Online Encyclopedia

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807)

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Originally appearing in Volume V19, Page 592 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807)  ,
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English divine, was born in
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London on the 24th of
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July 1725 (O.S.) . His
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father, who for a long time was master of a
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ship in the Mediterranean trade, became in 1748 governor of York Fort, Hudson
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Bay, where he died in 1751 . The lad had little
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education and served on his father's ship from 1737 to 1742; shortly afterwards he was impressed on board a man-of-war, the "
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Harwich," where hewas made a
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midshipman . For an attempt to escape while his ship
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lay off Plymouth he was degraded, and treated with so much severity that he gladly exchanged into an
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African trader . He made many voyages as mate and then as master on slave-trading
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ships, devoting his leisure to the improvement of his education . The state of his
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health and perhaps a growing distaste for the slave trade led him to quit the sea in 1755, when he was appointed tide-surveyor at Liverpool . He began to study Greek and
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Hebrew, and in 1758 applied to the archbishop of York for ordination . This was refused him, but, having had the curacy of Olney offered to him in
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April 1764 he was ordained by the bishop of Lincoln . In
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October 1767 William Cowper settled in the parish . An intimate friendship sprang up between the two men, and they published together the Olney
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Hymns (1779) . In 1779 Newton
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left Olney to become rector of St Mary Woolnoth, London, where he laboured with unceasing
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diligence and
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great popularity till his
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death on the 31st of December 1807 . Like Cowper, Newton held Calvinistic views, although his evangelical fervour allied him closely with the sentiments of Wesley and the Methodists .

His fame rests on certain of the Olney Hymns (e.g . " Glorious things of Thee are spoken," " How sweet the name of Jesus sounds," " One there is above all others,") remarkable for vigour, simplicity and directness of devotional utterance . His

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prose
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works include an Authentic Narrative of some Interesting and Remarkable Particulars in the
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Life of John Newton (1764), a
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volume of Sermons (1767), Omicron (a series of letters on religion, 1774), Review of Ecclesiastical
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History (1769) and Cardiphonia (1781) . This last was a further selection of religious correspondence, which did much to help the Evangelical revival . Thomas Scott, William Wilberforce, Charles Simeon, William Jay and Hannah More all came under his
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direct influence . His Letters to a Wife (1793) and Letters to Rev . W . Bull (
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posthumous, 1847) illustrate the frankness with which he exposed his most intimate
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personal experiences . A Life of Newton by Richard
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Cecil was prefixed to a collected edition. of his works (6 vols., 1808; vol . 1827) . See also T . Wright, The
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Town of Cowper .

End of Article: JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807)
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