The Works of John Newton

by John Newton

Banner of Truth (2018)

When John Newton, ex-sea captain and, as yet, unsuccessful candidate for the Church of England ministry, finished his first book (an autobiography) in 1762 there was no ready publisher. Any thought that he was destined to become one of the best known authors of his age would have been as fantastic as the last 37 years of his life. But in both cases the improbable came about. Becoming curate of Olney, a small village in the south of England, in 1764, Newton there laid his reputation as an evangelical writer, pre-eminently by his published letters and by the Olney Hymns (including ‘How Great the Name of Jesus Sounds, ‘Glorious things of Thee are spoken’ and ‘Amazing grace’). Before the end of his subsequent pastorate at St. Mary Woolnoth, London (1780-1807), his writings were prized around the world from America to Australia.

Newton has a firm place in the classics of Christian literature. While his style is strong and clear, it is the spiritual attractiveness and importance of his main themes which secure the permanent value of his writings. Most of his books came, unpremeditated, out of a need to help his congregation or individual hearers, and it is in practical helpfulness towards Christian living that he excels. If he is loved rather than admired, it is for this reason. Conformity to Christ is the one subject upon which his themes finally focus (‘It will not be a burden to me at the hour of death that I have thought too highly of Jesus, expected too much from Him myself, or laboured too much in commending and setting Him forth to others’). Not surprisingly, Alexander Whyte could write, ‘For myself, I keep John Newton on my selectest shelf of spiritual books: by far the best kind of books in the whole world of books.’


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Volume I

Forty-One Letters on Religious Subjects

Letter XX

  • p192 – “It is not necessary, perhaps it is not lawful, wholly to renounce the society of the world. A mistake of this kind took place in the early ages of Christianity, and men withdrew into deserts and uninhabited places, and wasted their lives at a distance from their fellow creatures.”
  • p192 – “But, in general, the proper evidence of true Christians is, not merely that they can talk about divine things, but that, by the grace of God, they live and act agreeable to the rules of his word, in the state in which his providence has placed them, whether as masters or servants, husbands or wives, parents or children; bearing rule, or yielding obedience, as in his sight.”
  • p193 – “Diligence and fidelity in the management of temporal concernments, though observable in the practice of many worldly men, may be maintained without a sinful conformity to the world.”
  • p193 – “It is true, there is need of a constant watch, lest what is lawful in itself become hurtful to us by its abuse. But these outward strictnesses may be carried to great lengths, without a spark of true grace, and even without the knowledge of the true God.”
  • p193 – “There is a strictness which arises rather from ignorance than knowledge, is wholly conversant about externals, and gratifies the spirit of self as much in one way as it seems to retrench it in another.”
  • p193 – “A man may almost starve his body to feed his pride: but to those who fear and serve the Lord, every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving, for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.”
  • p193 – “Heaven is our country, and the Lord is our King. We are to be known and noticed as his subjects, and therefore it is his pleasure, that we do not speak the language, or adopt the customs, of the land in which we sojourn. We are not to conform to the world, as we did in the days of our ignorance. And though we have received the principles of grace, and have tasted of the goodness of the Lord, the admonition is still needful; for we are renewed but in part, and are liable to be drawn aside to our hurt by the prevalence of evil examples and customs around us.”
  • p194 – “We must not conform to the spirit of the world. As members of society, we have a part to act in it in common with others. But if our business is the same, our principles and ends are to be entirely different.”
  • p194 – “He casts his care upon his heavenly Father, who has promised to take care of him. What he gives, he receives with thankfulness, and is careful as a faithful steward to improve it for the furtherance of the cause of God, and the good of mankind; and if he meets with losses and crosses, he is not disconcerted, knowing that all his concerns are under a Divine direction; that the Lord whom he serves, chooses for him better than he could choose for himself; and that his best treasure is safe, out of the reach of the various changes to which all things in the present state are liable.”
  • p194 – “We must not conform to the maxims of the world. The world in various instances calls evil good, and good evil. But we are to have recourse to the law and to the testimony, and to judge of things by the unerring word of God, uninfluenced by the determination of the great or the many.”
  • p195 – “And there is an hour coming when he will not be ashamed of us, who have followed him, and borne his cross in the midst of a perverse generation, but will own our worthless names before the assembled world.”
  • p195 – “We must not conform to the world in their amusements and diversions. We are to mix with the world so far as our necessary and providential connexions engage us; so far as we have a reasonable expectation of doing or getting good, and no further.”
  • p195 – “The leading desires of every person under the influence of the gospel principles, will be to maintain an habitual communion with God in his own soul, and to manifest the power of his grace in the sight of men.”
  • p196 – “Conformity to the world is the bane of many professors in this day. They have found a way, as they think, to serve both God and mammon.”

Volume II


Volume III


Volume IV