Thank God for John Newton

Today is the 200th anniversary of John Newton’s death.

  • John Newton wrote the hymn ‘Amazing Grace.” (The words, not the music.)
  • He counseled William Wilberforce to stay in politics to fight the slave trade.
  • He never gave up on the suicidal William Cowper who gave us “There Is A Fountain Filled with Blood” and “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” and “O For a Closer Walk with God.”
  • He partnered with Cowper in writing a collection of Olney Hymns for their people. Cowper could not carry it through. Of the 300 hymns we have today 233 are from Newton.
  • When Henry Martyn came to him for counsel before entering on his mission to Persia (and dying there at age 31) he asked Newton about the opposition he was likely to meet with. Newton answered that “he supposed Satan would not love me for what I was about to do.”
  • He was a tender pastor and friend to those who knew him. I love him and count it a privilege to say, “Thank you, Father, for this remarkable man.”

Newton was the captain of a slave trading ship before he became a pastor. To the end of his life he was still marveling that he was saved and called to preach the gospel of grace. From his last will and testament we read:

I commit my soul to my gracious God and Savior, who mercifully spared and preserved me, when I was an apostate, a blasphemer, and an infidel, and delivered me from the state of misery on the coast of Africa into which my obstinate wickedness had plunged me; and who has been pleased to admit me (though most unworthy) to preach his glorious gospel. (Cited in The Roots of Endurance, pg 45)

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books.