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In this “dramatized biography, with a feel of a film or live play,” authors Bruce Hindmarsh and Craig Borlase offer readers a fascinating window into the life of John Newton, author of the famous hymn, “Amazing Grace.” Almost 250 years ago, Newton was on a ship bound for England when a violent storm threatened to destroy the ship and its crew. Though Newton had been raised in the Christian faith, he had turned his back on God. But that day, he cried out to God for mercy and grace. The ship and crew survived.   

Though Newton’s experience of God’s saving power changed him for a time, he continued to struggle and falter in his Christian walk as his involvement in the slave trade hardened his heart toward the misery of people made in God’s image and he encountered the brutality of men, including himself, who were captivated by dreams of wealth no matter the cost. He lived for 18 months in abysmal circumstances in Africa, commanded three slave ships, and finally, due to health issues, left the trade for good. About Newton’s spiritual struggles, the authors write, “In Newton’s story we see a clear illustration of the fact that nobody comes to Christ painlessly or all at once—that though the gift of grace is freely given, none of us receive the gospel without having to go deeper, well beyond the moment of initial conversion. The more we become aware of how deep is our need for grace, the more we understand how precious a gift it is.” 

After Newton recovered from his health issue, he studied for the ministry. Several years later when he was ordained in the Anglican Church and worked in the English Midlands, he penned the hymn he is famous for.  

In this engaging presentation of Newton’s story “retold for another generation,” the authors hope that readers will pause and compare his experiences to their own—making foolish decisions, acting shamefully and stupidly, struggling with feelings of desperation and hopelessness, and committing evil deeds. But most of all, the authors hope that readers will be inspired to think, “If there was grace for him, maybe there can be grace for me too.” 

(Thomas Nelson)


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