One part biography, one part memoir, Beyond Amazing Grace, edited by J. Todd Murray, compiles the wisdom of John Newton, the 18th century English clergyman best known for writing the hymn “Amazing Grace.” But as editor J. Todd Murray shows, Newton was also a poet, a prolific hymnist, and a humble yet honest preacher. This book contains much of Newton’s letters, sermons, and lesser-known hymns, chronicling everything from his heathen pre-conversion life to his death in 1807. Along the way, he deals with issues that yet face modern Christians.
Murray arranges this book almost like a devotional. He compiles Newton’s writings by subject rather than by chronology, and includes suggested Bible readings for further study. While his work is mostly as an editor, Murray often writes his own introduction to a new section of writings or challenges readers to act differently in light of what they have just read. This is neither jarring nor interruptive, and it often helps clarify Newton’s “old-fashioned” writing style.
Readers will be surprised at how most of the issues facing Newton in 18th century England are still prevalent today. Newton covers everything from women wearing immodest clothing to prayer to family worship. His insights and wisdom remain timeless. All the while, both Newton and Murray are honest and open about themselves and their own experiences.
Readers should be warned that both Newton and Murray are fervent Calvinists, but aside from that, this is a great book for pastors seeking solid wisdom or for fans of hymns looking into their favorite songs’ origins.Reviewed by Nate Marchand, Christian Book Previews.com
No one who knew John Newton as a young lad would ever have dreamed that this teenage rebel, profane sailor, naval deserter and slave-trader would one day write the lyrics to one of the best-known hymns of all time, ‘Amazing Grace.’ The story of how such a notorious sinner was converted to Christ and went on to become an equally noteworthy pastor and a leader of the Evangelical movement in eighteenth-century England is simply astounding. In compiling this selection from his writings, Todd Murray has made Newton’s gentle pastoral wisdom available to a new generation of readers.