John Newton to Elizabeth Cuningham


10 December 1771

Mrs Cunningham
at Mr Eaton’s Academy [1]
Little Tower Street
My dear Sister

It would have given me much pleasure to have seen you in London, but my journey was very sudden and my stay short. I should have been glad to have heard that the dear little boy’s complaint [with] his leg was quite removed – but I hope the delay will prove for good, and that he will ere long be well enough to come to Olney, where he has an Uncle and Aunt and many friends who will be glad to see him. Pray tell him so.

The manner of your letter, which expresses so much resignation to the will to God in a concern which must doubtless lie very near your heart (as indeed it does to ours) gives me great satisfaction. Oh Sister if you can cast all your cares upon him, you shall surely find that he careth for you. And if you do it at all, I know you will do it in a Gospel way, as a sinner believing in the name of Jesus, indeed it can be done in no other. There is no other way in which we can draw near to God with confidence so as to feel that we do put our trust in him, but by faith in the Redeemer. And this way is safe and sure. Thus we obtain a right in his promises, to be a very present help in time of trouble, and that all things shall work together for good. Because you depend on the skill and care of the Surgeon you put your child into his hands without reserve, and when he applies a caustic you do [not] complain, because you believe that though it may be painful, it is necessary. I consider you something in the same light. I know I love you and therefore I have a heart to sympathize with you in every trouble, yet I feel a joy at the same. You likewise have need of healing, I trust you know it, I think I see with pleasure that the Great Physician whose skill and compassion are infinite, has begun to take your case in hand; be not afraid to trust him; though some of his prescriptions and appointments may be painful, they are all salutary; he will not apply the caustic any farther, or continue it any longer, than he sees it absolutely necessary. Afflictions in his hands are blessings, and when he is pleased to sanctify them we shall in due time have as much cause to thank him for these, as for those dispensations which are most agreeable to our wishes. I hope I shall not forget to pray for you, and I hope he will give you liberty to pray for yourself, and to come boldly to a throne of grace to obtain mercy and to find grace to help in every time of need.

I shall be glad if you have opportunity to spend a little time with dear Mrs Clunie. [2] She I doubt not can tell you from her own experience that it is good for her to have been afflicted. Her trials have not been light, but she has been supported under them, and will I am persuaded say, The Lord has done all things well. He conversation will I hope be both agreeable and profitable to you, as likewise Mr Brewer, who loves you both for our sake and for your own. And I trust his preaching will revive in your mind a sense of what you herd amongst us at Olney. You came to London principally on the account of the child, but perhaps the Lord had a farther and more important view in bringing you there, of which the other was only the occasion.  He suits his providences to answer the purposes of his grace. I wish you avail yourself of the opportunity, in directing your attention and enquiry to the One thing needful,[3]  in which you can meet but little help at Rochester. Pray give my best love to Mr Cuningham and all the family when you write, and let us hear from you soon. I hope you will inform us that he and they and both your children are well in your absence. Thank him for the books, which I am sorry he gave himself so much trouble about. I suppose Polly will tell you how they may be sent.

The Bell rings for me [4] and the paper is almost full, so shall only add that I am

Your very affectionate and obliged brother

John Newton

Olney 10 December 1771
[in Polly’s hand:]

As my Dear had written, I thought it best to send it before Monday though I sent last night by Mr Palmer whose wife died when you was here. [5] I hope he will see our dear child. I wish you could come and see us with the child.

[1] Newspaper advertisement: 'R Eaton, Academy, Little Tower Street: Young gentlemen are boarded, and taught writing, accounts, mathematics, and languages, to qualify them for trades, the Merchant’s Compting House, the sea, the Army, the Public Offices, and the University.'
[2] Jane Clunie, widow of Capt Alexander Clunie of Fife, who had died the previous year. Clunie had been a spiritual great help to Newton when they met in St Kitts in 1754. They remained firm friends. After retiring as a merchant sea captain, Clunie became a wharfinger at Smart’s Quay, with his home at 74 Mark Lane. See The Christian Correspondent, John Newton, 1790.
[3] Luke 10:42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
[4] 10 December 1771 was a Tuesday, so probably the church bell rang to call people to the prayer meeting at the Great House.
[5] Elizabeth, wife of John Palmer, was buried at Olney on 23 September 1770.

Lambeth Palace Library, MS 3096, ff 58-59

Marylynn Rouse, 20/08/2019