John Henry Newton (July 24, 1725 – December 21, 1807) was a British 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.”
In 1767 William Cowper, the poet, moved to Olney. He worshipped in the church, and collaborated with Newton on a volume of hymns, which was eventually published as Olney Hymns in 1779. This work had a great influence on English hymnology. The volume included Newton’s well-known hymns “Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken,” “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds!,” “Let Us Love, and Sing, and Wonder,” “Come, My Soul, Thy Suit Prepare,” “Approach, My Soul, the Mercy-seat”, and “Faith’s Review and Expectation,” which has come to be known by its opening phrase, “Amazing Grace”.
Many of Newton’s (as well as Cowper’s) hymns are preserved in the Sacred Harp. He also contributed to the Cheap Repository Tracts.
Also, he wrote an anonymous autobiography called An Authentic Narrative of Some Remarkable And Interesting Particulars in the Life of —— Communicated, in a Series of Letters, to the Reverend T. Haweiss.