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 >
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.
--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)