Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

God’s amazing grace is the theme of the hymn and the novel. Musser sees Newton as a person whom God repeatedly saves physically so that he can be converted spiritually and act socially and politically to aid humankind by working to abolish slavery. Newton acknowledges that as a boy he has escaped death three times, once when he misses a boat that later capsizes. He later is saved from death by not being on two more boats that sink with all hands lost, and he comes to believe that divine intervention, not coincidence or luck, saved him. On the pivotal voyage home to England, the ship is almost lost, and he is seen as a Jonah. The allusion is appropriate because, like Jonah, Newton had attempted to escape from God only to be saved to serve him. Although he had early religious instruction from his mother, lack of church attendance and the want of fellow Christians led him astray. He is saved in stages, with several backward steps. His conversion is sparked by his reading of The Imitation of Christ, but reading without input from preachers and other Christians is not enough. At Alex Clunie’s urging, Newton becomes evangelical, and he hears the preaching of George Whitefield, an associate of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. At the end of the book, Newton reflects on his dissolute life and stresses the point that God’s grace is not earned but given freely to those who do not merit it. Although Job Lewis rejected that grace and “languishes in hell,” Newton is saved to serve God and humankind.