John Newton to Thomas Robinson

28. 23 February 1789*
My Dear Friend
Soon after the receipt of your second letter, I showed them both to Mr Clarke, [1] who was detained in Lincolnshire much longer than was ex­pected. His looks while reading them, and his language afterwards, was such as I should expect, from a person conscious that he was unjustly charged, and who at the same time felt in his heart strong cause of thankfulness to the Lord, that the charges were not grounded.
I wished him to write to you; he promised he would. I have been some time waiting for his letter to enclose it, but I know he has been exceedingly hurried, between his attendance upon the Society, the Bishops, Doctors, &c. on one side, and the India house and procuring the necessaries for his voyage on the other side.
This morning, however, he sent me the letter, and I hasten to enclose it to you.
From the first intimation you gave me, I have watched his conduct, spirit, and conversation, at least I did for a time. My friends, Mr and Mrs Neale,[2] desired me when he came to London, to make their house his home. There he has been six weeks; they have seen him, as we say, early and late, and in various circum­stances. He is much beloved and approved by the family. All our brethren, who know him, like him, particularly the eclectics; he spent one evening with us, and the question (on his account) was on the subject of the best methods of pro­moting the Gospel cause in the East Indies.[3] I enclose a note he sent me the next day.
He has preached several times in London with much acceptance, yesterday for me from Psalm 119:117; and he preached not only the Truth but the Life.
Upon the whole, I cannot doubt, but Mr Clarke has been most grossly tra­duced in Lincolnshire—that your friend was hurt by misrepresentations.
Nor have I any doubt in my own mind, that he is a very proper person for the mission, and that Mr Browne[4] will be very glad of him for an associate. He is a scholar, sensible, simple, humble, and of an active spirit, and seems to have a good knowledge of the human heart, and of his own.
Miss Catlett through the Lord's goodness is nearly well, not quite strong yet, but gains strength apace. She was at church for the first time on the 8th instant, in the evening. I preached a thanksgiving sermon for her from Psalm 116:1,2.[5] And last night, (being assured of the fact from undoubted authority) without wait­ing for orders from our superiors, I preached a thanksgiving sermon for the king's recovery, from Psalm 126:3.[6] Oh! what hath God wrought! How important, how unexpected, how critical, was His interposition! and how conspicuous to all who have eyes to see! He has taken the wise in their own craftiness; they might have had their wish a month ago, if they had not been permitted to counteract their own purposes![7]
Tell it abroad in Leicester, that the Lord reigneth; may His kingdom spread in your heart, family, ministry, and in mine. We join in sincere love to you and Mrs Robinson.    
I am yours, indeed,
23rd February, 1789
[6 Coleman Street Buildings]     
  John Newton
Mr Clarke may possibly leave London in ten or twelve days.  
*    The Evangelical Register, 1839; page 141, No. [-]  


[1] Abraham Thomas Clarke (1755-1805), first SPCK missionary to India (nominated by Newton) - cf 14 Jan 1789
[2] James and Elizabeth Neale, of St Paul’s Churchyard, where James worked on the administrative side of the pottery company Neale & Co. and Wilson, producing “Neale figures”. Newton helped establish a prayer meeting in their home at the height of the French Revolution disturbances. He also held a weekly lecture in their home. Their son Samuel Neale became curate at St Martin’s Leicester in 1806.
[3] This question was discussed at the Eclectic Society on 16 February 1789. Thomas Scott declared: “To live is Christ – Expect temptation, bribes and threats. Preach much about regeneration and conversion. Christ the centre; but there is a large circumference. Different modes of address, in different circumstances, and to different characters. Henry Foster considered: “It requires much grace to be a Christian, more for a minister, most for a missionary.” A passage was obtained for Clarke on the Houghton, Captain James Munro – with some difficulty, as all accommodation was already accounted for, and additional payment had to be made to persuade one of the mates to surrender his cabin to Clarke.
[4] David Brown (1763-1812), formerly of Magdalen College, Cambridge, became Senior Chaplain of the East-India Company in Bengal.
[5] Psalm 116:1,2 I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications. Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.
[6] Psalm 126:3 The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.
[7] In January 1789 a controversial Regency Bill was passed in the Commons, aiming to authorise the Prince of Wales to act as Regent in place of his father. However, by the end of February 1789 George III’s physicians had announced his recovery, averting the crisis and prompting much cause for thanksgiving.



Marylynn Rouse, 16/07/2015