John Newton was a tremendous man of God, greatly used by Him to spread His message of grace and salvation. John’s life wasn’t always that way, though. He himself is a prime example of God’s grace. He’s best known for writing the hymn “Amazing Grace.” John, however, had much trouble with sexual temptation and sin. It was only by God’s grace that he was delivered. That grace is available for us today, too.
JOHN’S EARLY LIFE John was born July 24, 1725, in London, England. He had a godly mother who taught him the Bible and prayed for him. In fact, she wanted him to be trained as a preacher, but she was sickly and died when he was 7. His father was away a lot for he was a sea captain. He remarried and started taking John to sea with him when John was 11. John quickly fell into gross sin. Several times he tried to reform his life but failed.
Although he spent much time at sea, his heart wasn’t in being a seaman for he had a girl, Polly, whom he wanted to marry and spend time with. Irresponsibility and carelessness caused him to end up on a British Naval vessel fighting France. He worked his way up to being an officer but lost it when he went AWOL to see Polly. He was flogged and put on a ship going on a 5-year tour of duty. John was sure Polly would be married by the time he returned. He was such a detriment to the ship that they traded him to a slave ship for another sailor.
SEXUAL BONDAGE BEGINS At 19 years of age John had free access to any slave woman he wanted. He went wild! “I rejoiced that I now might be as abandoned as I pleased, without any restraint. I not only sinned with a high hand myself but made it my study to tempt and seduce others upon every occasion.” As a sailor he was so bad that the slave ship wanted to trade him back to the British Navy and John didn’t want that. As soon as he could, he left the ship to manage a slave warehouse in Africa.
As manager of the slave warehouse, John had unlimited access to the women there. However he became so sick he almost died and ended up in slavery himself. He had a terrible master who caused him much suffering, but before too long was traded to a new owner who liked him. Again he was able to constantly sleep with African women. He was so engrossed in his sinful life style that he didn’t want to leave Africa. It was only the thought of Polly that pulled him home.
SALVATION BY GRACE Again John was unwelcome on the ship that took him home because of his filthy language, awful morals, drunkenness, and anti-Christian attacks. He constantly mocked the gospel and Jesus. He had a reputation as one of the most vulgar and blasphemous of men, worse than most of the pirates he associated with. Then it all changed.
On March 21, 1748, at 22 years of age, John turned his life over to Jesus. The day before he had been reading Thomas A Kempis’s Imitation of Christ and read “Life is short and uncertain. Today a man is vigorous and tomorrow he is cut down, withered and gone.” He came under deep conviction. That same night a terrible storm hit the ship and it seemed they would sink. The ship was severely damaged and only barely managed to stay afloat. John found himself calling out to God for mercy — if such a sinner as he could find mercy! Only Bible verses about judgment came to mind, but he humbled himself and found God’s mercy. “I see no reason why the Lord singled me out for mercy, unless it was to show, by one astonishing instance, that with Him ‘nothing is impossible.’”
(The story of John Newton and his victory over sexual sin will continue in the next blog.)
(If I can answer questions or offer personal counsel, or if you would like a free copy of my Spiritual Warfare Handbook, email me at Jerry@ChristianTrainingOrganization.org or download it from http://sw.christiantrainingonline.org/. My next book, Spiritual Warfare in the Bible, which is a more advanced treatment of spiritual warfare, is also available for free.)