John Newton’s mum died when he was 6. His father was a moral man, but not a godly one. Newton said of his dad “I am persuaded he loved me, but he seemed not willing that I should know it.” Newton believed the teaching and prayers of his mum in those early years had a huge bearing on the direction of his life.
Reflecting on this Marylynn Rousse points to a sermon preached by Newton’s childhood pastor, David Jennings:
'As Newton attributes so much to his mother's early teaching and prayers, it is particularly interesting to note a section of one of David Jennings's Sermons to Young People, preached while Elizabeth Newton was still alive and John would have been about five or younger. Jennings challenged the parents from 1 Chronicles 29:19, “And give unto Solomon my son a perfect heart.”
“Did you ever pray this prayer for your children in good earnest? Lord, give them a perfect heart. What pains have you taken to instruct and teach them the good ways of holiness?... O! be earnest and importunate with God, be daily intercessors with him for the souls of your dear children. Beg it of him, who is the God of grace, that he would give your children a perfect heart.”
Such was the faithfulness of both pastor and mother for the child who was later to write, “Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved.”'
The Life of John Newton, Richard Cecil (Updated by Marylynn Rousse), 20