Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Chris R. Armstrong: John Newton: Proclaiming Grace & Uniting the Church

MP3 Available Here

Chris R. Armstrong, associate professor of Church History at Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, and former managing editor of Christian History & Biography magazine, will address the theme: "John Newton: Proclaiming Grace & Uniting the Church".

John Newton (1725-1807) is, no doubt, most well known for his cherished, classic hymn, "Amazing Grace", one of the most frequently sung songs of the Christian Faith even today, over 200 years after it was penned by him. Newton went Home to Glory with Christ before the hymn rose to enormous popularity and became a staple in the hymnals of most Christian denominations spanning the theological spectrum.

In 1765, in the midst of what tonight's guest describes as a "virulent pamphlet war" in England between Arminian and Calvinist Christians, revival preacher, John Wesley, a staunch Arminian, wrote a letter to his younger, Calvinist colleague, John Newton, describing Newton as having been "designed by divine providence for an healer of breaches, a reconciler of honest but prejudice men, and an uniter (happy work!) of the children of God that are needlessly divided from each other..."

Tonight, Chris R. Armstrong will enlighten us about the life, dramatic conversion and legacy of this Christian "healer", "reconciler" and "uniter", who once was a wretch but was saved, was lost but was found, was blind but then could see, by God's Amazing Grace.

Tonight's theme is both the topic and the title of chapter six in Chris R. Armstrong's new book: Patron Saints for Postmoderns: 10 from the Past who Speak to our Future .

Chris R. Armstrong contributed chapters to Singing the Lord's Song in a Strange Land (edited by Mark A. Noll and Edith L. Blumhofer) and to Portraits of a Generation: Early Pentecostal Leaders (edited by James R. Goff Jr. and Grand Wacker). He has written over seventy articles as the former managing editor of Christian History & Biography magazine, and he is a contributing writer to Christianity Today, Leadership Journal, and other publications. He blogs regularly at

You can read John Newton's "Thoughts on the African Slave Trade" made available on the Internet by Cornell University, from the Samuel J. May Anti-Slavery Collection, here. Below you will find John Newton's original six stanzas that appeared, with minor spelling variations, in the first edition (1779), and soon after his death in the second edition (1808), of his beloved hymn that eventually came to be known as "Amazing Grace", initially published under the heading "Faith’s Review and Expectation":

Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That sav’d a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears reliev’d;
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believ’d!

Thro’ many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promis’d good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who call’d me here below,
Will be forever mine.

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