed were likely to bring me where I now am. I was once an utter stranger to the paths of truth and righteousness — but in a wonderful manner He drew and guided me into those holy paths which I had not known. And though my heart is prone to wander, He has kept me with a mighty hand, so that I have not wholly declined from them. How often has He made darkness light before me, and crooked things straight! These things has He done for me, as I am encouraged to hope He will continue to do them, for His promise is, "I will not forsake them."
I avow a warm desire of seeing S. in the course of this Summer, should opportunity be afforded. But Mrs. Newton, though she loves our friends there no less than myself, does not think her spirits strong enough as yet to return to a place, where almost every person, and every object, would forcibly recall the image of our dear departed daughter Eliza to her mind. But if the Lord judges it proper for me to visit you, he can easily over-rule this difficulty. It is our mercy that he has absolute power over our hearts, and can strengthen us for whatever he calls us to.
At present we must wait. If, towards July or August, she should find herself stronger, and I can procure a proper pulpit supply for a couple of Sundays, I shall be glad to come. In the mean time accept our best love, which we always feel in exercise when the name of Mr. and Mrs. T. is in our thoughts, which is very frequently.
I am your much obliged and affectionate,
Coleman-Street, 18th May, 1786.
My Dear Friends,
You might well have expected to hear from us before now; I should have let you know that the carpet came safe, which is all I have to say of it. How it looks, how it fits, and how much it is admired, I leave my dear wife to inform you; I suppose she will likewise thank you for your trouble.
Carpets and such fine things lie out of my department. The path through this wilderness world is not spread with soft carpets. If it were, shoes of iron and brass would be unnecessary — and if they were not needful, the Lord would not have provided them.
But He knows that the way is rough, and provides accordingly. He trod it before us, and has left upon it the marks of His footsteps for our instruction and encouragement. May we follow Him cheerfully. As He passed through sufferings to glory — so shall His people. But how different is the cup which He puts into our hands — from that which He drank for our sakes! Our sufferings are not worth a thought — when, Lord, compared with Yours!
At present my path is remarkably smooth. My health is good, my dear wife is pretty well, and Betsy is well too. I am blessed with a peaceful united family at home, kind friends abroad, and bread in the cupboard. I have some liberty in the pulpit, some tokens of the Lord's presence in the congregation, and a mind, through mercy, so well satisfied with my situation, that there is not a person upon earth with whom I would wish to change places!
And all this heightened by the consideration (which is seldom long out of my thoughts) of what I once was, and where I once was, when the Lord first began to draw me to Himself. Truly I am a debtor to sovereign grace! I seem to have nothing to ask for myself — but for a more thankful, dependant, humble, and active spirit in his service.
Our friend Mr. Johnston will, I believe, go as chaplain to the proposed settlement in New Holland, and have the honor to be the first man who is to carry the glad tidings of salvation to the Southern Hemisphere. He did not seek this service; it was proposed to him, and he has felt the importance of it, and the difficulties attending it. Yet be does not decline it. I hope his call is not from man only, but from the Lord.
It is a call like that of Abraham, to forsake all that is dear to him, and to venture himself upon the promises and power of the Lord. He seems to be in every respect a fit person, and I believe his views are so upright, that the Lord will not permit him to take a step of so much consequence, unless it be agreeable to His will.
We often think of dear Mrs. T. and of the hour which is before her. I trust the same gracious Lord who has been with her in former times, will support her and appear for her again, and that you will again invite us to praise Him on her behalf. Every answer to prayer which He affords is an encouragement to call upon Him again, and then again, even as long as we live. For as we shall need His help — so He has promised to help those who put their trust in Him.
I must conclude with assuring you, that I am your affectionate and obliged servant,
John Newton, 27th October, 1786.
My Dear Friends,
I know not, but I suppose the time cannot be very far distant, when we may hope to receive pleasing information respecting dear Mrs. T. as you were kind enough to favor me with a letter last time — that as I wish to help you with my prayers as I am enabled, so I may join with you in praise. It is written, "He shall deliver you in six troubles — yes, in the seventh, no evil shall touch you."
We are sorry for poor Mrs. C.'s* daughter. Alas! how foolish are the bargains which we make with sin! Nothing is gained by them, but sorrow and trouble.
[* Editor's note: Mrs. C. was poor widow woman, well known to Mrs. T. — when on her death bed, requested her to do all she could for her three orphans, which was readily agreed to.
I remember the boy was taken care of until he became old enough to be a foot-boy in the family. But becoming unruly, he was sent to sea — and I believe good accounts were received of him some time after.
The eldest daughter — after everything being tried to make her a good girl, and the best advice given — left the family, bent on her own destruction — and, shocking to relate, some time after was found dead in a ditch — near that house where she might have been happy.
My heart indeed is pained, while I reflect on what must have been the feelings of this unhappy creature, breathing her last, unattended, and exposed perhaps to an inclement night — near the neat little cottage where her mother died in peace, looking unto Jesus, and happy in thinking that her children would be led to seek Him as their best friend, and whom she found faithful to his promise, "I will never leave you — no, never, never forsake you." This poor girl must have felt, by her own disobedience, she had fallen a victim to sin. "The wages of sin is death."
My father sent a man to convey the girl's body for decent interment. I recollect clinging to my father while we listened to the man's sad tale when he returned. "O, sir, such an object of sin and filth I never saw! She was only fit to be touched with tongs, and I fear that she died of hunger." Thus ended the life of a poor girl who forsook all good.
The other daughter went on well for some time (perhaps years) but one day her mistress was missing some things. Her mistress ordered her drawers to be examined, in which were found stolen articles, and after a diligent search, the poor conscience-strickened creature was discovered under a bedstead, bathed in tears. She was tenderly dealt with, though reproved, and a warning given as a punishment. Afterwards she was taken into my brother's service, in which she lived many years with honor, and is now a respectable wife and mother.]
I inform you of our friend Johnston's preferment to go as chaplain to Botany Bay — or rather, as I call it, to be Bishop of New Holland. He will have a very extensive diocese; and if he reaches the place, he will have the honor of being the first man who ever preached the Gospel in that immense space which we call the South Sea, which comprehends nearly one half of the globe. Never was the name of Jesus heard in those distant regions, except from the mouths of blaspheming sailors, in the few places where our ships have touched. But I hope it will soon be heard in New Holland, and who can tell what great events may follow from this beginning?
Mr. Johnston seems to be a fit man — he did not seek the service, and he received the proposal with fear and trembling; but since he has accepted it, he has been in good spirits. Methinks I foresee that his voyage will not be without many hardships and difficulties; but the Lord whom he serves, and who, I hope, calls him to this business — is able to support and preserve him. He has recently married; his wife seems to be a fit companion, and has a respectable character, though some rather question her prudence in venturing upon such a voyage. His being married will, I hope, add to his comfort, if they arrive together in safety at Botany Bay; but it will probably give him many painful feelings while they are at sea, which he might not have had if he had gone single.
To go to a coast where they must lodge in the woods until they can build houses; to have hundreds of convicts with them, and thousands of savages around them — seems not very inviting to flesh and blood. But Faith and Love can conquer all in the Lord's hands, and for his sake — even to undertake a voyage of near 20,000 miles.
How different is my lot! I have a good house, plenty, peace, kind friends, and no hardships to struggle with.
We have the advantage in point of personal convenience — but Mr. Johnston has the post of honor. If the apostle Paul was now living, I think it probable that he would rather go to Botany Bay, than be a London pastor.
It is, as you say, a good while yet to Summer. I would be very ungrateful, and indeed very foolish, if I did not like to visit you whenever duty and Providence will allow. But it is probable, if I live until Summer, and can go abroad — that I must take a different route. It will then be four years since I saw Olney, and I have many dear connections and openings for probable service in that neighborhood. I can say no more upon this subject at present, than to thank you for your kind invitation, and to assure you that you are so upon our hearts, that we could be willing to live and die with you. Wherever we are, I trust we shall always feel ourselves dear to you.
Your very affectionate and obliged friends,
John and Mary Newton.
Coleman-Street, 12th December, 1786.
My Dear Friend,
The business of this letter is to thank you for your early information of dear Mrs. T.'s safety, and to assure you of the heartfelt satisfaction the news gave us, and to tell you that we desire and endeavor to join with you in praising the Lord for this new great mercy afforded to her and to you, and in praying that the child he has now given you may, if she is spared — live to be a comfort to you, and to know, love, and serve, and trust in the God of her parents. May the Lord who preserved her to see the light of the world — number her among the lambs which he bears in his arms, and carries in his bosom — visit her in early life with the light of his salvation, and breathe his own Holy Spirit into her heart. May you both be spared to see his saving grace bestowed upon all your children, and your children's children, Amen!
The Psalmist's question ought to be often upon our minds, and I hope is often upon your mind: "What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits?" Alas! Poor are the best returns we can make him. Nor does he need our services. Our warmest thanks are so disproportionate to our obligations, that instead of deserving his acceptance, they need his forgiveness. Yet he is pleased to accept them — and is pleased when we make his former mercies a plea and encouragement to ask him for more, and when we determine by his grace, because he has heard and answered us so often, to call upon him as long as we live. You have much to praise him for, and especially that he has given you a heart and ability to be useful to others, and to excite them to praise him likewise.
We would be glad if the Spring or Summer should bring you, or any dear to you, under our roof. We have a bed which would be honored by such company. If I could find stronger words than I have heretofore employed to express the pleasure it would give me to visit you — I would now use them; but I need not tell you that I am not my own, and that my movements, if I can move at all this year, must be directed, not by my own inclinations — but by what I believe in conscience to be my path of duty; and this will probably lead me, if I leave London, to the neighborhood of Olney. I am sure that neither duty nor prudence will permit me to attempt two journeys in one Summer. I could not be happy even at P. — if my heart told me that I ought to be somewhere else.
At present, therefore, I have not the least expectation of seeing you — unless I may hope to see you in London. Indeed, you need not press me to come down; your kindness this way is like spurring a free horse, who needs a bridle more than a spur, when I think of my friends at P. I was not sure I could write so much without interruption, but I must now conclude, commending you and yours to the Lord's blessing, and assuring you that we do, and I hope always shall, feel ourselves,
Your very affectionate and much obliged friends,
John and Mary Newton.
Coleman-street, 25th January, 1787.
My dear Madam,
It is not a quarter of an hour since I received your letter, and I am already beginning to answer it. I trust you will acknowledge that for once at least, I am tolerably punctual. Not having a looking-glass in my study, I cannot tell whether I blushed while I read your charge against me for neglect — however, I am about to amend immediately.
I wrote the above four lines on Saturday; then company came in, and I was forced to lay my pen aside, as may be the case, perhaps, twenty times before I can finish my letter. As to our visiting you, my desires say the sooner and the oftener the better. But I am not at my own disposal, and the pleasure it would give us, must depend upon circumstances not in my own power.
We all hope, by-and-bye, to have new bodies which are not subject to illness. In the mean time, if the Lord is pleased to sanctify the infirmities to which our present mortal frame is subject — we shall have cause to praise Him at least, no less for the bitter than the sweet.
I am convinced in my judgment, that a cross or a pinch somewhere or other, is so necessary to us — that we cannot go on well for a considerable time without one. We live on an enchanted ground, and are surrounded with snares! If we are not quickened by trials — we are very prone to sink into spiritual formality or carelessness. It is a shame it should be so — but so it is, that a long course of prosperity always makes us spiritually drowsy.
Trials therefore are medicines — which our gracious and wise Physician prescribes, because we need them. He proportions the frequency and the weight of them — to what our case requires.
Many of his people are sharply exercised by poverty, which is a continual trial every day, and all the year round. Others have trials in their families. Those who have comfortable firesides, and a competence for this world — often suffer by sickness, either in their own persons, or in the persons of those they love.
But any, or all of these crosses, are mercies — if the Lord works by them to prevent us from cleaving to the world, from backsliding in heart or life, and to keep us nearer to Himself.
Let us trust our Physician — as He will surely do us good. And let us thank Him for all His prescriptions, for without them our soul-sickness would quickly grow upon us!
I sympathize with Miss K. in her trials — yet I know she will profit by them. I hope her illness will find relief — but it is better to have a stiff neck with the grace of God — than to be stiff-necked in the sense in which many young people are, who can move their heads freely enough. I hope it is a mercy that she bears the yoke awhile in her youth. When the affliction has answered the good end for which it was sent — the Lord can easily remove it.
I now take up the pen for the fourth time, and as I mean to send my letter tomorrow — I must finish it tonight. What shall I say to fill up?
Let me commend you to the grace and care of our Lord Jesus. Those who dwell under the shadow of His wings shall be safe. His service is perfect freedom — in His favor is life indeed. May His name be precious to your heart! May you have such increasing knowledge of His person, His character, and His offices — that beholding His glory in the Gospel looking-glass, you may . . .
be changed into His image,
drink into His spirit, and
be more conformable to Him.
The highest desire I can form for myself, or my friends — is that He may live in us — and that we may live to Him, and for Him, and shine as lights in a dark world.
To view Him by faith, as living, dying, rising, reigning, interceding, and governing for us — will furnish us with such views, prospects, motives, and encouragements, as will enable us . . .
to endure any cross, to overcome all opposition,
to withstand temptation, and
to run in the way of his commandments with an enlarged heart.
Yet in a little while, He will put an end to our conflicts and fears, and take us home to be with Him forever!
Thus, by the power of his blood, and the word of his testimony, we shall be made more than conquerors, and in the end obtain the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love him.
The Lord bless you, dear madam, and Mr. T., and all who are dear to you — and reward you abundantly for all your kindness to me and mine. I am sincerely, your very affectionate and obliged Friend and servant,
Coleman-Street, 24th April, 1787.
My Dear Madam,
I have been too long silent, but indeed I have not forgotten you. I trust that I will never can forget our dear friends there. My heart jumped last Sunday at the sight of Mr. K. and I hoped he would have called upon me — but I suppose he did not have the time, and is by now returned to you. I had a heap of questions to ask him concerning you and your's — but I mean now to apply to yourself.
Let it not be long before you inform me how you and Mr. T. and all your family are. I hope the young ones grow and thrive like olive plants, and that the elder branches of the family are planted, and planting in the Lord's vineyard, and promise to be trees of righteousness, and to bear fruit in their old age.
We are all much as we were, when we last saw you — only about a year and a month older; that is, we are so much the nearer to that gate which death will before long open, to introduce us to an eternal state. It is a solemn thought. How new and untried is the passage! How inconceivable is the prospect beyond it!
Formerly I have supposed, that if I lived beyond the age of sixty, the nearness and importance of that great change which I might then reasonably expect could not be far off, would be continually upon my mind. But now that I am near sixty-three, I find myself little more affected by it, than I was thirty years ago! I may now be sure, that if grace does not weaken my attachment to the things of time — then an advance in years will not do it.
I am an inconsistent creature, and should be condemned out of my own mouth, by what I preach to others — if the Lord were strict to mark what is amiss. But I trust I am not under the law, but under grace. He knows my frame, that it is altogether shattered and defiled, and that I have no plea to offer in my own behalf; and therefore he has mercifully provided one for me, on which my soul desires wholly to rely. I have sinned, but Christ has died, has risen, and is exalted a Prince and a Savior — and upon the warrant of his own word, I venture my all upon Him.
I could complain much of myself, but you cannot help me, therefore I forbear. I would rather invite you to join with me in praise. "Come magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His holy name together!" He found us when we sought Him not; then we began to seek Him, and then He was pleased to be found by us. He has . . .
guided us by His eye,
guarded us along the way,
restored us when wandering,
revived us when fainting,
healed us when wounded,
known our souls in adversity,
helped us in all our difficulties, and
comforted and supported us under all our sorrows!
If we look around us, how are we distinguished by the mercies of his Providence; our needs supplied, our wishes mostly granted, comforts and friends on every side, and the green pastures of his ordinances near and frequent to the refreshment of our souls.
If we look forward, what unspeakably greater blessings await us! We cannot conceive a thousandth part of what is signified by the white robes, the golden harps, the balm of life, the rivers of pleasure — which are prepared for the faithful followers of the Lamb! Can anything enhance the value of these blessings and these hopes — or heighten our obligations for them? Yes, the consideration of the way in which they become ours. The smallest and greatest of them are all the price of Christ's sin-atoning blood!
"He sunk beneath our heavy woes
To raise us to a throne;
There's not a gift His hand bestows.
But cost his heart a groan!"
And now, my dear madam, what shall we render to the Lord for all his benefits? Ourselves, surely! At best it is but a poor return; but let us give Him the whole.
Two methods he points out to us, by which to show our gratitude, which is all that we can do, for we cannot properly serve Him who is all-sufficient.
The first method is, that we make his bounty to us the pattern and the motive of our bounty towards our fellow creatures, and that we devote and employ our time and talents, in every possible way, according to our situation, to promote the good of others. That we live no more to ourselves, but aim at being useful and subservient to his merciful designs.
The second method is, that we aim to show forth the power of his grace, and the tendency of his Gospel, by a spiritual, humble, meek and holy conduct, by watching unto prayer, that our tongues, our tempers, our pursuits, may all bear witness for us to his praise, that we have received the grace of God in truth, and that our light may so shine before men, that he may be glorified. May the Lord bless you all.
I am, my dear madam,
Your most affectionate and obliged,
Coleman-Street, 27th October, 1787.
My Dear Madam,
Yes, madam, you are greatly indebted to the Lord's goodness — and so are we. Our returns are very unsuitable to the mercies we receive, and I am sure you think the same of your's. Our all is little — and our best is defiled. But I know what it is, when I have been greatly obliged to an earthly friend, to be glad if I can do anything, and at the same time sorry that I can do no more-to show my gratitude. If the Lord has given us a willing mind, he will graciously accept, not according to what we have not — but to what we have. The expression of the woman's love in Mark 14 was no very great affair, but our Lord was pleased to say, "She has done what she could." Verse 8. May the Lord help us to faithfully do what we can — and then may he enable us to do more!
Very sincerely, and with good reason,
Your affectionate and much obliged servant,
My Dear Friend,
We have met with no extraordinary changes since my last letter, which is a mercy in such a changing world. Mrs. Newton still continues confined and poorly; but many houses have been made houses of mourning every week — while she is still spared. This we are sure of, that our trials might be heavily increased in a few minutes, by some stroke which we are not aware of — and considering how we are exposed on every side, we have reason to praise the goodness of our Lord and Shepherd. His eye is upon us, his arm is around us, and it is He alone who protects us from the evils of the night, and from the arrow that flies by day. To him be all the praise!
We were glad to have a peep at Mr. K. Our love to him and his. By him I sent you a Sermon I published. I have since printed a pamphlet on the Slave Trade. I suppose you will see it soon, as the committee upon the slave business in London, have reprinted 3000 copies, to be dispersed about the kingdom. I hope this inhuman traffic (for so I must call it, though once deeply immersed in it myself) will be, if not immediately — yet before long, abolished.
Oh, my friend, what slaves were we, and at what a price are we redeemed! Those whom the Son makes free, are free indeed. They have at present, a gracious liberty from the guilt and burden of sin, from servile fear and heart-rending anxiety; and a liberty of access to the throne of grace. And then awaits them a glorious liberty — when sin, sorrow, death, and every other evil shall be swallowed up in victory! Such a prospect is worth living for, though the present life is full of trouble; and it is worth dying for, notwithstanding the reluctance of our frail natures to the idea of death, with all its painful forerunners.
May we have grace to gird up the loins of our minds, to be sober, and hope to the end. May we have grace that we may live while we do live; that we may be burning and shining lights; that we may inwardly burn with a spirit of love and devotedness to our God and Savior, and shine outwardly by a conduct befitting the Gospel, and breathing benevolence to our fellow-creatures; that God may be glorified in us and by us, through Jesus Christ. Amen.
May the Lord bless both you and Mrs. T. and all your children. My dear wife and I love you dearly, and I am always glad to subscribe myself,
Your most affectionate and obliged servant,
John Newton, Coleman-Street, 8th February, 1788.
My Dear Madam,
I hope we shall always preserve your names in the number of those who are nearest and dearest to our hearts. Mrs. Newton's health continues to be very precarious, and she is but seldom able to go abroad. I do not think her illnesses are at all owing to the closeness of London or the lack of country air. Whether she will be able to travel this summer, is in the Lord's hands. If she can, our route must be to Olney. I have not seen Olney (though many who love us there are still living) since the year 1783. But the way of man is not in himself; we cannot yet determine on anything, but I hope the Lord will guide us by His eye and point out the path of duty by the leading of His providence. If I am permitted to see Olney this year and should be able to travel next summer, then, had I only my inclination to consult, I would certainly be led to S. But I am not my own, and rejoice that I am not forced to choose for myself.
I hope that you and Mr. T. and all your sons and daughters, from Walter to Rebecca, are well; and I hope Sally and little John will not forget us nor poor Miss Catlett, who would join in salutations, but she has been absent almost a two weeks at Milburn, near Royston. Our little family, by the Lord's blessing, are so happily united, that when any of us are abroad, home is like a harpsichord that has two or three broken strings.
I hope, my dear madam, that you are sitting under the tree of life, enjoying its shade, feeding upon its fruits, and drinking of the streams that flow by its side. The apostle wished grace and peace to his friends — and he could wish them no more. Peace of conscience as opposed to guilt; peace as opposed to anxiety; a quiet hope and trust in the Lord's management, Isaiah 26:3, Psalm 112:7 — a peaceful disposition, enabling us to cultivate and maintain peace in all our relations and connections. In short, a peaceful heart and a peaceful home are privileges belonging to the family of faith — and should be earnestly sought by prayer. Grace includes everything else that is worth our desiring: communion with the Lord, conformity to His image, wisdom and ability to improve the circumstances of every day to His glory, our own benefit, and the good of the church and society, as far as our influence extends. May this grace flourish in you abundantly! May this peace of God reign in your heart!
I need not tell you what sad storms we have had in London, and that some tall cedars, both in the religious and commercial world, have been laid low. The history of every day is a striking commentary upon Scripture. The subject of late much insisted upon has been I Timothy 6:9-10. We have seen some who would be rich — they were resolved to be rich if possible — we have seen some fall into divers temptations and snares — we see some who have pierced themselves through with many sorrows — it will be well if none are finally drowned in perdition. A man may be rich, with the Lord's blessing, and be comfortable to himself and a blessing to others — a few are so. But those who will be rich, are usually both miserable and mischievous.
I remain, my dear madam,
Your most obedient and obliged servant,
John Newton, 26th May, 1788
My Dear Friends,
After an absence of five years, the Lord permitted us to visit Mr. Cowper, Mrs. Unwin, and my friends at Olney. We left London the 8th of July and returned the 15th of August. Mercy and goodness accompanied us all the way, and brought us home in peace and safety. We had a very pleasant tour, and the journey was made useful to Mrs. Newton in point of health. She has been better since her return than for any equal space of time since our parting with you at Devizes.
We are now fast advanced in the 39th year of our joint reign — still preserved, still surrounded with comforts and mercies; and, through the goodness of Him whose blessing alone can make people of one mind in a family, our mutual affection is still unabated. But as we are now going, though almost insensibly, down the hill of life, it is high time to be in good earnest, sensible that this world cannot be our rest, and to live with the prospect of a better state continually in our view.
Thirty years ago I would not believe that if I was spared to pass the age of sixty, I would be capable of being taken up with trifling things — as I still, alas, find myself. I am ashamed to find my affections still cleaving to the earth, and that I can still be pleased with the possibility, for it is little more than a possibility, that I may yet live a few years longer. If this was simply from a desire of serving the Lord as long and as much as I can while here — then it might be tolerable; but to be willing, and almost to wish that I may continue here a great while, because I am so much at my ease in temporal things — is certainly a proof that there is too much of the earthly and the sensual still remaining in my heart.
When will our good friends come to London? We long to see you both; hope you will remember that we have an apartment for you at No. 6, if you will do us the favor to accept it and make shift with it; we cannot talk of great things in the world's way, but through the Lord's goodness, peace and plenty dwell under our roof; and as I hope you do not think us made of stone, I need not say much about the welcome you may expect and will receive; the pleasure it would give us and the attention we should hope to pay to everything that might make your residence with us tolerable.
My own health still continues very good. Betsy likewise is very hearty. We unite in an offer of our best love, and we desire to be affectionately remembered to every branch and twig of your family; likewise Mr. K. and his family. I am very often among you in spirit, and often long to be with you in person. If I had only to consult my inclination, I would almost live with you. I hope, however, to live with you forever by-and-bye.
We are comfortable at St. Mary's. There are various winds of error and false doctrine abroad, and storms of discord and dissension have severely shaken some religious connections in the city; but the Lord has mercifully sheltered us from being affected by them, and we go on quietly. From the number and attention of the hearers, I hope there is good done, and now and then something encouraging comes to my knowledge, but in general it is but little that ministers in London can know of their congregations, further than by their outward appearance.
Oh, my dear friends, are we not truly debtors for innumerable mercies and blessings, but especially for the gospel, without which we could not have known the true value or right enjoyment of anything else? But the knowledge of a Savior and a good hope of our acceptance in Him, like the light of the sun — gilds every object. We are not only preserved and provided for, in common with multitudes — but we know the hand which guards and feeds us, and can receive every instance of His kindness in our temporal concerns as a token and a pledge of His love and of the better things prepared for us within the veil; and all that we have, and all that we hope for, is not simply given to us. He shed His blood to redeem us from guilt and bondage; without this we could have had neither title nor capacity for happiness; how would it heighten our relish for all our comforts and prospects — if we could always think of the procuring price and feel the force of that thought which Dr. Watts so well expresses:
"He sank beneath our heavy woes,
To raise us to His throne;
There's not a gift His hand bestows,
But cost His heart a groan!"
I have not known my dear wife so healthy for a great while past, but this is a changing world, and without changing dispensations we would be poor changeable creatures ourselves. The Lord best knows what is good for us. Oh, for grace to yield ourselves simply and cheerfully to His management. Hitherto He has helped us, and all His paths toward us have been mercy and truth. What reasons have we to praise Him for the past — and to trust Him for the rest!
I must now take my leave with repeating best love and thanks. May the Lord bless you and yours abundantly. Amen. Pray for us.
Your very affectionate and much obliged,
John Newton, 27th September, 1788
P.S. I have not seen Mr. B. since his return; he has repeated seasons of serious thoughts and has heard the Lord knocking at the door of his heart — but worldly connections are great hindrances and not easily broken through; he speaks much of the kindness he received from you, and the pleasure he had in his short acquaintance with you.
My Dear Sir,
We thank you for your note, and the expression of your kindness. Our dear C. is much recovered. She was at church last Sunday evening when I preached a thanksgiving sermon on her account from Psalm 116:1-2, which she was enabled to hear with composure.
When I compare the state in which she lay a short time ago — with the present comfortable prospect of her recovery, I am like one who dreams. A recovery so unhoped for, is almost like a resurrection from the dead. What a striking proof of the Lord's power and compassion, and that He hears prayer — even such prayers as mine. I believe I told you that when she was at the worst, I dared not importunately pray for her life. I was enabled to resign the event to His wise and holy will. Under this limitation I prayed for her recovery, until appearances gave me strong reason to think that it was His pleasure to take her home. But when the pulse forgets to beat and when breath seems to fail — still to Him belong the issues from death. His word of power revived her, and I trust she will live to praise Him, both for the trial and the deliverance.
Mrs. Newton's health is very variable. Yesterday we entered the fortieth year of our marriage. At our time of life we must not wonder if illnesses are rather more frequent than before. But the Lord, who is rich in mercy, knows our frame and feelings. He can prepare us for His whole will, support us under it, and sanctify it to us. Oh! This is the great thing to be desired — to be surely and comfortably and savingly interested in the promise which engages that all things shall work together for our good, to give us a fitness for the inheritance of the saints in light, so that at last we may attain to His eternal joy. That will make rich amends for all the trials we can meet with along the way.
I feel myself well disposed to accept your kind invitation to P. But if I am not quite afraid, I am at least unwilling to look too far forward, while I know not what a day may bring forth. If some time after Easter we should be able to travel, I shall have P. in my thoughts, and it will not be my fault if we do not spend a few weeks under your hospitable roof. But we, our time, and our movements — are in the Lord's hands. I remain,
Your most affectionate and obliged,
John Newton, 13th Feb., 1789
My Dear Friends,
We heard of Miss Esther's illness with concern. I trust the Lord has her heart — and then I am sure, whatever the outcome of her illness may be, it will be well for her. But the late instance of the Lord's power and goodness afforded in my house encourages me to hope, and, with submission to His will, to pray that she may not die, but live and declare His wonderful works. I have seen that to God belong the issues from death. Our dispensation was very trying for a time, but I trust we have all now cause to praise Him for it. May it be so with you and yours!
Now, my dear madam, I hope you are in tolerable health and spirits, and that the remembrance of the support and deliverances you have had in former hours of trial may encourage you to look forward with composure and comfort upon the hour now before you. The power and compassion of the Lord are still the same. He is still mighty to save, and still He knows those who put their trust in Him. We hope to hear favorably of you soon.
I still retain my wish to visit S. this year, if the Lord pleases. When I told you so last, I had thoughts of seeing you in the spring, but unavoidables and unalterables will not permit me to leave London any time soon. We must therefore wait until you get abroad again; and what may take place during the interval, who can tell? The Lord knows. May we be willing to leave all our concerns in His wise and faithful hands, to live to Him and for Him today, and to trust Him for the events of tomorrow.
Your affectionate and obliged,
John Newton, 16th April 1789
My Dear Madam,
This world seems all uncertainty — yet all is under an unspeakably gracious and infallibly wise direction. The Lord knows, and He permits me to tell Him what I feel or fear or wish. But when I have done so, it befits me to submit all to Him and to say, "Not my will — but may Your will be done." I aim to say this from my heart and to account it not only my duty — but my privilege to prefer His choice to my own.
Had things been at my disposal, I would have come sooner; that is, before Mr. T. was well enough to receive us; for I did not apprehend he was so ill as you intimate. I praise the Lord that he is better and that the illness did not come until you were recovering your strength. The Lord graciously adjusts all our concerns — and it is our privilege to peaceably and thankfully submit to His management. Our times are in His hands. Vastly more than we are aware of, depends upon the Lord's wise controlling of all our affairs.
To me who am short-sighted, it may seem an indifferent matter whether I set off this week or the next, on a Tuesday or on a Wednesday. But there may be consequences unknown to me, which may make the difference between one week or another of great importance. Possibly there may be reasons for deferring our journey a week later. The Lord knows. Is it not a comfort to a blind man, to have a guide whom he may fully and safely trust?
We all join in best love to all, not forgetting Miss Charlotte, who I hope thrives and comes forward apace. I am, my dear madam,
Your affectionate and obliged,
John Newton, August 10, 1789
My Dear Friend,
Thus far has the Lord answered prayer. Mrs. Newton, after nine months confinement from public worship, was enabled to appear at church yesterday. I accept this as a token for good, and I shall set out on our journey with more comfort, now that she has been in the house of the Lord.
Let us mutually pray for a comfortable meeting. I promise myself both pleasure and advantage in converse with Mr. and Mrs. T. and Mr. K. — and shall rejoice if I may be any way instrumental to the consolation of my friends. If the Lord afford us His presence, it shall be so. I ought to have much to say of His goodness; and I ought, now that my day of life is far spent and the night is approaching, to be earnest and diligent in pressing upon all around me — the vanity of the present fleeting state, and the importance of the unseen and eternal state.
We repeat our best love to you and yours as if named, hoping soon to tell you, by word of mouth, that I am sincerely,
Your obliged and affectionate friend and servant,
John Newton, 27th August, 1789
My Very Dear Friends,
The Lord brought us safely home. We arrived about half past six and found our family all well. Mrs. Newton is pretty well today. I was rather fatigued with the jolting, but a very good night has rejuvenated me again. How can I be sufficiently thankful to the Lord, who is the source of all the good I receive? I would thank Him for the opportunity of seeing my dear friends at P. and S. once more, and for the comfortable month I spent with you; that Mrs. Newton's health was so tolerable upon the whole; and that we performed the journey, not only without harm, but without the smallest alarm; not so much as a horse stumbling once all the way out and then back home, and then found all in peace at our return.
Yet even these are small mercies, compared with the hopes and prospects afforded by the gospel and the love of Him who died for us upon the cross, and who visited us with the light of His salvation when we were wandering in the dark paths of sin, and liable to perish. The Lord bless you and yours abundantly.
Your much obliged and very affectionate servant,
John Newton, 3rd October, 1789
My Dear Sir and Madam,
What the Lord does in the hearts of His people, qualifies them to move under His gracious influence — but still, without Him they can do nothing.
I am glad to hear that the amendment in Master William's eyes continues, likewise to hear that Mrs. M. was better than when you left her, though Dr. B. seems to entertain little hopes that she can recover. But we know all things are easy to the Great Physician, and that when we ask what He sees good and best for us upon the whole — He often performs wonders in answer to prayer. Oh how happy we are — when we can leave all in His nail-pierced hands!
As often as I look at dear C., I see a proof that He can effectually help — when all human help and hope ceases. This treatment, as it is called, is a marvelous thing. I cannot reason about it. I stood it out as long as I could, but the obstinacy of indisputable facts at length silenced me, and my knowledge of Dr. Benamore's character satisfies me that the means he uses, however unaccountable I may think them, cannot be unsuitable to the character of a Christian and conscientious man to employ.
I thought to have written a longer letter, but the mill must stop, if not for lack of water — for lack of time; I have been interrupted several times, and company is now waiting for me in the parlor. The key may possibly be found; the ring, I suppose is quite lost. No great matter — perhaps I looked at it too often; it always reminded me of dear Eliza, and perhaps might be something of an idol for her sake. She is deeply impressed upon my heart, and unless I could lose that likewise, I am in no danger of forgetting her.
The Lord bless you both in heart and house, in yourselves, in each other, in soul, in body, and in all your connections and concerns. Amen. Pray for,
Your much obliged and affectionate,
John Newton, 18th October, 1789
My Dear Friend,
A letter last week informed me of your dear daughter's dismissal from this state of sin and sorrow. May you and all closely concerned in this event, be enabled to say from your hearts, "May Your will be done." However sharp His dispensations may be to our feelings — we are well assured in our judgments that He does all things wisely and well, and that all His paths are mercy and truth to those who fear Him. She is gone but a little before us — we likewise are hastening onward to our eternal rest. May we meet where neither sickness, pain, grief, temptation, nor sin can follow us!
I feel myself as a part of your family, and participate with you in your comforts and your griefs. I trust the Lord, who is always faithful to His promises — will support you under every trial, and equally sanctify to you both the sweet and the bitter of life. This is a chequered life. Every day mercies and comforts are renewed, and every day likewise has its cross; but we dare not say that our crosses are very heavy.
In my ministry, which I ought to consider as the most important point, I am signally favored. There I meet with very few trials, and many encouragements. I think our church has of late been fuller than ever, and the great attention of the auditory, together with the liberty, which, for the most part, I am favored with in preaching — gives me reason to hope that the Lord is among us and that some good is going forward. There is a spirit in many of my hearers in town, which helps me more than all my books.
This was lacking when I preached at S., and I felt the lack of it. It is a mercy to be enabled to be in a measure faithful when abroad — but the comfort and pleasure of preaching I find mostly at home.
But I have reason to be ashamed that I am so poor and ineffectual a preacher to my own heart. The Lord best knows what is needful to check the growth of those evil weeds of pride and self-conceit in my heart. That state which gives me daily, continual proofs of my poverty and weakness — may be the safest for me, though self might prefer very lively spiritual frames. Sensible spiritual comfort is desirable in itself — but everyone is not fit to be trusted with much of it.
The Lord shields me from violent temptations and helps me, in a measure, to maintain a conscience void of offence. These are mercies which call for more praise and thankfulness than I have to offer. My hope is seldom shaken, and if I have not much sunshine in my walk — I trust I have daylight to see my path. Though my defects, defilements, and omissions are innumerable — yet, as it is given me to trust in the Savior for acceptance, pardon, and perseverance, for the most part I have peace at the bottom of all my conflicts.
Perhaps more than this, especially in my public way of life, surrounded as I am by kind and partial friends, might be dangerous and make me more high-minded and self-sufficient than I already am. I am a sin-sick soul, and having been permitted to apply to an infallible Physician, who has graciously undertaken my case, it is best for me to leave Him to prescribe and manage for me as He sees fit — and not be too forward in pointing out to Him how I wish He would deal with me.
I am just now interrupted, and can only add my best wishes, prayers, love, and thanks to you and yours. I am most affectionately,
Your much obliged,
John Newton, 27th October, 1789
My Dear Madam,
The thought of seeing you in London gave us pleasure, but the thought that illness was the occasion of your coming, made it a mournful pleasure. It is well for my friends, as well as myself, that I can neither choose their dispensations nor my own. Though I know the necessity and something of the advantage of afflictions — yet I would not permit those whom I love to be sick or in pain or in grief one hour in the year, if I could help it. Consequently, my foolish tenderness would greatly hurt them. I might as well expect they would continue in good bodily health a year without food — as to be preserved in a thriving state of soul for a year without trials. It is a mercy both to them and me, that we are under better direction and management than our own.
It is still true, as I said, that we are in the Lord's hands, and that when He is pleased to lay trouble upon us, it cannot be taken off without His permission, nor before His time. But when that time has come, He often inclines us to use the means which are most suited to relieve us, and perhaps puts it in our hearts at the right season, to point out the means to one another which He designs to make useful. It is with this hope that I write to you. I hope the Lord will greatly sanctify your present illness; then you will be the sooner well. For when affliction has answered the end for which His wisdom appointed it, we may humbly rely upon His goodness to remove it, for He will not let His people suffer without a need-be.
Well! It is an unspeakable mercy to be believers in Jesus; for to such, all things are engaged and overruled to work for their good. If they have health — it is well. If they are sick — it is well likewise. The Lord loves them when He gives — and He loves them when He takes away.
Their comforts are blessings, for they are sanctified to them by His promises and by prayer. Their trials are also blessings, for they are sent to wean them from the world and to draw their hearts nearer to Himself. They afford them new proofs of His care over them, and of His power to support and deliver them.
Though believers must suffer sometimes while here on earth, the days of their mourning will soon be ended — and then all shall be well forever. "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain!" Revelation 21:4
I must break off with a tender of love and thanks and best wishes,
Your affectionate and obliged Friend and servant,
John Newton, I9th February, 1790
My Dear Friends,
It has been upon my mind to write you for some time past. Mrs. Newton has been very poorly of late. We are called to the exercise of faith and patience, and the circumstances of her case still afford encouragement to pray for her recovery — with submission to the Lord's will. I hope our desires to submit to His will are not from constraint, but from real though too faint views we are favored with of His wisdom and goodness. We should neither wish nor dare to choose absolutely for ourselves, even if it were left to our choice. We are aware that afflictions spring not out of the ground, but that to those who desire to fear and love the Lord, they are tokens, not of wrath, but of His favor; that there is a need-be for them, and that though at present not joyous but grievous to the flesh, they are designed, through His blessing sanctifying them, to yield afterwards the peaceable fruits of righteousness, when we have been duly exercised by them.
The word "afterwards" intimates that this good effect may not be produced immediately. When He sends them for a gracious end, He will not remove them until that end is answered — and then they shall not be prolonged. In the mean time He promises to be with His people in their trouble and to make their strength equal to their day, so that if pressed — they shall not be cast down; or if cast down — they shall not be destroyed. I trust you will help us with your prayers.
You were told that Dr. B. informed Mr. F. that he had cured Miss K. I could not believe it possible. Mrs. Newton asked Mr. F., and he assured her that there was not the smallest foundation for such a report. I wish to be as cautious of receiving reports, as of receiving a thief into my house, for I find that nine of them out of ten are utterly false and groundless; and that when there is some truth in them — it is usually mixed with additions and misrepresentations. And too many people, who would scorn or fear to invent untruths — are too easily induced to circulate what is invented by others.
The Lord is good, and His mercies are new every morning. We have one trial — I may almost say we have but one. But He affords us and continues to us a thousand blessings and comforts, which call for much thankfulness and praise. My history may be read in a small compass, in Deuteronomy 32:10-14. He found me in a waste howling wilderness — He has led me about, put me in various places and situations, and every succeeding change has been to my comfort and advantage. In mercy He has frequently stirred up my nest, shaken me in it — and forced me to fly to Him; when I would otherwise have dropped into sleep and security. I hope He has instructed me. He certainly has kept me as the apple of His eye. He has provided well for me and raised me to undeserved honor — even to preach the faith I once labored to destroy. This I account the highest honor a sinner can attain to in the present life.
Alas! I must take in the 15th verse likewise. Often have I waxed fat and kicked, and it is owing to His goodness, not my own, that I have not utterly forsaken the God and Rock of my salvation. If I am saved at last, (and I humbly trust I shall be), it will be not only in defiance of my enemies, but in defiance of myself!
Mrs. Newton rides out an hour or two in a coach in the evening, when the weather is fair, but cannot go to church or drink tea with a friend. Through mercy she has good spirits, and a measure of patience, which I trust is given her from above, from Him who knows her frame, and what is needful for her support. I am,
Your affectionate and obliged,
John Newton, 9th July, 1790
My Dear Friends,
My mind is often with you, but it has been more so than usual today. This day last year, you received us under your hospitable roof, and the month of September was filled up with proofs of your kindness. I trust we shall not cease to remember you both with affection and gratitude, while we are able to think. My dear wife has often said, "Why do you not write to Mr. and Mrs. T.?" Not for lack of good-will, I am sure; but I know not well how to write. I am sensible that you wish to hear how Mrs. Newton is, and I am at a loss to tell you.
Let me begin with the pleasing side. Her spirits are good; she is but seldom in much pain; for the most part she sleeps tolerably well, and the Lord favors her with patience. Her husband and her child love her dearly; her servants likewise show her an affection and an attention which money could not purchase. Through the Lord's goodness, I am able to procure whatever may have the least tendency to alleviate her trial or to meet her wishes. We have many kind friends who sympathize with us and pray for us. These are all great mercies, of which many whose illness is perhaps worse than hers, are destitute.
But she has the jaundice superadded to her principal illness, frequent and great sickness at her stomach; and at a time when it is desirable she might take a double quantity of nourishment, she has often a loathing to food, so that it often requires great exertion to take the little food she can. You will not wonder therefore that she is very weak. Yet she is not confined to her bed, and is generally able to go a little way in a coach every afternoon, if the weather is fair.
Our chief mercy is, that we know in whose hands we are, and have access to the throne of grace to plead the promise of strength according to our day. The flesh will have its feelings — but the Lord can and does support us. If He is pleased to sanctify what He appoints, we shall one day praise Him. I hope we desire to praise Him now. Faithful are the wounds of a friend — and He who knows our path, considers our frame, and remembers we are but dust — is a Friend indeed, able to help and to save to the uttermost!
We have lived together more than forty years; we cannot expect, and surely we cannot desire — to live here always. The Good Gardener will not cut down His corn, until it is fully ripe. His hour therefore, whenever it comes, must be the fittest and the best — and until His hour comes, we are immortal. However low we may be brought, He can raise us again, for to the Lord our God belong the issues of life and death! I trust we shall have your prayers that our wills may be perfectly united to His.
It is a fixed and doubtless a wise appointment — that our sharpest temporal trials must grow out of our dearest comforts. Unmixed, unfading happiness — is not for this world. But blessed be God, He has likewise appointed that those who sow in tears, shall in due time reap with joy. We seek a rest beyond the skies, in everlasting day. Then happiness will be without mixture, abatement, interruption, or end! Then we hope to weep no more. What reason have we, my dear friend, even while sorrowing — to be always rejoicing!
A sinner saved from Hell, his just desert — and who has the hope of eternal glory set before him — can have neither right nor reason to complain! But oh this sluggish heart of unbelief!
I hope the time when either of you will be watching the health of the other, with the solicitude which I feel — is yet distant. But it will come. And when it does, the remembrance of the years you have passed together will be like a dream when one awakes — so transient, so beyond the power of recall! Then when flesh and heart are about to fail, when you are upon the point of taking leave of all that you have seen with your eyes — may the Lord be the strength of your heart and your portion forever!
I would be thankful that in this hour of trial, dear C. is favored with perfect health. This is a great comfort to me. Our merciful Lord does not bring all upon us at once. When she was ill, my dear wife was able (and just able) to attend her; she is now repaid. Other calls constrain me to leave off. I may truly say my hand and heart are full. I am always,
Your obliged and affectionate servant,
John Newton, September 3rd, 1790
My Dear Friends,
I hope you will write soon. I cannot say my dear wife is either better or worse than when I wrote last, but her spirits continue good. Our trial is long, but we are mercifully supported and have much cause to be thankful. If the Lord pleases, she shall yet recover — there seems nothing directly to forbid the hope, if her appetite was but in a measure restored. I humbly trust He will give a gracious outcome in His own time, and that we shall one day say, "He has done all things well." I entreat you now for your prayers.
After all, we are at the Lord's disposal, who knows what is most fit for our good. When health is better for us upon the whole than sickness — then we shall be well. But when He sees sickness will be most for our advantage — then all the doctors in town or country cannot prevent it or remove it an hour sooner than is necessary to answer His gracious design; for He will do us good, even in defiance of ourselves, and however unpalatable the proper means may be to our taste.
Mrs. T. gives her children food or fruit with pleasure; she has not the same pleasure in appointing them physic or blisters; but if these are deemed needful, because she loves her children, she will not be moved by the wry faces they may make, or the smart they may feel — to neglect the use of what the physician prescribes.
Much of the skill of our heavenly Physician is seen in the seasonable application of those bitter medicines which we call afflictions. He knows that they are not joyous, but grievous, at the time. He likewise knows and considers our frame, remembers that we are but dust — and therefore He will proportion the dose exactly to the nature of the case and the strength of the patient; or if He sees fit to double the dose, He can double the patient's strength to bear it.
Mr. L. is a sensible, ingenious man. His peculiar case has made him much known and noticed. His many difficulties and disappointments have formed him (by the Lord's blessing) to a spirit of cheerful dependence and undaunted perseverance, in a remarkable degree; and I cannot doubt but the Lord whom he serves and trusts, will bring him safely through all the changes and storms he meets with.
The all-sufficiency of God is a pleasing subject. He can communicate His power to our weakness, so as to make us equal to the severest trial. He has enabled many of His servants to rejoice even in the flames. Creature comforts are like candles — they waste while they burn, go out one after another, and we are sometimes afraid of being left in the dark. Candles are useful in the night, or in a dark place. But if we enjoy the beams of the midsummer sun — then we can make a good shift without candles. Thus if not only one or two of our earthly comforts were to fail us, but if the whole creation around us were destroyed and you or I were the only creatures in the universe — the Lord, the Sun of the soul, could make us completely happy and fill our capacities for happiness to the utmost, immediately from Himself. In the present state we must feel — but if we are His, we need not fear. We may, yes, sometimes we must weep — but He will soon wipe all tears from our eyes. But I must break off. We send our love to all who bear the name of T. or K.
Ever your affectionate and most obliged,
John Newton, 23rd September, 1790
My Dear Friends,
I have little to add to my former account of Mrs. Newton. It is still a time of suspense, and I still have a hope of being able to send you better news; but her situation is critical. There are times when I can leave her and myself in the Lord's hands with a degree of cheerfulness — and there are times when anxiety and heartaches will return. When He is pleased to strengthen us, we can do or bear anything — for without Him we can do nothing. Thus the truth of Scripture is confirmed by experience, and this is one benefit we derive from trials. They show us what we are in ourselves, and give us proofs of His power and faithfulness, so that we may say with David," It is good for me that I was afflicted — that I might learn Your statutes!"
I shall be glad to hear that Mrs. T. is completely relieved, though in my own better judgment, I believe that those who love the Lord never suffer too much, can never be sick when health would on the whole be better for them, nor in heaviness without a need-be. For in His daily providence over us and ours — we have multiplied proofs that He delights in our prosperity, so far as we can safely bear it. But sin is a dangerous sickness, which requires a repetition of medicine — and afflictions, though in themselves evils, are among the medicines by which the Lord promotes the recovery of our souls; and when He is pleased to sanctify them, they well deserve to be numbered among the means of grace.
Most medicines that are efficacious in bodily disorders are unpleasant to the taste and in their operations. Thus afflictions at the time are not joyous but grievous; it is afterwards that the good effects appear. And we may be assured that the infallibly wise Physician prescribes nothing in vain. What ground can there be for fear or despondence, when He has assured us beforehand that all things shall work together for good?
But though all this sounds well from the pulpit and looks pretty enough upon paper when affairs go on smoothly, and though we can talk thus to others who are in trouble — we find it difficult to realize what we profess to know, when the case becomes our own. However, the Lord can help us, and He does, but in such a manner as to make us feel that our help can come only from Himself. What a mercy to be able, in the midst of all the changes and distractions of the present life, to look forward to a better world! We shall not always be struggling with sin and sorrow as we are now. "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord." They shut their eyes upon sin and pain and sorrow — to open them in His glorious presence, in the midst of the holy assembly that surrounds the throne. What a wonderful transition! May we judge by the scriptural rule and weigh all our concerns in the balances of the sanctuary!
When we compare temporal concerns — whether pleasant or painful — with eternal realities, how do they sink in point of importance! It would be a poor thing to possess all the good such a fleeting world as this can afford, even for the term which Methuselah lived, and then to fall into the pit of Hell, from whence there is no redemption.
To lie like Lazarus, full of sores at a rich man's gate for many years, would seem no great matter, if, like him, we passed from that poor state, into the joy of our Lord! To patient faith, the prize is sure. May we have grace and patience to endure to the end, to do and suffer the Lord's will for our appointed season, and soon all will be well.
But I must stop — we join love to you and all yours, as if particularly named.
Thus far I had written on Saturday, when the doctor in coming downstairs, informed me that the symptoms which had lately taken place seemed to forbid any hope of her recovery, and that he was not sure she would survive that night. She is living still, but I think it probable my next letter will come to you with a black seal. I was graciously supported through my services yesterday, and neither my food nor rest interrupted by my feelings. My mind is in the main composed, and I trust I can say from my heart, "May Your will be done!"
I praise Him that He has spared her to me so long — she has not only been my chief earthly comfort, but the hinge upon which the leading movements of my life have turned. I certainly ought to love her, as she was a valuable and faithful companion — but my attachment has been excessive and idolatrous; and my greatest trials, as well as the greatest proofs of my ingratitude in the sight of the Lord, have sprung from this source. How justly might He have taken her from me long ago — or withdrawn His blessing, without which no union of heart can exist between such inconstant creatures as we are. She has seemed almost as necessary to me as the light of the sun, and to this minute, was it lawful or desirable for me to choose for myself, and was my study full of gold, I would rather part with it all, than with her. Yet blessed be the Lord, I am satisfied and have not a wish that things should be otherwise than they are — because I know His appointments are wise and good.
The patience the Lord has given her through the course of this long and heavy trial is astonishing. I have at no time heard the least expression of repining or impatience escape her lips. I cannot doubt but she knows herself to be a sinner and has put her trust in the Savior; but she has seldom spoken much of herself, and at present is quite silent on that head. Though calm and even cheerful when she has an interval of ease, her spirit seems locked up. But the Lord can open it and enable her to give us some words of comfort before she goes hence. This is not necessary to my satisfaction, and I have no right to claim it — but it seems desirable, and I hope I may humbly ask it. I have little else to ask for her now. I have much to ask for myself — wisdom, strength, submission, circumspection, and principally that I may not dishonor my profession by giving way to unmanly sorrow, which is indeed, at the bottom — little better than rebellion against the Lord. Pray for us, my dear friends. I am always,
Most affectionately yours,
My Dear Friends,
When I wrote last, I thought you would soon hear from me again. Not a week, seldom a day has passed, without an expectation of my dear wife's death. Such has been the cause of my delay. Yet she is still living, or rather, dying. Her sight and speech have failed; she pays no attention to what passes around her. While she could speak, she often called upon her dear Lord and her dear Savior, the Lord Almighty, etc. She called for me on Saturday; I kneeled down by her; she stroked my face and squeezed my hand; we both dropped a few tears; thus we took a silent leave of each other, for I said little, and she said nothing, but her frequent word — My handsome dear!
Though she lacked either strength or freedom to speak much to me about herself, I had good proof that her heart was conversant with the Lord; the darkness which I believe I mentioned in my last, gradually wore off. She seldom had violent pain, though she must have been a great sufferer, lying always in one place and posture; for she has not been moved to have her bed made for more than a month, and only two or three times with difficulty moved from one side of the bed to the other, to get the sheets changed. Her patience and composure have been very admirable, the gift and blessing of the Lord. I am now waiting the Lord's hour for her release, and expecting it from one hour to another.
I think you may take it for granted that before my letter reaches you, my dear wife will be delivered from this sinful and sorrowful world. I need not say, pray for me; yes, I request you to praise on my behalf, for I am mercifully and wonderfully supported — I am not at all disabled from public service, nor are my appetite or sleep worse than usual. I feel — but I hope my soul is truly resigned to the wise, holy, and good will of the Lord, who brought me up from the house of bondage in Africa, has led me about this wilderness world, kept me as the apple of His eye, and done me good to this hour. May grace forbid then I should distrust Him or complain of Him now. Yet if left to myself, I would soon toss like a wild bull in a net!
With my love to all your family and Mr. K., I remain,
Your most affectionate and obliged,
Like Jonah (well our stories suit)
I viewed my gourd, well pleased;
Like him, I could not see the root
On which the worm had seized.
But saw, at length, the hour draw near,
(What hour I since have known),
When all my earthly joy must die,
And I be left alone.
She dropped a tear, and grasp'd my hand,
And gladly she would have spoke;
But well my heart could understand
The language of her look.
Farewell! It meant, a last adieu!
I soon shall cease from pain;
This silent tear I drop for you!
We part to meet again.
I said, "If leaving all below
You now have peace divine.
And would, but cannot, tell me so,
Give me at least a sign."
She raised, and gently waved her hand,
And filled me with a joy,
To which the wealth of sea and land,
Compared, were but a toy.
I trust, indeed, she knew Your grace
Before this trying day;
But Satan had, awhile, access,
To fill her with dismay.
Til then the two long years she pined
Without an hour of ease,
Cheerful she still appeared, resigned,
And bore her cross in peace.
Daily, while able, closely too,
She read the word of God;
And thence her hope and comforts drew,
Her medicine, and her food.
A stranger might have well presumed,
From what he saw her bear,
This burning bush was not consumed
Because the Lord was there.
Three days she could no notice take,
Nor speak, nor hear, nor see;
O Lord! Did not my heart-strings ache?
Did not I cry to Thee?
That while I watched her, night and day.
My will, to Yours, might bow!
And, by this rod, did You not say,
"Behold your idol now"?
"From her you loved too much, proceed
Your sharpest grief and pains —
For soon or late, the heart must bleed,
That idols entertains."
Yes, Lord, we both have guilty been,
And justly are distressed;
But since you do forgive our sin,
I welcome all the rest.
Only uphold us in the fire,
Our fainting spirits cheer;
And I Your mercy will admire
When most You seem severe.
Fainter her breath, and fainter grew
Until she breathed her last:
The soul was gone before we knew
The stroke of death was past!
Soft was the moment, and serene,
That all her sufferings closed;
No agony or struggle seen,
No feature discomposed.
The parting struggle all was mine,
"Tis the survivor dies";
For she was freed, and gone to join
The triumph of the skies!
My Dear Friends,
Accept a short letter, just to repeat thanks for all your kindness and to inform you we had a safe and pleasant journey, and found all well. My heart traveled with you to P., where I hope to hear the Lord gave you to return with equal safety, and perhaps about the same time. I could gladly have ventured with you. Indeed, if my post and duty were not here, I could willingly live and die with you.
The first day at home, after a long absence, calls of course for attention to many things; but I must find time to say, "Oh magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together!" Very wonderful have His dealings been with me, since the day when He took me by the hand to bring me out of Egypt. You, no doubt, have seen Him working wonderfully in your own concerns. We are truly debtors to His grace! May He give us of His own, that we may have something to offer Him, for we have nothing that we can properly call ours, but sin and misery. I wish to be more thankful for what the Lord has been to me — but I long to rise a step higher still, to be enabled to contemplate His character, as displayed by the cross of Christ, so that I may continually admire and adore Him for what He is in Himself. He would have been great and glorious, wise, powerful, holy, and gracious — though I had never been brought into existence, or had been left to eternally perish in my sin as I deserved.
The redeemed before the throne — look how they shine! Hark how they sing! They were not always as they are now. They were once like us — sorrowing, suffering, sinning. But He has washed them from their sins in His own blood — and wiped away their tears with His own nail-pierced hands! There would have been a redeemed company, though I had never known Him. "All glory to Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding His blood for us! All glory and power to Him forever and ever! Amen." Revelation 1:5-6.
Here I would so fix my eyes and thoughts, as in a manner to forget myself — and then, when my heart was overwhelmed, as it were, with His majesty combined with mercy, His glory shining in grace — to bring the matter home and say with gratitude and triumph, "This God, this great and wonderful God — is our God!" May we be more employed thus upon earth; so far as we are, we shall share in the joys of the inheritance of the saints in light.
The sun shines brightly upon you this morning (for it is a fine day), but I cannot see it — the houses hide it from me, but I have some light from it. It is thus with my soul. I seldom have much sunshine, but light I trust I have from the Sun of Righteousness, by which I see my way and have an imperfect glance of the end to which it leads. Well — such a glance is worth all this poor world can bestow.
The redeemed before the throne — look how they shine! Hark how they sing! They were not always as they are now. They were once like us — sorrowing, suffering, sinning. But He has washed them from their sins in His own blood — and wiped away their tears with His own nail-pierced hands! Among them are some who were once dear to us, with whom we have shared in pleasure and sympathized in pain. There I trust is my dearest wife. I cannot describe my feelings last night, when I looked upon the bed in which she languished so long, but it was a comfort to think — she is not here now — I hear no moans; I see no great distress — she is gone — she is risen, and I hope before long to follow her.
My love to your whole family — mention me to your servants, who were all very obliging to us. May the Lord give them the privileges of His servants. The Lord bless you — pray for us. Now I must subscribe myself, in great haste,
Your very affectionate and much obliged,
John Newton, 1st October, 1791
My Dear Friends,
I hoped to have seen you about this time, and therefore deferred writing — but Mr. Romaine tells me you cannot come yet. Whenever the Lord brings you, I shall jump for joy to see you. I often think of Mrs. F. and Mrs. D. How gladly would I restore them to health if I could! The Lord can easily do it — and if it be best upon the whole, He will. Should He appoint otherwise for either of them, I hope they are safe in His gracious hands. If they are sinners, believing in the Savior's name, I am sure it will be far better for them to depart and to be with Him forever — than to remain in such a poor world as this, where we can drink of no cup which has not some mixture of sin or sorrow or both.
As to their dear surviving friends and relatives, I can, from my own experience, testify to them of the mercy and all-sufficiency of the Lord — when our gourds wither, and the streams of creature-comfort run dry — then the shadow and fruit of the tree of life, and the streams of that river which is always full and flowing to refresh the hearts of His people, can make them abundant amends for all that they are called to suffer or to part with.
I also have seen affliction! I saw the worm gradually preying upon my gourd for two long years, and feeling my deep-rooted attachment to it, I often thought that if I outlived it, I would never know a cheerful day again. Still it drooped, and at last it died! I am thankful I have not to go through the like again; and to this hour, my wife is seldom two minutes together out of my thoughts. I miss her continually and believe I always shall — yet you have been witnesses that my tender feelings have not made me unhappy. The Lord was gracious when He gave her — and gracious when He took her from me. I can now say, what I could not say while she was living — that with respect to temporals, all is as well with me as I wish it to be. I am sure He has done well, and I would not now hold up a finger to have things otherwise than they are, if it were lawful or possible to expect it.
If either Mr. F. or Mr. D. should be called to the like trial — may they seek and obtain the like support. I offer my love to them all.
You have already had the honor of bringing up two children for the Lord. I shall be glad if all the rest may live to be your comfort. But if, as I hope, you shall meet them all in the eternal kingdom — then it will then be no concern either to them or to you, which of them went before you, or which followed you to Heaven. Then you will clearly see that every one of them came into the world — and went out of it exactly at the right time. May you now be enabled to believe it.
Through divine mercy, we are as well as usual here; particularly I am so. I have a good appetite and sleep soundly. I have much to attend to abroad — and running about is good for my health. I have enough to do when at home, which keeps my time from hanging upon my hands. I am cheerful when in company — and not uncomfortable when alone.
Today, after preaching my annual sermon to the Goldsmiths, I dined with them. I preached to them this day last year, but could not dine. Then, and for some time before and for just a month afterwards, I never stirred out of the house, but I expected to find my dearest wife a corpse at my return; of course nothing but indispensable duty led or kept me from home. It was a long and painful post of observation — darker every hour. But it is past. The comforts and pains of wedded life (both were mingled in mine, though the comforts far exceed) are gone, to return no more. Only the remembrance remains, as of a dream when one awakes; but I trust that the blessed consequences of our union will exist forever. She was as the hinge upon which my life turned.
My extravagant passion for her opened the way to that misconduct which buried me in misery and in slavery in Africa so long — and my regard for her was at that time the only motive that could have made me willing to come home. After she was mine, her counsel and her management were the great blessings of my life. How much do I owe to her, as the instrument of the Lord's goodness!
But where am I running? When I write to friends who loved us both, I insensibly, and without intending it, make her my subject; so true it is, that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth will speak, and the pen will write. My thoughts are full of her, and it is some relief to give them vent.
Yet I blame myself. She was not crucified for me. We know who was. He ought to be my theme. But still if He had not brought us together, it seems probable that neither of us would have known Him. I trust she is now with Him, and that shortly we shall all meet together to praise Him for all the sweet, and all the bitter which we have known here in this poor world. To His grace and blessing, I commend you all; we join in best love. It grows late, and I must subscribe myself,
Your affectionate and greatly obliged,
John Newton, 16th November, 1791
My Dear Friend,
When dear Betsy and my dear wife were ill, you were kindly anxious to hear from us. I trust you believe that we are no less interested in your concerns! We long to hear how you and dear Mrs. T. and your family are, and particularly to hear of Mrs. F. and Mrs. D. I called on Saturday to inquire of Mr. Romaine, but he could give me no late information.
We are all in the Lord's hands. He is wise and good — and does all things well. In times of trouble, and especially in my last great trial, I have found Him a present and all-sufficient helper — and I trust you will always be able to say the same. If we truly fear Him — then we have no cause to be afraid of Him. He will not cause grief without a need-be, nor without suitable support, nor without bringing it to a happy outcome.
Next Thursday will be the 15th; on the evening of that day last year my dearest wife died. I mean to devote that day, or so much of it as I can keep for myself — to prayer, praise, and humiliation. I have much to ask, much to be thankful, and much to be humbled for. Think of me on that day. If I were with you and the weather would permit, I would probably pass many hours of it in your forest; but we have no such place of retirement here; and when at home, I am not sure of half an hour free from interruption.
London and frost agree as well with my health in winter — as warm weather did in summer. I am highly favored in this respect, and indeed in all respects. Oh! For a more humble and thankful heart.
May the Lord bless you all. — Amen. I am and hope always shall feel myself,
Your affectionate and much obliged,
John Newton, 12th December, 1791
My Dear Friend,
It is true, I have been long wishing and waiting to hear from you. I think that you were one letter, if not two, in my debt. I am so much engaged at home and abroad, that I can seldom find leisure for writing.
Dear Mrs. T.! However, I shall not give her up. How often have I known my dear Mrs. Newton apparently upon the very verge of the grave — and yet she was repeatedly raised up and continued to me more than forty years. But she was often very ill and confined mostly to her chamber for six months at a time, before the last trying bout.
Sickness and health, life and death — will always be in the hands of the Lord. After all, neither you nor Mrs. T. nor any of us can be quite happy in this poor world. It is a state in which sin and sorrow will hunt us and pain us — to the last step of life! Therefore, though we wish to keep those whom we love with us as long as we can — it is well both for us and them, that we cannot live here always. We are in the Lord's hands — and He does all things wisely and well, at the right time and in the right manner.
When believers die — whatever the accident or the illness may be — they are only the means, but not properly the cause of their death. They die because the time has come when He who loves them best, will have them with Him to behold His glory, according to His prayer, "Father, I want those You have given Me — to be with Me where I am, and to see My glory!" (John 17:24). Until then, they are immortal. They recover from sickness, however threatening, and are preserved unhurt — in defiance of the greatest dangers. But when His appointed hour arrives — then they must go. When He will have them with Him — we cannot detain them, nor ought we to wish it, though the flesh will feel the parting stroke.
Should I survive your wife, I shall lose one of the friends who is nearest and dearest to my heart. The trial will come still closer to you — if she goes first; but I have known the like. I am the man who has seen affliction, and I can encourage you from my own experience to trust in the Lord and not to he afraid. He is all-sufficient. I have found Him so, and I doubt not but both you and Mrs. T. will. My wound is not yet healed; my feelings are much the same as at first — but I am not uncomfortable. Death is but a temporary separation. In a little while I hope we shall all meet again to part no more — then sorrow and sighing shall flee away forever.
I shall wait as patiently as I can for a letter from you, which I hope will inform me that you have had a safe journey, and that dear Mrs. T. finds some benefit. I shall be with you often in spirit. Though my late stroke was a bereavement indeed, I can still feel for my friends. The good Lord bless and keep and comfort you both, whether sick or well, at home or abroad, by night and by day. Amen. Believe me to be, my dear friend,
Your most affectionate and obliged,
John Newton, 13th April, 1798
My Very Dear Friend,
Mr. Cecil came home on last Monday, but I have not yet been able to see him. I am glad you know a little of him — it is indeed but little you could know of him in so short a space. There are few such men! May the Lord increase their number.
If the Lord pleases, I mean to visit Olney, where I have not been these past four years. I am probably going there for the last time.
I thank you for your kind invitation to visit you. I can honestly tell you as formerly, that is the very place to which my inclination would lead me frequently, and preferably to any other; but it cannot be this year at least. I can likewise assure you that I would be very glad to see you and Mrs. T. long and often in London, but you would say your business will not admit of it.
I likewise am very busy; I cannot, I dare not be much from home; a supply for the pulpit will not suffice. It is my own assigned post, and I must be upon the spot myself. I would be glad to comply with Mrs. M.'s request, but I have not time for necessary prose, much less for making verses. I must begin in my old age to learn to write short letters. I suppose I have now fifty letters in my drawers, which ought to be answered; and while I am writing one, I usually receive two or three. My debt to correspondents increases so rapidly, that I fear I must soon declare myself a bankrupt and leave my creditors to divide those in my book Cardiphonia among them as they can agree.
Just now too I have much to settle previous to my going abroad, and traveling I find is not a season of leisure. Besides I am not a poet; I have not my rhyming talent (such as it is) at command; like the wind and tide it must be waited for, and who can tell whether wind or tide may offer in June? After all, if I can do it, I will — and she shall hear from me. If I cannot, I wish her kindly to accept the will for the deed.
How time flies! Could I improve it as I ought while it passes, I would say, "The faster the better!" But none of our Lord's commands seems more easy than when He directs us to say, "When we have done our poor all — we are unprofitable servants." I would be ruined, were not He likewise graciously pleased to accept the will for the deed. Through mercy I can venture to say, "I would do good — but, alas! Evil is present with me!"
Sometimes my thoughts endeavor to pierce within Heaven's veil — and at times I desire to be there myself. I think no one can have less reason, or more reason — to be weary of this poor world. I have little reason — if I consider the innumerable comforts and blessings with which His goodness daily surrounds me. But I have much reason — when I feel what I am and have small hope of being much otherwise while I stay here.
To see Him as He is, to be like Him, and be with Him forever; to join the choir of the redeemed; to meet again with my dear Mary, Eliza, and many others whom I have known and loved that are gone before me — how desirable! But my times are in His hands; may I wait with patience and do the little I can with diligence, and as well as He is pleased to enable me. The Lord bless you both, and fill you with joy and peace in believing. I am, sincerely and always,
Your most affectionate and obliged,
John Newton, 25th May, 1792
My Dear Friends,
You would have been welcomed with a letter on your return home — if I had been at home; but we have been to visit, and perhaps to take a last farewell of Northampton, Leicester, Melton, Olney, and the parts where I was chiefly conversant for sixteen years before I relocated to London. We have to thank the Lord for health and safety, much kindness, and many mercies while abroad — and that we found all in peace when we came home.
This is my birthday, and it is eight years today since I was first under your hospitable roof; many pleasant days I have to thank you for since, and especially am bound to thank you and Mrs. T. for your great kindness to dear Eliza and my dear Mrs. Newton.
You never need use any argument to induce me to come to P., for I am well disposed to live and die with you — if I could; but we have our respective stations divinely allotted us. I have eaten my cake for this year; what the next may bring forth, we know not — but I thought myself bound in conscience to see my Olney folks (if the Lord permitted) before I go hence, as I had not seen them for four years.
My health, through mercy, is still perfect — but I doubtless grow older and feel myself weaker; but in the pulpit I find as yet little or no difference.
Now I want to hear of Mrs. T., Mrs. F., and Mrs. D., and every one of your children — therefore I hope I shall have a letter soon. I hope I can say I am a stranger and a pilgrim. I shall soon be at home. Only pray that I may be useful while I am upon the road and may arrive safe at last. They who are gone before us are waiting for us. Oh! It will be a happy meeting before the throne of the Lamb, out of the reach of sin and sorrow, to meet and part no more.
May the good Lord help us to serve Him now, and bring us thus together (with those whom we have loved) at last. Amen. I am,
Your affectionate and obliged,
John Newton, 24th July, 1792
My Dear Friend,
When I sent a line by Miss S., I promised to write soon. I find it difficult to keep my word, but I must try.
I long to hear how you and Mrs. T. are — particularly how she is, as she was the invalid. If the air or water in Bath did her good, I will praise the Lord, the great Physician, who sent her thither and gave His blessing to the means; for what can means do without Him? Though He can do without them; for many sick people, who are too poor to fee doctors or to take journeys, are wonderfully raised up from the very gates of the grave.
As He gives His people strength according to their day — so He often suits His help to their circumstances. If they can afford it, they must travel for health; thereby they are made some way useful and subservient to His providential goodness in places which they would not otherwise at that time have seen. Perhaps you found something to do while you were at Bath, which you were not aware of before you went; and your business would not have permitted you to go so far from home, had not Mrs. T.'s illness made it necessary.
I love to trace His providence, and to observe by what secret ways He will send a servant of his from one end of the kingdom to another; though he knows not his errand at the time, but possibly, at length, finds that it was to assist some of His poor children who had been crying to Him in their distress. But if they are not able to go far abroad in quest of health, He will visit and relieve them at home.
I was sorry that my plans obliged me to be from home at the end of June, when you thought of being in town, but it could not be helped. I wished to see my friends at Olney, Northampton, and Leicester once more, and it was the only time of the year when I could have Mr. B. to supply the pulpit for me while absent. Unless I can get a proper pulpit supply for my church — I cannot leave London with comfort, nor indeed with a good conscience.
I have now perhaps taken a final leave of my old friends and my old haunts in those parts. I have entered my 68th year. I have no right to look far forward. I have known all the good which such a world as this can afford me; and since my dear wife's death, I see little in it worth living for — the exercise of my ministry excepted; for the sake of this, I am very willing to wait until my appointed time shall come.
You are placed in a situation which affords you but little leisure or retirement. It is so with me; and though our appointments are very different, I trust we serve the same Lord from the same principle, love — and aim at the same ends, the promoting His will and glory. Were we to choose our own lot, perhaps we would like more time for prayer, meditation, reading, etc., but it is a mercy that such short-lived creatures as we — are not left to choose, but that the Lord of all condescends to choose, care, and manage for us. Perhaps a retired life might expose us to worse temptations, though of another kind, than those we now meet with. Certainly a public busy way of life gives more opportunities for usefulness to others; and as we are bought with a price, we are not to live for or to ourselves, but to Him, whose we are and whom we serve.
As to the things of this world — through the Lord's goodness, I have enough. If you have more than I, you have more calls for it, and I need not tell you that what you have is not your own, but entrusted to you as a steward. Your conduct has long proved that you are sensible of it. He who has given you ability, has given you a heart to do good; and while you are kept above the love of this present evil world — then the thought, time, and care which a proper attention to an extensive business requires, will not hurt you.
The Lord Himself, by His wise providence, placed both you and me where we are. May His grace make and keep us humble and faithful — and all will be well.
Every step we take, brings us nearer to our Father's house — and we shall soon be at home, where the wicked cannot trouble, and where the weary are at rest. We cannot do all that we would — we can do nothing as we would. But we have a High Priest, a complete atonement, and an open way of access to a throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Blessed be His name, we are not sent to the warfare at our charges.
My next letter must be to dear Mrs. T., but I shall hope to hear from her or you, before I write again. Dear Catty and I are well; we join in best love to you both, with love to your sons and daughters, and the children of your children; likewise to Mr. K. and his household. May the Lord bless you all. Continue to pray for us, and believe me to be always,
Your affectionate and much obliged servant,
John Newton, 17th August, 1792
My Dear Friends,
Mr. G. sent me the enclosed; but it must not go without a few lines from myself to thank Mr. T. for his letter and to say that I am thankful to hear from Mr. Romaine, that he left you all well.
How wisely the Lord varies His dispensations! Not all painful — lest we should be too much cast down; nor all pleasant — lest we should forget what and where we are. Nor do our troubles come all at once. They are parceled out at different intervals, that one wound may be well healed before another is inflicted. In short, He does all things well. But though I believe this now, I expect to see it more fully confirmed hereafter, when I shall have new eyes and a brighter light to see by. That time will come — yes, it is coming; it is upon the road and drawing nearer every hour!
I am glad that your western journey was safe and pleasant and beneficial to dear Mrs. T. — and that the Lord put a widow and daughter in your way for good. He will find employment for them who desire to love and serve Him — and give them, while attending their own business, opportunity of doing something for Him. One of these good jobs, when mingled with our necessary worldly concerns, is like a lump of sugar which sweetens a cup of tea and gives a relish to every drop.
The times seem big with great and unusual events. What the Lord is about to do — I know not. But as I know that He reigns — I hope to sit quiet, and trust to His wisdom and care. I wish to have my eye upon His management, and my heart properly affected by what I see and hear — to mourn for sin, to pray for peace, and to preach for peace.
The French affairs have taken an unexpected turn; but as their plan is founded in atheism and defiance of God and is in many parts of it contrary, not only to scripture, but to nature; and as they have taken a strange delight in murders and massacres, I think, when they have, as instruments, effected His purposes (which are probably very different from anything they are aware of) — a day of accounting and retribution will come.
Their attempt to establish a government in which a regard to the great God shall have no place is, I believe, the first experiment of the kind that ever was made. The heathen have already known that man is unmanageably evil — without some hold upon the conscience; and though their religions were false, they were, as to the purposes of civil government, better than the proud schemes of French philosophy. Their views are not only impious — but in the highest degree foolish. It would be more reasonable to expect that your mill would work without water!
May the Lord bless you all; I am well through mercy, highly favored indeed, and as comfortable (in outward respects) as I wish to be. But I still miss my right hand. I am,
Your very affectionate and much obliged,
John Newton, 12th November, 1792
My Dear Friends,
The Lord crowned the year 1792 with His goodness to us likewise, and it was an additional pleasure to hear, just at the close of it, that all was well with you and yours. Indeed, with the believer it is always well — unless when he gives way to sin and unbelief. The Lord is certainly good when He gives — and when He heals. He is also good when He wounds — and when He takes away! Undoubtedly some of our most needful and important mercies come to us in disguise — and we know not how to bid them welcome. But by-and-bye, when our eyesight is mended, we shall see what great reason we have to be thankful for them.
Indeed this is not a time to seek great things for self — when the Lord seems to be bringing evil upon all flesh. Things look dark on every side — but we know who is at the helm. Light and glory will spring out of the blackest clouds — and happen what will, it shall be well with those who fear the Lord. He will preserve them from many, many troubles of which they are apprehensive — and support them under those He permits to touch them; and soon they will be out of the reach of them all!
If you receive this tomorrow, it will be my dear departed wife's birthday. I enclose you another anniversary song; she is still continually present to my mind, and I am still, through mercy, reconciled to the separating stroke — though perhaps I shall always feel it as at the first.
Mr. Serle, to whom I sent my second song, wishes me to print it, but I think my "Selection of Hymns and Spiritual Songs" is sufficient to appear in public.
May the Lord feed you with the best provisions of His word and ordinances. May His blessing rest upon you and your children and your children's children. Amen. Dear Catty joins me in this wish, in love and thanks. I am in some haste, but always sincerely,
Your most affectionate and obliged friend and servant,
John Newton, 1st February, 1793
My Dear Friends,
I am thankful that dear Mrs. F.'s spirits are better. Nervous disorders, which some people know not how to pity, appear to me to be the source of the heaviest afflictions (a wounded conscience only excepted) to which mortals are subject; they change the appearance of everything about us. They open a door to dark temptations and often seem to load the mind with guilt for what is almost involuntary and unavoidable.
Few women seem better situated for temporal happiness than Mrs. T. I doubt not but she thinks so herself; and yet, at times, the pressure upon her spirits prevents her from taking comfort in anything. How vain, then, are all things here below! May He whom the winds and the seas obey, hush all her troubled thoughts into peace! It is a malady which I believe only He can cure — but whether relieved or not, He can sanctify it and make it one of the "all things appointed to work together for good to those who fear Him." Cheer up, my dear madam! There is no sorrow nor pain nor nervous illness in yonder happy world, where I trust we shall meet in the Lord's best time. Then all tears shall be wiped from our eyes, and we shall weep no more!
Yesterday was the anniversary of my dear Mary's death, and being Sunday, I preached a sort of funeral sermon from 1 Peter 1:24-25. Though everything here on earth must fade and die — the word of God will remain unchangeable and everlasting. Flowers and gourds will wither; the streams of creature comfort will sooner or later dry up. But the tree of Life will always flourish; the wells of salvation will always be full.
The all-sufficient Lord has been my support. I think that upon the whole — I may account the last three years as the happiest part of my life. I am now freed from the cares and anxieties I often endured while my dearest wife was living. This was a constant tax upon me, and sometimes a very heavy one, which I paid for my comforts.
I hope my attachment to this poor world is likewise weakened. I have seen an end to all it could do for me. It has now lost its charms. My lot in it is still favored and comfortable, but the fetter which chiefly fastened me to it is broken, and I walk more at liberty. I now daily long to be where m dear wife is. In the mean time, as my health is still good — and I am still enabled to exercise my ministry with acceptance, I trust with usefulness, I may well be willing and thankful to live. I can now say, and I can say it with thankfulness, "I can think of nothing of a temporal kind that is worth wishing for, more than the Lord has already given me."
I was sorry to hear of Mr. M.'s fall. I felt for his afflictions; but I know he is in safe hands. The Lord will support him under all He has appointed for him to suffer. He can restore health — He can sanctify and sweeten sickness.
He has wise reasons for all that He does, and we shall, before long, know them more clearly. Then we shall see and say He has done all things well. May we even now be thankful and yield a peaceful submission to His holy will. He has a sovereign right to dispose of us as He pleases, and He has promised that all shall work together for our good. We are too apt to mistake or to forget the nature of our calling. He has promised us peace in Himself — but in the world, He bids us to expect tribulation. The same or equal or greater afflictions are common to all His people. We shall not say, "This is hard," if we consider that we are sinners, and therefore always suffer less than we deserve.
By trials, our graces are proved, exercised, and strengthened, and the power and goodness of the Lord toward us are more manifested and glorified. The time is short — our obligations are unspeakably great — and Heaven will make amends for all. Surely then we should cheerfully, yes thankfully, take up our crosses, and follow our Lord — since we are assured that if we suffer with Him and for Him, we shall also reign with Him. Time flies apace, and past troubles will return no more. Every pulse we feel, beats a sharp moment of the pain away, and the last stroke will soon come. Then sorrow and sighing shall flee away, and joy and gladness shall come forth to conduct us home!
We are often with you in spirit. I hope your Wednesday evenings will prosper. I suppose your children will be all at home these holidays. May the Lord bless them. Tell them that we love them. To you and dear Mrs. T. we repeat our best love and thanks. I shall rejoice to see you in London this winter. Remember us to Miss K. and Mrs. S. and all your servants, not forgetting Anthony. I am,
Your very affectionate and much obliged,
John Newton, 16th December, 1793
My Dear Friends,
We little expected to hear of Mrs. D.'s death so soon. Family breaches are painful — but when we consider that it is the Lord's doing, and have a good hope that those who are taken from us are gone home to Him — the wound gradually heals. You and I have had many of these wounds — we have seen our gourds successively wither. We have mourned for those whom we loved, but the tree of life still abounds with leaves and fruits, and under its shadow we find relief and support in every change. Before long, some who love us, will be called to mourn for us. We hope to meet at last where there will be no mourning; it will be swallowed up in unspeakable joy!
I have reason to be thankful that I know but little of nervous disorders by experience — but I would be thankful likewise, for the opportunities I have had of seeing much of their terrible effects upon others.
Olney was a sort of nervous school to me. Most of my poor people there, from a poor diet, the confinement of lace-making, and lack of exercise and fresh air — were nervous in different degrees, which gave a melancholy cast to their whole religious experience. Indeed everything appears with a dark hue — when perceived through the medium of weak and disordered nerves. Some people's nerves seem made of steel — and what they cannot feel themselves, they know not how to pity. To me a nervous disorder appears the heaviest trial (a wounded conscience excepted) to which our mortal frame is subject.
I can truly pity Mrs. T., but I hope she will be mindful, that though it is a great trial, it is almost the only one laid upon her; in all other respects, the Lord has appointed her a truly favored lot and placed every possible alleviation within her reach that the case will admit. I have a valued friend who is much worse than I trust dear Mrs. T. will ever be — and she has a cross surly husband, who sometimes laughs at her distress, sometimes swears at her, tells her the devil is in her, and bids her go and hang herself! This horrid thought (poor thing) often haunts her without his reminding her of it. She often tells me, "I think, if I had some person near me who would speak kindly to me, that I would be better." Mrs. T. has a very different husband, and is encompassed with kind friends and attendants.
I would have been glad of a better account of Mr. M. Please to give our love to him. I hope and believe that the Lord will give him strength according to his day — and by-and-bye all will be well.
I am at present a prisoner myself — but I have everything to make my prison comfortable. I had a fall in the street on Tuesday, which might have proved of worse consequence. The Lord preserved both my bones and my skin from being broken, but I strained my instep violently. My leg is much swelled, and I cannot set my foot to the ground — but I am free from pain. I can eat and sleep — my spirits are good, and I have many kind friends. It may be some time before I am able to walk — but not a minute longer than the Lord sees it best. I am not my own — I belong to Him, and wish not to be anxious about myself. He has permitted me to cast my cares upon Him, and warrants me to believe that He cares for me. He has delivered — He does deliver, and He is still the same.
How uncertain are all things here below. I know not what may be the consequence of my fall, but I hope it will be sanctified to myself and to my people — they love me; this will quicken their prayers for me — and mine for them, and the Lord will hear us. If we are permitted to meet again, it will be with double pleasure.
This is the first silent Sabbath I have had for many years. I have not been confined from the Lord's house on His own day more than twice since I entered the ministry in 1764, excepting two weeks, when I was under the surgeon's hands for my cyst in 1777. Few of His servants have had such an uninterrupted course of health and strength for service, as I have been favored with. It is His pleasure now to lay me aside for a season — and though He has long seen fit to honor me as an instrument, He has no need of me. He can carry on His work quite as well without me, as with me — and through mercy it is my delightful work which chiefly makes life desirable to me. If He commands me to sit still — then it is my part to submit and obey with cheerfulness. Blessed be His name, He enables me so to do. I have no solicitude, choice, or desire for myself — only to yield to His will, whether I am to be confined for a week or a month — or to the end of my life. Such is my present judgment, and that it will continue if He is pleased to be with me. If left to myself, I know that I would soon toss like a wild bull in a net.
Last Sunday, I preached from 1 Peter 1:24-25. It was a sort of second funeral sermon for my dearest departed wife. The occasion has likewise produced a third set of verses, of which I enclose you a copy, which may again be copied by as many as you please, who think it worthwhile.
The paper would not hold all that I could say of my love to you and all yours, and my sense of your great kindness, but I trust you will believe me though I mention but briefly, and that you will believe the same of dear Catty. We join in love to you and your children, from the eldest to the youngest. May the blessing of the Lord rest upon you, and may a sense of His hand and love double the relish of all your comforts — and sweeten all your trials and cares. I am,
Your very affectionate and obliged,
My Very Dear Madam,
There is no time, as they say, like the time present! Mr. T.'s letter has not been with me half an hour, and for fear of delaying too long, I strike while the iron is hot and begin to write immediately. Though the letter is from Mr. T., I send the answer to you because you observed in your last letter to Miss C., "He has not written to me a great while." I usually begin my letters, "My Dear Friends" — which includes you both. However, this sheet I shall dedicate to you, your own self; perhaps you will let Mr. T. see it.
I am sorry that your nerves or spirits or whatever indescribable things they are — on which the comfort or enjoyment of life so greatly depends, are still very poorly. Sickness and health are in a higher hand than that of any earthly physician. If the Lord is pleased to lay an affliction upon us — then no one can take it off without His permission or before His time. All events are at His disposal, but the use of prudent and probable means is our part.
If Mr. and Mrs. Romaine are still with you, I beg you to mention my affectionate remembrance to them; I am glad to hear that he continues so well, and I am persuaded that he is not sorry to think that he must go hence before long. And I, if I do not yet go before him — must soon follow. May the Lord prepare me for the summons.
I was five weeks in and about Cambridgeshire in the summer. For four summers, the Lord has given me my desire in permitting me to revisit my old friends in different places. Yorkshire and Lancashire are too distant. My journeying plan is now completed. Should I make another movement, I have good reason to give the preference to P. and my friends there. I love the spot much; I love those who inhabit it much more. What the Lord may appoint for me — I know not; what my inclination would choose is not the question — but it seems to me that duty and prudence will not permit me to make any more excursions. I am now in my seventieth year; traveling and change of places is inconvenient to me — and I must not leave my people at church for any length of time.
The how, when, and where of my death — I wish to leave to the Lord, who performs all things well for me. Yet, with submission to His will, I often pray that I may die at home, with my dear family around me, and within the reach of my people; and therefore to go abroad again without a necessary call would at my time of life, contradict my own prayer. I have some other reasons, but the difficulty of procuring a proper pulpit supply for my church is the strongest, and I think will be sufficient to confine me to my post.
Mr. S.'s removal to London is a great addition to my comfort; he is to me a friend and a pattern; but had you not introduced me to drink tea at Heckfield on our way to Reading in 1791, it is probable I might never have seen him; so that I am indebted to Mr. T. and you, not only for the many and great instances of your own kindness, but for other benefits to which you have been instrumental, and particularly for the great privilege of Mr. S.'s friendship.
I believe, likewise, the first seeds of my acquaintance with Sir Charles Middleton were sown in your house. He also allows me, and has given me cause to consider him as my friend; but he is so much engaged, and it is so uncertain when he is in town, that I can seldom see him. Happy indeed it would be if all our public departments were filled with such men as these; but I fear it is much otherwise, and though I lament the present state of affairs, I cannot wonder they are no better.
Love to all your sons and daughters, and to all my servant friends. May grace and peace be with you and yours, with them and theirs. I am often among you in spirit, though absent in body.
Through mercy we are all well. Let us cheer up. There is a better world than this, where we shall have nerves and hearts and eyes all new; where our harps will be perfectly in tune to praise the Friend of sinners. There may we all meet to part no more!
Your affectionate and much obliged,
John Newton, 27th October, 1794
My Dear Sir and Madam,
Please to observe that I write to both and each of you at once; and I thank each and both of you for a letter, in the shape of a side of bacon, which came safe today. Your love and kindness were very legible in it, but from beginning to end I could not find a syllable of information concerning the health and welfare of my dear friends and their family. But I hope the best, believing that you are of the number of those whom the Lord has promised to cover with the wings of His providence, and to encompass on all sides with His favor, as with a shield. These promises will not prevent you from meeting with many trials, but they secure you from all but those which are designed to work for your good.
The last year closed upon us in peace, and although this year is but two weeks old, it has already brought us many mercies and blessings. New Year's Day is usually with me like a hilltop, which, when the traveler has gained, he makes a pause and looks about him. He turns his eye upon the road he has already passed, then to the prospect on each side; but especially he looks forward towards his journey's end, and if his house is in view, or if he has but a few more hills to mount before he sees it, and if it is a good home, where his heart is gone before him and where he knows his dearest friends and connections are waiting for him — the thought cheers his mind and renews his strength.
The review of my past life suggests much cause for praise, and much for humiliation. I suppose every believer thinks his own case singular — but there are some cases so much out of the common way that they appear more striking and extraordinary to others. I think mine is as remarkable as most. I have still some faint remembrance of my pious mother and the care she took for my education, and the impression it made upon me when I was a child, for she died when I was in my seventh year.
I had even then frequent intervals of serious thoughts. But evil and folly were bound up in my heart; my repeated wanderings from the good way became wider and wider; I increased in wickedness as in years. But you have my narrative, and I need not tell you how vile and how miserable I was and how presumptuously I sat in the chair of the scorner, before I was twenty years old. My deliverance from Africa and afterwards from drowning in the ocean, were almost miraculous; but about the year 1749 (I cannot exactly fix the date) the Lord, to whom all things are possible, began to soften my obdurate heart.
In the year 1750, He gave me my dear Mary, and from that time I have a more distinct review of the way by which He has led me. Surely I may say, mercy and goodness have followed and surrounded me in every step. But alas! What ungrateful returns on my part! I see monuments of His goodness, and of my own shame — set up like milestones all along the road; but there are many more of both sorts than I can possibly count. When I look to the right hand and the left, I seem to travel on a road through a country that is full of swamps, bogs, precipices, and pathless forests. I see little but sin and misery around me. How many sink before my eyes! How many pine and suffer in vain — not knowing where to look for help! How many are passing this present hour in pain, sickness, and poverty — and the more grievous distresses of guilt, remorse, and terror of mind; while I am favored with health, peace, and plenty, and am smoking my pipe and writing to my dear friends by a good fire! In temporals I have all things and abound, so that I know not what more to wish for, if a wish could procure it.
But the best prospect, when faith is in exercise, is before us — especially to those who are far advanced in years. I am now old, and I know not the day of my death, and can it be that I am within a few years, perhaps months or weeks, of joining in the songs and sharing in the joys of those who are now before the celestial throne? I expect soon to see my Savior without a veil, face to face, in all His glory, and in all His love! If so, why am I thus? Why am I no more affected and enlivened by this blessed hope, which finally, as it impresses me, I would not part with for a thousand worlds? Alas! A body of sin and unbelief weighs me down. So when a bird with a stone tied to its foot attempts to fly, the weight pulls it back, and it flutters its wings in vain.
Our life is safely hid with Christ in God, but it will be a life of warfare while we continue here. Let us fight on — the Captain of our salvation is near — see! He holds the prize in view! Hark, He speaks and says, "Be faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life!"
On New Year's mornings I usually preach to old pilgrims. My text this year was Psalm 39:7, "My only hope is in you!" I have seen and known as much of such good as the world can afford, as most people. I have seen an end of all its perfection. I have seen and felt that a thread of vanity and vexation of spirit runs through the whole. The best of it is defiled and defective; and when we are situated the most to our wish, there is still something to remind us that, "This is not your rest — for it is polluted." What then do I wait for? Methinks I would not live here always. But if I may be enabled to honor the Lord by my profession and ministry, I ought to be willing to wait my appointed time, though (if such were His pleasure) it should be to the age of Methuselah .
I have almost filled the paper about my poor self. But I am writing to friends whom I dearly love and who, I have reason to know, love me. I commend you and yours to the good and great Shepherd, who is full of wisdom, tenderness, care, and power, to all His flock. May He continue to guide you with His eye, to support you with His arm, and bring us at last to meet in His kingdom.
This year is likely to prove very eventful, but we know who reigns and that, though clouds and darkness are round about Him, though His way be in the sea, His path in deep waters, and His footsteps untraceable by us — yet all His paths are mercy and truth to them that fear Him. He has said, "It shall be well with the righteous," and His word is sure. May we be found among those who are mourning for sin and pleading for mercy — and then His secret mark for peace and protection shall be found upon us, and we may sing Psalm 46:1-2.
I have a great acquisition in Mr. and Mrs. T. They are people just to my taste, if this is not saying too much for myself. We cannot often meet, but I am glad to think they are so near; our intimacy seems as great as if it had been of twenty years' standing. For this pleasure, as for many others, I am indebted to you, as instruments of the Lord's goodness. I shall always remember with thankfulness that you introduced me to them. I owe you much and can only repay you by acknowledging the debt, but I trust the Lord will repay you for all you do for His sake.
I enclose you a few copies of my fourth anniversary sermon of the death of my wife. I still miss my right hand, but, through mercy, I am satisfied and comfortable without it, and in some measure sensible that I have many reasons to be thankful — but not one to complain. The Lord has dealt very graciously with me. Oh! To be more thankful to Him who has redeemed me from evil, and done me good all my life.
We join in love to you and yours. We long to hear from you. May the Lord be a sun and shield to you and yours, to me and mine. Continue to pray for your
Much obliged and affectionate,
John Newton, 15th January, 1795
My Dear Friends,I think I wrote last, but if I did, it is high time to write again that I may get another letter from you; for your last is dated the 28th January, so that we have had a long fast. I have heard, however, of your going to Bath, and Mr. D. tells me that you are returned. I hope if Mr. T. is too busy to write, his good lady will be able to inform us that she has found benefit from her journey and that all your olive branches are in a flourishing state. A few lines to confirm this hope will be very acceptable to me and dear Catty.
My heart is often at P., but I cannot see it this year. It is not practicable to procure a fit supply for my church, without which I cannot leave it. Mr. T. would be unwilling to leave his mill for a month, if it must stand still during his absence. Mary Woolnoth is my mill. Through mercy I have reason to hope that the streams which now make glad the city of God still run, and keep our wheels going. And we must work while it is day, for the night comes.
Should I ever live to take another journey and to choose my route, it would certainly be to visit you at P., but this becomes more and more uncertain. The 24th of July, if I live to see it, will enter me on my seventy-first year, and though my health and strength are remarkable for my age, so far as concerns my public service, and though I am much younger than Mr. Romaine, I cannot travel so easily as he does. Some symptoms of advancing years, though they do not yet affect my preaching — render traveling more inconvenient to me than formerly.
How it may be next year, if we should be spared so long — the Lord knows, and with Him I wish to leave it. I am sure I would love to visit you. I venture to make one request, and but one, respecting the time and manner of my death — that when the summons shall come, it may find me at home, in my family, and among my people.
I bless the Lord that my mind is at peace. I am a sinner, but a sinner believing in Jesus. I neither have nor desire any other plea, than the warrant and command of God to believe in the Son of His love. The Lord has kept me by a miracle of mercy from falling into gross errors or staining my profession by gross sins, but I have had much mournful experience of the desperate depravity of my heart. Sin, defect, and defilement mingle with everything that I do, so that my best intended services need forgiveness before they can hope for acceptance; but I have been enabled to commit my soul to Him who says, "Him that comes I will never cast out," and "He is able to save to the uttermost." These two texts have been as two sheet anchors by which my soul has ridden out many a storm, when otherwise hope would have failed. "Never cast out" takes in all characters — and "to the uttermost" goes many a league beyond all difficulties.
I recommend these anchors to dear Mrs. T.; they are sure and steadfast. I believe she sometimes finds the winds high, the seas rough, and the weather dark and gloomy; but with these anchors, and having Jesus for her pilot — she need not fear. There are likewise especial promises to those who are afflicted, tossed with tempests, and not comforted. If this is her state — then the promises belong to her. I suppose when she reads her name on the address of this letter, that she will not scruple to open it. Now all the good and comfortable words in Isaiah 54 are directed to the afflicted and tempest-tossed — then let her call them her own, and feed upon them in her heart, by faith with thanksgiving.
Dark times indeed! So the flesh says. But faith will ask, "When were they otherwise?" I can look back about sixty years and remember many things when I was a boy. That was what faith would call a dark time, when the gospel was but low among the Dissenters and scarcely known in our church, nor were there any Methodists; but while we had outward peace and plenty, few people could think the black cloud of ignorance and spiritual death which overwhelmed the whole nation had any darkness in it.
I hope the present are rather bright times; the gospel is spreading, and the number of believers seems to be upon the increase from year to year. Are not those the best times — when the best cause flourishes the most?
True, but our fig trees and vines — our property and earthly comforts, are threatened. Who knows but the united prayers of the Lord's people may prevail for their preservation? But if not, the gospel enabled the first Christians to joyfully take the confiscation of their goods, knowing that in Heaven they had a better and more enduring substance. The same gospel can do as much for us, as it did for them — if we should be put to the trial, for we are promised strength according to our day. But indeed, we hearken too much to the flesh — and too little to faith; we are too much attached to our own petty concerns — and too little concerned for the glory of God.
Many, both at home and abroad, question whether He governs the world or not — many even presume to deny it; but He says, "They shall know that I am the Lord." If I have not miscounted, this expression is repeated seventy-three times in the Old Testament. He is now pleading His own cause; dare I indulge a wish that He should lose His cause and leave His enemies to triumph — rather than I and all my friends should be exposed to inconveniences in the conflict?
Come what may, He will take care of His own people. Truly it shall be well with the righteous. He invites them into His secret chambers. He will make them amends for what they may lose or suffer — and, if He pleases, He can preserve them from suffering altogether, Psalm 91. For the rest, though they will not see when His hand is lifted up — yet they must and shall see it, for the Lord has spoken, and the Lord reigns. May we be prepared to meet Him, and all shall be well.
Dear Catty joins me in best love to you and yours. She is very well. We abound in comforts and blessings today. Tomorrow is in His hands, who bids us cast our cares upon Him, and assures us that He will care for us. I commend you and yours to Him and remain,
Your most affectionate and obliged,
John Newton, 30th May, 1795
My Dear Friends,
My heart is often with you at P., and I have pleased myself with the hopes of seeing it once more — if I should live until toward the end of the summer; but now I know not how it will be. My assistant quite answered my wishes and expectations, but I am upon the point of losing him already. I believe he will go to Bengal. Though this is a sudden step, the proposal is so circumstanced that I dare not in conscience oppose it. I know the Lord can provide me with another — and if He sees fit, He doubtless will. It is not every one who will do; I must have a proper substitute, one who will suit my people; otherwise I can no more move from London than I can move St. Mary Woolnoth; but if it be His will that I should visit you at P., I doubt not but His providence will make it practicable.
It is thus I endeavor to quiet myself under all changes, by referring everything to Him, for it is written, "In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths."
The question should not be, "What is most agreeable to my own inclination?" but rather, "What is the path of duty, and how shall I best comply with His holy will and promote His service?" There is no great fear of my staying in London, when my conscience shall tell me that I ought to be at P.; but there is some danger on the other side, lest inclination should draw me abroad — when duty requires me at home.
We shall rejoice to see you both here in May or June; then perhaps, as you say, we may arrange our plans; but June or even May seems too distant for old seventy-one to look forward to. It is true I am at present, through mercy, in perfect health, but it befits me to live with the Lord by the day and to carry, as the phrase is, my life in my hand, leaving tomorrow with the Lord. At all times we are little aware what the next day may bring forth; but at my advanced age everything is more and more precarious from day to day. I am in continual expectation of being either called away Home — or laid aside from my beloved pastoral work. I may perhaps still live some years, and the Lord is so gracious to me in all my concerns — that no one can have less reason to be weary of living, excepting for the body of indwelling sin. My part is only to wait and to pray that I may at last be found ready to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. The how, when, and where — belong to Him!
Yes, my dear friends, the Lord pours contempt upon our proud boastings. Last winter His frosts made a bridge for the French to enter Holland; this winter His storms have disconcerted our arrogant schemes for overrunning the West Indies. He shows us that it is not Britannia — but He Himself who rules the waves. When those who plan our councils and those who are to carry them into execution set Him at defiance — then what can we expect but disappointment and confusion? If it were not for His praying few, who, though despised for their pains, continue in the breach mourning for sin and pleading for mercy — I would give up all for lost. I can place no dependence upon fleets and armies — while the commanders, soldiers, and sailors, are, with a few exceptions, combined against the Lord Almighty and defying Him to His face; and while the bulk of the nation are no less insensibly hardened and profligate than the French can well be; but the French never sinned against such light and privilege as we have been long favored with!
However things may turn out — it shall be well with the righteous. They may share in calamities here, but they are hastening to a better world and will soon be at home. Then they will be out of the reach of every evil, and will hear the voice of war no more, and at present they are invited to hide themselves in the secret chambers of His wisdom, love, and power. The name of the Lord is a strong tower, and when He gives quietness — none can give trouble.
Dear Catty joins me in best love to you and yours, to Mr. K. and his family. I suppose when I come to S. I shall be considered as a Dissenter, but indeed I am no Democrat.
That you and your children and all who love the Lord Jesus Christ in your neighborhood may always sit under the shadow of the Tree of Life, and feed upon His precious fruits, is the frequent prayer of
Your much obliged and affectionate,
John Newton, 5th March, 1796
My Dear Friends,
We did not leave you without a sensible regret, and now that we are at home, this regret has subsided; but I trust the sense we had of your very great kindness will never abate. I pray that He for whose sake you received us and showed us so much kindness, will return it in abundant blessings upon you and yours. I was favored with a good night and arose on the Lord's Day morning fresh as usual, and was carried on comfortably through the day. I preached a funeral sermon in the evening for my dear friend Benamore, from his own dying words, Mark 7:37, "He has done oil things well!" How can it be otherwise? If He does all things — then they must necessarily be well done; for His wisdom, power, and goodness are infinite, and we are assured that not a sparrow, much less a child and a servant who loves Him, can fall to the ground without Him.
Poor dear Rebecca! Thankfully your child was not killed, nor a bone broken. We are always glad to hear from you, but now we must beg to hear soon to confirm our hopes, that by this time she is perfectly recovered. She had often been cautioned against sliding down by the rail — but I believe her late tumble will render future caution needless. [Note: Rebecca had fallen off the rail at the top of stairs, and was taken up apparently dead — but revived in a few minutes.]
Is it not so with us? What are all the Lord's precepts or prohibitions — but admonitions to do ourselves no harm. We are but children of a larger growth, and think we can please ourselves in our own way — until repeated experience makes us wiser, and the consequences of our choices teach us how unfit we are to choose for ourselves.
And now, how shall I fill up a little more of the paper? Surely we cannot say that there is any lack of a subject between Christian friends. We are travelers through this wilderness world, and know something of the difficulties and dangers which surround us. At all times, let us stir up each other to admire our great Shepherd. What love to redeem His sheep with His own precious blood! What infinite wisdom — what an infallible guide! What a sure guard is His almighty power! What a never failing supply from His unbounded fullness! What a comfortable resource we have in that unspeakable compassion and tenderness, which are but feebly represented by the tenderness of the nearest earthly relations — father, husband, brother, friend, united!
How did dear Mrs. T. feel when she heard of Rebecca's fall? So, and much more, the Lord pities His redeemed children. He says, "Oh, that you had hearkened unto Me!" We have some faint perception of Him now — faint indeed! But from the report we have heard of Him, we are going, like the queen of Sheba, to see Him as He is; then we shall say, "Behold the half, the thousandth part, was not told to us!"
He who once bled to death for us upon the cross — now reigns as a King and Priest upon His heavenly throne! He hears our prayers — He watches over us — He is preparing a place for us near Himself, and is waiting to receive us. We shall soon be at home, at our long home — for then all our warfare and wanderings will be ended, and we shall go out no more. Let us then cheerfully take up our cross, and run with faith and patience, the race that is set before us — looking unto Jesus!
May the Lord bless you all and double all your comforts, and sweeten all your trials, with a sense of His special redeeming love. I cannot tell you how much I feel myself
Your affectionate and obliged,
John Newton, 5th October, 1796
My Dear Friends,I must write to tell you that I cordially unite with you in praising the Lord for the preservation and by this time, I hope, the complete recovery of George. Poor dear child! What an escape! I hope he will yet live to be "a man of consequence" [A title the child gave himself]. He will be so — if he lives to know, love, and serve the Lord God of his parents, who, by His watchful providence, protected his life when in such imminent danger. We felt likewise very sensibly for dear Mrs. T., but I trust she is now recovered from this alarm, as she did from that occasioned by Rebecca's fall.
Our Savior, though we cannot see Him, is always near to give secret supplies of strength according to our need — and to show us that He can help, when all other help would be in vain.
What an uncertain world do we live in! How little are we aware what the next hour or minute may bring forth!
We always profess to believe this — but now and then, when He sees it needful, God permits some unthought of event to take place, to give us a deeper and more abiding impression of this truth of which, when we go on very long in a smooth path, we are prone almost to lose sight.
If we could keep up a more constant sense of our dependence upon the Lord, and that we and all that we call ours are in His hand — then we would perhaps be exempted from many trials which now our proneness to forget renders necessary.
The Lord's providential dispensations are medicines — and though some of them at the time are very unpalatable, not joyous but grievous — yet afterwards by His blessing, they yield the peaceable fruits of righteousness and do us good. Upon the whole, we have good reason to be satisfied that He does all things well.
Since my great trial in the year 1790, I have scarcely met with anything that deserves the name of a trial. Under that, the Lord supported me, and though I still miss my dear wife every day, I am enabled to go on comfortably without her.
Such trials as his do not spring out of the ground. The Lord, whose wisdom and love are infinite — has done it! I found that the all-sufficiency of our God can make up for every loss. Faithful are the wounds of our infallible Friend! He sometimes cuts deep, but never too deep, nor in the wrong place, nor at the wrong time — and He is ever near to heal. Perhaps the pain may be felt for a season — but it will subside as the cure advances, until at length nothing will remain but a scar.
Pray for us, my dear friends — that in our present state of comparative ease we may not drop asleep upon the enchanted ground. I often pray that the Lord may bless you with an abundance of grace, peace, and comfort. I am,
Your truly affectionate and much obliged,
John Newton, 26th October, 1796.
My Dear Friends,
We dined yesterday at Mr. Serle's, and of course talked about you. This visit was not necessary to remind me of you, for you are often present to my thoughts, and I am often with you at P. in spirit. I love the spot — I love the house, the people within doors, and have a pleasant regard for the walks in the garden and the trees in the shrubbery. I remember with pleasure the hours I have spent among them by moonlight.
Yet the talk yesterday made me wish to write today, though I wrote last. I hear dear Mr. T. has been ill, and I know that when he is well, he is as busy as a bee. I know dear Mrs. T.'s nerves are often out of tune, and I thought perhaps the Lord may make a word from me a word in season and honor me as an instrument to wind up the strings a little tighter, that she may play with courage and make melody in her heart to the Lord. So, though I am rather busy too in my way, if I can secure an hour this morning, I mean to devote it to you, and I shall think of you all the while I write.
At present, all here are pretty well. I feel that as I grow older, that I am more disposed to indolence — but as yet I find no material difference as to pulpit service, and I have reason to hope the Lord affords His gracious presence at St. Mary's. The church is very full, the hearers very attentive, my heart and tongue for the most part favored with liberty, and I have some reason to believe that I do not speak in vain. So much for self and home.
The times look dark to sense, but faith says that it shall be well with the righteous. I was not disposed to be a croaker on the fast day, so I told my people from Psalm 99 what many of them knew, that the Lord reigns and sits between the cherubim — that is, upon a mercy seat. He who died upon the cross for sinners and who has promised to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by Him — exercises all power and authority in Heaven and earth. Let the people be ever so impatient — He is above them. He rules them as He rules the waves of the sea in a storm and sets bounds to their rage, beyond which they cannot pass. Yes, He overrides them to promote His own gracious purposes in favor of His church and kingdom.
I mentioned several instances in which, unworthy as we are, He has signally appeared in our behalf. In the sudden suppression of the riots in the year 1780; the king's recovery in 1789, which was equally sudden and unhoped for; his preservation from the mischiefs intended in December 1792, when I am well satisfied that this city was marked out for destruction; the plentiful harvest last year, which disconcerted the monopolizers and brought down the price of corn in defiance of their endeavors to keep it up; and now of late, the disappointment of the French in Ireland, which He evidently did Himself. He blew with His wind — and they were scattered, and He would not permit us to ascribe any part of it to our boasted fleets!
Lastly, the success He gave to Sir John Jervis; there indeed, we find something to boast of. The admiral is praised to the skies, but few give glory to God. But there are a few who see the Lord's hand in these events, and accept them as an answer to the prayers of those whose eyes affect their hearts, and who stand in the breach to plead for mercy. Though these are few, compared to the bulk of the nation — I trust if they could be all collected into one place, they would seem to be many. The Lord sees and hears them all, as if they were but one assembly. But they are providentially dispersed over the land like salt; so that we may hope there is no county, city, or town, scarcely a village, where prayer is not offered for the public. Yes, many a believer who dwells in a lonely cottage upon a heath, is thus rendering his country powerful though his secret prayers. The eye of the Lord is upon the cottagers who fear Him, and His ear is open to their prayers.
I think this ungrateful nation must be brought down at last — if it refuses to be humbled. But as He has a cause, a church, a people among us, and is still sending forth more ministers and spreading his gospel — I trust we shall not be wholly given up to ruin, though we justly deserve it.
My afternoon sermon from 2 Kings 19:19 was in the same strain. Sennacherib, not content with invading Hezekiah, blasphemed the God of Israel, and compared Him with the idols of wood and stone which he had burnt. This made it the Lord's cause.
In the same way, the French began their career by renouncing Scripture religion, defiling the churches with the remains and the statues of infidels, and setting up their idols of reason and liberty. The Popish images that could not save themselves, being made of silver and gold, were too good to be burnt, but they melted them down. But they cannot so easily prevail against the true church; the Lord is a glory in the midst of her and a wall of fire round about her.
We unite in love, warm cordial love, to you both. I mention Miss T., Rebecca, and friend George, by themselves — tell them we love them dearly. I pray the Lord to preserve them from falling down stairs or from horses. Especially I pray that He may set them apart for Himself, and that, like Josiah, while they are yet young — they may seek and know the Lord God of their parents. May His blessing rest upon you all. I am,
Your most affectionate and obliged,
John Newton, 18th March, 1797
My Dear Friends,
We have taken tickets and hope to be at Reading on Tuesday evening about tea-time. Now as to the time of seeing you at P., inclination would say, "Go there next week"; but considering how things are at Reading, perhaps I may see it expedient to stay there two Sundays. Should I mean to come sooner, I will let you know; but should you hear no more, you may be assured that, if I am alive and well, I shall be ready to obey your orders any time after Tuesday the 18th; and I shall be glad if you will let me know the day, somewhere in the week between the 9th and the 16th, and the sooner in the week the better.
I shall wish to be at home on Friday the 21st at furthest. I like to have a snug day before the Sabbath, to comb out my thoughts a little, as they are apt to get twisted and entangled in journeying and seeing many new faces. I shall long for a walk in Mr. Sloan's woods. As to my stay, it is in my heart to live and die with you, and perhaps it may be so, for old seventy-two has neither right nor reason to look forward two months beforehand. But I think if I am able to return home, the second Sunday in September will be the last I can spend with you. I must not, if I can help it, be much more than two months away from home. If you could see the people I am about to leave — then you would wonder that I can bear to leave them at all.
We join in love to you both and to all your family. Put us into your daily frequent prayers, that I may not, after all your kindness and expense, come to you like a cloud without water.
The Lord bless you abundantly now, and abundantly if He permits us to meet. Believe me to be,
Your very affectionate and much obliged,
John Newton, 1st July, 1797
My Dear Sir and Madam,
Here we are — and here, if the Lord pleases, we mean to stay until after Tuesday the 18th. When that day is over, I shall be ready to obey your orders without delay; but I hope you will write immediately and fix the time when we may either expect to see you, or have permission to wait upon you at P. I shall rejoice if you can meet us, at least as far as B. If I should not hear from you, (for hindrances are always possible) we shall leave on Thursday the 20th.
Indeed I could hardly hold out so long at Reading, as I hope to do with you; between much kindness and many services, I would be overdone. I preach twice a day through the week, besides visiting and being visited, and talking and praying from morning to night. I have seldom met with so many hungry, affectionate people in one place! The Lord is pleased to open my mouth among them — and they show their gratitude to Him by much kindness to poor unworthy me.
How little did I think of such an honor when I was a poor slave in Africa — as He has been pleased to afford me since! My thoughts go back to Africa daily — and often in a day. But without recurring to the recollection of what I was, the sense and feeling of what I still am — should be sufficient to humble me and abase myself in the dust before Him.
For alas! While I am endeavoring to keep the vineyards of others — He alone knows how much evil and disorder remains in my own vineyard. He alone knows how much more easy I find it to preach to His people — than to my own heart! But He is gracious and merciful, and therefore He does not take His word of truth utterly out of my unworthy mouth.
But as I hope to see you so soon, I need not apologize for a short letter, for indeed I have not time to write a long one. We join in best love to you both, in love to all at home and abroad, especially to your dear children. Pray that I may come to you and that our visit may be comfortable and profitable, mutually so to you and to ourselves. The Lord bless you and yours. Amen. So prays,
Your affectionate and much obliged,
John Newton, Reading, 10th July, 1797
My Dear, Very, Very Dear Friends,
The Lord gave us a safe journey, and we arrived in health and peace about a quarter past seven last night, and found all well at home, and I believe we were welcome. The rain accompanied us as far as Bagshot; the rest of our ride was fair. We did not see much wheat out, but there was some; I pitied the other corn both cut and uncut. The wet weather at this season has been the only trial I have met with while abroad, and it has been a trial partly on account of my feelings for the poor — but chiefly because my heart has been so rebellions and so backward in submitting to the will of the Lord, which I am sure, must be wise and worthy of Himself — and upon the whole, for the very best purpose for His redeemed children.
We said good-bye, as we passed Mr. Woodford, the foundry, Mr. Sloan's place, and the mills — and then rode on three or four miles in silence; but as we drew near Winchester, I began to recover. The thought that we were going home, that every mile was a mile nearer home — abated the regret we felt at leaving you.
Thus life is a journey. We meet with some things as we travel, which we would wish to avoid. We are sometimes called to part with what we would willingly keep — and now and then we have a piece of rough road. But all the while we are going home, and lessening the distance from our Father's house. Time never stops but carries us forward, whether we are asleep or awake, whether we work or saunter. Well, blessed be God that we have such a home — and that it will be a long home. We shall be fixed as pillars and go out no more. Such a home as we hope for, will make rich amends for all the difficulties along the way!
There dwells our Savior crowned with light,
Clothed in a body like our own — and
There all the chosen race
Shall meet around the throne,
Shall bless the conduct of His grace,
And make His wonders known.
We found all well at home — our friends below were glad to receive us, and we have had many welcomes from friends abroad. So in our better home — many whom we knew and loved upon earth are waiting for us; and I believe many more whom we never saw, will compass us about and congratulate us upon our arrival. If there be joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents — then is there not joy likewise for those who, having overcome by the blood of the Lamb, take their places before the throne and join with heart, harp, and voice to swell the chorus of praise?
I am now returning into my old track; the air of Coleman Street agrees with me as formerly, and I can still crow so as to be heard all over St. Mary's church. Such good health at my time of life is not common, and indeed the Lord's dispensations to me through life have been uncommon — I had almost said miraculous.
Thanks for all and every instance of kindness from you and yours, to me and mine. I shall be glad if my rhymes may brighten poor Theo's sorrowful countenance into smiles [Mr. T.'s son lost his purse while traveling to town]. I shall be more glad if these little trials incident to youth, may give him an early impression of the vanity and uncertainty of all our prospects and plans within the boundaries of the present life. May he and all your children begin early to build their hopes upon the Rock of Ages and to lay up their treasure in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust nor fire nor thieves can reach them!
My last sermon before I left town was a funeral — and so was my first sermon upon my return home. A young man was killed by falling from a ladder. He was the only son of his mother, and she is now a widow! He was the staff of her old age and carried on the business for her. I did not know them personally, though they have heard me preach for several years; but those who did know them, have no doubt but that both the mother and the son were converted people. My text was John 13:7, "You do not know now what I am doing — but later you will understand." We are not surprised to read that when the Lord saw a weeping widow of Nain following her only son in a coffin, that He should wipe away her tears by returning him to life. It seems quite suitable to the idea we form of His power and His compassion. If this widow is a believer — He has the same compassion and tenderness for her, though He has suddenly called her son away. We know not His reasons for doing so — but we shall know hereafter why He often calls those whom He loves, and who therefore love Him — to very sharp trials. But we may be assured that He does all things well. I called upon her the next day and found the promise of strength according to her day was fulfilled, for though afflicted, she was comforted and resigned to the Lord's gracious will.
When we pray for increase of faith and grace, and that we may have stronger proofs of our own sincerity and of the Lord's faithfulness and care — we do but in other words pray for affliction. He is best known and noticed in the time of trouble, as a present and all-sufficient help.
How grand and magnificent is the arch over our heads in a starry night! But if it were always day — then the stars could not be seen. The firmament of scripture, if I may so speak, is spangled with exceeding great and precious promises, as the sky is with stars — but the value and beauty of many of them are only perceptible to us in the night of affliction.
What a wonderful transition had this young man, if he knew the Lord — to be one minute at the top of a ladder, and the next minute joining the songs of the redeemed before the throne! A sudden death is painful to surviving friends, but the person so snatched away escapes what many feel, who die leisurely in agonies by the cancer or the stone.
Life is equally uncertain, and the hour of death is equally unknown to us. Oh! For grace to be always ready, always watching, with our loins girded up and our lamps burning. Then we may cheerfully leave the when, the how, and the where of our deaths — to Him of whose kind care and attention, we have had so many proofs hitherto. He will be our guide and our guard even unto death, and beyond it.
We unite in love and thanks to you, and to all; I hope to be in spirit with Mr. K. and my chapel friends next Sunday evening. May the Lord Himself be powerfully there whenever a few meet in His name. May He bless your endeavors to build up His house, and may He build up your house and bind up all who are dear to you in the bundle of life — so that not one hoof shall be left behind. Amen! I commend you to His blessing.
With much affection and gratitude, yours,
John Newton, 25th September, 1797
My Dear Madam,
I look forward to every month, and even to every week, with caution — because I am so old. I aim to leave all in the Lord's hands. To Him I look to prepare me for whatever change He may appoint, and especially for my great and last change. And then I need not fear, if I can cast my care upon Him, for He has promised to care for those who trust Him.
A blind man could not walk comfortably, if he suspected his guide had a design to mislead him. But if he has full confidence in his guide — then he can walk along with cheerfulness. I am stark blind as to future events; I know not what a day or the next hour may bring forth. But I hope I have an infallible guide, and I have been made willing to commit myself to His guidance and protection. Yet I feel something within that often disposes me to question whether I could not find out a better path for myself, than that in which His wisdom is pleased to lead me. Oh shame upon this unbelief and presumption! Methinks, when working in a follower of the Lamb, it is a stronger proof of our depravity than all the outward sins of those who know not the Lord.
We are traveling in the coach of time — every day and hour brings us nearer home, and the coach wheels whirl round apace when we are upon the road; we seldom think the carriage goes too fast. We are pleased to pass the milestones: I call New Year's Day or my birthday a milestone. My heart will jump when I find myself within three miles of you. I have now almost reached the seventy-third yearly milestone; what dangers have I escaped or been brought through! If my heart would jump to be within three miles of you, why does it not jump from morning until night to think that I am probably within three years of seeing the Lamb upon the throne and joining in the praises of the blessed spirits of the redeemed, who behold Him without a veil or a cloud and are filled with His glory and love! Here I may be ashamed of myself again.
Tomorrow Mr. W. and Mr. A. must suffer death for forgery. The former has a wife and five or six children. The latter is but recently married, and his wife is near the hour of her delivery of her first child. They were both in a large way of business and, until this unhappy step, of noble character. Oh, love of money! What mischief do you occasion! What a hard master is Satan! He is not content that his servants go on quietly in the spirit of the world — though that is bad enough; but if he can prevail, he will put them upon such things as shall bring reproach and ruin upon themselves and their families, even with regard to this present life.
What cause have I for praise! This enemy once possessed me — my name was Legion. How wicked, how miserable, and how lost to all appearance was I in the time of my ignorance! What ingratitude and backslidings have I experienced since I began to know the Lord! How many traps and snares has Satan spread for my feet — and how often have I been taken in them! Yet my Savior has so set bounds to my folly and to Satan's malice, that I am still alive upon praying ground. Yes, I am enabled to hope that He will keep me to the end, and save me to the uttermost.
The paper and the hour remind me to say good night. Please to parcel out my love to your family, and to the church at P. The Lord bless you all. I am,
Your very affectionate and much obliged,
John Newton, 5th June, 1798.
My Dear Friends,
We left you with regret, but we gradually recovered our spirits as we drew nearer home. In all my travels I have seldom had a more pleasant journey. We reached S. in health and safety, about four in the afternoon; I preached twice on Sunday. Tuesday brought us home to tea, and we found all in peace.
What a pleasing excursion! No harm or alarm in the way; no cross or trial in the houses where we were during nine weeks; no unpleasing news from home, either while abroad or upon our return. My soul, praise the Lord!
Yesterday I made my appearance in St. Mary's pulpit. I was glad to see my people — and I trust they were glad to see me. I am now returning to my old track. I owe you many thanks for all your kindness and hope to repay you in the best manner I can, by praying that the Lord may continue to bless you both and your children and your children's children. May He fill the chapel with His presence, and bless all my chapel friends in their persons and families. I shall still be often at P. in spirit, though absent in the flesh. Much of my heart is with you, especially as I cannot think of you without thinking of dear daughter Eliza and my dear wife Mary, and your great kindness to them. May He for whose sake you showed it us, render an abundant recompense to you and yours.
We are still upon a journey, and every day brings us a stage nearer to our home. Yes, I trust it will be our home. Has not the Lord taught us to send our desires and affections thither before us? Does not our best Friend live there? If we love Him when unseen — then how shall we love Him when we shall see Him as He is, in all His glory and in all His love — when we shall be like Him and with Him forever! Yes, that will be our long home — when we enter that city, that temple, we shall go out no more. May He who has brought us thus far be our guard and guide to the last step — and enable us, when flesh and heart fail, to rejoice in Him as the strength of our hearts and our portion forever. Amen. In the mean time, may we keep this text in our view: "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom." Ecclesiastes 9:10
Your very affectionate and obliged,
John Newton, 30th September, 1798
My Dear Friends,
The Lord is very gracious to us here, and at church — yet I know not but I am entering upon a little trial. Last night I preached, went to bed well, slept well, and awoke this morning in good health and spirits; but in attempting to dress myself, I fell down several times. I came downstairs safely, with great caution; but when I came into the study, I fell down three or four times. I could not tell what ailed me, as I had neither dizziness nor numbness nor pain; at last I found that the strength of my leg failed me, so that it could not support the weight of the left side of my body, and now I cannot walk across the room without being led. Whether this illness may leave at my time of life, or whether it is an intimation of some farther approaching change, I know not. But the Lord knows.
I say this would be a great trial — IF I were not happily satisfied that my times and all my concerns are in the hands of Him whose wisdom and love are infinite — that nothing can befall me without His appointment, and that He chooses better for me than I could for myself. How often have I aimed to say, "Not my will, but may Your will be done." Through mercy I can, in a measure, say it now.
In other respects I am as well in health and spirits tonight as I have been for many years, and feel not the least pain. Unless the Lord is pleased to relieve me, I cannot trot about as formerly — but I hope still to be able to preach. Considering my age, I have been expecting some change; I have long been a wonder to myself and to many. Very few people of my years have been favored with so much health and strength for public service of the gospel. If He should now say, "Return and practice yourself those lessons of resignation to My will, which you have so often recommended to others" — should this be the meaning of the present dispensation, I hope and pray that He will make me willing, that I shall withdraw like a thankful guest from a plentiful table where I have been long feasted, and that I shall rejoice to see others coming forward to serve Him better — when I can serve Him in this world no longer.
My Dear Friend,
How various and wonderful are the Lord's works! Who can stand before His cold? But when He gives the word, how quickly does the ice melt and the water flow! A thaw can do more in a day toward clearing the ground and the rivers, than ten thousand men could do in a year. The influence is universal, everywhere in the same moment — yet all is performed in silence. Thus the heart of man is harder than ice by nature — and nothing can soften it but the warmth of divine grace. In a severe frost, ice may be pounded in a mortar until it is fine as table salt, but every small particle will be ice still. But, before the fire it will melt without a blow. Nothing but the knowledge of a Savior's love can dissolve the obstinacy of our spirits and make the tears of godly sorrow flow, but this will do it effectually.
What a pleasing change will the advancing spring soon make! The ground lately covered with snow and the hedges which seemed dead — will be dressed in green and adorned with flowers and blossoms!
The trees are wonderful machines! Why should one make cherries, others apples, pears, or plums — when they all draw their nourishment from the same ground, are watered by the same rain, and warmed by the same sun?
Thus it is in the Lord's garden — His plants are all living because they derive their life from Him. They have their different seasons. In Winter, though they droop, they are not dead. In Spring they thrive and blossom — the fruits they bear are all good, but not all alike. Though there is the same Spirit, there are diversities of gifts, according to the several stations the Lord allots to them. He qualifies some to rule — and some to obey; some to be rich and moderate — and some to be poor and contented; all to be useful in their places. And when they have grown awhile here below, He transplants them successively to flourish in His heavenly garden, to far greater advantage. Blessed be His name!
My preaching health is still good, but I am growing older apace. I am waiting the Lord's time, and I hope in Him that I then shall be found willing. May grace and peace be with you, and all near and dear to you!
Your very affectionate and much obliged,
John Newton, 2nd March, 1799
My Very Dear Sir and Madam,
I have not yet time to write a letter, but I must send a note to tell you that the Lord favored us with a safe and pleasant journey, and we arrived in health and peace and found all well, on Wednesday last, about five o'clock. I preached twice on Sunday at Farnham, from Ephesians 6:24, and John 3:7. Many hearers, and remarkably attentive.
I spoke last night at Mr. Neale's from Psalm 116:12. Ah! What shall I render to the Lord for all the personal, family, spiritual, private, and public benefits bestowed on me and mine? We are both well — only my sight seems to decay apace. No great matter. If I cannot read or write, I hope the Lord will teach me to think. Yes, were I quite blind, He could show me more and better than all that I have seen with my eyes during life. I wish to be more thankful that I have had the use of them so long. I can see today — I would not be anxious about tomorrow.
Assure Mr. and Mrs. L. of my regard and best wishes. I was greatly pleased with his candor and openness; and, as he is desirous of knowing the Lord's will by studying His holy word in a spirit of prayer, I trust, if I should live to see him again, that we shall be nearly of one mind. There is no teacher like the Lord; nor can we learn anything worth knowing — but what we learn from Him. "Behold, God is exalted in His power. Who is a teacher like Him?" Job 36:22
May the Lord bless you both, and all yours, abundantly, in body, soul, and spirit! Amen.
Your very affectionate and obliged,
John Newton, 13th September, 1799
My Very Dear Friends,
We wished that Mr. Andrews might remain much longer in this world of sin and sorrow — but the Lord had much better things for him. The time was come when He would have him near His throne, to behold His glory — and therefore our prayers were overruled.
I hope dear Mrs. Andrews can say from her heart, "The Lord does all things well." The time is short, and those who weep should be, if believers — as though they wept not. Many whom we best loved while here, and who are gone a little before us — are waiting for us. The joy of meeting where there will be no parting — will make abundant amends for the pain of a temporary separation.
Mr. Andrews met with many storms and billows during his voyage on the sea of life — but we trust he is now in that peaceful haven, where the winds of trouble never blow. What a wonderful transition — to pass, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, from pain and sickness and weeping friends — to join in the songs of the innumerable company of the redeemed before the throne of God and the Lamb!
I had but little conversation with Mr. Andrews. If the Lord was pleased to make any part of that little, instrumental to his comfort, I have great reason to be thankful. What an honor! What a pleasure! To be in any measure helpful to a dying friend! Whoever is the instrument, the effect is only wrought by Divine power. To God be all the praise.
Yesterday we were with Mrs. Bacon and that bereaved family. They sensibly feel their loss — but the Lord is faithful; they are supported. I trust He will equally support Mrs. Andrews and will bless her, and make her a blessing to her children.
I still remember how I felt when I saw Mr. K. fall. I rejoice and hope I am thankful that he is recovered. He was raised as it were from the dead — to preach on our Lord's resurrection. I hope his people, considering how soon, how suddenly, he might have been or may still be taken from them — will prize his ministry while it is afforded to them. His death, had it taken place, would have been his gain; but it would have been a heavy loss to his people. May he be long continued, and the numbers and spirituality of his hearers be increased from year to year.
Pray, my dear friends, that I may improve by what I saw, that I may be always ready and prepared for a change, and may work while it is day, not knowing how soon the night may come! And may what will be night with respect to the present life, prove the beginning of an everlasting day to us all!
I cannot write here so quietly as in your room or in the summer house. I have interruptions and must therefore draw to a close. May the Lord bless you and make your blessings more and more! May His grace and peace fill your hearts and unite the hearts of all your children to Himself. We feel that we love you and are thankful for all your kindness. Our love to your family and all friends in town and country.
We all continue well, and I trust the Lord is with us at St. Mary's. I can still preach as long and as loud as formerly. I am, Dear sir and madam,
Your very affectionate and much obliged,
John Newton, 24th September, 1799
My Dear Friends,
It is time to drop a line to my dear Mr. and Mrs. T. to tell them that by the Lord's goodness we are still favored with health and peace; that we still retain a thankful sense of their great kindness and continue to pray that the Lord's blessing may abundantly bless them and theirs with the abundance of all spiritual and temporal blessings.
I have still to set up daily Ebenezers (1 Samuel 7:12) to the Lord's praise. My home is comfortable; my friends are kind, and I have reason to hope that the Lord affords us His presence at St. Mary's. I am seldom better than when in the pulpit, and can speak as loud and as long as formerly. It rather seems that in waiting upon the Lord in His house, my strength is renewed; for, though old age makes me feel a weariness every day, I am not more weary on a Monday than on a Saturday. However, I am daily expecting some change. But my times are in the hands of Him who does all things well — and there I wish to leave myself and all my concerns. May we live with Him and for Him today — and trust Him without anxiety for tomorrow!
Some of my hearers (three or four) have died comfortably since we came home. The inhabitants of Heaven daily derive fresh additions to their happiness from the earth. We are assured that there is joy in Heaven over one sinner that repents. I trust they have daily cause for such joy, for I hope no day passes without some conversions in one part or other of the wide world where the Bible is known. And, if the host above rejoice for a penitent when first awakened, their joy will be complete when the penitent is brought safely among them. If I am admitted there, as I humbly trust I shall, surely they will rejoice over me. They will know what a wretch I once was. Surely they will compass me about (Psalm 142:7) and say, "Behold a brand plucked out of the fire!
We repeat our cordial love. Love to all your children and children's children. The Lord bless you all. Amen.
Your affectionate and obliged,
John Newton, 19th November, 1799
My Dear, Dear, Very Dear Friends,What a shame it is that my Lord should ever be a single minute out of my mind, since there is not a single minute but brings me some new proof of His goodness. I know that I am far from being duly thankful to my best Friend, who remembered me in my low estate, brought me out of the African house of bondage, and has since led me fifty years through the wilderness. How often has He healed my wounds, soothed my sorrows, restored me when wandering, revived me when fainting, and given me suitable and seasonable help — when the help of creatures would have been in vain!
Nay — all my earthly friends are His gifts, and if He had not taken notice of me first, you would not have noticed me at all. Had you met me when I was raving like the man possessed with Legion, you would have avoided me as you would a wild beast! And afterwards it was by His secret influence that you came to S. He was then preparing the way for much of my comfort in future life; and, if I was more thankful to Him, I should be more thankful to you.
However, though we have much cause for humiliation — yet, I trust the Lord has our hearts, and that our desire is to please and to acknowledge Him in all our ways. If we can truly say, "Whom have I in Heaven but You, and there is none upon earth that I desire in comparison of You!" — then surely we love Him. And can we not say this? Could all the honors, profits, and pleasures of this world satisfy us — without a hope in the Lord's mercy and some sense of His loving-kindness? I trust they could not.
If thereby the Lord honors you to be the instrument of saving one soul — it will be worth more than all the states in shire. I trust not only one, but many will have cause to praise God on your behalf, and that the prayers of those who are ready to perish for lack of knowledge will be offered and remembered for you and your family. May you live to see it with your own eyes!
We unite in love to you and all friends as if named. The Lord bless you abundantly! I am, in deed and in truth,
Your very affectionate and greatly obliged,
John Newton, 24th December, 1799
My Dear Cousin,
I have been often upon the point of thanking you for your letter, but I met with many interruptions! I thank the Lord that my health and spirits are still good; but you, who know how old I am, will not wonder if I think it very probable that this, my first letter to you, may prove my last; it may be so or otherwise, as the Lord shall please. However, I shall write as I would if I was sure that I shall never see you — or write to you again. In that case, if you keep this paper, it will remind you as often as you look at it, that there was an old man at house No. 6, who loved you dearly and wished and prayed for your welfare while he lived, and, before he went home, left you his last and best advice. May the Lord accompany it with His blessing.
I doubt not but you know yourself to be, as you say, a sinner. Young people of a sincere spirit, who have had the instruction and example of affectionate and religious parents and have been brought up under the preaching of the gospel from their childhood, will generally have some serious religious thoughts and impressions. If, by the blessing of the Lord, they at length become believers, they are often brought forward so gradually that they are discouraged because they cannot distinctly discern when the good work of salvation was begun. If it be indeed begun — it will come forward; if this day has actually dawned — the light will increase. It is one thing to know in my judgment that I am a sinner, and another thing so to feel it in my conscience as to make the salvation of my soul my chief and constant concern.
Mankind in general know beyond a doubt that they must die — yet multitudes live as if they neither believed the uncertainty of life nor the certainty of death. If a man knows he is in debt and is afraid of a jail, he usually acts consistently; he is daily afraid of the sheriff; the thought of his debt follows him to bed at night and meets him as soon as he wakes in the morning; perhaps it prevents or spoils his sleep, and, if he cannot pay it himself, he will spare no pains to find a friend, if possible, to help him.
In the same way, there are people who say they know that they are sinners, and yet they live at their ease in the spirit of the world, as if they expected no hereafter. They are more to be pitied than envied.
I trust it is otherwise with you, and that you desire and resolve by His grace that, whatever others do, you will serve the Lord and seek your happiness in His favor; and that you pray to the purpose of Psalm 106:4-5, and are well satisfied that, as there is no God like the God of Israel, so there are no people like the Israel of God.
When ministers remind their hearers that they can do nothing of themselves, they are often misunderstood. We can of ourselves not so much as think a good thought — but we certainly can, if we will, wait, ask, and knock, in the use of the appointed means for the help we need, and which is never sincerely sought in vain. The priests under the law could not bring down the fire from Heaven, but they could prepare the wood and the sacrifice, and when they did what they could, the Lord did that which they could not.
In the same way, though we cannot get forward faster or further than the Lord is pleased to lead us, we can and we often do retard our own progress. The kingdom of Heaven is taken by storm. There is daily call for self-denial. The person who would possess the pearl of great price — must part with much to obtain it, though it is given freely without money or price. If my hand is full and clenched, I must of necessity open and empty it before I can receive anything else. The desire of the flesh, of the eyes, and the pride of life — must be crossed. No people are more to be pitied than those who halt between two opinions — between God and the world; both cannot be served or chosen.
The religion of some people is constrained; they are like people who use the cold bath — not for pleasure, but necessity, and for their health; they go in with reluctance and are glad when they get out; but religion to a true believer is like water to a fish; it is his element; he lives in it, and he could not live out of it.
My heart wishes you this determined, resolved spirit; and, if you ask it earnestly of the Lord, He will give it to you; then you will find the ways of wisdom both practicable and pleasing. You say that the world is ensnaring; I hope therefore you will not only pray, but watch against it.
I do not recommend a needless and scrupulous singularity; your situation in life warrants you to appear like the daughter of a gentleman; but too much expense of time, thought, and money in dress — is unsuitable to the professed followers of a poor Savior, and will hurt the soul by adding fuel to the fire of that pride which is so natural to our hearts, so difficult to be suppressed, and such an abomination to the Lord, if it is indulged.
If the Lord works in you truly to will, He will surely enable you to do according to His good pleasure. A simple intention to please Him and to seek Him as your portion and happiness, and a simple dependence upon Him for wisdom and strength — will carry you through and above all difficulties. He is very merciful to all our infirmities — but He justly requires our whole hearts. He will not accept a heart that is divided, and allows no idol to share in what is wholly due to Him. His heart was not divided when He undertook to redeem us. He willingly submitted to poverty, reproach, contempt, torture and death for our sakes. Because we could not otherwise be saved, He would not save Himself.
Oh, my dear cousin, should not this love constrain us? Shall we who are bought with such a price, so much as wish to be any longer our own? He invites us to come to Him, assures us that they who come He will in no wise cast out; promises to be our sun, shield, counselor and comforter. The world can make no such promises; it cannot support us under trouble, nor cheer us on a sick bed, nor in a dying hour, nor can the servants of the world enjoy that abiding peace and perfect freedom which the Savior bestows upon His people! The world is under the tyranny of different and opposite passions, and all their pretended pleasures are mingled with discontent, remorse, and foreboding fears of death and judgment.
Permit me to advise you to study the redemption of time — it is an important talent, and we have all misspent too much of it. If you live to my age, you will find the benefit of rising early, if you begin now. A habit of rising early will make it both easy and pleasant. I owe most of what I am, under the blessing of God, to early rising. The morning hours, which many waste in needless sleep, are favorable to devotion, to seek communion with God at His throne, and in His word of grace. It is also good for the health and spirits.
I believe I need not mention acts of charity and mercy for a part of the employment of your time — for I have often observed with pleasure that the Lord has given you a feeling, benevolent heart. May He help you in all that you do to alleviate the distressed or to instruct the ignorant — to do it for His sake; then you shall in no wise lose your reward.
One thing more I will venture to hint. Youth is the time to lay the foundation of good habits which may be useful to us in future life. I much wish you to gain a habit of punctuality with respect to time, and the lack of this is very inconvenient to the person who fails and gives trouble to others; if you follow my advice, you will find the advantage long before you are as old as I am. I began to aim at this almost fifty years ago, and I have seldom, if ever, been five minutes behind my time, unless unavoidably prevented, for near fifty years past.
My letter has been in hand nearly a week; I have been more than once interrupted in the middle of a line, so that, when I resumed my pen, I hardly knew what I was thinking of when I laid it down. But, inaccurate as it is, I hope you will accept it as a token of my love and regard. Give my love to all. The Lord bless you all.
Your affectionate cousin,
John Newton, 24th January, 1800
My Dear Sir,
I am would like very much to visit you — though there are many buts and ifs in the way at my time of life, and in the present state of affairs. If the Lord pleases that I should come, He will make the way clear — but it would be a poor visit if He does not bring us together.
Though I love to hear from you I was almost sorry that you wrote so much, because I think it must be inconvenient to you. I likewise must learn to write short letters, for my eyes greatly fail, and my time is more engrossed than ever.
If Mr. J. and his bride are still with you, give our love to them. Tell them that I pray their union may be blessed of the Lord. Mrs. R.'s death is a lesson to others. There is a time to meet — and a time to part. All that appears pleasing in this life — will soon vanish like the remembrance of a dream. But happy are they who die in the Lord, and those who now live to Him will happily follow them soon.
Our love to Mr. R.; tell him I well know how to sympathize with him in his trial; and I know, and I trust he knows also, that the all-sufficient Lord will surely support those who put their trust in Him. He can make up every loss and proportion our strength to our day. He has said He will, and His promise is sure.
Dear C. and I have still cause to praise the Lord for good health. I can preach as usual, but I feel that I am growing old. Should I be permitted to visit you this year, I think it must be my last visit — for, if my life should is prolonged, I do not expect to be able to travel. But why do I look so forward, when I know not what a day may bring forth?
Yes, my dear Mr. Cowper is released from all his sorrows. He gave no signs of freedom from his derangement. He expressed neither distress nor comfort when near his departure. He lay very quiet for the last twelve hours and went away without a sigh or struggle. Oh! With what a surprise of joy would he find himself immediately before the throne, and in the presence of his Lord! All his sorrows left below — and earth exchanged for Heaven!
We join in love to all. May the blessing of the Lord rest upon you and all your connections.
Your affectionate and obliged,
John Newton, 1st May, 1800
My Dear Madam,
Though I write both to you and to Mr. T., I address my letter to you, because I wish to save him the inconvenience of writing a single line upon my account, and to you my letter must be short — I wish I could make it very sweet.
But I know it will please you to hear that the Lord brought us home in peace and safety on the 17th, and we found all well at home. As there was no pulpit for me at Farnham, we went to Stoke on the Saturday, where I preached on Sunday forenoon and evening, and again on Tuesday evening.
The first news we heard on our arrival home, was the death of Mr. Patrick. Perhaps you did not know him. He was a good man, and a good minister. He preached faithfully, walked honorably, and died comfortably. He was afternoon lecturer at Shoreditch, and had an evening lecture at St. Bride's — both large churches and thronged auditories. He is, and will be, much missed. His wife was at her mother's in Shropshire; he went to fetch her home, but he died there at the age of 55. I went abroad at 75 — and came back alive and hearty. So it has pleased the Lord.
My eyes are very so-so; if they become much worse they will spoil me for a correspondent; but this also will be as the Lord pleases, and I wish to say from my heart "May Your will be done." I may be thankful that I have had the use of them so long. Pray for me that I may do what I can, and while I can; and that I may leave all future events to the Lord, and live day by day, without anxiety for the tomorrow.
My mind is often about your house — and I trust will continue to be so while I live. I hope I shall never forget the pleasant days and pleasant opportunities I have had with you, and the much kindness you have shown to me and mine. May the Lord reward you with manifold blessings to yourselves, and to all your family. My heart prays that the Lord may renew dear Mr. T.'s strength and spirits. Now that the weather grows cool, I hope he will find himself better, and that his B. engagements will enliven and please him. He is engaged in a good cause there — the cause of the Lord and the good of souls. I trust the Lord will smile upon his endeavors and give him to rejoice in the success of the gospel there. I will not repeat a list of names, but I repeat our love. I am sure we love you and yours, and I trust we love all that love our Lord Jesus. May grace and peace be with you and your family.
Your very affectionate and much obliged,
John Newton, September 25th, 1800
My Dear Madam,
I claim this side of the paper for myself — and shall leave the rest for C. to fill up. But I must thank you under my own hand, and tell you how glad I am and how thankful I wish to be, that you are supported under your new and trying charge. When I was with you, my heart was often here; and now I am here, it is very often at P.
O, Madam! We lack nothing but faith in stronger exercise, to make us cheerful and comfortable under all the actual and possible changes of this poor life. Have we not a Savior, a Shepherd full of compassion and tenderness? If we wish for love in a friend — He has shown love unspeakable! He left His glory, assumed our nature, and submitted to shame, poverty, and death, even the death of the cross — that He might save us from sin and misery, and open the kingdom of Heaven to us, who were once His enemies. For He saw and pitied us — when we knew not how to pity ourselves.
If we need a powerful friend — Jesus is almighty; our help is in Him who made Heaven and earth, who raises the dead and hushes the tempest and raging waves into a calm with a word.
If we need a present friend, a help at hand in the hour of trouble — Jesus is always near, about our path by day and our bed by night; nearer than the light by which we see or the air we breathe. He is nearer than we are to ourselves; so that not a thought, a sigh, or a tear, escapes His notice.
Since then His love and His wisdom are infinite, and He has already done so much for us — shall we not trust Him to the end? His mercies are as countless as the sands, and hereafter we shall see cause to count our trials among our chief mercies. He sees there is a need-be for them — or we would not have them; and He has promised to make all work together for our final good.
For lack of time I am writing by candle-light, which my eyes do not much like; but they submit to it because I am writing to you; yet they hint that I must now desist and leave the rest to C. May the Lord bless you all, with all desirable blessings, temporal and spiritual. So prays now and often,
Your most affectionate and obliged,
John Newton, 6th December, 1800
My Dear Friends,
I am hungry for a letter from dear P., but I must first earn it by writing to you. Mine, however, must be short on account of my eyes. Mr. L. brought me good news, that your family — roots, branches, and little twigs, are as well as I could expect, for which I desire to be thankful. I love you all very dearly — indeed, if I did not, my heart must be a heart of stone. I am daily praying for grace, that I may wait the Lord's leisure for my dear C.'s recovery with faith, patience, and humble submission. His hour has not yet come — but He is a hearer of prayer, and His delays are not denials.
Last night I preached from Job 3:1-3. He opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. His losses and afflictions would not have made him speak thus — had not the Lord permitted Satan to assault him with no other limitation than not to take his life. When thus left to himself under the enemy's power — then the evils of his heart broke out in bitter and rash words. The same evils are in my heart, and a similar change of circumstances would soon produce the like effects. But blessed be the Lord, He does not permit Satan to rage so violently against me.
Job's case, however, may teach us how precarious outward prosperity is. Let us pray that we may be watchful and not lean too hard upon creature comforts, for we know not what a day may bring forth. But the same almighty, all-sufficient, compassionate Friend who supported Job — is with us also. The Lord knows our frame and remembers we are but dust. He will either lay no more upon us than He sees we can bear — or if His wisdom sees fit to increase our burden, He will likewise give us increase of strength according to our day.
And now, as our great High Priest upon the throne, He has an experimental sympathy with His children. He knows what sore temptations mean, for He has felt the same. He pitied Job and bore with him — likewise He pities and will bear with us. It is well for us that His patience and mercy are higher than the Heavens. He not only brought Job through all his troubles, but justified him from the unkind suspicions of his friends; did not even mention his former rash wishes, but made his latter end better than his beginning. Then, I suppose, Job did not rue the day of his birth.
Lord, enable us to resign ourselves and our all into Your hands, since you invite us to cast all our care upon You, and assure us that You care for us! May we make Your word the ground of our hope, and the rule of our conduct. May Your holy will be the measure of our desires. May we wait with faith, hope, and humble submission for the appointed hour when You will call us to our Heavenly home!
With this prospect in view, we may bless the Lord for our natural birth; since we have lived to be born again from above, and have thereby a taste (though, alas, faint) for the worship and company before the throne of glory. When all our sins and sorrows are left below, and earth is exchanged for Heaven — then what a blessed exchange will that be! I thank the Lord my health is good, though in my 77th year, and under a great and heartfelt trial. I often preach in public, and from house to house, six or seven times a week. I am a wonder to many, and ought to be still more so to myself! 1 Timothy 1:15.
I commend you to the care and blessing of our gracious Savior,
Your affectionate and obliged,
John Newton, 9th Nov. 1801
My Dear Madam,
If my eyes were better you would hear oftener from me — but I can scarcely see to write at all, and then I cannot well read what I have written. My heart is often at P., but at present it is not practical to visit you. If the Lord sees fit to restore my dear C., He will indulge my desire. He will do all things well in the final outcome. To Him I commit our cause.
I fear my mind is too much taken up with my own petty concerns. At such a time as this, when sin and misery so greatly abound, when the laws and the gospel of God are despised, and multitudes are sinking into darkness and destruction with the light of truth shining around them — it befits me to be more jealous for the glory of God, and more tenderly concerned for the souls of men. But I am a poor creature — and am daily learning that without Him I can do nothing.
Let us cheer up — Jehovah is our Shepherd and our Savior! Past trials will return no more. He who brought us through them, will help us through whatever may be before us. For in all our changes — He remains unchangeable. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever! His arm is not shortened, nor is His ear heavy. Time is short. We are drawing nearer home daily — and a Heavenly eternal home will make full amends for the troubles along the way!
He will do all things well in the final outcome. When all our sins and sorrows are left below, and earth is exchanged for Heaven — then what a blessed exchange will that be!
"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal!" 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Your most affectionate and obliged,
John Newton, 13th May, 1802
My Dear Friends,
We, that is, all in our house who know you, sympathize with you in what you must feel for dear Rebecca's illness. But my dear friends know that the Lord has an absolute right to dispose of all His creatures as He sees fit — that as sinners, we can have no rights. And if believing pardoned sinners, we can have no reason to complain. I trust you have and will have comfortable evidence that she is one who has fled for refuge to the hope set before us — to Jesus the all-sufficient Savior, the Redeemer, who left His glory and assumed our nature — that, by His obedience unto death He might pay our debts and make atonement for our sins by His own blood. When He was upon earth, God was manifested in the flesh, and He has taken our nature with Him into His Heavenly kingdom, and reigns and will reign in it over all, God blessed forever.
Rebecca has had every advantage of instruction and example; she is a child of many prayers; and
I trust that Rebecca's illness is sanctified to give her nearer, deeper, and more precious views of the truths which she learned while in health. As low as she is brought, the Lord can raise her with a word, and He will — if it is for His glory and her best comfort and benefit. If He appoints otherwise, He can make her last days her best days and enable you cheerfully to resign her to Him. The time is short, and we hope to follow her to a better world, where there will be no more sin or sorrow or painful separation.
You know also that the sovereignty of God toward His people is not arbitrary — but connected with a wisdom which can make no mistakes, and a love which can give no unnecessary pain to those for whom He died upon the cross.
If we are in heaviness — then there is a need-be for it, and it is but for a season. His thoughts and ways are high above ours — and what we know not now, we shall know hereafter. Even now we may be sure He does all things well. May His gracious presence be with you, and then you will be able to rejoice, even in tribulation.
My dearest child came home on Saturday last, and I have much to praise the Lord for on her account. A stranger would be ready to pronounce her quite well; but still a something hangs about her which only the power of God can remove. For this I pray — for this I wait. Our help is in the Lord who made Heaven and earth — in Him who raises the dead. But His time must be best. Though He causes grief — He will have compassion, for He delights in mercy. The rest of our family are well.
My health is firm. Brother K. has probably told you that I am not much altered in the pulpit. Indeed, I never preached more frequently than since my wife's death. I seem still heard with acceptance, and I trust the Lord favors us with His presence and blessing. Oh, help me to praise Him! I am a wonder to many — and to myself.
I hope and earnestly request that my dear Miss T., or someone of your family, will favor us with a letter soon. Continue to pray for us, and believe that I always feel myself,
Your most affectionate and grateful,
John Newton, 29th July, 1802
My Dear Madam,
My friend John's letter came providentially, as we say, in the very nick of time; for I had engaged a carriage for Staines, and if my dear child could bear the journey, we should have proceeded to P. But the Lord had otherwise appointed. The way of man is not of himself. Perhaps He may have some service for me elsewhere. I must now give up the hopes I had entertained of seeing P. once more. But I hope I never shall forget the kindness I have there received and the pleasure I have there enjoyed. I have likewise there had painful hours in sympathizing with my late dear wife and dear daughter Eliza. Oh, if the trees in Mr. J.'s wood could speak, they might bear witness to my joys and my sorrows. The Lord reward you and dear Mr. T. for all your repeated kindness to me and mine, and bless every branch and twig of your family.
I rejoice in dear Rebecca's amendment. May she live (if the Lord pleases) to be a great honor and comfort to her parents. My love to all friends. I can scarcely see what I have written. May grace and peace be with you all. Pray for us. I trust we shall meet in a better world. While I live here, I shall always (I hope) feel myself,
Your affectionate and much obliged,
John Newton, Sept. 6, 1802
My Dear Madam,
Though the event proves that it was not the Lord's will that I should see my dear friends at P. at present — my heart is daily with you, and I have no doubt but you are willing that I should tell you how and where we are.
I was advised to take my dear child to breathe a little sea air, and I was led to choose this place as more quiet and free from bustle — and so far my views are answered. She bore the journey very well, and we found kind friends at Billericay, through which we passed. Here indeed we are quite strangers; but as I aimed to commit my ways to the Lord and to seek His direction by prayer (for the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walks, to direct his own steps), I humbly hope that He prevented me from going into Hampshire because He had something to do for me, or by me, in places which I had never seen. His I am, and Him I trust I desire to serve — to follow the leadings of His wise and holy providence simply, without asking questions, and to hold my own will in subordination and subserviency to His, according to the pattern He has left us, that we should tread in His footsteps. Oh, when we think of Gethsemane, how can we hesitate to say, "Not my will, but may Your will be done."
I have much to praise the Lord for in behalf of my dear child. She is as active, attentive, benevolent, and affectionate, as you ever knew her. He has done much for us, and I look to Him to do more; for, with regard to her own personal feelings, she is far from being quite well. I have ground to hope that the support the Lord has given me has caused many to praise Him on my account, and others to trust Him under the pressure or prospect of their own trials. Now, if anything I can do or suffer may promote His glory or the good of my fellow-creatures — ought I not to be willing? Is not He the Lord my God, who brought me out of the wickedness and misery of my African bondage to preach that gospel which I once renounced and blasphemed? The power of that blood which could wash away such guilt, and of that grace which could, in a measure, change such wicked and obstinate habits as mine! Yes, it has pleased Him to set me forth as a pattern of His long-suffering and patience to other chief sinners — that none may despair when they see me.
Further, He has hitherto given me strength according to my day. My trial has been sharp, but I am supported to this day; and am still upheld in my public service, though in my 78th year. Oh, my dear friends, continue to pray and praise for us, and engage the help of all around you who have access to the throne of grace.
Thus let us often meet upon earth — and before long we hope to meet in Heaven; there Jesus the forerunner waits to welcome his pilgrims home. The time is short, and shortening every hour. The Lord bless you all. I am,
Your affectionate and obliged,
John Newton, 18th Sept. 1802
My Very Dear Madam,
Though absent in the flesh, I am often present in spirit with you. The account Mr. Serle gave me of the depression of dear Mr. T.'s spirits excited my sympathy and concern. But I know he is in the safe and sure keeping of our gracious Lord — and I am thankful that, under all his decays and infirmities — his mind is at peace through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. I rejoice likewise in the Lord's goodness to you; that, in this time of your need and trial, He gives you strength and spirits according to your day. Oh, what a mercy to have them for our refuge and support in the time of trouble! Oh, what a mercy to have a well-grounded hope that we shall before long be out of the reach of sin and sorrow forever!
I wrote to you from South-End, from whence we returned the first of this month. Our stay there, and our whole journey was as well as the case would admit. We had fine weather, safety upon the road, and found kind friends wherever we stopped. And my dear child traveled better than I could have expected. Improper treatment in the beginning of her illness, has caused a very trying illness. I feel much for her, but have great cause to praise the Lord that she is again my pleasant, affectionate companion and counselor.
The Lord still favors me with good health; my spirits also are pretty good, and though my recollection is as weak as my eyes, I am still enabled to preach, and am seldom much at a loss when in the pulpit. My church is crowded, the auditory peaceful and attentive, and I have a good hope that the Lord owns His word from my unworthy lips. Thus, though my trial is still great, I have much to praise the Lord for.
It is some additional trial that I cannot fill up my hours by writing and reading as formerly, and my hearing is too dull for me to join in common conversation. But many people are born blind or deaf — whereas unworthy I had the use both of eyes and ears for seventy-seven years.
Though I have no probable hope of seeing P. again, I trust that neither absence nor distance will abate my regard for you or yours, or my sense of obligation for your great and long kindness. We have not seen Mrs. J., so that I have not heard of dear Rebecca; but I can and do pray for her. I trust that whether she lives or dies, she is the Lord's. My love to all friends. I am, my dear madam,
Your affectionate and obliged,
John Newton, 9th Oct., 1802
My Very Dear Friend,
There is seldom a day, or half a day, when I am not with you in spirit, though my many engagements and the weakness of my eyes have prevented my writing. I would be glad to send you a letter every week, and even that would be but a small testimony of my gratitude. But I am now in my 79th year and cannot do as I used to do, or as I would like to do. Through mercy, my health is remarkably good, but I have a depression on my natural spirits, arising partly from old age, and partly from the dark prospect of the times, which makes me somewhat like Barzillai — unable to find much relish in my many temporal blessings.
I would praise the Lord for the strength and support He afforded you under your late great trial. It is, indeed, a great trial to part with our dearest friends at any time; our gracious Lord did not reprove Mary and Martha for weeping when their brother died, but condescended to drop a tear of sympathy with them. He still sympathizes with His people, for He was once a man of sorrows for our sakes. "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need!" Hebrews 4:15-16
However, when the Lord has declared His will by the event, it does not befit us to indulge our grief — which is often hurtful to health and to our peace of mind. We should rather aim to praise the Lord for continuing our friends to us so long, than allow one repining thought for their leaving us, especially when we follow them in our thoughts and see them by the eye of faith before the heavenly throne, and have a good hope that we, in a short time, shall rejoin them to part no more forever.
May the Lord help you to find comfort in reflecting what a kind husband he was and how long he was spared to you; what a blessing he was, not only to you and your children, but a public blessing to many in different parts of the kingdom; what a character he has left, and how many (more than you will ever know) are now weeping for his death!
Oh, how it would gladden my heart and my dear child's (who joins in love to you and in prayer for you and yours) to see you once more. I hope the Lord will enable you and make you willing, in His own best time, to come to London. But if I am to be so indulged, you must come soon, for I may well say with Isaac, "Behold I am old — and know not the day of my death." He also was blind — and I am almost so. It is with great difficulty and at many intervals, that I have written thus much, and I cannot now clearly see the tip of my pen. But I could write, because it is to you.
My dear child, though not yet perfectly well in health, is so far restored as to be a great comfort to me. What cause have I to praise the Lord for His goodness in supporting us in the darkest part of our great trial, and for the merciful mitigations with which He now favors us. He who has done so much, can, and will in His own good time, do the rest. He has delivered, He does deliver, and in Him I trust that He will deliver us.
I can tell others what good reasons His people have to acquiesce in His dispensations — but alas! I am a poor creature, and I often find it hard to practice my own lessons. We join in love to all your children and to all who love the Lord Jesus Christ. May the Lord our Savior give you peace always and by all means, in Himself. We can expect it only in and from Him.
Our life here on earth is a state of conflict and warfare. But the time is short — and the end is sure. At last we will be more than conquerors, through Him who has loved us! I am, my dear madam,
Your very affectionate and much obliged,
John Newton, 18th August, 1803
My Very, Very Dear Madam,
My eyes will not bear much writing, but I must thank you for your late obliging letter. The Lord has done much for you, but your late trial is still felt. You mourn — but you do not murmur. Your spirits are weak, but I hope a little more time and prayer will restore them. I still wish you to come to London. Perhaps the journey, by the Lord's blessing, might have a different effect from what you expect, and the sight of old places might remind you of old mercies. But you are in the best hands, and I leave you with Him who loves you and will make all things work for your final benefit.
The short talk I had with your dear son gave me much pleasure. I trust the Lord has his heart. Oh, I hope and pray that all your children may be taught of the Lord, and be found at His right hand with their parents on the great day of His appearance. I send much love to dear cousin S., and to all the preachers and hearers at P.
As to the question you propose, I refer you to the words of the apostle, I Corinthians 13:12. He wrote by inspiration and says, "Then shall I know, even as also I am known." I inquire no farther; I believe there is nothing but the veil of flesh and blood between us and them. They see and know us now, and the moment we are absent from the body, we shall be in the midst of them. The Lord bless you. My eyes positively say I must leave off. Your very affectionate,
John Newton, April 30th, 1804
My Dear Madam,
We are thankful to find that you are recovered from your illness. I believe it is lawful to apply to Dr. A. or Dr. B. as we see occasion — but the Lord is the only physician; without Him all means fail, and He, whenever He pleases, can cure with or without means, by the word of His power. If He speaks — it is done. I think, as you say, the best symptom of approaching health is, when our minds are bowed to His will and we have reason to hope that the affliction has answered the end for which He sent it. For, as He does not afflict without a need-be, neither will He permit a trial to continue longer than necessary.
I account it a pleasure and an honor if I can, at any time, drop a word upon paper which, by His blessing, affords you any satisfaction. May the few hasty lines I can now write have this effect!
If I lived near you, I would rejoice to be favored with your confidence, and I hope I would not abuse it. I trust I can feel for my friends and have sympathy with them in all their trials. But remind yourself that you have a better Friend, much nearer and more compassionate than any fellow-creature can be. His pity is not like ours, helpless and unavailing — but connected with power, fully able to relieve in the severest cases. To Him likewise we can venture to tell all. There is, perhaps, something we cannot impart to the dearest friend, but to Him (with the atonement in view) we may open ourselves exactly as we are — and may rejoice, notwithstanding our vileness, that not a single thought can or need be hidden from Him. Our very sins, however displeasing to Him in their own nature, are part of that disease which He has graciously undertaken to remove.
We shall rejoice to see you in London, but I hope your next visit will not be for medical advice, but to give your friends the pleasure of your company. However, should such help be needed, we have good warrant to recommend Dr. _______ to those whom we love. Some cases will yield more speedily and certainly to the treatment; in others, and according to the nature of the illness, he prescribes medicines; and in the latter way as a physician, I have a high opinion of his judgment; and I can confide in him the more from believing him to be a godly man, who mixes prayer with all his management. It should seem that where everything else is equal, those who acknowledge the Lord and depend upon Him for a blessing — are most likely to be crowned with success.
I must leave the rest of the paper to Mrs. Newton; my time is expired, and I know she has something to say. Whatever she can say of love and gratitude to Mr. T. and you and your family, I fully subscribe to before-hand.
[Without date or signature, supposed to be written about the year 1788 or 1789.]
My Dear Sir,
Your kind reception of me would be sufficient, independent of my great regard for Mrs. T., to make me rejoice in an opportunity of visiting you again. I thank you, however, for renewing your obliging invitation. I can honestly say, my inclination has not been lacking, and could I have transported myself with a wish — you would have seen me again. There is no place where I could think of spending a few days with more pleasure than at Reading. But though I have several agreeable connections in the country, I am somehow precluded from them all, and if I had time to visit one, and but one, I would perhaps be under a difficulty to determine to which I could give the preference without appearing ungrateful to the rest. There are reasons, perhaps, why I ought to give some preference to the people among whom I labored so long at Olney — but I have not been able to see them this year, and I usually make them a sort of plea to excuse myself to other friends, who have a right to expect that I should not slight their kindness.
Mrs. Newton and I have lived together almost thirty-three years. She is often indisposed and cannot travel with me so conveniently as she once did. Possibly this would not be a just and sufficient excuse for my staying always at home, if the Lord's will and service seemed to call me abroad; but I am ready to acknowledge it now, as a proper and necessary restraint from rambling, for my duty seems to be at home. But, should I live to feel the warmth of summer suns again, I will watch the motion of the cloud and pillar of fire, in hopes that they may lead me to R. Without some concurring circumstances to intimate that the Lord opens my way, I cannot move with liberty.
I rejoice in the Lord's goodness to the town of R., and congratulate you that He has conferred on you an honor which I am persuaded you esteem a far greater than any you can derive from family — the high honor of being His servant in the gospel. He has likewise given you a wisdom far superior to what bears that name among men, for He has made you "wise to win souls."
There is a great diversity of cases among His people, but they all (and perhaps they all equally) illustrate the power of His grace and the riches of His mercy. What a difference between your call and mine! I, though long a ringleader in blasphemy and wickedness, was spared; and, though banished into the wilds of Africa, where I was the sport, yes, the pity of slaves — I was, by a series of providences — little less than miraculously recovered from that house of bondage, and at length appointed to preach the faith I had long labored to destroy! Possibly the annals of the church will not furnish an instance in all respects parallel.
But your case is likewise singular: your birth, early habits, connections, prospects in life, and I suppose your character also, were such bars in the way of your happiness and usefulness, as nothing less than the power of God could break through. I suppose you are the only person in the kingdom so closely related to a noble family who is able or willing to preach the gospel of Christ and to glory in the cross of our Lord. Thus that line, "Oh, to grace how great a debtor," is applicable to us both; and you, as well as I, can declare not merely from hearsay, but from experience, that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is exceedingly abundant.
In one respect I ought to be more affected with a sense of this grace than you can be upon the same ground. I have been longer in the way than you; I cannot exactly ascertain the time when I first saw so much of the gospel as to enable me to venture myself upon it for salvation, but I think it is more than thirty years ago.
Oh, sir, in the course of these past thirty years that I have been saved — what useful proofs I have had and have given, of the deceitfulness and vileness of my heart. What wretched returns of my ingratitude and perverseness I have made for mercies received — is known only to Him who has borne with me. Much of this dark part of my story I have forgotten, but I remember enough to fill me with shame.
It is true that, as to my outward profession, I have been preserved from making any considerable blots; but this enhances the wonder and the mercy, for I am conscious to myself of hairbreadth escapes from such entanglements as might and would, without the Lord's interposition, have issued in final apostasy! And, in this space of time, how many whom I had reason to esteem better than myself — have I seen fall (some I fear to rise no more) while I am still left to speak of His mercy!
I have seen enough to remind me of the difference of setting out and holding out to the end — and to warn me that we can have no security from gifts, labors, services, or sufferings, from clear views, or past experiences; but that, from first to last, our only safety is in the power, compassion, and faithfulness of our great Redeemer.
That the Lord may daily add to your comfort and success, may make you as a well-watered garden in your own soul, and a never-failing spring to convey the water of life to multitudes, is my sincere prayer.
An hour of leisure which I cannot always command, and the pleasure I feel in writing to you, have insensibly drawn me beyond the usual bounds of a first letter — but I shall enlarge no further than to offer my respects and Mrs. Newton's.
Your much obliged and affectionate servant,
John Newton, Nov. 5th, 1782
My Dear Sir,
Now that the road of correspondence is opened between us, how would I pester you with letters — were my leisure time proportioned to my inclination; but the throng of engagements around me will, in a good measure, secure you from my importunity. I am even afraid that if I should put your letter in the drawer where my letters are usually confined until I have answered them — so much time might slip away before I could release it that you would suspect I did not duly prize it, and therefore I enjoin myself to thank you for it immediately, that my acknowledgments may be ready to travel to R. with my dear friend Mr. B. on Tuesday next.
It was with much concern that I heard of your illness. The importance and seasonableness of your painful visitation, I could learn only from yourself. Every day almost I meet with new occasions of admiring the wisdom, care, and faithfulness of our great Shepherd, intimating and adjusting His dispensations exactly to our need and state. When the enemy is spreading a snare for our feet, when our deceitful hearts are beginning to start aside, when we have perhaps actually taken some steps in that path which, if persisted in, might terminate in apostasy, oh then, how gracious, how seasonable, how beneficial, are those tokens of love (called afflictions in the language of mortals) which He sends to break the snare, to check our progress, and to recall our wandering feet into the path of duty and peace! How many turns of my life can I recollect of which, though at the time they were not joyous but grievous, I may now say, "Sorrow is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure." Ecclesiastes 7:3-4
I rejoice to think that you were delivered before I knew your danger; could I have known how it was with you, my concern and anxiety would have been great. What the Lord appeared to have done for you and by you, had given you a near place in my heart, and nothing appears to me so solemn as a minister, who, having given for a time proofs of a zeal for God and love for souls — afterwards declines and dies away from the good cause. Oh, my dear sir, ought we not, and by the grace of God shall we not think it vastly more desirable to be visited with all the afflictions of Job, to be stoned to death, or to be buried alive, rather than to be left to such a conduct as might stumble the weak and encourage the wicked?
I may congratulate you upon your danger likewise, now that it is happily over. Perhaps the Lord saw that such an experience was needful to preserve you from other dangers to which your situation, talents, and services might expose you. Whatever we ministers seem to be in the eyes of man — we are nothing in His sight, any further than we are humbled and abased in our own eyes. It requires much discipline to keep pride down in us, even considered only as Christians; more as ministers; still more as ministers conspicuous for abilities and usefulness; and, when the appendages of family and affluence are added, the temptations to self-importance are still increased. Such people will have many admirers, many friends, not a few flatterers — but perhaps very few such friends as will have the courage to give plain and faithful advice, especially as the rules which politeness and decorum (so called) have established, form a fence which is not easily broken through. But the Lord, by leaving you a little to yourself, has provided you with something to reflect on, which I trust will be a sanctified means of keeping you dependent upon Himself. There is none who teaches like Him.
Hereby likewise you will be more sensibly aware of the dangers and difficulties to which your hearers are liable. You will be better able both to warn them of the snares in their way, and to encourage and comfort them when they are desirous to return to the world. Thus He speaks to all in what He said to Peter, 22nd chapter of Luke: "Simon, Simon, behold Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not." The doctrinal parts of our message are in some degree familiar to us; but that which gives a savor, fullness, energy, and variety to our ministration is the result of many painful conflicts and exercises, which we pass through in our private walk, combined with the proofs we receive, as we go along, of the Lord's compassion and mercies under all the perverseness and folly we are conscious of in ourselves. It is only in this school of experience that we can acquire the tongue of the learned and know how to speak a word in season to those who are weary. Thus, by His wise management, "Out of the eater comes meat." He breaks the heads of the Leviathan in pieces and teaches us to get food from them, and we are strengthened and established by the very plots our enemy formed to entangle and overthrow us. Well may we say, "Who is a God like unto You?"
How gladly should I accompany Mr. B. and his daughter to R. How much pleasure should I promise myself on the road, and how much at the journey's end. But it must not be.
I shall take leave of Miss P. with some solicitude; I know nothing of the Lord's future purposes, but that He will certainly do all things well. I wish I was quite as easy about the event as I believe she is; perhaps it is because I wish it, but rather seem to hope and expect that the Lord will afford her relief at B., and that I shall see her again in better health; but oh, the mercy to be enabled to trust ourselves and those we love to Him, and to see them confiding in Him likewise and resigned to His disposal in cases where the world can give no help or support. This all-sufficient God can and does make His people more than equal to any and every trial He appoints for them.
The other night I buried the wife of a friend of mine; they were remarkably happy in each other, and she has left him with four children, the eldest under four years of age. He sensibly feels the loss, but has been wonderfully and divinely supported. He told me that he knows not if he was ever so comfortable in his soul as since her death, and that he is so perfectly satisfied with the Lord's wisdom and goodness in removing her — that were it possible by a single wish to restore her to her former place, he could not form it.
You will surely think I have written enough for once, and I have just reserved room for the seal of a tender of Mrs. Newton's respects, and to subscribe myself, dear sir,
Your affectionate and obliged,
John Newton, 22nd Nov. 1782
Twenty letters between the years 1793 and 1802 to Mr. and Mrs. R. of Reading:
My Dear Friend,
I can truly style you so, though upon a short acquaintance. I have reason to believe that the providence of God was signally concerned in leading me to R., and particularly to lodge under your hospitable roof. The time that I was with you, was a very pleasing part of a very pleasing excursion — and I wish to be thankful for it, both to the Lord and you.
I address my letter to you both — because the Lord has made you one, not only in relation, but in affection and spirit. The remembrance of my past happiness in wedlock was never more sensibly revived than while I was with you, but I assure you it did not excite in me either pain or envy — but, on the contrary, a very sincere pleasure. Oh, that I could see the like in every married pair.
My dear wife, the object of my affection, has died; my time is past; but the bare recollection of what it once was, is worth much more than anything else that this poor world can afford. May the Lord maintain, yes, increase your mutual regard; but, may He likewise sanctify it — that you may avoid my sin and my suffering.
It ought to be a lasting source of humiliation to me, to remember that my dearest earthly comfort — so often proved the occasion of discovering the vileness and ingratitude of my heart in a more striking light than perhaps I would otherwise have known it. There is a danger in an idolatrous over-attachment to one's spouse. It has cost me many a pang; yet, when I think of the apostle's charge, that husbands should love their wives as their own flesh, yes, as Christ loved the church — these strong expressions lead me to conclude that the danger is not in loving too much, but in loving improperly. When a wife gives her husband her whole heart, she has still room for all her friends and his; and, should these friends be increased twenty-fold, still there is room for them all.
But there is a peculiar kind of regard which is due to her husband only; if she allows herself to transfer this regard to any other man, though it went no further — she would be criminal. Thus, while we love the Lord supremely — we may love our husbands, wives, and children, or friends, as much as we can. But all must be held in subordination and subserviency to what we owe Him; otherwise they will be idols, and we shall be idolaters, and the Lord in one way or other will let us know that He is a jealous God and will not bear a rival.
Above all, I congratulate you that the Lord has called you both out of the world — and given you the same views and desires of better things than can be possessed here. This is a mercy, which some of His people have not.
It often happens that of two in one house, the one is taken and the other left. Had this been your case, had you differed in the most important concerns — the more tenderly you loved each other, the more unhappy you must have been. But great is the privilege of walking together in the way to the kingdom.
Please give my love to your forty friends and mine, whom I had the pleasure of meeting in your drawing-room. When you first spoke of inviting some friends to meet me, I thought they would be only to dinner or tea, and was not in the least aware of the public step you were going to take. I was a little apprehensive of the consequence, but, by what I heard and saw before and after, I am persuaded that it was not the effect of a transient warmth, but that you had deliberately counted the cost and were willing to let it be known far and near that you had made up your minds and were determined by the grace of God that, whatever others do — you and your house, so far as your influence can prevail, will serve the Lord. In this view I greatly rejoiced in the opportunity, and it pleased me highly to see a room consecrated to Him, which I suppose has formerly been filled in a very different manner.
We were favored with a safe and comfortable journey and reached home about one o'clock. Our servants testified, both by words and looks, that they were glad to see us. It is a great comfort to be served by those who love us, and it is a comfort which many cannot procure. The Lord alone can give it — He it is who makes people of one mind in a house. A consistency of character and conduct, with a prudent condescension and kindness to those placed under us — are means which seldom fail of some good effect. But, when a whole family are united by spiritual ties and act as under the eye of the same common Master; when the parlor and kitchen are in unison and domestic order — then love and peace make a family happy indeed.
I have ordered Mr. Robinson's books and am promised them today or tomorrow, and hope they will be with you before the week closes. They will be accompanied by two or three of my sermons, which I hope you will accept as a pepper-corn acknowledgment of my love and thanks.
I hope we had a good Sabbath. I preached from 1 Thessalonians 2:17. In the evening I preached from Matthew 13:16-17. The latter sermon was intended to impress my dear people with a sense of the value of gospel ordinances. This is another privilege, my dear friend, with which the Lord has favored you. He could keep your souls alive though you lived in the darkest spot — but the lines are fallen to you in a pleasant place, where you have every desirable help for promoting your spiritual progress.
May His grace keep you humble and dependent. May you walk before Him with a single eye. May you burn and shine and go on from strength to strength. You have great advantages for usefulness to others, and of being happy in each other and in yourselves. Trials will sometimes occur, and vanity will cleave (like the ivy to the oak) to all worldly enjoyments — but the Lord whom you serve is all-sufficient, and His promises are sure. I commend you to His blessing.
Your affectionate and obliged,
John Newton, 1st Oct. 1793
My Dear Friends,
I treat you no worse than I do some of my friends, nor quite so bad — as I have many letters unanswered of much longer date than yours; but I write when I can. We were glad and thankful to hear of your safe return to R. You both have a place in my heart and in my prayers; I am often thankful that I was led to your house and that I had the pleasure of seeing you in mine. The friendship commenced between us, I trust will exist and grow — though perhaps opportunities of personal fellowship will not be frequent. A union of hearts in grace is affected neither by absence nor local distance; a glance of thought conveys me to you whenever I please. The throne of grace is very near to you and to me, and if we often meet there, we cannot be far distant from each other. By-and-bye we hope to rejoice together before the throne of glory; there we shall be ever with the Lord and with each other. May this thought animate us while we stay here.
"We are not our own — we are bought with a price." There is but one thing worth living for — that we may live to Him who died for us; that we may live to show forth His praise by obedience, by submission, by usefulness to others, in visiting the afflicted, assisting them by our sympathy, counsel, prayers, or purse, as the case requires; in supporting the cause of the gospel, and forwarding whatever bids fair for the good of society. These aims ought chiefly to engage our time, talents, and influence. Oh, what an honor to be the instruments of the Lord, in diffusing His benefits around us! To be the followers of Him who went about doing good!
Last Tuesday I had a fall in the street; it was rather violent, but though the middle of my leg came plump against the curb-stone, neither bone nor skin was broken; but my instep is much strained. I am confined to the sofa, and were you now to enter my drawing-room, I could not easily rise to welcome you, much less advance one step to meet you. But my prison is very comfortable, and my keepers kind and attentive. I feel little or no pain and can sleep very well, so that I am not much to be pitied.
I more wonder that such things do not happen every day — than that they do happen now and then. During the fourteen years I have been in London, I have had but four falls. The first dislocated my shoulder; by the second I received a good knock on the head; the third cost my nose a few drops of blood — but none of them did me essential harm, and undoubtedly there was a need-be for this last. Perhaps my being confined now may be a means of preserving me from something worse, which I might otherwise have met with. I hope it will make me more sensible of the value of my legs, if I should be able to walk again, and more dependent upon the Lord to hold me up, that I may be safe; for neither in a temporal nor in a spiritual sense am I able to take care of myself for an hour or a minute!
How much does it behoove us to watch and pray for grace, that we may be always prepared for the contingencies we may meet with in this present state! For who knows what a day or an hour may bring forth? In the midst of life — we are in death. In the midst of apparent safety — we are always in danger. We, indeed, if believers, are always safe under the Lord's protection, and immortal until our work is done — but we can perceive it would not be conducive to the life of faith, if His people were visibly marked on the forehead to distinguish them from the world.
A general exemption from such afflictions as are common to others would be equivalent to such a mark; therefore they are liable to the various calamities with which sin has filled the world. They are free from condemnation — but not from pain, sickness, poverty, losses, crosses, and sudden trying changes, and what we call premature death. These trials, likewise, give occasion for the exercise and manifestation of many graces which are not so visible in the sunshine of prosperity, and they are further sanctified to wean the people of God more from the world and to weaken the body of sin which still dwells in them.
On these accounts, for a time, in the Lord's providential appointments, all things seem to happen nearly alike to all. But even now, His people have supports and consolations in their troubles which are peculiar to themselves, and which strangers intermeddle not with; and hereafter, the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serves God and him that serves Him not, will be perfectly manifested.
All this I have written rather toward filling up the paper, than for your information. You have been enabled to count the cost and to choose your side. You are desirous and determined . . .
to be the Lord's,
to be His on His own terms,
to live upon His mercy,
to build all your hopes upon the foundation He has laid,
to expect all your supplies from the fountain which He has opened,
to receive Christ Jesus the Lord as your prophet, priest, and king,
to receive all from His hands,
and to do all for His sake.
Go on and be of good courage; He who has wrought in you to will — will also enable you to do according to His good pleasure. But you must expect that your profession will be a warfare; we are encouraged to look forward to victory and triumph — but these terms, of course, imply a previous conflict; there would be no victory if there were no enemies to fight with.
Miss C. joins in affectionate remembrance to all your friends, and please to remember me also to your servants. May the Lord bless, guide, and guard you; make you happy in yourselves and each other, and useful in all your connections. So prays, dear sir and madam,
Your affectionate and obliged,
John Newton, 24th January, 1794
My Dear Madam,
I often think with pleasure on the few days I passed with you and Mr. R., and of your kind visit to Coleman Street; as we cannot meet so often as we wish, a little communication must be kept up now and then by letter; though I hope we meet frequently at the throne of grace.
Our tour to Cambridge and its environs was very pleasant; we saw many friends; I preached at several places; we traveled in safety and found all well at home. At Bedford, indeed, by a false step I strained my left knee, so that for a time I have had two lame legs, but I would not allow this the name of a trial — when set against such a variety of favors and comforts. I can now walk pretty well again; my health is the same as when you saw me. Miss C. is likewise well. My servants are all well, my friends are kind, my spirits are good, and my cupboard is not empty. What more of this world's goods can I wish for?
I have some acquaintance with Dr. M., and believe he loves the truth and will countenance those who preach it. There is a good work going on at Cambridge. Mr. Simeon is much beloved and very useful; his conduct has almost suppressed the spirit of opposition which was once very fierce against him.
I am almost six weeks in my seventieth year. It is time for me to think less of traveling about — and more of going home. I cannot now be far from my journey's end. May the good Lord help us to praise Him for what is past — and to trust Him for what is to come. He appointed the hour of our birth — and the hour of our death is with Him likewise. Whether sooner or later, it will be just at the right time, if it finds us with our loins girt and our lamps burning; and, if He who kindled them is pleased to supply us with fresh oil, neither the world, the flesh, nor the powers of darkness shall be able to extinguish them; otherwise, they must soon go out of themselves, for we have no stock of our own. But we need not put an IF upon His faithfulness, provided we are sensible of our weakness and wait upon Him in those means by which He has promised to renew our strength.
Mr. Simeon preached for me last Wednesday from Revelation 5. He spoke of the company, the object of their worship, and their song — as if he had just come down from among them. I think he had a favored peep within the veil; and there was such a visible impression on his hearers as is not common. Why are we not aiming to realize that scene, when we hope to join them soon, and likewise hope that among the thousands and myriads which encompass the throne "day without night rejoicing" — there are some who were intimately near and dear to us? While they were upon earth, we sympathized with them in their sorrows — so why not sympathize with them now in their joys? Oh, could we but see them as I believe they see us — it would greatly weaken our sense both of the bitters and the sweets of this poor life!
But perhaps this would totally unfit us from attending to the duties of our station. The weakness of our mortal frame would not permit us to think of anything, but what we saw. This seems to have been the apostle's case (2 Corinthians 12); while he saw invisibles and heard unutterables — he knew not whether he was in or out of the body. We are therefore at present to walk, not by sight, but by faith.
But there is much attainable even here, which our unbelief keeps from us. It is comfortable to have a hope of Heaven hereafter, but we should desire to have as much of Heaven as possible while we are here; to resemble the angels who always do the will of the Lord, and behold His presence. What should we think valuable in this life — but to live to Him who died for us? We should consider what opportunities our situation, time, abilities, connections, influence, and substance may afford us — for promoting His service and the good of our fellow-creatures. For truly we are debtors, and whatever is given is more properly entrusted to us, and we should employ them all for Him as good stewards of His manifold blessings. We should aim at the honor and pleasure of being useful, that we may experience the truth of our Lord's aphorism: "It is more blessed to give than to receive."
And if we obey with a single eye and depend upon His grace with a single heart — then He will surely favor us with a peace that surpasses understanding, which will keep our hearts and minds composed under all the changes we may pass through in our pilgrimage — and before long we shall see Him as He is, and be with Him forever!
There is much of the hand of the Lord to be observed and acknowledged in the forming of our connections. He often leads by a way we know not. Give our love to all our friends as they come in your way, and when you have distributed all you can for us — we have still abundance of love left for you and Mr. R. Let us often pray for each other, that the Lord may fulfill in us all the good pleasure of His goodness, and the work of faith with power. I am, my dear friend,
Your affectionate and obliged,
John Newton, 16th Sept. 1794
My Dear Madam,
Though I cannot write a long letter at present, I must thank you for the favor of yours.
After the kind reception I had at R. and particularly from you — I need little solicitation to visit you again, were it in my power. But it is not — I am not my own — I have a numerous, affectionate, and, I trust, a thriving people to shepherd. These are my charge — and this my post; suitable supplies are not easily procured — and they must be suitable; for I could not be content to get a minister to fill the place in my absence, unless I believed he could answer the expectation of my hearers. Perhaps some who are better men than myself could not so well do this; for, having been together so long, we seem now as formed for each other; and without something in my own way and cast of preaching, they might complain if I left them.
I have been abroad four successive summers, and in these excursions I have visited most of my former haunts. My desire of seeing my old friends has been granted, and my plan completed. When I took leave of my people the Sunday evening before I left town this year, I told them that except I should have an express providential call of duty, I did not intend to be absent from them any more on a Lord's Day.
I purposed that if I should live to enter my 70th year, I would give up the thoughts of rambling. My opportunities of preaching to the people whom I love and to whom I am united — will now probably be few. I may expect either to be called home or laid aside very soon — and it is much upon my heart (if the Lord pleases) to live and die with them.
The question is not how far my personal inclination might lead me — but what is the path of duty? The answer to this question is pretty plain to my own mind — that I am bound to remain upon my appointed spot. The motives of friendship and personal regard which tempt me to go to one place — would tempt me to go to twenty places. Setting aside these, there is scarcely a place in the kingdom where my assistance seems less necessary than at R. But whether I see R. again or not, the Lord's interest and people there, those to whom I am personally known, and particularly my dear Mr. and Mrs. R. — will always have a warm place in my heart and, I trust, in my prayers. I often recollect with pleasure and thankfulness your kindness to us; and did not my engagements here forbid, I would gladly and often go to R. to tell you so. But I believe I must content myself with the hope of hearing from you, and writing to you now and then.
Well, blessed be God for the prospect of a better state. There I trust we shall meet to part no more. Oh, how shall we love and sing, wonder and praise — when we see Him as He is and look back by a clearer light upon all the way by which He led us through the wilderness of this world! He is faithful who has promised. It is preaching morning. I can only add, may the good Lord bless you, both jointly and separately, temporally and spiritually. Amen. I am,
Your affectionate and obliged,
John Newton, Oct. 1, 1794
My Dear Madam,
You must accept of a letter today instead of a visit. On Friday I went out, purposing to take places in the coach for tomorrow, but while on my way I was informed that my curate, Mr. B., was that morning suddenly attacked by a illness which he had twice before, but we hoped he had quite recovered from — an inflammation in his lungs; his fever is high, and his state critical, if not dangerous.
This unexpected providential dispensation puts me at a standstill. I fear I shall not be able to get a supply for my church — without which I cannot stir. All is in the Lord's hands. If you do not see me this week — then you may conclude that He does not permit me to visit you at present. He has wise reasons for all His appointments. Whether we know them or not — we are sure that He does all things well, and that nothing happens to us without His knowledge and appointment.
I trust, in the meantime, that you and the rest of my friends with you will pray that if I come — I may not come to you like a cloud without water, but that our gracious Savior may unitedly bless our fellowship.
I love you all, but my mind feels for the afflicted. How very heavy must Mrs. W.'s trial be — but the Lord supports her. He is there — therefore the bush, though in flames, is not consumed. Such examples of the Lord's faithfulness and the power of His grace should encourage us to trust to Him fully. I thank God we and ours are all well outwardly.
We join in love to both of you, and to all friends as if named. Lack of time and lack of better eyes, oblige me to hasten to a close, which I cannot do better than with a prayer, that the Lord may give you a large and growing experience of all that is contained in His precious promise, Isaiah 5, 11th verse. I hope always to feel myself,
Your affectionate and obliged,
John Newton, 15th August, 1796
My Dear Friends,
"Out of sight, out of mind! Now that Mr. Newton has left us — he cares little about us, or we would have heard from him before this."
Have you said or thought this of me? Then I can assure you that you are quite mistaken. I cannot easily forget the good town of R. or any of my kind friends there; least of all the house where I was taken in three years ago, when I was a stranger.
We arrived here in peace and safety at one o'clock on Friday — and found our friends and their family well. We have also good news from home; only Mr. B.'s pretty little boy is gone, and they apprehend that he will soon follow his child. The child is taken in the bud, and transplanted into a fairer garden, out of the reach of storm and frost. And the father, though a young man, will, I doubt not, go as a fully ripe shock of corn; but we are allowed to feel for ourselves and to say, "Help, Lord, for the godly man ceases!"
His removal, if he does die — will cause sorrow to his parents, to many who love him, and to me. But it will cause joy in Heaven, and, when we meet him there, we shall rejoice with him with a joy unspeakable and full of glory. In the meantime, submission befits us.
He who gave — has an undoubted right to take away. We are sure that His sovereignty is combined with infinite wisdom and goodness — and that, when He crosses our wishes, no less than when He grants them, He does all things well! Be still, my soul, and know that He is God!
Here I have a little time to breathe, for really at R. you kept me upon a full trot. I was so engaged in talking, that I had little leisure for hearing. If anything I was entitled to say was made acceptable to yourself or useful to others — then I have reason to be thankful. Well, the Lord bless you all! You are a happy and a favored people — may the good Shepherd dwell in the midst of you and preserve you in love and peace; for when strife and contention enter, the Holy Spirit withdraws His influences, and then neither Paul, Apollos, nor Cephas, could do much good. May you be all men, women, and children of God!
Having such pretty woods and walks to range in, and abundance of letters to write, I have but little inclination to go among the crowd. God made this beautiful country. The town is man's contrivance. Both works carry the marks of their respective authors. The more I contemplate the one — the more I find to admire. In the other I see all at once — and a poor, noisy, confused all it is.
God's world is full of wonders.
Man's world is full of sin and misery. I am weary of it. I would be more so, if I were more spiritually minded. How palpably true is our Lord's declaration that "Unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God!" Not only he shall not, but he cannot. He has no faculty capable of discerning it.
If we do not exactly know the particulars of what Heaven is — then we know to a certainty, what it is not. We are sure it is not like earth. There are no ale-houses, gambling parlors, or playhouses there.
How then could those who hearts are more set upon these things — possibly be happy even in Heaven, where they would be separated forever from all that they love? Heaven must be a Hell to an unhumbled, unsanctified sinner — even if he could be admitted there. The company, the employments, the enjoyments — are of the same kind with what he despised on earth. If you admit a pig into your parlor among your friends — he would find no pleasure there. He would rather be in the sty, or wallowing in the mire in a ditch!
Well, such were some of us — yes, such were all of us once! What thanks to the divine mercy, which, undesired by me no less than undeserved — brought me out of the house of bondage in Africa and dislodged the legion that hurried me into the extremes of madness and wretchedness! And you, my dear friends, though you were not profligates like me — you were carelessly swimming down the stream of the world, and, when upon the edge of the whirlpool which would have eternally swallowed you up — He snatched you with a strong hand, set your feet upon a rock, and established your goings, and has put a new song in your mouth.
Now you know the reason why you could not be happy in a worldly life. You were formed with a capacity for greater things. God formed you for Himself, and therefore nothing short of His favor and communion with Him could satisfy your desires. Could we understand this without the gospel — then we must sink under despair; for we would see that sin had made a great and impassable gulf between us and our chief good. But Jesus left His glory to fill up this gulf. By Him we have access to God. He is our way, our door, our throne of grace. In Him we are accepted — and out of His fullness, we are invited to receive grace for grace according to our need. Now we know what will make Heaven to be a Heaven indeed. There we shall see Him face to face, whom we can only see in part, through a glass darkly; yet the little we can see has won and engaged our hearts. Oh, what will it be to see Him in all His glory, in all His love! To be perfectly transformed into His image, and to be with Him forever!
I opened the new chapel here on Sunday evening, and preached from "Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them." May the Savior be ever present with all, by night and by day, at home and abroad! And may His presence make the ordinances sweet and profitable to our souls! I am,
Your affectionate and much obliged,
John Newton, 31st August, 1796
My Dear Madam,
Come, my dear madam — I think you have wept enough. I now write to entreat you to wipe away your tears. You have had a great wound, and you cannot but feel it — but it was not the wound of an enemy. I hope you are now aiming to say, "May the will of the Lord be done." This afflictive dispensation did not spring out of the ground — nor did it happen by chance. It was the appointment of Him whose wisdom and love are infinite. He could easily have prevented it, and undoubtedly would have — if it was not His purpose to overrule it eventually for good.
The removal of Mr. B. was not so public and general a loss as yours, though it touched me very sensibly. But I was soon brought to acquiesce, and to adopt the Psalmist's words, "I was silent and did not open my mouth — for You are the One who has done this!"
Your beloved pastor is gone a little before you. We expect and hope to follow him soon. It will be a joyful meeting, when we shall part no more. In the meantime you will do well to consider that he neither did nor could do you any good — but as an instrument — and that his Lord and Master, who honored him with acceptance and usefulness, still lives, and the supply of the Spirit is still with Him.
What did the first disciples feel when their Master was not only taken from them, but crucified before their eyes? Yet He had said unto them a little before, "It is expedient for you that I go away; for the Comforter will come to you." Surely that Comforter, whose influence was more than a compensation for the lack of the Savior's visible presence, can fully repair our losses and heal our wounds. And He is as near to His people now, and as willing and able to help them — as He was then.
The fountain from which dear Mr. C. obtained the water of life which he communicated to his people — is still full, and still flowing; and you are still welcome to come to Him and drink. But we are prone to lean too hard upon the ministers by whom the Lord conveys His blessings to us, as if they were necessary. Perhaps to cure us of this mistake, is one reason why He often unexpectedly takes them from us.
I have been at R. in spirit almost continually since I first heard the sad news. I was particularly with you on last Sunday. Methought I saw many tears shed, and heard many sighs at your church. I did not blame you; your loss is great; the first emotions of grief were unavoidable, and He who knows our frame allows us that these things for the present are "not joyous, but grievous." But neither shall I commend you — if you indulge a continuance and excess of grief.
The Lord has made known His will — by the event. Our part is submission. I pray that you may be willing to be helped, and then I am sure He will help you. Say not, "What shall we do?" The Lord has many resources when ours seem wholly to fail.
I remember when my friend Mr. Talbot died; those who loved him, too hastily thought the glory was departed from R. They knew not that his successor, whom they at first disliked, was appointed and sent to show them still greater things.
I doubt not but every proper step will be taken to obtain a gospel minister. The same work will still be carried on by another hand. If He is pleased to keep the people together in a spirit of union, love, and prayer, I shall entertain great hopes. A patient waiting upon the Lord in prayer has often done wonders, for He is able to do more than we can ask or think.
Your affectionate and obliged,
John Newton, 25th January, 1797
My Dear Madam,
I have visited Mr. B. weekly for the past five weeks, and I have always had him by myself, excepting twice that his mother was with him, and she was no restraint.
He is always glad to see me and hears me with attention. I set before him both the law and the gospel. I tell him that the offence for which he is likely to suffer is small, compared with the whole tenor and high treason of living without God in the world, and the depraved state of his heart. I tell him that if he had committed a thousand murders — the blood and mediation of Jesus afford a ground of hope, provided he is sensible of his need of mercy and is made willing to accept it as a lost, perishing sinner, without any plea, like the malefactor dying on the cross. But that the gospel affords no hope, but to those whose hearts are contrite, and broken by a conviction of sin; for, while we feel not our malady — we cannot duly prize or rightly apply to the only Physician.
He seems to assent to what I say, and does not mention to me such extenuations as you speak of — but I dare not say that he is rightly sensible of his lost state. He is composed and serious when I am with him, but I cannot perceive the spirit of humiliation which I wish for. There is a something yet lacking, which the Lord alone can perform in him. I hope the Lord's time will come, but I think it is not come yet. The last time I saw him, I gave him my narrative, and a friend has lent him Cardiphonia.
I have said all, both to warn him of his danger and to point his thoughts to the safe refuge, which my measure of light and experience can suggest. But until the Holy Spirit shines into his soul and works by His own power — the words of a man produce no abiding effect. I hope to see him again on Tuesday, which will probably be the last day of his life — for the death-warrant is expected tomorrow. I mean then to read him a part of your letter. Let us pray for him.
If we are alive and in health and there is a prospect of things being quite quiet, I purpose, if the Lord pleases, to be at R. the first week in July and to spend a few days with my dear friends.
But the times are so unsettled, that I know not what to say. If the storm should increase and come nearer home, I must not leave my post. I must not leave my family, my friends, and my people, and flee away, like the hireling, from the appearance of danger; nor could I be comfortable if I did. In this sense, likewise, home is home; the sum is, if it be the Lord's pleasure to grant me my desire of visiting you, He will make the way clear; otherwise, my coming would not be comfortable or useful either to myself or my friends.
I would commit my ways to Him, and look to the pillar and cloud to direct me when to stay and when or whether to move. May the Lord be with us all.
Your affectionate and obliged,
John Newton, 8th June, 1797
My Dear Madam,
I am just come from visiting Mr. B. The faint hope I formed of him has increased. I read him that part of your letter which concerned him, and he seemed moved. He said, "I wrote the letter to my kind friend before I was convicted of murder, and long before I had the opportunities of conversing with you; but I beg you will request the lady to assure my kind friend, that since you visited me my thoughts and views are much changed. I have done with all such pleas and excuses as I then mentioned, etc." He added, "I thank God for sending me here, and thereby giving me a call and opportunity for reflection, and that He did not cut me off in my mirthful, unthinking state."
I believe he is sensible that there is something necessary to be done, which he cannot do for himself, and that he reads the Scriptures and prays sincerely for the Lord's teaching. I was not willing to defer the information, as I hope it will give you pleasure, and the lady at whose desire you wrote. I hope, likewise, that if I am permitted to visit you next month, I shall he able to bring you a still better account. Grace reigns! May the God of grace and peace dwell among you. I am,
Your affectionate and obliged,
John Newton, 15th June, 1797
My Dear Madam,
Your sorrowful letter produced a sorrowful sympathy in us, but I soon plucked up my spirits. I wish I may be able to raise yours upon a good ground. I am no prophet. I do not pretend to know the Lord's councils — they are too deep for any short plummet to fathom. But, though His ways are untraceable by us, we know they are all mercy and truth to those who fear Him. And I not only pray, but I hope, yes I believe — that all those sad things will eventually prove rather to the furtherance of the gospel. Only you have need of patience.
I will not praise any individual of my friends at R.; but I will praise and admire them as a body, or rather I will praise the Lord for them — for they will acknowledge with me that it is by His wisdom and goodness, and not by their own, that they are what they are. I have seldom seen a body of professors equal to them, in my judgment. This seems to be a marked case; the eyes of all the churches are likely to be fixed on the widowed church at R. — and I trust your gospel wisdom, simplicity, and firmness, tempered with gentleness, your unanimity and love will shine to the praise of His glory.
The united prayers of such a people are not spoken into the air. No, they enter the ear of the Lord Almighty, the Great Shepherd who is attentive to every single sheep or lamb, wherever scattered. Much less will He neglect the cries and desires of a whole flock that call upon Him night and day, though He seem to bear long with them. They who prayed for the apostle Peter could not believe that their prayers were answered, though he stood knocking at the gate; they did not consider through what locks and bolts and bars and iron doors — prayer can force a way.
The contrast observed by you in the pulpit is not greater than that which will be observed by others out of the pulpit and abroad — now Mr. C. is gone out of the way. I doubt not but some who disliked his doctrine will remember his benevolence, his attention to the poor, the children in particular. A comparison will be made between his general conduct and character — and that of those who come after him. Possibly some who were weary of his preaching and glad when he was gone — may begin to wish for one like him and to regret that they did not prize him more while he was with them. In this sense, I trust, now that he is dead, he will speak effectually to some of his people who would scarcely hearken to him when alive. Things must have time to come round; do not be grieved for what you cannot help, but leave all in the Lord's hands, and He can make the crooked straight. The misconduct of some may be necessary for a time, to place Mr. C.'s character in a proper point of view.
We send our love to Mr. and Mrs. ______ and all those forty or fifty friends whom I met in different houses. Not having room for all their names, I will mention none — but I have them written in my heart. I love all who love the Lord Jesus Christ everywhere, and especially at R. I am thankful that I have seen them and shall remember the two weeks spent with them among my pleasant days. I am,
Your affectionate and obliged,
John Newton, August, 1797
My Dear Madam,
The day before I left P. brought me your second letter; I must therefore fulfill my promise previous to my leaving town. I had fixed on the 14th (the Lord willing) for my return. On that day He brought us home in peace and safety, and we found all well at our dear home. I felt some regret at leaving Mr. T.'s family and the church which assembled in his house — but then I was coming home. Oh, that word home made amends for all. So though we meet with rubs and pains upon the Heavenly road — should not the thought that we are going home, and drawing nearer to it every day, reconcile us to every trying dispensation and teach us to say with the apostle, "None of these things move me," especially as we are warranted to believe, in defiance of all cavils of flesh and sense — that they are all under the direction of infinite wisdom and love, and appointed to work together for good?
How easily could the Lord have prolonged the life of Mr. C. The outcome is contrary to our wishes, but it is a declaration of the Lord's will; and therefore, whether we can understand it or not — it must be right and for the best.
Our gracious Shepherd and Savior can give success to the distant and doubtful prospect which you mention, or He can bless you more sensibly and visibly in your present scattered state than when you were collected together. I am learning by experience that there can be no peace for us in this unquiet world — but so far as we are enabled to commit ourselves to His management without reserve, and to submit without if's or but's to His wise and holy will.
As you desire my opinion on one point, I will freely give it. I am sorry that husbands and wives, and especially you and Mr. R., should separate on the Lord's Day. The food, I suppose, in both places is the same; let not a little difference in the dressing divide two people whom the Lord has united not only by the nearest earthly tie, not only by faith and hope, but by the most tender spiritual affection. Cannot you compromise the matter and go sometimes to one place, and sometimes to the other — but always together? Let me beg each of you to give up a little of your own wills for the Lord's sake; I would not have you appear to differ a hair's breadth in your spiritual conduct.
Do, my dear madam and sir, set an example of union in this respect to your friends and neighbors. If you go simply to wait upon Him who has promised to meet with those who assemble in His name, and where you can hear His truth — He will bless and do you good. But if you go because it is your favorite minister who preaches there — then your taste may perhaps be gratified, but I do not think you will be more edified. I hope there are many affectionate, happy couples in your society; but I have lived with you, and therefore I know "your manner of life." I think Mr. R. loves you too well not to make some concessions on his part for your comfort — but should he refuse to go with you, then I advise you by all means to go with him.
Lift up your heart to the Lord for a blessing, and act from a principle of love to Him and to peace, and you will be no loser. You may think this division, as you are agreed in everything else, no more than a temporary inconvenience — but to me it seems a seed, which, if the Lord does not prevent it, may produce lasting evil fruits.
Human nature in the best of us is frail, fallible, and changeable — and Satan is very subtle and watchful! Occasions may arise from this paltry difference which may give him an opening to hurt your tempers and interrupt your spiritual communion at home. In short, we know not, if the Lord withdraws — how great a fire may be kindled by a single spark.
You will likewise find that your joint worship will have a better effect upon your family. Besides, what will the people of the world say, who have known your great regard for Mr. C, if they see, that after all, you cannot agree between yourselves. Personal biases and self-love often enter unperceived into our religious concerns, and we think we are acting from a sense of duty — when, in reality, we are stubbornly indulging our own wills. But if we submit to take up a cross and practice self-denial, a little use and habit will make things more easy than we at first expected. I will not apologize for my freedom, because I intend it as a mark of my love. Indeed I love you both very cordially.
My extra deafness was removed very gradually. I am still dull of hearing, which is no wonder at my age; but, through mercy, I am not yet completely dumb. I can still speak as long and as loud as when I was much younger.
I thank you for the printed account of Mr. C.'s monument. We were all much pleased with the inscription; it is short, and fully to the point — much preferable, as I think, to Mr. Romaine's. Mr. Bacon well knows I am no competent judge of his designs as a sculptor.
Please to give my affectionate respects to Mrs. C. when you see her; love to Mrs. Y. and all your society. May the Lord give them faith and patience and preserve them in mutual love. The eyes of many are upon them. I have a letter from Mrs. J.; she says she is waiting to see a rainbow in the dark cloud. And now may the Lord bless you both, in body, soul, and spirit, and in all your connections and concerns.
Your affectionate and obliged,
John Newton, 22nd Sept. 1797
My Dear Madam,
The former part of your letter affected me much. Thus, we always move upon the brink of unseen dangers, which, if the Lord pleases, can show themselves in a moment when we least expect them. Mr. E. coaxed you all to church to hear his opinion of you — and therefore you cannot say that he railed against you behind your backs. But this sermon, as you describe it, did not accord with the candor expressed in his letter. I am willing to hope, as all things are under the direction and permission of the Lord, that whatever happens will eventually prove for the best. Certainly, Mr. E. could not have taken a more public and decided step to justify your leaving the church. I think your husband's answer was very proper. If an individual only had been misrepresented — then perhaps it might be well to let it pass over in silence; but, as your whole body was publicly arraigned and charged with principles inimical to government, I judge that you are not only warranted, but bound to vindicate yourselves from the aspersion.
If you keep close to the Scripture, and if you preserve a meek and loving spirit, avoiding all tartness and bitterness of expression — you will gain an easy victory; for truth, which is on your side, is great, and must prevail.
It is not easy to write with coolness in a controversy; but grace, obtained by prayer, can make it practical. Mr. Fuller's book is a proof that it may be done. You remember we all agreed at R. that when the Lord opened the eyes of the man born blind — it would not have been right for the man to beat all the blind men he might meet with because they could not see.
I am not yet willing to give up the hopes I had formed, that Mr. E., notwithstanding his present prejudice — may live to preach the faith which he now opposes. Pity him and pray for him and love him, as one who may be capable of doing great good in the church — if the Lord sees fit to open his eyes, and to touch his heart, which He can do in an instant, whenever He pleases. Believe me to be,
Your affectionate and obliged,
John Newton, August 4, 1798
My Dear Madam,
Fame, with her hundred mouths, has told a hundred fibs about me of late! It has been reported that I had a fever, that I had epileptic fits, that I had three repeated attacks of the palsy. Yes, some said that I was dead.
The truth is, on Friday the 23rd, after a good night, I arose as well as usual — but I fell several times while dressing, before I was convinced that I could not stand. I had neither dizziness in my head, nor numbness in my left leg — but the strength of it was withdrawn. I stayed at home on Sunday, for I could not walk across the room without support. Means were used, and in answer to the prayers of my people and friends, proved successful.
What a privilege to be interested in the prayers of those who have themselves interest and prevalence at the throne of grace! Blessed be God, I have many such in my congregation. My illness seems quite removed; I can now stand in the pulpit my usual time without uneasiness, and walk the streets without inconvenience.
At first I was apprehensive that it might be the Lord's pleasure to confine me at home for the residue of my days; and I thank the Lord He enabled me to say in the hour of trial, "What and when and how — You will." As my curate Mr. G. is very acceptable to my people and I can fully depend upon him — I seemed quite willing to be quite laid aside, if such had been the Lord's pleasure. But He has seen fit to prolong my liberty, and I wish to be thankful, for I love His ordinances and His people. I love to proclaim His glory to those who know Him, and to invite others to seek Him who know Him not. I am not my own; He has bought me with His blood, and I trust I have willingly given and devoted myself to Him.
His I am, and Him I desire to serve and to put myself simply and without reserve into His hands, to be active or passive, as He shall appoint. Only may He give me strength according to my day.
May He be my gain, living or dying, and may He at last receive me Himself, an unprofitable servant, who neither has, nor expects, nor desires to have, any other plea — than that of the thief upon the cross.
I consider this late dispensation as a gentle tap at the door — a kind warning to remind me to prepare for further changes. I am now advanced in my seventy-fourth year and have need to pray (I hope you and many pray for me) that I may be found ready and waiting. My time here on earth cannot be long. My chief desire, which I have repeatedly expressed before the Lord, is that my decline in life may not be stained with impatience, peevishness, jealousy, or any of those mental infirmities which have sometimes clouded the characters even of good men in their last stages of life — but that I may be enabled to feel and exhibit in myself the influence of those truths which I have so often preached to others.
I hear that the new chapel will soon be opened. My heart's desire will be with you. May He who presided at the dedication of Solomon's Temple, fill your house with His presence. May He dwell, likewise, with you in your own residence. May the Lord of peace Himself give you and yours peace always and in all things, and by all means — that peace which the world can neither give nor take away.
The two musicians [canary birds] you sent us are well; as they do not know I am writing to you, nor can speak for themselves, I undertake to thank you, on their behalf, for your pains and care in their education.
The life of Mr. Grimshaw has been in the press these three weeks; when it will be published, I know not. Those who deal with booksellers and printers have need of patience, but I hope it will appear in the right and best time, for all things are in the Lord's hands. I have no personal interest in the books further than to correct the press — for I have given the copyright to the society for relieving the poor pious clergy.
The year is now growing old, and the days are approaching which generally raise some serious reflections in an awakened mind. To me the 15th of December is one of those days. I hope you will think of me then. On that day, in the year 1790, the Lord was pleased to remove "the desire of my eyes" with a stroke. It was a trying dispensation, but He supported me; and by help obtained of Him I have been preserved in my widowhood eight years with some degree of resignation and comfort. He wounded me — and He has in mercy healed the wound He made.
Christmas will soon follow, if we are spared to see it. Oh, how should the thoughts of the incarnation of our Savior, who, undeserved and undesired by us, voluntarily exchanged His glory for pain, disgrace, and death — to deliver us from misery and ruin! How should this make us ashamed to complain for our lighter trials, which we know are designed to work together for our final good!
I compare New Year's Day to a hill on the road, from the top of which I endeavor to look back on the way which the Lord has led me thus far through the wilderness. I can see some of the Ebenezers I have had to erect to His praise, standing like milestones upon the road. I look around to contemplate the difference His sovereign grace has made between my situation, and that of thousands of my fellow creatures.
I then look forward and perceive that I am drawing apace to my journey's end. I shall soon be at home! O for a glance of Heavenly day, to enable me to see beyond this dark valley! O, to take a view of the glories within the veil, and to have a solid scriptural hope that I shall be among the worshipers of the Lamb!
May the Lord give you both a good entrance on the new year, and may it be long before either of you have such feelings as the 15th of December will recall to my mind, and which indeed are seldom out of my thoughts the year round. May grace and peace be with you all. I am,
Your affectionate and obliged,
John Newton, Dec. 7, 1798
My Dear Madam,
Though through mercy my wounds are well healed, and I am satisfied the Lord has done all things well with me and mine; yet this place revives some old sensations more than any other spot on the globe could do. Here my adopted daughter Eliza and my dear wife Mary languished long, and this was the last house they were both in until they returned to Coleman Street, to go out no more until removed in the hearse.
There is a forest at a little distance, to which I often resorted and still resort. If you were there and the trees could speak, they might tell you much of the exercises of my mind to which they were witnesses. I call it my Bethel. There in my distress I sought the Lord, and He heard me. There I have since performed, or at least acknowledged, the vows I made in the time of my trouble.
As my dear Mary was not a young woman and we had lived together more than forty years, some people have thought I made too much ado when called to resign her. I pity those who cannot feel. They do not know that a union of hearts in the married state, when the Lord affords His blessing, is strengthened daily by a series of reciprocal endearments and obligations in the course of forty years; and that, as passion in time abates, friendship is proportionably strengthened and heightened, so that perhaps the flesh feels more to part at the end of forty years, than at the end of four.
He must have a steady hand who can draw the exact line between overvaluing and undervaluing our creature comforts. The latter was not my fault. Alas! I was an idolater, and I suffered for it. Now that all is over, I can be thankful for the years 1789 and 1790. But I would not live them over again for the wealth of the Indies. Yet nothing in the singular history of my life is more astonishing to myself than the manner in which the Lord supported me through the trying scene, and at the close of it. Scarcely in any other way could I have known so much of the power and faithfulness of His promise to give strength according to the day, and of His all-sufficiency; for I had no more of what are called sensible comforts than usual, but still was supported. I know not how, but I well know that if His arm had not been underneath me — I must have sunk like a stone in the water.
I learned also in that school of affliction, not to be so over anxious for my friends when under great trials, as I had been formerly; for I saw, yes, I felt, that the Lord is able to make us equal to anything which He calls us either to do or suffer. "Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!" Habakkuk 3:17-18
Though the recollection of what I had once and what I now have not, is seldom out of my thoughts when awake — yet, through mercy I am quite easy — the wound is healed — the scar only remains, and I allow myself to look often upon it because it reminds me of the skill and tenderness of that faithful Friend, who so managed the wound He made, for my good, that nothing now but the scar appears. It also excites humiliation and reminds me how well I deserve to have been cut more severely.
When I see you and Mr. R. together, I am often reminded how it was once with me. I rejoice for you indeed — but I do not envy you; sometimes I am inclined to pity you and to fear you are too happy in each other. Oh, may the Lord preserve you from the excess of affection — which filled my otherwise happy life with anxious cares and thorns and clouds, from the beginning to the end of our union. From these, the separating stroke freed me; and if I have not had so much pleasure since, neither have I had so many pains. Perhaps upon the whole and when all deductions are made, my widowhood has been the happiest part of my life; especially, as the Lord, by the affection and attention of my dear E. has repaired my loss as far as the nature of the case will admit.
At R. I was in a pleasing bustle. Here, I have a pleasing retirement. In London, I lived in a crowd. At P. there is a crowd in me. Many vain intruders often tease me most at such seasons as I most desire to be freed from them; they follow me into the pulpit and meet me at the Lord's table. I hope I do not love them or wish to lodge them! Often in prayer some idle fancy buzzes about me and makes me forget where I am and what I am doing.
I compare myself to a man upon his knees before the king, pleading for his life, or returning thanks for some great favor. In the midst of his speech, he sees a butterfly; he immediately breaks off, leaves his speech unfinished, and runs away to catch the butterfly! Such a man would be thought mad, and my vile thoughts prove that I am not free from spiritual insanity.
Is it so with you? I believe it is at some times, and in some degree, though I hope you are not so bad as I. As we all spring from one stock, though our features differ — depravity is the common family likeness which runs through the whole species; but Jesus came into the world to save sinners — He died for us, and
"His hands infected nature cure
With sanctifying grace."
We hope in a little time to see Him as He is. Then, and not before — shall we be completely like Him. While we are here on earth, His precious blood cleanses us from all sins and makes our defective services acceptable to God.
I have neither time nor room for a list of all to whom I mean to send my love, but, if you will make out the list and send it to me, I will sign it. But tell all who love the Savior (by whatever names they are known), whether ministers or people, that I love them and pray to the Lord to reward all who showed me kindness for His sake. I am,
Your affectionate and obliged,
John Newton, 27th July, 1799
My Dear Madam,
I must write, lest you should again suspect that I do not love you now so well as formerly. Should Satan whisper that suspicion in your ear again, tell him from me that I love you still better every time I see you. But I grow old, my eyes fail, and my letters in future must be more seldom and more brief than formerly. Should this prove my last letter, still be assured that I love you.
You and I seem anxious on the subject of love and marriage. Perhaps if we had not loved rather too much — we might not have loved enough. You may well be thankful that you and Mr. R, are united in affection, aim, and hope. Fear of overdoing will make you pray — and prayer will bring in new supplies of grace, so that I trust the Lord will continue to bless you to each other and to many around you.
Dear C. need not have been afraid for the old man, as I was not hurt at R. Though my eyes, ears, and legs remind me that I am growing old, I am almost as young as formerly for pulpit service. My lungs are good, and I am content to be a talker rather than an accurate preacher, and my spirits are not worn down by study. I suppose, if it were requisite, Mr. R. could preach an hour upon some parts of his medical profession because he understands it and has it at heart. I trust it is thus with me, as I have been long in the school of experience and observation. When I am called to speak, I look to Him to put suitable thoughts into my heart and words into my mouth. The knowledge necessary to make a good lawyer, physician, or surgeon is dispersed in many books — but all the knowledge needful for a minister lies in one book, and that, in a small edition, is but a pocket book. This is a great advantage. If anything I can say is made useful either in comforting Christ's people or in adding to their number, it is owing to His blessing! May He have all the glory!
I must not look so forward as next summer, nor indeed to next week — for I know not what a day may bring forth. I hope, whether I can come and see you or not, I shall hear well of your affairs — that you stand fast in one spirit "striving together for the faith of the gospel" while I remain here; and we hope to meet at last in a better world.
We join in love to you and yours, and to all the friends of the Lord Jesus in R. May He guide us all by His counsel, and bring us together to behold His glory! Then shall we sing to the praise of the Lamb who was slain, who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood. Believe me ever,
Yours and Mr. R.'s affectionate friend,
John Newton, 1st October, 1799
My Dear Madam,
I will not say it is time to think of my dear friends at R., for I have thought of you daily and often ever since I left you — but it seems high time that you should have a written acknowledgment under my own hand for all the kindness you showed to myself and dear C. while we were with you.
I cannot charge myself with lack of gratitude to my fellow-creatures — but I fall sadly short in my returns of thankfulness to Him from whom all blessings, temporal and spiritual, personal and relative, flow! That I have any friends, that I have many and such kind friends, is owing to His goodness; for surely not one of them would have taken notice of me — if He had not secretly influenced their hearts. O for grace to enjoy the Lord in all His gifts while we possess them, and to enjoy them in Him whenever He is pleased to recall them. "Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!" Habakkuk 3:17-18
How desirable it is to maintain a uniform consistent profession! Not to be pious by fits and starts one day in the week, or a little of it morning and evening — but to be in "the fear of the Lord all the day long" — to set Him always before us; to receive all from His hands, and to do all for His sake; to have a reference in all to His glory, and to attempt nothing but in dependence upon His strength.
Some people are in their way religious, not willingly, but by constraint. They know it is necessary, but they would be better pleased if it were not. They may be compared to some invalids who use the cold bath — not because they like it, but because the physician tells them they must; they go in with reluctance and are glad to get out again. But the religion of the established advanced believer is to him — what the river is to the fish; it is his element — he swims in it. If anything occasionally interrupts his communion with his God and Savior, he is, as we commonly say, like a fish out of water.
If he cannot rejoice in the Lord, his next pleasure is to seek Him, sorrowing, until he finds Him. Then a prison, would be a palace — and until then, a palace is little better than a dungeon. Do not suppose that I am very spiritual because I write thus. It is easy to write and talk; it is one thing to see and describe the delicacies of a sumptuous table, and another thing to sit down and partake of the feast. Yet I trust it is my desire to have the idea realized in my soul, and that Mr. and Mrs. R. are like-minded. Well, if the Lord has given us this desire — then He will not disappoint it. By a patient persevering use of His medicines (the appointed means of grace and affliction) and by a careful observance of the prescribed regimen, we shall get forward — if slowly — yet surely. In proportion as we grow in the knowledge of Jesus we shall grow in grace, for He is both the source and the pattern of our sanctification.
But the old man is soon wearied with writing, and he tells me he must leave off; but I say, not until he has told you that he dearly loves you and has promised (by the Lord's help) to pray for you and yours. The old man does this heartily; but says again that he must lay down his pen, when he has subscribed himself, dear sir and madam,
Your very affectionate and obliged,
John Newton, 25th July, 1800
My Dear Madam and Sir,
I thank you for your prompt and kind invitation — but as I stand engaged to preach a sermon next Sunday, I cannot set out before Tuesday, the 12th. We can stay, if you please, until the company you expect are near coming to you, and then we can either return or go forward to S., as Providence may appoint. May the Lord direct our steps! Pray that if we are permitted to meet, the Lord may be with us, that our hearts may mutually burn within us.
Believers are like coals — they can neither feel nor communicate warmth unless first kindled by the fire from above. The Lord's cause at R. is much upon my heart, and I love my friends there very dearly; but I dare not say that I approve of their endeavors to draw away regular ministers from the places where the Lord has placed them and continues to own their labors. The rule "do unto others — as you would have them do unto you" is of general and easy application. What would you have thought, had it been possible that any proposals could have induced Mr. C. to relinquish R. and go to another people? O! Then let us remember that others have like feelings with ourselves in similar cases.
I trust you will excuse my freedom. I am not disposed to flatter — and least of all when I love. As to myself, I have much to be thankful for — my health and appetite are good, my sleep sufficient, my little family well, attentive, and affectionate. I still preach — and they tell me not much worse than formerly. I have little to say of lively frames and sensible comforts; but I am helped to believe the Bible — thence I derive my support; there I read of the power, wisdom, love, compassion, and faithfulness of the great Redeemer, and His precious promises to make all things work together for good to those whom He has taught to love Him.
If the Lord has been pleased to do good to Mr. G. through unworthy me, I have cause to be thankful. Had not been ill, I would not have seen him. "The way of man is not in himself, it is not in man that walks to direct his steps." Ten thousand blessings rest upon you both! Pray for us. My eyes begin to say, "It is time to stop writing." I am,
Your very obliged and affectionate,
John Newton, 4th May, 1801.
My Very Dear Friends,
It seems high time that I should address a line to you as a testimony of my love and gratitude. My dear C. returned from R. worse than she went. She was afterwards with our friends at D. and rather worse than better there. But she is perfectly satisfied with her present situation and expresses no wish to leave it. Thus my Lord affords me sweetening and alleviations to my trial. This trial is at present my only one. My health is good, and my family well and peaceful. I am still enabled to preach, and still heard with acceptance.
I hope some others are benefitted and encouraged in their afflictions by observing His goodness in supporting me. I cannot say much of sensible comfort — indeed I never could, but I am satisfied in my better judgment that the Lord has wise reasons, and worthy of His love and faithfulness — that the outcome shall be to His glory (which ought to be my highest end) and to our final benefit. May He enable me to act, wait, pray, hope, and submit — so as not to dishonor my profession! This is my chief prayer for myself, in which I trust you will join. "When my spirit is overwhelmed within me — the Lord sees my paths." He has said, "My grace is sufficient for you," and I trust His word will be fulfilled.
I am now called to practice the lessons of patience, submission, and hope myself — which I have often proposed to others. If God is pleased for a season that I should be like the bush which Moses saw, covered with flames and not consumed — the outcome will be to His glory, and I doubt not for our good.
I am not my own. As a sinner I have no right to complain; as a believer I have no reason to complain — for He will choose better for me upon the whole than I could if I might for myself. He has delivered; He does deliver; and I trust He will yet deliver.
My whole history has been a series of marvelous mercies — how ungrateful would I be to distrust Him! Yet thus I would do were I left to myself; but He says, "I will never leave you, nor forsake you." I build upon His promises — He has done, He does, He will do all things well. Glory be to His name!
My eyes get worse, and I sometimes think I may quite lose my sight. But if I should never see after today, I should have abundant cause to be thankful, not only for the use of my eyes for more than 76 years — but that the Lord disposed and enabled me to make some proper use of them. By His blessing some of my books have been acceptable and useful to His people. He can make them so, after I am removed from the earth. The Lord bless you both and all dear to you abundantly. My love to all who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. I have neither eyes nor paper to mention names.
Your affectionate and obliged,
John Newton, 31st August, 1801.
My Dear Madam,The first intimation we had of your husband's illness was accompanied with the news of his recovery, which I was thankful for; as it saved me from the anxiety I would have otherwise felt, both for him and you — for you are both very dear to me. I have now only to join you in praise to the great Physician, to whom the issues from death belong, and to pray that the late affliction may be sanctified to you both.
Let us praise the Lord our Savior, who pardons all our sins and heals all our diseases. Our times are in His hands. O may the lives He is pleased to prolong, be devoted to Him who sweat blood in Gethsemane, and died in agonies upon the cross — to redeem us from approaching wrath and to open to us the way to everlasting life! May we desire to prove ourselves followers of Him who wept over His enemies and prayed for His murderers while they were nailing Him to the cross. I am a sinner, and I feel my need of daily multiplied forgiveness.
My Lord has said, "When you pray, forgive, if you have anything against any." If He has remitted to me a debt of ten thousand talents, I dare not take a fellow-servant by the throat for a few pence. In my right mind, and while pleading before the Lord for the mercy I hourly need, I dare not indulge resentment if a person spit in my face — for my Savior was spit upon for my sake and bore it patiently.
I am five months advanced in my 78th year; my time of departure cannot be far off, and whether I shall ever see R. or you again — the Lord alone knows. But I can truly say that though absent in the flesh, I am often present with you in the spirit, and whether I may live to see you again or not, the prayer of my heart is, and I trust will be for dear Mr. and Mrs. R., that you may stand fast, in one heart and mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel.
May the Lord bless you in yourselves and in each other, and make you a blessing to many! May He who, when He was rich, became poor for our sakes — by the force of His example and the power of His grace — fill you with a spirit of expanded benevolence, that you may have the honor and pleasure of imitating Him who went about doing good! And may you hear Him say at last "Inasmuch as you did it to the least of these for My sake — you did it unto Me."
My dear E. unites with me in love; she is better, but not well. The Lord has done great things for us, and will do still more. Yet at times I am ready to faint. Thus I am learning by slow degrees, that without Him I can do nothing.
Your affectionate and obliged,
John Newton, Nov. 29th, 1802