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Conversion of John Newton: A Slave Trader and Poet

compiled by Hy. Pickering

John NewtonJohn Newton, slave trader, preacher, poet, one of the greatest trophies of grace ever won. His life truly manifested that "God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform." After what he declares to have been a life "flagrantly profane," in the course of a voyage he picked up and read Stanhope's "Thomas à Kempis," which impressed him and caused him to think more seriously than had been his custom. But a terrific tropical storm was what awakened him most of all. A fellow-seaman had been swept overboard, and all hands as well as the vessel were in great danger. After safety being assured, his thoughts were turned in upon his own condition. His past was brought vividly before him, and then he turned to his Testament and found help in these two verses: "How much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?" (Luke 11:13); and, "If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine" (John 7:17).

He understood the facts of the Gospel, but also that the Holy Spirit alone could enable him to understand these things. Accordingly in his own way he prayed for light and help. Thus by divers ways and experiences souls are led from their state of sin and misery to "Behold the Lamb of God" (John 1:29).

From that time John Newton started on the Christian pathway, and has recorded: "The 10th of March is a day much to be remembered by me, and I have never suffered it to pass wholly unnoticed since the year 1748." Surely it was his own experience he described in his hymn of later years:

"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."

From Twice-Born Men: True Conversion Records of 100 Well-Known Men in All Ranks of Life compiled by Hy. Pickering. London: Pickering & Inglis, [193-?]

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