I chose to post this because one of my favorite bands, Indelible Grace, recorded a version of a John Newton hymn detailed in this very letter.
I was excited to stumble upon this letter as I have always loved this song personally:
“Your dear mother is under the chastening hand of God. My dear suffering infant lies a corpse: and the letter containing the intelligence of your dear father’s and my beloved husband’s death, was this day put into my hands. I am humbled under the mighty hand of God. My soul is bowed down. The death of my child was almost overwhelming; but the death of my dear, my precious, my ever-to-be-lamented husband, is the heaviest affliction I have ever met with. I trust the Lord will yet enable me to say, Thy will, O God, not mine, be done! I wish you could have been there. Oh, that you had been in time to have closed his eyes! I need comfort. I am in a strange place. The Lord help me and increase my faith! The Lord have mercy upon me, for I am in trouble. I trust his soul and the dear departed spirit of my infant are now rejoicing together in glory. That is my only comfort. I am too much afflicted to write more. May God bless you, my child, prays your truly afflicted, widowed mother.”
But overwhelming as was this affliction, God, whose chastenings are always tempered with mercy, left her not without strong consolation. It was not in unmitigated and hopeless grief that she wept. The last illness and closing scene of Captain Winslow’s life afforded satisfactory evidence that he had sought and found the Saviour. His conviction of sin was deep, and his believing reliance upon the atoning merits of the Redeemer earnest and childlike. He died in the assured hope of an humble penitent, a sincere believer, “looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” Such was the inexpressible comfort provided by Him whose hand had now slain her fondest earthly treasure. She now saw the fruit of her long travail of soul. Her prayers were answered, though as by fire. “Thou calledst in trouble, and I delivered thee; I answered thee in the secret place of thunder: I proved thee at the waters of Meribah.” The long-sought mercy came—her husband was saved; but the blessing was draped in woe. ‘By terrible things in righteousness’ God had answered her, and her ‘song was of mercy and judgment.’ The blow fell, however, with crushing effect. Her mental distress seemed to baffle the kindest efforts of her pastor and her friends to soothe. Her soul refused to be comforted. To the deep sorrow of bereavement was now added the yet deeper anguish of spiritual darkness and despondency. Satan was permitted to buffet her, and, for a time, the dark waters went over her soul. Thus the calamity that at once withered her lovely flower, and broke the ‘strong staff and the beautiful rod,’ was augmented by a momentary suspension of the Divine presence. It was at this juncture the following hymn of her favourite author, Newton, read casually to her by her son E , spoke the first consolation to her sad heart.
“I ask’d the Lord that I might grow-
In faith, and love, and every grace,
Might more of his salvation know,
And seek moro earnestly his face.
“‘Twas he who taught me thus to pray,
And he, I trust, has answered prayer;
But it has been in such a way
As almost drove me to despair.
“I hoped that in some favour’d hour
At once he’d answer my request,
And by his love’s constraining power
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.
“Instead of this, ho made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart,
And let the angry powers of hell
Assault my soul in every part.
“Yea, more; with his own hand he seem’d
Intent to aggravate my woe,—
Cross’d all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.
“‘Lord! why is this ?’ I trembling cried:
‘Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?’
”Tis in this way,’ the Lord replied,
‘I answer prayer for grace and faith.
“‘These “inward trials I employ,
From self and pride to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou inay’st seek thy all in me.'”