John Newton and John Ryland
[See a full review of this book here.]
Another nugget of information, this time from the John Newton Project. John Ryland Jr. was one of William Carey’s ‘ropeholders’, beloved friend of John Sutcliff, Andrew Fuller, Samuel Pearce, and others of their ilk and kidney. John Newton knew him well (Ryland’s friend John Sutcliff was a pastor in Olney itself, and their paths seem to have crossed often) and wrote to him regularly. And now for the news:
For many years Dr Grant Gordon has been collecting and editing Newton’s letters to John Ryland Junior [1753-1825]. Due out in November, watch for Wise Counsel: John Newton’s letters to John Ryland Jr., Grant Gordon, ed., Banner of Truth Trust, ISBN 978-1-84971-053-5. www.banneroftruth.org. Many of these letters have never been published before. Most will be new to most people.
When Newton entered the ministry at Olney, he met the Ryland Baptist family of Northampton. John Ryland Jr was way ahead of most of us – he had translated the entire Greek New Testament by the age of 8! Newton had a very special concern for young people and took him under his wing.
His early correspondence with Ryland began “Dear lad”. Topics ranged from serious discussions on doctrine to very specific guidance on John Jr’s marriage proposal, punctuated with friendly banter. “While you are thinking of marriage’, his mentor wrote, “I am threatened with a divorce – from my beloved Olney.” Newton shared his own pastoral experience and deliberations with the youngster, inviting him to stay at the vicarage.
As Ryland later carried the responsibilities of a pastor Newton reminded him: “There is no school like the School of the Cross. There men are made wise unto salvation, wise to win souls. In a crucified Saviour are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. And the tongue of the truly learned, that can speak a word in season to them that are weary, is not acquired like Greek and Latin by reading great books – but by self-knowledge and soul exercises. To learn navigation by the fireside will never make a man an expert mariner. He must do his business in great waters. And practice will bring him into many situations of which general theory could give him no conception.”
Newton continued his fatherly role to the point where he could scarcely see to write in his old age. By then Ryland was President of Bristol Baptist College. “My dear friend”, Newton began in 1801, “I am 75 years, 3 months and ten days old. My eyes fail, my engagements increase, my ability to manage them decline. I have been a voluminous correspondent, but I cannot write as formerly. Yet I must chat a little with my old friend, before I quite give up. If, as is possible, this should be my last letter to you, keep it as a memorial of the love I bear you, and of my thankful remembrance of past times, when being within a few miles, we could see each other often, take sweet counsel together, and go the House of our God in company”.
Newton’s practical and Biblical guidance in these letters epitomize the role of spiritual leadership given in Ephesians 4:12 “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ”. You will be in for a rich treat, and for much “wise counsel”, if you get a copy of this new publication, sensitively edited by Grant Gordon, himself a pastor for many years.