(a) John Newton to Elizabeth Cuningham


5 March 1779
[ms begins here with no initial greeting - perhaps 2 pages missing]

... [at] bottom they are really gracious, and do belong to the Lord, will see sooner or later to their great regret, what invaluable opportunities of communication with him, and of glorifying him in the sight of the world, they have foolishly and sinfully lost. Then such a word as Isaiah 48:18 will fill them with regret. ‘Oh that thou hadst hearkened unto me, then had thy peace been like a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea.’ Then thou he mercifully forgives them they will hardly know how to forgive themselves.

These observations, which I trust are not directly applicable to you, are the result of my own sorrowful experience. Such a poor, inconsistent, unfaithful creature have I too often been. I have lived below my privileges, and have often through my own default walked mournfully, when the Gospel called me to rejoice. I have repeatedly found, that though all the innumerable evils which are the inseparable fruits of a corrupt nature, have not broken my peace, yet such trifles as I should be ashamed to name to a fellow creature have frequently done it. How much ingratitude, folly and treachery I have been guilty of towards my best friend and benefactor, how much I have smarted for them, and how much more I have deserved to suffer, is only known to him, who alone could have borne with me.

The children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light. Observe what the world calls a thriving man. To what is his success owing? To his diligence and perseverance. He is all of a piece. From the beginning to the end of the week, from the beginning to the end of the year, he is the same person, and acts always consistently with himself. The desire of gain is his leading motive, and to this he makes every other desire subservient. He will abridge himself of his pleasures, abstain from the company he most loves, and practise a thousand instances of self-denial, rather than withdraw his attention from business. He will not forego a profitable bargain today, because he expects to make another tomorrow, but he will seize both. And whatever else is neglected or omitted, his shop or his counting-house are sure of his attendance. So far as we prosecute our spiritual business with a like industry we may comfortably hope for a like success. The blessing of the Lord and the hand of the diligent, must both concur if we would be rich. Rich in faith, grace, peace and usefulness. And were it as easy to practise this diligence, as it is to recommend it, I should soon be in a more thriving state than I am. Yet I hope upon the whole this is my desire and endeavour.

I have now in the press a volume of Hymns, [1] which I hope will be published some weeks before Whitsuntide. When you write next let me know how I may send you a parcel of them.

I hope my Dear will be able and find time to write a little to you herself. Betsy is still at Northampton, she was well the other day. I will put her in mind soon of writing her cousin Susy, and when she does, I will transmit the letter. I purpose writing to my Brother in the frank. Shall conclude at present with my love to our Aunt, the children and Miss Cowie.

With my prayers that the blessing of the Lord may rest upon you all, and with an assurance that I am most sincerely,

Your very affectionate Brother

John Newton
Olney ye 5 March 1779

(b) Mary [Polly] Newton to Elizabeth Cuningham

[punctuation hard to re-assign and sequence uncertain]

My dear Sister

You mentioned sending Susey to school and if you continue in the same mind I must speak to Mrs Trinder, [2] as they have more apply than they can receive. My dear has wrote already what I could say. I have been lately troubled with I believe a biliary complaint or indigestion, which is troublesome while it lasts. But the Lord has been pleased to relieve me once and again. May the life he has spared be more devoted to his service. May I sit more loose to all below and fix my thoughts on things above. Duty to my dear aunt, love to Brother and children. I am my dearest Sister

Most affectionately yours
M Newton
Pray remember Sally’s locket [3]

[1] Olney Hymns, 1779
[2] Martha Trinder, née Smith (1736-1790) ran a girls’ boarding school in Northampton. Her husband Thomas (1740-1794) was a deacon at John Ryland’s church in College Lane (from 1777). He had been an usher at Ryland’s academy. Betsy Catlett later attended Mrs Trinder’s school. Newton often preached to the children of both schools.
[3] Sally Johnson was one of the Newton’s servants. A letter from Newton to her was published in Cardiphonia.

Lambeth Palace Library, MS 3096, ff 66-67

Marylynn Rouse, 20/08/2019