‘A strange vanity’

Part 5 of this series focuses on John Newton, a British slave trafficker and later a minister who wrote ‘Amazing Grace.’

This special Stillness of Heart series explores the Morgan Library & Museum’s fascinating exhibit, “The Diary: Three Centuries of Private Lives.”

Part 5 focuses on John Newton, a British slave trafficker and later a minister who wrote “Amazing Grace.” Throughout his adult life, he struggled with his religious faith and with his views on slavery, and the diary captured in daily detail the long, tumultuous spiritual journey he made. In the end, as the exhibit essay explains, Newton simply hoped that someday he “would serve as inspiration to others.”

“I have been reading what I have recorded of my experience in the last year – a strange vanity. I find myself condemn’d in every page[.] But the Lord is good, O how gracious! How wonderfully has he born with my repeated backslidings! And yet the thought but faintly affects. What I can I will – Lord I am not able to praise thee, accept the desire, which I trust is thine own gift – deliver me from that pride, impurity & self seeking, which so fatally interrupt my progress.”

Examine images of the extraordinary diary and listen to the museum’s audio guide here.

Entries in this series:
Part 1: Introduction to the exhibit and Charlotte Brontë
Part 2: Frances Eliza Grenfell
Part 3: Sophia and Nathaniel Hawthorne
Part 4: Paul Horgan
Part 5: John Newton
Part 6: Mary Ann and Septimus Palairet
Part 7: Walter Scott
Part 8: Bartholomew Sharpe
Part 9: Tennessee Williams
Part 10: John Ruskin

Author: Fernando Ortiz Jr.

Handsome gentleman scholar, Civil War historian, unpretentious intellectual, world traveler, successful writer.

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