John Newton

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Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That sav'd a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

John Newton (24 July 172521 December 1807) was a British slave trader who later became an abolitionist and a convert to Christianity. He came to be a clergyman and songwriter. He is known for writing the lyrics to the historical hymn, Amazing Grace.


  • "If the trade is at present carried on to the same extent and nearly in the same manner, while we are delaying from year to year to put a stop to our part in it, the blood of many thousands of our helpless, much injured fellow creatures is crying against us. The pitiable state of the survivors who are torn from their relatives, connections, and their native land must be taken into account. I fear the African trade is a national sin, for the enormities which accompany it are now generally known; and though, perhaps, the greater part of the nation would be pleased if it were suppressed, yet, as it does not immediately affect their own interest, they are passive. {...] Can we wonder that the calamities of the present war begin to be felt at home, when we ourselves wilfully and deliberately inflict much greater calamities upon the native Africans, who never offended us?. "Woe unto thee that spoilest, and thou wast not spoiled when thou shalt cease to spoil, thou shalt be spoiled"
    • Alluding to the biblical verse in Isaiah 33:1. As quoted in The Works of the Rev. John Newton... to which are Prefixed Memoirs of His Life (1839), Vol. 2, U. Hunt., page 438.
  • "I should be inexcusable, considering the share I have formerly had in that unhappy business, if, upon this occasion, I should omit to mention the African slave-trade. I do not rank this amongst our national sins, because I hope, and believe, a very great majority of the nation earnestly long for its suppression. But, hitherto, petty and partial interest prevail against the voice of justice, humanity and truth. This enormity, however, is not sufficiently laid to heart. If you are justly shocked by what you hear of the cruelties practised in France, you would, perhaps, be shocked much more, if you could fully conceive of the evils and miseries inseparable from this traffic, which I apprehend, not from hearsay, but from my own observation, are equal in atrocity, and, perhaps superior in number, in the course of a single year, to any or all the worst actions which have been known in France since the commencement of their revolution. There is a cry of blood against us; a cry accumulated by the accession of fresh victims, of thousands, of scores of thousands, I had almost said of hundreds of thousands, from year to year."
    • As quoted in The Works of the Rev. John Newton... to which are Prefixed Memoirs of His Life (1839), Vol. 2, U. Hunt, pages 429-230.
  • By one hour's intimate access to the throne of grace, where the Lord causes his glory to pass before the soul that seeks him, you may acquire more true spiritual knowledge and comfort, than by a day or a week's converse with the best of men, or the most studious perusal of many folios.
  • I am not what I ought to be — ah, how imperfect and deficient! I am not what I wish to be — I abhor what is evil, and I would cleave to what is good! I am not what I hope to be — soon, soon shall I put off mortality, and with mortality all sin and imperfection. Yet, though I am not what I ought to be, nor what I wish to be, nor what I hope to be, I can truly say, I am not what I once was; a slave to sin and Satan; and I can heartily join with the apostle, and acknowledge, "By the grace of God I am what I am."
    • As quoted in The Christian Pioneer (1856) edited by Joseph Foulkes Winks, p. 84. Also in The Christian Spectator, vol. 3 (1821), p. 186
    • Often paraphrased as I am not the man I ought to be, I am not the man I wish to be, and I am not the man I hope to be, but by the grace of God, I am not the man I used to be."

Olney Hymns (1779)[edit]

  • Zeal is that pure and heavenly flame,
    The fire of love supplies;
    While that which often bears the name,
    Is self in a disguise.

    True zeal is merciful and mild,
    Can pity and forbear;
    The false is headstrong, fierce and wild,
    And breathes revenge and war.

    • Hymn 70: True and False Zeal

Amazing Grace[edit]

Originally titled: "Faith's Review and Expectation"
  • Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
    That sav'd a wretch like me!
    I once was lost, but now am found,
    Was blind, but now I see.
  • 'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
    And grace my fears reliev'd;
    How precious did that grace appear,
    The hour I first believ'd!
  • Thro' many dangers, toils and snares,
    I have already come;
    'Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
    And grace will lead me home.
  • The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
    The sun forbear to shine;
    But God, who call'd me here below,
    Will be forever mine.

Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)[edit]

Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).

  • Show me what I have to do,
    Every hour my strength renew;
    Let me live a life of faith,
    Let me die Thy people's death.
    • P. 266.
  • There is many a thing which the world calls disappointment; but there is no such thing in the dictionary of faith. What to others are disappointments are to believers intimations of the will of God.
    • P. 281.
  • I look upon prayer-meetings as the most profitable exercises (excepting the public preaching) in which Christians can engage. They have a direct tendency to kill a worldly, trifling spirit, and to draw down a Divine blessing upon all our concerns, compose differences, and enkindle (at least maintain) the flames of Divine love amongst brethren.
    • P. 475.


  • When we've been there ten thousand years,
    Bright shining as the sun,
    We've no less days to sing God's praise
    Than when we'd first begun.
    • These lines were not written by Newton. They have often been accreted to various hymns, including "Amazing Grace", since the mid-nineteenth century.

Quotes about John Newton[edit]

  • Outside in the harbor ... was the captain of the slave-ship, with so clear a conscience that one of them, in the intervals of waiting to enrich British capitalism with the profits of another valuable cargo, enriched British religion by composing the hymn "How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds!"

External links[edit]

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