John Newton to Thomas Robinson

27. 14 January 1789*
My Dear Friend
I know not in what stage of dear Betsy's illness I wrote last. She was long disconsolate, long delirious; for two or three days we did not expect her life for an hour, and more than once or twice those about her thought she was dead. But the Lord, to whom belong the issues from death, has revived her; she seems to gather strength though slowly. The enemy still harasses her, but she is not overpowered. She has been brought very low; and her nerves have suffered so much, that we cannot expect a very speedy recovery.
Illness and the weather prevented Mr Clarke[1] from coming up till Saturday last. I have not yet had time to speak to him on the subject of your letter, nor am I yet determined to do it—though, perhaps, I may before he goes. I sent you his first letter to me; I now send you his last. I cannot discern the thoughts and in­tents of the heart; but, according to the best rules I can collect from Scripture and observation for forming my judgment of others, I cannot but judge favourably of him. I shall give him my best advice, and pray that he may be faithful and successful.
I hope, when due allowances are made for human infirmity, the exaggeration of report, and the prejudices even of good people in a narrow sphere of life, what might justly be laid to his charge will not be found very important. When I lived at Olney, one of the best women I ever knew was not a little hurt by finding me one day playing upon the German flute; so strong was the connection in her mind between music, and dancing and drinking; for probably she had never seen them separated. I knew his father's character and views for his son, which, so far as his influence prevailed, would probably urge him to more acquaintance with polite people than he might otherwise choose. It must be left with the Lord; for, after he was approved and appointed by the Society and warmly patronised by the Bishop of Lincoln, it was too late to throw in difficulties upon the ground of suspicion and rumour.
Mrs Newton is pretty well; she means her love always to you and Mrs Robin­son, but does not know of my writing, for I am not willing to puzzle her with the suspicions about Mr Clarke till he is fairly gone, which, now the Lord has merci­fully broken the frost, I suppose may be within two or three weeks.
The good Lord bless us all, keep us humble, faithful and diligent, and preserve our characters from the strife of tongues! Pray and praise for us.
I am, most affectionately yours,
14 January, 1789              
[6 Coleman Street Buildings]    
  John Newton
*    The Evangelical Register, 1838; page 441, No. 16  


[1] Abraham Thomas Clarke (1755-1805), son of Newton’s neighbouring curate John Clarke in Weston Underwood while he was in Olney, was approached by Newton to go to India as a missionary. Newton had seen potential in him as a young man. Newton’s Diary, Monday 30 January 1775: "Breakfasted with Mr Higgins, where Abraham Clarke met me. He is going to Cambridge…. He seems a promising young man." Newton and Charles Simeon were working together on getting missionaries out to India to help David Brown (1763-1812). It was Newton who approached Clarke to suggest he went, as he explained to William Wilberforce,10 December 1788: “Mr Clarke, who seems a quite proper person for the service, and was unanimously approved by the Society, informed me, when I proposed the affair to him, that if the Lord pleased to make his way clear, he was willing to go – the only objection he had, was that he owed several small sums, which taken together might amount to £40 or £45, which he could not in honour or conscience leave unpaid, and that he had no resources. I answered, that if he should be appointed, I hoped that this difficulty might be obviated, and I boldly undertook to attempt to serve him in it… I esteem it a great honour, in being made the instrument of procuring a man, who I verily believe, will prove, a suitable, useful and comfortable colleague to Mr Brown – and the very remarkable and providential steps, which have led to his appointment, particularly the strong recommendation of him to the Society, by the Bishop of Lincoln (which I suppose did the business) have given me a sincere pleasure."



Marylynn Rouse, 15/07/2015