Newton on the Christian Life by Tony Reinke
Many Christians know the name John Newton by the perennial hymn ‘Amazing Grace,’ but what they do not know is that Newton’s life is quite a remarkable story. Tony Reinke, in his new book on Newton entitled, Newton on the Christian Life, writes with clarity and encouragement for all those wanting to know Newton more and to see in his life a devoted follower of Christ. The book delves into his shipwreck of a life in the slave trading industry and also his work with William Wilberforce, but focuses more acutely on how Newton saw the varied Christian life, from its sorrows to its joys.
What is often not known about Newton is that he was an extraordinary pastoral letter writer. Reinke notes, “Newton’s superb letter-writing skills, marked with spiritual clarity, self-deprecating wit, vivid metaphor, motive-piercing acuity, and insights of blazing glory, all help to explain why Newton’s pastoral influence spread far beyond the village of Olney, beyond the city of London, beyond the eighteenth century, and now guides modern-day pastors in culturally sophisticated places like Manhattan. If Keller and Packer are right, Newton should be named among the most skilled pastors in church history (27).” Although his sermons might not have been exciting or life-changing, his letters to everyday parishioners were practical theology at its best, taking their cues from the Scriptures and experience. Reinke points to the all-sufficiency of Christ for all of life as the central aim of Newton’s letters (31). One of the most powerful things about Newton’s letters are his keen sensitivity to get to the heart of matters with compassion and directness, a combination that is rare today.
The all-sufficiency of Christ is central to Newton’s thought. At the end of his life as he visited with up and coming preacher William Jay, Newton tired from life said, ““My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: that I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Savior (56).” The greater abundance of grace found in Christ outweighs any heaviness in regards to sin and transgression. Greater grace abounds because Christ abounds. Further, Newton taught that at the heart of biblical faith was the divinity of Christ. Newton wrote, “Christ incarnate is the full revelation of God in the flesh. This truth is so important that no matter how religious you are, if you are without Christ, you are without God—an atheist (Eph. 2:12) (58).”
If you want a sure guide to the life of Newton, the way he saw the Christian life, this book is for you.
Thanks to Crossway for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.