Friday the 1st January
This is the Ninth New Years day I have seen in this place. I have reason to say, The Lord crowneth every year with his goodness. The entrance of this finds me and my _ [dear Mary] in health and peace. I am still favoured with strength, and with some liberty for my public work and hope the Lord is still pleased to work by me, for the edification of his people already called, and the awakening of sinners. As to myself, It is given me to trust in the Lord Jesus for life and salvation – I know he is both willing and able to save. Upon him as an All-sufficient Saviour and upon his word of promise I build my hope, believing that he will not suffer me to be put to shame. My exercise of grace is faint, my consolations small, my heart is full of evil, my chief sensible burdens are, a wild ungoverned imagination, and a strange sinful backwardness to reading the Scriptures, and, to secret prayer. These have been my complaints for many years, and I have no less cause of complaint than formerly. But my eye and my heart is to Jesus. His I am, Him I desire to serve, to him I this day would devote and surrender myself anew. O Lord, accept, support, protect, teach, comfort and bless me. Be thou my Arm, my Eye, my Joy and my Salvation. Mortify the power of sin, and increase the image of thy holiness in my heart. Anoint me with fresh oil, make me humble, faithful, diligent and obedient. Let me in all things attend to thy word as my rule, to thy glory as my end, and depend upon thy power and promise for safety and success. I am now in the 49th year of my age, and may expect in the course of a few years at most to go whence I shall no more return, nor have I a certainty of continuing here a single year or even a month or a day. May thy grace keep me always waiting till my appointed change shall come, and when the summons shall come may I be enabled to rejoice in thee, as the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.
I preached this forenoon from 1 Chronicles 17:16,17. Hope I was enabled to speak with some liberty, but found my own heart sadly unaffected. The afternoon I devote to retirement, and to beg a blessing upon the important service of the evening, an annual sermon to the young people, which is usually laid upon my heart with more weight than any other opportunity in the course of the year.
Preached to the young people in the evening from Proverbs 8:34-36. I went to church remarkably dull – but in singing the hymn before sermon I felt a softening of spirit, and was favoured in preaching with remarkable liberty. The Lord grant it may be attended with a blessing. There was a good congregation, and the customary New Year’s gift brought me after sermon including some gleanings afterwards amounted to near [in shorthand].
Saturday 2 January
My time and thoughts much engrossed today by an affecting and critical dispensation at O[rchard] S[ide]. I was sent for in the morning early and returned astonished and grieved. How mysterious are the ways of the Lord! [Fn 1] How much seems now at stake. But while all is in His hands, all is safe. Could hardly attend to anything else.
Sunday 3 January 73
Sent for again in the morning an affecting scene – I was told appearances were worse afterwards. But before noon the Lord interposed in mercy, but I fear it will be a trying case. My mind was much affected but the Lord was pleased to carry me through the day with liberty.
[Sermon texts in Margin:] Isaiah 41:27; 2 Corinthians 5:10; [+ shorthand]
I have now devoted myself and time as much as possible to attend on _ [Mr Cowper]. We walked today, and probably shall daily. I shall now have little leisure but for such things as indispensably require attention. At the Great House [Fn 2] I mentioned the case in general terms, and made it the subject of my evening’s discourse; it was a solemn affecting time, and I hope earnest prayer was and will be poured out to the Lord.
The Great House, Olney
Owned by Lord Dartmouth, rooms were rented out to the church for use for Bible Studies, prayer meetings, children's meetings and informal Sunday evening fellowship meetings.
Newton often retreated here to pray alone on Saturday evenings.
Much as yesterday. I have now to perform family worship morning and evening in two houses. Walked again. The storm is heavy but I can perceive the Lord is present in it, preserving from all sallies of passion, and maintaining a gracious meekness of spirit. I find the Lord has laid the case much upon the hearts of the people, surely this is a token for good.
[Margin: + shorthand]
Met the children and distributed some money amongst them. Most of my leisure attending _ [Mr Cowper]. The storm still heavy, but favourable circumstances are afforded daily. We wait and hope for certain deliverance. Preached in the evening on a subject suited to the occasion.
[Margin:] 1 Corinthians 10:13 [There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.]
Have but little time at home now, endeavour to improve it. Through the Lord’s goodness appearances are more and more favourable. I trust this dispensation shall be for good to all immediately concerned and to others also.
[Margin: 1 + shorthand]
Much like yesterday. Time divided between my friend, and my immediate calls of service. I think the Lord has been pleased to give me more liberty in secret prayer this week than for some time past, and though my sensible [perceptible] feelings are far from lively, I am enabled to trust myself and my all in his hands.
Sunday 10 January
My attendance at Orchard Side joined to the usual service of the day, took up in a manner my whole time. But the Lord carried me through all with pleasure though I felt something weary in the evening. I hope we had his gracious presence in the Ordinances.
[Margin:] Romans 5:10[?]; Genesis 22:1,2
Tuesday 12 January
A good part of my leisure employed in attending my friend. My post of observation was very painful last week, but now it is pleasing. The shade grows lighter every day. Yesterday and this morning the conversation was very instructive to me, I wish I may be enabled duly to improve what I see and hear. In the evening at the Great House, spoke on the nature and effects of legality. Some foolish temptations got hold of my mind, damped my spirits, made me uneasy, so that it was with difficulty I could attempt to pray as usual at the close of the opportunity.
[Margin: 1 + shorthand]
This was upon the whole a pleasant day. The violence of the storm is, I trust, over; the Lord has appeared, and a measure of peace been felt, but the dispensation is not yet finished. Miss Tomkens [?] came from Northampton.
Met the children. Spoke to them chiefly on the subject of prayer. Walked with my friend [Mr Cowper]. Pleasing communion, pleasing proofs of the Lord’s compassion and faithfulness. My little leisure chiefly employed in writing. [shorthand] Preached in the evening, had some liberty towards the latter part. I have reason to fear a slackness of attendance, in some who I hope have truly loved the Ordinances. Alas what poor changeable creatures are we? How prone to wander. Lord quicken and restore.
[Margin:] Acts 13:14,17
A pleasant walk with _ [Mr Cowper]. Leisure employed chiefly in writing letters. Spent almost an hour in the garden in the evening. O that the Lord would indite and answer prayer. Answered a letter from Mr D: C – concerning marriage engagements.
[Margin: 1 + shorthand]
Had our hopes of a speedy deliverance damped today, by a return of the Temptation. My leisure engaged in writing etc, but my attendance on _ [Mr Cowper] leaves me little leisure for other things, unless I am up very early. An evening hour in the garden.
Sunday ye 17 January
The Lord carried me comfortably through the Sabbath, at least he gave me strength and something to say. In the afternoon I preached against profane swearing as I had done against whoredom, adultery and drunkeness before the year commenced. And propose at times to preach expressly against the particular sins which are so notorious in the town. And some of them I fear are to be found in persons who are accounted professors.
[Margin:] Romans 5:10; James 5:12
Employed much as usual. Instead of walking today we went in a post chaise upon the Northampton road. there is little alteration for the better, and yet many circumstances indicate the Lord’s presence moderating the affliction, and preventing dangerous consequences which might be feared. At the Great House we seemed to be favoured with a spirit of prayer. But I was confused in speaking. Buried R Knight’s wife, a sudden death.
[Margin: 1 + shorthand]
Thursday 21 January
Our trial still continues, and I think increases. The Lord knows how and when to moderate it. We all find it a sharp trial for faith and patience. How mysterious are the Lord’s ways, but we are sure all that he does is right and good. Met the children. In the afternoon sent Miss T[omkens?] and A to Newport. Preached in the evening and was favoured with liberty.
[Margin:] Acts 13:17
My dear friend [Mr Cowper] still walks in darkness. I can hardly conceive that anyone in a state of grace and favour with God, can be in greater distress. And yet no-one walked more closely with him, or was more simply devoted to him in all things. Thus as in the case of Job he shows his right to deal as he wills with his own, he knows how to make up for all, to bring light out of darkness and real good out of seeming evil. When we presume to say, Why hast thou done this? He answers in his word, Be still and know that I am God.
Much like yesterday. Our great trial still continues. Writing at leisure times. Mr Cooper of Loxley came in the evening.
Sunday 24 January
A very alarming turn aroused us from our beds, and called us to O[rchard] S[ide] at four in the morning. I stayed there till eight, before which time the threatening appearance went entirely off, and now things remain much as they were, if any alteration I hope it is for the better. My dear was there the whole day. I had no leisure for retirement from morning till night. Mr Cooper preached for me in the forenoon. In the afternoon I was much straitened, my head and heart being greatly confused. But I had rather a comfortable time at the Great House.
[Margin:] Mr Cooper Matthew 22:11; Mark 4:18,19
Mr Cooper went away after dinner, his company and other calls prevented me doing anything in the study today.
Little done, indeed have but little leisure, no visible abatement in our great trial, though circumstances change every day. Was favoured with a pleasant opportunity at the Great House. I hope the prayers there put up will in due time be answered. Spoke of the Pilgrim’s reception at the Wicket Gate.
Much like yesterday. Employed writing, walking, visiting. I have had some seasons of more liberty and attention at the throne of Grace than usual. For the most part my thoughts are seldom more confused, than when I would seek the Lord in prayer. Began Omicron’s letter. [Fn 3]
Met the children. Walked, visited and in the evening preached. At intervals of leisure writing etc. The hour of deliverance not yet come. May the Lord give us patience to wait for it as we ought.
[Margin:] Acts 13:17
Every day much alike. I and mine are favoured with health and peace from week to week. My friend's affliction is still heavy, though we hope some circumstances are favourable. We are sure however that he is in safe hands, and that the Lord who loves him will do all things well. I was engaged today in writing etc, when I had leisure.
Sunday 31 January
Carried safe through the day, and enabled for the several services, but had no particular enlargement. The Lord grant that I may be humble and dependant.
[Margin:] Romans 5:11; Genesis 22:14
[Fn 1] A reference to the latest hymn Cowper had written a few days earlier, God moves in a mysterious way. [return]
[Fn 2] Lord Dartmouth’s house, behind the church, which was being used for midweek meetings and informal services on Sunday evenings.[return]
[Fn 3] One of a series of letters written for the Gospel Magazine by Newton under the pseudonym of Omicron [return]
- Diary images: John Newton Collection CO199. Manuscript Division. Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. © Princeton University Library.
- Great House image: © JNP 2007 (original painting owned by Cowper & Newton Museum)