His reputation was known throughout much of the world, from the coasts of Africa (where he was a slave trader) to the docks of England where his name was infamous as a vulgar, blasphemer of God. His name was John Newton.
The old John Newton, before he became a new creation in Christ, was the captain of a ship that sold slaves…it’s how he made his living. He would sail to what was known as the “Dark Continent” in the mid 1700’s and capture Africans to claim them as slaves, ripping families apart just to make money. Fathers, wives, children…it didn’t matter to John Newton, until 1748.
In 1748, someone gave John a copy of “The Imitation of Christ” by Thomas A. Kempis. John Newton read that book and in it saw his awful sins and that he needed a Savior. Through the marvelous grace of God…that which John called “Amazing”, he came to Christ and was gloriously saved!
He forsook that wicked lifestyle and became a humble pastor and hymn writer. John Newton was instrumental as an old man in the shaping of William Wilberforce who would spend his entire life fighting slavery and finally saw slavery abolished in England.
We remember John Newton most for giving the Church the hymn that has probably comforted more souls than any song in history, “Amazing Grace.” John Newton was not exaggerating when he penned the words, “…that saved a wretch like me.” John Newton was a wretched man until the grace of God captured his soul. When I read the life of John Newton, I think of the verse in Romans 6:20, “…where sin did abound, grace did much more abound.”
Upon his death bed, as his memory was quickly fading, he was able to re-call one thing. He is known for saying, “This one thing I do remember, that I was a great sinner, but Christ was a great Savior!”
Praise God for John Newton! Praise God for grace that turns Saul’s into Paul’s. Grace that turned a slave trader like John Newton into a humble, loving Pastor. Grace that has turned my life and your life from the domain of darkness into the Kingdom of His Beloved Son!
Let us consider together the great work of God’s grace in our own lives out of Ephesians 2, “in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Ephesians 2:2-10 (ESV)
As you read this today, why don’t you pause and thank God for the grace He has “lavishly” poured over you and your family. And for those in your life that have not yet experienced the grace of God…well, pray for them and ask the Lord to be merciful to those who are yet un-repentant.
In closing, have you experienced God’s Amazing Grace? I’m not asking have you experienced church or religion. I’m not asking if you’ve taken a mission trip or are active in your local church. I’m asking have you experienced the marvelous grace of God that brings about repentance and change? If not, call upon the Lord today. Ask of His forgiveness, ask of His grace and come drink of the well of grace for it is sufficient.