English pastor and hymnwriter. John Newton was the son of an
English sea captain. His mother was a deeply pious woman,
who, with much care, taught him spiritual things until she
died when John was seven years old.
At the age of 11, John went to sea and spent the next
20 years as a sailor engaged in slave trading. His life was
spent in the basest sort of wickedness. At one time, he him-
self was the property of an African woman, who fed him only
that which she threw him under her table. He was nearly
killed several times during a terrible storm at sea, which
almost sank the ship. His wicked life passed before him, and
deep conviction caused him to cry out to God for salvation.
The next several years were spent in preparation for
the ministry. He learned Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and stud-
ied the Scriptures intensively. In 1764 he was appointed pas-
tor of Olney, where he served for 16 years before moving to
St. Mary Woolnoth in the city of London. In addition to his
pastoral duties, Newton was an ardent writer. His works in-
cluded: Omicron, Narrative, Review of Ecclesiastical History,
His greatest fame is the result of his work as a
writer of hymns, the most familiar being Amazing Grace, which
depicts in its verses the life story of John Newton:
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!
Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come.
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we first begun.