Newton, John, who was born in London, July 24, 1725, and died there Dec. 21, 1807, occupied an unique position among the founders of the Evangelical School, due as much to the romance of his young life and the striking history of his conversion, as to his force of character. His mother, a pious Dissenter, stored his childish mind with Scripture, but died when he was seven years old. At the age of eleven, after two years' schooling, during which he learned the rudiments of Latin, he went to sea with his father. His life at sea teems with wonderful escapes, vivid dreams, and sailor recklessness. He grew into an abandoned and godless sailor. The religious fits of his boyhood changed into settled infidelity, through the study of Shaftesbury and… Go to person page >
As the sun's enlivening eye. J. Newton. [Parting.] Bull, in his life of Newton, p. 222, gives the following account of the origin of this hymn:—
"In November  Mr. Newton underwent an operation for a tumour in his thigh. He was mercifully brought through it, and was very soon able to resume his ordinary duties. On this occasion he composed the 71st hymn, Bk. ii. in the Olney Hymns."
As intimated, the hymn appeared in the Olney Hymns, 1779, in 7 stanzas of 4 lines, and headed "Parting." It came into use in the older collections, and is still found in a few hymnals both in Great Britain and America. The hymn, "For a season called to part," which is given in the New Congregational Hymn Book, 1859, No. 848, and other collections, especially in America, is composed of stanzas iv., v., and vi. of this hymn.
-- John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)