Book Review: John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace

Book CoverJonathan Aitken, John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace (Crossway Publishing, 2007), 350 pp.

Reviewed by Joel Joyce (Livonia, MI)

Most know John Newton only as the author of the renowned and well-loved hymn “Amazing Grace,” and as the former slave trader wonderfully converted. However, there is so much more to his story. In this book, Aitken does a masterful job of telling the whole story of John Newton’s life, from his childhood to his home call. Newton’s most well-known hymn is a nutshell biography of his life, exhibiting the riches of God’s grace in saving, preserving and sanctifying him. The operation of grace in his life as a believer is as amazing as the grace in his conversion. It is surprising to learn that he made three slave-trading voyages as the captain of his ship after conversion. It was as he grew in grace that he abandoned the slave trade, then repudiated it, and finally fought to abolish it. Newton never lost his wonder for the grace of God; as an old man he wrote, “Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.”

There is much that will interest the reader: Newton’s acquaintance with Whitefield, Wesley and Wilberforce, the abolitionist; his loving devotion to his wife; his patient care for his close friend and fellow hymn writer, William Cowper, as Cowper suffered bouts of severe depression; and his prolific writing and preaching. John Newton is an inspiring read that will not disappoint.