Some Account of


Written by his Mother


Our dear boy was born January 23, 1765. He was always a dutiful child, and on every occasion discovered an affectionate kind disposition, with a fear of offending God or man. He was very circumspect in his conversa­tion, and would reprove any light talk, if it had the least appearance of un­truth. He very early showed a pious disposition, being fond of divine wor­ship, public or private. He was twelve months with my dear sister and her husband, [2] a minister of the established Church of England, in the year 1768. Soon after he came home to us, he asked, why we had not prayers as often as at his uncle's, and expressed his liking their way best. I think this early impression upon his mind of a holy life, was, with God's blessing, owing to their good example and in­structions. No weather ever detained him from church. He was always happy to go to church or meeting every opportunity, which would sometimes offer four or five times in a week, when he seldom failed to bring home the text, and part of the sermon.
From six years of age he suffered much by a complaint in his foot, which never healed. Many painful experi­ments were tried, all which he bore with uncommon patience and fortitude. About the end of November, 1776, he complained of growing weaker than usual, and tired with little walking or exercise, but could not be prevailed upon to stay from school, without visi­ble uneasiness. We thought it better to comply with his inclination, on his promising not to get too many lessons at a time, as his master told me he thought he did; for indulgence he had as much at school as at home; but his decline came on so fast, as soon to incapacitate him from going anywhere. The 11th of December he was so weak and tender, we thought he could not go to church [3] without hazard of getting cold. Several days before, he seemed very desirous to go on that day, it being appointed for a general fast on account of our Ameri­can war. The Lord enabled him to go that day. The Sunday following, was the last time, though he had no reason to think he got harm by it. On the evening of the fast-day I read to him Dr Young's Poem on the Last Day; [4] he seemed to hear me with great satisfaction. Miss C[Cowie] [5] seemed greatly affected with part of it; and said, she hoped I would not read any more of it; I said, I thought it very extraordi­nary she could not bear to hear a truth, which we must all sooner or later experience; our dear boy said it was very hard we must all be deprived of the pleasure of hearing the Last Day, because it was disagreeable to Miss C who recovered her spirits a little, and I read on.
Christmas-day, by his desire, he and I read the whole service of the day as in the Common Prayer Book. He took great delight in reading his Bible which of late was seldom out of his hand at leisure opportunities. After Christmas-day he grew so weak as to be seldom able to read, but desired me to read to him. It was chiefly Mat­thew Henry's Exposition of the Old and New Testament. [6] The part I hap­pened to be reading was Jeremiah; he said it was not only instructive, but amusing. [7]
During all his illness he was pious, patient and grateful; said many affec­tionate and endearing things to me, such as, that he was afraid he could never make us amends for the trouble and expense he caused. Once, upon my asking him if he was easy, he answered, he ought not to complain when his papa and I were so good to him. I do not remember ever to have heard him bemoan himself but once; he seemed much concerned that I heard him, and said he could not help it, his pain was so great. When I asked if he was easier, he said, No, but was better enabled to bear it; soon after he said, I desire to be thankful, and be you so for me, that I feel myself much better than I was. At other times he would say, what a mercy he considered it to be so well supplied, while many poor creatures in the world wanted the common ne­cessaries of life. He would wonder how it happened that everybody was so kind to him, and more, that all his school-fellows should, who were so playful, for he was a poor useless crea­ture among them, that could not do as they did.  He said he thought it far better to be lame, than to be permitted to become wicked.
What I have written was not all said at one time, but as nearly his own words as possible, having, by Miss C's desire, wrote them down soon af­ter they were spoken.
For some months before his death, he would regularly withdraw, about an hour before his bed-time, to pray, though ever so dark, without a candle — I suppose for privacy, for he was very shy of any one knowing it. I once listened at his door, and was sur­prised at the fervency and devotion he seemed to express. After his ill­ness confined him to his chamber, he frequently desired me to leave him alone: when I returned, he would at times express great thankfulness that he had been enabled to pray, without being prevented by pain or cough; when otherwise he would be much concerned for his inability, and desire me to pray for him. He had not been out of his chamber since the last day of the year, which is now eighteen days; during which time he was never heard to complain or repine, but continually offered up praises and thanksgivings for God's mercies. He had always peculiar pleasure and satis­faction when our minister came to con­verse and pray with him. He never forgot to desire I would send a note to church for him to be prayed for. When I said I pitied him, he said ‘O Mamma, you make too much of me.’ January 18, 1777, while I was reading, he said the first verse of the 103rd Psalm had been much in his mind the night before, repeating the words ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul,’ etc. He died the 22nd, retaining his senses to the last, and speaking with concern for the fatigue he thought I suffered on his account.
The underneath is a copy of what was written and signed, by himself in his pocket-book.
I take God the Father to be my chief good and highest end;
I take God the Son to be my Prince and Saviour;
I take God the Holy Ghost to be my Sanctifier, Teacher, Guide, and Comforter;
I take the word of God to be my rule in all my actions;
and the people of God to be my people in all conditions;
I do like­wise devote and dedicate unto the Lord my whole self,
all I am, all I have, and all I can do;
and this I do deliberately, sincerely, and for ever. [8]
February 24, 1777

[1] Elizabeth (Eliza) Catlett married James Cunningham at St Mary’s, Chatham, Kent on 5 March 1764.
[2] Elizabeth’s sister was Mary (alias Polly), John Newton’s wife. Unfortunately the location of Newton’s diary for 1768 is not known.
[3] Pittarthie was in the parish of Dunino, whose minister from 1773 was Alexander Brodie (1745-1804)
[4] Edward Young (1683-1765), A Poem on the Last Day (1713), dedicated to Queen Anne.
[5] Miss Cowie seems to have been a companion to the family. Her identity is not known. In London at this time there was a prominent Christian merchant Robert Cowie of the Scotch Church, London Wall, who was a founder Director of the London Missionary Society, formed in 1795.He was on several other committees such as the Religious Tract Society and the British and Foreign Bible Society.
[6] Matthew Henry, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, 6 vols, (1708–10).
[7] ‘amusing’ here means ‘interesting’ – entertaining the mind rather than our present sense of being something to laugh about.
[8] Philip Henry (Mathew’s brother) encouraged his own children to say these words from the heart every Sunday evening.