John Newton is probably best known as the author of the hymn "Amazing Grace," He was born in 1725 and died in 1807. He is now largely forgotten among evangelical Christians, which is sad because it is worth recalling something of Newton's remarkable story. His parish ministry, practice of spiritual direction, and the integrity of his personal relationships make him a trustworthy guide for Christians today.
He was born on 24th July 1725 in his memoirs we are told that his father was a master mariner. His mother died of tuberculosis when John was only six years old. His father remarried after his mother's death. In one of his letters he wrote “my new mother was the daughter of a substantial grazier. She seemed willing to adopt and bring me up; but, after two or three years, she had a son of her own, who engrossed the old gentleman's notice. My father was a very sensible, and a moral man, as the world rates morality; but neither he nor my step-mother was under the impressions of genuine religion. I was therefore much left to myself-to mingle with idle and wicked boys-and soon learned their ways!”
By the time he turned eleven years old he was sent to sea with his father. There is much to be said about his colourful life without God. A few years later he became a crew member of a slave-ship. He later recalled that he was based in Sierra Leone "for the purpose of purchasing and collecting slaves, to sell to the vessels that arrived from Europe." John recalled a time in his life where he said "Thus I was as miserable on all sides-as could well be imagined. My heart was filled with the most excruciating passions: eager desire, bitter rage, and black despair!”
In his mid-teens he entered a prolonged religious period, doing everything he could to establish his own righteousness, “After the strictest sect of our religion he lived a Pharisee.” He spent the greatest part of every day in reading the Scriptures, meditating, praying, fasting often. He would hardly answer innocent questions which men asked him for fear of sinning with his lips. He grieved over his earlier falls. He became an ascetic, renouncing ordinary society to avoid temptation. This religion he sustained for two long years, but he later wrote, “It was a poor religion. It left me in many respects under the power of sin and only tended to make me gloomy, stupid, unsociable and useless.”
Then he read a philosophical unchristian book and that had a barren influence on his life so that by seventeen he was back in unbelief, but God still didn’t give up on him. He brought him to Kent where Newton met the Catlett family, friends of his mother, where there lived a pure and holy daughter aged thirteen named Mary. John Newton fell deeply in love with her and for the next seven years - many of which were spent on the other side of the world - he did not pass a single hour of one day without some thoughts of her. Off he went sailing the seas as a seventeen year old, and though making a few feeble efforts to live morally he soon came to adopt the ungodly lifestyle of his friends aboard ship, but God would not give up on him and it was during this time that he brought the famous dream into John Newton’s life.
Fast forward to the time he became a true Christian, Newton’s love for his wife is revealed in each letter he wrote and this e-book has over 80 letters to his wife. Their love for each other is so deep and so poignant that it feels as if their love is still alive today. I am such a romantic and I kept shivering as I read those letters. Even though they loved, cared and worried so much about each other, on John's side you can almost taste his love for God, his trust and confidence and most of all, His surrendered life, willing to live out whatever his saviour has in store for Him.
In this book you have hours and hours of John's writings. I pray you would learn from his faith in Christ and grow immeasurably as you lose yourself in his words.