Read an excerpt from the diary
In these entries from 1758, John Newton reflected on his aspiration to achieve ordination in the Church of England, gave thanks on the anniversary of his birth, and looked back on his earlier diary entries.
When shall I be delivered from this? When shall I attain to forming no thought of myself & to learn humility from my frequent falls & failings[?] Alas in vain do I reason with myself. Do thou O Lord pardon, heal, & amend me! Receivd a very obliging spiritual Letter from Lord D– he sees but little reason to expect my admission into the vineyard by the Episcopal door – about the same time receivd one from Mr. Ro– putting me in mind of the shortness of life &c; & advising me if quite shut on that side, to apply & begin elsewhere as fast as possible. I know not yet what to determine, therefore think it my duty to wait till I do[.] answerd his letter the next day & sent a new string of queries. I have wrote likewise within this time to Sister A.
Thursday 19 July. Sad heartless fruitless times. Some short & precious intervals have now & then occur'd, but for the most part since I wrote last my mind has been a chaos, a scene of darkness & confusion[.] I have daily experience that He who has begun the work of Grace in my heart is alone able to maintain it, & that in proportion as he withdraws my enemies immediately prevail – Conscie[n]tious compunctions, & resolutions are no more restraint to the power of indwelling sin when I am left to these helps, than the withe with which Sampson was bound were to the exercise of his strength. I have need to put my mouth in the dust & cry Unclean Unclean. Perhaps I have never found [commissions?] more active, & less spirit to resist & deny them since my first entrance upon this warfare, the consequence has been exceeding detrimental to my studies, gifts, comforts & usefulness – all these have been folly – this morning I have found some returning liberty to pray & mourn before the Lord, I hope it is an indication of better times, for whenever he disposes one to seek him, I am sure He is near & ready to be found of me; & I generally find all my other tempers & experiences to be proportionable to the spirit of my prayers, when this prayer is a burthen nothing does me good; but as long as the door of access is kept open & duly attended, I find the joy of the Lord to be my strength, & nothing is suffered to harm me. On the 7 inst I wrote a full account of my situation to Dr. Young, & entreated his good offices, receivd his answer two days since. I am encouragd by his approbation, but he cannot help me. I have only now to appeal to my Lord of [Canten?] & leave the issue with the Lord; for I think upon a refusal there which I am prepard to expect, that I will retract the pursuit, & take up the conclusion Mr. Romaine has already made for me, that it is not the will of God I should appear on that side.
Monday 6 August. The anniversary of my birthday, & of my solemn devoting myself to the service of the Sanctuary[.] returnd on Saturday last, but as it fell in my boarding week, & I could not with certainty & convenience command leisure for retirement, I pospond it till to day; I came to Edmund Street this morning by 7, & am desirous to spend the day till towards 5 in the evening in fasting & prayer, to receive the solemn engagement I have laid myself under, to bemoan the unsuitableness of my profession behaviour thro the past year to such a hope & undertaking, & to entreat the Lord graciously to pardon & accept me, & in his good time to display a light up on the path in which he would have me go forth, & to endue me with timely power from on high. In a word to dispose of me & all my concerns as may most promote his Glory in me & by me.
I have been reading what I have recorded of my experience in the last year – a strange vanity. I find myself condemnd in every page[.] But the Lord is good, O how gracious! How wonderfully has he born with my repeated backslidings! And yet the thought but faintly affects. What I can I will – Lord I am not able to praise thee, accept the desire, which I trust is thine own gift – deliver me from that pride, impurity & self seeking, which so fatally interrupt my progress. Be pleasd to own the design of this days retirement; if it is not thy pleasure to honour me with that important calling, enable me to desist with a safe conscience, & consistently with thy vows which are upon me, but if it shall please thee to call me forth, let me see the path of duty clear before me, make my will obedient to thine without reserve or stipulations, & give me abilities suitable to the work. Remove I beseech the vail from thy word, the mist from my eyes & the stone from my heart; enrich my soul with a Divine experimental knowledge of the mystery of Godliness in Christ Jesus, unite all my talents & application in the pursuit of this one thing needful teach me to redeem my time, to avoid & repel temptations, to fight strive watch & conquer. Fill me with the spirit of prayer faith love & a sound mind, & may I be always looking unto Jesus, my Head Prophet priest pattern forerunner & Lord. Thou O Lord canst do all things, & thou hast given me exceeding great & precious promises, on which to ground my hope & request. Every good & perfect gift is from Thee[.] O send me not away empty, but let me know that these my imperfect prayers have found acceptance before thy Throne. Amen.
Sunday 2 September. Removd from Vernon's hall to town, last Friday. Have brought home with me store of matter for repentance & humiliation. What is past cannot be recalld. I have an Advocate with the Father & in him I would trust.
Diary of John Newton (1725–1807), 1756–72. Purchased by Pierpont Morgan before 1913.