The Project has as its objective the transformation of society through faith in Jesus Christ, using the life and works of John Newton as one great example.
The Better Hour
During February 2008, The Better Hour, a documentary on William Wilberforce, was shown on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) television channels right across the United States of America. PBS reaches 73 million people a week. Kevin Belmonte, on our Board of Reference, contributed very significantly to the programme from its inception. John Pollock is interviewed. Marylynn adds a little on Newton.
From the website www.thebetterhour.com:
'The goal of the documentary is to focus on how strength of character is harnessed in the service of high and seemingly unattainable goals for society. Character and community join together to bring into the world what the English poet William Cowper described as "the better hour." The documentary highlights William Wilberforce's drive and love for humanity and reveals how he and his colleagues took up the cause of abolition of the slave trade at a time when the British economy depended upon slavery.'
To benefit more fully from how Wilberforce's 'compassion, self-discipline, and respect for others offer lessons for a contemporary audience on how to change the world for the better' there are several resources available:
More information about the whole project can be found at www.thebetterhour.com or by contacting Shelia Weber email@example.com. When Newton’s friend Henry Venn heard about the spiritual stirring in Wilberforce’s heart he was so excited that he exclaimed, 'And what will be the issue, who can say?' May this project promote similar effects in many hearts.
Creating the Better Hour: Lessons from William Wilberforce, with foreword by Rick Warren. Os Guinness, Chuck Colson, Baroness Caroline Cox, Kevin Belmonte and others reflect on the need for qualities of leadership and character in order to effect changes for good. It includes a study guide with group discussion questions.
Books are a good start. One of the first things Newton did was to recommend some good books to Wilberforce (by urgent request).
'There are 2 or 3 good books of Bunyan’s for plain enquirers, such as The Jerusalem Sinner Saved and Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ and Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. Baxter’s Call, and Alleyne’s Alarm to the Unconverted have been useful to many. Flavel on Providence – on The Keeping of the Heart, and any of his works, most of which have been published in small books – his Spiritual Navigation. These are some of the plainest I can think of at present.'
Newton to Wilberforce, 6 March 1786
- Wilberforce’s Book
A Practical View of Real Christianity by William Wilberforce. Selected and foreword by Chuck Stetson.
Wilberforce (to Newton):
'it is a great relief to my mind to have published what I may term my manifesto – to have plainly told my worldly acquaintances what I think of their system and conduct and where it must end. I hope also that my book may be useful…'
'What a phenomenon has Mr Wilberforce sent abroad! Such a book, by such a man, and at such a time! A book which must and will be read by persons in the higher circles, who are quite inaccessible to us little folks; who will neither hear what we can say, nor read what we may write.
'I am filled with wonder and with hope. I accept it as a token for good, yea as the brightest token I can discern in this dark and perilous day.
'Yes, I trust that the Lord by raising up such an incontestable witness to the truth and power of his Gospel, has a gracious purpose to honour him as an instrument, of reviving and strengthening the sense of real religion where it already is, and of communicating it, where it is not.'
Newton to Charles Grant, 18 April 1797
- Audio CD
Engaging the Culture - Changing the World: Lessons from William Wilberforce presented by Chuck Stetson. This has four 27-minute talks on how and what change was effected, how Wilberforce kept on track and how people like Wilberforce are engaging the world today.
'Yea, if his mind be comprehensive, and his eye single, if he be fixed in his determination to obey and please God rather than man, in cases where it is not possible to please both – in proportion as his character is formed upon this plan, and generally known, he may compel their respect and reverence and have an influence and weight among them, in the common affairs of life, greater than they usually have over one another.
'The points of his public profession of religion, from which I think he cannot warrantably recede, are such as these: He will say with Joshua, or his example and conduct will say it for him, As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. He will neither be afraid nor ashamed to have it publicly supposed or known, that he worships God…'
Newton’s advice to Wilberforce on engaging the culture to change the world, 1 November 1787.
The DVD of the documentary, The Better Hour: The Legacy of William Wilberforce, can be used to bring together 'people of good will who, like William Wilberforce and his Clapham Circle, want their lives to have meaning and who want to make their community a better place'. Showings of the DVD at 'Gatherings' held at local schools, colleges, public libraries, churches, or in homes, can be followed with group discussion, the goal being 'to find a way to make change for good in your community'. This may mean your neighbourhood, city, nation or the world. The website gives a link for purchasing the DVD. You can also view the trailer here.
'Sir, I wish to have some serious conversation with you.'
'Whenever you can call you will be a welcome guest. Great subjects to discuss, great plans to promote, great prospects to contemplate, will always be at hand. Thus employed, our hours, when we meet, will pass away like minutes.'
Newton to Wilberforce, 21 March 1786
'When I came away I found my mind in a calm, tranquil state, more humbled, and looking more devoutly up to God.'
Newton - Wilberforce letters go online
Alongside the launch of The Better Hour, the JNP has begun putting online the previously unpublished letters from Newton to Wilberforce. The correspondence is rich in spiritual content, with some intriguing insights also into the events of their day. We hope that many may, like Wilberforce, benefit from Newton’s godly and Biblical thinking, his warm friendship and wise and faithful mentoring.
'The previously unpublished letters between William Wilberforce and John Newton shed fascinating new light on the deepening relationship between them. Humanity will forever be in Newton’s debt for mentoring Wilberforce through one of the most delicate and vulnerable phases of his life’s journey.'
Jonathan Aitken, Newton biographer
'Wilberforce immediately found in John Newton a ready ear, an understanding heart and wise counsel that would guide him through many years of disappointment, during which Wilberforce’s twin aims of the abolition of the slave trade and the reformation of morals seemed a very distant dream.
'John Newton’s legacy has never been needed more than at the beginning of the 21st Century . . .We owe it to our generation!'
John E Langlois, OBE
Chairman, The John Newton Project
'The John Newton Project's web launch of the correspondence of John Newton and William Wilberforce is a very special event indeed. We can never know enough about their friendship and collaboration on a host of reforming initiatives. Scholars and lay persons alike will find much here to savour and learn from. Congratulations to the JNP for their vision, commitment and stewardship of John Newton's legacy.'
Kevin Belmonte, Wilberforce biographer
The above is edited from the February/March 2008 Prayer Letter of the John Newton Project, and is used with permission.
1. The Trust publishes the following titles on and by John Newton:
The Life of John Newton
by Josiah Bull
Banner of Truth Trust reprint, 1998 (as But Now I See); reset edition, 2007
336 pages, paperback, £8.00, $14.00
ISBN 978 0 85151 967 8
Letters of John Newton
Josiah Bull (Ed.)
Banner of Truth Trust reprint, 2007
416 pages, clothbound, £16.50, $27.00
ISBN 978 0 85151 951 7
The Works of John Newton
Banner of Truth Trust reprint, 1985
6 volumes, clothbound, £85.00, $159.00
ISBN 978 0 85151 460 4
2. The Jerusalem Sinner Saved, Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ and A Sure Guide to Heaven (retitled from An Alarm to the Unconverted) are published by the Trust in the Puritan Paperback series.
The Trust publishes The Works of John Flavel in 6 volumes. 'Divine Conduct, or The Mystery of Providence: A Treatise upon Psalm 57:2' can be found in Volume 4, pages 336 - 497, and is also available in the Puritan Paperback series as The Mystery of Providence; 'The Keeping of the Heart' (from Prov. 4:23) is the subject of 'A Saint Indeed, or The Great Work of a Christian, Opened and Pressed', in Volume 5, pp. 417 - 509; and 'Navigation Spiritualized, or A New Compass for Seamen' is also in Volume 5, pp. 206 - 293.
The John Newton Project is Registered Charity No. 212939
The Hill Lodge, Warwick Road, Stratford-on-Avon, CV37 0NP
Tel: +44 (0)1789 298174
BOARD OF REFERENCE: Kevin Belmonte; Michael Cassidy; Ken Curtis; Timothy Dudley-Smith; Timothy George; James Jones; Alec Motyer; James Packer; John Piper; John Pollock; Modupe Taylor-Pearce; Richard Thornton