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Soldier4Christ
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« on: July 30, 2007, 11:03:42 AM »

 The Man Behind 'Amazing Grace'

The year 2007 marks the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in England. Viewers across America have been moved by the portrayal of parliamentarian William Wilberforce's pivotal role in the crusade against slavery in the recently released film Amazing Grace. The film is named for the famous hymn penned by John Newton, whose character plays a supporting role in the movie.

During his lifetime, Newton's story, in all its infamous detail, was renowned as the most sensational, sinful, spiritual, romantic, influential and historically important saga of the 18th century. Noted author Jonathan Aitken offers a fresh look at Newton's transformation from slave trader to abolitionist and minister in the new biography John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace (published by Crossway Books, June 2007).

This is the first biography to draw from Newton's unpublished diaries, providing new insight into the life of this complex and memorable man. The result is a fascinating, colorful - historically significant portrait. During the darkest and cruelest days of trans-Atlantic slavery, Newton served on a slave ship, finally working his way to captain. A dramatic conversion at sea set him on the path to grace, the process through which Newton left the slave trade behind took several years, at which time he began studying theology. He applied for ordination and was rejected by several different denominations before he was finally accepted by the Church of England.

Because of his shameful background, many of Newton's contemporaries viewed his conversion with suspicion, and some scoffed at his abolitionist crusade as an attempt to assuage the guilt of his past. Still, the grace "that saved a wretch like me" worked its way thoroughly in his life. "Amazing Grace," the most famous of his many hymns, has become an iconic song in American culture, sung at civil rights rallies and in prisons, and is beloved by Christians regardless of denominational affiliation.

Aitken may be unfamiliar to many Americans, but he needs no introduction in the United Kingdom. The former member of Parliament and Chief Secretary to the Treasury was embroiled in a public scandal when he was accused of criminal behavior, fought the accusations fiercely, then admitted to perjury and was sentenced to eighteen months in prison, after which his marriage ended and he was forced to file for bankruptcy. Like John Newton, Jonathan Aitken found in abysmal depths the first steps toward redemption.
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Debp
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« Reply #1 on: July 30, 2007, 07:27:51 PM »

Didn't John Newton also have a horrible childhood?  I thought his mother taught him the Bible but she died....then his relatives that adopted him turned him against "religion".  I think he ran away from them at a young age to work on the ships.  Has anyone heard this story?  Thank God for His mercy in reaching John Newton (and all of us).
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...walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Eph. 4:1-3
Soldier4Christ
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« Reply #2 on: July 30, 2007, 08:12:33 PM »

Yes he did have a pretty lousy childhood.

John Newton was born in Wapping, London, the son of John Newton, a shipmaster in the Mediterranean service, and Elizabeth Newton. His mother brought him up as a Nonconformist Christian (any non-Anglican). She died of tuberculosis when he was 6. Newton spent 2 years at boarding school, at the age of 11 he went to sea with his father and sailed with him on a total of six voyages until the elder Newton retired in 1742.
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« Reply #3 on: August 04, 2007, 10:27:10 PM »

His life is a testimony of the power of God.  Our Lord can change anyone.
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Debp
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« Reply #4 on: August 05, 2007, 01:48:27 AM »

His life is a testimony of the power of God.  Our Lord can change anyone.

Yes, so true.  John Newton's story also makes me think of what if someone would have reached out to him in Christian love before his relatives destroyed the faith his mother instilled in him.  We never know what our Christian love might mean to someone.
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...walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Eph. 4:1-3
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