The Works of John Newton Volume 1

Works of John NewtonNew Edition – The Works of John Newton: Volume 1. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2015. 636 pp. 4-Volume set – $150.00 Purchase the entire set from The Banner of Truth Trust for much less.

Introduction

You can read the review of Volume 2 here. You can read the review of Volume 3 here. You can read the review of volume 4 here.

From the dust jacket:

When John Newton, ex-sea captain and, as yet, unsuccessful candidate for the Church of England ministry, finished his first book (an autobiography) in 1762 there was no ready publisher. Any thought that he was destined to become one of the best known authors of his age would have been as fantastic as the last 37 years of his life. But in both cases the improbable came about. Becoming curate of Olney, a small village in the south of England, in 1764, Newton there laid his reputation as an evangelical writer, pre-eminently by his published letters and by the Olney Hymns (including ‘How Great the Name of Jesus Sounds, ‘Glorious things of Thee are spoken’ and ‘Amazing grace’). Before the end of his subsequent pastorate at St. Mary Woolnoth, London (1780-1807), his writings were prized around the world from America to Australia.

Newton has a firm place in the classics of Christian literature. While his style is strong and clear, it is the spiritual attractiveness and importance of his main themes which secure the permanent value of his writings. Most of his books came, unpremeditated, out of a need to help his congregation or individual hearers, and it is in practical helpfulness towards Christian living that he excels. If he is loved rather than admired, it is for this reason. Conformity to Christ is the one subject upon which his themes finally focus (‘It will not be a burden to me at the hour of death that I have thought too highly of Jesus, expected too much from Him myself, or laboured too much in commending and setting Him forth to others’). Not surprisingly, Alexander Whyte could write, ‘For myself, I keep John Newton on my selectest shelf of spiritual books: by far the best kind of books in the whole world of books.’

The text of this new four-volume edition of The Works of John Newton has been entirely reformatted, producing a clear and easily navigable set of documents for today’s reader.

Summary

This first volume is comprised of some 165 letters written by John Newton. These letters are grouped according to subject matter. The first 14 letters are more biographical in nature while the next 41 all deal with various subjects that are religious in nature.  While the final 110 letters are simply correspondence with a number of different people that offers a look at the thinking of John Newton in various circumstances.

Many of the letters have a short introduction in order to help the reader understand the greater context of the letter.

Review

We have lost the art of writing a letter. That is what I learned from reading through this volume of Newton’s Works. Many biographies abound concerning John Newton which are drawn from many of these letters, I am sure. To read his own writings, however, elevates the biographical information to whole new level.

Through these letters, we see the heart of a pastor to be sure. More importantly, we catch a glimpse of just how amazing the grace was that saved a wretch like John. To read these letters is to be taken to a depth of pastoral concern and care that is sadly missing in today’s age of text messages and blogs. There is depth to theology and an obvious care for the love of those who are pilgrims in this life.

These letters would serve as a phenomenal daily read which would most certainly aid today’s Christian to navigate the stormy sea that never seems to abate.

Recommendation

While I cannot find the individual volumes on sale at this time, nor can I find these works available on Kindle, I can say that this first volume is so rich with pastoral care and biblical theology that every Christian would do well to read it. I highly recommend this particular volume to all and look forward to reviewing the next three.