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 >
For mercies countless as the sands. J. Newton. [Praise.] Appeared in the Olney Hymns, 1779, Book i., No. 50, in 5 stanzas of 4 lines, and based upon Psalms cxvi. 12,13. Its use both in the older, and in modern collections both in Great Britain and America, is extensive. Original text in Hymnal Companion, No. 501.
The authorship of this hymn is sometimes attributed to W. Cowper, the poet, but in error. It is not given in any of the collected works of Cowper, and his signature in the Olney Hymns "C" is not added to this hymn, in any edition with which we are acquainted, and certainly not in the first of 1779. We attribute it to J. Newton on the ground that all unsigned hymns in the Olney are claimed by him.