April 19, 2013

Book Review: John Newton (Bitesize Biographies)

{A Heart Enlarged by Gospel Grace}

I was excited to receive a copy of John Newton (Bitesize Biographies) by John Crotts to review. I'd heard a bit about the book in the making (the author is a friend), and after finishing Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce in February, I was ready to know more about Newton.

This book is the latest in a series of Bitesize Biographies published by Evangelical Press. At least for this book, bitesize seems to refer more to the size of the book than the quantity or quality of information provided. I learned about so many aspects of Newton's life as I read this book.

Three things most impressed me about Newton as I read:

First, he was constantly aware of God's graciousness in saving him from the wretchedness of his sin. This led him to be abundantly gracious to others -- his wife in her illness, young people wrestling with issues of life and faith, dissenting clergymen, and orphaned relatives are among those on the receiving end of Newton's patient and gracious service.

Second, Newton's pastoral heart recognized the opportunity and value of using music to teach doctrinal truth. I'm amazed at the sheer volume of theologically sound hymns he wrote in addition to meeting his normal duties as pastor, husband, and father. Learning more about just a few of these hymns made me want to find even more of them... and made me long for more of them to be sung in today's churches.

Third, Newton was a prolific letter writer, taking the time to answer questions and encourage others through the written word. This Bitesize Biography could provide only a glimpse at a few of these letters, which was enough to make me interested in reading more. Thankfully, John Crotts provides a list of recommendations for further reading.

I expected to learn more about John Newton through this book, but this Bitesize Biography gave me more than I expected. Crotts seamlessly wove application for today's Christian throughout Newton's story. Truths that applied to Newton in his time are equally applicable to me today, and I appreciate the nudge toward moving from observer to participant as I read.

Cross Focused Reviews provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for a review; however, the views stated here are my own. This review has also been posted on Amazon.com and Goodreads.

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