100 Years of Memories

Amazing Grace

The vicarage in Olney, Buckinghamshire where Newton wrote the hymn that would become “Amazing Grace.”

The story is retold by R. E. S Toms, originally published in the End Times’ Messenger February 1971.

The late Donald Grey Barnhouse, formerly editor-in-chief of the magazine “Eternity,” said, “If anyone should ask him—What man, in your opinion illustrates most dynamically the power of God to transform a human being,” he would reply John Newton.

That takes me back in memory many years ago to Los Angeles, California, to a trailer behind a large tabernacle where I was conducting a campaign. I was quite weary and went back to the house trailer to rest. It was late at night and I turned on the radio, and from out of the darkness a voice came announcing the singer as the “girl with the singing heart.”

She sang beautifully “amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.” Then as the sound died on the air, she began to tell the story of a sin-stained slave trader…

A mother dying with T.B. knowing that she had not long to live, poured out her life on her only boy, praying with him and teaching him the scripture.

When he was 7 years old his mother died. Later his father remarried, and neither had any use for God, so the lad grew into a life of degradation and sin.

He was dismissed from the Navy—publicly whipped and degraded. He went into the slave trade and having fallen off the ship he was delivered from the sharks by a harpoon in the haunch.

After another terrible and violent storm at sea, battling all night at the pumps, he said to the captain, who was a Christian, “If that won’t do then God have mercy on us.”

He afterward gave his heart to the Lord and was destined to become associated with the poet William Cowper. The two of them were to give to the world some of its most precious hymns…

Over 80 years old on his death bed he composed his own epitaph: “John Newton—Once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa, was by the rich mercy of God preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith that he had long laboured to destroy.”

He left behind a most wonderful testimony to his conception of the Godhead of our Lord Jesus:

“Laboured applications of the Trinity I always avoid. I am afraid of darkening counsel without knowledge.

Scripture and even reason assured me that there is but One God, whose name alone is Jehovah. Scripture likewise assures me that Christ is God, that Jesus is Jehovah. I cannot say that reason assents with equal readiness to this proposition as to the former, but admitting what the scripture teaches concerning the evil of sin, the depravity of human nature, the method of salvation, and the offices of the Saviour.

Admitting that God has purposed to glorify not His mercy only, but His justice in the work of redemption, that the blood upon the cross is a proper adequate satisfaction for sin, that the Redeemer is at present the Shepherd of those who believe in Him, and will hereafter be the Judge of the world, that in order to give the effectual help that we need, it is necessary that He be always intimately with those who trust in Him.

In every age, in every place, that He must know the thoughts and intents of every heart, that He must have His eye always upon them, His ear ever open to them, that His arm is always stretched out for their relief, that they can receive nothing but what He bestows, can do nothing but what He enables them, nor stand a moment but as He upholds them.”

Admitting these and the like promises with which the Word of God abounds, reason must allow whatever difficulties may attend the thought, that only He who is God over all blessed forever is able or worthy execute this complicated plan, only part of which requires the exertion of infinite wisdom and Almighty power.

Nor am I able to form any clear satisfactory thoughts of God, suited to awaken my love and engage my trust, but as He has been pleased to reveal Himself in the person fo Jesus Christ.

I believe with the Apostle, that God was once manifest in the flesh upon the earth, and that He is now manifest in the flesh in heaven, and that the worship, not only of redeemed sinners, but of the holy angels is addressed to the Lamb that was slain, who in that nature in which He suffered, now exercises universal dominion, and has the government of heaven, earth, and hell upon His shoulder.

This truth is the foundation upon which my hope is built, the foundation from which I derive all my strenth and consolation, and my only encouragement for venturing to the throne of grace, for grace to help in time of need.

Till God in human flesh I see, my thoughts no comfort find. The holy, just, and sacred three are terrors to my mind. But if Immanuel’s face appears, my hope, my joy begins. His name forbids my slavish fear, His grace removes my sins.”

I am well satisfied that it will not be a burden to me in the hour of death, nor be laid to my charge at the day of judgment, that I have thought too highly of Jesus, expected too much of Him myself, or laboured too much in commending and setting Him forth to others as the Alpha and Omega—The True God and Eternal Life.”

—John Newton

When this grand old man of God died, London went into mourning. Parliament suspended sessions, magistrates closed the courts, all shops were closed, and thousands lined the streets as the body of John Newton was carried to the grave. Thank God for his wonderful testimony to the Lord Jesus “The True God and Eternal Life” (1 John 5:20).

Rev. R. E. S. Toms, a well-known minister within our Fellowship, was saved over sixty years ago and brought up under Plymouth Brethren teaching in Redhill, Surrey, England. He received his baptism in the Holy Spirit in 1922 during the Old Knox Church Revival in Winnipeg. In 1930, Brother Toms launched into the ministry of evangelism on the Canadian prairies for two years. He become pastor of the Saskatoon Apostolic Church in 1932, where over 200 people were baptized in the Holy Spirit during the first winter, followed by many years of continuous revival with services conducted every night.

It was during his fourteen years in Saskatoon that he conducted a radio program over CFQC with the well-known theme song, “He’s Coming Soon.” He co-sponsored with the late Rev. E. W. Storie and Rev. R. Dawson, the Prairie Apostolic Bible Institute, and was its first and last principal. Brother Toms then spent six years of ministry in the United States as well as Europe, returning to Canada to pastor the Apostolic Church in Victoria for ten years. He is still active where there is an open door for ministry…

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