Giving thanks for John Newton
In May 1787, the First Fleet set sail from Portsmouth, carrying 1,400 officers, ships’ crew, marines and their families, convicts – and the Chaplain, Richard Johnson and his wife Mary. They were bound for New South Wales, on the other side of the world.
John Newton was one of the key men who had worked to have a minister of the gospel on the First Fleet.
We get a glimpse into his motivation in this previously unpublished extract from his 1777 diary. It was written seven years before he helped found The Eclectic Society, ten years before the Fleet sailed, and twenty-two years before he helped found CMS. –
8 July 1777
My leisure time and rather more than I can well spare taken up with reading the accounts of the late voyage of Capt. Cook in the Southern Ocean and round the Globe.
Teach me to see thy hand and read thy name in these relations. Thy providence and goodness are displayed in every clime. May I be suitably affected with the case of the countless thousands of my fellow creatures, who know thee not, nor have opportunities of knowing thee.
Alas that those who are called Christians, and who venture through the greatest dangers to explore unknown regions, should only impart to the inhabitants examples of sin and occasions of mischief, and communicate nothing of thy Gospel to them. Lord hast thou not a time for these poor benighted souls, when thou wilt arise and shine upon them?
Give thanks for John Newton, and men and women like him.
Special thanks to Marylynn Rouse of The John Newton Project, who found this entry in Newton’s diary from his time in Olney and passed it on to us.
The painting of John Newton by John Russell hangs in the CMS building in Oxford. Photo © Marylynn Rouse / The John Newton Project, used with permission. Larger version here.