John Newton to Thomas Robinson

4. 28 May 1778*
I have been chiding myself for my negligence, and did not deserve to hear from you till I had answered your last. Your letter, which came last night, sets off post today for Lord Dartmouth,[1] and I have added one of my own, in which I have said, perhaps, full as much as becomes me, on my views of the importance of the case. I have likewise acquainted another friend[2] with the affair, who, if he sees it expedient and proper, will, I doubt not, readily back my application. This is all I can do, and this, if it be the Lord's will that you succeed, will suffice. It is our part to use with simplicity and dependence the means He puts into our hands, and then the event belongs to Him. Before we stir a step in the business, we know very well, that the next presentation to St. Mary's, or to St. Martin's likewise, were determined long before we were born, or the churches built, yea, before the ground on which they stand was formed.[3]
On Whit-Monday[4] I expect to be at Northampton, to bring our child[5] home from school.[6] The next day is the Bishop's[7] visitation at Newport.[8] All other days from this present date I expect to be at home till Monday, June 13th, when we go to spend the week at Bedford.[9] We shall be very glad of a peep from you, though but a peep. And we should like to peep upon you at Leicester, but know not when we can have that pleasure. But the pleasure of loving you, and wishing you all prosperity, I can and shall possess, maugre[10] absence and distance, as like­wise the pleasing persuasion that you love us.
Though seemingly poor, I am rich. Two branches of my riches are—my people and my friends. As to my people, I could pick out about a hundred, whom, considering their love to me, and the Lord's love to them, I cannot honestly value at less than £1,000 apiece. Then, in friends, I am rich indeed. They are so many I could not readily make out an exact list of them; and so kind and so dear that I know not what value to fix them at. Let those who live to themselves, and love none but themselves, be henceforth accounted poor. The Lord has given us the best riches even in a temporal view. For methinks there are hardly any temporal pleasures so called, worth a wise man's thoughts, but so far as they are connected with love and friendship. And when these are spiritual­ized, and doubly endeared by the grace and salt of the Gospel, then we have the best of the good which this life can afford.
But, oh, to be rich in faith, and to have such a friend as Jesus, who will stand by us when all fail, and live for us when all die; to be interested in the fulness of Him who filleth all in all! Creatures, when He blesses them to us, are rich streams; but he is an ocean of riches. Let us love, and sing, and wonder:[11] let us rejoice and praise; let us pant and long for His presence; let us spend and be spent in His service, for He is worthy.
Mrs Newton has been often ailing—afflicted with frequent pains in her head; but I trust all is in love, and all is sweetened with many mercies, reliefs, and supports. In defiance of flesh and unbelief, my soul desires to stand to it—that He does all things well. Our hearty love to Mrs Robinson and all our Leicester friends—that part of my riches which lies in your town is often upon my thoughts. I have not time to repeat their names, but I remember them all. If you do not peep at us soon, I hope you will write. The Lord prosper and bless you!
I am, affectionately yours,
Olney, May 28, 1778 John Newton
*    The Evangelical Register, 1838; page 149, No. 3

[1] Dartmouth subsequently supplied letters of recommendation for Robinson, to pave the way for his application for the living of either St Martin’s (vicar Thomas Haines d. 1786) or St Mary’s (vicar John Simmonds d. 1788), whichever became vacant first.
[2] This was John Thornton, who had already learned of Robinson from Newton, and had written three weeks earlier to Newton: “I have been solicited to be one of the 7 trustees for the fund for a lecture at Leicester which Mr. Robinson preaches and I thought it not right to refuse my name and assistance when needful.” 7 May 1778
[3] Newton’s diary, 28 May 1778: “Wrote two letters today on account of one I received from Mr Robinson of Leicester. I would commit the business to thee. If it be for thy glory, and as desirable as it appears to us, it shall take place. But in all things may we learn to say, Thy will be done.”
[4] In 1778, Whit-Monday fell on 8 June.
[5] Betsy Catlett (1769-1834), whom the Newtons adopted when she was orphaned at the age of five, following her father’s death. Newton’s diary Wednesday 7 December 1774: “My brother [in-law] has a sweet orphan girl about 5 years old (her mother died 2 years ago) which we now, in dependence upon the Lord, and upon the clear call of his providence, cheerfully adopt for our own. O may he by his grace adopt her into his chosen family.”
[6] Betsy attended Mrs Martha Trinder’s boarding school for girls. Martha’s husband Thomas was a deacon at John Ryland’s Baptist chapel in College Lane, Northampton, about 12 miles from Olney.
[7] John Green (1706-1779), Bishop of Lincoln, who had ordained Newton in 1764.
[8] Here “Newport” is short for ‘Newport Pagnell’, a coaching town 5 miles SW of Olney
[9] The Newtons, with Betsy, stayed with Moravian friends the Foster-Barhams in Bedford that week. “a pleasant visit … Alas! Stupid creature that I am to be no more affected with thy goodness. I have been dull in my own spirit in the course of this favoured week. I spoke every morning in the family. Subjects: Ephesians 3:14-19; 1 Corinthians 2:9; James 1:5; Matthew 9:13. Much converse, much kindness, nothing amiss, but this evil heart which besets, deceives and hurts me in every place. ... I came home lean and a hymn to make which [with] other avocations broke in upon my evening. O my Lord – touch and revive, pardon and heal and cleanse me and prepare me a Sabbath blessing. I have no plea but what I derive from thy word, and from my past experience which encourages me still to cry, I am thine, save me [Psalm 119:94].” (Diary, Saturday 20 June 1778). The hymn which Newton wrote that Saturday night was Hymn No. 315, ‘The inward warfare’, Strange and mysterious is my life [Olney Hymns, Book 1, Hymn 130].
[10] ‘maugre’ — inspite of
[11] cf Newton’s hymn Let us love, and sing, and wonder, from Olney Hymns, Book 3, Hymn 82

Marylynn Rouse, 12/06/2015