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John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace

4.16  ·  Rating Details ·  506 Ratings  ·  67 Reviews

Most Christians know John Newton as a man who once captained a slave ship, was dramatically converted to Christ on the high seas, and later penned one of the greatest hymns of the faith, “Amazing Grace.” But he also had a huge impact on his times as an icon of the evangelical movement, as a great preacher and theologian, and as a seminal influence on abolitionist William W

Kindle Edition, 404 pages
Published (first published 2007)
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Dec 04, 2014 Nannette rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this biography. Newton's almost last words were "I am a great sinner, but Christ is a great Savior". He was indeed a great sinner as he wrote in his own epitaph "John Newton, Once an Infidel and Libertine, a Servant of Slaves in Africa". This epitaph continues "...Was by the Rich Mercy of Our Lord an Savior Jesus Christ Preserved, Restored, Pardoned and Appointed to Preach the Faith He Had Long Labored to Destroy". Remarkable story!!
Jun 19, 2012 Cindy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great reminder of the power of God's grace. It truly is amazing. Very encouraging reminder.
Daniel Souza
Oct 24, 2016 Daniel Souza rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At the end of his life, Newton summarizes it as follows: "My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: That I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Savior." Beautiful words to summarize a beautifully transformed life. Throughout these pages, the reader is confronted with a man who knew the depth of his sin, but nevertheless, swam in God's grace and devoted his life to preach, write and sing about the mercies of Jesus Christ. While many think that this kind of Christ-centered devot ...more
Dan Curnutt
May 14, 2015 Dan Curnutt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lay people, pastors, sinners
John Newton is well known for his hymn writing, specifically Amazing Grace. The reason for the popularity of this hymn is more due to the fact of the truth of the words, "That saved a wretch like me!" John Newton truly was a wretch. As a matter of fact in reading this biography of his life you are left a little bit in dislike of the man.

John Newton's early life was terrible. His mother died when he was still a boy, his father remarried and had three more children with his second wife, but they t
Mike E.
Jun 17, 2014 Mike E. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
The author of America's, perhaps the world's, greatest hymn, "Amazing Grace" was written by a man whose formal education ended at the age of ten. John Newton's father thought it was best for his son to begin his life at sea, following in his father's wake. The life of John Newton is dramatic, fantastic and epic--at one point he is a deserter and receives a public flogging, at another he chooses to live in Africa and winds up enslaved--chained and shackled by a black mistress of a white slave tra ...more
Mar 26, 2010 Andrea rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a Christian musician, I have to confess that I have occasionally, during "favorites" type hymn-sings, sighed a bit when I hear someone request "Amazing Grace." It is just so commonly done, and in the public arena, it has almost passed into the category of a folk-type song. Recordings of it are made by folks that don't appear to show any real spirituality in any other way. It is played or sung at public events that would probably never allow any real exposition of its content. Maybe I should b ...more
Jul 28, 2011 B rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to B by: Pastor Fisher
Shelves: biography, christian
What I got most from this book was the gracefulness that saving grace gave to John Newton. In an age of fracture among English Protestants he managed to keep himself (barely) within the church of England while maintaining great friendships & fellowship with his fellow ministers of several different denominational backgrounds. He even vocally opposed riotous mobs rampaging against Catholics by a recognition of men who were most certainly God's own among their ranks. He lovingly corresponded w ...more
Sandra Munro
I was recently gifted two books on the life of John Newton - this and the autobiographical: 'Out of the Depths', by John Newton. I read this first (because it is a much larger book) and was surprised by how little I enjoyed it - at least, compared to what I had expected.

An account of the life of John Newton is of real interest - hence, I judge that it must have been the fault of the author that this biography seemed lackluster throughout. (Although I did like Aitken's way of bridging from one c
Apr 15, 2008 Tami rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The story of John Newton's life is one of my personal favorites. Like most of us, Newton's journey to his destiny was filled with false starts, obstacles, and a good deal of regret. Perhaps of all the biographies that I have read, the story of this man's life resonates most with me as genuinely truthful and truly inspiring.

Most people may not initially recognize the name of John Newton, that is until it is noted that he wrote the hymn Amazing Grace. Despite that it was written over 200 years ag
Jun 02, 2010 Lillie rated it it was amazing
I always thought John Newton had a dramatic shipboard conversion when he was a slave ship captain and changed his life immediately. He did have a dramatic shipboard conversion when he was in a shipwreck in a terrible storm, but he became a slave ship captain after that. His lifestyle change was gradual over years, but he later spent at least five hours a day in prayer. His ministry was incredible, preaching and teaching and writing books and hymns as well as learning from and mentoring other gr ...more
Andrew Murch
Dec 12, 2015 Andrew Murch rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My first book of 2015 was an enjoyable 'morning coffee read.' Newton's life unfolds like an epic saga fit for the cinema. He seemingly lived half a dozen lives in one life. Newton moved from a young teenage sailor to a slave ship captain to a government official to a radically saved country preacher to a best-selling author, hymn composer, and elder statesman of the Christian faith. The world knows his as the author of the world famous hymn 'Amazing Grace,' but that point in his story was really ...more
May 04, 2011 Kristen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, kindle
I really enjoyed this book as a whole. John Newton's life was an adveture from start to finish. He truly loved his lord, his wife, his church, and the people that God placed in his path. His life, once he was saved, showed how one can grow in ones faith and I found myself hungering for more growth in my own life. Mr. Aitken did a pretty good job with his writing. I was pulled into the story from the start. I did find a couple of the chapters to not hold my interest as much as I would have liked. ...more
Feb 18, 2016 Timothy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book to be quite encouraging. I especially appreciated the quotes from Newtons journals and prayers. The author also brought in other characters in history as well as historical events which helped me to connect more with Newton's life and time period.

Some things I wished were different were 1) the way he worked through Newton's life by issues as opposed to going year by year. I prefer more of a storyline approach. Sometimes I was trying to figure out what year the author was in and
Sean Smith
I was disappointed with this biography. Although John Newton's life was inspiring, challenging, and well worth reading about, the writing itself did not complement the inspiring figure it dedicated itself to. The fatal flaw of this book, I feel, was giving seeming equal weight to every portion of Newton's life. I think it would have been much better for certain aspects of his life, such as his conversion, involvement/friendship with William Cowper, and influence on Wilberforce and the abolition ...more
Andrew Wolgemuth
Aug 10, 2016 Andrew Wolgemuth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
John Newton was incredible (incredible), and Jonathan Aitken does an admirable job recounting his life.

An impressed Navy sailor; a deserter; a slave ship captain; a new Christian struggling to cast-off his immoral habits; a more mature Christian struggling to find his calling; a small-town pastor impacting his nation; a big-city pastor impacting his government and the world; a hymn-writer; a best-selling author; a loving, tender husband; a networker (in the best sense of the word); a man committ
Apr 12, 2010 Elaine marked it as started-reading-but-didn-t-finish
Shelves: kindle
You learn that Newton's mother died at the age of 27 while her seafaring husband was at sea. John was just about to turn 7 when she died of consumption (today would be tuberculosis).

Newton's father, though aloof, was a strict disciplinarian when around. Demanding that young John refer to him as "Sir."

When young John wasn't feeding his sinful appetite, he lived a life of unfulfilled legalism through intensive fasting, meditation, prayer and Bible reading. Later he became a notorious slave trade
John Martindale
I love biographies of admirable people, and indeed John Newton is definitely a hero of the faith. He had a large role in the end of the slave trade, missionaries going to India and Australia, and also he was a tolerant peace maker between rivaling church denominations. It is great to hear about Newtons passionate love for his wife, his devotion to his adopted children and the richness of his friendship to his companions. The work of God is definitely evident in this man, who once was a heartless ...more
Richard Bartholomew
If you can get past the fact it's by Jonanthan Aitken, this is actually quite a good history, covering Newton's maritime and evangelical contexts.

Interesting also to see the real story of "Amazing Grace": he didn't write it in a fit of religious fervor after becoming a Christian and forsaking slave-trading. In fact, he carried on in the trade after his religious conversion and his conversion was not the reason why he gave it up. And "Amazing Grace" was written a few years later when he was vicar
Sep 07, 2010 Stephanie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, 2010
I enjoyed this biography because I've always liked the hymn Amazing Grace (my middle name is Grace, which made me feel a kinship when I was a kid, and nostalgia now), but I've never thought about why it was written or who wrote it. John Newton lived an interesting life. However, the last fourth of the biography (covering Newton's life after the writing of the Olney Hymns) was slow, with little enticing detail of Newton's life.

This was definitely written with a powerful Christian rhetoric voice,
Jul 03, 2013 Gary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The story of John Newton is an amazing story of a man’s life’s journey (from 1725 to 1807). Newton starts as a troubled young man who ends up in the British Navy, but fails miserably and is literally “traded” from the Navy to a Merchant ship. Over the following years he ends up being a slave trader, then a slave himself. He later escapes, ends up being a Slave ship Capitan. Finally ends up as a Pastor in the Church of England and having a major impact on the church and society of the time (inclu ...more
George Hunger
Oct 21, 2015 George Hunger rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace is a fantastic biography of a legendary figure in Christian history. This book is well-written and engaging from beginning to end, covering Newton's infamous younger years as a slave trade ship's captain, his dramatic conversion, writing of the famous hymn Amazing Grace, his relationship and influence on poet William Cowper and politician William Wilberforce. Wow...what a full and impactful life! His life has truly inspired me to live fully for Christ, ...more
Aug 07, 2012 Liz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book to be very easy to read and immensely enjoyable. Luther would call John Newton 'a great sinner'. His faith and his life witness greatly for the saving grace of the Holy Spirit. I would recommend the book highly. It certainly made me want to read John Newton's writings. The book has an excellent Bibliography and Source Notes at the end. Cudos to the author Jonathan Aitken for a wonderful well-researched book.
Jan 19, 2014 Vaclav rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
wow! this guy was a rascal, but i love him! his hymns are some of my favorite! he was a slave owner, became a slave himself, escaped and almost drowned on a sinking ship where he remembered his mom's prayers and called on the Lord to save him...and God did! he fell away from the Lord soon after, but God's grace sought him and recovered his faith again, became a preacher, teacher of God's gospel truth and even married his sweetheart! his spiritual letters are outstanding read!
Kelly Dunn
Feb 21, 2015 Kelly Dunn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Excellent treatment of a true Hero of the Faith. One of the many reasons I love John Newton is because he is so human - and yet he transformed into a choice instrument for the plan and purpose of the Lord. Aitkin did a supurb job in writing this book. I will write a fuller review after a while when I am not so busy at work. Suffice it to say this book is well worth your time and careful attention.
Mar 16, 2014 Jeremy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographies
This biography of Newton is engaging and thorough; Newton's life is a supreme example of the Gospel having the power to transform the most unlikely of characters. From slave ship captain to abolitionist, from blasphemer to preacher, the story of John Newton's life reads like a novel and is all the more inspiring for being an authentic account of the life of one "great sinner transformed by a great Savior."
Darrell Frank
Aug 14, 2012 Darrell Frank rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Aitken's biography is highly readible, insightful and informative. His perspectives shed new light on Newton's transformation through grace into a character much closer to that of his Lord through a progression of God-provided mentors and encouragers into Newton's own mentoring of others such as Wilberforce. Who knew that hanging out with the Wesleys posed a hurdle to Newton recieving an appointment.
Jan 29, 2010 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great biography! Even though I'd heard about John Newton's story before, this book was a wonderful read, and I thank God for the life of this man! So many wonderful lessons from his life, but the best one is in his own words at the end of his life, "My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Savior!"
Nov 15, 2015 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
I am so grateful that I purchased this book when I saw it on sale for Kindle. A great biography of a man with an amazing testimony of how God saved him with his "Amazing Grace." :)
This is a book I want to read again. Lots of great quotes I have highlighted. Inspirational and challenging- definitely spurred me on in my faith. Recommend!
Sep 17, 2012 Josh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very enjoyable. I didn't find Aitken's prose to be as well constructed as say Eric Metaxas in "Amazing Grace," but overall this was a very worthwhile read. Newton's life is indeed a rich testimony to the power of grace. Pastors, read this book and learn from Newton's winsomeness and ability to influence others through friendship.
Mar 23, 2010 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: on-kindle
This was a well written biography that presented a very interesting life. John Newton's testimony was quite interesting and his passion for keeping God first in his life is exemplary. I thought the book was very good and recommend it to those interested in the time period, those interested in spiritual quest, and those interested in seeing what a strong faith-life might look like.
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Jonathan William Patrick Aitken is a former Conservative Member of Parliament in the United Kingdom for 24 years, and a former British government Cabinet minister. He was convicted of perjury in 1999 and received an 18-month prison sentence, of which he served seven months.
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“In the light of its recent history and usage, "Amazing Grace" has sometimes been called "the spiritual national anthem of America." It is a description that can be applied even more widely on an international canvas, for the hymn soars above most boundaries as a simple celebration of the experience of grace. In principle it can be, and is, sung with this meaning not only by Christians but by Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and people of no particular faith.” 0 likes
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