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John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace

4.1 of 5 stars 4.10  ·  rating details  ·  318 ratings  ·  48 reviews
A fascinating, colorful, and historically significant portrait of slave-trader-turned-Christ-follower John Newton. Unabridged on 12 CDs (13 hours 33 minutes).
Audio CD, 1 page
Published September 1st 2007 by Crossway Books (first published 2007)
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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!!
This was a wonderful biography on an incredible man. Sadly, Newton usually gets waved off as only the writer of "Amazing Grace", but he contributed so much more during his life than a hymn (eg. pastoral abilities, key figure in abolishing the slave trade). As well, understanding how "wretched" Newton was before Jesus found him adds a great depth the next time I sing his hymns.
Great reminder of the power of God's grace. It truly is amazing. Very encouraging reminder.
Mike E.
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
Jul 28, 2011 Benjamin rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Benjamin 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
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
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
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
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
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
Scott Lester
An incredible and easy to read bio about the writer of the greatest hymn of all time - Amazing Grace. It is the story of one man's journey from rebellion to conversion, from slave ship captain to abolitionist, from mocker of the church to pastor and mentor to many evangelicals in England. Most of all it is the story of God's amazing grace
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!
Tyler Hargrove
I really enjoyed this very accessible biography on one of the greatest hymn writers of all time. The writing style is very engaging and reads more like a novel. I highly recommend this book to anyone, especially those aspiring to pastoral or music ministry.
Apr 12, 2010 Elaine marked it as started-reading-but-didn-t-finish  ·  review of another edition
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
Stephen Avalone
Worth reading if you like the song. You have to power through a few parts but good story.
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
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
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,
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.
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."
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.
Darrell Frank
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.
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.
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!"
Keith McDonald
A beautifully written biography. I thought I knew something about Newton, but this book brought him to life for me.

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.
Bauer Evans
What a superb biography on one of my favorite church leaders! I had moist eyes reading the final chapters which described Polly & John's final days together. If you want to be inspired by God's grace, and how it takes a person from utter disgrace to loving 'saint', treat yourself to read this, this summer.
Garland Vance
This was a phenomenal biography. The short chapters kept you constantly engaged, and Newton's life is an example for believers. This one should be read by many Christians. Newton was used by God to develop deep relationships that not only changed those people but changed the course of history.
Nov 26, 2012 Patrick marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Just read the forward by Phillip Yancey and am reading the prologue. Sounds like an incredible account of an incredible life! Rev. Dean Miller is going to talk about John Newton's life at the Falls Church this Thursday. All are welcome:
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