John Newton was born in London July 24, 1725. His mother stored his mind with Scripture. She died when he was seven. Four years later he went to sea with his father, who commanded a merchant ship in the Mediterranean.
John became a bitter unbeliever, was flogged as a deserter from the Navy and for fifteen months was brutally abused by a slave dealer in Sierra Leone for whom he was working. He ultimately became captain of his own slave ship.
In 1748, on a homeward voyage, while he was attempting to steer the ship through a violent storm, he experienced what he was to refer to later as his "great deliverance." He recorded in his journal that when all seemed lost and the ship would surely sink, he exclaimed, "Lord, have mercy upon us." Later in his cabin he reflected on what he had said and began to believe that God had addressed him through the storm and that grace had begun to work for him.
He studied to become a minister and in 1764 was ordained as curate of Olney. Newton’s church became so crowded during services that it had to be enlarged.
He died in 1807. John Newton wrote his own epitaph -
John Newton, Clerk,
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.
Near sixteen years at Olney in Bucks:
And twenty-seven years in this Church.
Some people want to set their own rules, live their own lives, but then go to heaven. They play down the ethical and practical implications of the gospel, and quote in support the words of Paul in Romans 6.14 - "...you are not under law but under grace."
"Grace" speaks of the generous love of God in his gift of the Saviour. The life "under grace" is thus a life of gratitude and love.
Just as grace speaks to us of the generosity of God, so the response of grateful love is seen in generosity. We should no longer be seeking to match the minimum requirements of God’s law. If we are living under grace, we will want to give our maximum for the one who has given his maximum for us!

© Peter J Blackburn 2002.
Scripture quotations from New International Version © International Bible Society, 1984
by Peter J Blackburn