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The John Newton Project

John Newton to Thomas Robinson

13. 16 September 1780*
 
My Dear Friend
 
Welcome from the sea shore! Were you not pleased while there? There is something grand and solemn in the situation. The expanse of water, the breaking of the surges, awaken a kind of enthusiasm—a true enthusiasm, indeed, if our hearts take fire and rise from the survey of the objects around us to the contemplation of their Author. To feel Him near and puny mortals withdrawn, to have all still within and no noise without but the dashing of the bil­lows upon the strand—oh! how should I like a walk of an hour or two on such a spot in such a frame! How should I relish and feel what Pliny wrote, and more than he felt when he wrote it—O dulce otium! O mare! O litus! verum secretumque mouseion! quam multa invenitis, quam multa dictatis![1] Indeed, I long for the rural, the retreat—the mountain, the wood, or the beach, anywhere that I might rove about for half a day without being seen. Here I am watched and crowded and pes­tered with the noises, the littlenesses, the follies and the absurdities of men—of men, women, and children, for they all act from the same principle, though upon a different scale.
 
However, notwithstanding this sally, I wish you to understand (for it is to the Lord's praise) that I am quite satisfied and happy (considering what I am and what a world I live in) with my new noisy situation. I find, when He pleases I can be alone in a crowd. And I am sure, were I in the deepest solitude, I should have a crowd with me and in me, except He were pleased to keep them off. Let us not listen to the murmurings of self-will, which is so ready to suggest we could place ourselves better, at least more pleasantly, than He has placed us. It is false. The path of duty, the spot where I ought to be, is and must be the best spot in the whole creation for me. To think otherwise is to dishonour that Infinite Wisdom and Goodness which condescends to direct our steps.
 
I know little more of the parish of Mary Woolnoth, than I do of Mary Leicester. I have no persecution to boast of. The parishioners give me no trouble, and some of them attend. But as I told them in my first sermon I should not intrude myself, and as they have not yet invited me, I have no access to their houses, except three or four serious families. I wish to pray for them, and wait the Lord's time. Perhaps this winter may bring us to a better acquaintance. In summer they are much out of town. The church is well attended, and, so far as I can judge, I have never been favoured with more pulpit liberty than since my removal to London. I am sowing in hope, and beg you to help me in watering the seed by prayer. My congrega­tions are made up from all parts, and of all sorts—almost as many different names attend my preaching as of nations when Peter preached—(Acts 2).[2] And with me, likewise, they all seem to hear, as each in their own tongue, the wonderful works of God. They sit quietly, and if I bear hard upon them all in their turns, they all in their turns seem pleased. I have more than a few of Mr Wesley's people, some in my own parish, who seem excellent people indeed—and we agree as well as if we were of the same length and breadth to a hair.
 
In a few weeks you will see advertised “Cardiphonia, or the Utterance of the Heart, in two volumes duodecimo, by Omicron.”[3] I shall order a small parcel to Leicester, and shall beg Mr Robinson, the two Mr Ludlams, and Dr Ford to accept a copy as a token of the author's love. These letters, I hope, my correspondents will ac­cept in the lieu of new ones; for henceforward I shall be able to write but few and short. I have but little leisure here, and have something else in view for the press, if the Lord help me to bring it forth. But if I mean to print, correspondence must be much abridged. So that when my friends want a letter from me, they must take up the book and read one.
 
I was glad to see the Confrater;[4] we talked a good deal. May He speak to our hearts, who can affect them as He pleases! All others speak in vain, till He puts in a word of His own; then disputes are presently settled.

You and I are agreed about the Pro-Association. I believe they meant well; that is those who had any meaning; for I am persuaded not a few were like the Ecclesia, Acts 19. But they were wrong in their principle and manner. True religion depends on the Lord for protection, needs not carnal weapons, nor encourages persecution in any mode or degree. The Lord poured awful contempt on their misguided zeal, in permitting them to be what they little designed—the im­mediate occasion of such outrages as will stain the annals of our history. I am glad of good news from you; I trust the Lord will bless you more and more, that you shall see the work made broader and deeper—the lines lengthened and the stakes strengthened. But we must not expect every blossom will set and abide, and be­come fruit. We have much encouragement; and the things, we would prevent if we could, should not distress us over much. The Lord has told us beforehand what to expect. The parable of the sower and of the tares are in the Scripture, and the Scripture cannot be broken.
 
We join in Iove to you and Mrs Robinson, and all friends, who are not named for want of room. I think, when I say all, I do not forget one—I love to recollect the kindness I have received in Leicester.
 
I am your affectionate friend,
    
16 September, 1780       John Newton
   
*    The Evangelical Register, 1838; page 443, No. 15  


Endnotes:

[1] O dulce otium! O mare! O litus! verum secretumque  mouseion[mouseion]! quam multa invenitis, quam multa dictatis: O sweet leisure! O sea, O shore, true and secret shrine of the Muses, how many things do you discover, how many you dictate! [translation from Religious Education in Pre-Modern Europe, ed Ilinca Tanaseanu-Döbler and Marvin Döbler, 2012, p235
[2] Acts 2:5-6 And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.
[3] Newton had written to William Cowper: “Can you compound me a nice Greek word as pretty in sound and as scholastically put together as Thelyphthora, and as much more favourable import as you please, to stand at the top of the title page, and to serve as a handle for an inquirer?"  Cowper came up with Cardiphonia - the utterance of the heart.
[4] Thomas Ludlam, qv (2 Oct 1775)





 


 

Marylynn Rouse, 25/06/2015


Article printed from johnnewton.org at 07:53 on 26 June 2019