John Newton was one of the key figures in the evangelical movement in eighteenth century England. As a slave trader, Newton experienced a powerful conversion after he was nearly shipwrecked. As the spiritual mentor of William Wilberforce, Newton was influential in the abolitionist movement. He also preached before the British Parliament and wrote extensively on political issues. After leaving behind the slave trade, Newton became an influential preacher, a prolific writer, and an author of hundreds of hymn texts—which are included in this collection. In fact, “Amazing Grace,” which Newton wrote, has become arguably the most popular hymn ever written.
The Works of John Newton contains Newton’s most important sermons, hymns, letters, political and social tracts, and other writings—nearly 4,000 pages of material. The Logos edition contains the edition first published in 1820 in London by Hamilton, Adams & Co.—the same text which underlies the 1985 Banner of Truth reprint, the scholarly standard.
Although Newton is remembered for his preaching, his hymn-writing, and his outspoken support of the abolitionist movement, he also wrote hundreds of letters, which are included in this collection. The Works of John Newton also contains Richard Cecil’s 129-page biography, first published in 1809, two years after Newton’s death. This biography includes factual information on Newton’s life and reflections on his legacy and influence.
In few writers are Christian doctrine, experience, and practice more happily balanced than in the author of these letters, and few write with more simplicity, piety, and force.
Grace, like water, always flows downward, to the lowest place. I know no one who embodies this principle better than John Newton . . .
—Philip Yancey, author, Grace Notes
I keep John Newton on my selectest shelf of spiritual books . . .
—Alexander Whyte, Professor of New Testament, New College, 1909
He moved in the lowest and vilest circles and sank to the depths of vice, and yet there emerges from this stormy story a man who not only commands the affection of any humane soul, but who showed himself then and afterwards capable of the highest Christian graces.
—Erik Routley, pastor and hymn writer
John Newton was born on July 24, 1725, and attended a boarding school in Stratford in Essex, during his childhood years. In 1736, Newton joined the merchant marine, and in March 1744, he set out on the HMS Harwich. His attempted desertion from the royal navy in 1745 led to a severe punishment. Newton was stripped of his rank, and transferred to a slave trading ship in 1748. In 1748, Newton was nearly shipwrecked. The storm initiated a crisis of faith in Newton’s life, and marked the first point of Newton’s conversion. He continued in the slave trade, however, until 1754.
In 1755, Newton returned to England permanently, and began studying the Bible and learning the ancient languages. He became a lay preacher, and was eventually ordained in the Church of England in 1764. He served for many years at the church in Olney in Buckinghamshire, where he became a well-known and much-respected preacher. In 1779, Newton became the rector of St. Mary Woolnoth, and in the 1780s and 1790s, a prominent leader in the evangelical movement in England. He was also influential in the lives of William Wilberforce and other leaders of the abolitionist movement. Newton died in 1807.