Recently I read a new biography of John Newton, by Jonathan Aitken entitled From Disgrace to Amazing Grace. Newton was the former slave-trader in the eighteenth century, who was converted to Christ and entered the ministry. He is famous for his hymns, especially Amazing Grace. Newton mentored William Wilberforce who was influential in getting the British Parliament to outlaw the slave trade. A recent film of Wilberforce’s life was entitled Amazing Grace. Newton was portrayed in the movie by the veteran British actor Albert Finney.
Jonathan Aitken had previously written a biography of Richard Nixon, and was uniquely qualified to be such a biographer since he himself was converted to Christ while in prison for perjury. He had been a Cabinet Minister for Defense in the John Major’s Conservative Government when he was convicted. Nowadays he writes and speaks on behalf of Christian groups and causes. Antoinette and I heard him speak at a conference in Orlando earlier this year, where I purchased a copy of his book.
Aitken lists five signs that Newton looked for in a person to authenticate their salvation.
“First, a broken and a contrite spirit. This is indispensably necessary, for by nature we are full of pride, and God resists the proud but gives his grace only to the humble.
Second, a simple and upright spirit free from artifice and disguise. It is said of the blessed man, whose sins are forgiven, in his spirit there is no guile. He is open and undisguised.
Thirdly, gentle, gracious tempers. If a man like a lion takes my medicine he presently becomes a lamb. He is not easily offended. He is very easily reconciled, he indulges no anger; he harbors no resentment; he lives upon forgiveness himself and is therefore ready to forgive if he has aught against any.
Fourthly, benevolence, kindness, and an endeavor to please in opposition to that selfishness that is our natural characters.
Fifthly, a spiritual mind that is the beginning of life and peace, a weanedness from the world and its poor toys, and a thirst for communion with God through Christ.”
I am convicted and challenged by such a list, but it reminds me of what I should aspire to, and pray for the help of the Holy Spirit in attaining. It is all of grace, and not of our own doing.