EP Books, 144 pages, £6.99
Star rating : 4
This is another in EP’s Bitesize Biographies series, which served our church well last year, when ‘book month’ promoted the reading of Christian books. This series introduced people such as John Knox, John Chrysostom and Martyn Lloyd-Jones to folk who might not tackle more weighty tomes.
Every believer should become acquainted with John Newton, the foul-mouthed slave trader who was saved by amazing grace to become a wise and great-hearted pastor and author of much loved hymns.
This is a worthy addition to the series, packing much material into its easily readable pages. The exciting story of John Newton’s early tempestuous life is well told, followed by his heart-warming second life as a pastor, first in Olney (where he forged a deep friendship with William Cowper) and then in the city of London.
The two final chapters especially enhance the value of the book. There is a verse-by-verse analysis of some of Newton’s most famous hymns, for example, ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘Glorious things of thee are spoken’ (it is good to meditate slowly over the words which we normally sing in less than five minutes).
And there is a chapter dealing with Newton’s voluminous correspondence over many years. John Crotts assembles the content of the letters under five headings, forming ‘pillars of his pastoral ministry’; for example, ‘all things under the sovereign hand of God’, ‘the singular hope of justification by faith alone’ and ‘the dynamic fight of spiritual growth’ (one page lists thirteen benefits of adversity and afflictions).
This book should be a taster, giving the reader a desire to read more about John Newton. 144 pages is not enough! And there are helpful recommendations for further reading at the end.
The Bitesize Biographies series aims to cater for the twenty-first-century Christian, living in a fast-paced world, with limited time for leisurely reading. It succeeds in that aim.