March the 21st is a day to be remembered by me. I have never suffered it to pass wholly unnoticed since the year 1748. On that day the Lord sent from on high and delivered me from deep waters.
So wrote John Newton in his autobiography, aptly titled out of the depths it was on that day that Newton came into a personal, saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
Ever since he was a young boy John Newton had dreamed of following in the footsteps of his father, a sea captain. At the age of eleven his dream came true when he joined his father’s ship which sailed the warm blue waters of the Mediterranean.
Life, however was by no means a matter of lain sailing. Growing up, the young lad soon learned the ways of wickedness to his terrible cost. He fought with his father, clashed with his employers and finally ended up in jail. Punishment did nothing to change him, and on his release he continued his immoral living with unrestrained debauchery. Eventually, by a long sequence of tragic events, he found himself employed in one of the most despicable of all trades in those days, slavery.
But the bible proclaims that Christ Jesus came into the world, to save sinners. John Newton was all that a poor miserable wretched sinner.
And yet. It was in the lord’s great plan to save him and make something of him.
First, God brought Newton face to face with his word then he followed him with his spirit, year after year, until at last on that memorable day in March, 1748 when a violent storm off the North West coast of Ireland threatened to send his ship, and all aboard her to the bottom. This caused him to fear for his very life and he called upon the Lord for mercy it was given. John Newton was then 25 years old. At the age of thirty-nine he became a minister of the gospel and , from that time, served the Lord and the church faithfully until his death at eight two.
Towards the end of his life, he often told his audiences, “My memory is nearly gone but i remember two thing; that i am a great sinner and that Christ is a great saviour.
The last fifteen years of John Newton’s life were spent Pastoring the little church at Olney, England. During that time he and the great poet William Cowper worked together compiling a hymn book for use by the people of God. Newton himself wrote a number of hymns, including “How sweet the name of Jesus sounds’ and most famous of all, “Amazing Grace.”
“Amazing grace” has been a firm favourite with Christians everywhere for many, many years. I’m sure it will always remain so. It is Newton’s own testimony in song and tells the marvellous story of his transformation from spiritual blindness to sight and all by grace.
On his tombstone in the little churchyard at Olney are these words ”John Newton, clerk, once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa, was by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned and appointed to preach the faith he had long laboured to destroy’.
What else can we say than that John Newton was well qualified to preach and describe God’s amazing grace.
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.
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.
Newton, Rev. John 1725-1807, Anglican John Newton was born on July 24, 1725 in London. His mother, a religious woman, died when he was seven and he went to sea with his father at the age of eleven. Forced to enter British Navy as a midshipman, he deserted and became a slave trader. He had spells of being religious and on a trading voyage read the book “The imitation of Christ,” which deepened his religious interests. Through this study, his acquaintanceship with a truly Christian sea-captain and an experience of facing death one night at sea in 1748, he became truly converted. Upon returning to England he took up the study of Greek and Hebrew. After six years he was ordained at Olney, and began a brilliant and influential career. He remained at Olney as a curate (1764-1779), counting among his intimate friends William Cowper, with whom he wrote the “Olney Hymns” 283 of the hymns were written by Newton. He died in London. December 21, 1807.