John Newton to Thomas Robinson

2. 3 May 1776*
My Dear Sir

Mr Venn says, he goes by Leicester, and therefore I must send a line.[1] I believe I should have written sooner, but I have somehow mislaid your letter; it is not lost, but I cannot yet recover it, and therefore cannot answer par­ticulars. When it comes in my way, I shall perhaps put you to the expense of a letter per post.

I think the last news I had of you was by Mr Rennard. We were glad to hear that you were well, and Mrs Robinson better than when you wrote. The Lord is gracious. The afflictions, which He sends to prove our faith, bring with them new proofs of His faithfulness. He supports, He sanctities, He delivers. Trials excite prayer, prayer hastens relief: relief produces praise, and encourages us to pray again; Psalm 116:2.[2]

The Antinomians,[3] I remember your letter mentioned, are troublesome neigh­bours; but the Lord will make them useful to you. They will help you to take heed to yourself, your doctrine, and your flock, and will constrain you (though I trust it was your purpose) to try everything by the unerring Standard, that you mean to deliver from the pulpit. It is not pleasant, but it is safe and profitable, for a minister to know, that amongst his hearers there are some curious spirits who are waiting to wrest his words. Had we none but friends to speak to, we might become careless and superficial, and think they would accept anantos [4] as a sufficient reason for anything; but enemies make us look about us. I trust the Lord will help you simply and patiently to declare the truth, which I believe is a far better way of refuting error, than by expressly engaging in controversies against it.

I hope I shall think of you on Tuesday, when I understand you are to preach the Visitation Sermon.[5] This service was certainly of the Lord's appointment, as it seems to cross the usual rule of confining it to beneficed clergy. May He fill your heart and mouth, and make it a blessed season of grace to many.
As I said, this is only a note to tell you I do not forget you. I hope to write again; but if you should prevent me first by another letter, it will be doing me a kindness that will not be lost upon me.

Our love to Mrs Robinson and Miss Boys, if with you, and I beg you to present our affectionate respects to Mr and Mrs Miles,[6] and all our kind Leicester friends. May grace and peace be with you, and may the Word of the Lord from your mouth be a seed of life to many; that you may see Leicester, lately a wilderness, flourish like a garden of the Lord's planting.

I am, my dear Sir, your affectionate Friend and Brother,
Olney, May 3, 1776 John Newton
*    The Evangelical Register, 1839; page 28, No. 21  

[1] Henry Venn (1725-1797), rector of Yelling, near Cambridge. Newton’s diary, 2 May 1776: “In the evening dear Mr Venn came and preached from Romans 14:8.”
[2] Psalm 116:2 Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, herefore will I call upon him as long as I live.
[3] Antinomian: literally “against the law”. Antinomians consider that since salvation is by grace alone, they are released from any obligation to obey the moral law.
[4] antos:  “He has spoken” – or (more emphatic) “He himself has spoken” (with thanks to Alec Motyer)
[5] The parochial visitation of Archdeacon James Bickham (1719-1785) to Leicester would have been on 7 May 1776. Leicester Record Office state: “Amongst these church inspection books and papers there is a collection of papers relating to the parochial visitations made by Archdeacon James Bickham 1775-1779 [our ref 1D41/18/21 p1-296]. There may also be something relating to the visitation amongst the churchwardens’ presentments for 1776 [1D41/41/21] although this is more likely to concern detections of matters in the parish requiring correction rather than a reference to the sermon.”
[6] Newton’s Diary, 23 March 1775: “…drank tea and supped with Mr Miles, a gentleman of good fortune who, with his wife, love the gospel, and are a great comfort to Mr Robinson.”  Subscribers to the new organ erected in St Martin’s in 1774 include Mr Alderman Miles and Samuel Miles Esq.


Marylynn Rouse, 04/06/2015