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John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  873 ratings  ·  102 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

Hardcover, 400 pages
Published June 7th 2007 by Crossway (first published 2007)
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Average rating 4.24  · 
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Natalie Vellacott
"Once an Infidel and Libertine,
A Servant of Slaves in Africa,
Was by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ,
Preserved, restored, pardoned,
And appointed to preach,
The Faith he had long laboured to destroy."

The story of the infamous John Newton, writer of the hymn Amazing Grace, and converted during his work as a notorious trader in African slaves.

This biography is well researched and written. I enjoyed the first part, about his life before conversion and the moment he became a
Aug 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The life of John Newton is a classic redemption tale. Newton went from being a cruel captain of a slave ship to a well respected clergyman, writer and abolitionist.

This book is extremely important today as often people are no longer given the chance to turn their lives around. The court of public opinion is quick to condemn people and can be completely unforgiving.

Following a spiritual conversion after many voyages as captain of a slave ship, Newton completely transformed his life. He recognised
Dana Hinman
Aug 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The author wrote a very detailed and fair biography. He understood Christianity and was passionate about Newton. It showed throughout. Despite a boring lull in the middle of the book (when Newton was navigating pastoral roadblocks) I found this book full of inspiration and great historical information.
To the unconverted, conversion stories are notoriously dull. There's a consistent drudgery in stories of how one comes to their faith. This bio of John Newton, composer of "Amazing Grace," is no exception.

Salvation memoirs are fairly similar, the author lives a life of debauchery/sin, eventually finds Jesus/Mohammed/whomever, and lives their remaining days REALLY overselling their previous level of sinfulness ("I once was lost but now am found..."). Now, that's not to say Newton doesn't come ac
Feb 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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!!
Apr 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biografie, english
Like Newton said himself: "O Lord, what a life has mine been! How full of wonderfull turns! What hair-breadth escapes! What sudden unthought of changes. What a striking proof is my history of the deceitfulness and desperate wickidness of the heart, and of thy wonderful long-suffering patience and mercy"(341).
Dan Curnutt
May 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 19, 2012 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.
Frank Theising
Jun 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
An incredible story and a great reminder of the transforming power of the gospel; not just its offer of forgiveness but its ability to change even the most hard hearted into true worshippers of God and authentic lovers of people. The book is very well researched and offers a fairly comprehensive account of Newton’s life. Almost too comprehensive. While Newton’s life at sea and later work in the abolitionist movement are absolutely riveting, the book includes some rather lengthy descriptions of N ...more
Aug 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
John Newton was at one point a young and reckless slave-ship captain with a foul mouth and total irreverence for God who had experienced God's wrath during one seafaring journey in 1748. It would be years later that he finally got on the road to conversion and answered a strong calling he had for becoming an ordained priest. Throughout the book we are introduced to many of John Newton's writings, hymns, reflections, and excerpts from his many well-received and successful books that it is indeed ...more
Major Ellison
Mar 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
If you could be summed up in one phrase, what would it be? John Newton, nearing death said, “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: that I am a great sinner — and that Christ is a great Savior!” These words, which were close to his last, were summarized on his tombstone with the words: “John Newton, once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa, was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the fait ...more
Rick Bourque
John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace Jonathan Aitken

Aitken has a very readable style with short chapters that kept the attention on the subject not pot-holes of biographical details. Newton refers to himself toward the end of his life as ‘old African blasphemer.’ He never forgot the depths from which he was saved. He was both a tortured slave himself at one point and a torturing rapist slave trader at another. His conversion comes on gradually as he connects the dot of many providential t
Sean Nemecek
Jun 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What a ride! From being forced to work on a navy ship to captivity in Africa. From a near ship wreck to becoming a ships captain. From trading slaves to abolitionist. John Newton's story is full of dramatic changes, tragedy, and triumph.
The first half of this book reads much like an adventure novel. Newton's early life is filled with debauchery, blasphemy, and all manner of self-destructive behavior. As he is constantly taken away from the love of his life, Newton struggles to make his way back
Bill Pence
Jan 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Before reading this book I didn’t know too much about John Newton. What I did know was that he was the author of the much-loved hymn “Amazing Grace” and that he was a friend of William Wilberforce, who led the effort to abolish the slave trade in England.
The author of this book is a former Member of Parliament. After he pleaded guilty to perjury he went to prison where he was converted to the Christian faith. In some ways you could say the author has also led a life of disgrace to amazing grace.
Bradley McKenzie
May 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Not a difficult read, but an opportunity to learn from a person with whom one may not agree on all points. It showed that Newton was first and foremost a man of prayer. It showed also that a husband and a wife must not be on the same level intellectually or even spiritually in order to have a loving relationship. It illustrated that a vile person can receive grace (John) and that a person during illness may waver in faith before being fully restored (Polly). Some may criticize Newton for opting ...more
Nov 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Interesting and comprehensive study of John Newton's life. The author presents a very positive, almost fawning view of Newton (dismissing most of his apparent faults) which is my only complaint.
Well, that and the speculation and theological liberties (like how the author can't imagine why Newton would worry about making an idol of his wife). I got the sense that the author couldn't quite grasp the faith/convictions of his subject. The author references other writers who felt much differently ab
Jan 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This biography, like its subject and the grace that his most famous hymn describes, is truly amazing. I read it on the heels of the Metaxas bio of William Wilberforce and found it quite complementary. While most know of the hymn Amazing Grace, which has endured for well over two centuries and across the continents, fewer know that he was once a slave ship captain who found salvation after living a dissolute and blasphemous life in his youth. Upon his conversion, he began a slow, yet inexorable, ...more
Kristopher Schaal
Jul 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
What a life story! John Newton’s testimony is so encouraging. One of the most admirable things about him was his humility. “Amazing Grace” is a great representation of his attitude. He never forgot where he came from (slave trader) or that he didn’t deserve the ministry God gave him (as a pastor). He felt his sin very deeply and grace equally as deep.

Newton also had a huge impact through his books, hymns, pastoring, and mentoring. He was a great friend. From his wife Polly to Cowper to Wilberfor
Aug 03, 2020 rated it liked it
John Newton was amazing - the 3 stars represent my feelings on Aitken's telling. This biography felt like the strictest dictionary definition of the word: recounting Newton's life one detail after another. I chuckled at some of Aitken's comments on statements made by Newton's critics and earlier biographers, but those moments were few and far between. Newton's life is definitely worth learning about: he transformed from rebellious sailor and slave trader to a disciplined and industrious Christia ...more
Wesley Frizzell
Nov 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Though I have no way of knowing if this is the best biography of John Newton, I highly recommend this one. Mr. Aitken's narrative of John Newton's life seems to be very well researched and, certainly, presented in a very readable manner.
As to the subject himself, every Christian should read of this great servant of the Lord. His conversion story is fascinating. His commitment to the Lord and His kingdom is exemplary. His practices for holy living are edifying.
An additional value of Mr. Aitken'
Taylor Rollo
Sep 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, grace
An excellent biography of John Newton. It was well organized, divided into short chapters, and very well written. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The epilogue where the author talks about Newton's legacy and gives lessons from his life is the icing on the cake.

I would warn the squeamish reader, since this book talks about Newton's involvement in the slave trade and his involvement in abolishing it later, there is some very graphic description of the cruelty that slaves were shown. Some of it is very h
Randy Tramp
Jun 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
John Newton, author of the song, Amazing Grace, his story.

A slave trader turned Christian. Although this tells the story of Newton, versus showing it, I still got into the life of Newton. Although, I would have preferred the latter style. I give the style four stars, the life of John Newton five.

The story follows his struggle to do God's will, his thoughts, loves and hates.

The description of the slave ships was horrible. It's a time in American history that's darkened. The conversion of John New
Dennis Henn
Jan 02, 2020 rated it liked it
The book is not a 4 star but it is better than a 3.
Instructive and inspirational look at a long-tenured pastor's life. He was more active as a sinner and more determined as a saint than I previously was aware. I was particularly impressed with the influence he held among the many young ministers who looked to Newton as a mentor and father.
Of intrigue to me and to those who knew Newton was his deep, life-time love for his wife who Aitken describes as "without beauty and without brains." She was,
Mar 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
Five stars for content. I love John Newton's story - it is one of the most amazing pictures of the sovereign work of God in conversion, sanctification, and preservation. The form of this book got on my nerves though. It was extremely repetitive, almost like the author thought readers would be reading random chapters instead of the entire book, and it was full of awkward transitions in sentences, paragraphs, and chapters. Maybe he just needed a better editor.
Jan 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An impressive biography. Often gripping, never dull, thorough, well-researched, well-written, inspiring, heart-moving, and grace-filled. Grace is indeed amazing, and God is consistently glorified by this story.
Mar 06, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great bio

Didn’t know what I was in for or why I even had this book downloaded. I’m not the type that would pick up a biography of a notable Christian, per se. However, that being said, it was a well written, interesting read, that wasn’t overly dogmatic.
Apr 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent biography! I’ve noticed that biographies about theologians tend to have sections or chapters that are heavy with doctrine and theology, which can be hard to get through. Otherwise a great read.
Claudia Hutchinson
love this book!

Great book, great man, great author. Very interesting and inspiring. Very informative historical information. Having previously read the biography of Wilberforce this added another dimension.
Mary-Anne Finlay
Jul 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is the second time I have listened to this book. It is probably one of the best Christian books I have read. John Newtons endurance, passion, always seeking a deeper relationship of God so inspires me in my walk and relationship with the Lord.

I found the narrator very good.
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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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“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”  Theodor Geisel said...
28 likes · 6 comments
“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.” 1 likes
“Overlong sermons break in upon family concerns and often call off the thoughts from the sermon to the pudding at home that is in danger of being overboiled.” 0 likes
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