believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as
they are.” (Acts 15:11)
John Newton was born in London in 1725 in a ship captain's
family. When he was seven years old, his mother died of tuberculosis. He
followed his father to go sailing and learned many bad habits from sailors.
At 18 years old, he was forced to naval service. Once he tried
to jump to other ship to escape but he was arrested and received severe
whipping. He planned to kill the captain and then commit suicide but he failed.
He was later exiled to a slave ship. In 1745, he was handed over to a slave
trader who deceived him to go to West Africa and became a slave to slave
vendor's house, and was abused severely. In 1748, he was found by the person
his father sent to search for him. He was rescued and brought back to England.
On the way back, there was a big storm in the middle of the night, and water
got into the ship. As he woke up, he prayed out loud and called on God to
save him. As a result, the ship was damaged but it was able to return safely.
On the ship, he read the book “The imitation of Christ” written by Thomas
Kempis, and he was greatly moved.
After he returned the UK, Newton had changed greatly and he quitted many bad habits.
However, he was still engaged in the delivery of slaves. In 1750, he got married
in London. In 1754, he had a stroke and he retired, but he was still doing
slavery business. At the same time, he began to study theology and biblical
languages, and prepared himself to be a minister. But he was not ordained as
a pastor until 1764. He was officially ordained as a priest by the Anglican
Church. In the next 16 years, he was pastoring the church in Olney. Many
people liked to listen to his preaching and the church was expanded several
times to accommodate the increasing members. In 1779, he was ordained as a
rector in London's Diocese of Lombard St., and became one of the most active
preachers of the Anglican Church, and he actively promoted the mission work
in overseas colonies. In 1788, he broke the silence and began to attack the
British slave trade policy. Many young believers sought his guidance. The
abolitionist congressman William Wilberforce was greatly influenced by him.
This led to the liberation of British slavery. In 1792, he was awarded a
Doctor of Divinity degree from Princeton University. In 1807, he saw the
passing of the Abolition Act of Congress before he died.
Newton's most famous achievement is his famous hymn:
Amazing Grace, which is the portrait of his own life. He once was the slave
of slaves and gained true freedom because of God's grace.