on 31 July 2007
Jonathan Aitken has written an excellent biography, one of the best Christian biographies I have read. Newton is a great subject for a biography for he had a long and amazing life. Aitken is well qualified to write about "From Disgrace to Amazing Grace". He writes with style. His chapters are refeshingly short and to the point. The story is thrilling with "many dangers, toils and snare". One looses counts of the dangers from which the young Newton escapes. It is the story of a great sinner who was found by a great Saviour. Aitken tells the tale with real spiritual as well as historical undrstanding of his subject so that in concluion he can point the reader to spiritual lessons to be learned from Newton's life. For example. God's timing is not ours. Newton had to wait six years from applying, to be finally ordained as an Anglican minister. His marriage is an exemplary and touching story. Newtons spitiuality and prayer life are a real challenge. Aitken shows how faithful and inovatory Newton was as a pastor and how he helped many, especially his best friend William Cowper. Without Newton there would have neem no great poet only a forgotten suicide. Similarly, without Newton we would probably not have has Wilberforce, politician and reformer. Aitken also tells the story of Newton's famous hymn, its composition and rise to fame. Aitken faithfully relates Newton's faults too. His support of the American rebels had to be withdrawn but one is led to understand why many in England, especailly non-conformists, were suppporters of the rebels. Newton was an eirenic man who eschewed party labels and associated with Christian irrespective of denominational labels. This is a great biography and I hope we will have more from this fine Christian author.
The story of John Newton's life is one of my personal favorites. Like most of us, Newton's journey to his destiny was filled with false starts, obstacles, and a good deal of regret. Perhaps of all the biographies that I have read, the story of this man's life resonates most with me as genuinely truthful and truly inspiring.
Most people may not initially recognize the name of John Newton, that is until it is noted that he wrote the hymn Amazing Grace. Despite that it was written over 200 years ago, Amazing Grace is the most sung, most recorded, most played song ever. Not bad for a creation that was meant only to serve as a simplistic way to teach scripture to Newton's congregation in Olney.
Perhaps this song resonates so deeply with so many people because the words reflect John Newton's own extremely troubled life journey. Newton spent many years of his young adulthood completely lost. Career wise, he had no idea what he wanted to do and seemed bent on rebelling against everything that was given to him. The only thing he seemed to excel at was creating havoc. His greed and resentment led him to do horrible things including becoming a slaver.
After a series of what Newton perceived as divine interventions, the man slowly began realizing that he needed to change his life. After a lot of false starts, Newton turned his life around and dedicated himself to God's word. In his lifetime, he became a bestselling author bringing religious material to the masses. His frank testimony about his actions in the slave trade was also significant in the abolishment of slavery in Britain.