John Newton (1725-1807), sailor, preacher and hymnwriter, was one of the most colourful figures in the great Evangelical Revival of the 18th Century. ‘Once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa,’ he wrote for his own epitaph, ‘by the rich mercy of Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he had long laboured to destroy’.
It was through his correspondence that Newton fulfilled his distinctive work as ‘the letter writer par excellence of the Evangelical Revival’. His grasp of Scripture and deep personal experience, his many friends (among them, George Whitefield, William Cowper and William Wilberforce), his manifold trials, his country pastorate, his strong, clear, idiomatic style — all these factors combined to prepare the author of ‘How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds’, for the exercise of his special gift.
These practical letters cover a wide variety of subjects and aim ‘to conform the believer to Christ’.