John Newton to Elizabeth Cuningham


28 March 1772

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

Polly reminds me that Mr Samples [2] goes to London on Monday and would have me write to you by him. I need little persuasion to it, only I am something at a loss, what to offer, as your last letter has not furnished me with any new hints. Yet I gather from it, that the Lord is still graciously drawing your heart to himself and I would not miss any opportunity of encouraging you to wait on him, till he shall be pleased to favour you with a full and clear manifestation of his goodness. And the rather, as I suppose when you are at Greenwich, you find a want of those assistances which you enjoyed when at Stepney.

I am glad to find that you have still hopes of the child’s recovery. May the Lord, the good and infallible Physician confirm them. But though I love him dearly, it gives me still more pleasure to observe your submission and patience as to this event, and under your long confinement from home.

Many things are in their places desirable if the Lord sees fit to indulge us with them, but One thing alone is Needful, [3] and that is to know our acceptance in the Beloved. If this is secured we may under all the trials of life cheerfully adopt the words of David and say, Although my house be not so with God, yet he has made with me a covenant ordered in all things and sure, and this is all my salvation and all my desire. [4] May this my dear Sister be your aim and attainment. And how encouraging are the Redeemer’s words, Ask and you shall receive, seeks and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you. The blessed Gospel is suited to the case of a poor sinner who has nothing of his own to plead but misery. The blessing is given, Not for works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy. He makes us sensible that we can do nothing to deserve it, and then he shows us that nothing is necessary on our parts, but to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, who as a public person, fulfilled the law and sustained the penalty, in behalf of all who should put their trust in him. Even this believing and trusting is beyond any power of our own, but he who died upon the Cross for our sins, and arose for our justification, is exalted to bestow that faith, repentance and remission of sins, of which we stand in need. Not only to give remission when we do repent, but to give repentance itself, and in order thereto to give us faith that we may repent, for we cannot truly and heartily repent of our sins, so as to be humbled for them, and to hate them, till we believe in him as our Saviour, who bore our sins in his own body upon the Tree. This faith at first is weak, compared to a grain of mustard seed, but he who plants it in the heart will cause it to grow – has appointed prayer, provided the Scriptures, and commanded our attendance on the preaching of the Gospel (when we have opportunity), for this purpose. Therefore seek him my Sister at the throne of Grace, and you shall find that he has not bid you seek him in vain. Read the promises, they are many, great and precious, and they are free and unconditional. Consider the testimony God has given of his Son – Who he is, What he has done and suffered, Where he is, and what he has engaged to do as the Prophet, Priest, King, Saviour and Shepherd of all who come unto God by him. And may the Holy Spirit whose peculiar office it is, to take of the things of Jesus and make them known to his people, give you a[…torn] and peace in believing. Time and paper constrain me to stop.

We join in best love

I am your affectionate brother

John Newton
Olney ye 28 March 1772
[in Polly’s hand:]

As I did not expect Mr Sample, would go to London tomorrow I did not write so have not sent my dear boy’s purse, but hope to have an opportunity very soon.

[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] Nathan Sample (1732 -1785) was a lace dealer in Olney, who travelled frequently to London with his wares. He was one of the men who led in prayers at the Tuesday night meetings in the Great House. Newton generally referred to him as ‘Samples’ whereas Polly wrote ‘Sample’.
[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] 2 Samuel 23:5 Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow. See sermon series here.

Lambeth Palace Library, MS 3096, ff 60-61

Marylynn Rouse, 20/08/2019