From Anne Dutton [see note below] in Great Gransden to [William Seward] [It was probably this letter or the one following (DDSe 36) that Seward was referring to when he stated that one of her letters to him dated May 1739 was 'full of such comforts and direct answers to what I had been writing that it filled my eyes with tears of joy'. (Anne Dutton web page - see below) ]. Dutton begs leave to return thanks to Seward for that 'wonderful favour, your great kindness has last[sic] upon me. May the Lord, according to the riches of his infinite grace, abundantly reward you, both in this life, and that which is to come.'
When Dutton read the news that it was Seward who was that 'good friend which had thoughts of kindness towards me, together with the greatness of that kindness your heart had conceived...it was so surprising, so far beyond all my expectation, that it almost overcame me, I could hardly stand under the weight of it ...' The thought that the Lord would add it to the account and reward Seward gave her some comfort. Spiritual matters are further discussed in detail, with particular reference to the reward that will await those who show kindness and compassion to one of God’s creatures and Dutton’s sense of the 'wonderful goodness and grace of God'.
When Dutton heard that Seward had 'been enabled by mighty grace to give up yourself and your all to Christ: and remembered that you complained of an hard heart, notwithstanding that the Lord has given you such an heart and hand to serve him, I saw so much of Christ’s beauty in you that made me ashamed and confounded at my own blackness...' Spiritual matters are further discussed in detail with particular regard to her inadequacies when compared with the blessings that have showered down on her from above.
Dutton sees herself in relation to 'Old Adam', in that she has a corrupt nature and the worst and vilest of all creatures. She considers God’s kindness towards her and her own unkindness towards Him and she knows that if He were to deal with her 'out of Christ' but according to divine law and justice, she will suffer the eternal fire, 'but by the grace of God, I am what I am' and if God should decide to show her mercy, who is she to hinder him ? God has placed her among the 'children' and said to her that she will call Him 'Father'. She is dealt with according to His own 'heart love and according to that relation he has given me to Christ, the new Adam'. Spiritual matters are further discussed in detail with particular regard to saving grace.
'Its well for me that the love, mercy and grace of Jehovah’s nature is an infinite deep that can never be exhausted. There is grace enough in God, as he displays his glory through a once crucified Jesus, for most needy, thirsty souls to take their fill. Open thy mouth wide, says He, and Ill fill it. Stretch thy requests to the utmost of thy wants and soul cravings, and fear not enlarging them beyond the fullness of my grace, for it is boundless and knows no limits.'
Spiritual matters are further discussed in detail, with particular regard to the endless 'infinite ocean' of God’s grace.
'Mercy thence both in this world and that to come. There is such an infinite fullness of grace in the God of all grace in Christ, which is set open by the promises of the Gospel; that millions of souls may take their fill through time and to eternity, and yet can never sink it an hairs breadth. And therefore the Gospel call is, "Ho, every one that thisteth" Isaiah 55:1...It is no matter how poor and needy our souls are when they come to Christ, nor how many of them there are which are athirst for him...for they are all invited to come without exception, without limitation, and take their fill freely. Such is the glory of boundless grace, of infinite love and of overflowing, everflowing mercy.'
Dutton rejoices that Seward has been given such a sight of God’s glory as to make him deny himself and all worldly honours and take up the cross. His reward in the present time will be one hundred fold and he will have life everlasting in the time to come.
Spiritual matters are further discussed in detail.
In a postscript, Dutton mentions that she had expected a letter from Seward last Monday [conveyed] by the poulterer, but was disappointed. She will hope for such letter when her husband [Benjamin Dutton] returns. Her love should be passed to [George] Whitefield, to Brother Chapman and all that 'love our Lord Jesus in sincerity'.
- Anne Dutton (1692-1765), nee Williams, was born into a Congregationalist family in Northampton. As a teenager, she attended a Baptist church and was converted. At the age of twenty-two she married a Mr Cattell and moved to London where she worshipped at a Baptist church in Cripplegate, where she came under the influence of the strongly Calvinist minister John Skepp (d.1721). Anne’s first husband died in 1720 and she moved back to Northampton where she soon married Benjamin Dutton (1691-1747). Anne’s new husband had trained for the Baptist ministry and after serving several congregations in Cambridgeshire, the couple finally settled in the Huntingdonshire village of Great Gansden in 1731. During the decades that followed, Anne wrote a number of popular devotional and theological works. Her influential defence of female authorship appeared in 1743 under the title A Letter to Such of the Servants of Christ, who May have any Scruple about the Lawfulness of PRINTING any Thing written by a Woman. By 1740, Anne was corresponding with a number of Calvinist evangelicals including George Whitefield, William Seward and Howell Harris. Whitefield seemed to express the general opinion of her talents when he stated that 'her conversation is as weighty as her letters'. As a convinced Calvinist, Anne was a vehement opponent of John Wesley. Benjamin Dutton died at sea in 1747 while returning from a fund-raising trip to North America. After her husband’s death, Anne continued to influence her church in Great Gansden. Source: Dictionary of Evangelical Biography, edited by Donald Lewis (1995) and a web page devoted to Dutton’s life and ministry (http://website.lineone.net/~gsward/pages/adutton.html).