Best known as the author of the hymn "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound," John Newton was a prolific writer with amazing output -- not only many other hymns, but also theology, journals, letters and sermons. Here is a small taste of other things that John Newton wrote.
"Though we say this world is vain and sinful, we are too fond of it; and though we hope for true happiness only in Heaven, we are often well content to stay longer here on earth. But the Lord sends afflictions one after another to quicken our desires, and to convince us that this world cannot be our rest. Sometimes if you drive a bird from one branch of a tree he will hop to another a little higher, and from thence to a third; but if you continue to disturb him, he will at last take wing, and fly quite away. Thus we, when forced from one creature-comfort, perch upon another, and so on. But the Lord mercifully follows us with trials, and will not let us rest upon any; by degrees our desires take a nobler flight, and can be satisfied with nothing short of Himself; and we say, 'To depart and be with Jesus is best of all!'"
"I allow that every branch of gospel truth is precious, that errors are abounding, and that it is our duty to bear an honest testimony to what the Lord has enabled us to find comfort in, and to instruct with meekness such as are willing to be instructed; but I cannot set it my duty, nay, I believe it would be my sin, to attempt to beat notions into other people’s heads."
"You say, ‘I have aimed to displease the Arminians’, I had rather you had aimed to be useful to them, than to displease them. There are many Arminians who are so only for want of clearer light. They fear the Lord, and walk humbly before him. And as they go on, by an increasing acquaintance with their own hearts and the word of God, their objections and difficulties gradually subside. And in the Lord’s time (for he is the only effectual teacher) they receive the doctrines of grace which they were once afraid of. These individuals should not be displeased by our endeavouring to declare the truth in terms the most offensive to them which we can find, but we should rather seek out the softest and most winning way of encountering their prejudices. Otherwise we make a parade, and grow big with a sense of our own wisdom and importance, but we shall do little good. Our Lord you know taught his disciples as they were able to bear it, he did not aim to displease them thought it is pretty plain they had a good deal of the Arminian spirit in them for some time after they began to follow him. You will perhaps say, ‘An humble Arminian! Surely that is impossible.’ I believe it not more impossible to find a humble Arminian, than a proud and self-sufficient Calvinist. The doctrines of grace are humbling, that is in their power and experience, but a man may hold them all in the notion, and be very proud. He certainly is so, if he thinks his assenting to them is a proof of his humility, and despises others as proud and ignorant in comparison of himself. I believe you mean well, but some things you have written against the Arminians manifest that you have not been aware of your own spirit. " (from a letter to John Ryland, Jr.)
"How highly does it become us, both as creatures and as sinners, to submit to the appointments of our Maker! and how necessary is it to our peace! This great attainment is too often unthought of and overlooked; we are prone to fix our attention upon the second causes and immediate instruments of events; forgetting whatever befalls us is according to his purpose, and therefore must be right and seasonable in itself, and shall in the issue be productive of good. From hence arise impatience, resentment, and secret repinings, which are not only sinful but tormenting; whereas if all things are in his hand, if the very hairs of our head are numbered, if every event, great and small are under the direction of his providence and purpose; and if he has a wise, holy, and gracious end in view, to which everything that happens is subordinate and subservient;- then we have nothing to do, but with patience and humility to follow as he leads, and cheerfully to expect a happy issue. The path of present duty is marked out; and the concerns of the next and every succeeding hour are in his hands. How happy are they who can resign all to him, see his hands in every dispensation, and believe that he chooses better for them then they possibly could for themselves!" (3 paragraphs in the original)
1. When on the cross the Lord I see,
Bleeding to death for wretched me,
Satan and sin no more can move,
For I am all transformed to love.
2. His thorns and nails pierce through my heart,
In every groan I bear a part;
I view his wounds with streaming eyes;
But see, he bows his head and dies!
3. Come, sinners, view the Lamb of God,
Wounded, and dead, and bathed in blood!
Behold his side, and venture near,
The spring of endless life is here.
4. Here I forget my cares and pains;
I drink, yet still my thirst remains;
Only the fountain-head above,
Can satisfy the thirst of love.
5. Oh, that I thus could always feel,
Lord, more and more thy love reveal!
Then my glad tongue shall loud proclaim
The grace and glory of thy name.
6. Thy name dispels my guilt and fear,
Revives my heart, and charms my ear;
Affords a balm for every wound,
And Satan trembles at the sound.
5 Books for Further Reading
John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace, Jonathan Aitken, Crossway, 2007
Letters of John Newton, Selected by Josiah Bull, Banner of Truth, 2007
Olney Hymns: In Three Books, On Select Texts Of Scripture; On Occasional Subjects; On The Progress And Changes Of Spiritual Life, John Newton and William Cowper, 1779 (There are numerous reprints of Olney Hymns)
Out of the Depths: the Autobiography of John Newton, John Newton (1725--1807), edited by Dennis R. Hillman, Kregel Publications, 2003
Wise Counsel: John Newton’s Letters to John Ryland, Jr., edited by Grant Gordon, Banner of Truth, 2009