John Newton to Thomas Robinson

1. 2 June 1781*
My Dear Friend
When there is a willing mind, the intention I hope will be accepted, if ability should be wanting. The time of my long proposed emigration is at hand; and if the Lord please, we set out for Bedford on Monday morning; from thence we move to Newport on Friday, to Olney on Saturday next. I have a hundred times over annexed to the idea of this journey the pleasing thought of pushing on to Leicester, a thought too pleasing for me to give it up quite; yet it appears, now the time draws near, attended with so many difficulties, as to be almost an uncertainty whether it can take place. My time will be short, and the situation of things at Olney[1] such, as will, in all likelihood, require my stay with the people there, as much as possible. This I ought to have considered, before I too much indulged myself in anticipating the pleasure I proposed in seeing Leicester again. In brief, the purport of this is to tell you, that, if I can come I will; but I suspect it will not be in my power to do it. But I think you shall hear farther from me, when I am at my head quarters.
I have gone on upon the whole comfortably, and am still favoured with my usual health: Mrs Newton is sometimes pretty well, and sometimes but poorly. If she should be indisposed while abroad, that circumstance alone would be a sufficient embargo; for she is not able to bear much hurrying about, nor could I leave her behind me.
I know not what I write, being in the midst of company, and frequently upon the point of penning down what I am speaking or hearing, which would make a strange medley in a letter to you. This I can and will say, that I love you dearly, and my other friends in Leicester, and do certainly long to see you, whether my longing be gratified or not.
It is a mercy that all our movements are under a superior direction, and that, if we can resign ourselves to be guided by Him, He will so forward or overrule our purposes, by the secret influence of His providence, as to be where He, to whom all events and consequences are known, sees it best upon the whole we should be. If He has anything for me to do or to receive at Leicester, He will open my way thither; if duty appoints otherwise, I must pray for grace to say, “Not my will but Thine be done.”
There is no doubt, but the first servants and followers of our Lord loved each other dearly, and would have been glad to have spent much of their time together; but His service, which was dearer and more important to them than their own personal gratification, would not admit of it. I suppose, after the apostles went forth upon their public work, they seldom saw each other: they were dispersed East, West, North and South. But He was equally near and with them all. And if they met not upon earth, they soon met in heaven, and have been happy ever since. There we likewise hope to be united with each other; with them and with Him, in a manner unspeakably better than anything we can form a con­ception of. I shall try to comfort myself with this thought, if I should be pre­vented visiting you.
My visit to Bedford cannot be put off, principally because Mrs Barham[2] is ill of an illness which will undoubtedly terminate in her death. And if we see her not soon, we cannot expect to see her at all in this world. It would add to my trial, if your journey to London should take place while we are abroad: but we still ought to hope and believe, that all things are nigh. But we still ought to hope and believe that all things are right. [sic] I must be in London by the end of June; my sup­plies will be for no longer, and if they could be procured, I ought not to be longer from Mary Woolnoth. With our sincere love to Mrs Robinson,
I remain, very sincerely, your affectionate friend and servant,
Charles Square, Hoxton, June 2, 1781        John Newton
*    The Evangelical Register, 1838; page 530, No. 20  


[1] Thomas Scott was being given a hard time by the parishioners. See also subsequent letters No. 17 dated 30 June 1781 and No. 18 dated 16 August 1782.
[2] Dorothy Foster-Barham (1721-1781), Newton’s very good Moravian friend, at whose home he had often stayed. She was the sister of Admiral John Vaughan (c.1713-1789) of Trecwn and wife of Joseph (1729-1789). Newton described his visit to Jane Flower: “Our pleasure at Bedford was like some strains of music in a flat key and a plaintive style. It was mournfully sweet. Mrs. Barham is one of the most amiable and most spiritual women I know … her whole deportment was so calm, cheerful and heavenly, that if an angel could be sick, I might compare her to a sick angel. … She exerted herself to come down stairs more or less every day while we stayed; but has not been below since we came away.” A few months later he wrote to William Bull: “Yes, dear Mrs Barham is gone home. She lived honourably and died peaceably. Were I to preach a funeral sermon, I should say but little about her; but I would make the people stare, if I could, by telling them what a wonderful Friend she had; one who paid all her debts, and was so attentive to her that his eye was never off her by night or day for a long number of years; one who, by looking at her, could sweeten her pains, renew her strength, and fill her with wisdom, grace and peace. She is gone to see her best Friend; and I hope, one day to see her with him.”



Marylynn Rouse, 30/06/2015