Saturday, 28 March 2015

"Glorious things of thee are spoken" - John Newton, 1725-1807

WHEN John Newton, an English preacher of the eighteenth century, in his old age could no longer read his texts, he was urged to give up preaching. "What!" said he, "shall the old African blasphemer stop while he can speak?" And in these words he correctly characterized himself as he had been before conversion. Newton could never forget that the grace of God had rescued him from the depths of sin. His godly mother had taught him the Scriptures. But she died when he was only seven years old, and at the age of eleven he went to sea with his father. His life as a sailor was full of exciting adventures and full of wickedness. He became a sea captain and a slave-trader, and was enslaved himself for a time. For years the only good influence that he knew came through his love for his future wife, Mary Catlett. 

One frightful night, when he was twenty-three years old, the waterlogged vessel he was steering was almost lost. Thus facing death all night long, he surrendered his life to Jesus Christ and turned away from his sins. Later he came under the influence of Whitefield and the Wesleys, entered the Christian ministry, and lived a life of wide usefulness in the service of the Master. His influence lives today chiefly in the hymns that he wrote, many of them being first published with those of Cowper in the "Olney Hymns" and similar collections. His hymn, "Glorious things of thee are spoken," which we sing to the Austrian national tune, is one of the finest hymns of praise in the English language. 

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