« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
LIFE OF THE REV. JOHN NEWTON.
The Rev. John Newton has formed too prominent a feature in the life and correspondence of Cowper, and is too intimately associated with his endeared name, not to require a brief notice of the leading events of his life, on introducing those beautiful Olney Hymns which were written by Cowper. Any detailed statement is rendered unnecessary by his own memoir of himself,* and subsequent one by the Rev. Mr. Cecil. The life of Newton abounds with the most extraordinary incidents, resembling the fictions of romance, rather than the realities of common life. But the hand of God is so visible, and the ultimate triumph of divine grace is so signally displayed amidst the most daring provocations, as to render it one of the most remarkable biographical memoirs ever submitted to the public eye.
See The Life of the Rev. John Newton, written by himself, in a series of letters addressed to the Rev. Mr. Haweis.
The Rev. John Newton was born in London the 24th of July, 1725. His father was master of a ship in the Mediterranean trade. His mother was a pious character; and it is to her that he was indebted, in his early years, for those religious impressions, which, however subsequently weakened, were probably never wholly effaced. Her premature death deprived him of this excellent parent, at an age when he most needed her superintending
When he was eleven years old he joined his father, and made five voyages with him to the Mediterranean. His early life seems to present a mingled detail of religious duties and declensions-relapses into sin, accompanied by strong convictions of his guilt and danger-providential warnings, which roused his conscience for a time, and were subsequently forgotten ; till at length, by successive instances of grieving God's Holy Spirit, he sank into the very depths of wickedness. In the
1742 he formed an attachment, equalling in degree all that the writers of romance have imagined; but in its duration unalterable. In 1743 he was impressed, put on board a tender, from which he was released by the exertions of his father, and soon after entered the navy as a midshipman. Here he was seduced into infidel principles by one of his companions, who in a violent storm was swept into eternity, while he himself was mercifully spared. Having deserted his ship, he was overtaken, kept in irons, publicly whipped, and degraded from his office. He now became a prey to the most gloomy thoughts, and seemed to be given up to judicial hardness, and even to doubt the existence of a future state of being.
We contemplate this period of his life with awe and terror. He subsequently engaged in the slave trade on the coast of Africa, where his conduct awakened, even among the slaves, emotions of alarm and astonishment. In the midst of this daring impiety, Newton passed through every successive stage of providential dealings, from the first whisper of conscience, till the awful catalogue of judgments seemed to be utterly expended. Every thing was exhausted save the long-suffering and mercy of God. His guilt was equalled only by his misery. The slave trade on the coast of Africa was to him the fit memorial of a captivity more galling in its character, more terrible in its consequences. home, abroad, on the mighty deep, or on foreign shores, he carried with him the marks of his servitude, the taint of his corruption, and the visible wrath of an offended God.
The divine dealings towards the children of pious parents are strongly illustrated in the foregoing narrative. We have often observed that they are generally the subjects of a special dispensation whenever they become wanderers from God. In mercy to the praying parent, as well as to the erring child, he never leaves them without repeated tokens of his displeasure and intimations of his will.
He disappoints their hopes, blights their prospects, and brings upon them the day of his wrathful visitation. “ If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments ; if they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless, my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail.” Psal. lxxxix. 30-33.
We by no means interpret this clause as generally conveying the assurance that the children of pious parents will ultimately be saved. The conclusion would be too absolute, and seem opposed to the testimony of facts. But we nevertheless believe that the prayers and instructions of a godly parent rise up,
like the alms of Cornelius, as a memorial before God; and that early impressions are seldom utterly effaced. They pursue the memory amid the tumult of business, the seductions of pleasure, and the broad path of sin. They are a powerful stimulant to conscience in moments of pain, depression, and sorrow ; till at length the cry of penitence often bursts from the overwhelmed heart, and the last accents have been known to be those of prayer and praise.
We now proceed to detail the particulars of Newton's conversion. This event occurs on his return homewards from the coast of Africa, when the ship is overtaken by a dreadful storm,