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Good Words 1860
Unpublished Letter by John Newton

[Mr James Forsyth, to whom Mr Newton's letter is written, was a native of Huntly. He was a man of scientific tastes, and of much kindness and practical good sense; and though moving in an humble sphere of life, he found means to do not a little good in his day and generation.

Sixty years ago, he helped to distribute tracts and religious books, when such things were rare, and to diffuse a taste for reading in his neighbourhood. In these exertions he was aided by his relative, the late well-known Mr Isaac Forsyth, of Elgin; and pious men of all denominations found in him one ready to sympathise with and support them, according to his ability, in their benevolent labours. He was one of Heaven's quiet and unostentatious workers, who do good, "hoping for nothing again." He lived and died known to few beyond his own neighbourhood,—but his record is on high.

Mr Forsyth, who died at Dundurcus in 1840, has left numerous descendants, most of whom occupy honourable and influential positions. One grandson is a minister of the Established Church, another is a minister in the Free Church; a third is editor of a very influential Scottish newspaper; and others are honourably employed in commercial life and other departments of industry. All alike cherish a deep and devout regard for the memory of their pious forefather.]

Dear Sir,—Whether I answered your favour when I sent the books, I cannot be sure; I hope I did. But as I lately found it among my unanswered letters, I am willing to thank you for it now, lest I have inadvertently neglected it hitherto.

I have received testimonies of love from many persons in different parts of Scotland, whom, perhaps, I shall never see in this world, for which my acknowledgments are due; amongst others, to you and Mr Milne, to whom I beg you to present my respects. That I who was once a blasphemer and opposer of the gospel should be permitted and enabled to write anything which has been read with acceptance by the Lord's people of various denominations, is a mercy and an honour for which I cannot be sufficiently thankful; He was pleased to reserve me to be a singular example of His goodness, for the encouragement of other chief sinners. To Him be all the praise—to me belong shame and confusion of face, when I recollect what I once was, and when I feel what I still am; for though I trust I have obtained mercy, I have still daily cause to abhor myself before Him, and to repent in dust and ashes.

There is a false candour very prevalent in this day, which professes to unite people of very discordant sentiments, and is indeed little better than a combination against the most important truths. To this I cannot accede. I would, indeed, cultivate a spirit of benevolence and good-will to all mankind, but I can maintain no pleasing heart-fellowship but with those who hold the Head. With those, with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, and who give evidence that they are members of His mystical body and subjects of His spiritual kingdom, which is not of this world, my heart, I hope, is joined; and while, with you, I claim the right of private judgment myself, I am bound, and I trust inclined, to allow it cheerfully to others. A spirit of candour and forbearance amongst true believers with respect to the smaller points on which they are not all of one mind, is, I hope, upon the increase, and I greatly rejoice. It is highly probable that, had my lot been cast on the north side of the Tweed, and my religious connexions originated there, I should not have found myself at liberty to join in communion with the Established Church of England, much loss to exercise my ministry in it. But as it is, I can conscientiously do both. And I cannot doubt but I am in that line of service in which our common Lord is graciously pleased to accept, and, in some measure, to own me. But I am, or would be, of no party. I wish to receive every one who does the will of God, and walks according to the gospel, as my brother or my sister; and I could converse with such for years, without concerning myself, if they did not think proper to tell me, to what Church or denomination they belong. When I read what measures were carried on in Scotland during the reign of Charles II., and what sort of men were attempted to be imposed on them, under the name of bishops, I do not wonder there should be a deep-rooted dislike to Protestant prelacy in your kingdom. But, blessed be God, we live in better times, more favourable to liberty of conscience, and they who love the Lord have much fewer obstacles than formerly to the exercise of mutual love to one another.

Through the Lord's mercy, the number of ministers in our Establishment who preach the gospel, increases from year to year, and is still increasing. Serious young men are admitted every season of ordination, from the universities ; and there are others still coming forward, particularly at Cambridge. Two or three churches in the town are in the possession of gospel ministers. There are several able men in London who are made greatly useful, and though there are (as there always were) tares among the wheat, I hope we have a great number of serious, exemplary Christians. Yet we have need to pray for a fuller participation of the Holy Spirit to enliven the ordinances among all denominations, for many, alas, hear in vain. Please to give my love to Mr Milne, and to all my friends in your part. May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you all.—I am your affectionate and obliged servant,

12th September 1787,
Coleman Street Buildings.

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