John Newton to Thomas Robinson

5. 22 October 1778*
My Dear Friend

I must try to send you a line by way of remembrance; and as Mrs Robinson will tell you how it is with us in general, I need say the less. We were glad of an opportunity of seeing her again at Olney, and hope the Lord will guide her and our friends home to Leicester in peace, and give you a comfortable meeting again.

St. Mary's, it seems is still in suspense;[1] but the event when made known will be certainly right. It is a comfort to be sure of this beforehand. I am inclined to think the Great Lord of all will incline the Lord Chancellor[2] to give it you. If it should be so I shall rejoice and congratulate you, because I shall have no doubt but your presentation to it comes from on High. If it shall prove otherwise, I shall endeavour not to sigh and say, ‘What a pity!’ because in that case I shall have as little doubt, that it was upon the whole better for you to miss it. I can reason and judge pretty well, in the affairs of other believers, and rest satisfied, that, if they love and serve the Lord, all their concernments, even to the number of their hairs, are admirably adjusted by Infinite Wisdom and love to their best advantage. The application of my own principles to my own concernments is quite a different thing. Often I find myself sadly awkward at it. But I can do it, when the Lord enables me. If I could do it always alike, I should perhaps forget that the power was wholly His, and dream of some sufficiency in myself. Therefore it is a mercy, that I am at times left to feel my own weakness. For I should never believe, that I am half so vile or so weak as I am, merely by being told it, or by reading my character in the Scripture, if I did not actually find it so by experience. The Lord, who knows my frame, graciously deals with me accordingly. He will not lay a load for a giant on a child's shoulders. Therefore my trials are comparatively small; if I had more faith, perhaps He would appoint me greater. But small as they are, under the smallest of them I should faint without His supporting hand.
I feel some desire to visit Leicester, and have some thoughts of asking His leave to come to you, if we all live to the Spring.[3] But why should I look so far forward? How many unforeseen events will take place, before the cheerful Spring returns! He knows them all, though I do not. And if it be His will to lead me to Leicester, He will appoint the time and prepare my way. To Him I wish to commit, resign and entrust all. How lightly should we travel, if we could cast all our cares upon Him! I preach enough upon this subject to others to make me ashamed of myself, and, if He were strict to mark what is amiss, to condemn me out of my own mouth.
I shall hope to hear from you before long, and then I shall be a letter in your debt. Dinner is coming; business of that importance you know often makes us suddenly shut up our books and lay by our papers; it now constrains me in much haste to subscribe myself,—Dear Sir, your affectionate friend and servant,
Olney, October 22, 1778 John Newton
*    The Evangelical Register, 1838; page 529, No. 19

[1] John Simmonds, vicar of St Mary’s, died 29 August 1778 aged 57. Within a few days, Robinson applied for his post. But the position was held under sequestration for 4 months.
[2] St Mary’s was in the patronage of the Lord Chancellor. Edward Thurlow (1731-1806) had been appointed Lord Chancellor in the summer recess of parliament in 1778, following the (somewhat reluctant) resignation of Henry Bathurst, 2nd Earl Bathurst (1714-1794) that July.
[3] The Newtons did visit Leicester for 3 weeks in April/May 1779. Newton reported from there to Thornton: “We are busy everyday breaking bread from house to house.  So it must be.  Friends are very kind and their invitations not to be slighted, but a daily round of visiting is not quite pleasant.” 13 April 1779


Marylynn Rouse, 29/05/2015