John Newton: God Uses a Depressed Saint
The Cowper and Newton Museum is located in Olney, Buckinghamshire in the Borough of Milton Keynes. It was previously the home of William Cowper from 1768 to 1786. He was the writer of many well-loved hymns such as “Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken” and “O for a Closer Walk with God”.

William Cowper was born in 1731. Though he was brought up in a Christian family, he never truly believed in Jesus Christ. His mother died when he was six. In his adult years, he trained as a lawyer. However, his practice never kicked off due to his frequent struggles with physical and mental health. His issues with depression would continue to plague him for the rest of his life.

Cowper attempted suicide in an asylum in 1736. It was during this event that one of the doctors ministered to him the gospel of Jesus Christ. John 11 and Romans 3:25 were particularly instrumental in his conversion. “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” (Rom. 3:24-26)

Cowper continued to live with the Rev. Moley Unwin and his wife Mary in Huntingdon. They frequently ministered to him during his bouts of depression. Cowper later moved together with the Unwins to Olney. After the death of Moley, Cowper continued to stay with Mary in the same residence, who looked after him like a son.

Although Cowper continued to struggle with depression, he had the frequent company of another celebrated hymn writer, John Newton, at his residence. This friendship led them to co-labour in producing a collection of 349 hymns called the Olney Hymns. 69 of the hymns were written by William Cowper. 

The life of William Cowper is thus an example of how God can use what is often looked-down upon in the world for His glory. Indeed, “out of the mouths of babes and sucklings” God has perfected praise! (Matt. 21:16) Let be this an encouragement for those among us who often suffer from depression or mental health issues. God can also use you mightily for the testimony of Christ. What is His call for you?


John Newton: Amazing Grace
(Modified from a report by Chew Yu Jie)

John Newton was born in 1725. His father was a master of a trading ship. His mother was a committed Christian who brought him up to read the Bible. He was taught the Bible as his mother felt that one day he would become a clergyman. When Newton was 7 years old, his mother died. Newton’s step mother had no religious education. Following in his father’s footsteps, Newton became a slave dealer on a slave ship. On one occasion, Newton was caught in a terrible storm. He survived that storm and believed that it was God who saved him from the deep waters. Since them, Newton started his journey back to Christ. 

John Newton was subsequently converted in 1748 when he was ministered to by the account of the Prodigal Son. The lyrics of the hymn “Amazing Grace” reflects his thoughts on the saving grace of God in his life. It was initially chanted. However, in 1865, a tune was composed to the words. Today, this hymn is one of the most well-loved songs in Christianity. Does the song also describe your experience too?

In 1750, John Newton married Mary Catlett. He worked as a clerk at the Port of Liverpool. During this period, he conducted Bible studies at his Liver-pool home and studied Greek and He-brew. Influenced by both the Wesleys and George Whitefield, he adopted mild Calvinist views and became increasingly disgusted with the slave trade and his role in it. He was later ordained in an Anglican church. Newton later left for Olney where he struck a keen friendship with William Cowper. They collaborated to complete the Olney Hymns, which was a collection of 349 songs to the praise of God.

Newton also became an ally of William Wilberforce, leader of the Parliamentary campaign to abolish the African slave trade. When William Wilberforce became a Christian, he felt that it was not right for him to be a member of the Parliament. However, John Newton encouraged him to be a salt and light in the place when God has called him to and to help abolish slavery. It was finally abolished in 1833 after the death of Newton.

Similarly, one need not be a pastor or a missionary to be accounted useful in the kingdom of God. Each of us has a particular call from God. Some of us are students. Other are teachers, businessmen or engineers. Our duty is to remain faithful to the call, and shine in the little corner that God has placed us. When we do so, He can use us to greatly magnify His Word.

Lovingly in Christ,
Preacher Clement Chew