I’d like to thank Christian Focus Publications for giving me a copy of John Newton: A Slave Set Free by Irene Howat in return for my honest review.
Have I mentioned yet that I love, love, love Christian Focus Publications’ Trailblazers Series?
How great is it that kids can read about the lives of Christians of yesteryear and learn all about history, character, and perseverance of the saints?
It’s really exciting to me. I also love that these are narrative biographies, so while there’s some fictionalization to make them an exciting read, they’re still very true-to-history.
John Newton Biography for Kids
John Newton: A Slave Set Free by Irene Howat (Christian Focus, 2003) will tell your children the story of the hymnwriter of Amazing Grace, John Newton.
The author of that inspiring hymn Amazing Grace, Newton (1725-1807) was a slave trader and all-around-rough-and-crude sailor. Here’s what you may not be aware of: Newton was saved right before he started slave trading. I was a little appalled, really. I assumed Newton was called to Christ, responded, was justified, and immediately gave up the slave trade.
Newton responded to God’s call on his life in the midst of a storm on board a ship, and then became captain of his very own slave ship. I was a tiny bit upset with him.In fact, the man continued to captain slave ships for years until he had a seizure just before his newly built ship was to leave port for Africa. (Can we talk about the sovereign providence of God?)
Amazing Grace for John Newton
John Newton didn’t really recognize the horrific nature of his sin for years afterward.
By the end of his life, though, he had become an important figure in Britain’s abolitionist movement, working with William Wilberforce and sharing his personal testimony in writing so that people could understand the depths of depravity involved in the slave trade. Irene Howat does a good job of describing the brutal nature of the journey slaves took without overexposing young readers to terrible details. It would be difficult to read this book and walk away with a romanticized view of slavery.
Although I kept waiting for a moment of great repentance in Newton’s life, I didn’t see one described. What I did see was a terrific opportunity to speak to children about progressive sanctification.
Progressive sanctification is what gradually separates the people of God from the world and makes them more and more like Jesus Christ.”
Progressive sanctification begins upon our justification and proceeds throughout our earthly lives until our glorification. And it’s the only way to explain the way we believers can move from habitual sin toward holier lives during our walk with Christ. It’s how John Newton could go from slave trader to abolitionist and still claim Christ the entire time.
John Newton for Kids
As I read John Newton, I had to wonder what terrible sin in my life people would be shaking their heads over if someone wrote a biography on me. That won’t happen, but I can hazard a few guesses at my pet sins. And how arrogant it would be if I was to regard the sin of slavery as greater than the sin in my own life.
These are all discussions we can have with our children.
Right after we that, we can feel free to discuss how slavery is abhorrent and disgusting. It’s amazing that a man with a conscience so hardened that he could participate in the brutal harm of innocents would one day contend for their freedom.
That, my friends, is grace.
Amazing grace. How sweet the sound. For what a wretch was I, and what a wretch was the sailor John Newton.
John Newton: A Slave Set Free coordinates well with studies involving:
- William Wilberforce
- The 18th Century
- Progressive Sanctification
- Hymn Studies
Purchase John Newton: A Slave Set Free
OR, at Christian Book:
More Christian Focus Trail Blazers Books for Your Kids
Our family loves the Christian Focus Trail Blazers books. They’re perfect for ages 7-14. We read them as we studied history! Check them out.
Eric Liddell: Finish the RaceJohn Chrysostom: The Preacher in the Emperor’s CourtSamuel Rutherford: The Law, the Prince and the ScribeFrancis & Edith Schaeffer: Taking on the WorldTitanic: The Ship of DreamsWilliam Tyndale: The Smuggler’s FlameWilfred Grenfell: Courageous DoctorDietrich Bonhoeffer: A Spoke in the WheelElisabeth Elliot: Do the Next ThingBetty Greene: Courage Has WingsUlrich Zwingli: Shepherd WarriorLilias Trotter: Daring in the DesertIsobel Kuhn: Lights in LisulandJim Elliot: He Is No FoolGeorge Müller: The Children’s ChampionAdoniram Judson: Danger on the Streets of GoldPatricia St. John: The Story Behind the StoriesHelen Roseveare: On His Majesty’s ServiceJohn Newton: A Slave Set FreeJohn Calvin: After Darkness LightJohn Knox: The Sharpened SwordBilly Graham: Just get up out of your SeatRichard Wurmbrand: A Voice in the DarkMary Slessor: Servant to the SlaveJoni Eareckson Tada: Swimming Against the TideHudson Taylor: An Adventure BeginsAugustine: The Truth SeekerPatrick of Ireland: The Boy Who ForgaveBrother Andrew: Behind Enemy LinesLottie Moon: Changing China for ChristD L Moody: One Devoted ManNate Saint: Operation AucaJohn Welch: The Man Who Couldn’t Be StoppedMichael Faraday: Spiritual DynamoWilliam Wilberforce: The Freedom FighterC. S. Lewis: The Story Teller: Trailblazers SeriesJonathan Edwards: America’s GeniusCharles Spurgeon: Prince of PreachersGeorge Müller: The Children’s ChampionGeorge Whitefield: Voice That Woke the WorldAmy Carmichael: Rescuer By NightMary of Orange: At the Mercy of KingsMartyn Lloyd-Jones: From Wales to WestminsterHannah More: The Woman Who Wouldn’t Stop WritingFanny Crosby: The Blind Girl’s SongPaul Brand: The Shoes That Love MadeFrances Ridley Havergal: The Girl Who Loved MountainsCorrie Ten Boom: The Watchmaker’s DaughterGladys Aylward: No Mountain Too HighJohn Bunyan: Journey of a PilgrimDavid Brainerd: A Love for the LostJohn G. Paton: South Sea Island RescueBilly Bray: Saved From the Deepest PitJohn Stott: The Humble LeaderBill Bright: Dare to be DifferentCharles Simeon: For Christ in Cambridge (Trail Blazers)William Carey: Expecting Great Things (Trail Blazers)Jack Turner: Truth in the Arctic (Trail Blazers)Elaine Townsend: At Home Around the World (Trail Blazers)Thomas Clarkson: The Giant With One Idea (Trailblazers)John and Betty Stam: To Die is Gain (Trail Blazers)Maud Kells: Fearless in the Forest (Trail Blazers)Jim Elliot: He Is No Fool (Trail Blazers)Elizabeth Prentiss: More Love (Trailblazers)Polycarp: Faithful unto Death (Trail Blazers)Thomas Cranmer: The King’s Ambassador (Trailblazers)Olaudah Equiano: A Man of Many Names (Trail Blazers)
Bible Resources for Your Kids
Christian Biographies for Kids | Christian History for Kids | Theology for Kids
Christian History Matters for Our Kids.
History matters. Now, more than ever, we see how important it is for our children to know and understand history and the Bible.
- God is the sovereign ruler of all things. It’s important for our kids to see his hand in the history of nations and in the lives of both peasants and kings.
- Christian history is the story of our family history. Our kids get to see how people who love Jesus follow him.
- Understanding history can help our kids learn historic and biblical theology. They learn what the Bible says and what that means for us. They also see when the study of Scripture has taken important turns that have changed the Church.
- Reading Christian biographies and history can be a wonderful way for kids to think outside their own time and culture. God’s Church spans centuries and includes people from every nation.
- Christian biographies help kids consider their own faith, walk with Jesus, and the impact their witness may one day have on others–and on history.
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