He Saved a Wretch like Me
|by Kim Moreland|
My friend Jonathan Aitken is a very capable and gifted biographer, and with his usual facility with words, Jonathan brings to life an almost forgotten eighteenth-century Christian. His latest biography, John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace, is about the life and work of John Newton, a former wretch and slave-trader who, through the grace of God, was transformed and became a devoted Christian minister, husband, writer, and songwriter.
Jonathan's biography about Newton is really a prequel to biographies about William Wilberforce because of Newton's influence upon Wilberforce. Wilberforce met Newton as a child and then sought Newton out as an adult during his struggles with the Christian faith.
After Wilberforce's conversion, Wilberforce questioned whether he should resign his seat in parliament and return to private life. Thankfully, before Wilberforce acted on his feelings, Newton wrote, "You are not only a representative for Yorkshire, you have the far greater honor of being a representative for the Lord in a place where many know him not...." Newton goes on to remind Wilberforce of the great strides he already made toward the abolition of slavery.
Newton and Wilberforce corresponded and spoke about the slavery and the abolition campaign frequently. While Newton became an "effective campaigner in his own right," Jonathan writes, "Newton's greatest contribution to the campaign was his influence on Wilberforce at important moments."
Newton lived a full and interesting life. While he received little formal education, Newton became a real intellectual powerhouse. Jonathan describes Newton as “an ardent self-educator.” Newton read great works of literature, studied theological and other intellectual subjects constantly, and as a result, he was able to produce prodigious numbers of theological works among other things.
Personally, I hope someone turns Jonathan's book into a movie like the 2006 release of Amazing Grace.