Wednesday, April 28, 2010

John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace. Joanathan Aitken. Part 2

The story continues.
In deciding how to make his living, he was appointed the “Surveyor of Tides”. This was like a Harbor Master. It paid very well, 750 pounds each year. A very large sum for the day. Traditionally, the appointed income was supplemented by accepting bribes and favors from the various parties involved in shipping. After a few years, he was offered a preaching appointment, which only paid 40 pounds a year. “In a letter to John Catlett, Newton summarized his dilemma:.” I do not like disgrace or poverty, but I fear God more than either. Is absurd? I would do much to please my friends, but I would do more to please him who died for me”. Newton became a preacher for 40 pounds annual salary. Eventually he was the Curate (or pastor) of St. Mary Woolworth a very large and popular church in London. He became as famous as any preacher we know of today. He wrote books and tracts, many of which were best sellers worldwide. Many of these writings were translated into a number of languages. He was well known for a hymnbook written with William Cowper. It was titled Olney Hymns. It was a best seller and was used in churches through England. It contained 281 hymns, one of which was Amazing Grace.
Amazing Grace was written in 1772 and was somewhat autobiographical. It was never popular in England but by the late 1800’s, became a revival and spiritual favorite in the US It did not appear to be one of Newtons favorites either. It’s popularity increased in this country even more since a release in 1947. Originally, it had be set to a number of different tunes and meters. “ The Tune now inseparably linked to amazing Grace was called “New Brittan”. No one knows where it came from. It was never connected with a hymn until 1835 when it was suddenly popularized by a well-known compiler of spiritual songs, William Walker”
The Onley Hymnbook contained a number of other famous hymns some of which we still sing.I quote the author”Most (of the Hymns have) understandably been forgotten. Some barely escaped from the category of doggerel. By contrast, Cowpers 67 hymns in the book are of a far higher standard. Yet Newton as a hymn-writer was capable of soaring to peaks of excellence…..It is generally agreed that in terms of profound composition (Amazing Grace) is far from being Newtion’s most creative achievement. Many admirers of the hymnody would give a higher reading to much-loved favorites such as “How sweet the Name of Jesus Sound, May the Grace of Christ Our Saviour, and Be Still My Heart. Even more observers believe that Newtons finest hymn was from a theological and to report if you was “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken “ usually sung to the majestic tune “Austria” composed by Newtons contemporary Franz Haydn.”
Finally, the most important legacy of John Newton was his campaign against slavery. He joined with the abolitionist forces of William Wilberforce, an MP from Hull in a 26-year legislative effort for a slavery ban. Most of the legislative proposals were defeated in the beginning. Newton testified before parliament about the evils of the slave trade and is credited with being a sustaining spiritual force behind Wilberforce and his allies. Newton’s testimony carried a lot of weight as he could give first hand witness and experience in the trade. In 1807, a slave trade ban was passed and in 1833, slavery was banned throughout the British Empire. Newton and Wilberforce started their campaign in 1788.
I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the life and time of the 1700’s, history and religion.
Quotes from the book are in italics.

1 comment:

  1. so, did he accept bribes as the "harbor master" ? and, what was the 1947 release?