Book Review: John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace

john-newton.jpgJohn Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace

by Jonathan Aitken

There are very few historical figures more interesting than John Newton. Newton’s story is one of relentless tragedy, and remarkable success. Newton’s life, coupled with the authorial skill of Jonathan Aitken make John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace (Crossway 2007) a must read. From J.I. Packer to Jack Kemp everyone is raving over this book, and for good reason. I love to read biographies. It is a good discipline to learn from previous generations by reading biographies. I always do my best to plan out my reading schedule so as to include a fair number of biographies. I mention this because, of all the biographies that I have ever read I would be hard pressed to think of one that I enjoyed more than this book.

John Newton’s story is captivating to say the least. The story of his life begins with the loss of his mother and includes: forced service in the British Navy, life aboard a merchant ship, time spent as a slave trader, time spent as a slave, a shipwreck, time spent as the captain of a slave boat, mysterious illness, great disappointments, pastoral ministry, best selling books, widely recognized hymns, great political influence, and a moving love story among many other things.

The great tales of Newton’s life are not easily retold. To tell the story of John Newton in such a way that the medium is equal to the story itself would be quite impossible. However, Jonathan Aitken has come as close as anyone I could imagine. Aitken is one of those writers that is able to involve his readers in the story that he is telling. So many times biographers over shadow their subject, or get in the way of the story.  Aitken is guilty of neither. As I read of Newton’s adventures on the seas, the horrors against humanity committed in slave trade, and the love that Newton had for his beloved wife Polly I felt as if I was a character in the story of John Newton. At the end of the book, where Aitken records the last years of Newton’s life, I could not help but to feel as if my own grandfather had died.

Without question I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone. From pastors, to laymen, and even parents reading to their children this book is a must read. The historical thoroughness and spiritual benefit will be well worth the time invested in this book – which is sure to be looked back on as a classic.

On his death bed Newton, with what were almost his last words, described himself by saying “I am a great sinner, but Christ is a great Savior.” If you are like me- a great sinner in need of a great Savior- then you must read the story of the “Amazing Grace” that saved John Newton’s soul. For more info this book, or to purchase this book go HERE.



  1. Thanks for the recommendation. I concur. I just recently read it and reviewed it as well. Best bio I’ve read in a long time. I’m a worship leader and if there’s any church musicians out there, pick up a copy. It’ll do your soul and ministry good. Peace.


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