John Newton, is probably best known for authoring the song, Amazing Grace. In addition to writing many hymns and serving as pastor in England in the late 18th century, Newton was a prolific letter writer. Most of his ministry took the form of personal correspondence. Ten years prior to his death, he wrote down his reflections on growing older and sent them to a Rev. William Rose. While none of us knows how many days are numbered for us, we know they are numbered. I hope Newton’s word stir your soul to use your days well, anticipate heaven, and finish strong.
The sands in my glass begin to number. I am within three weeks of my seventy-second year, and though my health is remarkably good, I think never better, yet I have reason to expect some change, and perhaps a sudden removal every day. Much of my time has run to waste. It ought to be my chief care to redeem and improve the little uncertain remainder, and to account every hour a talent. Indeed I have lived long enough for myself.
I have seen an end to all perfection this world can afford. For in my own judgment and in my own way, I have been as happy as the possession of my own desires could make me. I have been, but it is all now past like the remembrance of a dream when we awake. On the other hand I have as little reason as any one to be weary of living, for my situation is in all points comfortable. My wants are all supplied. My dear Miss Catlett [Newton’s niece taken in as a daughter] is the best substitute for her dear mamma that the nature of the case will admit. I have many kind friends, domestic peace, affectionate and faithful servants. And I bless the Lord I have a large attentive peaceful thinking auditory. We have cheering tokens of the Lord’s gracious presence in our assemblies, many exemplary individuals amongst them: more than a few have, I hope, been awakened, and the good work seems to be still going forward.
As I have reason to hope the Lord makes me acceptable and useful I would be thankful that my life is prolonged, especially as my old age is not burdened with sickness or pain, nor are my faculties sensibly impaired. In short since the memorable year ’90 my situation has been remarkably tranquil, and I have scarcely met with anything that deserves the name of a trial. Considering what I was in Africa and what the Lord has done for me since, my case seems an unique one in the annals of the church.
How I have run on about self! but it is to you, and I believe you will bear with me. One line has drawn out another insensibly. I may now say with the apostle, “The time of my departure is at hand.” I trust I can also say with him, “I know whom I have believed,” etc. May I be enabled to add likewise at the close of life, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith,” and live with my eye fixed upon that crown of righteousness which the Lord has promised to all that love his appearance. I daily anticipate the solemnity of a dying hour. The transition for all that I have seen and loved here into an unseen, untried, unchangeable state will be very serious and important. But I am encouraged to hope that when I pass through the dark valley He will be with me. Then I need fear no evil. Everything short of this appears to me now lighter than vanity.
–John Newton, Letters (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2007), 295-297.