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The John Newton Project
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Eclectic Society

6 July 1789 - 9 February 1795

 
Eclectic notebook
John Newton's notes
 
[for dated summary of questions click here]
 
 

1789

  6 July 1789
Question: In what sense are we to become all things to all men?
  By a proper condescension to those who are below us, in wealth, sense, learning or experience.

By gentleness in non-essentials — accommodating ourselves to the prejudices of others, for their good, and so far as truth and simplicity will admit.

By paying regard to the phrases, modes of thinking and habits of life — by which our hearers have been influenced — to their standing, age or consequence.

If the heart is upright, and the great design be by all means, to save souls, this will preserve from improper concessions, and makes us inflexible, as iron, in maintaining the great truths of the Gospel — without which no good can be expected.

If objections are made against us, our manner, conduct etc, consider how far these things may be corrected, and be thankful for hints.

If we pay little regard to the distinctions, names, parties, ceremonies etc, which many fight for, we shall be thought unsettled and inconsistent.  But this is the only way to be truly consistent either with the design of the Gospel, or with ourselves.

It is right to endeavour to please others provided it be with a view to their edification, and not to promote some by-end of our own.
 
  20 July 1789
Question: How to oppose Antinomianism, without countenancing, a secret refined spirit of self-righteousness
  Self-righteousness is the effect of pride and ignorance.  Such, measure by a false rule, ascribe supposed differences to themselves, and think too highly of their own character.

The Antinomian is ignorant of the Law of God, and blind to the beauty of holiness.

There are who espouse and frequent the Gospel, love close searching discourses, as pressing for what they think they are aiming at.  And thus believe themselves right, though never so convinced of sin, as to rest simply on the doctrine of the Cross for salvation.  How to undeceive these, without encouraging the others?

Insist much on regeneration.  Propose practical duties, as clearly springing from evangelical principles.  State examples, such as Paul.  Keep the blood, and life of the Saviour always in view.  Preach in detail, particularize sins and characters, especially heart sins.  Preach the whole Scripture.  Not to soften the features of Scripture declaration, because they sound harsh.  Be not dazzled by respectable characters, who may be as far from the Kingdom of God, as profligates.
 
  3 August 1789
Question: Are threatenings a part of the Gospel, and what is their particular use?
  Threatenings are 3 threefold:
  • Such such as express the sanction of the Law,
  • such as are denounced against those who reject the Gospel, and
  • such as respect carelessness or disobedience in professors.
The first are necessary to make the Gospel desirable, for it will only be prized by those who know they must otherwise perish; the two other kinds of threatenings are essential to the Gospel, taken largely — though in a more confined sense, the good news or doctrine of atonement and forgiveness, may be called the Gospel.

Uses:    
  • to to alarm,
  • to humble,
  • to quicken,
  • to vindicate the honour of the Gospel, and of true believers. 
Threatenings likewise properly enforced from Scripture, make sinners uneasy, and are a considerable restraint upon those who would otherwise sin without control.
                               
Love and fear are the grand principles of the soul.  When love is in lively exercise, it will constrain to obedience; but when it declines, fear of the threatenings are useful to believers.

Likewise to rouse and startle false-hearted professors.  Some will bear to be told they are poor Christians, who are unwilling to have it proved that they are no Christians. 
 
However, the threatenings of the Gospel, to be useful, should be preach[ed]
  • in love, not in anger,
  • in character, that is, supported by an exemplary spirit and walk in the Preacher,
  • in fullness of application to all sort[s] of hearers, and not solitarily, but associated with the doctrines and promises of grace.
A want of due attention to this part of revelation, is one reason, why many persuade themselves that they know and love the Gospel, though in their lives, tempers and pursuits, they contradict it.
 
  17 August 1789
Question: What is the best method for a young Minister to study divinity?
  Distinguish between a Minister, and a mere preacher.  His end — to save himself and his hearers (1 Timothy. 4:16). [1]  The direct means from verse 13 ad fin. [2

The Scripture:
  • the foundation of all useful truth,
  • able to make wise unto salvation,
  • perfect for every good work.                               
If the Minister has learning, it may be of some use — if not, it will hardly be worth his time — he may be an able Minister of the New Testament at a cheaper rate.  Nothing should be studied but in subordination and subserviency to the grand object.
 
Study the Bible, if practicable, in the original:
  • the books of creation, providence and the heart;
and of man:
  • as an individual, as social, as under the influence of sin and of grace. 
Attend to your particular situation, turn of mind, and line of service. 
Proportion your time. 
Make what you read your own, and be not a pilferer. 
Aim at accuracy in your meditations and compositions. 
Circumspection in conduct, and frequent prayer. 
A  Minister should endeavour to be a good textuary and a good casuist. [3]
 
  31 August 1789
Question: A brother going to settle where smuggling abounds, proposed, How he should direct his preaching against this enormity?
  It was advised not to be too open and pointed at first, but to proceed as by sap [4] — pointing out the evil occasionally, with firmness yet with tenderness.  Distinguish between the sin and the person.  Lay the axe to the root of the tree of wickedness, and this branch will fall with the rest.  A determined example of great effect.
 
  14 and 28th September 1789 at Southampton [5]

Question:
Question:
Subjects then:  
1.    How to improve journeyings
2.    [blank]
 
  12 October 1789
Question: How to walk wisely towards them that are without?
  To walk wisely, we must be wise.  Pray for dignified sentiments, and large benevolence.  Steady but not stately or supercilious — wise accommodation to weakness and prejudice.  Avoid controversy.  Cultivate meekness and the milder graces.  Walk towards them, but not with them.  Keep upon your own ground, and not countenance them in their poor shifts and amusements.  Yet not to overdrive or affect needless singularities.  Avoid disorderly brethren,. Likewise levity, caprice, sourness of temper or speech.  Watch to improve opportunities, and to drop a word in season.  Be candid and liberal, yet observing proper bounds.  Cut off occasions of stumbling from those such, then.  Simplicity and integrity of great weight to silence gainsayers.
 
  26 October 1789
Question: What is Christian candour?
  It is the result of benevolence, and humility; a disposition to make allowances for the weakness and mistakes of others, regulated by a due regard to the decisions of Scripture, both in doctrine, and in practice.

It shows not of disesteem, or contempt of others, ill-will, refusal of any kind offices of humanity, much less of persecution.

Discriminates between the errors of the head and of the heart. Between essentials and circumstantials — the great and the small — the man and the fault; allows for situation and temptation; puts itself in the place of others as far as possible.

It is beautifully delineated in 1 Corinthians 13 [6] and exemplified by the general conduct of Paul, who was, according to the case, inflexible as a pillar, or yielding as a reed.
 
  9 November 1789
Question: What are the doctrinal and practical causes of the present laxity in religious profession?
  Human nature as depraved, always tends to a decline, farther than as it [is] counteracted by divine influence.  Abuses, errors, and offences were frequent in the Apostle's days.  So at the Reformation, and in all seasons of revival, of which we have account.  So in our own time. 
 
Among the causes at present we may notice:
  • The outward state of the nation: civil and religious liberty — wealth — commerce, prosperity.  Floating sentiments of truth in the head, not influencing the heart.
  • Unguarded and partial preaching.
  • Measuring by a low standard.
  • Careless lives of popular preachers, giving sanction to evil by their example.  NB  We may do more harm in an hour, than good in a whole year or life.
  •  Private religious meetings not properly managed.
  • Mercenary Chappels, and all artificial tricks and contrivances to collect hearers.
  • Want of discipline. 
  • Not withdrawing from the disorderly. 
  • Delicacy and genteelness in young ministerMinisters. 
  • Courting the rich. 
  • Efforts to keep up the dregs of a party. [7
  • Want of godly jealously and simplicity to each other. 
  • Critical and scientific judgment of preaching. 
  • Self-sent preachers, insufficient and self-sufficient. 
  • Want of closeness and detail in enforcing Christian tempers and duties. 
  • Vagrant hearers who have no fixed home. 
  • Novelty and itching ears. 
  • Overzeal against smaller evils, to the neglect of greater. 
  • The withdrawing the influence of the HS [Holy Spirit] which are not vouchsafed always equal, but at seasons of refreshment, according to the Lord's will.                               
NB Conflict between flesh and spirit, and that between conscience and inclination, not easily distinguished.
 
  23 November 1789
Question: How do errors in doctrine and practice, mutually strengthen each other?
  The seat of error is the evil heart, disposed to catch at whatever seems to favour its prospernsity.  Ignorance of the sinfulness of sin, the grand source.  Pride seeks objections to the doctrines.  Sensuality pleads for their abuse — both lead to judicial infatuation and hardness.  Temptations suited to discover the force of error.

Errors usually propagated by men who are clever, and in the worseld’s sense moral.  Without abilities and character they would do little harm.  We may allow them personal character but what are the effects and fruits of their ministry?  Wrong practices necessarily damp the life of faith, grieve the Holy Spirit, and make us weak, vulnerable, and ready to admit, what may render conscience more quiet.  On the other hand errors in judgment, lead to carelessness, and to contention.

Errors according to tempers, and to the state of the times.
 
  7 December 1789
Question: What are the criteria of a work of God?
  What God works must be worthy of himself, in the introduction, means and end.

It may be counterfeited, will be opposed, but it will bear examination, and prove finally successful.

Grandeur combined with simplicity.  For the most part gradual and from small and unpromising beginnings.  Often attended with difficulties for a time, and clouds, which only candour and humility can penetrate.
 
  21 December 1789
Question: What may Ministers attempt, for the good of hearers, more than they do at present?  Or how may they hope to be most useful?
  They should be accessible.
Aim at the edification of young persons.
Private societies not necessary, and unless very prudently managed, often prove inconvenient.
They should preach in detail, and not confine themselves to generals.  Their conduct should be not only unblameable, but exemplary and animating.
We fall short in everything, but it is to be hoped we would do more if we could.
 
 

1790

  4 January 1790
Question: What is flattery?
  Flattery, is a mutual painting — an incense offered to vanity, from a selfish desire of receiving a like return.
                               
The bad effects.  It nourishes pride, and a mistake of our own character — spreads snares, puts us off our guard, and encourages us to attempt what we are not fit for.
 
Pulpit flattery — in the choice of subjects, in speak[ing] to please men — in saying handsome things of the congregation, that they may speak or think well of us.
 
Commendation not always flattery, but becomes so, when false, lavish or unseasonable.
 
We should take it for granted that we are more under the power of flattery than we are aware, and indulge no desire of reputation, but for the honour of our profession.
 
Three sorts of flatterers:. 
  • the ordinary,
  • the cunning and
  • the impudent
Politeness cannot easily be separated from flattery.
 
  18 January 1790
Question: Evil, origin, and cure of a late attendance on public worship
  Owing to a letter read upon the occasion, some parts of which I could not approve.
 
Some causes not absolutely evil.  The locking up of pews. [8]  Inconvenience of standing.  Inability from indisposition of staying long.  Unavoidable domestic hindrances, prevent many from attending so early as they otherwise would.  Disregard to the Liturgy, which when from habit and principle, is not easily cured.
 
Indolence a general blameable cause.  Inconsiderateness.  Undue stress upon hearing sermons, as if hearing was the whole of public worship.  Often the fault is much owing to the slovenly careless manner of reading.  Many attend more for entertainment than edification.
 
The causes lead to the means of cure.
 
  1 February 1790
Question: To what is the diversity of Christian experiences owing?
  Constitution, education.  The first cast. [9]  Future service prepared for.  Difference of attention, partial views of truth, unbelief.  A want of distinguishing between gracious dispositions, and things not inconsistent with grace.
 
  15 February 1790
Question: Concerning true and false zeal
  True zeal the effect of love, to God and man.  It is founded in knowledge, begins at home, fixes most upon essentials, is gentle, tender, modest, diffident, patient, self-denying and perseveres under reproach and ill-treatment.  Its censures mingled with sorrow.  So in Paul, Moses, David.
 
False zeal, is rash, selfish, ostentatious, ebbing and flowing, more against persons than sins, flames most when observed, is partial and governed by the times, admires itself, and gratifies its natural passions under the pretence of doing God service.  See Jehu — and once James and John. [10]
 
  1 March 1790
Question: How to conduct ourselves towards suspicious characters
  A difference between 'suspicious' and 'suspected'.
  • What good may I do him?
  • What harm may I do him?
  • What harm may he do me?
 
  15 March 1790
Question: How far are the Scriptures reducible to a system?
  A revelation from God, must be a system, and a glorious one, but it is not proposed to us systematically.  General views of harmony, dependence, proportion and subordination are useful and needful.  But a strict confinement to systems, is not conducive to real improvement, to public usefulness, or to personal comfort, and misrepresents the Gospel to the world.
 
  29 March 1790
Question: What are the best means of preventing apostacy, in Ministers and privates?
  Principiis obsta. [11]  Beware of idleness and speculation.
 
Pray for humility.  Be careful of your connections,  avoid a worldly taste.  Watch against easy besetting sins.  A godly fear.  Be not censorious.  Give not way to formality.  Omit no instituted means of grace.  Attend to hints.  Prefer a comprehensive manner of preaching.  Point out, or consider, the wisdom, dignity and comfort of the religion which the world misrepresents.
 
  12 April 1790
Question: What are the principal offences of the Gospel at this day?
  Some essential — arising from the enmity of the carnal mind.
 
Some accidental.  Circumstances may either abate the offence, or increase it.
 
Indiscretion, bigotry, countenancing suspicious characters.  Enthusiasm, austerity, singularity.  A trading spirit in spirituals.  System.
 
  26 April 1790
Question: What is the meetness for the inheritance of the saints in light? [12]
  Light [is] the emblem of knowledge, holiness and happiness.  A society like-minded in the presence of God.
  1. General and in common to all:  acceptance, a new nature, a perfection of parts.
  2. Spiritual — a maturity, a holy taste.  A readiness of mind, weanedness from the world.  A harvest time after a series of services and sufferings.
 
  10 May 1790
Question: What [are] the good or bad effects of being influenced by impressions?
  Most impressions false and hurtful, lead to enthusiasm and delusion, divert from the simplicity of the faith.  Scripture in general sufficient, and contains many things stroange to the world, already.  Admit no needless additions.  They afford no sure rule of duty, are troublesome to the upright, and tend to a false confidence, and are equivocal.  Yet we must allow for constitution — and the Lord's condescension to weak people, or under great trials.  Good impressions must be holy, wise, seasonable and humbling.
 
  24 May 1790
Question: How are sin or grace evidenced, in speaking of the faults of others?
  We may speak of them, when it may prevent scandal, the danger of ill example, injury, or intrusion.  How? with truth, clear proof and candour and compassion and seriousness.
 
Not to gratify curiosity or petulance, not with complacence, not cowardly, unfairly or with partiality.
 
de Quibus, cui, quomodo, quando [13]
 
  7 June 1790
Question: What is the ground, nature and tendency of assurance of hope?
  The promise of God — a consciousness of application — conformity of character — witness of the Spirit.  The tendency, directly contrary to vain-confidence.  It animates to diligence and obedience and solicits scrutiny.
 
  21 June 1790
Question: What are talents?
  Everything we possess.  Capacity, means, opportunities — natural, civil, spiritual, professional especially ministerial.
 
The judgment of God on talents often manifested in the present life (Matthew. 25:29 [14]).
 
  5 July 1790
Question: What are the Scriptural senses of the word, Covenant?
  [blank] [15]
 
  19 July 1790
Question: What is included in the friendship of the world, and what the dangers?
  [blank]
 
  2 August 1790
Question: What is the duty of a Minister and his family, with respect to preaching or attending irregular places of worship?
  It seems his duty to countenance the Gospel in other places, by his attendance, if not preached in a church.
 
But many cases must be regulated by a prudent regard to circumstances.  An honest heart will either commit no mistakes on this head, or will be taught by experience to correct them.
 
  16 August 1790
Question: What are the sources, characters and supports of hypocrisy?
  Source                                 
Education, convenience, influence of a name, self-seeking, mistakes about conversion.
 
Character           
False prayers and profession, to God, to believers., Hheart in the world, ostentation, censoriousness.
 
Supports             
Reformation.  Party. [16]  Prosperity.  Head-knowledge.  Similar company.  Superficial preaching.
 
Some hypocrisy latent in those who are not hypocrites.
 
  30 August 1790
Question: What causes will justify a Minister in removing from his post?
  [blank] [17]
 
  13 September 1790
Question: What is it to declare the whole counsel of God?
  To tell a message honestly, we must earnestly seek to know it.  Other avocations must be avoided.  Seek at the fountain head.  Not substitute our own counsel for his.  Declare it as a whole, and proportionably.  A body and the members. Scripturally.  Distribution to different classes.
 
Briefly, the character of God, and his designs towards men, as sinners under a dispensation of mercy.
 
  27 September 1790
Question: What are the peculiar dangers of youth in the present day?
  National character of the present day.  Infidelity and profligacy.  Want of subordination, industry, frugality, and modesty.  Neglect of education.  Novels, and amusements.  Evil company.  Futile accomplishments, luxury, dress.  Philosophy so called.  Dregs of Methodism. [18]  Schools and universities.
 
  11 October 1790
Question: Whether we have sufficient reason to hold the authority of the Epistles, on the same ground with the words of our Lord himself?  And what are the usual sources of doubts upon this head?
  The four Gospels written by the Apostles apostles, and first disciples — if we admit the authority of Luke in his Gospel, why reject it in the Acts?  So of John.  And if his epistles are binding, why not those of Paul, who denounced a curse upon any other Gospel, different from his own?  There is therefore no medium.  We must either receive or reject the whole New Testament.
 
Internal evidences apply equally to the Gospels and Epistles — prophecy and unanimity and universal consent characterize both.
 
The sources of the doubts, a licentious, reasoning, proud spirit — which, refusing assent to the apostolic doctrines, evades them by a pretended suspicion, or open denial of their authority — but such persons betray a want not only of religion but of taste — or they might perceive the agreement, in simplicity, fullness and influence.  The rudiments of that is more largely taught in the Epistles, may be found in the four Gospels.  Nor can it be well conceived that nany but good men could write such epistles, nor even they, unless by inspiration, to which the writers make express claim for themselves.
 
  25 October 1790
8 November 1790
22 November 1790
  Did not, could not, attend the Society. [19]
 
 
6 December 1790
Question: How to preserve a due impression of the eternal world, amidst the incumbrances of the present state?
  We have an appointed post and part to fill, services to perform, and trials to sustain, according to the will of him to whom we belong; for we are bought with a price, and therefore not our own.
 
Nothing that comes under the Lord's appointment would be an incumbrance, were we always in the exercise of faith and self-denial.  Obedience and contemplation combined form the happiness of angels;. they see his face and do his will.  A measure of this is attainable by mortals.
 
We are travellers.  The road and weather vary as we pass on — but keep the end — home — in view. [20] To a right spirit, hindrances will prove helps, and losses gains.
 
Constant use of the means of grace — to realise the Lord's presence.  If we set him at our right hand, we shall not be greatly moved.
 
 
20 December 1790 [21]
Question: How is it that our greatest trials spring from our dearest comforts?
  This question, proposed by myself, proved seasonable.  My dearest dear was removed from me on the 15th.  I know not what was said upon the subject, nor need I notes — it is the theme of my heart.  On this point, methinks, if on any, I can speak from experience.  She was my greatest earthly comfort — and the source of my chief pains, anxieties and trials.  I was affected by whatever affected her.  That my affection to her was unabated through life was the Lord's mercy — that it was idolatrous, was my sin, and a sin which necessarily produced its own punishment.  What ought to have excited my liveliest gratitude, proved the occasion of detecting the vileness and abominations of my heart, more than all the other circumstances of my life taken together.  Had not the Lord been in this instance so very good, I could hardly have known myself to be so very evil.  In the course of her last illness he brought my idol low indeed, and seemed to say, Now look at her. Now see what you have so often dared to set up as a rival to me.
 
I trust it was in mercy to us both — we both sinned, we both suffered.  But the Lord is gracious.
 
 

1791

  I can do little more than set down the substance of the questions discussed this year.  Not having once entered my notes in the book, [22] and now — 26 December — the year is closing.
 
  3 January 1791
Question: What useful reflections may be drawn from ye the public occurrences of the last year?
 
  17 January 1791
Question: How may a believer detect the remains of antenomianism and pharisaism?
 
  31 January 1791
Question: How to make old-age comfortable and honourable
 
  14 February 1791
Question: What were the views of the disciples, previous to our Lord's Passion?
 
  28 February 1791
Question: What is the proper use of reason, in studying and explaining the Scriptures?
 
  14 March 1791
Question: How may we visit the sick to the most advantage?
 
  28 March 1791
Question: What are the Scriptural ideas of temperance and purity?
 
  11 April 1791
Question: What is that fear of man which bringeth a snare, and how cured?
 
  25 April 1791
Question: Wherein consists the right government of the tongue, and how to obtain it?
 
  9 May 1791
Question: Concerning wheat and tares — How are we to observe the direction, ‘Let both grow’? [23]
 
  23 May 1791
Question: What is the liberty of the Gospel?
 
  6 June 1791
Question: How to make charitable bequests, so as most to promote the great end
 
  20 June 1791
Question: How far may a Minister concern himself with politics?
 
 
abroad till the end of September [24]
 
  10 October 1791
Question: What is Christianity, with or without the doctrine of the Deity of Christ?
 
  24 October 1791
Question: Wherein consists the true dignity of the pulpit?
 
  7 November 1791
Question: What may be suggested to the missionaries who are going to Sierra Leon[e]? [25]
 
  21 November 1791
Question: On what grounds are we to think others better than ourselves?
 
  5 December 1791
Question: How far may a Minister, with propriety, speak of his own concerns in the pulpit?
 
  19 December 1791
Question: How should a Minister conduct himself, in a delicate and genteel situation?
  With reference to Mr L — appointment to Cl. [26]
 
 

1792

  2 January 1792
Question: How to exercise magnanimity without pride; and humility without meanness?
  Though there is a natural magnanimity it is founded in pride, and inseparable from it.
 
And the most specious appearance of humility, is connected with meanness and littleness of spirit.
 
True magnanimity, is founded in grace, and always accompanied proportionately with humility.
 
A striking contrast between the characters of Alexander or Caesar, and those in Scripture, such as Moses, Elijah, Nehemiah and Paul.
 
Magnanimity includes:
 
1.   A sound judgment — not governed like a child or an idiot, by outward appearances.
 
2.   A great aim.
 
3.   A steady perseverance, unmoved by opposition, threats or contempts.
 
4.    A regard to men as they are, looking through outward distinctions.
 
5.    Benevolence.  A selfish mind is little and mean.
 
6.    A disposition to forgive, and return good for evil.
 
7.    A readiness to acknowledge our faults.
 
This disposition improved by great objects:
  • A a great and sure ground of dependence,
  • great obligations and
  • great hopes.
 
  16 January 1792
Question: What is to be understood by habits of grace?
  Habits presuppose principles.  Christianity is a nature, a life, of which is the root and spring, therefore it is habitual, a growth as from infancy to manhood.
 
Socinians and Antinomians, opposite as they seem, meet in the same point of denial of gracious habits.
 
There is an analogy between the natural and the spiritual life.  Both dependent every moment upon God, and both maintained by means of his appointment.  In both things hurtful to be avoided, or sickness, if not death will ensure.
 
The Christian, like a fish, has a proper element, and is sometimes like a fish when out of the water. [27]  Sin damps and impedes the habits and exercise of grace.
 
Secondary habits with respect to the means should be attended to carefully.  No thriving without them.  Good habits easily lost, but not easily acquired or regained.
 
Habits of grace not to be determined by frames and feelings.  A river always runs, though not always equally full.
 
  30 January 1792
Question: How to preach Christ in his personal character and glory, so as not [to] derogate from the F and HS? [Father and Holy Spirit]
  I wrote a long paper upon this subject. [28]  I judge it impossible to think or speak of him too highly.  And as God is One, I see no danger of the honour due to the distinct characters of Father., Son. and the Holy .Spririt. interfering with each other.  Under these several relations I ascribe honour to the One God.  Orthodoxy sometimes verges upon Tritheism. [29]
 
Keep to the Scriptural method.  Avoid curious speculations, and nice [exact] distinctions.  Cherish no nostrums.  This knowledge cannot be obtained by disquisition, only by revelation.  In order to know the Lord, walk closely with him.  Use no cant phrases or Shibboleths.  The name of Jesus, will not work as a charm, by repetition.  Yet unless he is the Capital figure, in a sermon, it will be defective and cold.
 
The Apostle Paul dwells upon the person and work of our Saviour, and upon this subject takes fire, and is often at a loss for words. [30]  He is a good pattern for us.
 
  13 February 1792
Question: By what arguments may we best support the mind, against infidelity?
  1.  State of the Jews.
 
2.  Suitableness of the remedy to the malady.
 
3.   Enmity of the wicked against the Truthtruth, from age to age as predicted.
 
4.   The many absurdities which follow supposing the Scripture an imposition.
 
5.   To whom else can we go.
 
6.   Views of the godly in death.
 
7.   The effects of preaching, answering to what is foretold.
 
8.    Miracles, prophesy prophecy and experience.

9.    External and internal evidence.
 
10.   Consistency of various writers in different ages, from Moses to John.
 
11.   Confession of enemies.  Pliny, Julian etc. [31]
 
12.   Extraordinary facts.  Peor, Joseph etc. [32]
 
13.   Man a solecism, [33] but upon Bible principles.
 
  27 February 1792
Question: What is the Scriptural sense of the Millennium, and how to be preached?
  The season of prophesies not yet fulfilled, respecting the spread of the Gospel, the power of holiness, the peace of the Church, and of the nations.  Agreeable to my sermon in the Messiah, [34] which in the main seemed to accord with the judgment of the Society.
 
A signal outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  Man has been told tried in various ways.  His reason can do nothing without revelation, and nothing with it, unless divine influence be superadded.  This is seen in part now, and will be more clearly seen, when the Lord shall work powerfully and speedily himself.  Then a nation shall be born in a day.
 
Explanation of difficulties to be waited for.  To be preached, largely, generally and modestly.  The world a stage for great transactions, but not yet fully illuminated.  The prophesies not designed to make us all prophets.
 
Great advantage of good judgment in a preacher to distinguish subjects, according to their importance and their evidence.
 
  12 March 1792
Question: What is the criteria of sanctified afflictions?
  Afflictions are sanctified in proportion as the ends for which the Lord appoints them are answered.  Deuteronomy 8.: 
  • to show us what is in our hearts, that we may be duly humbled
  • to prove us, give evidence of our sincerity, to ourselves, to others
  • to do us good in the end
  • to wean us from the world
  • to quicken in prayer
  • teach us to be in good earnest
  • deaden our time pursuits, and
  • raise our thoughts and aims heavenward. [35
He stops our idols.  Repeated blows like a battering-ram.  The fall of man daily repeated.  We sin, we hide, afflictions call us forth from our covert.
 
When not sanctified, they kill natural virtues, sour the temper, contract the mind to self; when they are, they have contrary effects: produce submission, dependence, benevolence, sympathy for others, and tenderness to their failings.  They give a ripeness of judgment, and a friendly feeling to Ministers, which makes them more acceptable and useful.
 
  26 March 1792
Question: What is it, rightly to divide the Word of Truth?
  The idea may be illustrated, by a father distributing food, to his children and family at the table.  Affection, knowledge, experience necessary.  Discrimination, proportion, order, judicious application, distinction of doctrines, persons, places and seasons.
 
By a physician, who prescribes medicines, suiting the kind, the dose, etc, to the constitution, and the particular malady of the patient.
 
  9 April 1792
Question: On the slave trade. [36]
 
  23 April 1792
Question: On the case of Mr Foster with respect to Clapham. [37]
 
  7 May 1792
Question: What does the Apostle mean by ‘milk’, and what by ‘strong meat’? [38]
  The prejudices of young converts and of the times to be attended to.  The atonement, divine influence — the way of access, the promises to seekers, the resolution of doubts — These are as milk, adapted to the taste, wants and apprehension of the new awakened, who are as babes.
 
General views for babes, enlarged views for strong men.  The harmony of divine perfections in redemption — the covenants-— the types — the decrees etc.etc, require more experience and maturer judgment to digest.  Controversies are strong meat at the best, and often mere bones.
 
  21 May 1792
Question: How may we suppose St Paul would preach if he were now in London?
  Much as he did at Corinth.  As a physician he would consider the epidemical diseases of the town.  Worldliness, socinianismSocinianism, antinomianism.  False candour — rash intrusion into the preacher's office.  Virtuous celibacy.
 
He would preach Christ and him crucified.
 
He would inculcate the importance of education of children — but would not stand up for the pretended rights of men.  He would bear testimony against a party spirit, and all selfish interested view.
 
In his manner he would be simple, earnest, affectionate, intelligible and accommodating to the weakest capacities -— impartial, uninfluenced either by fear or favour.
 
  4 June 1792
Question: What is the nature and bad effects of indolence especially in Ministers, and what the cure?
  All prone to indolence — strengthened by constitution, habit, despondence, delicacy, pride.  The character of the sluggard well described in the Proverbs. [39]
 
Bad effects
Waste of time, loss of precious opportunities.  Hurtful to ourselves — uncomfortable, tedious, hurts the temper, weakens the faculties.  We should be quiet, but not idle.  Good employment promotes cheerfulness, and, contra, sloth leads to dullness — exposes to temptation.  There is a busy indolence.  Some studies only consume time and amuse.  Systematic indolence, spinning cobwebs, splitting hairs. Procrastination. Hurtful to others by example, by neglect.
 
Cure:
Resolution, watchfulness and prayer.  Forecasting of the day.  Method.  Wise and good company.  Be constant to do small things, when great do not offer.
 
abroad 2 meetings [40]
 
  16 July 1792
Question: In what sense is wisdom justified of her children? [41]
  The Gospel the wisdom of God, despised by men, but justified by believers.
 
Such a dispensation needful.  To give motives, principles and prospects.
 
Justified by the tendency —  Titus 2 [42] —  by the effects.
Without it moral precepts have no authority, guilty sinners no encouragement.
 
Difference between wisdom and knowledge.  They who know the Lord can justify his providence, his redemption, his choice of instruments and subjects of his grace.  Methods of calling and variety of dispensations.
 
A disposition in man to hate the truth however proposed, and to blame the manner of proposal.
 
  30 July 1792
Question: Why do believers groan, and what do they wait for? [43]
  They groan for themselves:
  • the time of their ignorance
  • indwelling sin
  • backslidings — inconsistence
  • various trials which though eventually for their good, cause groanings at present. 
They groan for the wickedness, obstinacy and opposition of others, and for the misery with which sin has filled the world.
 
They wait for complete redemption and adoption when soul and body reunited shall be forever with the Lord — and sin and sorrow be perfectly excluded.
 
  13 August 1792
Question: Who are the preachers of true free grace, and who are the counterfeits?
  The free grace preacher — is a Bible preacher. 
He sets for the malady, and the remedy.
  • Leaves none without a refuge
  • Excludes boasting
  • Honours God's appointed means,
  • Enforces holiness from Gospel motives and encouragements 

The counterfeit:
  • Confines salvation to pardon
  • Speaks indiscriminately against works
  • Encourages those who live in sin
  • Avoids exhortation
  • Makes little distinction, between living and dead faith
 
  27 August 1792
Question: How may a young man cleanse his way? [44]
  Youth a state of inexperience, self-confidence, impetuosity, openness, levity.  Eager in forming connections, yet not much disposed to sympathy.
 
The Scripture affords plain precepts, striking examples, great promises — to be read with prayer.
 
  10 September 1792
Question: What are the obligations and advantages of retirement? [45]
  Religion personal and private but not monkish; without company we become contracted and unsocial, without retirement confused and superficial.  Retirement acknowledges God as seeing in secret, unburdens the heart, collects thoughts.  Too much exposes to peevishness, fastidiousness, vain schemes, melancholy, temptations and idleness — and suspicion.
 
  24 September 1792
Question: What lessons may we learn from the state of affairs in France? [46]
 
  • Thankfulness for ourselves. 
  • Danger of speculation. 
  • Providential retribution. 
  • The state of human nature. 
  • The incompetency of our judgment, and reasonings. 
  • The beauty and value of subordination.
 
  8 October 1792
Question: How is the enmity of the carnal mind displayed? [47]
 
  • By the Pharisees and moral.
  • Contempt and thoughtlessness of God
  • Men by nature, enemies, hate God, his character, laws, appointments, sovereignty, people and worship
  • Difficulty of drawing near to him even in believers
 
  22 October 1792
Question: What are the marks of faithful preaching?
 
  • When condemned equally by Pharisees and antinomians. 
  • When approved by the common people.
  • When different passages of Scripture are allowed their full scope.
  • To speak without seeking favour or fearing to give offence. 
  • When conscience is affected. 
  • When dissatisfied with the best he does.
To preach particular doctrines, to be long, or loud, to have many and attentive hearers, to be popular, to have great knowledge of Scripture, or an amiable disposition, to have much zeal, or to be persecuted are not sure marks.  All these may gratify pride and self.
 
  5 November 1792
Question: What are the criteria of Christian friendship?
  A participation of counsels, and feelings, regulated by grace, directed to a religious end, maintained in faithfulness and watchfulness.
 
  19 November 1792 [48]
Question:  [What are the wood, hay, and stubble that will be burnt up at last?]
  Omitted
 
  3 December 1792
Question: What is the duty of Christians in time of civil contention? [49]
 
  • To study to be quiet. 
  • To be much in prayer. 
  • To have the eye fixed upon the Lord's governing providence. 
  • To avoid what may tend to inflame prejudices.
 
  17 December 1792
Question: What is the use and abuse of Festivals?
  They are not enjoined.  May be useful to those who approve and observe them seriously, but for the most part are wofully abused.
 
  31 December 1792
Question: What is that respect of persons which the Scripture condemns? [50]
  That which is influenced by party, [51] passion, interest, [52] pride and fear.
                               
Subordination is beautiful, and honour should be paid where honour is due.  But without flattery, connivance or sinister ends.
 
 

1793

  14 January 1793
Question: The case of Brother Woodd's Chapel stated and discussed. [53]
 
  28 January 1793
Question: Is faith its own evidence?
  True faith when strong, is its own evidence, but weak faith needs assistance.  The view of other things which we see by the light of the sun, is not necessary to convince us that the sun shines.
 
  11 February 1793
Question: How may be[we] best study the Scriptures?
  With attention, with prayer.  Aim at comprehensive views — a bird's eye prospect.  Analogy.  A childlike spirit — to learn the character of God.
 
  25 February 1793
Question: What constitutes a decided religious character?
  [blank] [54]
 
  11 March 1793
Question: How may we judge of the signs of the times?
  [blank]
 
  25 March 1793
Question: What are the causes, effects and cure of envy?
  [blank]
 
  1 April 1793
Question: How to improve the approaching Fast? [55]
  By earnest prayer and humiliation in behalf of ourselves, our people, professors [56] and the nation.
 
By faithful preaching, in which attend to the great points, avoid declamation and invective.  Improve the present state of the French, to point out the danger of forgetting God, and to enforce the importance of subordination.  Insist upon the depravity of the human heart, manifesting itself as restraints are taken off. [57]
 
  22 April 1793
Question: How do Ministers contribute to increase the offence of the Gospel?
  In the pulpit:
  • by levity
  • vulgarity
  • affectation
  • self-preaching
  • nostrums
  • by improperly depreciating reason
  • misapplication of Scriptures
  • a dogmatical manner
  • insipidity from the want of a fund

Out of the pulpit:
  • by pride
  • servility
  • gossiping and feasting
  • irregularity in his own family
  • want of punctuality
  • a regard to lucre and distinction
  • a contentious spirit
 
  6 May 1793
Question: What reprehensible customs have been introduced, in the late revival of religion?
 
  • schemes to fill the Chapel
  • affectation
  • uncouth phraseology
  • Shibboleths
  • unhallowed zeal
  • long sermons
  • partial preaching
  • crudities
 
  20 May 1793
Question: To what characters should we refuse the pulpit?
 
  • to the erroneous
  •  to the strangers
  •  to the forward
  •  to party-mongers and nostrum-mongers
  •  to men of loose conduct, or of a known bad spirit
  • [58]
 
  3 June 1793
Question: What difference between natural attainments and spiritual illumination?
  [blank] [59]
 
  17 June 1793
Question: How far does Paul by his example and epistles, encourage celibacy?
  [blank]
 
  1 July 1793
Question: What are the advantages and disadvantages of learning to a Minister?
  [blank]
 
  15 July 1793
Question: What is the modern progress of infidelity to atheism?
  Men infidels by nature.  Pride of reasoning.  Neglect of Scripture and the means of grace, strengthen the natural tendency.  Confirmed by the customs of the times — manners of the great state of the universities and clergy — the military and militia — public schools — books.  Looseness of profession.
 
  29 July 1793
Question: How does God ordinarily speak peace to the soul?
  abroad [60]
 
  7 October 1793
Question: What is that wisdom which Paul rejected, lest the Cross of Christ should be of none effect? [61]
  [blank]
 
  21 October 1793
Question: What is the criterion of a blessing received in hearing sermons?
  [blank]
 
  4 November 1793
Question: How to bear and improve by bodily afflictions
  [blank]
 
  18 November 1793
Question: Why are most people ignorant of the motive of their own conduct?
  [blank]
 
  2 December 1783
Question: How far Ministers may interfere with parochial business?
  [blank]
 
  16 December 1793
Question: In what cases are Ministers chargeable with irregularity?
  [blank]
 
  30 December 1793
Question: What are the advantages or disadvantages of extempore preaching? [62]
  [blank]
 
 

1794

  12[13] January 1794
Question: How far may a Minister's feelings influence him in his public preaching?
  Feelings of great importance to make an impression.  But they should be agreeable to Scripture — proportionate, rather general, than particular.  The more feeling, the more need of guard and caution.
 
  26[27] January 1794
Question: confined by my fall [63]
The subject was, How to improve the Fast-day? [64]
 
  10 February 1794
Question: How may we distinguish heart conviction [above this Newton wrote ‘corruption’] from the temptations of Satan?
  [blank]
 
  24 February 1794
Question: What concessions may Ministers make to the customs of polite-life?
  No concessions to the spirit of the world.  But civility and respect to superior stations.
 
  10 March 1794
Question: What help may we derive from Scripture to form our ideas of the unseen world?
  My own question.  The Scripture. teaches that there is an immensity of agents, good and evil.  Active, present, vigilant.  We are surrounded by them.  The evil spirits more malignant than wicked men can be.  Much may be observed from dreams. [65]
 
  24 March 1794
Question: What are the natural, moral and evangelical restraints of sin?
  We may wonder, considering what men are, that the world is not worse than it is.
 
Natural 
  • virtue generally approved
  • affliction
  • poverty
  • brevity of life
  • old age
  • constitution
  • climate
  • Government

Moral
  • Government and laws
  • regard to character
  • awful providences
  • fear
  • want of power and opportunity
  • opposition of views
  • education
  • conscience

Evangelical
Includes all other restraints —
  • love
  • hope
  • gratitude
  • fear of dishonouring the Gospel
  • future prospects
  • preaching of the Gospel
  • testimony of the godly
 
  7 April 1794
Question: What is the efficacy of the sacraments?
  [blank] [66]
 
  21 April 1794
Question: What are the peculiar sins and temptations of Ministers?
  [blank]
 
  5 May 1794
Question: How to speak of the world without giving just cause of disgust
  Earnestly, but with gentleness — gravity, humility.  Avoid rudeness and vulgarity, laying too much stress upon little things, and all invective.
 
  19 May 1794
Question: What is the best mode of almsgiving?
  Avoid ostentation.  Teaching children.  Cheerfully and kindly.  Public for example.  Private to poor with large families.   Sunday Schools.  Benevolent Societies.  Enquire into characters and for proper objects. [67]
 
  2 June 1794
Question: How are proper ministerial feelings acquired and preserved?
  [blank]
 
  16 June 1794
Question: What is a free-grace preacher?
  abroad [68]
 
  28 July 1794
Question: How to reconcile Paul and James on justification
  [blank]
 
  11 August 1794
Question: How is our Lord, as a Preacher, a pattern to Ministers?
  Simplicity, spirituality, tenderness, diligence, conduct.  Parlour and pulpit.  Authority, perspicuity, illustration — improving events. [69]
 
  25 August 1794
Question: What was the state of the Apostles' faith previous to the descent of the Holy Spirit?
  [blank]
 
  8 September 1794
Question: What are the marks of a selfish Minister?
  Self whether in a Minister or others is a Hydra [70] of many heads — reducible to four:
  • self-importance
  • complacence
  • dependence and
  • interest aiming either at popularity or gain.

Refined selfishness.  Opposed to generosity, benevolence, and obligation and sympathy.  How [we] feel when good is done by others.  Possession of gifts and graces in own hands.  Distinguish between selfishness in toto [71] and the mixture.  A right self-love or the love of our neighbours would have no standard.  Love of God, ourselves and neighbours united.  Disinterestedness.  Some have more cunning to conceal.  Self-applause dictating in the study — in company drinks in flattery.  Depreciating others.  Faithful to the poor and the absent.  The extravagant always selfish.  Paul unwilling the people should think too highly of him.  When we are discouraged because not duly noticed.  Allowable self-love.  But self puts on specious forms.  Selfish man would be some great one — would shine alone.  Ephraim.  Observe the contrast to self in the character of our Lord, and next of Paul.  To impress a right character, self judges partially. [72] [73]
 
John Bacon's notes confirm Newton's contribution on this question:

Newton: "Self is a Hydra of many heads: Self importance, Self complacance, Self independence and Self interest."
Bacon Newton 1
  But he also tells us a little more of what Newton said at the meeting, in supplying his conclusion:
 
"It would be well if we asked for a spirit of dependence"
Bacon Newton 2
 
  22 September 1794
Question: Upon what grounds may a man conclude himself to be a Christian?
  Much debate but I believe our differences were chiefly verbal.  Consciousness, that I know whom I have believed [74] — and simplicity of aim, and of walk.  Much was said of marks.  It requires a sound judge to state them; for of those usually laid down, some seem too strict, and some too loose.
 
  6 October 1794
Question: Wherein are the best (manly)[i.e. merely human] moral characters defective?
  In their principle:
They do not act from a sense of love and gratitude to God, nor regard the authority of his Word.
 
In their aim:
They have not the glory of God in view as their end; but act to please themselves or their fellow creatures — and therefore what they do that is in itself right, as they do it not from him, they can only expect the reward which they propose to themselves.
 
Christian morality is founded in the knowledge of God's character, and our obligations to redeeming love, and is accompanied by brokenness of spirit, and purity of heart.
 
  20 October 1794
Question: What is the best method for meditation?
  Meditation much pressed by some old divines, as a prime duty.  But regular and close meditation is what the bulk of plain Christians are qualified, and therefore it cannot be a duty.  The practice may be expedient and profitable to some, but rules in this case are like shoes, they must be suited to the foot.
 
A serious mind will meditate — the works, Word and ways of God constantly offer subjects. [75]
 
The best speculations upon Gospel truth, which do not engage the heart, are not meditations.  Think on what you read, hear or see.  Some think best walking — some by a mental abstraction.  Different method of two sons equally dutiful and desirous of pleasing their Father.
 
  3 November 1794
Question: On what grounds is religion charged with a tendency to madness?
  Our Lord and the apostles, were thought beside themselves.  The mad world think Christians deranged and mopish, because they will no longer conform to their thoughtless customs.
 
Yet in creatures formed like us — intenseness of thought, long or and anxiously fixed upon one subject, may and often does affect the nervous system and thereby the mind. [76]  It is not a wonder, if a deep sense of sin, without a sight of mercy, may produce such an effect.  And perhaps the strength and continuance even of gracious manifestations may in some cases, be too much for the constitution.  I mentioned the cases of Wood, Dexter and S Perry at Olney.
 
Enthusiastic errors, the flights of imagination not regulated by Scripture, often issue in madness.
 
  17 November 1794
Question: How far is it a Minister's duty to urge the reasons why Christ must needs suffer?
  I thought this would scarcely admit of a question.  Yet several useful hints occurred in the discussion.
 
Redemption itself was not strictly necessary, had not the will of God, and his love to sinners made it so.  But when appointed, all the steps and means, revealed in the Scripture became necessary for the Scripture must be fulfilled.
 
As these are made known for the establishing the hope of believing sinners, they ought to be urged, and the knowledge of them seems essential to a stable peace of conscience.  Frames [77] and feelings without this knowledge will leave room for returning doubts and perplexities.
 
Ministers have different gifts.  Some of a popular turn, have been very useful; though they only treated this subject rather incidentally.  The discursive manner of others, ripens the judgment, and feeds the understanding; but does not in general apply with equal force to the heart and conscience.
 
Distress of mind, that does not produce humiliation and self-abatement, though very great, is often transient and ineffectual.
 
These reasons should, be urged, but in due proportion to the whole scheme of salvation.
 
  1 December 1794
Question: How may we best introduce religious conversation in company?
  Observe times, incidents, persons, topics that arise — be gentle, gradual, [78] a story may have good effect, when fairly introduced.
 
Some persons have a more ready turn than [others].  Forced attempts seldom succeed.  Yet undoubtedly unbelief, and the want of a spiritual frame, often stop our mouths, and occasion a sinful silence.
 
  15 December 1794
Question: What [is] the nature of that communion with God, which true believers enjoy in the present life?
  Communion presupposes union.  Life, light, dependence.  Liveness, attraction, participation.  Intercourse in counsels, aims and interests — in providences and ordinances.
 
  29 December 1794
Question: How may we best improve the entrance of the ensuing year, in the present posture of affairs?
  Look back — around and forward. [79]  Much cause for praise, much for humiliation and prayer.  Ministers should cry aloud -— but not take a side.  Speak to all as sinners, who contribute to the increase of national guilt.
 
 

1795

  12 January 1795
Question: What is the best character of a Minister to make a good impression on his hearers?
  Little can be expected from the preaching unless supported by a good character.
 
He must aim and pray to be humble, consistent, impartial, earnest yet tender.  He must possess integrity, disinterestedness, benevolence.  He should be regular in his family conduct, avoid little peculiarities, and avoid all suspicion of a mercenary spirit.
 
A single eye to the glory of God, and the good of souls includes everything. [80]
 
  26 January 1795
Question: What do we now see were our principal errors when we first set out as Ministers?
  This was a fruitful subject, and I could contribute my quota.  I have not seemed to want zeal and diligence for pulpit service — yet in some respects irresolution and indolence have made me too passive. [81]  I am thankful for the love of peace, but this sometimes has bribed me to be simply silent.  I have been too systematic, and have not sufficiently kept the Saviour in the foreground of my discourses.  O Lord, Thou only knowest what are my faults and errors to this; pardon them I beseech thee, show them unto me as I am able to bear, and teach me to avoid and correct them!  Ah!  Who can understand his errors!  If thou wert strict to mark what is amiss, who could stand?  Shame and humiliation become me!
  thou only
 
  9 February 1795
Question: How to improve the approaching Fast?
  This subject was considered last year, when I was confined.

Personally, begin at home, then ministerially.  Look above instruments and second causes.  Avoid politics and controversies.  Press the evil of sin.  Excite confession and humiliation.  Pray for a revival of religion.  Give no encouragement either to sanguine hopes, or despairing fears.  Not confine exhortations to prayer, but enforce reformation, nor let it rest as the business of one day.
 
[this was the last entry, on the last page of Newton’s notebook for this period]
last page 1795



Endnotes:
 
[1] 1 Timothy 4:16 Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.
[2] ad fin – i.e. from verse 13 (…give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine) to the end of the chapter (verse 16)
[3] ‘casuist’ is used here in its original meaning, of applying and extending Scripture teaching and doctrine to cases of conscience. (Some have recently concocted a quite different meaning of this word, to imply a use of ‘unsound reasoning’.)
[4] ‘as by sap’ – ‘to subvert by digging’ (Johnson’s Dictionary)
[5] After nine months of being confined to home by persistent illness, Mary Newton was finally well enough to venture out to church on 26 August 1789. Her health improving, they were glad to set out shortly afterwards for their delayed annual holiday in Southampton, staying in their ‘second home’ as guests of the family of marine engineer Walter Taylor (1734–1803) of Portswood Green. While there Newton regularly attended William Kingsbury’s chapel at Above Bar (the childhood worship home of Isaac Watts) and preached in Taylor’s home. They had returned to London by the first weekend of October.
[6] 1 Corinthians 13 is Paul’s famous chapter on love
[7] ‘party’ – here the word refers to divisions and cliques as cautioned against in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17
[8] The pew-owners of Charles Simeon’s church in Cambridge, Holy Trinity, maintained a peevish locking of their pews for most of the first ten years of his ministry there.
[9] The sense is ‘the first cast of the net’ – this may refer to the first early influences on a Christian which affect how his future experience is to be shaped, or may arise from first impressions when beginning a new work, which could change later.
[10] Jehu boasted of his zeal for the Lord (2 Kings 10:16) but did not serve him with all his heart (2 Kings 10:31); James and John jostled for first place amongst the disciples (Mark 10:35-45).
[11] Principiis obsta – Latin, meaning ‘resist the beginnings’, or ‘nip it in the bud’
[12] Colossians 1:12 giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light
[13] de Quibus, cui, quomodo, quando – from William Map [or Mapes] Golias ad Christi Sacerdotes, meaning ‘the to-whom, the means used, which? what for? in what way? how? when?’
or, ‘against an ill-regulated and too scrupulous conscience’ (Robert Mannyng, Handlyng Synne, 14th century)
[14] Matthew 25:29 For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.
[15] It is probable that Mary Newton’s prolonged illness kept Newton from these meetings. On 9 July 1790 he wrote to Walter Talyor: “Mrs Newton rides out an hour or two in a coach in the evening, when the weather is fair, but cannot go to church or drink tea with a friend.” Newton would have accompanied her as much as possible. When William Cowper heard how bad things were, from a mutual friend who had just visited the Newtons, he empathised: “If it shall please God to restore her, no tidings will give greater joy to us. In the meantime, it is our comfort to know, that in any event you will be sure of supports invaluable, and that cannot fail you, though, at the same time, I know well that, with your feelings, and especially on so affecting a subject, you will have need of the full exercise of all your faith and resignation. To a greater trial no man can be called, than that of being a helpless eye-witness of the sufferings of one he loves tenderly.” (11 August 1790)
[16] As for Fn 8 (9 November 1789), the sense is ‘party-spirit’ as in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17.
[17] Again, the reason for Newton’s absence would have been his wife’s deteriorating state of health. He informed the Taylors that week that “she has the jaundice superadded to her principal complaint, frequent and great sickness in her stomach.” A postscript followed: “My dear can sometimes eat a little fruit, and the doctor recommends it. If your walls can afford a few peaches, and you can spare a pineapple to accompany them, I will thank you. These things can be bought in London, and we do not quite want what money can procure; but the circumstance of coming from Portswood would give them a peculiar relish, the taste of your kindness.” (3 September 1790) Throughout her poor health, Polly continued to read the Scriptures daily, copiously marking passages in her Bible (“which I would not part with for half the manuscripts in the Vatican”, said Newton) and in her copy of Olney Hymns.
[18] The Methodist denomination did not yet exist. Although evangelicals in general were termed ‘methodists’ by non-believers, who saw no distinction, the use here of 'dregs of methodism' probably refers to those followers of John Wesley, who, perhaps having no firm doctrinal foundation, were open to fanaticism, to being too subjective, closed to sharing fellowship with other evangelicals, and to being legalistic.
[19] Newton explained his change in routine to Taylor: “I never stirred out of the house; but I expected to find my dearest a corpse at my return; of course nothing but indispensable duty led or kept me from home.” He updated William Bull on 24 October 1790: “She has outlived the doctor's expectation four or five days; but he thinks she can hardly hold out above a day more.” A month later he told Wilberforce “My dear Mrs Newton is in dying circumstances.  We have expected her dismission almost daily for about a month past.  She is still living, but so low and weak, that she can neither move nor be moved, can hardly bear to speak, or to hear my voice, if I attempt to speak to her.” In early November Newton had to leave her side for a few hours to attend the funeral of their dear friend John Thornton, and again to preach the annual sermon to the Goldsmiths’ Company. In a very moving account of her death the following month, Newton describes how he stayed at her bedside “and watched her for nearly three hours, with a candle in my hand, till I saw her breathe her last, on the 15th of December, 1790, a little before ten in the evening.” (Letters to a Wife, 1793, Appendix No. 1, A Relation of some Particulars, respecting the Cause, Progress, and Close, of the last Illness of my late dear Wife)
[20] This reference to ‘home’ would be particularly poignant for Newton as his wife lay dying. Returning from his journeys he often wrote thankfully in his diary “Home is Home!” Many years earlier, before entering the ministry, he had written to Clunie: “And when we get safe home, we shall not complain that we have suffered too much along the way... No! When we awake into that glorious world, we shall in an instant be satisfied with His likeness. One sight of Jesus as He is will fill our hearts, and dry up all our tears!”

Three decades later he expressed similar thoughts to Walter Taylor: “We are travelling in the coach of time; every day and hour brings us nearer home, and the coachwheels whirl round apace when we are upon the road … If my heart would jump to be within three miles of you, why does it not jump from morning till night to think that I am probably within three years of seeing the Lamb upon the throne?"

And now almost three centuries later, so many today are still finding comfort in these familiar words describing his longing for ‘home’:

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
[21] Mary Newton was buried at St Mary Woolnoth on Thursday 23 December, with Henry Foster reading the burial service at her prior request. On Sunday 26 December Newton preached a funeral sermon for her from Habakkuk 3:17,18 – a text which all his ministry he had reserved exclusively for this occasion, should he survive her “and be able to speak”. When Bank Tube Station was being constructed for the London Underground, all the church vaults had to be emptied. The bodies were taken to City Cemetery in Ilford, to a combined grave, with the exception of Newton and his wife, who were re-interred at Olney.
[22] We learn from this that Newton took rough notes at these meetings and wrote them up afterwards into the above notebook.  From looking at John Bacon’s meeting notes, it seems that Newton combined other people's comments with his own. It also looks as though he may have refected a little more when summarising the discussion in his notebook.
[23] The quote refers to the parable of the wheat and tares, Matthew 13:30 Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
[24] Newton left London on 21 June with Betsy and their servant Crabb to visit Miss Palmer at Meldreth, to Cambridge to see Simeon, Musgrave, Jowett, Ind, to Yelling to stay with Henry Venn, to Everton to be with Berridge, and to Bedford (he spent Sunday evening at the Moravian chapel). They arrived home on 12 July.
They then left London 15 July to stay with Admiral Sir Charles Middleton (1726-1813) at Teston, then to Dover for Betsy to see her relations, to Chatham and Rochester, and back to Teston. They arrived home in London on 2 August.
They left London on 6 August to stay at Reading with Cadogan (1751-1797), Bath with the Grinfields, Bristol and Cowslip Green with the Miss Mores, preaching to Hannah’s Sunday school at Shipham, moving on to Poole, Priestlands, Portswood Green and Reading again. They arrived home in London on 29 September.
[25] The Report of the Court of Directors of the Sierra Leone Company had been published a fortnight earlier on 19 October 1791. The Company’s Directors included Henry Thornton, Sir Charles Middleton and William Wilberforce. Nathaniel Gilbert (1761-1807) had arrived in Sierra Leone as their chaplain the previous year. They now additionally appointed Gilbert’s cousin Melville Horne (1762-1841) as chaplain. Both men had been curates to Fletcher of Madeley. Horne would later become vicar of Olney. [Notably, the above Report states that the Company would neither deal in slaves nor permit any slave trading on their ground.]
[26] Richard Lloyd (1764-1834), was licensed as curate to Clapham (which came under the jurisdiction of Winchester) on 2 December 1791. When Lloyd graduated from Cambridge he was too young to be ordained. Newton recommended him as tutor to the Onslow family. The following year, at the correct age, Lloyd was licensed by the Bishop of London to the curacy of St Mary Woolnoth. Onslow paid Lloyd’s salary for both posts. Perhaps the new curacy at Clapham may have been a sensitive issue in that Lloyd would effectively be curate-in-charge, for the rector, Sir James Stonehouse (c. 1719-1792), was elderly (he died just 4 months later, aged 73, at his family home in Radley). There was also the knowledge that when Stonehouse did die, under the terms of John Thornton's will, the living would go to either Foster or Venn, who might prefer to choose their own curate. Or perhaps someone else had been hoping for the curacy themsleves. Wilberforce later seemed to catch wind of a rumour that Newton had earlier been involved in some form of collusion with Onslow about a merely fictitious title at St Mary Woolnoth. On 15 May 1792 Newton wrote to Wilberforce in very firm terms to clarify that Lloyd ‘was, bona fide, and to all intents and purposes my curate’ before his ordination as curate of Clapham. Wilberforce questioned whether there had been some impropriety earlier through the fact that it had not been widely known that Onslow rather than Newton had been paying Lloyd’s salary. Newton put him right!
[27] Newton  expanded on this point in his series of sermons on the texts from Handel’s Messiah:
“The lamb that grazes in the meadow, and the fish that swims in the stream, are each in their proper element. If you suppose them to change places, they must both perish. But the brute creation have no propensity to such changes as would destroy them. The instincts, implanted in them by their great Creator, are conducive to their welfare; and to these instincts they are uniformly faithful. If you can conceive the beasts impatient to leave the shore, and improve their situation by rushing into the ocean; and the fishes equally earnest to forsake the waters, in quest of new and greater advantages upon the dry land, it may illustrate the folly of fallen man, who, turned aside by a deceived heart, refuses life, and seeks death in the error of his ways. For the will of God (if I may so speak) is our proper element; and if we depart from it, our sin unavoidably involves our punishment.” (Messiah, John Newton, 1786, Sermon 20, Isaiah 53:6)
[28] ‘Thoughts on the Doctrine of the Trinity’, by Omicron, The Evangelical Magazine, November, 1794, pp 458-553, reprinted in Newton’s Works under ‘Miscellaneous Papers’
[29] Tritheism: the teaching that the Godhead is three separate beings forming three separate Gods rather than the doctrine of the Trinity, that there is one God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
[30] An example occurs in Newton’s first sermon written for publication, on 1 Timothy 1:15 – “How his heart was filled and fired with the first of these [the honours, power, and faithfulness of the Lord Jesus Christ], is evident from almost every chapter of his epistles. When he speaks of that mystery of godliness, ‘God manifested in the flesh,’ and the exceeding grace and love declared to a lost world through him, the utmost powers of language fall short of his purpose.” (Six Discourses, as Intended for the Pulpit, 1760). This sermon is second in the list, but his diary shows that it was written before any of the others.
[31] The Roman Governor Pliny the Younger (62?-c113), and the Roman Emperor Flavius Claudius Iulianus Augustus, or ‘Julian the Apostate’ (AD 361-363) [see also Newton On Pliny’s Letter to Trajan in his Works under ‘Miscellaneous Papers’]
[32] The point being made here is that when faced with temptation we may recall, as in 1 Corinthians 10:13, that God always provides a 'way of escape'. Balak brought Balaam to the top of Peor, demanding that he should curse Israel (Numbers 23:28), but to his fury, Balaam was touched by God and blessed them instead (Numbers 24:10). Potiphar’s wife attempted to seduce Joseph but he refused ‘to sin against God’ (Genesis 39:7-12).
[33] Solecism: literally ‘speaking incorrectly’ – here, ‘behaving incorrectly’
[34] In Sermon 32 of Messiah (1786), ‘The Progress of the Gospel’, on Romans 10:18, Their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the end of the world, Newton says:
“The truth of the prophecy will be proved by its final completion; which, though not likely to take place in our time, we may be assured that it cannot fail, for the Lord has spoken it… It was not necessary for the fulfilling of this prophecy, nor consistent with the tenor of many other prophecies, that the spread of the Gospel should be instantaneous and universal on its first publication. MESSIAH is to rule in the midst of His enemies, till the appointed season, when all enemies shall be subdued under His feet.”
[35] These points are all drawn directly from Deuteronomy 8.
[36] The abolition debates began on Monday 19 Mar 1792.

Newton had written to William Bull: “The abolition business comes on next Monday. Help us with your prayers, that He who has all hearts in his hands may give a happy issue. On one side humanity, conscience, and the sense of the nation, are engaged, against interest and influence on the other. But interest is blind, and mistakes its own cause. However, the battle is the Lord's.”

Newton had also preached on Sunday evening 18 March in preparatory support, “when I was assured that Mr Wilberforce would renew his motion in the House this session.” His text was Jeremiah 2:34, from which he “charged all who do not express their detestation of this traffic, now things are so thoroughly investigated, and notorious, with blood-guiltiness.”

He followed this up with a further report to Bull:  “A motion since made in the Common Council for a petition to Parliament on the subject, has been negatived. If the city wanted a motto, I would furnish them with Virtus post Nummos (i.e. Money comes first – Horace). If the business miscarries again, I shall fear not only for the poor slaves, but for ourselves. For I think if men refuse to vindicate the oppressed, the Lord will take their cause into his own hands. And the consequences may be dreadful both abroad and at home; whatever mischiefs may arise from hurricanes, insurrections, etc. etc., I shall attribute to this cause.”

Newton’s Thoughts upon the African Slave Trade had already been published several years earlier on 26 January 1788. He had written it in response to a general appeal from the Abolition Committee for supporting material in advance of the Parliamentary Debates on the Slave Trade, which they anticipated would begin in February 1788. Just a few days after its first publication, this Committee reprinted an extra 3,000 and gave a copy of Newton’s book to each member of both Houses of Parliament. Newton was asked in February 1788 to give evidence before the Privy Council; he appeared again in May 1790 before a Select Committee of the House of Commons.

Many delaying tactics and ‘misinformation’ had both postponed and prolonged the debates. Consequently, their resumption on 19 March marked a crucial period for regaining momentum. The Eclectic Society’s subject would have been proposed at the earliest opportunity, i.e. at the previous meeting on 26 March.
[37] John Thornton had directed in his will that, on the death of the incumbent, Sir James Stonehouse (who had died just over a week earlier on 14 April 1792), the living of Clapham should be offered first to Henry Foster and secondly to John Venn. As soon as he heard of the vacancy, Simeon asked Foster to defer in favour of Venn, believing that the latter’s gifts could benefit the Gospel more in London than at his country living of Little Dunham, Norfolk.  This suggestion must have resonated with Foster, who had himself earlier declined Newton’s offer of the curacy of his country church in Olney in favour of Romaine’s curacy in London. Foster decided not to take up Clapham, leaving Venn with a difficult decision. Venn accepted the following month and was instituted rector of Clapham on 8 June 1792, although it was almost a year before he moved from Norfolk. Henry Jowett (1756-1830) had asked Venn to remain there while he fulfilled his own tutorial duties at Magdalene College, Cambridge, before taking over from him as rector of Little Dunham. Foster was much respected for his decision of not taking either the higher income of Clapham or the compensation which Simeon had offered him. Newton replied to Wilberforce on 7 July 1792: “Mr Foster has indeed disguised himself by his wig; but the affair of Clapham, proves him to be the same man, and that the judgment which has been long formed of his integrity and disinterestedness, was well founded.”
[38] Hebrews 5:12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
[39] See Proverbs 6:6; 6:9; 10:26; 13:4; 20:4; 26:16
[40] Newton left London on 5 June to visit friends in Stanmore, Little Horwood, Northampton, Creaton, Leicester, Melton Mowbray, Kettering, and chiefly “my old folks” in Olney, where he preached on 1 July. He visited Cowper in his home at Weston Underwood. Cowper said, “I think the Lord came with you”. Newton’s visit had awakened in him “more spiritual feeling” than he had experienced for twenty years.  “The comforts that I had received under your ministry, in better days, all rushed upon my recollection; and, during two or three transient moments, seemed to be in a degree renewed.”
[41] Matthew 11:19 The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.
Luke 7:35 But wisdom is justified of all her children.
[42] Titus 2 is about matching behaviour to doctrine
[43] Romans 8:23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
2 Corinthians 5:4 For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.
[44] Psalm 119:9 Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.
[45] ‘retirement’ here means drawing aside for private communion with God
[46] In September 1792, the London Times reported that 11,000 people had been massacred in Paris, ‘butchered like sheep at a slaughter house’, the Princess De Lamballe had been decapitated, after ‘her thighs were cut across, and her bowels and heart torn from her, and for two days her mangled body was dragged through the streets.’ At the Place Dauphin, ‘the mob had made a fire, and before it several men, women, and children were roasted alive.’ The National Convention was elected on 20 September to provide a new constitution. It formally abolished the monarchy on 21 September and established a republic on 22 September.
[47] Romans 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
[48] It is not clear whether ‘omitted’ refers to Newton’s attendance, his notes, or the meeting itself. The missing question has been determined from the list in The Christian Observer, November 1831
[49] With the French Revolution in progress, there was much anxiety lest civil disorder should spread across to England. When a proposal made then was renewed two years later ‘to discountenance the use of West India produce, till the Abolition of the Slave trade is effected’, Newton again sought Wilberforce’s opinion, adding his own this time: “I think it premature, and rather beginning, as we say, at the wrong end. In these noisy times I would be cautious of taking any steps which might even remotely seem to imply dissatisfaction with government.” (13 December 1794)
[50] e.g. James 2:9 but if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.
[51] ‘party’ as earlier (Fns 8, 14), meaning divisions and cliques as cautioned against in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17
[52] ‘interest’ here means seeking selfish advantage
[53] ‘Brother Woodd’ was Basil Woodd (1760–1831), lecturer at St Peter’s Cornhill, close to St Mary Woolnoth, and minister at Bentinck (propriety) Chapel, Lisson Street.  As his wife had lain dying in 1791, Woodd read her a letter of condolence and encouragement he had received from Newton. “If it is not improper” she said, “give my love to him; tell him he thinks more of me than I deserve… Tell him whether I live or die, all is well, and I believe will work together for my good… Tell him not to forget me in his prayers.” Newton performed her burial service. Woodd married again the following year.  He purchased the lease of Bentinck Chapel in 1793, presumably after this Eclectic Society discussion. During his time at Bentinck, Woodd saw the congregation increase from 20 to 300 regular attenders. He founded schools, entirely supported by Bentinck Chapel, in which some 3,000 children were educated.
[54] No reason is given for the blanks in the next three meetings. It may be that Newton attended but did not write up his notes. They cover a particularly busy period for him while completing the editing of Letters to a Wife for the press. He informed the Taylors: “This task will oblige me to write short letters even to my dearest friends, till it is finished.” (1 February 1793)
To Wilberforce he explained: “I have been busy for some time, when I had leisure for the employment, in selecting and extracting from a large heap of letters formerly written to my dear Mrs Newton, materials for a publication, which at this time when the married state is treated so contemptuously by many, I hope, by the Lord’s blessing, may not be wholly unseasonable nor unuseful.” (11 April 1793)
[55] A Fast Day was appointed for 19 April 1793.   France had declared war against Britain on 1 February 1793.
[56] ‘professors’ – i.e. those who professed the Christian faith
[57] The Fast Day Sermon on 19 April 1793 by Thomas Scott, a member of the Eclectic Society, reflected these points. Entitled An Estimate of the Religious Character and State of Great Britain, it referred to ‘daring infidelity and damnable heresy’.
[58] Bacon noted that Newton had commented: “We should know that the man's turn and manner suits our people - sometimes a man preaches to believers as though they were all pickpockets!”
[59] No reason is given for the absence of notes. The previous Monday, 27 May, Newton had been approached for help by William Carey and had written a letter of introduction for him to William Wilberforce, in which he urged Wilberforce to meet with Carey: “you could perhaps give him such advice in a quarter of an hour, as might put him in a right path, and be useful to him through life.”
[60] Newton left London on 8 August 1793 with Betsy, visiting Ambrose Serle at Heckfield (where he was to meet a newly converted couple, Thomas and Sophia Ring, who would become firm friends), the Taylors at Portswood Green, Southampton and Charles Etty (c1718-1797) at Priestlands, near Lymington, returning via the Rings at Reading. They arrived home in London on 27 September.
[61] 1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
[62] No reason is given for the above absence of notes. However, Newton’s preference for extempore preaching was well-known: "When we read to the people,” he declared, “they think themselves less concerned in what is offered than when we speak to them point blank.” He responded at length to Henry Venn’s probing on this point in 1779: “I believe I may say that for more than 20 years, very few single days passed when I was at home and had the dispersal of my own time, in which I did not spend from six to ten hours daily in subjects and employments, which had a direct suitableness to pulpit service.  I have written several – perhaps I may say many – reams of paper in the forms of discourses, and for about ten or twelve years after I came to Olney, I seldom preached upon any text on which I had not previously written to some extent.” During his wife’s repeated illness, he had spoken with less premeditation, he acknowledged, but nevertheless reckoned that “I do not generally speak with less precision and coherence, in this way than I did formerly … My shoes fit me - but I would not wish every person to have his made upon my last, because the size and form of his foot may be different… I would not dare to preach at Olney with less preparation than I would venture upon in London.”
[63] On 27 January 1794 Newton wrote to the Taylors: “I am at present a prisoner myself; but I have everything to make my prison comfortable. I had a fall in the street on Tuesday [21st], which might have proved of worse consequence. The Lord preserved both my bones and my skin from being broken, but I strained my instep violently. My leg is much swelled, and I cannot set my foot to the ground; but I am free from pain. I can eat and sleep, my spirits are good, and I have many kind friends. It may be some time before I am able to walk, but not a minute longer than the Lord sees it best. I am not my own, I belong to him, and wish not to be anxious about myself. He has permitted me to cast my cares upon him, and warrants me to believe that he careth for me.” He later informed the Coffins of Linkenhorne that his confinement had not kept him long from the pulpit: “I had but two silent Sabbaths”.
[64] This Fast Day was on 28 February 1794. Newton’s [morning] sermon was published and later included in his Works: The imminent Danger, and the only sure Resource of this Nation: a Sermon, preached in the Parish Church of St Mary Woolnoth, on Friday, February 28, 1794. The Day appointed for a General Fast. Published by Johnson, it cost 6d. The cover text was Hosea 6:1 Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up.
The sermon text was Jonah 3:9 Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? His afternoon sermon was on Job 34:29 When he giveth quietness, who then can make trouble? and when he hideth his face, who then can behold him? whether it be done against a nation, or against a man only.
[65] Newton often spoke of the significance of dreams. In his Narrative, he relates a dream he had before his conversion, of a precious ring he dropped; it was retrieved but kept safe for him until he needed it: “…a time came, when I found myself in circumstances very nearly resembling those suggested by this extraordinary dream, when I stood helpless and hopeless upon the brink of an awful eternity; and I doubt not that, had the eyes of my mind been then opened, I should have seen my grand enemy, who had seduced me wilfully to renounce and cast away my religious professions, and to involve myself in the most complicated crimes; … I should perhaps have seen likewise, that Jesus, whom I had persecuted and defied, rebuking the adversary, challenging me for his own, as a brand plucked out of the fire, and saying, ‘Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom.’”

One of Newton’s hymns is ‘On dreaming’, When slumber seals our weary eyes, Olney Hymns, Book 2, Hymn 98:

What mighty agents have access,
What friends from heaven, or foes from hell,
Our minds to comfort or distress,
When we are sleeping, who can tell?

In a lighter vein, Newton wrote to John Campbell (1766-1840): “I had once a young lady a month in my house, who had a singular faculty of dreaming that she heard a sermon every night; and she usually told us the text, the heads, and much of the discourse at breakfast. The preacher was sometimes one whom she knew, and sometimes an utter stranger. But when she married, she lost her gift; and, poor thing, she has since met with many things which she never dreamed of.”
[66] No reason is given for the absence of notes. Newton was well and in London. On 29 April 1794 he confessed to John Campbell: “I have at present about sixty unanswered letters, and while I am writing one, I usually receive two, so that I am likely to die much in debt. I have many dear friends to whom I cannot write for a year or two, or longer, though perhaps am forced to write to those whom I never saw.”
[67] Newton often made donations like these, for instance to Robert Hall (1728-1791), Baptist minister of Arnesby, and to Sarah, the widow of Samuel Pearce (1766-1799). In London he was frequently being asked for money. He founded the Society for the Relief of Poor Pious Clergy in 1788, to assist "poor, pious, active, Ministers of the Gospel, in the establishment, of unexceptionable character, residing in the country; the tenor of whose preaching is according to the doctrinal articles of the church of England." Several of the founding committee were members of the Eclectic Society. This society still exists today (registered charity no. 232634), independent but with links to the Church Pastoral Aid Society. Newton donated the royalties  from his Memoirs of Grimshaw to the SRPC. The royalties from his Thoughts upon the African Slave Trade were donated to the Sunday School Society, for which he preached fund-raising sermons on several occasions and to which he was a subscribing member. He rallied Christians across denominations to the aid of the financially straitened Moravian missions, which he considered "cannot be equalled in any age, or by any people since the apostolic day", with a very few exceptions.
[68] Newton left London with Betsy on 17 June for “a five weeks’ cruise”, staying at Meldreth with Miss Palmer, at Cambridge to visit Simeon, Buchanan, Farish, Lloyd, Ind, Jowett and others, at Yellling with Henry Venn, and returning home via Wrestlingworth, Potton, Bedford, Olney and Willan. They arrived home in London on 24 July.
[69] ‘improving events’ i.e. drawing out good from them
[70] In Greek mythology, Hydra was a many-headed serpent.
[71] in toto: as a whole
[72] ‘partially’ – with bias, looking at a limited amount of the evidence
[73] Bacon notes that with respect to dependence, Newton cautioned the group: "We should always rise with a view that without God’s keeping we shall ruin ourselves and the influence we have in the Church of God – if we were to ask only one thing and be sure to attain it, it should be well if we asked for a spirit of dependence."
[74] 2 Timothy 1:12 For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.
[75] In his very early days of conversion, while at sea for many months, although he had not yet fully understood justification by faith in Christ alone,  Newton evidenced his ‘serious mind’ by daily reading and meditating on ‘the works, Word and ways of God’ and the writings of those whom he assumed were spiritual authors.
[76] Newton described his experience to the Taylors: “Olney was a sort of nervous school to me. Most of my poor people there, from lowness of diet, the confinement of lace-making, and want of exercise and fresh air, were nervous in different degrees, which gave a melancholy cast to their whole religious experience. Indeed everything appears with a dark hue when perceived through the medium of weak and disordered nerves.” However, he added, the converse might be equally hazardous: “Some people's nerves seem made of steel, and what they cannot feel they know not how to pity.” (27 January 1794)
[77] ‘frames’ – temperaments
[78] We have an example of Newton’s being gentle and gradual himself, from his diary, 25 September 1764: “Paid a visit to Mr Griffiths, Rector of Turvey, who was ordained priest with me at Buckden. He is an agreeable young man, a scholar and seems to lack but one thing. He received me very kindly, and we entered upon some general topics of conversation which I hope will prove the beginning of useful acquaintance. I am fearful of driving too fast. The Lord give me both wisdom and courage.”
[79] This was a habit which Newton developed early on in his Christian life, seen for example  in his diary of 20 January 1755: “As merchants begin their books with an inventory of stock, so would I in a brief manner set down my present state for my future government.” The same principal appears in his Amazing Grace sermon, referring to King David’s experiences in 1 Chronicles 17: “I would accommodate them to our own use as a proper subject for our meditations on the entrance of a new year.  They lead us to a consideration of past mercies and future hopes and intimate the frame of mind which becomes us when we contemplate what the Lord has done for us.”
[80] This was a consistent theme for Newton. He wrote in his diary on his birthday (which was also the anniversary of his devotion of himself for the ministry), 4 August 1773:  “Help me to serve thee with a single eye and a simple heart, and to make thy glory, my own progress in holiness, and the good of souls my great, constant and only ends of action. Amen.”
[81] If Newton really was too passive, it rather throws his contemporaries into a pretty poor light!

Dated Summary of Questions
[to return to the start of Newton's notes click here]
 
6 July 1789 In what sense are we to become all things to all men?
20 July 1789 How to oppose Antinomianism, without countenancing, a secret refined spirit of self-righteousness
3 August 1789 Are threatenings a part of the Gospel, and what is their particular use?
17 August 1789 What is the best method for a young Minister to study divinity?
31 August 1789 A brother going to settle where smuggling abounds, proposed, How he should direct his preaching against this enormity?
14 September 1789 [Newton absent]
28 September 1789 [Newton absent]
12 October 1789 How to walk wisely towards them that are without
26 October 1789 What is Christian candour?
9 November 1789 What are the doctrinal and practical causes of the present laxity in religious profession?
23 November 1789 How do errors in doctrine and practice, mutually strengthen each other?
7 December 1789 What are the criteria of a work of God?
21 December 1789 What may Ministers attempt, for the good of hearers, more than they do at present?  Or how may they hope to be most useful?
4 January 1790 What is flattery?
18 January 1790 Evil, origin, and cure of a late attendance on public worship
1 February 1790 To what is the diversity of Christian experiences owing?
15 February 1790 Concerning true and false zeal
1 March 1790 How to conduct ourselves towards suspicious characters
15 March 1790 How far are the Scriptures reducible to a system?
29 March 1790 What are the best means of preventing apostacy, in Ministers and privates?
12 April 1790 What are the principal offences of the Gospel at this day?
26 April 1790 What is the meetness for the inheritance of the saints in light?
10 May 1790 What [are] the good or bad effects of being influenced by impressions?
24 May 1790 How are sin or grace evidenced, in speaking of the faults of others?
7 June 1790 What is the ground, nature and tendency of assurance of hope?
21 June 1790 What are talents?
5 July 1790 What are the Scriptural senses of the word, Covenant?
19 July 1790 What is included in the friendship of the world, and what the dangers?
2 August 1790 What is the duty of a Minister and his family, with respect to preaching or attending irregular places of worship?
16 August 1790 What are the sources, characters and supports of hypocrisy?
30 August 1790 What causes will justify a Minister in removing from his post?
13 September 1790 What is it to declare the whole counsel of God?
27 September 1790 What are the peculiar dangers of youth in the present day?
11 October 1790 Whether we have sufficient reason to hold the authority of the Epistles, on the same ground with the words of our Lord himself  And what are the usual sources of doubts upon this head?
25 October 1790 [Newton absent]
8 November 1790 [Newton absent]
22 November 1790 [Newton absent]
6 December 1790 How to preserve a due impression of the eternal world, amidst the incumbrances of the present state?
20 December 1790 How is it that our greatest trials spring from our dearest comforts?
3 January 1791 What useful reflections may be drawn from the public occurrences of the last year?
17 January 1791 How may a believer detect the remains of antenomianism and pharisaism?
31 January 1791 How to make old-age comfortable and honourable
14 February 1791 What were the views of the disciples, previous to our Lord's Passion?
28 February 1791 What is the proper use of reason, in studying and explaining the Scriptures?
14 March 1791 How may we visit the sick to the most advantage?
28 March1791 What are the Scriptural ideas of temperance and purity?
11 April 1791 What is that fear of man which bringeth a snare, and how cured?
25 April 1791 Wherein consists the right government of the tongue, and how to obtain it?
9 May 1791 Concerning wheat and tares — How are we to observe the direction, ‘Let both grow’?
23 May 1791 What is the liberty of the Gospel?
6 June 1791 How to make charitable bequests, so as most to promote the great end
20 June 1791 How far may a Minister concern himself with politics?
  [abroad till the end of September]
10 October 1791 What is Christianity, with or without the doctrine of the Deity of Christ?
24 October 1791 Wherein consists the true dignity of the pulpit?
7 November 1791 What may be suggested to the missionaries who are going to Sierra Leon[e]?
21 November 1791 On what grounds are we to think others better than ourselves?
5 December 1791 How far may a Minister, with propriety, speak of his own concerns in the pulpit?
19 December 1791 How should a Minister conduct himself, in a delicate and genteel situation? 
2 January 1792 How to exercise magnanimity without pride; and humility without meanness?
16 January 1792 What is to be understood by habits of grace?
30 January 1792 How to preach Christ in his personal character and glory, so as not [to] derogate from the F and HS [Father and Holy Spirit]
13 February 1792 By what arguments may we best support the mind, against infidelity?
27 February 1792 What is the Scriptural sense of the Millennium, and how to be preached?
12 March 1792 What is the criteria of sanctified afflictions?
26 March 1792 What is it, rightly to divide the Word of Truth?
9 April 1792 On the slave trade
23 April 1792 On the case of Mr Foster with respect to Clapham
7 May 1792 What does the Apostle mean by ‘milk’, and what by ‘strong meat’?
21 May 1792 How may we suppose St Paul would preach if he were now in London?
4 June 1792 What is the nature and bad effects of indolence especially in Ministers, and what the cure?
18 June 1792 [Newton absent]
2 July 1792 [Newton absent]
16 July 1792 In what sense is wisdom justified of her children?
30 July 1792 Why do believers groan, and what do they wait for?
13 August 1792 Who are the preachers of free grace, and who are the counterfeits?
27 August 1792 How may a young man cleanse his way?
10 September 1792 What are the obligations and advantages of retirement?
24 September 1792 What lessons may we learn from the state of affairs in France?
8 October 1792 How is the enmity of the carnal mind displayed?
22 October 1792 What are the marks of faithful preaching?
5 November 1792 What are the criteria of Christian friendship?
19 November 1792 [Omitted]
3 December 1792 What is the duty of Christians in time of civil contention?
17 December 1792 What is the use and abuse of Festivals?
31 December 1792 What is that respect of persons which the Scripture condemns?
14 January 1793 The case of Brother Woodd's Chapel stated and discussed
28 January 1793 Is faith its own evidence?
11 February 1793 How may be[we] best study the Scriptures?
25 February 1793 What constitutes a decided religious character?
11 March 1793 How may we judge of the signs of the times?
25 March 1793 What are the causes, effects and cure of envy?
1 April 1793 How to improve the approaching Fast
22 April 1793 How do Ministers contribute to increase the offence of the Gospel?
6 May 1793 What reprehensible customs have been introduced, in the late revival of religion?
20 May 1793 To what characters should we refuse the pulpit?[
3 June 1793 What difference between natural attainments and spiritual illumination?
17 June 1793 How far does Paul by his example and epistles, encourage celibacy?
1 July 1793 What are the advantages and disadvantages of learning to a Minister?
15 July 1793 What is the modern progress of infidelity to atheism?
29 July 1793 How does God ordinarily speak peace to the soul?
7 October 1793 What is that wisdom which Paul rejected, lest the Cross of Christ should be of none effect?
21 October 1793 What is the criterion of a blessing received in hearing sermons?
4 November 1793 How to bear and improve by bodily afflictions
18 November 1793 Why are most people ignorant of the motive of their own conduct?
2 December 1793 How far Ministers may interfere with parochial business?
16 December 1793 In what cases are Ministers chargeable with irregularity?
30 December 1793 What are the advantages or disadvantages of extempore preaching?[
13 January 1794 How far may a Minister's feelings influence him in his public preaching? [incorrectly recorded as 12th Jan]
27 January 1794 [Newton absent] [incorrectly recorded as 26th Jan]
10 February 1794 How may we distinguish heart conviction [above this Newton wrote ‘corruption’] from the temptations of Satan?
24 February 1794 What concessions may Ministers make to the customs of polite-life?
10 March 1794 What help may we derive from Scripture to form our ideas of the unseen world?
24 March 1794 What are the natural, moral and evangelical restraints of sin?
7 April 1794 What is the efficacy of the sacraments?
21 April 1794 What are the peculiar sins and temptations of Ministers?
5 May 1794 How to speak of the world without giving just cause of disgust
19 May 1794 What is the best mode of almsgiving?
2 June 1794 How are proper ministerial feelings acquired and preserved?
16 June 1794 What is a free-grace preacher?
28 July 1794 How to reconcile Paul and James on justification
11 August 1794 How is our Lord, as a Preacher, a pattern to Ministers?
25 August 1794 What was the state of the Apostle’s faith previous to the descent of the Holy Spirit?
8 September 1794 What are the marks of a selfish Minister?
22 September 1794 Upon what grounds may a man conclude himself to be a Christian?
6 October 1794 Wherein are the best manly [i.e. merely human] moral characters defective?
20 October 1794 What is the best method for meditation?
3 November 1794 On what grounds is religion charged with a tendency to madness?
17 November 1794 How far is it a Minister's duty to urge the reasons why Christ must needs suffer?
1 December 1794 How may we best introduce religious conversation in company?
15 December 1794 What [is] the nature of that communion with God, which true believers enjoy in the present life?
29 December 1794 How may we best improve the entrance of the ensuing year, in the present posture of affairs?
12 January 1795 What is the best character of a Minister to make a good impression on his hearers?
26 January 1795 What do we now see were our principal errors when we first set out as Ministers?
9 February 1795 How to improve the approaching Fast?
 
[to return to the start of Newton's notes click here]

Ackowledgements:

Cowper & Newton Museum: MS 780 (John Newton's Eclectic Society Notes)
Church Mission Society: Acc 770Z1 (John Bacon's Eclectic Society notes)
KJV reproduced by permission of Cambridge University Press, the Crown’s patentee in the UK
 

Marylynn Rouse, 19/02/2015


Article printed from johnnewton.org at 03:32 on 26 August 2019