Because of travel John Newton and his beloved wife Mary were often separated for several weeks and even for months at a time. On April 17, 1774 John Newton wrote the following letter to Mary [as it appears in the published collection Letters to a Wife (London, 1793; now long op)]:
Though I miss you continually, I am neither lonely nor dull. I hope the Lord will give me a heart to wait upon Him, and then I shall do well enough till you are restored to me. I need not wish the time away. It flies amazingly fast, and alas too poorly improved. These little separations should engage us to seek his blessing that we may be prepared for the hour (which must come) when one of us must have the trial of living awhile without the other. The Lord, who appoints and times all things wisely and well. He only knows which of us will be reserved for this painful exercise. But I rely on his all-sufficiency and faithfulness to make our strength equal to our day. It will require a power above our own, to support us under either party of the alternative, whether we are called to leave, or to resign. But He who so wonderfully brought us together, and has so mercifully spared us hitherto, can sweeten what would otherwise be most bitter to the flesh. If he is pleased to shine upon us all will be well. His presence can supply the loss of the most endeared creature comforts as a candle may be easily spared when the sun is seen.
John Newton’s beloved wife Mary died on December 15, 1790 after a long battle with cancer. John Newton was by her side when she died. He later wrote: “When I was sure she was gone, I took off her ring, according to her repeated injunction, and put it upon my own finger. I then kneeled down, with the servants who were in the room, and returned the Lord my unfeigned thanks for her deliverance, and her peaceful dismission.”
Upheld by God’s sustaining grace, John Newton lived under the trial of living without his bride for 17 years.