by Glen H. Jones
John Newton (1725-1807), author of the hymn "Amazing Grace," demonstrates the longsuffering and gracious love of God. Newton was born the son of a sea captain. His mother, a godly woman, devoted her energy toward educating her son in secular and spiritual pursuits. Unfortunately, his mother died when he was only seven. His father remarried shortly after; his stepmother lovingly cared for him, but nothing could replace his mother.
At age eleven John went to sea with his father. According to his own admission, John was a profane and wicked person who tried to outdo his companions in wicked pursuits. But all the time he could not get away from his early Christian teaching. After several months in virtual captivity in Africa, he began his return to England. During a violent storm in which the ship almost sank, Newton began a spiritual transformation. His growth in the faith grew by slips and starts. He finally made contact with some godly persons in England who guided him in his growth in Christ.
Even though Newton operated a slave ship after his conversion, he gradually became convinced of its evil. He helped in passing legislation that outlawed slave trading.
His later life was spent as a minister in Olney and in London. In addition to his preaching gift, he was a prolific songwriter. Besides "Amazing Grace," he wrote "Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken" and "How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds."