Pressed into service in the Royal Navy, John Newton was dismissed for insubordination and turned to a career trafficking in slaves. Notorious for cursing and blasphemy, Newton served on a slave ship during the cruelest days of trans-Atlantic slavery, finally working his way up to captain.
A dramatic conversion on the high seas set him on the path to grace. He always felt a sense of undeservedness for his new life. He became a rousing evangelical preacher and eventually a leader in the abolitionist movement. Newton appeared before Parliament, giving irrefutable eyewitness testimony to the horror and immorality of the slave trade. We also know him as the author of the lyrics of perhaps the best-loved hymn of all time, “Amazing Grace.”
Newton described any good in himself as an outworking of God’s grace. In doing so, he stands with these great heroes—a murderer and adulterer (King David), a coward (the apostle Peter), and a persecutor of Christians (the apostle Paul).
This same grace is available to all who call upon God, for “in Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7).
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind but now I see. —Newton