JOHN NEWTON (1725–1807) was born in London, England. His father was a sailor and John also spent many years on the sea. Early in his life he enjoyed sin and made provisions for it. This degraded him to be a slave of a slave-trader who was treated poorly. He was inspired by reading The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas à Kempis. On March 21, 1748, (March 10th using the pre 1752 Julian calendar) a stormy night at sea turned his heart toward God. He started a new life of prayer and Bible reading. Mary Catlett became his wife in 1750. He worked as a commandeer of a slave ship and then he became a tide surveyor in 1755. He started studying Greek and Hebrew and was sworn in as a deacon in 1764, and became curate at Olney. He had a financial benefactor in John Thornton of London, which allowed him many privileges for relief to the poor and to keep an hospitable open house. He was a swaying influence for many lives. He wrote a book of hymns together with William Cowper called the Olney Hymns which was published in 1779. He is most known for writing the hymn "Amazing Grace."
The family of John Newton:
Father – Captain John Newton, master of a ship in Mediterranean trade.
Mother – Elizabeth Seatliffe, married in 1724. Died in 1732.
Wife – Mary (Polly) Catlett, married in 1750. They never had natural children.
Daughter - Elizabeth Catlett – Betsey was an adopted daughter. She was the child of George Catlett, Mary's brother.
Daughter - Eliza Cunningham – Eliza was the second adopted daughter. She was the child of Mary's sister Elizabeth.
Timeline of John Newton's life:
1725 – John Newton was born.
1729 – Mary Catlett was born.
1732 – Mother Elizabeth Newton dies of consumption.
1736 – Joined his father making voyages when 11 years old.
1743 – John was drafted into the British Navy.
1747 – John was found enslaved on an island and given passage back to England.
1748 – Stormy night at sea which proved to be spiritually transformative.
1750 – Married Mary Catlett.
1755 – John became a Tide Surveyor.
1758 – He began attempts to preach, but it needed development.
1764 – John became an Anglican curate at Olney, England and stayed 16 years.
1767 – William Cowper moved to Olney, a short distance from John Newton's house.
1771 – 1772 – Newton and Cowper wrote many hymns for prayer meetings.
1773 – William Cowper had another attack of mental illness.
1774 – Betsey Catlett was adopted by the Newtons.
1777 – A fire broke out in Olney.
1779 – Olney Hymns was published.
1779 – John left Olney for St. Mary Woolnoth, in London.
1783 – Eliza Cunningham was adopted.
1807 – John Newton died.
People in the life of John Newton:
Isaac Watts – Listened to his preaching and hymns in church as a young boy.
Charles Simeon – A fellow member of the Eclectic Society and they shared their pulpits with each other. (St. Mary's Woolnoth and Holy Trinity)
Hannah More – Strong friendship with John Newton who encouraged her spiritual development.
Henry Martyn – John Newton gave council to him.
John Thornton – Wealthy benefactor in London who helped John Newton financially.
John Wesley – John Newton was fascinated by John Wesley and held long conversations with him.
John Whitefield – Met him in 1755. John Newton was captivated by his preaching.
Thomas Scott – John Newton helped him spiritually. He took over the curacy at Olney when John Newton went to St. Mary Woolnoth in London.
William Bull – he was a close friend of John Newton.
William Carey – John Newton advised him.
William Cowper – John Newton was a good friend at Olney and wrote the Olney Hymns with him.
William Wilberforce – He looked to John Newton for spiritual guidance.
Books, letters and tracts by John Newton:
A Review of Ecclesiastical History.
Adelphi, a Sketch of the Character and an Account of the Last Illness of the Late John Cowper. A. M. (transcribed by John Newton)
Aged Pilgrim's Triumph Over Sin and the Grave. (The)
An Account of Eliza Cunningham; ATS tract #83.
Apologia, Four Letters to a Minister of an Independent Church: by a Minister of the Church of England.
Best Wisdom (The): A sermon, preached in the parish church of St. Mary Woolnoth, on Wednesday, the 21st of November, 1787, the day of the annual meeting of the Society for Promoting Religious Knowledge among the poor.
Cardiphonia: or, The Utterance of the Heart: in the Course of a Real Correspondence.
Christian biography: the life of Mrs. M.M. Althans, selected and revised.
Christian Correspondent (The); or A Series of Religious Letters, written by The Rev. John Newton to Captain Alex Clunie, from the year 1761, to the death of the latter in 1770.
Constraining Influence of the Love of Christ (The): a sermon, preached, in the church of the united parishes of St. Mary Woolnoth and St. Mary Woolnoth-Haw, Lombard-Street, on the 30th day of March, 1800, by John Newton, for the benefit of the children belonging to the Langbourn-Ward Charity-School.
Episcopalian's Plea and Help to a Holy and Consistent Life (The): comprising the apologia of the Rev. John Newton ; together with several essays designed to guard against delusion and to prevent scriptural views of religion.
Great Advent (The): A sermon preached in the parish church of St. Mary Woolnoth, On April 23, 1789. By John Newton.
Imminent Danger, and the Only Sure Resource of this Nation (The),: a sermon preached in the parish church of St. Mary Woolnoth, on Friday the 28th of February 1794, by John Newton.
John Newton of Olney and St. Mary Woolnoth: An Autobiography and Narrative; compiled by Josiah Bull.
Letters – Various Collections, including Omicron.
Life of John Newton: Once a Sailor, Afterwards Captain of a Slave Ship, and Subsequently Rector of St. Mary Woolnoth, London. (The)
Memoirs of the Life of the Late Rev. William Grimshaw, A. B.
Memoirs of the Rev. John Newton, Some Time a Slave in Africa; Afterwards Curate of Olney, bucks; and Rector of St. Mary Woolnoth, London.
Messiah: Fifty Expository Discourses, on the Series of Scriptural Passages, Which Form the Subject of the Celebrated Oratorio of Handel: Preached in the Years 1784 and 1785, in the Parish Church of St. Mary Woolnoth, Lombard-Street.
Messiah: His Character, Advent, and Humiliation. Volume 1
Messiah: His Exaltation, Kingdom, and Second Advent. Volume 2.
Motives to Humiliation and Praise. A Sermon, Preached in the Parish Church of St. Mary Woolnoth, Lombard-Street, on December 19, 1797.
Olney Hymns in three books.
Pleasures of Personal Religion. (The)
Political Debate on Christian Principles: or, The substance of a correspondence between The Reverend John Newton and The Reverend David Williamson
Progress of Grace (The); ATS tract #132.
Thoughts Upon the African Slave Trade