Letters of John Newton: With a Biographical Introduction by Andrew Bonar Newton, John cover image
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  • Cover Type:
  • 416 Pages
  • Publisher: Banner of Truth
  • Publication Date: April 2007
  • ISBN: SNEWTOJOLETTERSOFJOHNNEWTONW9780851519517

Letters of John Newton: With a Biographical Introduction by Andrew Bonar

Newton, John

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John Newton converted slave-trader, preacher, and hymn-writer, was one of the most colourful figures in the Evangelical Awakening of the eighteenth century. ‘Once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa,’ he wrote for this epitaph, ‘by rich mercy of Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he had long laboured to destroy.’

It was through his prolific correspondence that Newton fulfilled his distinctive word as ‘the letter-writer parexcellence of the Evangelical Revival‘. His grasp of Scripture and deep personal experience of the ‘amazing grace’ of God, his many friends (among them, Whitefield, Cowper and Wilberforce), his manifold trials, his country pastorate, his strong, clear, idiomatic style- all these factors combined to prepare the author of How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds, for the exercise of his special gift.

These letters, selected by his biographer, Josiah Bull, bear the practical imprint of all of Newton’s writings; they cover a wide variety of subjects and aim ‘to conform the believer to Christ’. Among them are several that were not previously published in earlier collections of his correspondence. Of particular value and interest are the biographical sketches and historical notes supplied by the editor.

About the Author

Born in London in 1725, deprived of the godly influence of his mother before he was seven years old, John Newton was but two years at school before he went, at the age of eleven, on his first voyage with his father, a sea captain. From that time till the age of thirty, when his health was broken by a stroke, Newton endured the wild rigours of a life before the mast, including being press-ganged aboard a naval vessel and flogged when captured after desertion. Only his love for the youthful Mary Catlett preserved him from suicide. He was released from the navy only to join in the slave traffic across the Atlantic, and was reduced almost to death on the Guinea coast before being delivered by a friend of his father’s.

Throughout these sad events there ran a divine purpose; and while Newton forgot the Saviour whom his mother had so often commended to him in childhood, and while he became, like one of old, a ‘blasphemer and injurious,’ it was all leading to a day – in the midst of a tremendous storm at sea – when he was brought to say: ‘I stood in need of an Almighty Saviour, and such a one I found described in the New Testament. The Lord had wrought a marvellous thing.’

After Newton ended his seafaring days he became tide-surveyor in Liverpool, a thriving slave port with a population of 22,000. It was here that Newton first heard the great evangelist, George Whitefield, and soon he came to know other leaders of the Evangelical Revival such as William Grimshaw and Henry Venn. His own thoughts were now turned to the ministry, and after several disappointments he was at length settled in 1764 in the Buckinghamshire parish of Olney – a name immortalized by the hymns which he and the poet William Cowper wrote for their mid-week meetings.

In his sixteen years at Olney, Newton found a good field for exercising his gift as ‘the letter writer par excellence of the Evangelical Revival’. The dreadful condition from which he had been saved, the long struggle he went through before he came to a clear understanding of the gospel, and the years of patient waiting for an opening in the Church, all served to prepare Newton for this work. He was given a thorough knowledge of the workings of the human heart and of the Lord’s dealings with his people.

Newton became minister of St. Mary Woolnoth, London, in 1779, where he continued to preach until almost the end of his life in 1807. Being advised by Richard Cecil in 1806 to discontinue preaching, he gave the memorable reply. ‘I cannot stop. What! shall the old African blasphemer stop while he can speak?’

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John Newton converted slave-trader, preacher, and hymn-writer, was one of the most colourful figures in the Evangelical Awakening of the eighteenth century. ‘Once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa,’ he wrote for this epitaph, ‘by rich mercy of Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he had long laboured to destroy.’

It was through his prolific correspondence that Newton fulfilled his distinctive word as ‘the letter-writer parexcellence of the Evangelical Revival‘. His grasp of Scripture and deep personal experience of the ‘amazing grace’ of God, his many friends (among them, Whitefield, Cowper and Wilberforce), his manifold trials, his country pastorate, his strong, clear, idiomatic style- all these factors combined to prepare the author of How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds, for the exercise of his special gift.

These letters, selected by his biographer, Josiah Bull, bear the practical imprint of all of Newton’s writings; they cover a wide variety of subjects and aim ‘to conform the believer to Christ’. Among them are several that were not previously published in earlier collections of his correspondence. Of particular value and interest are the biographical sketches and historical notes supplied by the editor.

About the Author

Born in London in 1725, deprived of the godly influence of his mother before he was seven years old, John Newton was but two years at school before he went, at the age of eleven, on his first voyage with his father, a sea captain. From that time till the age of thirty, when his health was broken by a stroke, Newton endured the wild rigours of a life before the mast, including being press-ganged aboard a naval vessel and flogged when captured after desertion. Only his love for the youthful Mary Catlett preserved him from suicide. He was released from the navy only to join in the slave traffic across the Atlantic, and was reduced almost to death on the Guinea coast before being delivered by a friend of his father’s.

Throughout these sad events there ran a divine purpose; and while Newton forgot the Saviour whom his mother had so often commended to him in childhood, and while he became, like one of old, a ‘blasphemer and injurious,’ it was all leading to a day – in the midst of a tremendous storm at sea – when he was brought to say: ‘I stood in need of an Almighty Saviour, and such a one I found described in the New Testament. The Lord had wrought a marvellous thing.’

After Newton ended his seafaring days he became tide-surveyor in Liverpool, a thriving slave port with a population of 22,000. It was here that Newton first heard the great evangelist, George Whitefield, and soon he came to know other leaders of the Evangelical Revival such as William Grimshaw and Henry Venn. His own thoughts were now turned to the ministry, and after several disappointments he was at length settled in 1764 in the Buckinghamshire parish of Olney – a name immortalized by the hymns which he and the poet William Cowper wrote for their mid-week meetings.

In his sixteen years at Olney, Newton found a good field for exercising his gift as ‘the letter writer par excellence of the Evangelical Revival’. The dreadful condition from which he had been saved, the long struggle he went through before he came to a clear understanding of the gospel, and the years of patient waiting for an opening in the Church, all served to prepare Newton for this work. He was given a thorough knowledge of the workings of the human heart and of the Lord’s dealings with his people.

Newton became minister of St. Mary Woolnoth, London, in 1779, where he continued to preach until almost the end of his life in 1807. Being advised by Richard Cecil in 1806 to discontinue preaching, he gave the memorable reply. ‘I cannot stop. What! shall the old African blasphemer stop while he can speak?’

  • Cover Type:
  • 416 Pages
  • Publisher: Banner of Truth
  • Publication Date: April 2007
  • ISBN: SNEWTOJOLETTERSOFJOHNNEWTONW9780851519517