John Newton (1725-1807)


 “For us, however, there is a time coming when our spiritual warfare will be finished, our perspective enlarged, and our understanding increased. Then we will look back upon the experiences through which the Lord led us and be overwhelmed by adoration and love for Him! We will then see and acknowledge that mercy and goodness directed every step. We shall see that what we once mistakenly called afflictions and misfortune were in reality blessings without which we would not have grown in faith. Nothing happened to us without a reason. No problem came upon us sooner, pressed on us more heavily, or continued longer than our situation required. God, in divine grace and wisdom, used our many afflictions, each as needed, that we might ultimately possess an exceeding and eternal weight of glory, prepared by the Lord for His people.” -John Newton

John Newton related to the apostle Paul. He had been the Prodigal Son. He once told a friend he had been “a slave to every customary vice”. His life, like that of his father’s, was spent on the sea and he worked for years within the slave trade. Even after his conversion to Christianity he did not see his business in the trading of human as unacceptable or anti-Christian. Instead he saw it as his God-given appointment in supporting his family. And so he continued in it for many years. But, as God works in often quiet and seemingly-slow ways, John became dissatisfied with the export of human lives. He says in his book Out of the Depths, “Because of this I had often prayed that the Lord in His own time would be pleased to place me in a more humane calling where I might have more frequent fellowship with His people and worship. I longed to be freed from these long separations from home, which were very often hard to bear.”

But his answer to prayer came in an unexpected way.

He was two days from sailing out to sea for another long voyage. He was, as usual, in good health. It was over a cup of tea with his wife that John was thrown into a violent seizure that left him with “no sign of life but that of breathing”. This lasted for an hour, and while the pain and dizziness lasted no longer than a day, doctors and friends urged him to find a replacement for the upcoming voyage. Captain Potter, the replacement, and two of his sailors never returned home, because Newton’s ship was taken over by the slaves it tried to possess.

It was then that John found his way out of the slave trade and sought to find work as a minister.

God always seems to choose the most unlikely tellers of Truth, does He not? A man beyond childbearing years to bring forth His nation. A murderous adulterer to be a man after His own heart. A Pharisee spewing lies and insults at His Church to spread the Gospel to the Gentiles. A group of women, in a time where women were not valued or trusted, to spread the news of the resurrection. And yet He continues to this day.

John Newton later mentored William Wilberforce. Wilberforce, under God’s provision and guidance, brought down the English slave-trade.

How could it be that God, in His infinite wisdom and grace, chose us to be the next Bearers of Good News? Most of us are not by Earthly standards more beautiful than the woman next to us. And yet the God we serve is beautiful. Some of us are uneducated. Yet the God of the Universe equips us for every good work. We are average, struggling, sinful women who try our best and fail again and again. Yet we are serving an awesome, wholly-capable, perfect and holy God who loves us the same whether we succeed or need to be picked up again.

John Newton was saved from death many times, because God had a calling for his life – slave-trader turned abolitionist.

Mary Magdalene was saved from demons, because God had a calling for her life – witness of the resurrection.

You and I were saved from certain death, because God has a calling for our life. And that calling is not the calling of mediocrity or the mundane. No, sisters! The higher calling is that of risk, sacrifice, daily death to ourselves, and one of great beauty and promise. It is a calling that needs courage. There is further need to “muster up” the gumption to do the thing you are called to do. The courage is already within you. It is that of the Holy Spirit.

Now this is what the LORD says… “Don’t be afraid, because I have saved you. I have called you by name, and you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1

Jesus said to her, “Mary…” John 20:15a

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