Servant of Slaves

Book by Grace Irwin – Eerdmans – 432 pp.

This biographical novel of profligate slave trader turned Calvinistic preacher, John Newton, comes like a cool breeze n hot places. Grace Irwin writes of sin with frankness and of grace with sensitivity. Both were strongly present in the life of John Newton, but the triumph is grace’s.

Already as a lad, Newton was infatuated with Mary Catlett. But in her presence, his poetic thought would not be expressed by the tongue and he stood frustratingly mute. Conscription into the English navy plunged Newton in to all the physical and moral horrors of the slave trade but it also gave him the opportunity to overwhelm Mary with his gifted pen. That love remained firm throughout Newton’s life, although he himself experienced the immense change from sinner to saint, from slave trader to preacher.

A successful novel is no new thing to Grace Irwin. Many have read and acclaimed Least of All Saints and Andrew Cunnington. Servant of Slaves shines as a brilliant example of Irwin’s ability to understand and enter into the experiences of her characters. Her delightful account of Newton’s first sermon seems to allow for no other explanation than that she too underwent the torture. And the life of Newton breathes the confession which the man himself declared, the grace of God is sufficient.