John Newton to Thomas Robinson

23. 20 September 1785*
My Dear Friend
It is as you say. We love each other; we would gladly meet or write often, but our Lord, to whom we both belong, has appointed us different situations and business of His, which sometimes leaves us but little leisure to gratify our private personal inclinations. I feel that neither time, nor absence, nor silence weaken my affection for you; and I simply and readily believe, that your kind­ness for me is not lessened by my not seeing you, and not often writing. However, if I mistake not, I had the last word, till this letter by Mrs Buxton[1] brought me again in your debt. When it came, I was at Southampton. Mrs Newton went the be­ginning of August with our dear sick Eliza,[2] of whom I suppose you have heard. I could not follow her till the 6th instant. I spent a few pleasant days there, and we all came home on the 16th; then I found your letter. Thank you for it. Our child is very poorly; but the Lord does all things well, and will, I trust do well by her. May He give us grace to praise Him for our many mercies, and sub­mission to His will under all trials!

I finished preaching on the Oratorio[3] in July; and all the time I can save is employed in preparing for the press. There will be fifty sermons, of which I have transcribed thirty-three. If I can get the other seventeen done in the course of the winter, so as to publish about Easter, it will be as much as I can expect. For sometimes I can scarcely write a page in a week—sometimes I can, in the same space, write two sermons, just as necessary affairs will permit. I have likewise the idea of a preface, which will be of some length; but I think the whole will be comprised in two moderate volumes. I am glad to hear that you will have a curate on your own account, as I have often feared you would be overdone. And I am glad likewise for myself, as it will make your coming to London more proba­ble. My heart, house, and pulpit, will throw their doors wide open to you. You will let me know when you are coming, a little while beforehand. I shall be glad to introduce you to our Eclectic Society, which cannot be unless you are proposed at previous meeting.
Leicester is likely to be quite out of my reach. I keep no curate, supplies are difficult, travelling very expensive, if Mrs Newton and I go together, and we do not like to be separate, without an evident needs-be for it. Time was—but time flies. I am now growing oldish, and it does not quite suit me to scamper much about, and my station and service here is such, that I cannot with satisfaction to my mind, be often from the spot, where like a centinel I am placed. I have not been at Olney these two years. Our dear child was sent to the salt water by the physicians, and this determined our route. Leicester is a place to which my incli­nation would often travel with wings; but we must yield to the calls of duty; and the leadings of our Lord's providence. While the cloud rests, I wish to remain still—when the cloud moves I wish to follow its motion, for I do not like the thought of travelling in such a wilderness as this world without a guide : lest if I attempt to make a path for myself, I should miss my way, and wander into thickets of unknown consequences. I thank you for your little essay on preaching. You have stated the point with clearness and candour. Something may be said on both sides; but I think the most for extempore, supposing the provisoes you mention, and avoiding what you would guard against. What we say is usually plainer, warmer, and more pointed than what we read—but the great fault is when we would make other people wear our shoes, without considering the size and shape of their feet. Let not him that speaketh despise him that readeth; and let not him that readeth, judge him that speaketh. Let each use his liberty, and allow to his brother the liberty which he claims for himself.
We join in our love to you and Mrs Robinson. The Lord bless you and your children. My love is with all who love the Lord with you. Our particular friends you will salute as usual in our name.—I am indeed, yours affectionately
Sept. 20, 1785       John Newton
*    The Evangelical Register, 1838; page 187, No. 5  


[1] Regrettably not enough to establish who “Mrs Buxton” may be
[2] Eliza Cunningham (1771-1785), daughter of Mary Newton’s sister Elizabeth Cunningham, qv, was the last remaining member of her family. The Newtons adopted their orphaned niece. When she came to live with them in Charles Square, Hoxton, she already had TB. Their doctor recommended sea-bathing, which took them to Southampton. Eliza seemed to recover for a while, but died at the age of fourteen. Newton wrote an account of her life and death with them, A Monument to the praise of the Lord’s goodness, and to the memory of dear Eliza Cunningham, first published as a Tract for private distribution in November 1785.  Eliza was buried by Newton on 12 October 1785 at St Mary Woolnoth. [link]
[3] Handel’s Messiah, cf comments 18 Sept 1784, 13 Feb 1786, 13 Apr 1786



Marylynn Rouse, 09/07/2015