John Newton, My Friend

Although he has been dead for 212 years, John Newton has become a good friend over the years.

I written about him before, about reading his letters, about godly speech, about hearing sermons, and about pride among preachers. Newton is special, and he makes me think, but I love him more because he communicates in such a way that makes me want to be more like Jesus. As he said of another preacher, “he not only informed my understanding, but his discourse inflamed my heart” (p. 74).

 

Ten months ago, I started reading the 783 pages of Volume 1 of Banner of Truth’s tiny fonted Works of John Newton. With three volumes left, and I expect that I will be reading and rereading his letters the rest of my life, at least until I lose my eyesight or my mind.

You might know Newton as a slave trader or as a hymn writer. But his salvation, the lyrics of Amazing Grace, and his influence on the abolitionist legislator William Wilberforce will continue to ring through all of history.

Although he has been dead for 212 years, John Newton has become a good friend over the years. I written about him before, about reading his letters, about godly speech, about hearing sermons, and about pride among preachers. Newton is special, and he makes me think, but I love him more because he communicates in such a way that makes me want to be more like Jesus. As he said of another preacher, “he not only informed my understanding, but his discourse inflamed my heart” (p. 74).

This volume I just finished included was first published in 1839 and included a narrative of his memoirs more than 600 pages of personal letters. I’ve been reading a small volume of his letters for years, but over these months, I have come to appreciate him even more. Here are a few reasons that these 250 year-old letters stir my heart.

1Newton was a shepherding pastor-counselor. Some pastors are good preachers. Some pastors are good shepherds. Some pastors are good counselors. Some pastors are good shepherd-counselors, and but very few are good preacher-counselors. Newton’s letters and sermons illustrate that he was dedicated to all three.

All of our afflictions, under his gracious management, are appointed to prove, manifest, exercise, and purify the graces of his children. And not afflictions only, prosperity likewise is a state of temptation; and many who have endured sharp sufferings, and came off honorably, have afterwards greatly hurt and ensnared by prosperity. (p.383)

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