This evening was biography night at the church. I think it is good for us to remember the Lord’s work down through history and so each year I try to include a biography as part of an evening service. Tonight we looked at John Newton. You can hear the talk here. I tried to use Newton’s own words to tell the story. Below is the handout with a series of Newton quotes to help you follow along. Alternatively you can read the quotes without listening to the talk!

John Newton 1725-1807

“If the question is concerning the patience of God, the wonderful interposition of His providence in favour of an unworthy sinner, the power of His grace in softening the hardest heart, and the riches of His mercy in pardoning the most enormous and aggravated transgressions; in these respects, I know no case more extraordinary than my own.”

(Authentic Narrative)

On the truths taught him by his mother- “When the Lord at length opened my eyes, I found a great benefit from the recollection of them.”

Sea captain father- “Overawed and discouraged my spirit.”

Brief period of repentance- “It was poor religion. It tended to make me gloomy, unsociable and useless.”

“None of the scenes of misery and wickedness I afterwards experienced ever banished her a single hour from my waking thoughts for the following seven years.”

“An idolatrous passion, that for a while I looked no higher for happiness than to a worm like myself.”

“Every hour exposed me to some new insult and hardship, with no hope of relief and mitigation, no friend to take my part or listen to my complaint.”

“Tempted to throw myself into the sea”

“The secret hand of God restrained me”

“I was exceedingly vile. I not only sinned with a high hand myself but made it my study to tempt and seduce others upon every occasion.”

“Without doubt the hand of God directed my being placed at Kittim just at this time.”

On Greyhound- “So daring a blasphemer…I was seriously reproved by the captain.”

Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis- “What if these things should be true?”

“I went to bed that night in my usual security and indifference, but was awakened from a sound sleep by the force of a violent sea that broke on us. Much of it came below and filled the cabin where I lay with water. This alarm was followed by a cry from deck that the ship was going down and sinking.”

“The Lord have mercy on us. This (though spoken with little reflection) was the first desire I had breathed for mercy for the space of many years.”

“I concluded at first that my sins were too great to be forgiven…He was pleased to show me at that time, the absolute necessity of some expedient to interpose between a righteous God and a sinful soul. Upon the Gospel scheme I saw at least a peradventure of hope.”

“My leisure time was chiefly employed in reading and meditating on the Scriptures, and praying to the Lord for mercy and instruction.”

“About this time I began to know that there is a God who hears and answers prayer.”

“My judgement embraced the sublime doctrine of ‘God manifest in the flesh, reconciling the world to himself’.”

“Divine providence is equally necessary in the most peaceful situation.”

“Soon after my departure from Liverpool I began to grow slack in waiting upon the Lord…the enemy prepared a train of temptations, and I became his easy prey.”

“He visited me with a violent fever, which broke the fatal chain, and once more brought me to himself…For a little while I concluded the door of hope to be quite shut, but this continued not long…I cast myself before the Lord…I was enabled to hope and believe in a crucified Saviour. The burden was removed from my conscience and my peace was restored.”

“He said he had ‘taken it in his head’ that I should remain that day in the ship, and accordingly ordered another man to go in my room.”

“Now I began to understand the security of the covenant of grace and to expect to be preserved not by my own power and holiness but by the mighty power and promise of God, through faith in an unchangeable Saviour.”

“Grace, free grace, must be the substance of my discourse, to tell all the world from my own experience that there is mercy for blasphemers, for the most hardened, complicated wretches.”

“The character of a clergyman is more generally respectable than that of a Dissenting teacher and would probably open for me a larger acquaintance especially with persons of rank.”

“The Bible is the grand repository of the truth that it will be the business and pleasure of my life to set before you…My conscience bears me witness that I mean to speak the truth amongst you.”

“Aim at the conscience as soldiers aim at the faces. Consider I may be preaching my last sermon. That leads to setting forth Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life…Make Christ the prominent figure…Pay less attention to dear self.”

“Do you ask what is preached here? I answer ‘We preach Christ crucified, Christ the wisdom of God and the power of God, Christ the sinner’s friend, Christ the sure foundation, Christ the only hope and refuge for lost man.”

“He sent a chariot of love for dear Eliza.”

“I had long believed and often told others that our God is all-sufficient but in the year 1790 I could say I not only believe him to be all-sufficient but I have found him so. He enabled me to trust in him and I am helped…To this day, she is seldom an hour out of my waking thoughts, but the recollection gives me no pain. I can say from my heart that he has done all things well.”

“I have some longing (though I am not impatient) to be at home- there to see my dear Mary and Eliza- and above all to see him, whom having not yet seen, I trust is the Lord and beloved of my heart.”

“Lord, grant that the uncertain remnant of my days may be devoted to thee, and that the prayer which thou hast permitted me to offer for many years, that the close of my life may be without any stain unsuitable to my character as a Christian and a minister, may be answered.”

“My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: that I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Saviour”

Times obituary- “His unblemished life, his amiable character both as a man and a minister and his able writings are too well known to need any comment.”

Epitaph- “John Newton, once and infidel and libertine, a servant of the slaves of 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 sought to destroy.”

“The wise and good providence of God watches over His people from the earliest moments of their life.”

“By what a way the Lord has led me.”

Further Reading

John Newton- From Disgrace to Amazing Grace- Jonathan Aitken

The Roots of Endurance- John Piper

The Life and Spirituality of John Newton (includes Authentic Narrative)- John Newton (with introduction by Bruce Hindmarsh)

365 Days with Newton- Day One

The Letters of John Newton- Banner of Truth


“If profession does not spring from the root of a broken and contrite spirit, a solid conviction of sin , and such a sense of the wretched, ruined state of a sinner as makes the Saviour precious and all in all to the soul- though it may seem to flourish for a while, sooner or later it will come to nothing.”

“Our sins are many but His mercies are more: our sins are great but His righteousness is greater: we are weak, but He is power.”

“This is God’s way: you are not called to buy, but to beg; not to be strong in yourself, but in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”

“Watch and strive against a legal spirit, which is always aiming to represent Him as a hard master. But it is far otherwise. His name is Love!”

“It is good to be humbled for sin, but not to be discouraged: for though we are poor creatures, Jesus is a complete Saviour.”

“Though sin wars, it shall not reign; and though it breaks our peace, it cannot separate from His love.”

Why the Lord allows us to keep battling with sin:

“If the Lord is pleased to give us some liberty, acceptance and success in preaching the Gospel, we should be in great danger of running mad with spiritual pride if the Lord did not permit us to feel the depravity and vileness of our hearts, and thereby keep us from forgetting what we are in ourselves.”

“The unchageableness of the Lord’s love and the riches of His mercy are more illustrated by the multiplied pardons He bestows upon His people than if they needed no forgiveness at all…hereby the Lord Jesus Christ is more endeared to the soul, all boasting is effectually excluded and the glory of a full and free salvation is ascribed to Him alone.”

“Whoever is truly humbled will not be easily angry, will not be positive and rash, will be compassionate and tender to the infirmities of his fellow sinners, knowing that if there be a difference, that it is grace that has made it, and that he has the seeds of every evil in his own heart; and, under all trials and afflictions, he will look to the hand of the Lord, and lay his hand over his mouth, acknowledging that he suffers much less than his iniquities have deserved. These are some of the advantages and good fruits which the Lord enables us to obtain from that bitter root, indwelling sin.”

How grace impacted his relationship with others:

“A company of travellers fall into a pit: one of them gets a passenger to draw him out. Now he should not be angry with the rest for falling in; nor because they are not yet out, as he is. He did not pull himself out: instead, therefore, of reproaching them, he should show them pity…A man, truly illuminated, will no more despise others than Bartimaeus, after his own eyes were opened, would take a stick and beat every blind man he met.”

Letter challenging a young Christian engaged in controversy

“As you are likely to be engaged in controversy and your love of truth is joined with natural warmth of temper, my friendship makes me solicitous on your behalf…I would have you more than a conqueror and to triumph, not only over your adversary, but also over yourself…During the whole time you are preparing your answer, you may commend him by earnest prayer to the Lord’s teaching and blessing…He is a more proper object of your compassion than of your anger…To treat those with contempt who do not subscribe to our doctrines is a proof and fruit of a self-righteous spirit…A man may have the heart of a Pharisee, while his head is stored with orthodox notions of the unworthiness of the creature and the riches of free grace…What will it profit a man if he gains his cause and silences his adversary if at the same time he loses that humble tender frame of spirit in which the Lord delights?”

“May the remembrance of Thy patience and gentleness towards me teach me forbearance and to others.”


“The Lord has given me many friends, but there is room in my heart for them all.”

William Cowper

“We walked today and probably shall daily. I shall now have little leisure…The storm is heavy, but I can perceive that the Lord is present in it…My dear friend still walks in darkness.”

After 13 months diary records phrase “My dear friends Mrs.Unwin and Mr.Cowper…”

Left him “not an hour for seven years”

“To be subject to disordered, irregular, or low spirits, are faults of the constitution, in which the will has no share, though they are all burdensome and oppressive, and sometimes needlessly so by our charging ourselves with guilt on their account.”

Thomas Scott

“You have one hard lesson to learn, that is the evil of your own heart.”

“You speak somewhere of ‘atoning for disobedience by repentance’. Ah! My dear sir…nothing but the blood of the Son of God can atone for the smallest instance of disobedience.”

William Carey

“If he had been my father he could not have expressed more solicitude for my welfare.”

William Wilberforce

WW on JN- “something very pleasing and unaffected in him.”

“The Lord reigns. He has all hearts in His hands. He is carrying on His great designs in a straight line and nothing can obstruct them.”

“You are not only a representative for Yorkshire, you have the far greater honour of being a representative for the Lord in a place where many know Him not, and an opportunity of showing them what are the genuine fruits of that religion that you are known to profess…My prayers are particularly engaged for you that the Lord may furnish you with wisdom, grace and strength, every way equal to the importance and difficulty of your situation.”


“When we see…the best of the Lord’s children so often in heaviness, and when we consider how much He loves them, and what He has done and prepared for them, we may take it for granted that there is a need-be for their suffering.”

“How could the power of grace be manifest either to you, in you or by you without afflictions? How could you acquire a tenderness and skill in speaking to them that are weary without a taste of such trials as they also meet with?”

“The most important things belonging to Gospel ministry, are not to be learned by books and study, but by painful experience.”

At Cowper’s funeral- “He suffered much here for twenty-seven years, but eternity is long enough to make amends for all. For what is all he endured in this life when compared with that rest which remaineth for the children of God?”

When Wilberforce’s wife grew seriously ill- “To you it is now given, not only to believe in His name, but also to suffer for His sake. He calls you now to a post of honour.”

“A palace would be a prison to him without the Lord’s presence and with this a prison would be a palace.”