John Newton, an English clergyman, born in London, July 24, 1725, died there, Dec. 31, 1807. While a boy he accompanied his father, who was master of a ship, to the Mediterranean, and subsequently made several voyages. In his 19th year he was seized by a press gang and taken on board the Harwich man-of-war, where he was made a midshipman. While the ship lay at Plymouth he deserted, but was soon caught, flogged, degraded, and treated with such severity that he willingly exchanged into an African trader off Madeira. He left this ship at Sierra Leone, and hiring himself out as a laborer to a slave trader in the island of Bena-noes, he remained there till 1747, when an English captain arrived at Sierra Leone, commissioned by his father to bring him back. Shortly afterward he commanded a Liverpool slave ship, was engaged in that business four years, and confesses that, during all the time he was in it, "he never had the least scruples as to its lawfulness." But growing disgusted with the occupation, he obtained in August, 1755, the situation of surveyor of the port of Liverpool. While in Africa he had studied Euclid; during his voyages had taught himself Latin; and he now devoted himself to acquiring Greek and Hebrew. He engaged zealously in the religious movement originated by Wesley and Whitefield, and in 1758 applied to the archbishop of York for holy orders, but was refused on the ground of irregularity.
In April, 1764, however, he was ordained by the bishop of Lincoln and appointed curate of Olney in Buckinghamshire, and shortly afterward published "An Authentic Narrative of some Remarkable and Interesting Particulars in the Life of the Rev. John Newton." At Olney he remained nearly 16 years, forming a close friendship with Cowper, in conjunction with whom he wrote the "Olney Hymns." In 1779 he was presented with the rectory of the united parishes of St. Mary Woolnoth and St. Mary Woolchurch Haw, Lombard street, London, where he remained till his death, preaching three times a week even when more than 80 years old. He was a Calvinist, and was a prominent leader in the so-called evangelical party in the church of England. Among his works are a volume of "Six Discourses" (1760); a series of "Letters on Religion" (1762), under the signatures of Omicron and Vigil; " Cardi-phonia;" and a " Review of Ecclesiastical History" (1770), besides numerous sermons and tracts. A collected edition of his works was published in 1816 (6 vols. 8vo, London). His life was written by the Rev. Richard Cecil (London, 1808); and several of his letters to Cowper are published in Southey's edition of the life and works of that poet.