Rev. Richard Johnson
The following is an excerpt from The Man & The Story Behind Amazing Grace – By Peter Rahme
John Newton continued to be very active in the service of his Master. His new residence in Charles Square, Hoxton, London, just like in Liverpool and Olney, was open for spiritual counsel to all people from all walks of life and different denominations. He wrote,“I am glad of such opportunities at times to discountenance bigotry and party spirit, and to set our Dissenting brethren an example, which I think ought to be our practise towards all who love the Lord Jesus Christ and preach His Gospel without respect to forms or denominations”.(Through Many Dangers by B.H.Edwards P.202)
In 1783, John Newton, Richard Cecil, Henry Foster and Eli Bates founded the Eclectic Society, "a small group of evangelical clergy and laymen" focused on and committed to "the practical outworking of the Christian faith" with a particular emphasis on the new birth and the preaching of the Gospel.
As leader of this Society, John approached Rev. Richard Johnson on September 23, 1786 with a visionary proposal to be the chaplain and missionary on the first fleet to the land Down Under.
Newton was crystal clear about the cost involved to embark on such a grand journey, and the call required to undertake such a glorious mission. He wrote:“A minister who should go to Botany Bay without a call from the Lord, and without receiving from Him an apostolic spirit, the spirit of a missionary, enabling him to forsake all, to give up all, to venture all, to put himself into the Lord’s hands without reserve, to sink or swim, had better run his head against a brick wall.” (John Newton by Richard Cell P.178)
God blessed Newton’s ministry and enlarged its boundaries from England’s banking district to Australia’s Botany Bay. Rev. Johnson accepted Newton’s proposal, and the rest is Australian history. The Rev. N. K. Macintosh wrote:“Richard Johnson conducted the first Christian service on Australian soil at 10 a.m. on Sunday 3 February 1788. (The Reverend Richard Johnson by N. K. Macintosh P.8)
‘The good Bishop of Botany Bay, as one of his friends (in England) jokingly called him’, went on to become ‘the first clergyman to minister in the Parramatta district of the infant colony of New South Wales.’(The Reverend Richard Johnson by N. K. Macintosh P.5& 7)
As a fitting tribute of the chaplain’s fruitful ministry, The Rev. N. K. Macintosh wrote : “Newton once referred to Johnson as the Patriarch of the Southern Hemisphere, and if that seems too grand a title for one so humble, it is well to remember that he it was who planted the Gospel in Australian Soil; that he did it alone for the first few years ; that he did it with virtually no support from either laymen in the colony or hierarchy at home; that he did it in the face of constant and at times almost overwhelming opposition; and that he did it in the meek , unassuming but a sensitive manner that is the true hallmark of saintliness.”(The Reverend Richard Johnson by N. K. Macintosh P.24)