John Newton (b. London, England, 1725; d. London, 1807) was born into a Christian home, but his godly mother died when he was seven, and he joined his father at sea when he was eleven. His licentious and tumultuous sailing life included a flogging for attempted desertion from the Royal Navy and captivity by a slave trader in West Africa. After his escape he himself became the captain of a slave ship. Several factors contributed to Newton's conversion: a near-drowning in 1748, the piety of his friend Mary Catlett, (whom he married in 1750), and his reading of Thomas à Kempis' Imitation of Christ. In 1754 he gave up the slave trade and, in association with William Wilberforce, eventually became an ardent abolitionist. After becoming a tide… Go to person page >
In evil long I took delight. J. Newton. [Looking at the Cross.] Published in the Olney Hymns, 1779, Bk. ii., No. 57, in 7 stanzas of 4 lines, and headed, "Looking at the Cross." Although not referred to by Josiah Bull in his account of Newton (John Newton, &c, 1868), it seems to be of special autobiographical interest as setting forth the great spiritual change which Newton underwent. In its full form it is rarely found in modern hymnbooks. Two arrangements are in common use (1) "In evil long I took delight," abridged, and (2) “I saw one hanging on a tree." The latter is mainly in American use.