A review of "Bitesize Biographies - John Newton", by John Crotts.
This is a really good book and I am a scoundrel. That's why the book gets "only" four stars.
Let me explain.
The subject of the book is John Newton. Seaman, slave trader, preacher, man of letters and hymn-writer, he's a wonderful subject to write about and John Crotts fulfils his task very well.
He gives us the mechanical aids we need - a time line, and a chronological account of Newton's life (and what a life !)
He gives us a taste of the man, of his loves, of his heart. And John Newton had a big heart that loved above all the grace of God in the gospel. We have a lot to learn from him and John Crotts helps us greatly in a small book.
He gives us an insight into John Newton's output of hymns and letters with analyses of some of the great classics, like 'Glorious things of theee are spoken' and 'How sweet the name of Jesus sounds' (as well as 'Amazing Grace', obviously) He gives us a thematic overview of John Newton's output of letters.
It's a really good book.
But the first phrase annoyed me so much that I almost put it down. 'The inspired sage wrote,'. I thought "Here we go !" and I was right. Later on we learn that Cowper and Newton 'sharpened one another in every way'. I know it's only a question of style, but it would baffle anyone who wasn't pretty well immersed in the Bible and fairly fluent in 'the language of Zion'. Later on reading that Betsy 'even divided his food' baffled me. Whatever does that mean ? I should think it's a Bible allusion, but I don't know which one and my concordance doesn't help.
So four stars. I know it's harsh. I know I am a scoundrel. I know I should be more charitable and big-hearted. I know it's an excellent book. But they're my stars and I'm giving four. (I think John Newton the pastor would laugh and John Newton the poet and writer would approve...)