Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. (1 Tim. 1:15)

John Newton’s story is well-known. Captain of a slave ship, he turned to God in a fearsome storm at sea and became a minister in the Church of England. Powerfully influenced by John and Charles Wesley and their friend George Whitefield, he in turn became a mentor to a generation of Christian leaders like William Wilberforce, who was God’s instrument for ending the slave trade in England not long before Newton’s death.

Newton’s greatest legacy, of course, is his classic hymn “Amazing Grace,” but he also left a wonderful testimony on his tombstone. His epitaph reads, “John Newton . . . . once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa, was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he had long labored to destroy.”

The same rich mercy and amazing grace transformed the apostle Paul, too. In his first letter to Timothy he powerfully combined a confession of faith (Jesus saves) with a confession of sin (no one needed saving more than I did). John Newton echoed this verse when, on his death bed at age eighty-two, he whispered to a friend, “Although my memory is fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great savior.”

Every sinner saved by God’s amazing grace can say “Amen” to both truths.

Kneel before the throne of grace. Stand by the power of grace.

Bob Black is professor emeritus of religion at Southern Wesleyan University, where he served for thirty-two years. Along with Keith Drury, he coauthored the denominational history, The Story of The Wesleyan Church.

© 2019 Wesleyan Publishing House. Reprinted from Light from the Word. Used by permission.