John Newton to Thomas Robinson

8. 14 May 1779*
My Dear Friend
This is to travel as far as Milton[1] in a frank, to inform you of the Lord's goodness in leading us home in safety to dinner on Saturday last,[2] as we proposed, and giving us the comfort of finding all well on our return. My people spoke with comfort and thankfulness of the supplies I procured for them in my absence, and will be very glad to see you and Dr Ford[3] hereafter.
One of the horses fell between your town and Harborough,[4] but through mercy we received no damage ; and the Lord was so good, that Mrs Newton, who often fears without any apparent cause, was composed and very little hurried, when danger was to me very visible;—for we were going apace, the man fell under the horse and lost the reins of the other out of his hand, and it was almost miraculous that he could exert himself, so as to recover it and stop the other horse. Had he gone on a step or two further, the chaise must have inevitably been over. We were out and in again in a few minutes, and pursued the rest of our journey without any alarm.
Our late visit to Leicester has furnished us with much matter of thankful recol­lection, both to the Lord and to our friends, who were so kind to us for His sake. We repeat our thanks to you and to them all. I have many reasons to wish for such another opportunity and holiday in future, if I am spared; and whenever I can stir abroad, if left to my own choice, it would be no wonder if I should always give a preference to Leicestershire.
I am now getting into my old track by degrees, for I cannot recover it all at once. It is a mercy, that, notwithstanding the kind treatment I meet with abroad, I always feel a pleasure at returning home. This is my place, and here I love to be; but this is owing to the Lord's goodness; otherwise I should soon grow weary of it, and imagine something desirable in a change.
Though the Lord was very gracious to me when with you, and did not put me to shame, my spirit was generally dry and dissipated. Excursions and a change of objects have their use at times; but retirement is, upon the whole, best for the inward life. I know not how I could stand it long, to live in a continual bustle; though, if I were called to it, the Lord could support me.[5] But I have reason to be thankful for my present lot. I wish I could more feelingly assure you that I am so.
Mr Collins[6] left word, that he was much pleased with his call here. The people were likewise glad to hear him, though in some points I believe he is rather above them. From the account I hear, he seemed to preach his own experience; spoke well of the privilege and effects of the indwelling of the Spirit of God, but had little to say of the exercises of those who feel themselves burthened with indwelling sin. We beg you to remember us affectionately to our friends. Please to remember that you are a letter and a long visit in my debt. Pray for us.
Believe me to be affectionately yours,
Olney, May 14, 1779 John Newton
*    The Evangelical Register, 1838; page 482, No. 18

[1] Perhaps this was incorrectly transcribed, and should have been Melton, i.e. Melton Mowbray, where their mutual friend Dr Thomas Ford was rector? Ford (and Robinson) had been relieving Newton at Olney in his absence.
[2] Newton’s diary, 8 May 1779: “Returned to dinner from my journey into Leicestershire …Thy work seems to flourish at Leicester. Many seekers, not a few who have found thee, and rejoice in thee. One happy soul I visited, who (though a young convert) in the midst of extreme poverty and illness, appeared entirely resigned to thy will, freed from desire and care, and living in the very suburbs of heaven. O that I could learn from her, and feel myself wholly satisfied with thy love and care.”
“During my absence Mr Robinson and Dr Ford supplied each a Sunday for me with much acceptance to the people. Mr Collins likewise called and preached once. The other services were performed by Mr Jones and Scott.”
[3] Thomas Ford (1742-1821) had been a friend of Newton’s for many years, hosting him when in London. In December 1773 he was instituted to the living of Melton Mowbray, an extensive parish, thought he did not live there until several months later. Newton’s diary, 6 September 1774: “Dr Ford &c left us yesterday. He now goes to settle where the Lord has called him in his providence, at Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire, a very dark place. May they soon rejoice in the light.”
[4] Market Harborough
[5] Before the end of the year, Newton would be called to live in the hustle and bustle of London as rector of St Mary Woolnoth for 28 years.
[6] Bryan Bury Collins (1754-1807). In Newton’s Works, under Cardiphonia, see ‘Five letters to Mr. C****’. Collins changed his surname to Bury in 1799 on inheriting the estate from his maternal uncle Thomas Bury.


Marylynn Rouse, 18/06/2015