Book Review: Beyond Amazing Grace

September 4, 2008


Beyond Amazing Grace: Timeless pastoral wisdom from the letters, hymns and sermons of John Newton. Compiled and edited by J. Todd Murray. Darlington, England: Evangelical Press, 2007, 282 pp., $17.99, paperback.



In historical study, it is always highly recommended that students turn to primary source material instead of relying solely on secondary material. Reading things in the author’s own words is incredibly important when attempting to understand their thinking. Therefore J. Todd Murray (Worship and Music Pastor, The Bible Church of Little Rock) has done the church an every helpful service by collecting and editing some of the works of the famous John Newton. The Evangelical leader in the 18th century is still as an important figure today as he was then. The man who brought us the hymn, Amazing Grace, and mentor to the great abolitionist William Wilberforce, has much to teach us as he served as a pastor for so many years. This collection of his “pastoral wisdom” then from his letters, hymns, and sermons is incredibly important today.


The book is divided into five main sections, each focusing on a different area. Part 1 is “So great salvation” where Murray compiles material devoted to Newton’s own conversion, the love of God, sovereign grace, and the assurance of salvation. Part 2 is “Growing in holiness” and focuses on progressive sanctification, battling remaining sin, and God’s purposes in trials. Part 3 is “Spiritual disciplines” and here Newton expounds on reading and meditation, prayer, personal worship, family worship, evangelism, and knowing the will of God. Part 4 is “Pastoral ministry” and is where Newton focuses on the pastor and his work and nuggets of wisdom from the great pastor to those in the ministry. Finally, Part 5 is “Hope beyond the grave” where Murray compiles information on the loss of a loved one and Newton’s last days.


The strength of this book is Murray’s careful attention to editing and compilation. While many could simply turn to the multi-volume set of Newton’s works or various editions of his letters or the Olney Hymnal, it is a great service to have these fine selections of Newton’s works compiled here in a thematic order. To study out Newton’s thoughts on areas like prayer or the work of the ministry is something that every believer will be blessed. Murray’s notes too are very helpful as he allows some of his personal feelings about Newton’s writings to come out and help to personalize our own reading of this Evangelical leader. Finally, this book could easily be used as a personal devotional as Murray includes suggested Scripture readings for each section. Each section is not overly long which makes it perfect for some careful meditation as readers learn from this godly man.


We live in an era of historical anemia. More Christians know about modern day celebrities than they do of heroes of the past. My prayer is that more people will turn to books like Beyond Amazing Grace and learn and grow from those who went before us. May Newton become accessible and life changing for a whole new generation!



John Newton on the Pastoral Ministry

December 4, 2007



I just received the book Beyond Amazing Grace: Timeless pastoral wisdom from the letters, hymns and sermons of John Newton compiled and edited by J. Todd Murphy (Evangelical Press) for review in the Criswell Theological Review. He includes an extended quote from Newton’s work, A Plan for Academic Preparation for the Ministry, which definitely needs to be widely read! The first part is about the nature of one called to the pastorate. The second one is about the qualifications of one who teaches others to be pastors. I quote it exactly as it is found in Beyond Amazing Grace.


My first maxim is that none but the one who made the world can make a minister of the gospel. If a young man has capacity, [then] culture and application may make him a scholar, a philosopher, or an orator; but a true minister must have certain principles, motives, feelings, and aims, which no industry or endeavours of men can either acquire or communicate. They must be given from above, or they cannot be received…


I adopt, as a second maxim, that the Holy Scriptures are, both comprehensively and exclusively, the grand treasury of all that knowledge which is requisite to make the minister the man of God, thoroughly furnished for every branch of his office…


For his first essential, indispensable qualification, I require a mind deeply penetrated with a sense of the grace, glory, and efficacy of the gospel. However learned and able in other respects, he shall not have a single pupil from me, unless I have reason to believe that his heart is attached to the person of the Redeemer, as God-man; that, as a sinner, his whole dependence is upon the Redeemer’s work of love, his obedience unto death, his intercession and mediatorial fulness. His sentiments must be clear and explicit respecting the depravity of human nature, and the necessity and reality of the agency of the Holy Spirit, to quicken, enlighten, sanctify, and seal those who, under his influence, are led to Jesus for salvation…


I should look for my tutor among those who are called Calvinists; but he must not be of a curious, metaphysical disputations [i.e. argumentative] turn [of mind], a mere system-monger or party-zealot. I seek for one who, having been himself taught the deep things of God by the Holy Spirit, in a gradual experimental manner; while he is charmed with the beautiful harmony and coincidence [i.e interdependence] of all the doctrines of grace, is at the same time aware of the mysterious depths of the divine counsels, and the impossibility of [their] being fully apprehended by our feeble understandings. Such a man will be patient and temperate in explaining the peculiarities [i.e. the distinctive features] of the gospel to his students, and will wisely adapt himself to their several states, attainments, and capacities.



The Life of John Newton, with particular reference to his hymns and letters

November 19, 2007

Dr. Michael A. G. Haykin just presented a paper titled, “The Life of John Newton, with particular reference to his hymns and letters” at the monthly Sovereign Grace Fellowship Pastoral Studies being held at Toronto Baptist Seminary. Here is a PDF of that paper for you all!


John Newton as a Spiritual Mentor

November 1, 2007

Dr. Michael A. G. Haykin on John Newton


The Sovereign Grace Pastor’s Fellowship (formerly known as FRPS) will be holding it’s November 19th meeting at Toronto Baptist Seminary with Guest Lecturer Dr. Michael A. G. Haykin. Details are below.
“John Newton as a Spiritual Mentor”
Presented by Dr. Michael Haykin
November 19, 2007
10:00 AM


Toronto Baptist Seminary
130 Gerrard Street East, Toronto,
Ontario, M5A 3T4 (416) 925-3263
In the Greenway Chapel of Jarvis St. Baptist Church
(Limited free parking is available!)

You must register in advance by calling 416-925-3263

Also, don’t forget the upcoming Sola Scriptura Ministries International Conference – “The Dungeon Flamed with Light: The Great Awakening in the 18th Century” also featuring Dr. Haykin. You can check it out on a previous post here.