Husband, wife lived life of amazing love, grace

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 8, 2014

John met Mary when they were children.  In fact, their mothers were best friends.

When their children were very young, the two mothers wondered if John and Mary would someday marry each other.  Sadly, John’s mother passed away when he was seven.

The two families, the Catletts and the Newtons, drifted apart when John’s father remarried. John followed his father, a captain of a ship, into a life on the sea.

Years later, when John was 17, he went to see the Catlett’s again.  As soon as he laid eyes on 14-year-old Mary, he fell in love with her.

However, John had to admit to himself he was totally unworthy of her.  He had lived such an immoral and rebellious life even his fellow sailors were shocked by his conduct and coarse language.

Though his mother had taught him the Scriptures and prayed he would become a minister, he rejected the Christian truths he once learned.  But he never forgot them.

On the 11th day of a fierce storm in the North Atlantic, everyone aboard his ship kept pumping water to stay afloat.  Survival looked hopeless.  John was attempting to steer the ship, trying to hold it on course

His thoughts turned to Christ and he cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us!”  Later, he wrote in his journal about a verse he read that assured him God might still listen to a person beyond saving like him.  “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him” (Luke 11:13).

The wretched man was saved and began seeking the Lord in prayer and in the reading of the Scriptures.  Mary saw the change in her childhood friend, and the two were married and spent the next 40 years together.  He wrote that their love “equaled all that the writers of romance have imagined.

John gave up his cruel business in the slave trade about age 30 to work in an office job and then became a minister at age 39.  For 46 years, he preached the gospel.  Much of his ministry was spent in London where he influenced members of Parliament to abolish slavery.

Today, we can read a two-volume collection of John’s letters to Mary. He told her, “I am led to think of the goodness of God, who has made you mine, and given me a heart to value you.  Thus my love to you, and my gratitude to him, cannot be separated…All other love that is not connected with a dependence on God, must be precarious.

Newton never ceased to be amazed at God’s work in his life. He began writing hymns for Sunday night services at his church.  We still sing his words, “Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost but now am found; Was blind but now I see.”