John Newton had a hard life—born in 1725, his mother died when he was 6, a sailor at age 11, press-ganged into the British Navy at 18, and flogged with 96 lashes when he was caught trying to desert.
He sailed on a slave ship, and then became a captain who led three voyages that brought kidnapped Africans to the New World for sale. Even after he quit sailing he continued to invest in slave enterprises. His slowly growing Christian faith led him to become a pastor and then a vocal advocate for abolition. He became an advisor to William Wilberforce, a member of Parliament whose antislavery work resulted in the Slave Trade Act of 1807 that banned the trade in human beings in the British Empire.
St. Paul deeply appreciated the God who could have mercy on a wicked man like him: “To the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness” (Romans 4:5). To the end of his life, John Newton remained grateful to God for grace, grace that saved his wretched life and transformed him into something useful to God. One of his greatest legacies was the autobiographical hymn that he wrote for himself and every other wretched sinner on earth: “Amazing Grace.”
May I say that I am grateful that God saved a wretch like me as well?
Pastor Mark Jeske has been bringing the Word of God to viewers of Time of Grace since the program began airing in late 2001. A Milwaukee native, Pastor Jeske has served as the senior pastor at St. Marcus, a multicultural congregation on Milwaukee’s near north side since 1980. In addition, he is the author of six books and dozens of devotional booklets on various topics.
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