John Newton – inspires us to enjoy God’s amazing grace
1725 – 1807
An unlikely Vicar if ever there was one! Once involved in the evils of the African slave trade, John Newtown became a Christian and later wrote probably the most famous and well-loved hymn of all time – Amazing Grace.
Newton was born into a seafaring family and followed his father to sea at the tender age of 11. After a varied career (which included being sold into slavery himself in West Africa), he came to saving faith in Christ dramatically one night in 1748. His ship, the Greyhound, was caught in a violent storm off Ireland. Turning to God in a prayer of desperation he begged for mercy. The storm relented and Newton spent the rest of the voyage reading his Bible. By the time the ship had docked back in Britain his eyes had been opened to the wonderful gospel of God’s grace, his undeserved kindness toward us in Christ.
As the years passed, Newton became increasingly convinced God was steering him from his life at sea to serve as a Bible preacher. After seven years of applications he was finally accepted by the Church of England and began serving a church in Olney before moving to St Mary Woolnoth in the City of London.
Here he linked up with a former congregation member, abolitionist William Wilberforce, and encouraged him in his endeavours to end the abhorrent slave trade, from which he himself had once profited. Alongside wonderful hymns, Newton wrote many compassionate pastoral letters, and constantly urged people to study the Bibles for themselves.
At the ripe old age of 82, reflecting on his life and ministry he remarked, ‘My memory is nearly gone; but I remember two things: That I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Saviour.’