John Henry Newton (July 24, 1725 – December 21, 1807) was an English sailor and Anglican clergyman.
Starting his career at sea, at a young age, he became involved with the slave trade for a few years, and was himself enslaved for a period.
After experiencing a religious conversion, he became a minister, hymn-writer, and later a prominent supporter of the abolition of slavery. He was the author of many hymns, including “Amazing Grace” and “Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken.”
Newton’s lyrics have become a favorite for Christians, largely because the hymn vividly and briefly sums up the doctrine of divine grace. The lyrics are based on 1 Chronicles 17:16-17, a prayer of King David in which he marvels at God’s choosing him and his house. Newton apparently wrote this for use in a sermon he preached on this passage on New Year’s Day 1773, and for which he left his sermon notes, which correspond to the flow of the lyrics. The song has also become known as a favorite with supporters of freedom and human rights, both Christian and non-Christian, in part because many assume it to be Newton’s testimony about his slave trading past.