“Out of the Depths” is the autobiography of John Newton, author of the beloved hymn “Amazing Grace.” Don’t pick this book up because you want to hear more about Newton as a hymnist — it’s just not there. Instead, the book focuses on his spiritual journey.
Born to a devout mother who dies when he is seven, Newton strays from the faith. As a young man he becomes willful, arrogant and disappointing to his father. His life reads like some of the great stories of the Bible. He is runs away like Jonah, is shipwrecked and beaten like Paul, and like the prodigal son finally comes home to God, his Father. He experiences both wealth and want, becomes a sea captain, a slave trader, a servant (little better than a slave himself) and finally a pastor.
Here is what he had to say about his life:
“They (true believers) are as one body, animated by one spirit; yet their experiences, formed upon these common principles, are far from uniform. The Lord in His first call, and His following providential actions, regards the situation, temperament, and talents of each and the particular services or trials He has appointed for them. All are tested at times yet some pass through the voyage of life much more smoothly than others. ….We must not, therefore, make the experience of others in all respects, a rule to ourselves nor our own a rule to others. ….My case has been extraordinary…it is to be expected that after such a wonderful, unhoped for deliverance as I had received, and after my eyes were somewhat enlightened to see things aright, I should immediately cleave to the Lord and His ways with purpose of heart and depend no more on mere flesh and blood.”
This book was a fairly easy read and I enjoyed it (the copy I had was revised and updated for modern readers). Each of us, like Newton, has a faith journey and we should spend some time reflecting on it. How has God led you to the place you’re at today? I’d like to hear about that.