..John Newton In a small cemetery of a parish churchyard in Olney, England, is a granite marker with the following inscription: "John Newton, clerk, once an infidel and Libertine, a servant of slavers in Africa, was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the Faith he had long labored to destroy." This inscription was written by Newton himself prior to his death and accurately describes his colorful and unusual life. Through God's grace, this man was transformed from one living a life of rebellion and debauchery into one of the great evangelical preachers of the eighteenth century. Newton's mother died when he was not quite seven years of age. At age 11, with only two years schooling and only a rudimentary knowledge of Latin, John went to sea with his father. His life at sea was filled with wonderful escapes, vivid dreams, and a sailor’s recklessness. He grew into a godless and abandoned man. After serving on several ships and working for a period of time along the African coast collecting slaves for sale to visiting slave traders, he eventually became the captain of his own slave ship. On March 10, 1748, while returning to England from Africa, Newton's ship encountered a violent storm and it appeared that all would be lost. Newton began reading Thomas a Kempis's book, "Imitation of Christ." The message of the book and the frightening experience at sea were used by the Holy Spirit to plant the seeds that would eventually lead to Newton's eventual acceptance of Jesus Christ as his personal Savior. After surviving this experience, he continued for several years as a slave ship captain, but eventually felt convicted of the inhuman aspects of this work and became a strong and effective crusader against slavery. He returned to England and on February 12, 1750, he married Mary Catlett and served as a clerk at the Port of Liverpool for nine years. During this period, he felt the call of God to preach the gospel and began to study for the ministry. At the age of thirty-nine, he was ordained by the Anglican Church and began a very fruitful ministry. Until his death at the age of eighty-two, John Newton never ceased to marvel at God's mercy and grace that had so dramatically changed his life. On one occasion before his death, he is quoted as saying, "My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: 'That I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Savior!'"